The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong
When she was 17, Karen entered the religious life in preparation for being a nun. Seven years later, she left with lots of baggage and some of her own instability. “My years as a nun had somehow made me unfit for the world, had broken something within me, and now I seemed unable to put myself together again….I felt that I was a soft, mollusklike, hopelessly vulnerable creature who needed a thick shell in order to survive, and I was learning to use words to create this carapace.” Thus academia became another form of cloister for her. All of this is backdrop for her “climb out of darkness” which she does in her own distinct way. Karen Armstrong is an extraordinary person. Her writings about the world’s religions are profound and (unlike much academic writing) readable, and knowing this part of her story makes me thankful that she was able to push through her difficulties into light.