I come from the generation called the “Baby Boomers.” My generation was born in the years following World War II and there are a lot of us still left. We don’t all belong to the same spiritual path. I would imagine some don’t belong to any spiritual path at all. That, however, doesn’t negate the possibility that each and every one of us, and those older than us, have value.
I remember being the “younger” generation and how we viewed our parents and grandparents. Most of us respected them, but thought they just didn’t “get it” when it came to understanding the world from our perspective. It’s interesting to be on the other side of that situation after all these years. The view is so different from over here.
In other cultures, the “Elders” are revered for their wisdom and experience. Their counsel is often sought out when one has a problem confronting them that has never been dealt with before. While I know it does go on, on a small scale, here in this country, I also know that many elderly persons are regarded more as a burden rather than an asset. How sad. I believe every older person has something to offer in the way of wisdom and knowledge gained through the path their life has taken up to this point.
To me, where spiritual elders are concerned, one would think that those who are just beginning their spiritual journey would seek out those who have been on that particular path for some time. Why? If nothing else, to see how much things have changed – or stayed the same – over the course of the ensuing decades since the elder began their own journey. Believe me when I say the view from the beginning of the path and the view much farther up the path are much different!
Spirituality is about perspective and, in ones quest for enlightenment, the more perspectives you get, from as many people as you can find, will only enhance your own perspective and make the journey more worthwhile.
When I was very new to the path of Wicca, I had the opportunity to speak with a Wiccan Elder on a night when I was upset and frustrated. His name was John (he didn’t give out his magical name to just anyone) and he was at a Sabbat ritual I was attending. Well, I thought I was just attending it. That was the problem. It was a public ritual in the backyard of the High Priestess that was instructing me. I had only recently gotten my High Priestess Degree and had come to be part of this celebration.
There were about 35 people in attendance and we were all waiting for the High Priestess so the ritual could begin. I went in to see if I could be of any help, when I was told by the High Priestess that she was ill and I would have to perform the ritual! Even before there were OMG moments, this one was mine!
I was scared and frustrated. I’d barely done a ritual as a High Priestess let alone in front of 35 people, most of whom were strangers! When I came out the back door, John saw my frustration and asked me what was wrong. I blurted out that I was unprepared and thought it was unfair of her to do this. Very gently he spoke with me and told me that if I wasn’t capable she wouldn’t have felt she could ask me to do this. He told me about respect for position and that there might come a time in my future as a High Priestess when I would be faced with a similar situation. We talked for a while about a lot of things. I felt better. His wisdom and perspective calmed me down and gave me enough confidence to go perform the ritual for all these people who were patiently waiting.
I have never forgotten that, even after over 40 years. He’s the only elder of my path I ever had the opportunity to meet but he was there, just when I needed to speak to someone with more knowledge, wisdom, and experience than I had at that time.
This is what elders do. Through their knowledge, wisdom, and experience they provide perspectives that allow younger travelers on their spiritual path to regain their balance and self-confidence and thus continue their journey.
Although I have put emphasis on spiritual elders, I really feel this holds true for elders in general – no matter what their specialty may be. Grandmother has the best recipes, knows how to sew and mend; knows about raising children while Grandfather knows how to build and repair things and more. Many of the things that elders know are becoming lost arts. They come from a time before all the technology and know how to do things that we often rely on tech to do for us. This is all valuable knowledge. They are the preservers of this knowledge and would love to pass it on so it isn’t lost and forgotten.
Whether we’re talking practical, common-sense knowledge or spiritual knowledge of a particular spiritual tradition, it would be a shame for any of it to become gone forever. There is so much to be gained from the passing on of the wisdom and knowledge gained from early generations.
To seek out the counsel of those we call “elders” is a valuable resource to the journey of the younger generations. For there lies answers and perspectives that cannot be gained from books or the internet. That’s what spiritual elders and elders in general have to offer.