Dignified prophets and argumentative Traditionalists
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Prophets discover principles of how life works. More specifically, prophets communicate principles which may be crystallized or canonized into distinct traditions.
In other words, prophets do not require a prior tradition. Prophets originate traditions.
Cultural traditions of reverence and sanctity and ritual are diverse. For instance, some rituals that have been popular throughout human history are birth rituals, death rituals, and marriage rituals, as well as rituals like coronations and court proceedings.
Many traditions that begin as oral traditions may eventually be recorded or transcribed into particular codes of written languages. Many traditions (whether written or only oral) include parables. Parables are often used by prophets for telling several different stories to distinguish a single principle.
Even if focusing on a single principle, prophets tend to give several teachings. They tend not to focus on the specific form of a particular message.
For instance, prophets are not focused on particular parables as more sacred than all other parables. Further, prophets are not focused on assessing particular translations of ancient teachings in foreign languages because prophets rely on direct understanding rather than on the words of other prior traditions. Prophets give new forms of teaching, even if they are teaching the same principles as prior prophets… and even if they are giving oral teaching in the same languages used by prior prophets.
Traditionalists, as distinct from prophets, may focus on worshiping certain words or sequences as more sacred than other words or sequences. They may worship other symbols as well, in addition to certain sequences of sounds or shaped lettering.
Many traditionalists also worship a particular prophet who is specified as the primary founder of their favorite tradition. Ironically, prophets tend to openly acknowledge previous prophets, like Jesus saying that he is fulfilling, not rejecting, prior teachings.
Apparently, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament teachings of Isaiah:
“…They worship with their lips, but their hearts are far from me and are ignorant of me. They worship in vain, teaching the traditions of humans and neglecting divine authority.”
Mark 7:6-7, Matthew 15:8-9
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” http://bible.cc/isaiah/29-13.htm
In contrast with prophets who clearly emphasize the spirit or heart or function of various messages rather than the specific form of a particular message, traditionalists tend to emphasize one prophet as more prophetic than all others. Traditionalists may also focus on particular words of a certain prophet and ignore other words of that prophet, such as ignoring the passages quoted above.
Traditionalists may focus on certain details of their favorite tradition and may neglect the spirit by which the tradition originates. The traditionalists may be adversarial, antagonistic, oppositional, argumentative, crusading, and militant.
So, traditionalists may also worship a particular tradition as better or “more traditional” than all other traditions. Such idolatry is distinct from simply studying or practicing a certain tradition. Traditionalists are focused on contrasting different traditions and finding the best one, the best translation, the best author, and the very best variation of the best tradition.
Traditionalists tend to associate with others who share the details of their own traditionalism as well as to magnetically focus on some other group of traditionalists as especially offensive. Pharisees and Sadducees may fiercely oppose each other. Protestants and Catholics may fiercely oppose each other. Sunnis and Shi’ites may fiercely oppose each other. Even Democrats and Republicans or Constitutionalists and Reformers may fiercely oppose each other.
By the way, most reformers are actually traditionalists. Reformers just promote certain traditional values over other traditional values.
One of the classic ironies of traditionalism is that all traditionalists not only worship their own tradition, but distinctively oppose all other forms of traditionalism, perhaps reserving special contempt for any tradition that they previously worshiped but later rejected. Traditionalists tend to ridicule and condemn other traditions and other traditionalists, again, often emphasizing certain targets of spite.
By the way, all prophets may be former traditionalists. Prophets alone do not condemn traditionalism or idolatry or vanity. Prophets alone honor all traditions equally, without being threatened by any of them. Prophets alone are so humble.
Prophets alone bless those who might accuse them, who might ridicule them, who might condemn them. Prophets alone are so grounded, so rooted, so radical. Prophets alone accept that traditions will form, reform, and dissolve. Prophets alone accept that other prophets will follow them, saying things like “another new messenger of divine authority in the future will come again.”
Prophets always predict later prophets. Traditionalists tend to interpret the references to a future prophet as “a second coming.” However, perhaps what the prophets have been referencing is that occasionally a traditionalist will develop or mature into a prophet. Perhaps prophets know that in the future a prophet will be born again, not in the way that traditionalists mean “born again,” but in the way that prophets mean.
The prophet’s rebirth is a spiritual rebirth, a rebirth of the heart. It is natural and thus common that traditionalists would ritualize the idea of spiritual rebirth into a ritualized rebirth. So, in addition to rituals for birth, death, and marriage, another form of ritual that is widespread throughout human cultures are initiation rituals that symbolize spiritual rebirth.
However, only authentic spiritual rebirth itself can produce a prophet from a traditionalist. Applying the label of butterfly to a caterpillar does not change the actual nature of the caterpillar. A prophet is not made into a prophet by being newly declared to be an officer of an existing institution, such as one who is ritually given a title, inducted and who swears an oath of office to conform to the traditions of the institution. A prophet is simply one who discovers directly- like alone for himself or herself- how life actually is working.
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