Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Wise-Elder Role

Originally posted on December 27, 2010

A friend of mine is a part of a “crone” group—no, not the withered old hag of some popular children’s stories. Unfortunate word, very age-ist. (If you floss your teeth, you need not lose them and become toothless as you age! Read more about flossing on my website.)

Crone is really a term for wise woman, but I prefer the less sexist term, “wise- elder,” because I think men can become wise, too. It seems to me I meet three types of people who are on the path to wisdom, to the role of wise elder. (I meet younger people, too, who are moving towards wisdom, but they don’t have the many experiences of middle adulthood behind them. I don’t know what term to use.)

The first of the three types of wise-elder includes those who are on the path to wisdom, think about life, reflect on things, aspire to spirituality or wisdom or goodness or some other combination—but they don’t know they’ve already begun the journey. A word might help: “Oh, you’re on your way to becoming a wise-elder.”

The second type know they’re on this path but don’t feel they’re there yet. Crone-ettes? Apprentices? In the olden days when there were secret wisdom or spirituality schools, they had degrees of initiation. In the last few centuries, initiation into the secrets became more superficial and less demanding of personal consciousness transformation—so, as with many of the Masonic groups, it became a social shift, and lost some of its meaning.

The third category are the senior wise-elders who know enough to mentor and support the evolution of the other two groups. It’s not at all that their learning has stopped. They, too, have subtle role demands, ethical demands, but it’s not enforceable by any higher office. It’s more about cultivating character, ideals, discipline. There’s still plenty of room to grow and continuation of learning, but the key is the sense of empowerment and responsibility for applying wisely what has been learned.

This scheme is still provisional and also relates to my paper on wisdom-ing on my website. Some questions for you: What if any are the values or advantages of having separate terms for the coming-to-wisdom-ing for men or women? I do think there are archetypal differences in that women’s wisdom is less able to be written as even medium-hard “rules,” but rather is offered in proportion to the people and the circumstances involved. But both actual (not archetypal) men and women can partake of both archetypal wisdom functions, the written and unwritten.

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