Don't even consider buying this book if you haven't read the author's first book "The road less traveled." This is a sequel to that book and a lot of the notions and concepts discussed here were established in the first book. Besides, the author, M. Scott Peck, introduces many controversial suggestions in this book, and most of his findings are either shocking or, at least, unusual. Only by reading the first book you will establish the respect and admiration of the author's wisdom and intellect necessary to hear out his out of the ordinary ideas.
"The road less traveled" is a psychological study of love and of human spiritual growth, or in other words, the good side of humanity. This book is a follow up to that study. It is only logical that when you study the light that you wonder about the darkness. However, human evil is a concept totally alien to the science of psychiatry. Besides, as the author himself admits, using the term "Evil" can be an act of evilness itself! It is also highly risky to approach the flames of evilness without catching up on its fires yourself! With these precautions Dr. Peck begins a fantastic book in the study of human evil through the eyes of psychiatry.
The book begins by telling in detail the story of one of his patients who seemed to be a happy man leading a very normal and healthy life. However, as he carries on, we start realizing along with Dr. Peck that evil was staring the man in every corner of his life, hiding in his problems and even among his family members! It is by the end of the story we realize that this normal person literally did sell his soul to the devil!
How did this happen? How can one sell his soul to the devil? Does the devil even exist? With these questions Dr. Peck dives into the study of evil in human beings. Dr. Peck claims that evil does exist, but it's neither incurable nor unavoidable! And the only way to combat evil is to admit to its existence and to recognize its danger. How can you fight something that you don't even believe is true, he says.
Dr. Peck explains why scientists dismiss the idea of the existence of evil and how that is caused by their limited perception of what science stands for. He then carries on by giving examples of some of the cases he had to deal with where he allegedly met with the human evil. And in one chapter he dedicates it wholly to one story of one of his clients whom he failed to heal after more than 5 years of therapy because he didn't have the knowledge or the courage to admit that it was evil that she was suffering from. Later on he explains a different manifestation of evil that he terms as "The group evil." He explains that evil can be present in a group even if all of its members were not individually evil!
The end of the book talks about the dangers and the hopes of creating a science that studies evil. Once I finished the book, I had even more respect for Dr. Peck than I ended up with after reading his first book. Dr. Peck's writing style is pleasant and easy to comprehend. And his story telling techniques are exciting as well as thought provoking. By reading this book you will definitely have so many thoughts to ponder on for many days whether you agree with the author's findings or not. By reading this book you will definitely add intellectual, and possibly moral, value to yourself, and will probably find it highly entertaining at the same time. I totally recommend buying this book.
Nevertheless I have one serious reservation about this book, and it's in Chapter 5, which is titled "Of possession and exorcism." In that chapter the author takes one hell of a detour and starts talking about his personal investigation of the myth of possession and the alleged healing practice of exorcism. The shocking finding he throws in your face is that both are true and that he personally witnessed two exorcism procedures, one of which was a possession by Satan himself!
And even though I try my best to remain an open minded person by being receptive of every point of view out there, I can't accept such an outrageous claim if not accompanied with evidence and reason. The author's attitude in that particular chapter, surprisingly atypical of him, was very vague and unclear. He claims that the two exorcism experiences he went through were intense and that to give them justice would require that a whole separate book be written about them. Hence, he would only give us the impressions and resolutions he came out with from those experiences.
I, in my humble opinion, find that argument fallible! I don't think that anyone would've minded adding 200 more pages to that chapter just to hear those stories! Besides, if he truly thought that they deserve a book of their own then how come he never wrote one? I am mostly surprised because he never failed to extend proof and reason whenever he's presenting an unusual thought. This time it was very different though. By the time I reached the end of that chapter I felt that I was totally deceived by the author and that he did not deserve the respect I had for him.
However, once I started the following chapter, he gained back my respect of him and more immediately! I don't know what to think of chapter 5 and whether I prefer that I didn't read it or not. But, as I said previously, this book including chapter 5 will leave you thinking whether you agree with its findings or not.
I recommend it.