Peck, M. Scott 1936-2005
Peck, M. Scott 1936-2005
(Morgan Scott Peck)
PERSONAL: Born May 22, 1936, in New York, NY; died September 25, 2005, in Warren, CT, of complications of pancreatic and liver duct cancer; son of David W. (an attorney) and Elizabeth (Saville) Peck; married Lily Ho (a psychotherapist), December 27, 1959; children: Belinda, Julia, Christopher. Education: Attended Middlebury College, 1954–56; Harvard University, A.B., 1958; Case Western Reserve University, M.D., 1963. Religion: Christian.
CAREER: U.S. Army, 1963–72; intern at Tripler Medical Center, Honolulu, HI, 1963–64, resident in psychiatry at Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco, CA, 1967–70, chief of department of psychology at U.S. Army Medical Center, Okinawa, Japan, 1967–70, left service as lieutenant colonel. Private practice of psychiatry in New Preston, CT, 1972–84. Medical director, New Milford Hospital Mental Health Clinic; vice chair of the board, Foundation for Community Encouragement; board member, Ouroborus, Inc. Consultant to U.S. Surgeon General, 1970–72; managerial consultant.
AWARDS, HONORS: Military: Meritorious service medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Kaleidoscope Award for Peacemaking, 1984; named distinguished psychiatrist lecturer, American Psychiatric Association, 1992; Temple International Peace Prize, 1994; Learning, Faith and Freedom Medal, Georgetown University, 1996.
The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978, 25th anniversary edition, 2002.
People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Marilyn von Waldener and Patricia Kay) What Return Can I Make?: The Dimensions of the Christian Experience, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.
The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.
Creating Community Anywhere: Finding Support in a Fragmented World, Putnam (New York, NY), 1993.
Further along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey toward Spiritual Growth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
Meditations from the Road, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason, and Discovery, Compass (Boston, MA), 1995.
Gifts for the Journey: Treasures of the Christian Life, Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1995.
The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Golf and the Spirit: Lessons for the Journey, Harmony (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor and author of commentary) Abounding Grace: An Anthology of Wisdom, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2000.
(Editor and author of commentary) Abounding Love: A Treasury of Wisdom, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.
(Editor and author of commentary) Abounding Happiness: A Treasury of Wisdom, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.
(Editor and author of commentary) Abounding Faith: A Treasury of Wisdom, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2003.
Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption, Free Press (New York, NY), 2005.
A Bed by the Window: A Novel of Mystery and Redemption, Bantam (New York, NY), 1990.
The House of Charon, Bantam (New York, NY), 1990.
The Friendly Snowflake: A Fable of Faith, Love, and Family, illustrated by Christopher Scott Peck, Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1992.
In Heaven As on Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife (novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
Also author of introduction to Exploring the Road Less Traveled, edited by Alice Howard and Walden Howard, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.
SIDELIGHTS: M. Scott Peck was one of the most prominent and respected authors of self-help books in the United States. Peck, a psychiatrist, stressed the need for self-discipline and reliance on a higher power. Rather than promising a way to make life easy, he told readers to accept the fact that life is difficult. The public responded to his message, keeping his most famous book, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, on the New York Times bestseller list for over thirteen years.
Peck was born in New York City, the younger son of a prominent lawyer. He attended Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor's degree with high honors. After completing medical school at Case Western Reserve University, he served as a doctor in the U.S. Army. At the time of his resignation nine years later, he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and was a consultant in psychiatry to the Surgeon General. For the next eleven years he worked in private practice as a psychiatrist in Connecticut.
Peck published The Road Less Traveled in 1978. Sales were not impressive initially, but the book slowly gained momentum. Not until 1983 did it reach the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for over a decade. The Road Less Traveled was also translated into more than twenty languages, establishing Peck as an author with appealing, accessible insights into the relationship between science and religion.
In The Road Less Traveled, Peck wrote that he continually saw people who refused to admit life's difficulty, people broken by illusions of self-sacrifice and by dreams of fulfillment in love. Romantic love, he said, is a "dreadful lie … I weep in my heart almost daily for the ghastly confusion that myth fosters." Instead, Peck believed, once an individual accepts the inherent difficulty in life, through self-discipline and love he or she can transfer weakness into strength. One aspect of this attitude, he explained, is "real love," which he defined as "an act of the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
Peck moved critics by displaying a sense of his own sympathetic character throughout the book. Best Sellers contributor Robert Stensrud commented: "Dr. Peck's incisiveness and breadth of understanding are impressive…. Of the self-help books I have read, this one impresses me most because the emphasis is more on accuracy and honesty than on titillating the reader." Phyllis Theroux, writing in the Washington Post, also compared Peck's book to other works on spiritual growth. "The Road Less Traveled is … a magnificent boat of a book, and it is so obviously written by a human being who, both in style and substance, leans toward the reader for the purposes of sharing something larger than himself, that one reads with the feeling that this is not just a book but a spontaneous act of generosity."
Peck's next book, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, examines the nature of evil in humankind. The author, who converted to Christianity two years after the publication of his first book, defined a personality disorder new to the medical profession but familiar to religion. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Isaac Rehert quoted Peck as saying: "The predominant motive of some destructive people is to disguise their own evil from others and from themselves," so that they emerge from psychiatric treatment only more firmly entrenched in destructive behavior. "Such people are simply evil," Peck maintained. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, critic Malcolm Boyd noted that "the bulk of the book offers case histories of people categorized as 'evil' and their treatment," which Peck says can—and should—include the exorcism of demons.
Like several other critics, Toronto Globe & Mail contributor Fraser Sutherland was not fully convinced by Peck's examples; however, Sutherland concluded that "the issues he addresses are extremely important." Boyd summed up: "'People of the Lie' is a curious mix, linking professional expertise with personal opinion, case history with moral preachment, political liberalism with religious dogmatism. It is a stubborn, sometimes arrogant treatise…. Yet useful and promising creative ideas are in these controversial pages."
Peck supported his work in The Road Less Traveled with several related sequels: Meditations from the Road, Further along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey toward Spiritual Growth, and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety. In the latter work, a collection of lectures, Peck examines the significance of personal spirituality within psychological treatment and presents what he views as the four-step process of spiritual development, a process that leaves such figures as religious zealots, saints, and most average churchgoers lagging far below the apex. While some reviewers found praise for the work, Matthew Scully asked in American Spectator: "What is missing from Scott Peck these days? The clarity and humility with which he began his journey." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the book mixes "selections of pre-digested Freud and Jung … with an idiosyncratic idea of an imminent yet bland non-denominational God," but appreciated "Peck's hard-edged insistence on personal responsibility," and his recognition of the reality of evil and sin. Booklist reviewer Ray Olson considered the book a "compelling" and complex work that inspires readers to live responsible and spiritually meaningful lives.
Peck's other nonfiction works include A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered and In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason, and Discovery, which records a trip Peck took with his family to the site of neolithic monuments in Great Britain in 1992. The author referred to this book as "the closest thing to an autobiography that I will ever write." Susan Cheever, writing in the New York Times Book Review, deemed the work "an engrossing mixture of travelogue and sermon." She continued: "[Peck] has found the ideal counterpoint to his own restless heart in the stability of stones in this story. It will certainly not bore God." Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia, a book that tackles the subject of euthanasia from a spiritual perspective, received mixed reviews. National Review contributor J. Budziszweski called it "a muddle from start to finish," but Barbara O'Hara suggested in the Library Journal that Peck "takes on big issues with serious-ness, sensitivity, and balance." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, commenting that some readers would disagree with Peck's firm stance against physician-assisted suicide, nevertheless commended the "passion and conviction" of his argument.
Peck ventured into somewhat newer territory with Golf and the Spirit, which uses the sport of golf as a spiritual metaphor. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Ian Dunlop felt that Peck took himself a bit too seriously in the book, complaining that "after every shot you can almost hear him reflect on the significance of what has just taken place." A contributor to Publishers Weekly observed that Peck "loses sight of the essence of the game" in his focus on spirituality. Others, however, found Golf and the Spirit inspiring and accessible. Leroy Hommerding, a contributor to the Library Journal, deemed Golf and the Spirit an "essential" contribution to popular psychology and spirituality.
In People of the Lie, Peck had devoted a chapter to the subject of exorcism. He expanded the subject to book length in the last book he published before his death in 2005: Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption. In it, Peck admits that he was well aware of many people' skepticism about the ideas of demons, evil spirits, and possession. He states that he too thought such things were nonexistent, but that his mind was changed by his own experiences. At one point Peck became involved with a patient named Jersey Babcock. She believed that she was possessed by evil spirits and that this was why she was neglecting her children. Peck took on her case mainly as a way of proving that there was no scientific evidence to support the existence of demons. Yet Babcock's case, along with that of Beccah Armitage, a woman who had grown up in an abusive home, eventually led Peck to take on the role of lead exorcist in dramatic conflicts that included paranormal events. The author gives a "calm but dramatic" rendition of these events, according to a Publishers Weekly writer, and proposes that a science of exorcism be established. Acknowledging that many readers would remain unconvinced, the reviewer nevertheless recommended Glimpses of the Devil as a "powerful and concisely written" book. Ray Olson, reviewing it for Booklist, called it "riveting" as well as insightful enough to provoke new thought in "believers and skeptics of the devil alike."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Peck, M. Scott, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978.
America, April 19, 1997, John W. Donohue, "The Book Much Read," p. 26.
American Spectator, March, 1994, Matthew Scully, review of Further along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey toward Spiritual Growth, pp. 73-76.
Best Sellers, January, 1979, Robert Stensrud, review of The Road Less Traveled, p. 310.
Booklist, January 1, 1993, Ray Olson, review of A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered, p. 770; September 1, 1993, John Mort, review of Further along the Road Less Traveled, p. 3; February 15, 1995, Ray Olson, review of In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason, and Discovery, p. 1034; March 15, 1996, Ray Olson, review of In Heaven As on Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife, p. 1220; October 15, 1996, Ray Olson, review of The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety, p. 378; December 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption, p. 618.
Christian Century, November 22, 1995, Wayne G. Boulton, "Stones in the Road: M. Scott Peck's Travels," p. 1126.
Commonweal, September 9, 1994, Dennis M. Doyle, review of The Road Less Traveled, p. 19.
Fortune, June 28, 1993, Gary Belis, review of A World Waiting to Be Born, p. 147.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 25, 1984, Fraser Sutherland, review of People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil.
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, summer, 1995, Donald A Klose, "M. Scott Peck's Analysis of Human Evil: A Critical Review," p. 37.
Journal of Spiritual Formation, May, 1994, Michael Whelan, "Counterfeit Elements in Christian Spirituality: A Challenge for Theological Educators," p. 211.
Library Journal, November 1, 1993, Carolyn Craft, review of Further along the Road Less Traveled, p. 99; March 15, 1995, Elizabeth Salt, review of In Search of Stones, p. 75; June 1, 1996, Henry Carrigan, Jr., review of In Heaven As on Earth, p. 92; December, 1996, Barbara O'Hara, review of The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, p. 100; March 15, 1997, Barbara O'Hara, review of Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia, p. 81; April 15, 1999, Leroy Hommerding, review of Golf and the Spirit: Lessons for the Journey, p. 102; October 15, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of The Road Less Traveled, p. 99.
Los Angeles Times, November 8, 1983, Malcolm Boyd, review of People of the Lie, p. 12; November 10, 1983, Isaac Rehert, "Psychiatrist Writes Book on Satan," p. 16.
National Review, July 10, 1995, J. Budziszweski, review of In Search of Stones, p. 59; July 14, 1997, J. Budziszweski, review of Denial of the Soul, p. 45.
New York Times Book Review, January 1, 1984, Judith Rascoe, review of People of the Lie, p. 10; April 30, 1995, Susan Cheever, review of In Search of Stones, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1985, Carolyn Anthony, "The Long, Winding and Happy Fate of The Road Less Traveled," p. 76; December 7, 1992, review of The Friendly Snowflake: A Fable of Faith, Love, and Family, p. 63; January 18, 1993, review of A World Waiting to Be Born, p. 456; September 6, 1993, review of Further along the Road Less Traveled, p. 78; February 13, 1995, review of In Search of Stones, p. 68; March 25, 1996, review of In Heaven As on Earth, p. 60; November 4, 1996, review of The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, p. 60; January 20, 1997, review of Denial of the Soul, p. 383; April 12, 1999, review of Golf and the Spirit, p. 61.
Rolling Stone, October 19, 1995, John Colapinto, "M. Scott Peck at the End of the Road," p. 80; January 3, 2005, review of Glimpses of the Devil, p. 48.
Time, September 19, 1994, John Skow, "The Fairway Less Traveled," p. 91.
Times Literary Supplement, July 21, 2000, Ian Dunlop, review of Golf and the Spirit, p. 12.
Washington Post, September 29, 1978, Phyllis Theroux, review of The Road Less Traveled; February 14, 1983, Dorothy Gilliam, "Love Story," p. B1; October 18, 1983, Anthony Starr, review of People of the Lie, p. D4.
M. Scott Peck's Official Home Page, http://www.mscottpeck.com (April 21, 2006).
Christian Century, October 18, 2005, p. 19.
Christianity Today, December, 2005, p. 20.