This was interesting to me because I read Peck when I was a teenager and found him very interesting and convincing… And because I haven’t thought about him for a long time and I’ve come to conclusions about life that are almost entirely at odds with what I found then, and believed, in Peck.
Peck’s work suggests that, not to put too fine a point on it, psychopathology is sin. Specifically, cowardice and laziness. Not being willing to face up to the reality of one’s problems and deal with the emotional pain involved. It’s kind of a “come on, be a man, life hurts, stop whining and suck it up!” kind of philosophy. You’re sick? Well, you’re lazy. Get off your ass and be healthy.
Looking at Peck from where I’m at now, he just seems to exemplify the type of supercilious cruelty which is characteristic of conservatives. (Nota bene: I don’t mean by saying that to imply that conservatives are crueler than anyone else, just to identify a type of cruelty which is associated with conservatism.)
The article also suggests that Peck fulfils in spades the stereotype of a moralizing conservative hypocrite. His writings idolize self-discipline and integrity at the cost of any personal pain, but by his own admission Peck has virtually never denied himself any pleasure of the flesh, licit or illicit, except where age and illness prevented him. As for his vision of himself, well —
Peck regards himself as a “stage-four evolved person”, the highest spiritual stage a mortal can attain (in his arcane model, an atheist such as myself ranks above an orthodox believer: I come in at a stage three). His identification with other prophets is marked. In the past he has said that when in doubt he asks himself what Jesus would do. Today he confines his comparisons to Daniel, another “bright Jewish boy” who interpreted dreams: “Ultimately he begins reading words written on walls and he was a prophet, which, of course, people have accused me of . . .
I wish I’d known more about Peck back in the days when I was reading his guilt-inducing crap and accepting his hypocritical judgments against ordinary humans.
I might have laughed it off, as it deserved, and found wisdom elsewhere.