M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie explores the dimensions of human and satanic evil.

If it is true, as Baudelaire suggests, that “the Devil’s cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist,” then psychiatrist M. Scott Peck has dealt the Devil a serious blow in his best-selling book, People of the Lie. The Devil is not all Peck talks about in this unlikely book. He originally set out to write a work dealing with human evil, and that is what he has done. When he began he believed, along with 99 percent of his psychiatric colleagues, that there was no such thing as the Devil. But as he contemplated writing such a book, it seemed to him that, in the interests of scientific objectivity, he ought at least to examine the evidence for the existence of the Devil. His conclusion? “I now know that Satan is real. I have met it.”

That makes for interesting reading—so interesting, in fact, that People was in its fifth printing as of November of 1984, had sold more than 150,000 copies at the rate of 1,000 per week, and its publishers were showing no signs of issuing it in paperback. No small portion of its readership is among evangelicals. Both People of the Lie and another book by Peck, The Road Less Traveled, appeared on Eternity magazine’s Book of the Year list, finishing seventh and sixth, respectively. (Eternity’s list is determined by the votes of a group of evangelical writers, leaders, and theologians who have been associated with the magazine.) The success of these two books has kept Peck so busy speaking and writing that he has had to stop practicing psychiatry, at least for the time being.

What makes People of the Lie so unlikely is that it comes from a man thoroughly trained in the canons of a secularist psychological ...

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