The Road Less Traveled
by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Simon & Schuster, 1978

Reviewed by Laura Bryannan

Many aware readers have probably already reaped the benefits of this insightful book. I have found Peck's ideas to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of all-too-often simplistic, rainbows and unicorns approaches to these topics that are often insulting to the average person's intelligence. (You know what I mean, the "Visualize yourself in a pink bubble and all your dreams will come true," type of drivel).

On the topic of discipline he puts forth the truth that life is a series of problems, and that life often seems difficult because the process of confronting these problems "evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness, anguish or despair." Yet it is in facing these problems that we gain wisdom, strength and courage. He states, "This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness." He then follows with a discussion of the various ways people can learn to cope with suffering and go on to become a truer manifestation of one's soul here on Earth.

On the topic of love he discusses the difference between being "in love" and love. He notes that love is not a feeling, but an activity, and defines it as "the willingness to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own and another's spiritual growth." He bemoans the rampant notion of romantic love that pervades society today, which holds that one is not truly in love unless one feels those incredible "I'm in love" feelings that we all know so well. He observes, "Many, many people possessing a feeling of love and even acting in response to that feeling act in all manner of unloving and destructive ways. On the other hand, a genuinely loving individual will often take loving and constructive action toward a person he or she consciously dislikes..."

He teaches to be suspect of the familiar "in love" feeling for two reasons: 1) "The experience of falling in love is specifically a sex-linked erotic experience," which he believes may be genetically coded in us to insure the perpetuation of the species; and 2) "The experience of falling in love is invariably temporary...the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes."

I wonder how many relationships end, or never get started, because the partners feel genuine connection and communication together, but don't feel "in love." Considering the drastic change in the sexual environment in these days of AIDS, Peck's teaching on this subject is important for everyone.

On the topic of spiritual development, Peck makes a statement that hits the truth in a way I rarely see in New Age writing. It has to be one of my all-time favorites:

"So if your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering, I would not advise you to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution. First, you cannot achieve them without suffering, and second, insofar as you do achieve them, you are likely to be called on to serve in ways more painful to you, or at least demanding of you, than you can now imagine."

Yes, yes, yes. I have yet to meet a truly advanced being who would not smile a rueful smile and nod in agreement to this wonderful insight.

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Last Updated: 1 feb 99
Laura Bryannan