I’ve just finished reading Karen Armstrong’s book The Spiral Staircase. I was interested in what she had to say as I read some of her book Holy War for my Eleanor paper. What a tragic story she has. The Spiral Staircase is the story of her life from when she left the convent at age 24. Apparently it’s not the first book she’s written about her life either. The Narrow Gate is another. I think I’ll give that one a pass though.
Miss Armstrong struggled with undiagnosed epilepsy. The petit mal seizures she experienced where frowned upon by the convent sisters and she was told that they were just her sensitivity which she ought to learn to control. The whole experience appeared rather harsh based on what Miss Armstrong had to say in her book.
She also struggled with what I determine to have been severe depression. She definitely bought into the negative things that people said about her, especially during her time in the convent.
I must say I don’t agree with much if anything of what she has to say about her flavor of religion, or lack thereof which is probably more accurate. In the article she says, “”Believing in God is neither here nor there,” Armstrong says. ”You have to make that belief work for the world. Christianity is about looking at other people’s point of view. … It means you have to dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put others there.” At least I agree with the last sentence. I am curious about her interpretation of the early church and St. Paul. I can’t fathom how she landed on the conclusions she did.
If you’d be interested in reading more about her, our local paper has an article on her which can be found here. Of course, the article is a promo for her new book called Axiel Age which deals with the development of four different philosophies from 900 to 200 BC.