On Tradition vs. Progress, and Other Conflicts

In a social media group focused on the Rosicrucian (R+C) movement, I recently expressed my appreciation to a poster who highlighted one of the conflicts confronted in that movement, and specifically how it impacted the Order of the Gold and Rosy Cross in the late 1700s. The poster wrote about the opposition of tradition and progress, which I also find present in many organizations today, such as Freemasonry and Scouting. I agreed that there was deep wisdom in the Renaissance practice of carefully looking to the ancient past while also seeking and welcoming mutually beneficial change. All this led me to then reflect on the conflict of personal transformation vs. societal reformation, two goals central to the R+C movement.

For me, the basic problem within such conflicts is dichotomization — conceptualizing things in terms of irreconcilably opposing binaries. Perhaps we have Aristotle, or his interpreters, to thank for this tendency. In any case, after the Renaissance, that tendency led to a coronation of a kind of analytical thinking that assumed Truth was best discovered by fragmenting everything and best understood in terms of dualism. Of course, humanity couldn’t escape the deeply instinctual and intuitive drive to realize oneness, and so an appeal to unity could still be found in mysticism/esotercism, the occasional monist philosopher, and science’s hunger for a unified field. I think it may also be a hidden factor in some political movements aimed at homogenizing society in various ways.

One of the things that has always attracted me to the R+C stream (and Scottish Rite Freemasonry) is what I’ve experienced as a more or less obvious embrace of both the unity and the diversity of all things, rather than falling into the modernist fallacy that we have to pick one or the other. It seems to me that many people are presently being drawn to movements like the R+C for this very reason, in a time when science and religion are both going through their own crises and upheavals and so many of us can practically smell the opportunity for their reunification on a grander scale.

So, the most fundamental opposition we must resolve is duality vs. unity. We will never see a “reformation of the whole wide world” (an aspiration of the R+C) as long as we continue operating from a position of separation and duality that is unbalanced by an actual awareness of interconnectedness and unity. Nearly all the political and social dreams of humanity (whether left, right, or center) are still based on the notion that we can force, trick, or appease the many factions of this world into a genuinely collaborative state of peace and harmony. This foolishness is rooted in and infused with the illusion of separation, and therefore it cannot avoid reproducing that illusion in various ways, which in turn create more conflicts.

I believe an awareness of the need to dissolve the illusion of separation is what drives many of us into mysticism/esotericism, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Deep down inside we know that our ability to adequately realize/serve the One in the world around us depends on the extent to which we realize/serve the One within us. Until we are at last liberated from the illusion of separation, we must prioritize discovering and rediscovering the Universal Medicine within us and allowing it to transform us. In both the Fama Fraternitatis and the Chemical Wedding, the story of the R+C movement’s mythic father, Christian Rosenkreuz, attests to this.

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