Just finished reading The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong.
I had great respect for her after reading the erudite yet accessible A History of God. And, now, after hearing her personal story of her years since she left the convent, I feel affirmed in my own process and preoccupation with the divine. From my sense of alienation, to my early disdain of my emotional sensitivity, to my later struggle with not letting my idealization of empirical reason completely undermine my intuition, to submitting myself to a spiritual training (or, as my teacher might say, not having submitted myself enough), to an acceptance of myself and even my feelings as my compass, to a respect for and cooperation with forces acting in my life, to a growing appreciation for paradox and the apprehension of God as an impersonal phenomenon beyond all conception and how much loving comfort that gives me, to the eventual academic endeavour (of which I have only just begun) of seeing if I can form a cohesive vision of history, theology, and psychology for myself.
Here’s a little taste from the beginning of the book …
“Exile is, of course, not simply a change of addess. It is also a spiritual dislocation…. Once the fixed point of home is gone, there is a fundamental lack of orientation that makes everything seem relative and aimless.” (Armstrong, 2004, p. 23)
And from the end …
“To my very great surprise, I was discovering that some of the most eminent Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians and mystics insisted that God was not an objective fact, was not another being, and was not an unseen reality like the atom, whose existence could be empirically demonstrated…. Most would agree with the Greek Orthodox that any statement about God had to have two characteristics. It must be paradoxical, to remind us that God cannot be contained in a neat, coherent system of thought; and it must be apophatic, that is, it should lead us to a moment of silent awe or wonder, because when we are speaking of the reality of God we are at the end of what words or thoughts can usefully do.” (Armstrong, 2004, pp. 291-2)
Thank you, Karen Armstrong, for hobbling along your path to give this back to folks like me.