Has anyone read this book. It was highly recommended to me and I was curious on input before I read it.
I read this book about 15 years ago. The late M. Scott Peck was a psychiatrist who became a Christian in mid-life. He was baptized in a non-denominational ceremony (his own words–go figure), and the theology which underpins his religious views is somewhat questionable, being a mix of New Age and Modernist. He was most famous for his book, The People of the Lie, which is a fascinating account of his clinical experience of the demonic
The Road Less Traveled* is engrossing to read, but do keep your guard up when he discusses doctrinal matters. As an aside, it was quite possibly M. Scott Peck to whom Malachi Martin refers as the mysterious psychiatrist observing an exorcism described in his book, Hostage to the Devil.
I read it years ago. I thought he touched on the reality of evil in this book? poor memory.
His main treatment of evil was in People of the Lie.
In The Road Less Travelled, he presents his views about the relationship between the mind, and mental illness, and the soul, views which he developed over the years in his practice of psychiatry. The main thrust of his thought is that mind and spirit are fundamentally the same. A personal who matures emotionally matures spiritually, and vice versa. That kind of equivalency makes it really easy for him to slip into New Age spirituality.
It is an interesting book, though. Because he takes the reader through many different clinical cases to illustrate his points. A reader can get a good idea of how one on one psychotherapy is practiced.
What was really interesting about it for me was that psychotherapy grew out of the penitential theology of the Church. It was the medieval theologians–the doctors of the soul if you will–analyzing sin and its manifestations in individuals which created the framework for modern psychotherapy. But a lot of psychotherapists since Freud have thought religious belief is the enemy of mental health, and a sign of emotional immaturity.
Scott Peck is sharing with the reader in this book his discovery that maybe God’s grace has a part to play in mental health. Unfortunately, because Peck has no Catholic theology in which to frame his insights, he draws some mistaken conclusions. But, yes, he did become aware in his practice of psychiatric medicine that sometimes plain old-fashioned evil–sin and Satan–is operating in mental illness.
Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, is an excellent primer for those who study mystical theology. It is still requiered reading at the pontifical schools of theology in the spirituality and mystical theology faculties, including those in Rome, where I graduated.
It is a book that one has to read remembering that Peck is a mental health expert and he’s not trying to teach mystical theology. But what he does is helpful to the student of msytical theology, because he helps us discriminate between true mystical experiences and spiritual growth and an emotional and sometimes an unhealthy response to the spiritual life.
It is true that Peck does not set out to do this, but as the book evolves, he ends up giving you the tools that you will need to study the alleged mystics and sort them out.
The other positive of this work, which mystical thelogians like very much, is the fact that Peck does get into the correlation between healthy spirituality and healthy mind. This is very important for the study of the mystics. He demonstrates that healthy mysticism is part of good mental health. For those who would question the sanity of someone like a Francis of Assisi, who can look like a neurotic to the 21st century mind, Peck’s work shows you that in fact this kind of thinking is part of a very healthy personality. People like Francis of Assisi, or groups like the Carthusians, or movements like the penitential movement of St. Teresa of Avila or the contemplative movement of John of the Cross or even the mendicant movement of Bl. Teresa of Calcuta are actually rooted in a healthy worldview and an even more healthy sense of self and one’s relationship with the Divine.
I would strongly recommend this work to anyone who wants to go further into the mystical world. The logical follow-up to this book are the works of Willliam James and then the works of Fr. Thomas Dubay. After that, the world of mystical theology become much easier to understand and to appreciate, not only from a religious perspective, but also from a secular scientific one. What you end up understanding is that they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they help each other.
Peck wrote a sequal to this work, which I strongly do not recommend. My personal belief, after reading it, is that he is derailed. He steps out of his area of expertise, which is mental health and tries to establish himself as an expert on the spiritual life, which he’s not and he’s not really good at either.
I hope this is helpful.
Br. JR, OSF
I have read Hostage to the Devil and People of the Lie and his last one, which I cannot remember the title.
Having been part of a prayer team, with the blessing of two bishops and priest, for an exorcism that lasted 5 years, there is truth to a lot of what speck’s says. Martin’s book Hostage also…