You have found A Path of Spiritual Aging.

For much of humanity’s time on earth, rites of passage marked a person’s life. There were rites for one’s birth, adolescence, marriage, children’s births, and others. Rites of passage established one’s evolving role within the tribe.

The last rite of someone’s life, if they lived long enough, and most did not, was their initiation as a tribal elder. This was primarily for women because they generally lived longer. When a woman entered menopause and could no longer bear children her role in the tribe changed, in recognition of her continued value to the tribe. (Elderhood is available to men, too.)

Anthropologists call the impact of elders on a tribe “the grandmother effect.” A tribe with grandmothers present would evolve more quickly than one without them. They conveyed wisdom by caring for children, adults and other elders. Their long-term perspectives, born of many years of life experience, would help guide their tribe to make better decisions. Their lives were models of a spiritual life.

This is not to say that there were not male elders, too; they were just less common. For men, elderhood came when they became grandfathers and could no longer participate in the hunt. Elderhood gave men a role in the tribe that no longer required them to compete for leadership, allowing them to co-exist peacefully with adult males of the tribe.

Today we do not have a rite of passage into elderhood. I think that is to our detriment. We are living longer today than ever before, and the population as a whole is trending older. For the next twenty years roughly 10,000 people a day are turning 70 years-old. Today we 7 billion plus humans on Earth could benefit from the wisdom of elders.

A Path of Spiritual Aging is my version of a rite of passage into elderhood. It was born from my search for a modern day rite. Through my writings and spiritual coaching I hope to encourage others to become elders of the tribe. It is to their benefit and to the planet’s.


Karl Gustafson, Elder-in-training

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