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People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing…

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil (original 1983; edition 1998)

by M. Scott Peck

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Title:People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
Authors:M. Scott Peck
Info:Touchstone (1998), Edition: 2, Paperback, 276 pages
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People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck (1983)



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I'd have to say that this book has largely informed by conception of evil. The first half of this book will absolutely rivet you to your seat with four accounts of variously evil people and their victims. The rest of the book tries to make sense of it all. Good luck to Dr. Peck, and good luck to us all. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I've been fascinated by the question of evil ever since learning about the Nazis and the Holocaust as a child. I've never lost the part of me that wonders, "Why?" and that was only reinforced post-9/11. This approaches the question of evil from a psychological point of view--for Peck is a practicing psychiatrist--but also a Christian point of view--for Peck is a believing Christian. A blurb from the Wall Street Journal on the back cover says the "long-overdue discussion between psychology and religion has begun, and nowhere does that beginning bear better fruit than in Dr. M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie." That does come to the fore from time to time--Peck takes the idea of demonic possession and exorcism seriously--I do not. I'm an atheist.

Yet I found plenty to consider, to highlight and dog-ear and think about in this book. Certainly the case studies made for a fascinating read, though some certainly seemed to me more troubled than evil, and I wonder how effective therapy can be if that is how psychiatrists see their patients. How can they expect to help them? I'm also dubious about Peck's analysis of My Lai, which I think has more to do with his political views than his psychological expertise. But there's plenty in the book that doesn't require religious faith to accept as insightful:

Mental health requires that the human will submit itself to something higher than itself. To function decently in this world we must submit ourselves to some principle that takes precedence over what we might want at any given moment. For the religious this principle is God... But if they are sane, even the nonreligious submit themselves, whether they know it or not, to some "higher power"--be it truth or love, the needs of others, or the demands of reality... Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.

And that's why evil resides in the people of the lie. Even Ayn Rand, an atheist who many would accuse of advocating a form of narcissism, would agree with this in essentials--above all for her the first commandment would be "Thou Shalt Not Fake Reality." The rest is commentary. So all evil, from emotional manipulation to mass murder start to finish comes down to refusing to honor reality---and to change that, to face reality, is what psychology is supposed to help us to do. Although I have to say, I question just how in touch with reality is a therapist who believes in supernatural explanations for human behavior. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 15, 2013 |
I liked the book for the fact that it talked about evil in human societies. It’s not a topic you see very often in this kind of detail. I liked the honesty that Peck gives. I don’t agree that we can only explain evil with spiritual dimensions however. So there were times were Peck and I disagreed. His Christian views were also very pervasive in the book. He warns the reader in the beginning they would because they color his interpretations. So the best way to take the book is to realize Peck is just giving us an interpretation. He never says it is the correct one. I do think however that the reader could potentially misunderstand that that is what he is saying. I’ll admit that I have some mind blocks against religion and because of this there were a few points where I had to put the book down take a break and then pick it up again. I really liked all of the case studies. They made the book read like a novel half the time instead of a non-fiction book. Without them the book would have been harder to read. Besides the fact that they were fascinating to read about. And I liked the main subject matter. It’s not a book about what is evil and what is not and how we deal with it. It is a book about an interpretation of what evil is. This book will make you sit down and think. I wish there are more books written on the matter. I’m going to look for some. With everything that’s happened in the three decades since this book was written many people could argue that our world has gotten even more violent and evil. I don’t know if I agree, but I would like to see more interpretations on the whole idea of “evil”. If you’re looking for a scientific approach, this isn’t the book to read. There have been some arguments against the book that the individuals in the novel were not evil as he labels them, just “troubled”. I can’t say for sure what I believe about the word “evil”. Which is partly why I’d like to read more on the subject. Anyways the book was interesting and succeeded in making me more interested in the topic. ( )
  Kassilem | Mar 31, 2013 |
  pastorroy | Jan 15, 2013 |
The case histories presented seem to be more of a low-grade, everyday sort of evil rather than a study of the personalities of major bad guys. Couldn't get through the chapter on My Lai so am pleased to find other readers here didn't find it all that. This book was useful to me in that it described how bad people lie to themselves before they lie to everyone else, so it is natural to be confused in their company. Just that factoid alone was worth the price of admission for me.

The information about narcissism seemed quite relevant and garnered painfully over a lifetime of actual clinical experience. The author freely admitted that if he could go back to Then with what he knows Now, he might have acted differently. Also the religion presented here was not off-putting but informative to me. I prefer religion that is not about castigating those who don't live up to the church's expectations; I like to think God's grace is available to all who wish for it, whatever their affiliation.

The evil parents are unforgettable. Imagine giving your son the rifle his older brother used to commit suicide - and as his Christmas gift. People find that one especially shocking and don't understand why such weapons are not melted down into slag. This pair of parents were almost as scary as poor Roger's parents, masters of selective insensitivity. I wouldn't have believed that story if I didn't know people who behave that way. It's called "Splitting" - some folks,who are Good, get all the sugar; while others, who are Bad, get nothing but shit, leftovers and blame.
  KaterinaBead | Jan 9, 2013 |
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For Lily, who serves so many ways, only one of which has been to wrestle with demons.
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Peck describes his encounters during psychiatric therapy with patients who are not merely ill but manifestly evil, and forces us to recognise that, without spiritual or religious dimension, psychiatry cannot claim to understand human nature.

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