Scott Peck

Morgan Scott Peck (23 May 1936 – 25 September 2005) was an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978.    

Dr Peck dedicated his whole life to researching, studying and action-learning about the path to true love, the reasons for human suffering, the nature of evil, and - very usefully for us who wish to design healthy groups & communities - what real communities are, how they work, and how they are formed.

Definition of Community

from The Fellowship for Intentional Community

Community is defined as a group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences

They are able to communicate openly and effectively; and to work together toward common goals, while having a sense of unusual safety with one another.

Community Building (CB) is a group process that can lead to deeper, more authentic communication. It is based on the principles identified by Dr. M. Scott Peck in his books, The Road Less Traveled and The Different Drum. Dr. Peck and a group of eleven colleagues further developed this process through the work of the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE). Its principles were expanded on in his book, A World Waiting to be Born.

Experiential in nature, Community Building is an adventure in human interaction based on a set of guidelines and principles rather than an agenda or particular procedure. Participants are gently guided by specially trained facilitators who take the group through a process that shows how to look beyond the cultural, political and religious differences that prevent us from embracing our common humanity.
(from the FCE Homepage)

Community Building

In his book The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Peck says that community has three essential ingredients:

Based on his experience with community building workshops, Peck says that community building typically goes through four stages:

  • Pseudocommunity: This is a stage where the members pretend to have a bonhomie with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist. Pseudocommunity can never directly lead to community, and it is the job of the person guiding the community building process to shorten this period as much as possible.
  • Chaos: When pseudo-community fails to work, the members start falling upon each other, giving vent to their mutual disagreements and differences. This is a period of chaos. It is a time when the people in the community realize that differences cannot simply be ignored. Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards community building.
  • Emptiness: After chaos comes emptiness. At this stage, the people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing their entry into community. Emptiness is a tough step because it involves the death of a part of the individual. But, Scott Peck argues, this death paves the way for the birth of a new creature, the Community.
  • True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in community are in complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other's feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.

The four stages of community formation are somewhat related to a model in organization theory for the five stages that a team goes through during development. These five stages are:

  • Forming where the team members have some initial discomfort with each other but nothing comes out in the open. They are insecure about their role and position with respect to the team. This corresponds to the initial stage of pseudocommunity.
  • Storming where the team members start arguing heatedly and differences and insecurities come out in the open. This corresponds to the second stage given by Scott Peck, namely chaos.
  • Norming where the team members lay out rules and guidelines for interaction that help define the roles and responsibilities of each person. This corresponds to emptiness, where the community members think within and empty themselves of their obsessions to be able to accept and listen to others.
  • Performing where the team finally starts working as a cohesive whole, and effectively achieve the tasks set of themselves. In this stage individuals are aided by the group as a whole where necessary, in order to move further collectively than they could achieve as a group of separated individuals.
  • Transforming This corresponds to the stage of true community. This represents the stage of celebration, and when individuals leave, as they must, there is a genuine feeling of grief, and a desire to meet again. Traditionally this stage was often called "Mourning".

It is in this third stage that Peck's community-building methods differ in principle from team development.  While teams in business organizations need to develop explicit rules, guidelines and protocols during the norming stage, the emptiness' stage of community building is characterized, not by laying down the rules explicitly, but by shedding the resistance within the minds of the individuals.

Peck started the Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE) to promote the formation of communities, which, he argues, are a first step towards uniting humanity and saving us from self destruction.

Characteristics of True Community

Peck describes what he considers to be the most salient characteristics of a true community[7]:

  • Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
  • Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  • Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  • A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
  • A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
  • A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others' gifts, accept each others' limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others’ wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
  • A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
  • A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will.

The Community Building Process

Community Building is developing authentic relationships between people. The word authentic is extremely important because people rarely communicate authentically. 

These workshops bond participants into community at a deep emotional level through learning how to communicate differently. It is life changing for a number of people. Thousands of people have attended these workshops in countries all over the world. 

This is derived from my experience with the Dr. M. Scott Peckmodel of Community Building over the last 15 years.

Dr. Peck is a renowned psychiatrists from the United States and is best known for his book: The Road Less Traveled which was on the best seller list for more than ten years. Dr. Peck discovered his CB model in 1981. 

The process centers around four stages of group development. It is an experiential workshop that is highly unstructured. 

Participants learn how to build a community by doing it themselves with a minimum of facilitation. 

There are few presentations or specific exercises to achieve the one goal: building community with the people in attendance. Dr. Peck says community is a miracle.

The first workshops were done as public offerings. They were advertised by a sponsor with self-selecting people attending. These are referred to as open groups. Eventually they were offered to businesses. This was slow to develop because building a community takes considerable time and commitment, and may cause transformational change. Workshops in organizations are referred to as closed workshops.

To see the community building process illustrated and a very brief description, go to this link. (CLICK HERE)

Read full article here

On Psychiatric Illness

from Conversations

"Starting with the Road Less Traveled, perhaps the most radical thing that I said in that book that deviated from traditional psychiatry is that I located the source of psychiatric ills in the conscious mind, rather than the unconscious. And that the previous view, the Freudian sort of view, had been that the unconscious was filled with all these bad feelings, and angry thoughts, sexy thoughts, and whatnot. And that was where psychiatric, psychological illness originated. When in fact, the real question is why those things, which were obvious, were in the unconscious, rather than the conscious mind. The answer was that it was a conscious mind that didn’t want to face certain truths, and pushed this stuff into the unconscious. But the problem is with a rejecting consciousness in which we simply don’t like to think about things….Over the years I came to believe, and again I’m leaving out the biological aspects, but that psychological disorders are all disorders of thinking. So narcissists, for instance, cannot or will not think of other people….What we used to call passive-dependent people don’t think for themselves. Obsessive-compulsives tend to have great difficulty thinking in the big picture. And I would say that if you have a patient or a client who has some real difficulty, psychological difficulty, look for the problem in their thinking. There is some area where they are not thinking correctly. "

On Narcissism

Malignant Narcissism: Excerpts from M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie
Click on image to expand (summary of useful article here)

It is quite easy to see these patterns in groups (you could say it is essentially narcissistic people who destroy groups), but try also reading the article thinking in terms of our society .. being perhaps "malignantly narcissistic".  

Makes interesting reading.    And not at all surprising that we have such a hard time in the 'over-developed west' in forming real communities.


There are quite a lot of Scott Peck videos in YouTube, here a summary of his book,

The Road Less Travelled

YouTube Video

To see the whole series click here

See his page in Wikipedia

There's a dialogue related to this page in the Integral Permaculture FB group (click icon to go there)

There's a dialogue in our FB group about this subject (click icon to go there)

Some Quotes 

"Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity. . .  Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. . . . love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.....true love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, 'Love is as love does'."

"Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs""The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

"Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity."

"Life is difficult. This is the great truth, one of the greatest truths—it is a great truth because once we see this truth, we transcend it."

"We cannot let another person into our hearts or minds unless we empty ourselves. We can truly listen to him or truly hear her only out of emptiness."

"Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." Carl Jung