What I was looking-for was a system that was stable, self-sustaining, and self-defending - generation after generation. What I found was never this.
When I became a Christian, I was profoundly aware that this state of
permanent revolution was not 'progress' but instability and destruction -
and it could only end in collapse. So I began to look for a prior point
of stability (and goodness) that we might realistically aspire to
return to. But the more closely I looked, the more I realised that there
was no such point.
The Roman Catholic church seems
superficially to be a candidate; but in reality the history of the
church has been one of continual and radical change - generation upon
generation. A particularly striking example of this was that Thomas
Aquinas produced the greatest-ever synthesis of philosophy, done in
support of Scholastic theology - yet just a generation afterwards, it
began to be picked apart by Duns Scotus, Occam and the like.
Orthodoxy claimed to be a much more tradition-orientated type of
Christianity; yet again this was superficial. In the history of the
Eastern Roman Empire, there was crisis after crisis of theology and
practice; and the same applied to Holy Russia.
The same applied elsewhere. Indeed the insight originally came to me while writing a book about Medical Education (The Making of a Doctor, 1992). That was when I first became aware of the fact that there never had been - for two generations consecutively - a traditional system of Medical Education. As soon as the modern concept of a doctor began to be defined in the middle 1800s, the system was always changing. Specifically, every generation of doctors had a significantly different educational system than the previous one. And the same applied to medical health services.
I later noticed that exactly the same applied to science - and wrote about it in Not Even Trying (2012) - as soon as there was the job of 'A Scientist'' the system of training, and the lived professional experience, of a scientist began changing such that each generation was different from the previous one - there was continual specialisation, expansion, extension of the training, increased size of 'teams'. There was orientation towards publication numbers as a measure of professional success, then 'impact', then a primary focus on grants. And so on.
My conclusion is that - at least in recorded history (and perhaps it is linked to social conditions leading to the the record-ing of history) there has never been a stable system; there had never been a Tradition in the sense I sought - and so many other people have sought.
Tradition is an illusion - produced partly by our own, uni-generational, experience as a norm; and partly by the assumption that it is how things work. Our method of analysis and explanation is one that is cross-sectional, and with a built-in assumption of stability.
This, I think, is one of the reasons why - in practice - it never happens that a society 're-sets' to an earlier stage; even when it acknowledged that later states are worse and earlier was better. It would only be possible to re-set if there was a stable system - but if the system had always been in a permanent state of transition, with all its component causes changing - then of course a re-set is impossible.
This is an important lesson for Christians. In most ways, past societies were more Christian than the present; and modernity (especially since the Industrial Revolution, but arguably since the Great Schism, Renaissance or Reformation - according to taste) there has been a zig-zag but progressive decline in Christianity in the West. And no system has lasted more than a normal human lifetime.
Yet we cannot go back to a traditional past, because it Never Was - the past was always fundamentally unstable. It is not just that we cannot undo what has been done, cannot put the genie back in the bottle - and of course most people do not believe (as I do) in an historical change and development of human consciousness...
But aside from those reasons, there is also this reality of generation upon generational change, such that 'tradition' is a moving-target, a dynamic and unstable flux, as impossible to grasp as a barrel of eels.
My point is that answers to the question "where should we go from here?" cannot include 'backwards'.
We can and should learn from aspects of the past, and can reintroduce practices from the past; but only piecemeal, and the later context will make them work differently. To re-emphasise; we cannot return to any earlier 'set-point'.
I personally have found this helpfully clarifying. History does Not repeat itself (except partially or superficially).
There may Have-been cycles, but that doesn't mean that there Will-Be
Anything that is possible will start from here; and whatever happens will be unprecedented.
Those are the framing constraints on speculation and action; and apply to all alternative futures.