Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Differences Between The Road Less Traveled and Further Along the Road Less Traveled

On pages 156-157 of Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth (copyright 1993), M. Scott Peck states:

"I became a Christian several years after The Road Less Traveled was published----and remember, the very first sentence in that book is the great Buddhist truth 'Life is difficult'----although subconsciously I had been tending in that direction for quite some time, and The Road Less Traveled is full of Christian concepts.  An important man said to me, 'Scotty, it was so clever of you the way you disguised your Christianity in The Road Less Traveled in order to get the Christian message across to people.'  And I replied honestly, 'Well, I didn't disguise my Christianity.  I wasn't a Christian.'"

Indeed, my impression is that there are differences between The Road Less Traveled and Further Along the Road Less Traveled.  I'll talk about three issues in which this appears to be the case, while in some cases wrestling with the question of whether or not it truly is the case.

First, in The Road Less Traveled, Peck talks about humans growing to become like God in terms of having power in a number of situations.  In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, however, Peck criticizes Theomania, which is "the delusion that we human beings can be God" (page 192).  Now, one can argue that Peck is not really contradicting himself but is talking about two separate issues.  When Peck talks about human beings becoming like God, he means that therapy can help us to grow and arrive at a state in which we can navigate our way through life (including life's hardships) with a degree of poise and control.  When Peck criticizes Theomania, he's saying that human beings should accept that life does not always turn out as they'd like.  Can both concepts co-exist?  I'd say that they can, in the form of the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  Overall, though, I'd say that Further Along the Road Less Traveled has more of a God-focus than The Road Less Traveled.

Second, in The Road Less Traveled, Peck speaks about homosexuality as if it's a condition that needs to be cured.  In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, however, Peck acknowledges that homosexuality is complex, as some are homosexual due to nurture (i.e, dysfunctional families), some due to nature (genetics), and some due to a combination of the two.  Peck says on pages 104-105 that "when we regard homosexuality as just this or just that, we do violence to the subtlety and complexity of God's creation."  In response to the question of whether or not homosexuals should be ordained as priests, Peck says that "It depends on the homosexual" (page 105).

Third, Peck talks more about the afterlife in Further Along the Road Less Traveled.  He says that the Christian (or, in the case of purgatory, Catholic) belief in a post-mortem heaven, hell, and purgatory makes sense to him, but he's drawn more to C.S. Lewis' depiction of hell than he is to the notion that God will torment God's own creation forever and ever, without possibility of redemption.  Peck refers to Lewis' story about a professor who did not like heaven because there was no room there for him to advance above others, and so he chose hell.  Peck says on page 171: "My vision of Hell is distinctly like that of Lewis.  The gates of Hell are wide open.  People can walk right out of Hell, and the reason they are in Hell is that they choose not to."

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