The Road Less Traveled
By M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Reviewed by Lois Schroff
I wish I had come across (back in the 80s) one of the seven million copies of The Road Less Traveled written by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M. D. (1936-2005). As a single working mother struggling to raise two sons, I would have benefitted from its information about love. By trying to be both mother and father, I was conflicted between being a gentle woman and a disciplinarian.
What I found intriguing in this book were Dr. Peck’s accounts of his patient’s life stories and how he (and they) learned the consequences of a lack of love in their troubled lives–especially love from their parents. He found that the absence of love is the major cause of mental illness and the presence of love is the essential healing ingredient.
To quote Dr. Peck in his Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition: “Had The Road been published twenty years previously, I doubt that it would have been even slightly successful. Even more important, the same was true for the practice of psychotherapy. The result was that by 1978 when it was originally published, a large number of people in the US were both psychologically and spiritually sophisticated and had begun to deeply contemplate ‘all the kinds of things that people shouldn’t talk about.’ They were almost literally waiting for someone to say such things out loud.”
The nurturing ingredients recommended by Dr. Peck for developing love are obtained via self-discipline, i.e. delaying gratification, assuming responsibility, dedication to reality, and balancing. Practice leads to spiritually higher levels and thus to a more authentic love. Scott Peck postulated that there is a force toward evolution that pushes humanity to grow counter to its lethargy. He calls this force “love”—“the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” What are we growing toward? The author postulates the “terrifying idea” that we are growing to Godhood—to become like God (or like Christ).
I also recommend the final two books written by Dr. Peck: People of the Lie and Glimpses of the Devil. He determined that laziness, carried to its ultimate extreme, is evil. Truly evil people actively avoid extending themselves. Rather than nurturing others, they eventually destroy others in this cause—to the point of killing, if necessary. In these two books, psychiatrist Scott Peck called for a scientific investigation of evil, possession, exorcism and related phenomena that persist in human consciousness.
His feeling was that: “(The) possibility of unification of religion and science is the most significant and exciting happening in our intellectual life today. But it is only just beginning. For the most part both the religious and the scientific remain in the self-imposed narrow frames of reference, each still largely blinded by its own particular type of tunnel vision…”