The Value of Tradition
Written by Gary L. Stewart, Imperator R+C and OMCE Knight Commander
What has Rosicrucianism contributed to society and, subsequently, humanity? what is Rosicrucianism contributing now?
Questions such as these are often asked by both members and non-members of our Order who are seriously trying to assess the value of our organisations in today's world. But, before we can adequately answer such questions, we must understand the perspective from which they are asked. That is, we must understand the reasons for such questions.
Quite often, such questions are based upon a material concern. In other words, the answer sought is expected to include information concerning tangible evidence of the establishment of our organisation in the same way that businesses often establish branches which will produce goods and jobs for any given society.
It is apparent, however, that the nature of Rosicrucianism is such that we cannot always give the same kind of answer that a business can. We must understand that our Order is a cultural, educational and mystical organisation dedicated to the advancement of humanity through enlightenment of the individual. Therefore, our answers to such seemingly simple questions far exceed the simplicity of their nature because our answers must necessarily derive from our highest idealism, our mysticism and the essence which it represents. Further, such answers must lie in the commitment, dedication and sincerity or our members according to their understanding of the ideals of our teachings.
Perhaps the best way to understand the real essence of our contributions is to understand our tradition. We are a traditional Order. The importance of this statement, at first glance, may be overlooked by some people in that the value of tradition is often misunderstood. Nevertheless, it has a profound mystical and philosophical meaning. The problem in understanding the import of such a statement could lie in the belief that tradition is outdated, limiting, and restrictive to creative growth in that it is thought to be conducive to creating dogmatic beliefs. This may well be true of any tradition if it becomes stagnant in its mode of operation. However, the true purpose and intent of any tradition is to perpetuate and preserve a cultural heritage and its inherent wisdom throughout the ages so as to make it available to all.
From this statement, we can readily see that tradition is not a thing in itself, but must necessarily be related to a source of deeper intent. Tradition, then, becomes a condition that is neither restrictive nor creative, but rather a tool or a means which assumes the attribute of neutrality. In other words, it will become only what it represents. Tradition most aptly represents a cultural heritage. Culture, in itself, can never be restrictive or dogmatic since the cultural heritage is the foundation and strength of any given society. In other words, any society which exists today, and even humanity in general, is built upon foundations laid in the past. Whether or not such foundations are thought to be limiting or creative will depend upon how such foundations are understood or interpreted by the individual.
What, then, are the attributes of culture? Culture represents the beliefs and efforts of a people who constitute a society. Inherent within these beliefs are found a philosophy, art, music and an arcane wisdom that is traditionally passed from one generation to the next, and thereby preserved as a source of foundation to that particular society. We may also observe the appearance of degenerative qualities that assume a negative aspect. But if we stand apart from that society and observe how it progresses, we will find one crucial factor, namely, all aspects of generative and degenerative qualities is essential in producing change and adaptation to new situations by each successive generation.
If we look at these "negative" qualities from this perspective, and see these as sometimes being necessary elements to initiate change and growth, we can change our perspective from one that is negative to one that is positive. With a positive outlook, it becomes easier for us to recognise a distinctive element which pervades and survives all changes and which identifies a particular society. That element is what we call custom or tradition.
If we become even more objective in our evaluation and observe not one society, but all societies or humanity as a whole, we may be surprised at what we find. We will find a common, unifying denominator that bonds all humanity - and once again culture and tradition. Different cultures and traditions have modified, adapted, changed and infused all societies. In extreme cases, when a particular society and culture have been conquered by another, it soon becomes evident that the indigenous culture also changes and modifies the new culture - maybe very slowly and subtly, but change it does, nonetheless.
As a result, each successive society has grown and evolved in the long run because the true essence, the wisdom, the true foundation of all humanity is all pervading and remains creative in potential. This creative element can never really be destroyed. It is from this vantage point that we can realise the true creative value of tradition. True traditions are not acts; they are the essence which bonds all people even though expressed in many different ways.
What then has Rosicrucianism contributed to society? If we realise that our tradition is based upon tolerance, understanding, education and the upliftment of all humanity, we will realise that our tradition is the unifying, creative potential that is the essence of all tradition and cultures. That is, our tradition perpetuates the very essence of cosmic and human potential that is known as arcane wisdom.
We have recognised the common thread that bonds all humanity into one unit - a factor which was realised by our traditional founders thousand of years ago and is still preserved in our mystical philosophy, rituals and attitude today. In fact, we would not be Rosicrucians if it were not for the preservation of our tradition. By realising that all cultures and societies have these same foundations, we therefore seek to preserve and perpetuate those aspects of custom which represent the highest ideals of Truth and the betterment of all.
We do this not by supplanting a given culture by another, but by encouraging its growth and development from within through the medium of our members in each society, who are taught to exhibit truth and understanding to the best of their abilities and to work with the structure of each society. We encourage a society's preservation and growth by exemplifying the common bond, the common brotherhood.
Rosicrucianism exists in most of the world's societies and cultures. Our teachings relate the fundamental laws and principles of the all-pervading essence that we call the Cosmic and are designed to assist our students in their discovery of truth. We do not force people to believe or tell them what to believe, but rather encourage them to develop their own beliefs. What our Order contributes to society is relative to how our members react to our teachings. In some societies, we will find the establishment of museums and cultural centres that are for the benefit of all people. We will find our Order assisting anyone who is in need. But, most importantly, our Order contributes to culture, education and service to all humanity.
Copyright © 1986 by Gary L. Stewart