To be a traditionalist is to wager that millions of lives already elapsed have tested most notions better than any one of them might, and have found that certain notions work better than others, and are therefore likely to be true.
To be a traditionalist then is rather like being an adherent of passive investing, which adjudges the project of beating millions of other intelligent, informed and educated investors and traders – or, in respect to any given security, at least several hundred such – to be a fool’s errand.
NN Taleb puts it bluntly in a recent tweet:
Let me rephrase for the slow at getting it. If you do not treat Tradition as (high dimensional) “experience,” you stand against science and statistical significance – the spine of experimental science.
What has worked 1010 times >>> some psych paper with 60% replication error.
Have you stumbled upon some heterodox insight about this or that topic in theology – which is to say, of the science of the Ultimate?
It is almost certainly wrong, and you should abandon it, and seek instruction about it, not from your own lights, bright though they may seem, but from the Magisterium. Until you have studied and understood what the Magisterium has said about your notion, it is almost certain that you have not yet understood it yourself. Bank on it: someone else has thought of it already, hundreds of years ago at least; several hundred brilliant minds have kicked it around, and concluded to some settlement about it. There are in consequence really only two alternatives: either your notion is already encoded in dogma, at least implicitly, or else it is wrong.
The Magisterium, after all, is smarter than you are. She is better informed, she sees deeper, and further. She is an amalgam and integration and distillation of millennia of earnest coordinate work of thousands of man’s best minds – only a hundred or so of whom are even known to us – all massively educated in theology, philosophy, and metaphysics (most of them far better educated in these topics than any modern since 1500 or so), and most of them professional contemplative mystics to boot. You simply cannot do better than they have done – unless, that is, you are in your innovations entirely congruent to their findings, so that your terrific discovery adds a jot here or a tittle there to their profound store of long tested discoveries about Reality, without at all vitiating any of it.
Then patiently learn from her. If your idea is any good, you will discover it in her, in texts at least 500 years old.
Trust me: that’s a great feeling.
If on the other hand you consider yourself a Traditionalist, but find yourself somehow here or there at odds with the Magisterium, why then you are probably a modernist of some sort. At least a bit.
Cleanse yourself of that. It, too, is a great feeling.
Here’s the greatest thing of all, for a questing mind: to stumble upon some awesome, cool discovery, to study and then find it implicit in the Magisterium, and then to see, not just how it agrees with her, but kicks her whole project up a notch (not in herself, of course, but rather in our eyes); so that she is revealed to be even more correct about all her discoveries than you, or anyone you have read, has yet seen. It is at such moments that supernatural dread begins, and the hairs on the forearms and at the back of the neck rise up in awe and terror and joy; that the people of the street begin to look like their angels, and the pavements thereof like jewels.