Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Further Along the Road Less Travelled
Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth
© 1993 M. Scott Peck
Peck is always an interesting author for me to read. He and I typically do not see eye to eye on many issues, but like Thomas Cahill, I find his work to be interesting regardless. Perhaps the interest I take in Peck is that he expresses opinions I don't agree with, but he does so in a manner I can respect -- most of the time. As mentioned before, Peck is a psychiatrist who attempts to combine it and spirituality, seeing spirituality as mental health and maturation. A note on the book identifies this as "Edited Lectures", meaning that unlike The Road Less Traveled, this may not have been written as a book in itself -- but that it consists of essays that have edited and fitted to one another. Although the lecture/essays were not written as a deliberate whole, the "space" in between them is not too jarring: the book flows fairly well, and is divided into three parts: "Growing Up", "Knowing Yourself", and "In Search of a Personal God".
One trait of Peck's writing that I like is that it tends to be widely focused. This book is an example of that, as individual essays see him writing on consciousness, forgiveness, death and meaning, mystery, self love versus self-esteem, mythology, spirituality, addiction, religion, the New Age movement, and sexuality. The strength of the essays varied for me: in general, I thought the first half of the book was strong and that it faded quickly, especially in the sexuality essay. That one was more than strange.
A good bit of the book is about religion, and it was this I enjoyed the most. I consider myself a nonreligious person, but lately I am trying to find the good in it. Admittedly, that's a tricky direction in which to go, but I am interested in religion as a human endeavor, and I think that a genuine concern for human well-being and growth lies somewhere in them. I am not convinced that it is the heart of every religion, but I think it is least least a part -- and I want to see if this is true and if so to what extent. It was the Dalai Lama that first set me on this course, but Gyatso and Peck are quite different: Gyatso's approach to spirituality is simple, direct, and is aimed at cultivating happiness. Peck is more stern and less humanistic: he focuses on fixing problems, and believes we have to depend on God for growth.
The book is typical for Peck: I found it interesting, and will probably read more of Peck in the future, but I don't recommend it to everyone. I think the book is valuable in making me consider ideas I'd never thought of before.