The Pathway to Eldership Within MKP


For men closing in on their elder years and wondering what elder means within MKP.

The term elder carries a sense of mixed blessing.  On one hand it signifies the passing of years…getting older.  On the other hand it signifies maturity, a greater sense of compassion, spirituality, and the presence of accumulated wisdom.  In this latter context, being recognized as an elder within MKP is an honor not to be taken lightly.

The genesis of it all is when a man is interested and drawn to the wonderful energy of eldership..when sharing his wisdom, giving back, and blessing others resonates within.  This first, and most important step, is where his journey begins.  As he learns how this energy fits into his life, as he discovers what it is and how he may grow into what it might mean to him to be an elder in MKP…community, family, friends, and life.  And, it is a calling and he is answering that call.

And, it is a special blessing within MKP to any man who takes the next step and formally declares himself to be an elder and possibly even eventually moving on to train for, and achieve Ritual Elder status.

Here’s what the dictionary says about maturity, compassion, and wisdom:

MATURITY:  full development; perfected condition: maturity of judgment

COMPASSION:  the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it

WISDOM:  the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight

A Declared Elder is a man who while standing in a group of his peers formally declares himself as an elder within MKP.  Acceptance is acknowledged with a ritual ceremony honoring him for owning and leaning into his Eldership.

This declaration signifies his personal acceptance of his Eldership. It also carries a real responsibility to fully stand as an elder within a community of men, owning and modeling maturity, compassion, and wisdom.  It carries with it a commitment to show up fully as an elder.  It is not to be taken lightly.

Within the MKP community, the Declared Elder is an advocate for truth and compassion, supporting younger men on their journey through the joys and disappointments of life.  He is there to listen.  He is there to question.  He is there to bless and encourage.  He is there to see the gold.  And, he is there to help men see the light.  He is there to hold the light!

As a general guideline, arbitrary ages have been adopted within MKP for the elder and the Declared Elder to be fifty, and the Ritual Elder, fifty-five.  There is no magic in either of these.  Fifty simply signifies the time it has taken for most men to have experienced the ups and downs of life and to have gained a level of maturity and discernment.

The added five years guideline for a Ritual Elder provides time for the additional years of experience as an elder and a Declared Elder…and the opportunity to hone elder skills with other men by participating in NWTA processes and elder activities.

The pathway to Ritual Eldership is much more purposeful, and yet for the man who is setting his sights on, and stating his intention to become a RE, the process starts immediately.   Much like a Declared Elder, the man who chooses the path of becoming a Ritual Elder begins with his stated willingness and desire.  It is from his point of declaration that his journey begins.

For the man who seriously steps onto the RE pathway, there are formal RE Protocol requirements that must be met. The requirements are not to be viewed as hurdles or barriers, but as a very natural growth progression to help a man gain the experience and expertise necessary to become a certified RE.

At the same time, the expectation of an RE is that he consistently exhibit maturity, compassion, and wisdom in a variety of venues and interactions.  In that context, he has the inner strength to stand shoulder to shoulder with weekend leaders, while being heart-centered and compassionate enough to help the rookie staffer who is afraid of making a mistake.  Ultimately, a key role of the RE is giveaway…being of service.

In other words, the weekend RE plays a multiplicity of key roles.  He is strong enough to confront weekend leaders about their own shadows and to bring clarity to what is showing up.  He is wise enough to acknowledge his own shadows and growth edge, and also wise enough to know that learning is a life-long process.

He holds a presence of heart-centered space for staff members, leadership, and initiates.  At the same time he delivers key rituals with a sense of strong leadership while building a container of connection and purpose.  He works closely with the weekend leaders and the LKS leader(s) to ensure that initiates receive the very best initiation experience.

The role of RE is not for every elder, and yet, it is available to every elder.  By the time an elder achieves Certified RE status, he has successfully grown to become and to be recognized as an elder’s elder.

He is a model of elderhood who younger men aspire to become and is a man who in addition, can successfully dance in all arenas, and as a result, is highly respected for his depth and for his contributions.

The easiest part of becoming a RE is fulfilling the basic requirements called out in the Protocol.

The hardest part is standing tall, consciously owning his own maturity, compassion, and wisdom, while taking full responsibility for who he is being in the world.  He is conscious and aware of his own shadows and keeps them out front.  He is willing to make mistakes, and humble enough to admit and learn from them.

One of the key considerations for men stepping onto the RE path is the selection of a mentor.  A mentor is not a task master or a gate-keeper.  The ideal mentor is focused on encouraging, nurturing, and developing.

So, let’s go back to the dictionary…

Encourage:  to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.: One of the chief duties of a teacher/mentor is to encourage. to promote, advance, or foster.

Nurture:  to feed and protect. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising candidates. to bring up; train; educate.

Develop:  to bring out the capabilities or possibilities of; bring to a more advanced or effective state. to cause to grow or expand: to develop one’s capabilities.

And so, the selection of a mentor is in fact a critical first step.  Of course, the very first qualification of a mentor within the NW Unified Area is that he is a Ritual Elder or a respected Ritual Elder Emeritus.  Beyond that initial qualification, you want a man you resonate with and already consider a model of Eldership within your community.  Actually, it has been noted that each of us has had many unofficial mentors…men we have looked up to and learned from, and of course that will continue.

There is also another dimension in the selection of a mentor, aside from the man you may look up to and want to emulate.  That is the RE with an edge.  Perhaps an edge that rankles you.  This mentor relationship may result in personal as well as RE growth and is not to be discounted.  While the RE Protocol calls for the selection of a single mentor, consider the possibility of more than one.

Finally, if you have chosen the path to become a RE, you are encouraged to learn and grow…and, as you gain greater confidence in your understanding, you will begin to see ways to personalize your RE activities and various roles.  It is actually important that you begin to own and honor your status by standing tall and fulfilling the RE role the way it fits and works best for you.  After you learn the basics and key roles, and while honoring the weekend structure and the intention of the various rituals, deliver them your own way.

Familiarize yourself with the MKP Ritual Elder Protocol found on the website.  Also, there are many other elder related documents to expand your depth of knowledge in the same location.  Each one provides insight and thoughtfulness about being an elder, a Declared elder, and a Ritual Elder within the Mankind Project.

And today, there is an emerging form of elder aligned with the current emphasis on community building within the Northwest, now referred to as a Community Elder.  The definition and characteristics of a CE are just now in the development stage.

Whichever path you choose, know that there are many experienced elders, Declared elders, and Ritual Elders willing to support you along your journey.

Ron Roesler, Chair

Northwest Elder Council

May 201515