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BOOMER GURU How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled

ARTHUR JONES CAPPAROE BOOKS


Copyright Š by Arthur Jones All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1978 the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without permission of the publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at info@capparoebooks.com. Capparoe Books 2421 Cleanleigh Drive #13 Baltimore MD 21234

First North American edition: October, 2015. Previously published in the United Kingdom as The Road He Traveled: the Revealing Biography of M. Scott Peck, by Random House/Ebury 2007.

Jones, Arthur. Boomer Guru: How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled. ISBN 10: 9768751-1-X ISBN 13: 978-0-9768751-1-6 Printed in the United States of America


“My lot was not much different from all men and women. We have the same longings, the same fears and frustrations, the same fleeting successes and inconsolable losses, the same secret shames and muted self-doubts.“ “I believe that, if and when we face our flawed likeness, and finally come to change what we can, we may be able to accept being merely human.“ -Gail Sheehy, Daring: My Passages, a Memoir “Life is difficult.” -M. Scott Peck, MD, The Road Less Traveled

V


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Park Avenue Baby....................................................................01 2. Father Knows Best..................................................................19 3. Disowned...................................................................................46 4. Capt. Scotty of Okinawa..........................................................61 5. In the Pentagon’s Basement....................................................71 6. Master of all He Surveys..........................................................80 7. Author! Author!.........................................................................98 8. Bourbon with the Devil.........................................................111 9. Foundation for Community Encouragement.......................................................................125 10. In the Money!..........................................................................137 11. Golf – and Parkinson’s..........................................................148 12. Wife-less – but Looking..........................................................160 13. Peckian Fantasy vs Yeatesian Reality..................................170 14. His Bed by His Window..........................................................189 15 Biographer’s Notes.................................................................198 16. Acknowledgements................................................................206


I actually believe The Road Less Traveled began a movement of writing that looks to spiritual journeys – something we Baby Boomers seem to dwell upon. I’m just glad I read it when I did. -Paula Matuskey Retired Dean of Montgomery College, Maryland

INTRODUCTION

It was the 1970s. Americans were troubled; they were in therapy. They were drinking too much; they were in AA. They were doing drugs too much; they fried their brains. They engaged too widely and wildly in Free Love; they could find neither true love nor the path to settling down. They were navel-gazing too much and thinking too little. It was among those struggling out of this maelstrom, and those who had been standing around its perimeter looking on with a mix of awe and fear, who in the 1970s and 1980s found a new, definable, understandable, graspable handhold. It was The Road Less Traveled: a New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck, MD. Peck was Park Avenue “silver spoon,” a New York-born and raised psychiatrist. He was the Boomers’ guide out of their personal and social wilderness. He provided a psychotherapeutic commonsense that unlocked their psychological blocks – it was commonsense with a spiritual lodestone. He searched for God; he was seeking God for himself and for others. He wrote, prayed, meditated, and preached a God in whom he desperately wanted to believe. More than ten million Americans read Dr. Peck’s dozen books. Over a quarter-century span, thousands attended his talks and workshops, work that continued into the 1990s. Yet a decade IX


later, scarcely a hundred people were present at his 2005 memorial service, and six weeks earlier, only two of his three children had shown up for his private family-and-friends funeral. The man once known as “the Nation’s Shrink,” had shrunk into oblivion. Peck, the Boomers’ Guru, the practicing psychotherapist who inspired an entire generation to surmount the hurdles that prevented them from living a full life, could not assist himself. The man who’d blended psychiatry and religion, who’d spoken comfortingly of God’s love and one’s own death, at his own end, when gripped by Parkinson’s Disease and dying of pancreatic cancer, never mentioned God at all. Was it all a hoax? No. It was a tragedy. Scott Peck lived a life of narcissism writ large while achingly wanting to be different – except the cost was too high. He couldn’t express the remorse that his behavior --toward his wife and family -- sorely and surely warranted. Had they forgiven him, he probably couldn’t have handled that, either. Scott Peck was the poor little rich boy who never felt loved by a father who openly favored his older brother, David. Scott Peck consequently could never separate his ego from the hurts, real and imagined. He never forgave or forgot a slight. At age eight, when his father played a thoughtless joke on him, Peck vowed to never cry again. As he told it, he was a thirty-six year-old psychiatrist and a U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel the next time he gave way to uncontrollable sobbing. Scott Peck, who could candidly describe his early sexual life with partners of both sexes, and reflect with extreme frankness on his extra-marital affairs, was nonetheless into denial. What could not be denied was that as a writer, at a sparkling moment in time for him and them, he found the words and phrasings, concepts and maxims of encouragement that brought the Boomer Generation through the hedonism of the late 1960s and early 1970s into a mature stability he failed to achieve himself. In the 1980s, The Road Less Traveled moved onto The New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for twelve years, a new record for a living author in that category.

X


“Guru” was a term M. Scott Peck, M.D, loathed, but the role was one he thrived on emotionally, and profited from financially. “Gu,” in Hindi, means “darkness.” “Ru,” means “light.” Combined, the word, with its paradoxical and mystical overtones, means teacher or advisor. Peck paraded his “ru” but hid his “gu.” The Peck who emerges in this biography meets all P.G. Wodehouse’s requirements for biographical writing -- an eccentric father, a miserable, misunderstood childhood, and a prep school that was living hell. Offscreen, Peck was a control freak with an addictive personality, a narcissist with a gift. The hell was inflicted to a great or lesser degree on his family. His beneficiaries numbered in the hundreds and thousands, possibly millions. His mail box -- the letters in his archives -- attest to it. Through his books, his workshops, and the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE), which he and his Chinese first wife, Lily, created, Peck’s light illuminated for millions of Americans their own strategies for overcoming the limitations, the pain and the obstacles with which life had burdened them up to that point. At his best, the Peck of the printed word and public platform was an exemplary Western guru who, in the place of the East’s ancient spiritual-and-asceticism-based wisdom, offered Western psychiatric wisdom. He made respectable what are now commonplace psychotherapy-based self-help encapsulations. He coupled them to a spiritual search. As a psychiatrist and physician he legitimized “selfhelp,” another phrase he detested, yet he wrapped it in the respectable cloak of psychotherapy. Peck accomplished much of what he did because, in that first book, he had the facility to find the language that could duplicate on the printed page the kind of personal therapeutic reassurances he was capable of providing in his clinic, the former dining room of his home on Bliss Road, New Preston, Connecticut. As Peck placed first, the Boomer Generation, and next, the nation, on the couch he normally reserved for individuals, Dr. James Guy, then dean of Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology, called Peck “a prophet to the Seventies’ Generation.” XI


The Road, except for its riffs on the death of romantic love in marriage, and the right to go extra-marital – which Peck’s readers spiritedly tackled him on -- is a quite conservative book. Its main theme is discipline, self-discipline. It was a runaway success. At the 2005 Peck memorial service in Park Avenue’s Christ Church, one attendee remarked that “God wrote Scotty’s first book. Scotty wrote the rest.” By the 1980s and 90s, Peck’s Roadies, turning up in their hundreds for Peck’s lectures and workshops were, and remained, seekers and questioners. His book is still in print. Yet, as there is no denying Peck’s finest achievements there is no hiding his major personal flaws and failings. He denied himself nothing. Good-looking with a lithe, perpetually boyish attractiveness behind his circular frame glasses, he was an entertaining yet seemingly vulnerable intellectual – a practicing psychiatrist turned public performer who was well aware he was adulation susceptible. His readers and listeners, some 90 per cent of them women, responded to his warmth and encouragement. If, in that first flush of awakened possibilities, they found themselves too close to Peck, he was not one to deny himself the advantage. One woman, who claimed he’d seduced her following one of his workshops, went public. Others complained privately. Some didn’t complain at all. Peck told his readers “life is difficult.” If he held them by the hand and led them through the chapters until they were able to tackle their lives on their own, they accepted his handholding because he was a psychiatrist. Peck spent his life trying to find someone to hold his hand. Someone he trusted. The tragedy is he barely trusted even himself, and if he had, his trust may have been misplaced. His second wife, Kathy, said she wondered if, finally, he even trusted God. Despite a media blaze that for years followed his progress, and finally threatened his reputation, his interviewers and article writers never quite pinned him down. Everyone who knew him, said Gail Puterbaugh, his longtime executive secretary, “saw a different Scotty.” XII


This book – much of the time in Peck’s own words -- reveals who and what they saw. This is that rare phenomenon in the annals of psychotherapy: the world-famous psychiatrist on the couch.

XIII


BOOMER GURU How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled

ARTHUR JONES CAPPAROE BOOKS


Copyright Š by Arthur Jones All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1978 the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without permission of the publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at info@capparoebooks.com. Capparoe Books 2421 Cleanleigh Drive #13 Baltimore MD 21234

First North American edition: October, 2015. Previously published in the United Kingdom as The Road He Traveled: the Revealing Biography of M. Scott Peck, by Random House/Ebury 2007.

Jones, Arthur. Boomer Guru: How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled. ISBN 10: 9768751-1-X ISBN 13: 978-0-9768751-1-6 Printed in the United States of America


“My lot was not much different from all men and women. We have the same longings, the same fears and frustrations, the same fleeting successes and inconsolable losses, the same secret shames and muted self-doubts.“ “I believe that, if and when we face our flawed likeness, and finally come to change what we can, we may be able to accept being merely human.“ -Gail Sheehy, Daring: My Passages, a Memoir “Life is difficult.” -M. Scott Peck, MD, The Road Less Traveled

V


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Park Avenue Baby....................................................................01 2. Father Knows Best..................................................................19 3. Disowned...................................................................................46 4. Capt. Scotty of Okinawa..........................................................61 5. In the Pentagon’s Basement....................................................71 6. Master of all He Surveys..........................................................80 7. Author! Author!.........................................................................98 8. Bourbon with the Devil.........................................................111 9. Foundation for Community Encouragement.......................................................................125 10. In the Money!..........................................................................137 11. Golf – and Parkinson’s..........................................................148 12. Wife-less – but Looking..........................................................160 13. Peckian Fantasy vs Yeatesian Reality..................................170 14. His Bed by His Window..........................................................189 15 Biographer’s Notes.................................................................198 16. Acknowledgements................................................................206


I actually believe The Road Less Traveled began a movement of writing that looks to spiritual journeys – something we Baby Boomers seem to dwell upon. I’m just glad I read it when I did. -Paula Matuskey Retired Dean of Montgomery College, Maryland

INTRODUCTION

It was the 1970s. Americans were troubled; they were in therapy. They were drinking too much; they were in AA. They were doing drugs too much; they fried their brains. They engaged too widely and wildly in Free Love; they could find neither true love nor the path to settling down. They were navel-gazing too much and thinking too little. It was among those struggling out of this maelstrom, and those who had been standing around its perimeter looking on with a mix of awe and fear, who in the 1970s and 1980s found a new, definable, understandable, graspable handhold. It was The Road Less Traveled: a New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck, MD. Peck was Park Avenue “silver spoon,” a New York-born and raised psychiatrist. He was the Boomers’ guide out of their personal and social wilderness. He provided a psychotherapeutic commonsense that unlocked their psychological blocks – it was commonsense with a spiritual lodestone. He searched for God; he was seeking God for himself and for others. He wrote, prayed, meditated, and preached a God in whom he desperately wanted to believe. More than ten million Americans read Dr. Peck’s dozen books. Over a quarter-century span, thousands attended his talks and workshops, work that continued into the 1990s. Yet a decade IX


later, scarcely a hundred people were present at his 2005 memorial service, and six weeks earlier, only two of his three children had shown up for his private family-and-friends funeral. The man once known as “the Nation’s Shrink,” had shrunk into oblivion. Peck, the Boomers’ Guru, the practicing psychotherapist who inspired an entire generation to surmount the hurdles that prevented them from living a full life, could not assist himself. The man who’d blended psychiatry and religion, who’d spoken comfortingly of God’s love and one’s own death, at his own end, when gripped by Parkinson’s Disease and dying of pancreatic cancer, never mentioned God at all. Was it all a hoax? No. It was a tragedy. Scott Peck lived a life of narcissism writ large while achingly wanting to be different – except the cost was too high. He couldn’t express the remorse that his behavior --toward his wife and family -- sorely and surely warranted. Had they forgiven him, he probably couldn’t have handled that, either. Scott Peck was the poor little rich boy who never felt loved by a father who openly favored his older brother, David. Scott Peck consequently could never separate his ego from the hurts, real and imagined. He never forgave or forgot a slight. At age eight, when his father played a thoughtless joke on him, Peck vowed to never cry again. As he told it, he was a thirty-six year-old psychiatrist and a U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel the next time he gave way to uncontrollable sobbing. Scott Peck, who could candidly describe his early sexual life with partners of both sexes, and reflect with extreme frankness on his extra-marital affairs, was nonetheless into denial. What could not be denied was that as a writer, at a sparkling moment in time for him and them, he found the words and phrasings, concepts and maxims of encouragement that brought the Boomer Generation through the hedonism of the late 1960s and early 1970s into a mature stability he failed to achieve himself. In the 1980s, The Road Less Traveled moved onto The New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for twelve years, a new record for a living author in that category.

X


“Guru” was a term M. Scott Peck, M.D, loathed, but the role was one he thrived on emotionally, and profited from financially. “Gu,” in Hindi, means “darkness.” “Ru,” means “light.” Combined, the word, with its paradoxical and mystical overtones, means teacher or advisor. Peck paraded his “ru” but hid his “gu.” The Peck who emerges in this biography meets all P.G. Wodehouse’s requirements for biographical writing -- an eccentric father, a miserable, misunderstood childhood, and a prep school that was living hell. Offscreen, Peck was a control freak with an addictive personality, a narcissist with a gift. The hell was inflicted to a great or lesser degree on his family. His beneficiaries numbered in the hundreds and thousands, possibly millions. His mail box -- the letters in his archives -- attest to it. Through his books, his workshops, and the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE), which he and his Chinese first wife, Lily, created, Peck’s light illuminated for millions of Americans their own strategies for overcoming the limitations, the pain and the obstacles with which life had burdened them up to that point. At his best, the Peck of the printed word and public platform was an exemplary Western guru who, in the place of the East’s ancient spiritual-and-asceticism-based wisdom, offered Western psychiatric wisdom. He made respectable what are now commonplace psychotherapy-based self-help encapsulations. He coupled them to a spiritual search. As a psychiatrist and physician he legitimized “selfhelp,” another phrase he detested, yet he wrapped it in the respectable cloak of psychotherapy. Peck accomplished much of what he did because, in that first book, he had the facility to find the language that could duplicate on the printed page the kind of personal therapeutic reassurances he was capable of providing in his clinic, the former dining room of his home on Bliss Road, New Preston, Connecticut. As Peck placed first, the Boomer Generation, and next, the nation, on the couch he normally reserved for individuals, Dr. James Guy, then dean of Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology, called Peck “a prophet to the Seventies’ Generation.” XI


The Road, except for its riffs on the death of romantic love in marriage, and the right to go extra-marital – which Peck’s readers spiritedly tackled him on -- is a quite conservative book. Its main theme is discipline, self-discipline. It was a runaway success. At the 2005 Peck memorial service in Park Avenue’s Christ Church, one attendee remarked that “God wrote Scotty’s first book. Scotty wrote the rest.” By the 1980s and 90s, Peck’s Roadies, turning up in their hundreds for Peck’s lectures and workshops were, and remained, seekers and questioners. His book is still in print. Yet, as there is no denying Peck’s finest achievements there is no hiding his major personal flaws and failings. He denied himself nothing. Good-looking with a lithe, perpetually boyish attractiveness behind his circular frame glasses, he was an entertaining yet seemingly vulnerable intellectual – a practicing psychiatrist turned public performer who was well aware he was adulation susceptible. His readers and listeners, some 90 per cent of them women, responded to his warmth and encouragement. If, in that first flush of awakened possibilities, they found themselves too close to Peck, he was not one to deny himself the advantage. One woman, who claimed he’d seduced her following one of his workshops, went public. Others complained privately. Some didn’t complain at all. Peck told his readers “life is difficult.” If he held them by the hand and led them through the chapters until they were able to tackle their lives on their own, they accepted his handholding because he was a psychiatrist. Peck spent his life trying to find someone to hold his hand. Someone he trusted. The tragedy is he barely trusted even himself, and if he had, his trust may have been misplaced. His second wife, Kathy, said she wondered if, finally, he even trusted God. Despite a media blaze that for years followed his progress, and finally threatened his reputation, his interviewers and article writers never quite pinned him down. Everyone who knew him, said Gail Puterbaugh, his longtime executive secretary, “saw a different Scotty.” XII


This book – much of the time in Peck’s own words -- reveals who and what they saw. This is that rare phenomenon in the annals of psychotherapy: the world-famous psychiatrist on the couch.

XIII

Profile for Capparoe Books

Boomer Guru: How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled (A. Jones)  

Introduction to Arthur Jones's biography of M. Scott Peck, the American psychiatrist and best-selling author of "The Road Less Traveled". Pu...

Boomer Guru: How M. Scott Peck Guided Millions but Lost Himself on the Road Less Traveled (A. Jones)  

Introduction to Arthur Jones's biography of M. Scott Peck, the American psychiatrist and best-selling author of "The Road Less Traveled". Pu...

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