|M. Scott Peck|
|Born||Morgan Scott Peck
May 23 1936
New York City
|Died||September 25 2005 (aged 69)
Morgan Scott Peck (May 23, 1936 – September 25, 2005) was an American psychiatrist and author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978. He became recognized as an authority on the connection between psychiatry and religion, pioneering a trend in understanding human development as including not only physical, mental, and emotional growth, but also spiritual development.
Peck described human life as a series of obstacles to be overcome on the way to developing a mature character, and promoted discipline, or to be more precise self-discipline, as the set of tools essential for solving life's problems. He also discussed the nature of love, stressing that love is not a feeling but rather an activity. Peck also promoted the formation of what he called "true community," wherein individuals overcame their self-centered viewpoints and were able to empathize fully with one another. Controversially, Peck also addressed the idea of evil people and the existence and influence of the Devil or Satan.
While Peck promoted a life of discipline, true love, and honest relationships, he did not live up to these ideals in his own life. He was involved in numerous adulterous relationships and finally divorced from his first wife as well as being estranged from two of his children. Nevertheless, his insights into the human condition, in its best and worst forms, contributed greatly to our understanding of mental health.
Morgan Scott Peck, known as "Scotty," was born on May 22, 1936, in New York City, the son of Elizabeth (née Saville) and David Warner Peck, an attorney and judge. Peck's father was from a Jewish family, although he hid his heritage passing as a WASP. Peck did not discover this until age 23.
Peck was sent by his parents to the prestigious boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, when he was 13. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, Peck told the story of his time at Exeter, admitting that it had been a most miserable time. Finally, at age 15, during the spring holiday of his third year, he came home and refused to return to the school. His parents sought psychiatric help for him and he was (much to his amusement in later life) diagnosed with depression and recommended for a month's stay in a psychiatric hospital (unless he chose to return to school).
Following his hospital stay, where he was able to experience psychotherapy for the first time, Peck attended a small Quaker school in Greenwich Village. He graduated from there in 1954, after which he received a BA from Harvard in 1958, and then enrolled in Columbia University to study medicine. It was there that Peck met Lily Ho, a Chinese student whom he married a year later. Both families were horrified, and the couple moved to Cleveland where Peck completed his studies in medicine at Case Western Reserve University, graduating in 1963. The couple had three children, two daughters and one son.
From 1963 until 1972, Peck served in the United States Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His Army assignments included stints as chief of psychology at the Army Medical Center in Okinawa, Japan, and assistant chief of psychiatry and neurology in the office of the surgeon general in Washington, D.C.
From 1972 to 1983, Peck was engaged in the private practice of psychiatry in Litchfield County, Connecticut. He was the Medical Director of the New Milford Hospital Mental Health Clinic and a psychiatrist in private practice in New Milford, Connecticut. During this time Peck came to make a strong Christian commitment. Having been raised in a secular home, Peck developed his own religious beliefs over the period of his early adulthood. These ranged from Zen Buddhism to Jewish and Muslim mysticism, finally settling with Christianity at age 43.
Peck's private practice in Connecticut was thriving when The Road Less Traveled was published in 1978. It transformed Peck's life, and he became one of the best-known psychiatrists, speakers, and spiritual teachers of his generation. The book eventually spent 13 years on the New York Times bestseller list, sold 10 million copies worldwide, and was translated into more than 20 languages. The Road Less Traveled expanded into a series, and Peck was credited with the popularity of spiritual self-help texts, although scholars in his field were often opposed to his bringing together of mental health and spirituality.
Peck's writings emphasized the virtues of a disciplined life and delayed gratification; however, his personal life was far more turbulent. In his later writings, Peck acknowledged having extramarital affairs and being estranged from two of his children. In 2004, Peck and his wife separated and later divorced. Peck then married Kathleen Kline Yates.
Peck wrote a total of 15 books, including two novels and one for children.
His non-fiction works combined his experiences from his private psychiatric practice with a distinctly religious point of view. He incorporated case histories from his years spent in private practice as a psychiatrist into his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978. Random House, where the then little-known psychiatrist first tried to publish his original manuscript, turned him down, saying the final section was "too Christ-y." Thereafter, Simon & Schuster published the work for $7,500 and printed a modest hardback run of 5,000 copies. It became a best-seller.
Its success was followed by another bestseller, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil (1983). The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (1987) followed, as well as sequels to The Road Less Traveled—Further Along the Road Less Traveled (1993) and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety (1997). His last work was Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (2005), recounting his fascination with exorcism.
The Road Less Traveled published in 1978, is Peck's best-known work, and the one that made his reputation. In the book, Peck describes the attributes that make for a fulfilled human being, drawing significantly on his experiences as a psychiatrist.
The book begins with the statement "Life is difficult." Peck goes on to argue that life was never meant to be easy, and is essentially a series of problems which can either be solved or ignored. He then discusses discipline, which he considers essential for emotional, spiritual, and psychological health, and which he describes as "the means of spiritual evolution." The elements of discipline that make for such health include the ability to delay gratification, accepting responsibility for oneself and one's actions, a dedication to truth, and balancing.
In the second section of the book, Peck addresses the nature of love, which he considers the driving force behind spiritual growth. He attacks a number of misconceptions about love: that romantic love exists (he considers it a very destructive myth when it is solely relying on "feeling in love"), that it is about dependency, and that true love is NOT the feeling of "falling in love." Instead, Peck argues that "true" love is an action to take with one's willingness to extend one's ego boundaries by including others or humanity, and is therefore the spiritual nurturing of oneself as well as the person's beloved.
The final section concerns "grace," the powerful force originating outside human consciousness that nurtures spiritual growth in human beings. He describes the miracles of health, the unconscious, and serendipity—phenomena which Peck says:
He concludes that "the miracles described indicate that our growth as human beings is being assisted by a force other than our conscious will."
First published in 1983, People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil followed on from Peck's first book. He recounts stories of several people who came to him whom he found particularly resistant to any form of help. He came to think of them as "evil," and describes the characteristics of evil in psychological terms, proposing that it could become a psychiatric diagnosis. Peck argues that these "evil" people are the most difficult of all to deal with, and extremely hard to identify.
He describes in some detail several individual patients. In one case, which Peck considers as the most typical because of its subtlety, he describes "Roger," a depressed teenage son of respected, well off parents. In a series of parental decisions justified by often subtle distortions of the truth, they exhibit a consistent disregard for their son's feelings, and a consistent willingness to destroy his growth. With false rationality and normalcy, they aggressively refuse to consider that they are in any way responsible for his resultant depression, eventually suggesting his condition must be incurable and genetic.
Some of his conclusions about the psychiatric condition that Peck designates as "evil," are derived from his close study of one patient he names "Charlene." Although Charlene is not dangerous, she is ultimately unable to have empathy for others in any way. According to Peck, people like her see others as play things or tools to be manipulated for their own uses or entertainment. Peck states that these "evil" people are rarely seen by psychiatrists, and have never been treated successfully.
Using the My Lai Massacre as a case study, Peck also examines group evil, discussing how human group morality is strikingly less than individual morality. Partly, he considers this to be a result of specialization, which allows people to avoid individual responsibility and "pass the buck," resulting in a reduction of group conscience.
Ultimately Peck says that evil arises out of free choice. He describes it thus: Every person stands at a crossroads, with one path leading to God, and the other path leading to the Devil. The path of God is the right path, and accepting this path is akin to submission to a higher power. However, if a person wants to convince himself and others that he has free choice, he would rather take a path which cannot be attributed to its being the right path. Thus, he chooses the path of evil.
The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, first published in 1987, moves from the development of the individual to the growth of groups, of community. The first section of the book, entitled "The Foundation," is based on Peck's own experiences with communities. In particular, he shares details of four communities: Friends Seminary which he attended as a teenager from 1952-1954; a group run according to the "Tavistock Model" that he attended in February 1967; the "Tech Group" in Okinawa in 1968-1969; and a "sensitivity group" held in the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine in 1972. Through these experiences Peck defines what he calls "true community," how to form it, and how it can be maintained.
The second section, "The Bridge," investigates more theoretical aspects of community building. In particular, Peck notes how our individual human nature causes difficulties when we are brought together. The formation of a true community requires transformation on the part of individuals in order to be open to the experience of community with others.
The final section, "The Solution," is Peck's attempt to show how true community can solve many problems in the world. He begins with communication, arguing that in true community there is genuine, honest communication without fear of reprisal, and that in such a state human beings are capable of resolving differences and breaking the barriers that divide us. Peck argues that with such communication conflict can be resolved peacefully, war averted.
In The Road Less Traveled, Peck talks of the importance of discipline, by which he means self-discipline, describing four aspects:
Peck defines discipline as the basic set of tools required to solve life’s problems. He considers these tools to include delaying gratification, assuming responsibility, dedication to the truth, and balancing. Peck argues that these are techniques of suffering, that enable the pain of problems to be worked through and systematically solved, producing growth. He argues that most people avoid the pain of dealing with their problems and suggests that it is through facing the pain of problem solving that life becomes more meaningful.
Delaying gratification is the process by which pain is chosen to be experienced before pleasure. Most learn this activity by the age of five. For example, a six-year-old child will eat the cake first and enjoy the frosting last. However, a sizable number of adolescents seem to lack this capacity. These problematic students are controlled by their impulses. Such youngsters indulge in drugs, get into frequent fights, and often find themselves in confrontation with authority.
Peck states that it is only through taking responsibility, and accepting the fact that life has problems, that these problems can then be solved. He argues that Neurosis and character-disordered people represent two opposite disorders of responsibility. Neurotics assume too much responsibility and feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in their life. While character disordered people deny responsibility, blaming others for their problems. Peck writes in the Road Less Traveled that "It is said ‘neurotics make themselves miserable; those with character disorders make everyone else miserable’." Peck argues that everyone is neurotic or character-disordered at some time in their life, and the balance is to avoid both extremes.
Dedication to the truth represents the capacity of an individual to modify and update their worldview when exposed to new information discordant with the old view. For example a bitter childhood can leave a person with the false idea that the world is a hostile and inhuman place. However with continued exposure to more positive aspects of the world, this existing worldview is challenged and needs to be modified to integrate the new experiences. Peck also argues that dedication to truth implies a life of genuine self-examination, a willingness to be personally challenged by others, and honesty to oneself and others.
Peck considers the use of these interrelated techniques of discipline as paramount, if the difficulties and conflicting requirements of life are to be dealt with and balanced successfully.
Peck believes that it is only through suffering and agonizing using the four aspects of discipline (delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing) that we can resolve the many puzzles and conflicts that we face. This is what he calls undertaking "legitimate suffering." Peck argues that by trying to avoid legitimate suffering, people actually ultimately end up suffering more. This extra unnecessary suffering is what Scott Peck terms "neurotic suffering." He references Carl Jung "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." Peck says that our aim must be to eliminate neurotic suffering and to work through our legitimate suffering in order to achieve our individual goals.
Though the topic of evil has historically been the domain of religion, Peck makes great efforts to keep much of his discussion on a scientific basis, explaining the specific psychological mechanisms by which evil operates. He is also conscious of the danger of a psychology of evil being misused for personal or political ends. Peck considers that such a psychology should be used with great care, as falsely labeling people as evil is one of the very characteristics of evil. He argues that a diagnosis of evil should come from the standpoint of healing and safety for its victims, but also with the possibility, even if remote, that the evil themselves may be cured.
Evil is described by Peck as "militant ignorance." The original Judeo-Christian concept of "sin" is as a process that leads us to "miss the mark" and fall short of perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this, at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self-deception), and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopathy.
He characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness in which there is an active rather than passive refusal to tolerate imperfection (sin) and its consequent guilt. This syndrome results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children), which is the paradoxical mechanism by which the "People of the Lie" commit their evil.
According to Peck an evil person:
Peck believed that people who are evil attack others rather than face their own failures. Most evil people realize the evil deep within themselves but are unable to "tolerate the pain of introspection," or admit to themselves that they are evil. Thus, they constantly run away from their evil by putting themselves in a position of "moral superiority" and putting the focus of evil on others. Evil is an extreme form of what Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, calls a "character disorder."
Peck also discussed the question of the devil. Initially he believed, as with "99% of psychiatrists and the majority of clergy," that the devil did not exist; but, after starting to believe in the reality of human evil, he then began to contemplate the reality of spiritual evil. Eventually, after having been referred several possible cases of possession and being involved in two exorcisms, he was converted to a belief in the existence of Satan. Peck considered people who are possessed as being victims of evil, but of not being evil themselves. Peck however considered possession to be rare, and human evil common. He did believe there was some relationship between Satan and human evil, but was unsure of its exact nature.
Peck's perspective on love (in The Road Less Traveled) is that love is not a "feeling," it is an "activity" and an "investment." He defines love as, "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Love is primarily actions towards nurturing the spiritual growth of another.
Peck seeks to differentiate between love and cathexis. Cathexis is what explains sexual attraction, the instinct for cuddling pets and pinching babies' cheeks. However, cathexis is not love. All the same, true love cannot begin in isolation, a certain amount of cathexis is necessary to get sufficiently close to be able to truly love.
Once through the cathexis stage, the work of love begins. It is not a feeling. It consists of what you do for another person. As Peck says in The Road Less Traveled, "Love is as love does." It is about giving yourself and the other person what they need to grow. It is about truly knowing and understanding them.
These four stages provide foundational material for Dave Schmelzer's 2008 book Not The Religious Type.
Based on his experience with community building workshops, Peck described four stages of community building:
Peck's community-building methods differ in principle from team development. While teams in business organizations need to develop explicit rules, guidelines, and protocols, the "emptiness" stage of community building is characterized, not by laying down the rules explicitly, but by shedding resistance within the minds of the individuals.
Peck described what he considered to be the most salient characteristics of a true community:
M. Scott Peck was a recognized authority on the relationship between religion and psychiatry, pioneering the inclusion of the spiritual in psychiatry and psychology at a time when their efforts to be scientific had led them to avoid any connection with religious ideas. For his work, Peck received many awards and honors. In 1992 Dr. Peck was selected by the American Psychiatric Association as a distinguished psychiatrist lecturer "for his outstanding achievement in the field of psychiatry as an educator, researcher and clinician." In January 2002, he received the President's Award from Case Western Reserve for Distinguished Alumni. Fuller Theological Seminary houses the archives of his publications, awards, and correspondence.
Peck also received a number of awards and honors for his community building and peacemaking efforts. These include the Kaleidoscope Award for Peacemaking in 1984, the Temple International Peace Prize in 1994, and the Georgetown University Learning, Faith and Freedom Medal in 1996.
In December 1984, Peck co-founded the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE), a tax-exempt, nonprofit, public educational foundation, whose stated mission is "to teach the principles of community to individuals and organizations." Originally based in Knoxville, Tennessee, it was created to promote the formation of communities through community building workshops held around the world, which, Peck argued, is a first step towards uniting humanity and satisfying people's "deep yearning for authentic human connection." The foundation continues to offer Community Building workshops and Community Facilitation programs around the world. 
All links retrieved August 4, 2018.
New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:
The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia: