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Belief has its structures, and its symbols change. Its tradition changes. All the relationships within these forms are inter-dependent. ~ Muriel Rukeyser

Tradition refers to belief or behavior within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance and origins in the past.


  • Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' — then you should abandon them.
  • Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
  • [A] tradition without intelligence is not worth having.
    • T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods (1934). London: Faber and Faber, p. 19
  • Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.
    • Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities (1984), p. 65.
    • Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.
      • Jaroslav Pelikan, in "Christianity as an enfolding circle" (conversation with Jaroslav Pelikan), U.S. News & World Report (June 26, 1989), p. 57.
  • It is of the essence of traditions that they cover or conceal their humble foundations by erecting impressive edifices on them.

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