People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
by M. Scott Peck, M.D.
“This is a dangerous book.” warns M. Scott Peck in the first sentence of “People of the Lie.” It’s true. Reading this best-selling book is a look straight into the face of evil.
This and Peck’s other famous book, “The Road Less Traveled,” were mentioned in a sermon I enjoyed in mid 1998. I got this book expecting discussions of Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and other monsters from the past. Instead, Peck uses “case studies” from his practice (altered to protect the identities of the patients) to illustrate his points and explain clinical concepts (e.g. psychopathology, revulsion countertransference, and malignant narcissism) for the lay reader. Despite Peck’s claim that the scientific integrity was not compromised in these alterations, I had initial difficulty with these examples. But as I saw traces of people I have met or read about, I began to trust his judgment.
Peck carefully lays the logical groundwork for his theory, a psychology of evil, and also professes his personal Christian faith. His religious perspective may cause some to question his objectivity. After all, evil has mostly been relegated to the realm of religion. Exactly for this reason it seems to me to be more of an asset than a liability. Evil has been observed, documented, and battled by religious people for centuries and this body of knowledge cannot be ignored. In any case, a true scientist reveals all relevant facts and lets those reviewing his work judge for themselves. Incidentally, Peck makes no apologies for his faith.
A few interesting points he makes:
- Evil is not simply the absence of goodness — it is actively hateful and destructive.
- “Evil” is “live” spelled backwards — likewise, evil is in opposition to life.
- Evil people are to be pitied, not hated.
A psychology of evil presupposes judgementalism. (This alone I believe is enough for the politically-correct crowd to reject the premise of the book.)
So what is evil? Peck believes evil is a variant of narcissistic personality disorder. He also seems to say that while evil manifests itself in many ways, the common identifier is the lie. Peck describes Satan as the “Father of Lies” and even describes his experiences in an exorcism and how it resembles psychological treatment techniques.
Peck proposes that evil is both a moral judgment and a scientific one. He urges further scientific study. I urge you to read this book.
© Copyright 1998, 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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