Friday, November 29, 2013

Falling Short

M. Scott Peck
Wiki says:
Morgan Scott Peck (May 23, 1936 – September 25, 2005) was an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978.

Peck's works combined his experiences from his private psychiatric practice, with a distinctly religious point of view. In his second book, People of the Lie, he wrote, "After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment – signified by my non-denominational baptism on the ninth of March 1980..." Peck claimed that people who are evil attack others rather than face their own failures.

Peck discusses human evil in his book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, and also in a chapter of The Road Less Traveled. Peck characterizes human 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. Peck argues that these people are the most difficult of all to deal with, and extremely hard to identify.
Human evil is distinct from spiritual evil. Peck eventually accepted that spiritual evil and the devil actually exist after he participated in exorcisms headed by a practicing exorcist. On this issue of spiritual evil I have no comment. However, I have long accepted Peck's description of human evil, especially as it appears in families and victimizes children. I will not fully detail his description, leaving that synopsis for the Wiki article to express. The Wiki article was written carefully by someone familiar with Peck's work.

In People of the Lie Peck also brings Christian spiritual history into play by explaining that in the concept of sin as used by the church there is both a diagnosis of illness (human evil) and as well a possible diagnosis of possession and/or worship of a false god (spiritual evil). Peck believes that the church considers genuine cases of spiritual evil rare and cases of human evil much more common. Thus Peck considers sin to be at least in part an early form of a mental health diagnosis and repentence and exorcism (at least in some small part) both therapeutic attempts.

Most people have considerred Peck's first book, The Road Less Travelled as his most important work. However, it is so similar to dozens if not hundreds of other books by other authors. For this reason, I consider People of the Lie to be his most important work because it is a singular work. Few other authors have written of evil in the same way. There are several other works by Peck I did not read so I don't know if I would find them more important or not.

On a final note, it is sad that Peck is another example of ordinary humanity. He had a majestic vision of the yearning of the human spirit that he expressed as a writer and he gave a rather poor showing in his private life. We are left with the decision then to let his books speak for themselves or to insist that they are suspect because an ordinary man wrote them. I hope that Peck was not an evil man in any way. In this same way, I hope that you and I are also not evil. I admit there was a period when I actively wrestled with the risk that I might be evil. I eventually became convinced that I was not. That struggle took place long before I found either Peck's first or second book. Peck died at home after suffering from Parkinson's disease, pancreatic cancer and liver duct cancer.

Falling Short

Why so often is
it this way, that you or I
discard what others
kindly call the real
thing, our words tinny to our
own ears, so far from
perfection they be
to us, our own hearts failing
to find the current?

August 30, 2010 6:35 AM
Retitled November 28, 2013


  1. I read both his books, and I agree that 'People of the Lie' was probably more important than 'The Road Less Travelled'. I suspect, however, that the latter book was more popular than the former.

    1. There is no doubt that his 'Road Less Travelled' is more popular in the US. He produced several others I have seen listed. I don't think any of them reach the popularity of his first.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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