scott-peckIf you’ve never read M Scott Peck’s books, they’re worth buying or borrowing.

Dr Peck, a psychiatrist and best selling author, had his own private practice although he is now involved in a non-profit he and his wife Lily founded in 1984 called The Foundation for Community Encouragement.  He earned degrees from Harvard and Case Western Reserve before serving in administrative posts for the US Government.

Gurteen Knowledge has a page of Scott Peck’s quotes, one of which is on evil.  He differentiates evil from sloth — one of the seven deadly sins — and wilful malice.  This excerpted passage comes from The Road Less Travelled.  Dr Peck says that an evil person is blind to his own destructive force (emphasis mine):

They do this not with conscious malice but blindly, lacking awareness of their own evil — indeed, seeking to avoid any such awareness. As has been described of the devil in religious literature, they hate the light and instinctively will do anything to avoid it, including attempting to extinguish it. They will destroy the light in their own children and in all other beings subject to their power.

Some shadowy people on the world stage today — as well as throughout history — come to mind.  No names, please! 

Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves.  They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness. They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness … evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.

Truly evil people … actively rather than passively avoid extending themselves.  They will take any action in their power to protect their own laziness, to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause. If necessary, they will even kill to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth. As the integrity of their sick self is threatened by the spiritual health of those around them, they will seek by all manner of means to crush and demolish the spiritual health that may exist near them

I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power — that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion — in order to avoid extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth. 

I read The Road Less Travelled many moons ago, so, unfortunately, can’t remember if he thought people were born like this.  These are strong statements.  However, evil is more than being ‘bad’.  People who are ‘bad’ often refer to themselves as such. They know what they are doing is wrong. Evil is much more than that.  When you reread the passages above, you realise he’s talking about a frighteningly destructive way of being. 

Evil is not a bad trait or a character flaw.  It’s deep-rooted and chronic in its destruction.  It is pathological. 

How sad to never see the light.