The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase

My Climb Out of Darkness

Book - 2004
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Karen Armstrong begins this spellbinding story of her spiritual journey with her departure in 1969 from the Roman Catholic convent she had entered seven years before--hoping, but ultimately failing, to find God. She knew almost nothing of the changed world to which she was returning, and she was tormented by panic attacks and inexplicable seizures. Armstrong's struggle against despair was further fueled by a string of discouragements--failed spirituality, doctorate, and jobs; fruitless dealings with psychiatrists. Finally, in 1976, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, given proper treatment, and released from her "private hell." She then began the writing career that would become her true calling, and as she focused on the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, her own inner story began to emerge. Without realizing it, she had embarked on a spiritual quest, and through it she would eventually experience moments of transcendence--the profound fulfillment that she had not found in long hours of prayer as a young nun. Powerfully engaging, often heartbreaking, but lit with bursts of humor, The Spiral Staircase is an extraordinary history of self.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2004
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375413186
0375413189
Branch Call Number: 271.9 Armstron
271.9 Armstron

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quelinda
Aug 13, 2016

The review by Bryce Christensen captures the essence of this book by Karen Armstrong, of her reflections on the meaning of her experiences relating to religion and spirituality. I would add that Armstrong's contribution to the inter-faith dialogue is her openness in examining ideas. This attitude is similar to what the Zen Buddhist monk refers to as "beginner's mind" and an attitude fostered in Buddhism about testing ideas through one's own experiences rather than merely relying on external authorities. In p. 290 Karen Armstrong writes: "This has become my own method of study. Henceforth I tried not to dismiss an idea that seemed initially alien, but to ask repeatedly, "Why?" until, finally the doctrine, the idea or the practice became transparent and I could see the living kernel of truth within." Her arguments for compassion (the practical expression that involves both heart and mind rather than the weepy stuff) and her views in the last chapter is particularly relevant today as the world becomes further polarized by acts of terrorism.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 05, 2015

This moving story of the author’s search for God is intimate and illuminating—the spiritual odyssey of a gifted thinker and teacher. As she questions her own Catholicism she delves deeply into other religions and achieves a greater appreciation not only of Christianity, but also of Judaism and Islam. Her quest to find meaning in religion will inspire lively discussion.

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evandertogt
Nov 30, 2010

After enjoying 'Through the narrow gate', I postponed reading this sequel about Armstrong's years outside of the convent. When I finally got to it, it proved to be unexpectedly interesting.
Armstrong first relates her problems adapting to the world, and her struggles with the symptoms of what later is diagnosed as epilepsy. Slowly, we travel trough her years in academia.
It turns out that Armstrong's 'professional career' develops in stages. For several years, she is a high school teacher; subsequently, she works with television. Finally, she starts to write.
I remember reading her 'A history of God' years ago, and it was interesting to see how she arrives at her personal ideas about God. I cannot completely agree with her views. but she does inspire me to reject any kind of theology which defines God too closely and tries to turn Him into our 'personal pal'.

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