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The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of…

The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Karen Armstrong

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1,547394,746 (4)62
Title:The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
Authors:Karen Armstrong
Info:Anchor (2005), Edition: 1st Anchor Bks Ed, March 2005/ 8th Pr., Paperback, 305 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Autobiography, England, Author, Religion, Epilepsy, Do I still have this? 3/8/15

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The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong (2004)



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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
As someone who has discarded religion but searches for spirituality, this book was a touchstone. Armstrong's description of finding bliss in her research and her writing is a place I can relate to. If nothing else, her final plea for practicing compassion as the antidote to religious extremism is an admirable call to action.

Her conflicted, unresolved frustrations with being an outsider in so many ways is something I equally identify with. I long for a final memoir or essay from her exploring how she's lived as an intelligent woman, single, in a world designed for couples. ( )
  e2d2 | Jun 2, 2017 |
This renewed my enthusiasm to reading all of Karen Armstrong's nonfiction works.
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
One of the most inspiring books I've ever read. ( )
  kmmsb459 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Six-word review: Religious scholar wrestles with personal demons.

Extended review:

Whatever issues I may have had with religion don't seem to amount to much when compared with Karen Armstrong's sojourn in a convent and subsequent attempts to readjust to the secular world. The aftermath of spiritual crisis, thorny with guilt, resentment, confusion, self-doubt, and depression, plagued her for many years and seemed to mock her search for something resembling a normal life. Her repeatedly derailed journey through academe, her attempts to sustain various relationships, and her efforts to build a career on the considerable knowledge and skills she possessed constitute the substance of this exceptional narrative.

I have special appreciation for the account of how she dealt with her own agnosticism and atheism and ultimately arrived at a state of spiritual awareness that did not compromise her integrity.

As a distinguished scholar of the history and varieties of theology and religious practice, Karen Armstrong has written influential books and created presentations in other media. This personal history reveals the dark side of her struggle and the process by which she came to terms with her inner life. ( )
  Meredy | Jun 6, 2014 |
Memoir of the second part of the author's life, after she left the convent and tried to make her way in the secular world. ( )
  Pferdina | Nov 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Armstrongprimary authorall editionscalculated
Berg, Corrie van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kloos, CarolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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T.S. ELIOT, Ash-Wednesday, I / Because I do not hope to turn again / Because I do not hope / Because I do not hope to turn / Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope / I no longer strive to strive towards such things / (Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?) / Why should I mourn / The vanished power of the usual reign? / . . . Because I know that time is always time / And place is always and only place / And what is actual is actual only for one time / And only for one place / I rejoice that things are as they are . . . [etc.]
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I was late. That in itself was a novelty.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385721277, Paperback)

Karen Armstrong speaks to the troubling years following her decision to leave the life of a Roman Catholic nun and join the secular world in 1969. What makes this memoir especially fascinating is that Armstrong already wrote about this era once---only it was a disastrous book. It was too soon for her to understand how these dark, struggling years influenced her spiritual development, and she was too immature to protect herself from being be bullied by the publishing world. As a result, she agreed to portray herself only in as "positive and lively a light as possible"---a mandate that gave her permission to deny the truth of her pain and falsify her inner experience. The inspiration for this new approach comes from T. S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday, a series of six poems that speak to the process of spiritual recovery. Eliot metaphorically climbs a spiral staircase in these poems---turning again and again to what he does not want to see as he slowly makes progress toward the light. In revisiting her spiral climb out of her dark night of the soul, Armstrong gives readers a stunningly poignant account about the nature of spiritual growth. Upon leaving the convent, Armstrong grapples with the grief of her abandoned path and the uncertainty of her place in the world. On top of this angst, Armstrong spent years suffering from undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy, causing her to have frequent blackout lapses in memory and disturbing hallucinations---crippling symptoms that her psychiatrist adamantly attributed to Armstrong's denial of her femininity and sexuality. The details of this narrative may be specific to Armstrong's life, but the meanin! g she makes of her spiral ascent makes this a universally relevant story. All readers can glean inspiration from her insights into the nature of surrender and the possibilities of finding solace in the absence of hope. Armstrong shows us why spiritual wisdom is often a seasoned gift---no matter how much we strive for understanding, we can't force profound insights to occur simply because our publisher is waiting for them. With her elegant, humble and brave voice, she inspires readers to willingly turn our attention toward our false identities and vigilantly defended beliefs in order to better see the truth and vulnerability of our existence. Herein lies the staircase we can climb to enlightenment. --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:12 -0400)

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The author relates her decision to leave her convent after failing to find religious fulfillment, her struggles with depression and epilepsy, her realization of her calling, and her career working with sacred texts.

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