The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness

Front Cover
Knopf, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 305 pages
32 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 inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Meredy - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rachelep - LibraryThing

I received this Book through goodreads giveaways. At first I didn't think I was going to like this book but as I continue to read I went into this Memoir. I can relate to her panic attacks and her fear of having them. I also went through this. Nice story. Read full review

All 14 reviews »


Ash Wednesday
The Devil of the Stairs
Renounce the Blessed Face 18

5 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous other books on religious affairs, including A History of God, The Battle for God, Through the Narrow Gate, Holy War, Islam, and Buddha. Her work has been translated into forty languages. She is also the author of three television documentaries and took part in Bill Moyers's television series Genesis. Since September 11, 2001, she has been a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers, periodicals, and throughout the media on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of Islam. She lives in London.

Bibliographic information