by Sarah Hearn and James Deefholts

 book review

Spirit-led Community

In contemplating the risks and impacts of technology for inner development and humanity’s future, Spirit-Led Community – Healing the Impact of Technology  (Steiner books 2018 by Lisa Romero) identifies the protection and care of child development, and specifically of the senses, as the frontline of influence for healing the impacts of technology in our age. Of primary concern is the bombardment of addictive technologies and their developmental and health-related consequences which put ethics, and the potential of human freedom at existential risk…And in this era of ever more technology-led community, the author’s point is clear – we need to deepen our understanding and capacity to support healthy child development not just for its own sake but because it serves as the ground for human freedom, for inner development in adulthood and as such, for community which works out of inspiration, in service of the evolving human spirit.

Spirit-led Community serves this vision with both insight and practical guidelines. Chapter one presents an in-depth understanding and approach to working with the twelve senses. Through the healthy development of the senses the human being learns about the world and develops the capacities for attention, self-regulation and healthy attachment, which are essential for learning how to learn. Romero offers insight not only into tendencies that may result from the impact of technology but also sheds light on another pertinent reality: children have predispositions to “hyper” or “hypo” tendencies in each of the twelve senses depending on their individual constitution. By identifying these tendencies, whether constitutional predispositions or as consequences of exposure to technology, we can understand that we cannot treat every child in the same way, and we must work to bring balance to their senses in an individual way. 

The pedagogical implications of this work are mammoth, and this text can serve as a much needed response to the call of the growing behavioral difficulties cropping up in both Steiner and mainstream classrooms alike. The author encourages us to hear the call of today’s children:

“ There is no possibility of a healthy “conveyor-belt upbringing” in our age, [we must develop] an individualized approach to care and understanding for each child.”

— Spirit-Led Community (p.22)

The subsequent chapters of the book explore the implications of this call for our own inner work as individuals, as educators, and as community members. Chapter two…includes practical suggestions for deepening and diversifying pedagogy by exploring the different needs in each of the three seven-year stages of child development, as well as those of learners at different levels of learning ability. There are those working primarily via the senses (perceiving and relating), by assimilating, and by individualizing. Through individualization comes the possibility of individualized creative expression in service of the world, the ultimate corrective to our technology-driven world.   

The rich insights that follow, chart a path forward for freedom-striving individuals to work in community, and provides various exercises and practices towards the possibility of much needed new community impulses…Among other exercises, Romero elaborates and enlivens Rudolf Steiner’s articulation of the 8-fold path, with commentary and examples, as a resource to work with our unconscious patterns and ways of relating that inhibit our work in community…In the book’s final chapter, Romero describes the path of spiritual development…[towards] working to support the evolving human spirit,

“to become beings who love in freedom and through free deeds”

— Spirit-Led Community (p. 159).

JAMES DEEFHOLTS is a primary school teacher, specialising in Waldorf Education, and is a parent and teacher educator in child development. James is currently a class teacher at the Cape Byron Steiner School in New South Wales, Australia.

SARAH HEARN is a complementary health practitioner working out of anthroposophy and an adult and school educator living in upstate New York, USA.