The Road Less Travelled

The Road Less Travelled

The following excerpts were taken from a conversation between M. Scott Peck and a class of theology and psychology students at Fuller Theological Seminary in March, 1998:

The Soul & God

“I believe that the soul is the deepest part of us. I believe it is the part that God wants us to be. I believe that our souls are not born fully developed and that this world, as Keats put it, is “the vale of soul-making.” I think that this is largely a cognitive process, that the ego can try to cognate in harmony with the soul and with what William James called “the unseen order of things.” Or it could just ignore it, which is probably what most people do. Reminds me of a quote of Elton Trueblood’s, a famous Quaker, who said that “You can accept Jesus, you can reject Jesus, but you cannot reasonably ignore him.” And I think that is what most people do, is to unreasonably ignore him, and God. And then, the ego can be in active battle with God and running away from God. I think that God has a relationship with all of us, in the sense we’re all in relationship with God, but for many people that relationship is one of indifference or it’s a running away from relationship. A lot of people run scared. For good reason, as St. Paul said, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

On Being A Christian

“Even though I was raised in an extremely secular home, as I look back on it, I was a freakily religious kid, although not specifically Christian. And always I felt God to be in the background, always benign, never paid him or her that much attention, specifically, but felt him or her very much there. Christianity meant nothing to me as an adolescent, but in adolescence I fell in love with Eastern mystical writings, and then very gradually evolved from them to more attention to the Jewish and Muslim mystics, and then only finally to Jesus making more sense as I was moving toward writing The Road Less Traveled, when I was about 35 or so. I was a mystic first, and a Christian second. And I entered the Christian church through the back door of Christian mysticism, or maybe the top door, whichever way you want to look at it.

My baptism was in a number of ways a real kind of death for me, as it is supposed to be. And one of the reasons it was a death for me was that by declaring myself a Christian, I was declaring myself not to be Buddhist, not be Jewish, not be Hindu, not be Muslim, and as if I was casting disparagement upon traditions that had deeply nurtured me. So that was just one way in which my baptism represented a death in that I declared myself and regretfully in many ways. Speaking of that, incidentally, nobody likes to die, and so from the time I though about getting baptized until I was, it was about three years, and I used every rationalization in the book to drag my feet. And the most effective was that I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be baptized as an Eastern Orthodox, or as a Roman Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or a Presbyterian, or a Church of Christ, or Methodist, or an American Baptist, or Southern Baptist, and that complex denominational decision was obviously going to take me 25 or 30 years of research to figure out. But then I finally realized that baptism is not a denominational celebration, and so when I was drowned on that morning, 18 years ago yesterday, it was by a North Carolina Methodist minister in the chapel of an Episcopal convent in a deliberately non-denominational celebration. And I have very jealously guarded my non-denominational status ever since. If one were to believe that somebody had to have a certain denomination or particular church to be a Christian, by that definition, I suppose I would not.”

On Psychiatric Illness

“Starting with the Road Less Traveled, perhaps the most radical thing that I said in that book that deviated from traditional psychiatry is that I located the source of psychiatric ills in the conscious mind, rather than the unconscious. And that the previous view, the Freudian sort of view, had been that the unconscious was filled with all these bad feelings, and angry thoughts, sexy thoughts, and whatnot. And that was where psychiatric, psychological illness originated. When in fact, the real question is why those things, which were obvious, were in the unconscious, rather than the conscious mind. The answer was that it was a conscious mind that didn’t want to face certain truths, and pushed this stuff into the unconscious. But the problem is with a rejecting consciousness in which we simply don’t like to think about things….Over the years I came to believe, and again I’m leaving out the biological aspects, but that psychological disorders are all disorders of thinking. So narcissists, for instance, cannot or will not think of other people….What we used to call passive-dependent people don’t think for themselves. Obsessive-compulsives tend to have great difficulty thinking in the big picture. And I would say that if you have a patient or a client who has some real difficulty, psychological difficulty, look for the problem in their thinking. There is some area where they are not thinking correctly. “

Copyright © 2001 M. Scott Peck, M.D.