The word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem, acc. of traditio which means "handing over, passing on", and is used in a number of ways in the English language:
- Beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next, often orally. For example, we can speak of the tradition of sending birth announcements.
- A set of customs or practices. For example, we can speak of Christmas traditions.
- A broad religious movement made up of religious denominations or church bodies that have a common history, customs, culture, and, to some extent, body of teachings. For example, one can speak of Islam's Sufi tradition or Christianity's Lutheran tradition.
However, on a more basic theoretical level, tradition(s) can be seen as information to be transmitted through time. For that which is brought into the present from the past, in a particular societal context, is information. This is even more fundamental than particular acts or practices even if repeated over a long sequence of time.
Traditions and stylings of the mannerism
A tradition is a practice, custom, or story that is memorized and passed down from generation to generation, originally without the need for a writing system. Tools to aid this process include poetic devices such as rhyme and alliteration. The stories thus preserved are also referred to as tradition, or as part of an oral tradition.
Tradition is a knowledge system (a means of transferring knowledge). Economists Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell explain that tradition is an economically efficient way to transfer and obtain knowledge of all kinds. Sowell, for example, notes that decision-making consumes time (a valuable resource), and cultural traditions offer a rich, low-cost, consensually authenticated way to economize on the resources required to make decisions independently. Chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argues that the importance of tradition stems precisely from the fact that we know more than we can articulate, and that we amass and communicate valuable knowledge through tradition, often without conscious awareness of all the factors that influenced the development of traditions.
Traditions are often presumed to be ancient, unalterable, and deeply important, though they may sometimes be much less "natural" than is presumed. Some traditions were deliberately invented for one reason or another, often to highlight or enhance the importance of a certain institution.Traditions may also be changed to suit the needs of the day, and the changes can become accepted as a part of the ancient tradition. A famous book on the subject is The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.
Some examples include "the invention of tradition" in Africa and other colonial holdings by the occupying forces. Requiring legitimacy, the colonial power would often invent a "tradition" which they could use to legitimize their own position. For example, a certain succession to a chiefdom might be recognized by a colonial power as traditional in order to favor their own candidates for the job. Often these inventions were based in some form of tradition, but were grossly exaggerated, distorted, or biased toward a particular interpretation.
The idea of tradition is important in philosophy. 20th century and contemporary Western philosophy is often divided between an "analytic" tradition, dominant in Anglophone and Scandinavian countries, and a "Continental" tradition, dominant in German and Romance-speaking Europe.
In the Roman Catholic Church, traditionalism is the doctrine that their sacred tradition holds equal authority to their scriptures. In the Orthodox Church, scripture is considered to be the core constituent of a larger tradition. These views are often condemned as heretical by Protestant churches, who hold the Bible to be the only valid tradition. Inspired by the Protestant rejection of tradition, the "Age of Enlightenment" began to consider even the Bible itself as a questionable tradition. The parentage of liberalism stems from this such attack on accepted notions of European traditional institutions, religious belligerence, state interference and aristocratic privilege.
Traditionalism may also refer to the concept of a fundamental human tradition present in all orthodox religions and traditional forms of society. This view is put forward by the Traditionalist School.
Traditionalist Catholic refers to those, such as Archbishop Lefebvre, who want the worship and practices of the church to be as they were before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
"Radical Traditionalism" refers to a worldview that stresses a return to traditional values of hard work, craftsmanship, local culture, tribal or clan orientation, and non-material values in response to a perceived excess of materialism, consumerism, technology, and societal homogeneity. Most Radical Traditionalists choose this term for themselves to stress their reaction to 'modern' society, as well as an equal disdain for more 'recent' forms of traditionalism based on Judeo-Christian and early-Industrial Age values. It is often allied with branches of Paganism that stress a return to old cultural values that predated the existence of the state system.
In Islam, traditionalism is the orthodox form, which places importance on traditional forms of learning and acknowledges different traditional schools of thought.
In archaeology a tradition is a set of cultures or industries which appear to develop on from one another over a period of time. The term is especially common in the study of American archaeology.
Rejection of tradition
Destruction is part of nature according to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche claims that entities that reinterpret the world again and again are strong. That way sorrow and loss which is linked to trying to keep tradition can be avoided. Nietzsche wants his readers to open up and accept nature as it is in all its manyfold appearances. In order to be able to interpret nature it is mandatory to imagine. It is weak to claim that your imagination is the only truth. A strong person is someone who is ready to change in order to avoid self-destruction.
In the Master's life on Urantia, this and all other worlds of the local creation discover a new and higher type of religion, religion based on personal spiritual relations with the Universal Father and wholly validated by the supreme authority of genuine personal experience. This living faith of Jesus was more than an intellectual reflection, and it was not a mystic meditation.
Theology may fix, formulate, define, and dogmatize faith, but in the human life of Jesus' faith was personal, living, original, spontaneous, and purely spiritual. This faith was not reverence for tradition nor a mere intellectual belief which he held as a sacred creed, but rather a sublime experience and a profound conviction which securely held him. His faith was so real and all-encompassing that it absolutely swept away any spiritual doubts and effectively destroyed every conflicting desire.
Citations and notes
- See Knowledge and Decisions, Thomas Sowell, chapter 4 Chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argues that the importance of tradition stems precisely from the fact that we know more than we can articulate, and that we amass and communicate valuable knowledge through tradition, often without conscious awareness of all the factors that influenced the development of traditions.
- See Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Michael Polanyi
- Sowell, T (1980) Knowledge and Decisions Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-003738-0
- Polanyi, M (1964) Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy ISBN 0-226-67288-3
- Klein, Ernest, Dr., A comprehensive etymological dictionary of the English language: Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustrating the history and civilization of culture, Elsevier, Oxford, 7th ed., 2000