Customer Reviews for

The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

THE MOST MOVING INSPIRATIONAL MEMOIR!

I have to say how disappointed I am at the other reviewers' comments! How critical they were of Ms Armstrong's sincerest endeavor to find herself? This memoir is her own, and who are we as readers to judge her for that. Since reading this memoir several years ago, I ...
I have to say how disappointed I am at the other reviewers' comments! How critical they were of Ms Armstrong's sincerest endeavor to find herself? This memoir is her own, and who are we as readers to judge her for that. Since reading this memoir several years ago, I have not stopped recommending it to others. What inspired me the most was that she learns and grows into the person she is today not by adopting religious beliefs in a "one size fits all manner", but by questioning and listening to all philosophies and beliefs open-mindedly. This is truly the way to unity and peace in the world. Americans could gain spiritual benefit by adopting more accepting views of other religions and cultures. Thank you, Karen Armstrong!

posted by 1_grammie on July 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

God In Our Image

Ms. Armstrong is to be commended for her honesty: this memoir bristles with heart-felt angst and spiritual questioning. Her prose is concise. However, I found this narrative to be a bit unsettling. I feel sympathy for the hardships Ms. Armstrong endured, bot...
Ms. Armstrong is to be commended for her honesty: this memoir bristles with heart-felt angst and spiritual questioning. Her prose is concise. However, I found this narrative to be a bit unsettling. I feel sympathy for the hardships Ms. Armstrong endured, both as a Catholic religious and as a lay person. But by the end of the book, I was dismayed as Ms. Armstrong reconfigured a god and spirituality to fit her own whims. Granted, she studied a multitude of religious and historical texts. I admire her academic zeal. But in the end, when she devises her own notion of God, all I could think was, 'Hey, let's make a god to fit our fancy.' Ultimately, I think this is a very sad narrative.

posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2005

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  • Posted July 5, 2010

    THE MOST MOVING INSPIRATIONAL MEMOIR!

    I have to say how disappointed I am at the other reviewers' comments! How critical they were of Ms Armstrong's sincerest endeavor to find herself? This memoir is her own, and who are we as readers to judge her for that. Since reading this memoir several years ago, I have not stopped recommending it to others. What inspired me the most was that she learns and grows into the person she is today not by adopting religious beliefs in a "one size fits all manner", but by questioning and listening to all philosophies and beliefs open-mindedly. This is truly the way to unity and peace in the world. Americans could gain spiritual benefit by adopting more accepting views of other religions and cultures. Thank you, Karen Armstrong!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2004

    Spirituality, Scholarchip, Self-awareness

    I have read several of Karen Armstrong's books on religion and have been impressed with the organized, reasoned content of her scholarship. Finding out that she had been a nun but was nevertheless able to maintain a non-judgemental perspective in subjects that for a Roman Catholic would be difficult, if not impossible, made her interesting in her own right. This marvelously open, sensitive and informative book is compelling in allowing the reader access to the mind and heart of a scholar on a pilgrimage to get past what is spoon-fed to us by the relgious establishment and learn the truth, warts and all. Armstrong simply wants to know and understand how and why God affects our world. Her search becomes our search and she teaches us to question the authority of our own religious educations and not accept at face value conventional wisdom about the world's religions and its founders. If this is the first Karen Armstrong book you read, it's a wonderful introduction to her others.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2013

    Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase is a spiritual aut

    Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase is a spiritual autobiography of her inspiring journey of faith. Her story covers a variety of extraordinary experiences, from life as a nun, to severe epilepsy, to a career as an internationally-acclaimed author. Armstrong presents her story through the metaphor of a spiral staircase, frequently referencing and quoting the T.S. Eliot poem Ash Wednesday. It is Armstrong's honesty and compassion in weaving her spiraling journey of faith, that ultimately inspires her readers to greater faith of their own.
    Armstrong's story begins and ends with her religious aspiration. Fueled by a desire to devote herself to god, she entered a Catholic convent at the age of seventeen. Unaware that she had epilepsy, she poured herself in to the religious life for seven years, enduring inexplicably harsh treatment. Led to a breakdown of faith and physical well-being, she eventually entered the bewildering process of leaving the church and beginning life anew in the secular world.
    In the world of academia, her life entered a new phase.This crossroads is illustrated in a poignant image of the first time Armstrong enters Oxford. Opening the doors to the main hall, full of noisy and talkative students, she is horrified to find that she “knelt down and kissed the floor”. (Armstrong, 2005) It is a symbolic gesture, marking not only her gratitude to be free, but the profoundly automatic behaviors ingrained in her as a nun. Although she then threw herself in to the academic world, she was ultimately turned down in her quest for a doctorate at Oxford. Throughout all of this, she struggled with a severe and undefined illness, only to finally be diagnosed with epilepsy.
    In every failure, Armstrong reveals her weaknesses with honesty, and her frustrations without blame. Such compassion both for herself and others reveals each crisis to be not an ending, but merely a step in the spiral staircase of life. At long last, she discovers comparative religion, and becomes an internationally respected writer in the world of religious studies. Through this, she finds that her path has wound her back to the consideration of God that she truly yearned for all her life.
    It is Armstrong's ability to forgive that gives her story its ultimate redemption. Her story compels us to look at the workings of the Catholic church with a wary eye, yet she has also forgiven her treatment and cultivated her own respect for Christianity. Although she suffered immense hardships and abuses, she comes to terms with that, while also learning valuable lessons about the human condition. Ultimately, she finds her faith restored by considering and writing about the universal truths in all religions.
    The Spiral Staircase reminds us all that life is not a straight path. We cannot predict where it will fall, and where it will turn. Yet Armstrong proves to us that the human spirit is stronger. The human spirit can understand, discriminate, and learn from even the most extreme of experiences. She has lived a religious, academic, personal, and professional life, and in doing so passes on lessons from which we can all learn.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    Disapointed

    I expected somenthing more spiritual from that book.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2005

    God In Our Image

    Ms. Armstrong is to be commended for her honesty: this memoir bristles with heart-felt angst and spiritual questioning. Her prose is concise. However, I found this narrative to be a bit unsettling. I feel sympathy for the hardships Ms. Armstrong endured, both as a Catholic religious and as a lay person. But by the end of the book, I was dismayed as Ms. Armstrong reconfigured a god and spirituality to fit her own whims. Granted, she studied a multitude of religious and historical texts. I admire her academic zeal. But in the end, when she devises her own notion of God, all I could think was, 'Hey, let's make a god to fit our fancy.' Ultimately, I think this is a very sad narrative.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2004

    A Must Read

    This book is a must read for those of us who are seeking to find and who are trying to live a meaningful life. It is both mentally and emotionally stimulating.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    ENCOURAGING AND INSPIRATIONAL

    Karen Armstrong speaks to the seekers - seekers of truth, seekers of wisdom, and those who are engaged in a search for God. It's a given that we learn from the lives of others. Yet few have experienced this author's profound spiritual journey and been able to share it so articulately. It is not that her powerful story needs added luster for it stands alone. Yet, hearing this reading in her voice does very much enrich the listener's experience. In addition, it is well worth replaying - a journey one would wish to hear related again and again. For those not familiar with her best-selling hardcover book, Ms. Armstrong spent 7 years in a Roman Catholic convent. She left that protected place in 1969, deeply disappointed that she had not found God there. The world she reentered was vastly changed, and she fell prey to panic attacks and inexplicable seizures - enough to terrify the bravest soul. She turned to psychiatry for help but that was a dead-end; her search for work was fruitless. At last, in 1976, it was found that she had epilepsy and she received appropriate care. Next, she turned to writing and an exploration of faiths other than Christianity, much to the benefit of a world anxious for words of reassurance. She is not only a role model but a splendid teacher as well. All who listen to her words are her beneficiaries.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2004

    Honest, Insightful, Uplifting...

    I was entirely unfamiliar with Ms. Armstrong until I heard an interview with her recently on NPR's 'Speaking of Faith'. Her intelligence and ability to articulate precisely what she wanted to convey led me to purchase this book. What an poignant and brutally honest memoir this is. Armstrong's striking self-awareness is amazing and inspiring given her early experience in a convent and her undiagnosed epilepsy, which contributed to her failure at several endeavors following her re-entry into secular life. As a person who has struggled with clinical depression for most of my 41 years, and having been raised as a Roman Catholic myself, her story is a hopeful beacon. Ms. Armstrong writes with clarity and conviction - having heard her speak (on the radio), I can only say that meeting her in person would be a great treat. As she states, T.S. Eliot's poem 'Ash Wednesday' is the 'spine' of this book - by which she means that its structure and message mirror the book's and her own journey. A fascinating and enlightening book that I recommend highly.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2013

    exceptional lady am buying her book on the1st.. Her insite is am

    exceptional lady am buying her book on the1st.. Her insite is amazing,i listened to her on Ophra's SuperSoul Sunday.. so inspireing..
    Religion is what we do,Spiritual,is who we are." i dodn't have that quite right but that was as Oprah says an AHHA Moment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Excellent Book for Intellectual Seekers & Skeptics

    For those of us who have been on the receiving end of an abusive or dysfunctional relationship with the Catholic Church, and now find ourselves faithless, Armstrong offers hope for the future. This is not a memoir for those in denial about the serious questions raised by thoughtful analysis of Christianity - or any religion for that matter.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2005

    Wise Men Still Seek Him & In So The Truth

    I empathize with the experiences of the Author in her experience in cold, dead religion. But as for Chris+ Himself, He is raised. I relate to her in her journey of comparative studies this process will only strengthen a person¿s faith as they see how Jesus stands head and shoulders above the rest. I too have been through this process, which has strengthened my own faith and versed me well in apologetics. May the Author continue to seek she will in the process come back to where she started with a conviction of how religion and the traditions of men have watered down the Good News of the Bible and whom Jesus really is. God the Son who became flesh

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2005

    Heartfelt - Insightful

    Awesome... What an appropriate title. I had never heard of her until reading some online reviews; searching for a book that would touch my heart. I certainly found one and would recommend it highly.

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    Posted August 26, 2009

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    Posted January 31, 2011

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    Posted August 18, 2011

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    Posted February 20, 2010

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