M Scott Peck

Fascinating article about M.Scott Peck via MetaFilter.

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.

7 thoughts on “M Scott Peck”

  1. I found Peck’s work to be really uneven. The one book of his that connected with me at all was “People of the Lie”. I read the one about demon posession last month and thought to myself, man, this guy has to see a psychiatrist…oh, wait.

  2. Good to hear from you, Jeff.

    I found “People of the Lie” pretty powerful too. It opened my young eyes to kinds of “evil” that I would not probably have been so aware of.

    In retrospect, I think what it did was draw a really vivid picture of human psychology in defensive and fearful breakdown, isolation, and withdrawal, and it accurately depicted how horribly destructive that can be for themselves and the people around them.

    I’m not sure how useful Peck’s conclusions about and reactions to that reality are though.

    Not useful to me, is all I can say.

  3. I remember you being enthusiastic about M. Scott Peck back in high school. As you described it at the time, it sounded interesting enough.

    I never did get around to read anything he did though. I suspect I’m not interested enough in the genre he writes in to actually go to the bother of reading it…

    Reading the article certainly gives an odd twist on his views though.

  4. Hmm. Ok, first I thought this was the guy who wrote the book “A Day No Pigs Would Die.” I was all primed to tell the story of how I saw him speak at Sylvan Christian School when I was in junior high there, and how he was a big loud guy with a lot of confidence who was totally hitting on my young blond English teacher, Mrs. Breems, and making her giggle. So I found the note about him not denying himself the pleasures of the flesh to be quite a propos.

    Then I looked this up on Amazon and realized that no, this is the guy who wrote “A Road Less Traveled,” which I read the first half of and loved.

    Huh. I’ll have to go back and read it again.

    A Day No PIgs Would DIe was Robert Newton Peck.

    Don’t think they’re related.

  5. I remember being forced to read _A Day No Pigs Would Die_ in high school. I remember a kid almost gets his arm chewed off pulling a goiter out of a pig’s throat — or was it a cow’s? — and his dad dies and he has to grow up. I have never been tempted to reread it or seek out anything else by the author. I think that might have been the same class where we were made to read _The Chosen_, some parts of which, in contrast to _Pigs_, I actually found interesting. (How can you not find the concept of gematriya interesting?…)

  6. Take a look at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8123-1606175,00.html. This was an interview given by Peck in May, 2005. He has sort of crashed and burned. It reminds me that humans have “feet of clay”. However, “The Road Less Traveled” and a lot of the rest that he wrote has helped me. I met him at a talk that he gave in my home town. It was about 17 years ago and I always thought “Scotty” would be my friend. He still would be.

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