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The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness Paperback – February 22, 2005
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In 1962, British writer Armstrong (The Battle for God, etc.) entered a Roman Catholic convent, smitten by the desire to "find God." She was 17 years old at the timetoo young, she recognizes now, to have made such a momentous decision. Armstrongs 1981 memoir Through the Narrow Gate described her frustrating, lonely experience of cloistered life and her decision, at 24, to renounce her vows. In its sequel, Beginning the World (1983), she tried to explain her readjustment to the secular worldand failed. "It is the worst book I have ever written," she declares in the preface to this new volume: "it was far too soon to write about those years"; "it was not a truthful account"; "I was told to present myself in as positive and lively a light as possible." The true story, which she relates in this second sequel, was far more conflicted and intellectually vibrant. Her departure from the convent, she writes, actually made her quite sad; she was "constantly wracked by a very great regret" and suffering on top of it with the symptoms of undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy. How she emerged from such darkness to make a career as a writer whose books honor spiritual concerns while maintaining intellectual freedom and rigorthis is Armstrongs real concern, and the one that will be of most interest to the fans of her many acclaimed works.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.