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M. Scott Peck

BOOK REVIEW: M. Scott Peck, In Search of Stones:
A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason and Discovery, London: Simon &
Schuster, 1996 (pb. 422pp).

I like Scott Peck. He’s a maverick (and an INTJ,
as I am). I read his best-known (and first) book The Road Less
Traveled back in the early 1980’s and loved his fresh approach
to such time-worn topics as grace and maturity. He says in Stones
that he became a Christian reluctantly in his mature years (compelled
by reason to agree with Jesus about life and human destiny). But
TRLT is a bit weak here and there theologically.

In Search of Stones is about several searches actually,
for, among other quests:

* megaliths in Scotland, and an explanation as to
why these massive stones were put in the middle of fields or on
mountain-tops centuries ago (he agrees with all the main hypotheses
– art, religion/idolatry, sex/fertility etc.)

* answers to questions about his impending retirement;

* reasons why his marriage has survived some adulteries
(an astonishing confession in TRLT is his _theoretical_ approval
of adultery if it’s therapeutic and not an abuse of power. I was
told in the late 80’s by psychologists at a conference in the
U.S. that there were rumors…)

* why hotel rooms in the U.K. are sometimes so small
(often with expansive views of parking-lots) and why public toilets
are sometimes inexplicably locked just when his (Chinese-born)
wife Lily needs them. She won’t go behind bushes, as he does.

His descriptions of stones is a bit tedious – stones
don’t turn me on for some reason – but the trip is really an excuse
to discourse about reason (including his reluctant belief in the
reality of demons), romance, addiction, holiness, money, death,
peace, art, despair and so on. It’s a pot-pourri of themes from
his earlier works (particularly People of the Lie, an intriguing
book about evil by this psychotherapist).

If you’re humorless and very conservative theologically,
this book isn’t for you. Peck, a 56-year old – yes old – ex-WASP
with a declining libido is a bit new age-ish in places. But if
you’re adventurous and want some ‘insights into some insights’
about important matters to do with life, love and death, without
necessarily agreeing with everything, then you’ll enjoy this book.
(Was it Archbishop Temple who said ‘Truth is truth whether it
emanates from Jesus or Balaam’s ass’?).

Some gems:

# ‘All things are overdetermined. For any single
thing of importance there are multiple reasons’ (p. 9)

# ‘Our whole society may be going down the tubes
because of its idolatry of wealth and security’ (p.47). ‘The only
real security in life lies in relishing life’s insecurity’ (p.177).

# American tourist to famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim,
who lived in a simple room filled with books: ‘Where’s your furniture?’
Rabbi: ‘Where’s yours?’ Tourist: ‘Mine? But I’m only a visitor
here.’ Rabbi: ‘So am I.’ (p.220)

# ‘It would be simple to believe that children from
nurturing homes will automatically grow up to be grateful adults
and that deprived homes regularly turn out malcontents. The problem
is that there’s not much evidence to support it’. (p. 229)

# ‘The Holy Conjunction is the word _and_. Instead
of an either/or style of mentation, we are pushing for both/and
thinking. We are not trying to get rid of reason but promote "Reason
plus". Reason _and_ mystery. Reason _and_ emotion. Reason
_and_ intuition. Reason _and_ revelation. Reason _and_ wisdom.
Reason _and_ love’ (p. 369)

# Finally: ‘How many Zen Buddhists does it take to
change a lightbulb? Two: one to change the bulb _and_ one to not
change it’ (p. 370).


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