I have frought relationship with the idea of a tradition and traditionalism. That relationship has everything to with an ambiguity in the terms themselves. There are a number of folks for whom traditionalism seems to embody the cultivation of wonder and humility in the face of creation, a distrust of ego joined to a commitment of wisdom.
There are also folks who seem to use the term to fetishize the old for the sake of its age and for the way it allows them to inflate their own ego by association with it. The trappings of secrecy and supremacy are emphasized, often bolstered with an aura of antiquity.
When I think about something being ‘traditional,’ I don’t actually put the emphasis on its history, either in regards to its antiquity or its novelty. I tend to think of history as a bit of a red herring. History is always calculated, always told for the sake of a present moment, for present needs. Even if you are an untimely historian after Nietzsche, the history has a practical use in disrupting established narratives.
Rather, I take the emphasis to be with something more primary, a relationship to those aspects of creation that dwarf our capacity for understanding. The past of traditionalism doesn’t lie with the present stories we tell but with a past that dwarfs our capacity to tell stories on it, an original past as Merleau-Ponty conceived of it.
I take traditionalism to be more of an attitude than a doctrine. To be traditional is to find a way to move in rhythm with the piece of creation in which you are embedded, with an effort to tell stories in a way that tries to manifest or indicate that rhythm rather than provide a final accounting of it. Here is the wave that you are riding, the wave that becomes you, that makes and remakes you.
That is probably a bit peculiar of me. I should find a better term, perhaps? I don’t know–there is something about many practices identified as ‘traditional’ that help activate this process of becoming, of entering into sympathy with the wave. Tradition contrasted with history, an original past contrasted with a constructed past.
That distinction seems useful to me.
Anyway, I am just chewing here. Don’t mind me.