Books by M. Scott Peck

Released: March 1, 1997

The bestselling author of The Road Less Traveled offers a nuanced and thought-provoking contribution to a debate that, he believes, is going to make us face important questions about our direction as a society. Although assisted-suicide practitioner Dr. Jack Kevorkian gives Peck the shivers, our author credits him for having almost single-handedly made euthanasia a national issue in the US. Peck has not written about euthanasia before, and he does so now, he says, because of his alarm at the lack of passion, the ``vast, tacit approval of euthanasia,'' that has followed Kevorkian's activities. Peck's own position is a mixture of pragmatism and principle. He is not totally against assisted suicide in cases of severe and prolonged physical pain, but he believes that hospice, with its concept of palliative medical care and liberal use of morphine pumps, should make this option unnecessary. Of more practical concern for Peck is the use of euthanasia as a way of avoiding existential suffering in the face of death. Drawing on actual case histories of assisted suicide, he notes a tendency for the patient to want to remain in control. Peck argues that evading the process of gradual detachment at the approach of death is to succumb to the kind of fear that lies at the root of all neurosis. More radically, it is a denial of the soul and, as such, an expression of a deeply secular worldview. While Peck values secularism as an advance over religious bigotry, he suggests that it is a stage of limited personal growth. Peck is very careful to define his terms. As in all his books, he draws on his years of work as a therapist and on his personal struggles. Peck's open-ended and compassionate approach will speak to all shades of opinion. (For another look at euthanasia, see Bert Keizer, Dancing with Mister D, p. TK.) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

Peck's latest offering is the final installment of his ``Road Less Traveled'' trilogy (The Road Less Traveled, 1978, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, 1993) and a synthesis of his thinking to date. Is there a link between personal growth, spirituality, and basic mental health? Peck has spent much of his adult life arguing that such a link exists and struggling with the more difficult task of describing it. In this new work he focuses not on health but on its absence, asserting that many forms of human evil can be traced to a failure to face up to the challenge of thinking for ourselves. Confronted by life's complexities, we fall back on stereotypes in the way that we see things and treat each other. Peck goes on to argue that we must cultivate the ability to think clearly, as well as a healthy love of self (and an awareness of our own mortality), if we are not to be swept up in damaging group-driven behavior. He criticizes the denial of God and the human soul in many circles, not least by psychiatrists and the helping professions generally, as instances of simplistic thinking. As in The Road Less Traveled, Peck warns that, contrary to what our culture tells us, difficulty and pain are unavoidable ingredients of the process of personal growth. However, he now believes that his earlier stance in favor of traditional American individualism needs to be amplified by an awareness of our common interdependence and the notion of community. Peck speaks from his own personal and professional experience as a psychiatrist. This gives his writing a powerful existential quality; yet together with his habit of frequently quoting from his own books, it sometimes makes him sound pompous, as if he alone has honestly wrestled with the perennial philosophical and theological issues he raises. Generally balanced, though, and challenging; sure to appeal to Peck's large following. (Literary Guild alternate selection) Read full book review >
Released: May 9, 1996

An allegorical glimpse of the soul's post-death experiences from popular guru and erstwhile therapist Peck (In Search of Stones, 1995, etc.). Finding himself near the ceiling of his bedroom, Daniel Turpin, an author and psychiatrist, briefly looks down on the waxy, gray body of a 73-year-old man before he gets whirled into a vortex and embraced by the light. Peck describes in a first-person narrative how Daniel next finds himself lying down (without a body) in a simple but strangely comforting small green room where he is visited by Sam and Norma, who, he feels, resemble Mormon missionaries but turn out to be his official ``Greeters,'' charged with introducing him to his new life. In subsequent chapters, Daniel meets his wife and his son Tim, now an advanced spirit who, however, never quite answers Daniel's excited questions. There's even a sex scene on a hillside overlooking Assisi, where Daniel is all but seduced by the erotic charms of a spirit named Susan, who turns out to be Satan. The shifting of shapes and scenes is rather like the virtual-reality programs of Star Trek, and indeed Daniel learns that the body, like all things visible, is really a collection of psychic projections from which souls can learn to free themselves. Thus an obese woman, Trish, is literally caught in her own self-image (learning to let go of it is her Purgatory), whereas Hell is a giant financial agency whose employees can never bear to leave. Peck makes clever use of popular near-death motifs and Tibetan Bardostyle confrontations. He admits his debt to C.S. Lewis but avoids the latter's brand of Christianity. Unsettlingly, Daniel (who, after all, seems remarkably like Peck's alter ego) frequently reminds the reader what a great visionary and therapist he was on earth. Useful psychological insights in a loose New Age framework. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1995

Severe inflammation of the ego is in evidence as ex-therapist Peck (Further Along the Road Less Traveled, 1993, etc.) muses on life and recounts his 21-day tour of Great Britain's ancient megalithic sites. Following his nephew's wedding at a famous London church, Peck and his wife, Lily, set out by train for Wales, the English Lake District, and Scotland in search of stones, similar to those at Stonehenge, set up in mysterious patterns more than 4,000 years ago. Peck tells us that he is too clever and possibly too humble to write an autobiography and that this is the closest he will get to it. As we follow him from the ``litter'' of Paddington Station to Cardiff, where the best hotel vaguely reminds him of Calcutta and he finds the natives unintelligible, we hear of his embarrassment at his privileged upbringing on the better part of Manhattan's Park Avenue and of his marital infidelities (which he says have ceased due to the onset of late middle age). He cites, as a bit of British provincialism, the fact that an English clergyman was scandalized at his $10,000 fee for a day's speaking engagement (half the priest's yearly income). As for Scotland itself, Peck found Glasgow ``grimy and littered'' and somehow missed out on its ancient cathedral and renowned architecture. He visited the New Age Community at Findhorn (which also disappointed him) but failed to call at the nearby 13th-century Pluscarden Abbey, with its remarkable stonework and vigorous religious community. Eloquent in his allusions to the Druids, the Merlin legend, and the mysterious people who built the stone circles, the author seems to have been hardly aware of their more recent counterparts. For the moment, Peck seems to have run out of road. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 15, 1993

Megawriter Peck, whose The Road Less Traveled continues as a smash bestseller more than a decade after publication, weighs in with additional down-to-earth counsel on psychological and religious matters, based this time on his talks and lectures. Peck's orientation is specifically Christian now, a result of a conversion and baptism that took place after Road appeared. Here, he addresses three stages of personal development— ``growing up,'' ``knowing yourself,'' and ``in search of a personal God''—explaining that all three entail the recognition that ``everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.'' This process of maturation brings with it classic psychospiritual issues—such as the casting of blame, the meaning of death, and the mystery of existence—and Peck examines each with his trademark avuncular blend of friendly chat, tough advice, first-person experience (often drawn from his psychiatric practice), and literary citations. Chapters hop unexpectedly from one subject to another (presumably reflecting the various lectures): addiction, which he sees as a yearning for paradise; the New Age, castigated for promoting ``spiritual confusion'' and ignoring the problem of evil; the stages of spiritual growth, from ``chaotic/antisocial'' to ``mystical/communal''; Christian heresies; the danger of cults (Peck provides useful guidelines for recognizing fringe sects); and so on. The bottom line is our relation to God: Life's meaning—which Peck urges the psychiatric profession to take into account—lies in the growth of the soul. This is what Peck's zillions of fans have been waiting for, more sage Road talk from the master. It will hit the fast track fast, and keep on running and running and running. Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 1993

Peck's megahit, The Road Less Traveled (1978), offered cures for the psychospiritual ills of lone men and women; this does the same for human clusterings, large or small. As Peck (A Bed by the Window, 1990, etc.) sees it, society is an unholy mess. The reason? Loss of ``civility,'' defined as ``consciously motivated organizational behavior''—that is, the ability to behave with attention and love toward other human beings. The solution? Certainly not a ``return to Eden,'' which some seek through drugs or alcohol. Rather, the answer is painful evolution into a higher awareness of self and other. Peck speaks despairingly of the ``hole in the mind,'' which is our propensity to act unconsciously in organizations. To teach us how to plug the hole, Peck makes use of systems theory, management training, lessons drawn from his psychiatric practice and personal life, and heavy doses of religious insight. The bottom line here is God and his unconditional love for all human beings. God exalts us; our job is to accept and work with this elevated status. As individuals, this means finding the right job and doing it well. Peck offers useful advice on both accounts (the best way to husband time, he says, is to spend some of it doing nothing—that is, in prayer and meditation). As for organizational life, this begins for many people with marriage. Echoing the realism he sounded in Road, Peck sees the only good reasons for marriage as kids or ``friction,'' i.e., struggle that leads to new life. Business, too, must be rooted in ethics, in which management styles from authoritarian to consensual have a place. In closing, Peck details the work of his Foundation for Community Encouragement, which holds workshops on community-building in businesses and other organizations. A peck of hardheaded, kindhearted advice; the author's best since Road. (First printing of 100,000) Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1992

The psychotherapist author of The Road Less Traveled (a bestseller for over nine years) assays his first children's book- -a slight story much burdened with a heavy message. When a snowflake melts on Jenny's nose, she names it Harry and begins a winter-long rumination on its place in the scheme of things, imbuing Harry with individuality and postulating that a larger flake might be a ``family'' of crystals. Jenny's older brother Dennis, a science-minded know-it-all, scoffs, but when Dad comes home from a trip to India he explains the concept of reincarnation—whereupon Jenny, considering the water cycle, concludes that her snowflake might actually come back to a local pond in the spring. In addition to its rather muddled theology, there are superfluous details of the weather and long-winded, informative conversations, as well as stereotyping—sensitive girl, clever older boy with math skills like Dad's, etc. The author's son, still a student, contributes realistic color-pencil art, unexceptional but attractive. First printing of 100,000. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >