M. Scott Peck

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Dr. Morgan Scott Peck (22 May 1936 - 25 September 2005) was an American psychiatrist best known, however, as the author of the best-selling The Road Less Travelled. Despite advocating responsibility, restraint and self-discipline in what has been described as "the ultimate self-help manual," which later sold over 10 million copies worldwide, he openly admitted in later works and interviews that such qualities were lacking within himself.

Biography

He was born in New York on 22 May 1936, the youngest of two sons of David Warner Peck (a layer, and later a judge) and Elizabeth Saville. His education commenced, unhappily, at Phillips Exeter Academy, which he later attacked for its "Spartan, almost vicious adolescent culture." Leaving Phillips Exeter, he first underwent psychological counseling, before moving to the Friends seminary, a Quaker school near Greenwich Village. Here, despite being raised in a secular home (his father was half-Jewish, although Peck often claimed his father was in denial about that fact), he read about Zen and became a Buddhist by the age of 18.

After school he first attended Middlebury College in Vermont, but was expelled for refusing to partake in the compulsory officers' training class. He then enrolled at Harvard, graduating in 1958 with a B.A. magna cum laude in social relations. Even though he was already harbouring literary ambitions, he enrolled in a pre-med course at Columbia University. Whilst at Columbia, he met and married Lily Ho, a Chinese student from Singapore. Both sets of parents disapproved of the union, and Peck's father went as far as disowning his son, although he did later relent.

Upon graduating, he joined the U.S. Army as a psychiatrist, this being the only way he could afford to train, and earn enough to support his new family. He was stationed in Honolulu and San Francisco before becoming head of psychology at the US Medical Center at Okinawa. In 1970, he was appointed assistant chief of psychiatry at the Surgeon General's office in Washington, DC, a position he held until leaving the military in 1972, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Moving to New Preston, Connecticut, Peck opened a private psychiatry practice. In 1976, however, he was inspired to write a book. Random House rejected the manuscript he submitted 20 months later, because the third section of the book was "too Christ-y." It was picked up and published as "The Road Less Traveled" by Simon & Schuster, for a $7 500 advance. Initial sales were steady, if not spectacular, and by 1980 12 000 copies had been sold. It wasn't until 1983 that the book entered the best-seller lists, where it remained for the next eight years. He would go on to write another thirteen books, lecture extensively, and in 1983, he began a bid for the Presidency of the United States, until concerns for his health forced him to pull out.

During this time, he also found himself being drawn from his earlier beliefs in Eastern mysticism towards mainstream Christianity and on March 9, 1980 at the age of 43, he was non-denominationally baptized by a Methodist minister in an Episcopalian convent.

The opening words of The Road Less Traveled read, "Life is difficult" and this certainly applicable to Peck himself. In a classic example of "Do as I say, not as I do," although Peck advocated self-discipline, restraint, and responsibility in his books, in an interview given not long before his death, he claimed he was lacking in such qualities, describing himself as "...a self-deluding, gin-sodden, chain-smoking neurotic whose life was characterised by incessant infidelity and an inability to relate to his parents or children." He concluded by saying "I'm a prophet, not a saint."

List of M.Scott Peck's published works

  • The Road Less Traveled (1978). The book has sold over six million copies to date in North America alone, and has been translated into over 20 languages.
  • People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil (1983). It is recognized as a groundbreaking contribution to the field of psychology.
  • What Return Can I Make? Dimensions of the Christian Experience (1985)
  • The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (1987). This too is recognized as another groundbreaking contribution to the behavioural sciences.
  • A Bed By the Window: A Novel of Mystery and Redemption (1990). His first work of fiction.
  • The Friendly Snowflake: A Fable of Faith, Love and Family (1992), was aimed at children and adults and illustrated by his son, Christopher Peck.
  • A World Waiting To Be Born: Civility Rediscovered (1993), a work on organizational behaviour.
  • Meditations From the Road (1993)
  • Further Along the Road Less Traveled (1993), a collection of Dr. Peck's edited lectures between 1979 and 1993.
  • In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason and Discovery (1995) Also illustrated by his son, Christopher, Publisher's Weekly described it as a "quirky, magical blend of autobiography, travel, spiritual meditation, history and Arthurian legend."
  • In Heaven As On Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife (1996), was his second novel.
  • The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety (1997), is a synthesis of all his work to date.
  • Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives in Euthanasia and Mortality (1997)
  • Golf and the Spirit: Lessons for the Journey (1999)


External Links

M Scott Peck Homepage
Obituary in the Guardian
Obituary in the Daily Telegraph

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