This will be a brief post, entertaining strange thoughts.
I have talked a bit about tradition, especially my preference for using the term to refer to a very specific set of historical relationships between living people. I’m sure that seems unnecessarily fiddly to some, but one of advantages of limiting the term is that it exposes more clearly the domain of spiritual experience to which it does not apply, namely the eruption of gnosis.
Specifically, it highlights that there are forms of spiritual connection that crosscut our linear experience ‘in time.’ Provisionally, I’ll use the term ‘communion’ to refer to that crosscutting relationship time, as in the communion of saints more broadly conceived.
If this communion operates ‘perpendicular’ to our linear time, it ought to be partially independent of the distinctions between past/present/future. This is easiest to conceive regarding someone in the past to whom we have an immediate and intense affinity, but this affinity should be bidirectional, this person in the past is also in communion with us.
And that we are in communion with those yet to live.
This is terrain that P.K. Dick walked, and the ramifications suit his reputation. The experience of communion radically transforms our ‘individuality,’ such that we must wonder if what we are experiencing in affinity is a glimpse of our self in another time that is also ‘contemporary’ to us and that what we see in records of past religious experience is partly responding to our religious experience now.
Traditional Kabbalism offers some insight, with its conception of a righteous soul reincarnating in several lives at once to accompany its mission, except this is less reincarnation and co-incarnation across the canvas of history, operating ‘at once’ to realize opportunities at specific moments.
Here, tradition operates in tension with communion, with tradition at its best a pact made in history by that which lies outside it.