Between form and freedom book cover

Finding a Book Review From the Past. Thank You, Allegra Alessandri!

March 11, 2021

Book Review from Lilipoh Autumn 2006

The book is still a favorite for parents and teachers. Available from Steinerbooks or Amazon.

Adolescence: The Sacred Passage

Rudolf Steiner  College Press, 2006

Reviewed by Allegra Alessandri Pfeifer

While reading Betty Staley’s newest book, Adolescence, The Sacred Passage, I found myself cringing and moaning from memories of  my own adolescence. There are some moments from my teenage years of which I am not particularly proud, and I won’t take time here to share, only to say that I did get through it. And reading this book I remembered my youth and the intense period of emotional and intellectual growth I endured. I could also revisit the great medieval Grail legend Parzival and, like a child hearing a fairy tale, I took in the rich images and life lessons revealed in von Eschenbach’s tale.

Staley’s book is structured around the sixteen books of Parzival. After a concise and lucid retelling of each book, Staley guides the reader through a particular issue or stage of adolescent development. She addresses with frankness the difficult issues of sex and sexuality, depression, suicide, emotional maturity, learning respect and communication. As she says, “Adolescence is a perilous journey during which the young person must acquire critical skills.” This book is a compact and useful guide to acquiring those skills.

The story begins with Parzival’s ignorance and self-absorption. He is the product of his mother’s fearful and over-protecting parenting. But he has a few resources to help him muddle his way through the forest on his quest. Because Parzival is open to learning, he eventually finds his way to the Grail Castle: a place where he learns equanimity; where he learns he must make amends for his earlier mistakes; where he learns to take responsibility.

Like Parzival’s quest, adolescence is a dangerous time, Staley warns us. She gives us sage and sensitive parenting advice to deal with teens. Her descriptions and anecdotes remind me how amazing teenagers are, how courageous and strong and resilient they must be to transform  themselves as they traverse the chasm of adolescence. She clearly knows and loves teenagers and gently helps us do the same:”. . . It is always important to remember that even in extreme cases, such as when a boy may ridicule an adult’s expectation of proper behavior, deep down he wants to do the right things. However, he needs an environment in which the adults believe in his better self, where they are willing to both loving and firm.” (Staley p. 97)

Staley shows us, with Parzival as an example, that teens can learn to transform impulsiveness, arrogance and immaturity and acquire nobility,  responsibility and gratitude.  With proper guidance from parents and teachers, teens will find the way to transform themselves from adolescents into adults. Let this book be your guide.