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The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darknessby Karen Armstrong
Synopses & Reviews
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
The author of Holy War relates her decision to leave her convent after failing to find religious fulfillment, her subsequent struggles with depression and epilepsy, her realization of her calling, and her spiritual career working with sacred texts. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 60,000 first printing.
In 1962, at age seventeen, Karen Armstrong entered a convent, eager to meet God. After seven brutally unhappy years as a nun, she left her order to pursue English literature at Oxford. But convent life had profoundly altered her, and coping with the outside world and her expiring faith proved to be excruciating. Her deep solitude and a terrifying illness–diagnosed only years later as epilepsy–marked her forever as an outsider. In her own mind she was a complete failure: as a nun, as an academic, and as a normal woman capable of intimacy. Her future seemed very much in question until she stumbled into comparative theology. What she found, in learning, thinking, and writing about other religions, was the ecstasy and transcendence she had never felt as a nun. Gripping, revelatory, and inspirational, The Spiral Staircase is an extraordinary account of an astonishing spiritual journey.
About the Author
Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous other books on religious affairs including Through the Narrow Gate, Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World, and Buddha. Her work has been translated into forty languages. Since September 11, 2001, she has been a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers, periodicals and other media on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of Islam. She lives in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
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