If you have been elected as an elder, if you have failed to be elected an elder, if you have ever voted for an elder, if you are or have an elder who will hold the position of elder for a predetermined amount of time, you are a dumb-ass.
An elder isn’t an elected position. It isn’t a position that requires that kind of validation. And more so, idiots ruin democracy for everyone. This is why the Catholic church doesn’t allow its followers to elect a pope.
A position of elder is acquired through the dual acquisition of power and experience. When a person is powerful and they have gained enough experience they ascend into becoming an elder. This is not something that can be bestowed through appointment, winning an election, or any other such silliness.
However just because someone is an elder doesn’t mean that they’re your elder. In order for a person to be your elder they do need validation, from you. Your spiritual elders are the people you have validated through respecting as your spiritual elders. No one can force their eldership upon you, regardless of titles, past validations, or election results. You have unlimited power to make someone your elder, or not.
Some people do confuse elders with the elderly. Simply because someone is old doesn’t mean that they are an elder. Many people in the community are coming in after hitting a mid-life crisis, which means there are a lot of forty, fifty, and even sixty-somethings coming in as pure neophytes, who after a year or so of studying try to claim an instant eldership.
Meanwhile it should be noted the two criteria that need to be met, power and experience. The older an individual the more likely that they meet the second criteria of experience, but this criteria can possibly, albeit not as commonly, be met within a very short amount of time resulting in an elder coming into being at a very young age. The converse is also true, and a bit more common, some people learn and move spiritually at a turtle’s pace, meaning they can spend decades on their spiritual path and still not be an adept, let alone and elder. At the same time a person may come into their spiritual path at a very young or old age, once again creating a major variance in the ages of an elder.
And age doesn’t take into account the first criteria at all, that a person needs power in order to be an elder. Experience begets power. Power allows for more and greater experiences. Only one who has attained and mastered power can be put into a position to guide others to attain and master power.
Moving past criteria we come to a more pressing question, what is an elder, and what do they do? How do they differ from a group leader or spiritual teacher?
Some view an elder as being a spiritual master who has since retired from their spirituality and now exists to move and guide other masters along their path. However this situation is an impossibility. No true spiritual master can retire from their spirituality. They are intimately aware of their spiritual path, and they are at least aware enough to realize that it is an ongoing process that will last beyond even this lifetime, and that as long as they walk this earth they are also walking their spiritual path.
An elder is a person who has achieved beyond the state of an adept, and as such can now work to aid and direct the community as a whole.
How does this differ from a group leader? Although an elder may be active within the community and may direct and lead the community, it is not their place to lead the group. Group leaders are ultimately tied into group politics and inter-group politics within the community, and as such have a major bias in dealing with spiritual issues. Further constraints are placed upon their time and energies as they have to deal with the more mundane aspects of running a spiritual group (acquiring a meeting place, scheduling events, dealing with disruptive members, ect.). And lastly, leadership of a group does not denote power or experience. As such group leadership may be gained through appointment or election.
Divorced of these concerns and bias, an elder is free to focus their energies on directing and moving the community where it should go unconstrained by the necessity to grow, conserve, or destroy any particular group, and without regard for endangering the respect or acknowledgement they receive from fellow practitioners.
How does an elder differ from a teacher? An elder may also be a teacher, but it isn’t required that a teacher be an elder, and the two roles are separate and distinctive. A teacher has a very intimate relationship with their student, and it is their job to spiritually train and guide the student. A student-teacher relationship requires a strong compatibility between the student and teacher. Each of us is different, and each of us has a different spiritual path to walk. This means that both the teacher and the guidance they give need to be specifically molded to the needs of the student. The teacher-student relationship should be viewed as more of a mentorship where the teacher focuses on the needs of a single student and aids that student to achieve a higher degree of enlightenment rather than a modern student-teacher relationship where a teacher gives a one size fits all curriculum to a large group of students.
The role of the elder is exactly the opposite of that of a teacher. If an elder is active in the community, their guidance is broad with consideration of the whole of the community. Although they aren’t beyond giving out specific advise to an individual, in their role as elder they fail to achieve the intimate connection necessary for their teachings to be specifically focused on the attainment of enlightenment for a single individual. Rather they’re teachings are meant to move the entirety of the community into a higher a higher state of attainment.
But none of this is meant to imply that an elder is somehow indebted to or required to actively participate in the community. And elder has every right to also turn his back on the community and refuse to help or aid it or move it in any direction. This is a right inherent to freewill and the freedoms we are all granted.