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People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  7,311 ratings  ·  580 reviews
In this absorbing and equally inspiring companion volume to his classic trilogy – The Road Less Traveled, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond – Dr. M. Scott Peck brilliantly probes into the essence of human evil.

People who are evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Peck demonstrates the havoc these people of the lie
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 2nd 1998 by Touchstone (first published October 1983)
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Pam I did. I found that it was more focused on intellectual laziness as the root of evil in people - not willing to admit fault or work on making themselv…moreI did. I found that it was more focused on intellectual laziness as the root of evil in people - not willing to admit fault or work on making themselves better... always wanting the easy out.(less)
Michele Look at the etymology of the word psychology!

psychology (n.)
1650s, "study of the soul," from Modern Latin psychologia, probably coined mid-16c. in Ger…more
Look at the etymology of the word psychology!

psychology (n.)
1650s, "study of the soul," from Modern Latin psychologia, probably coined mid-16c. in Germany by Melanchthon from Latinized form of Greek psykhē "breath, spirit, soul" (see psyche) + logia "study of" (see -logy). Meaning "study of the mind" first recorded 1748, from Christian Wolff's "Psychologia empirica" (1732); main modern behavioral sense is from early 1890s.(less)

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Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After hearing Dr. Howard speak about this book I ordered it and was in the process of tossing it on the pile of my anticipated reading list when I decided to read the introduction. I never stopped reading and three days later I had finished this book, which for me proved to be a spell binding page-turner, in which Dr. Peck relates certain of his experiences as a psychiatrist, particularly in psychotherapy with evil people.

Perhaps the most mesmerizing thing about the book is Dr. Peck’s detailed
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Evil can be conquered only by love." "To somehow be tolerant and intolerant." "An almost Godlike compassion is required."


"Okay George, I'm going to say a few things to you and I want you to listen to them well. Because they are very important. Nothing is more important."

"You have a defect--a weakness--in your character, George. It is a very basic weakness, and it it the cause of all the difficulties we've been talking about. It's the major cause of your bad marriage. It's the cause of y
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An incredible eye-opener for anyone who has a family member who sucks the life out of everyone around them, who makes all who oppose them feel guilty for their actions, who seems to need to control everyone who gets near them, and who seems to personify evil. They are evil, this book explains it. Some cases he describes are horrifying, you will not believe how such people destroy other family members without feeling a bit of remorse or understanding they are themselves at fault. Having read this ...more
Trixie Fontaine
There are things I don't like about this book, but I started reading it again because I own it and have no other convenient/available book in mind to address an issue of concern to me right now: why people are so shamelessly FUCKED UP, remorseless, and seemingly devoid of empathy with apparently no desire to be better or recognition that anything is wrong with them, even a little bit.

Once again I just couldn't continue when he starts in with the exorcism bullshit. Which in my placebo & ritual em
Feb 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This is probably one of the scariest books I've read, and the reason for this is due to it being non-fiction and based on Peck's experiences with certain patients. Peck tries to formulate a hypothesis of evil, but doesn't satisfy the scientific method, and even though his examples can be attributed to 'dark' characteristics or conditioned behaviors (learning through modeling, over time), providing a reasonable framework for his hypothesis, much of what Peck states (what constitutes 'evil') would ...more
Dan Cooley
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I become dictator of seminaries the world over, People of the Lie will be required reading. The complete title is “People of the Lie. The Hope for Healing Human Evil.” It’s by M. Scott Peck, M.D. Copyright 1983. He believes your church is a magnet for evil.

Someone gave me this book when we were going through grief (a church split) in my first pastorate in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. It’s been one of my favorites ever since. The Bible talks about evil and even about a personality called “the devil
May 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's been a while since a book has riled me up as much.

The author attempts to ascertain the differences between a scientific and a religious approach to the investigation of human illnesses. In so doing he makes the claim that science contents itself with "little mysteries" while religion embraces "bigger mysteries" and it is this aspect of religion that he believes lends it more competency in studying and dealing with human evil. I disagree with his evaluation of science, and more so find his
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
So, I'm definitely uncomfortable saying that I believe in "evil" exactly, but everything that Peck says makes sense. It's just hard for me to wrap my head around the concept as something different from other personality disorders. It might just be that the word "evil" has been so manipulated and co-opted for misaligned purposes that it has lost its true meaning.

This is an easy book to read (as far as reading about evil goes), and I really enjoyed reading each of the case studies that Peck presen
May 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mental health professionals
Shelves: psychology
The human animal is quite complex, capable of acts of heroism and cowardliness, compassion and selfishness, honesty and deceit. I respect Peck and find his work fascinating because he embraces both a high and low view of humanity. In The People of the Lie, Peck unveils his dissatisfaction with psychology’s attempt, or lack there of, at naming evil. This, in fact, is the stated purpose of the book. Peck believes that to name something correctly creates a sense of predictability and control, thus ...more
Bob Johnson
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Peck's evolution from standard, "we can fix it with therapy" psychologist to a believer in unapologetic evil is an honesty those working in social services should realize. Sociopaths and psychopaths are out there; there is often a perception these people are "soulless" , but perhaps, it is simply another species of soul, predatory to the good nature of the human race. ...more
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone. Especially people who feel as though their life is not solely their responsibility.
I love this book. I read it before The Road Less Traveled, but I'm glad I did. I was thrown right into a new perspective of looking at evil as a psychosis and not a spiritual affliction. I began to see people in such a new light, where ironically, I felt more love, tolerance, and slight pity for these people who otherwise would have caused me to fear them. As a very empathetic person, I like to walk in other people's shoes. Although i do not ever care to know or be an evil person, I have a much ...more
Daniel Petra
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are some people who have great difficulty dealing with evil in their life. Some people even prefer to deny that there is such a thing as evil. M. Scott Peck states clearly that: “... we are all in combat against evil.” This book has helped me an awful lot to deal with evil. When faced with evil I used to become very angry. I used to have great difficulty dealing with anger. This book deals with many aspects of evil in ways that I find very helpful and practical. M. Scott Peck utilizes seve ...more
Steve Wiggins
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I may be one of the few people who lived through the 1980s without ever reading anything by M. Scott Peck. His books were all over the place. His The Road Less Traveled became a bestseller and his brand of psychotherapy was well known. I read People of the Lie because it contributed, as I’ve noted elsewhere (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World), to the interest in demons that suddenly appeared in the years after The Exorcist. This book, however, was complex in a different way. Books about ps ...more
Michael Connolly
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Understanding human evil is the subject of this book. The author takes both a theological and a therapeutic approach. He claims that he often comes across evil people in his work as a psychotherapist. The evil people are not necessarily the ones who come in for treatment. Often it is a family member of the evil person who comes in for treatment. Clearly, living with an evil person would create psychological problems. Some of Peck's examples are of parents who pretend to love their children, but ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
"People of the lie" are what Peck calls evil people -- those who refuse to acknowledge their own sin, who scapegoat other people instead, not just occasionally but routinely. Peck believes evil people are both common and ordinary-looking, more likely to be a church deacon than a psychopath, because they create a respectable veneer that belies their callous, independent hearts. They often deceive others, but primarily they deceive themselves and avoid facing reality because they are so scared of ...more
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Strange book. But I guess what can one expect when reading a book about evil? I understand his attempts to differentiate between mental illness, poor choices we all make (sin and mistakes), and flat out evil. But then he muddies the water with his decision to call evil its own illness type. It gets more creepy when he talks about exorcism and his personal experience witnessing a few. I did think he had some fascinating insights towards the end when he discusses group evil and talks about war (pa ...more
Oct 26, 2014 marked it as to-read
MY musings:"evil" and "sin" and "resurrection" ...and many other expressions …. are expressions of the religious domain; just like “gene” and “mitochondria” and “psychosis” …are of the science domain….Science separated from Religion."

One who had read, or known about, “The road less traveled” would argue with Peck: so, discipline is not enough to solve all problems.

Evil itself is a human problem, according to Peck. [And that’s a bit new] Science should address this problem; the evil problem
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since I read this book, but I thought it was very strong and insightful.

It explores the nature of narcissism and the people who inflict it on you.

Again, this sounds paranoid! But, people who do care about others can be hurt terribly by people who can only see the world from their own point of view.

Peck explains how people like this function, how to identify them, and he gives narratives about narcissists he has dealt with to help underscore the types of behavior that they comm
Oct 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-hate
I can't give any higher than 1 star to a book I could not force myself to finish. I disagreed with his basic premise, and yet, I still kept reading. I sat through his case studies of "evil" people who seemed more like people lacking basic functioning and parenting skills and less like any sort of "evil." I read it solidly, continuing on because I kept thinking there was a pay off sooner or later. For two weeks, I forced myself to read it just 20 minutes before bed, and then just 10, every other ...more
Nikki Whipple
Apr 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Dated and terrible. Equating mental illness or personality disorders with evil is disheartening. Jibberish about neurosis start with traumatic toilet training. I read three chapters and could not go on. These days, Peck’s style of speaking to his patients would be considered unprofessional.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At times this book will scare you to death. He names human and cosmic evil as no ohe I have ever read.
Benjamin Espen
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
A fascinating and riveting work on human evil. I was most interested in the case studies that formed the bulk of the first half of the book, and far less interested in the theoretical application of group psychology that formed the last half. The case studies in the book could well describe someone you know. I appreciated the honesty of Peck regarding his feelings about his patients. I could well relate to his frustration and revulsion, it gave his accounts more verisimilitude.

I remain unconvinc
Emily Peery
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, Abby. . .

This book is fantastic. It is depressing--it's about evil people. Remember "The Road Less Travelled"? It's the opposite. I didn't love it because it's happy, but because it offers insight into absolutely evil people. Now, "evil" is tricky--most people don't believe in evil anymore. And even trickier--evil people make you feel crazy. If you challenge them, try to stand in reality with them around--YOU feel crazy. Because what makes them evil is not that they kill people, or hate pe
Aug 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am finding this book a fascinating read (which totally surprised my daughter, since I'm not much given to reading psychology books!) But in light of experiences in my life over the past year, it has helped me to wrap my mind around how people you loved and thought you knew can change in ways you never imagined. It even covers how groups of people can come to accept and tolerate evil in their midst. I don't agree with all the author says (of course!) and have some additional ideas as well, but ...more
Mar 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: those in need of a self-satisfied sneer
Peck asserts that evil is a personality trait that can be diagnosed clinically. He is smart enough to realize on some level the fundamental absurdity of this assertion, and so (sigh) the book equivocates on this point endlessly. Adding to the static is a confusion between human evil and supernatural evil, complete with a glowing gloss-over of his observation of two exorcisms.

Considered out of the context of the rest of this drivel, the chapter "MyLai: An Examination of Group Evil" is insightful
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
“The purpose of this book is to encourage us to take our human life so seriously that we also take human evil far more seriously….”

Attributed to Erich Fromm : “…the desire of certain people to control others—to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictability and originality, to keep them in line.” “whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely one of the scariest and most disturbing books I've read, but it's a great book. The examples of his patients that he considered evil show exactly how these people are and how they operate. If you've always wondered why some people are evil and want to try to understand why some people are evil this book will definitely shed light on evil and at the end is a testament to the power of love to overcome it. Indeed, the author agrees by the end of the book that our only hope to heal evil i ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
My review of this book should actually have been four stars, which is why I am correcting it now. I read this book almost 30 years ago, after I had read The Road Less Traveled. People of the Lie remains one of the most interesting books I have ever read. Whether or not you agree with Dr. Peck’s thesis that there are human beings who are truly “evil“, or whether evil is something that can be reduced to a set of diagnostic criteria codified in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical M ...more
Jordyn Redwood
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a meaty book, but definitely worth the read. I think this is a book that would never be published today, but is so necessary for today, that I would definitely pick up a copy to hold onto while you still can.

The basic theory of this book is that evil should be a recognized psychiatric diagnosis and an examination of whether or not evil could be treated as a psychological disorder. The author gives several, very in-depth studies of cases he's come across as people he would identify as ev
Johnny Story
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Evil fascinates me. It operates throughout our society largely unnoticed by people who fail to identify it (not as easy as you may think it to be), or by optimistic people who would like to think it does not exist. While Peck doesn't get in detail about the two exorcism he partook in, he clearly identifies evil on three different levels. This book really opens your eyes to the psychology of evil, the shadows, and the real possibility of demons. I recommend this book to anyone, even though I pick ...more
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Ask Daniel Petra: Dealing effectively with evil. 1 10 May 27, 2016 12:59PM  

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Dr. Peck was born on May 22, 1936 in New York City, the younger of two sons to David Warner Peck, a prominent lawyer and jurist, and his wife Elizabeth Saville. He married Lily Ho in 1959, and they had three children.

Dr. Peck received his B.A. degree magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1958, and his M.D. degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1963. From 1963 unti

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“When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life -- particularly human life -- such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may "break" a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.

Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others-to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredectibility and originalty, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a "biophilic" person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a "necrophilic character type," whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.

Evil then, for the moment, is the force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.”
“I feel compelled to make another 'nonapology.' Many readers are likely to be concerned about my use of masculine pronouns in relation to God. I think I both understand and appreciate this concern. It is a matter to which I have given much thought. I have generally been a strong supporter of the women's movement and action that is reasonable to combat sexist language. But first of all, God is not neuter. He is exploding with life and love and even sexuality of a sort. So 'It' is not appropriate. Certainly I consider God androgynous. He is as gentle and tender and nurturing and maternal as any woman could ever be. Nonetheless, culturally determined though it may be, I subjectively experience His reality as more masculine than feminine. While He nurtures us, He also desires to penetrate us, and while we more often than not flee from His love like a reluctant virgin, He chases after us with a vigor in the hunt that we most typically associate with males. As CS Lewis put it, in relation to God we are all female. Moreover, whatever our gender or conscious theology, it is our duty---our obligation---in response to His love to attempt to give birth, like Mary, to Christ in ourselves and in others.

"I shall, however, break with tradition and use the neuter for Satan. While I know Satan to be lustful to penetrate us, I have not in the least experienced this desire as sexual or creative---only hateful and destructive. It is hard to determine the sex of a snake.”
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