John, with his wife Gregg,
in front of the building
at Elon University recently
named in his honor.


John with his new granddaughter
Simone Aletheia Winkelman
Born July 21, 2010


Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded
by unnecessary things,
THIS is the best season of your life.

— Wu-men Hui-k’ai

Click on the covers below to order books by John Sullivan through


Click on images above
to order through


To find our calling is to find the intersection
between our own deep gladness and the world's deep hunger.

— Frederick Buechner

Welcome to the Philosopher's Corner

A much-loved teacher at Elon University in North Carolina, Second Journey's "philosopher in residence" John G. Sullivan was named Elon's first Distinguished University Professor in 2002. He is the author of five books, including The Spiral of the Seasons: Welcoming the Gifts of Later Life, The Fourfold Path to Wholeness: A Compass for the Heart, and Integral Living: Embracing the Four Seasons of Life as Daily Practice — all three published by Second Journey — as well as Living Large: Transformative Work at the Intersection of Ethics and Spirituality and To Come to Life More Fully: An East West Journey.

John‘s essays from the 2010 issues of Itineraries have now been collected into a beautiful new book, The Fourfold Path to Wholeness: A Compass for the Heart. Click on the image to the left below for further information or to order a copy.

Click here for a fuller biography.

Listing of Books and Articles

Two Halves Becoming Whole
A Story of Hope

2014 | No. 1 

Our souls must perform two duties.
The one is we must reverently wonder
and be surprised;
The other is we must gently let go and let be
always taking pleasure in God. 6

Keeping the Little Things Little . . .

2013 | No. 3 

A first sketch of elders is to look at grandparents at their best. I see such grandparents having three tasks relative to the younger people: (1) To keep the little things little and the big things big, (2) to encourage creativity, and (3) to bless the young. Let’s look at each in turn...

Each Life, A Journey
Each Journey, A Way to Deepen Life

2013 | No. 1 

We live our life in circles, as the poet Rilke says. I have circled the sun 75 times. And I have known these places at different ages. They change and I change. I reflect on what changes and what remains constant. Surely all my ages live in me still.

Friendships in Later Life

Summer 2012

A lover said of his wife of 30 years, “I know her so well now that I have not the slightest idea who she really is.” This loving openness is the fruit of letting go and letting be. It fosters a life where each friend is capable of surprising us, capable of appearing newly, again and again...

Markers in the Stream

Fall 2011

Carl Jung speaks about a second initiation, calling it “The Night Sea Journey.” I think of it as going over the waterfall and descending like a drop of water moving ever deeper into the great sea. The Arc of Descent has begun. Less a matter of doing, more a matter of not doing–a matter of following the Watercourse Way, using its own gravitational arc. Receiving. Releasing. Returning. Remembering. Coming back to what was and is and ever shall be...

Service Through Life's Seasons

Summer 2011

Our service derives from how we are present in the world. If we are relatively sane in the midst of collective insanity. If we understand what is real, what is true, what is good, what is beautiful and hold to the real, the leaven is there for all, the lamp in the darkness does not go out. A smile remains. Love remains. Compassion remains. Joy resurfaces. Peace returns...

The Hidden Work of Eldering

Spring 2011

In the end, there is no way to tell sages by physical appearance. They seem irreverent, yet their compassion is deep. They come and go in the affairs of life, making no effort to follow in the footsteps of earlier sages. Mysterious and transparent, they do not draw attention to themselves. Nor do they evade what comes. They enter the marketplace. They return home. They are virtually unnoticed...

Remembrance as a Spiritual Practice

Winter 2011

I enter the stillness at the core of the great heart of us all. Though the waters remain waters of unknowing, I sense in the unknown a presence of love and compassion, joy and peace... And I can say with Lady Julian of Norwich that “all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Winter 2010

The Pathway of Love

"The first impulse of love is to serve the other... In order to love in this sense, I must make the equivalent of a Copernican Revolution: from no longer seeing the other as a supporting player in my drama to seeing the other as the main player in a story that is larger than both of us and in which both of us share.

Spring 2010

The Pathway of Compassion

"Do you not know you are wounded miracles?" This question opens the door to what is distinctive about compassion . . . The fact that we are both wounded and miracles bonds us together – with our Source, our deepest self and with all who companion us on the way. . .

Summer 2010

The Pathway of Joy

Becoming a sage is not taking on a new role, as if sagehood were all about me! Becoming a sage is more like letting God be God through a disappearing “me.” I become a mirror or, better, a window. I become a place where my being and acting are more and more in union with the Great Mystery. . .

Fall 2010

The Pathway of Equanimity

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! . .


Autumn's Way: Releasing and Simplifying

Fall 2009
from The Spiral of the Seasons

...find a block of marble in which the figure already existed and cut away what did not belong. In our case, even the [Michelangelo's] metaphor of “cutting away” is too active. Perhaps better to say that we allow to fall away whatever was never who we really were nor are. . .

Summer's Fullness

Summer 2009
from The Spiral of the Seasons

When we were children, summer lasted forever. The days stretched out. The light lengthened. The world was playful, carefree, dream-like, endless. . . Everything companioned us in a time out of time, where the heart ruled. . .

Spring’s Stirrings:
The Art of Being a Beginner

Spring 2009
from The Spiral of the Seasons

...there is a touch of spring in every stage of life. A unique vitality for each task. If so, we can reclaim the words about youth, without having to cancel the gift of years and without having to pretend we are what we are not. . .

Winter's Gifts

Winter 2009
from The Spiral of the Seasons

What sort of trust lies at the depth? Not the trust that comes with sight — neither foresight nor hindsight. Rather it is a trust that lives in the darkness, that learns to navigate without sight. Relinquishing sight, we rely on hearing. . .

Awakening to Community:
Beyond the Veil of Separateness

Fall 2008

The people were rapidly approaching starvation in the midst of plenty. Then, as if prompted by a collective dream, they started to feed one another. The lesson was clear. If one only tended the circle of oneself, emptiness grew. If each fed a neighbor, then – in this expanded circle – all would be well. . .

Living Mindfully
Through All the Hours of Our Days

Summer 2008

So in the end what we are seeking is always with us, before us everywhere we go. As close to us as a pearl embedded in our forehead. Present before us in the here and in the now, seen deeply and loved ever so tenderly. . .

Elders and the Earth: Return to the Future

Spring 2008

Sufficiency rests on the declaration that we have all we need in ourselves and those who companion us — all we need to live a life of quality right here and right now. This loosens the grip of “more” in the sense of accumulation. We shift to living more fully, coming to life more fully. We shift from quantity of consumption to quality of living. . .

Work in the Third Age of Life

Winter 2008

“Me?” smiled the elder. “Doing?” The elder roared with laughter. “This ego dissolved into God many years ago. There is no ‘I’ left to ‘do’ anything. God works through this body to help and awaken all people and draw them to Him.”.

A Deeper Work:
Spirituality and Service in the Third Age

Fall 2007

The role of the Elders is strikingly similar to the mythic role assigned to the King or Queen, namely, to keep first things first, to encourage creativity, and to bless the young... the welcome news is that we as elders-in-training can learn to inhabit more consistently this level of living, and we can learn to act from this level more skillfully. . .