First of all, absolutely necessary to understanding the spirit in which this book was written, one must read the introduction open-mindedly before moving forward. The subject of human evil is one too difficult and prevalent to merit no explanation as to why anyone would try and write a book about it. The introduction explains why Dr. Peck chooses to speak of human evil from a Christian perspective, but aimed for all people to consider, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof). This is a book about human evil, but not about religion—since evil transcends all boundaries and is prevalent in all mankind. Personally, I am relieved by how the author makes no pretenses about his own beliefs, and also mentions that the book will probably offend WAY more fundamental Christians then it ever will anyone else. (Let’s face it: it’s remarkably easy to offend most Christians.) Instead the author attempts to approach the disease of evil from a moralistic viewpoint—morality being separate from individual religious identity.
Like most books from a psychiatric perspective, People Of The Lie uses case studies from real patients to make a point—however, confidentiality demands that not much is realistically cited. This is fine with me, since I’m not a purist for data. If you are, though, this might tickle your skepticism a bit. The personality types so defined do meet with reality in that I think everyone could recognize someone they know in what he lays out with the case studies, so all together I do find them effective.
Dr. Peck seeks to approach evil in a multi-faceted way. Moreover, he recommends approaching as many things in life as possible with a multi-faceted view. The more simplistic and basic a concept is—such as evil—the more elusive it becomes, the more mysterious. In fact, he posits that such seemingly ingrained features of mankind are never fully understood. We approach them with all the tools at hand, reaching the best knowledge on the subject we can obtain. The closer we approach such mysteries, the more we don’t understand.
“Then why try to understand? The very question speaks the language of nihilism, since time immemorial a diabolic voice. Why do or learn anything? The answer is simply that it is far better—both more fulfilling and constructive—to have some glimmer of understanding of what we are about than to flounder around in total darkness.” –Peck, p. 39.
This book is amazing and a must-read for anyone interested in the depths of the human soul—particular the dark and disturbing aspects.