What is Tradition?

Often in this blog, there is reference to the term Tradition.  This begs the question, what is meant by the word Tradition?  What tradition are we speaking of?  Are not there many different traditions all over the world?

To answer this, we must differentiate between Tradition and traditions.  There is only one Tradition.  Tradition is what has been passed down to us from the One Source through our foremothers from the beginning of time.  All earthly traditions are imperfect reflections of the One Tradition.  Tradition is where we learn about Universal Truth.  Our modern day religions, folk tradition, fairy tales, and stories we tell our children, like the ones about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, are examples of traditions.  These stories have changed over time and many of the deep meanings have been lost, but one can still learn about Universal Truth from these stories and traditions.

One such a tradition is the Swedish tradition surrounding St. Lucia Day.  On St. Lucia Day, the oldest daughter is supposed to lead her siblings in a parade wearing a white robe with a crimson sash and a wreath of candles on her head.  She serves their parents coffee and pastries.  There is a traditional pastry served on that day called Lussekatter.  Below is a picture of these pastries:

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If one researches this tradition, one will learn of the story of St. Lucia, a Christian martyr, who is stated to have brought prisoners food in the catacombs.  Her sainthood was evidenced by the miracle of food appearing during a famine in Sweden.  Yet, the symbols of this tradition speak to much older stories.  It is celebrated on December 13, which was the date of the Winter Solstice under the older Julian calendar.  The tradition is filled with symbols related to mid-Winter celebrations from long before the Christian or any other current tradition.  The oldest daughter with light on her head coincides with Light from Heaven coming to us from the Northern Gate, bring sustenance, Light and warmth.  As an aside, this is also why Santa Claus comes from the North Pole.  Even the pastries are symbols of Light!

One could ask, well, which tradition is True…the Christian story of St. Lucia or the older symbolism of Light and the Winter Solstice?  While questions like this are common in modern Western thinking, this really represents a false dichotomy.  One can honor the tradition and learn from the tradition whether one sees it as a celebration of the Christian saint or the Winter Solstice.  Both teach us about God’s sustenance and Light being brought to us during the darkest time.  The Christian story of the saint does not supplant the older story; it puts it in a new context.  The story is the same.

Another question one can ask is whether it is worthwhile to continue a tradition if the story is forgotten and all that is left is the form.  Many modern thinkers say that these traditions should be discarded as if they no longer have meaning.  Some will even discard traditions just *because* they are old, and of course, we know better than to have these superstitions in modern times.  To a traditional thinker, this is hubris and arrogance.  Modern minds are less wise and are further from an understanding of Truth than the minds of our ancestresses.  This is axiomatic in Traditional thought throughout the world.  We should assume that the traditions that have been passed to us are good and true.  If we discard the tradition, we lose that which has been passed down to us, and this is sadder and more destructive than the loss of written records from the past.  Even if we do not understand the tradition, the remnants of the tradition can still lead us (or our descendants  to have access to Truth, even in a fragmented form.  If the tradition is gone, there is nothing to learn from.

Does that mean that we should not examine these traditions?  Of course we should examine our traditions.  For one thing, learning the reason for the traditions can teach us much of metaphysical truth.  Are there times that we will find that some of our traditions are based on false teachings or error?  Yes, of course.  On the other hand, we should start with the presumption a tradition is correct, and it is the burden of proof, so to speak, upon the one discarding the tradition rather than on the one arguing to keep the tradition.  Do people sometimes use tradition in ways that are harmful, misguided, or just plain wrong?  Yes, of course, just as they can use science or anything else in such ways.  Does that mean the tradition should be discarded?  Absolutely not.  Erroneous application of tradition does not invalidate a tradition, although the error can and should be corrected, if possible.

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