‘The Road Less Traveled’ has been a part of my life for many years but these last few days I have thought about its messages more than ever. I’ve been reading other critiques of it and the main issue is Scott Peck’s discussion of god and spiritually. Those who love the book the most seem to love it for that very reason. Those who hate it, or feel that it ultimately fails, quote the very same reason, the involvement of god in an otherwise great book about life and living.
Of course what makes it different from similar books, from the plethora of self-help books available, or certainly those available back in the seventies, is Pecks willingness to mention the spiritual. The secularists amongst us love the first few chapters, before god, while the spiritual amongst us especially love the last few chapters, after the introduction of god.
Such are the divisions in our world, such the choices to be made on our journey, which road shall we choose? And will it be the right one?
There is no doubt in Scott Peck’s mind that god exists and that we were created by that divinity. Scott Peck also believes that our true purpose in life to to reunite ourselves with that divinity, to become god-like ourselves. Such a theory is not much help to secularists though; becoming god-like is rather difficult if you don’t believe in a god. Does that mean you have to believe in the existence of a divine being if you are to fulfill your destiny? Is it possible to become god-like without believing in the divine? Difficult questions – but of course there is not a simple line between atheists and theists, believers in the divine. The god believed in by many people would not fit easily with Scott Peck. The god believed in by each of us is different, either hugely or subtly, than the god believed in by everybody else. This means that if we each wrote down our image and understanding of the divine and its attitudes, attributes and opinions, we would end up with millions of different gods. Is it possible that everyone is right? Is it possible that there are millions of gods? Or is it possible that the divine is like a chameleon, which changes its appearance to suit each believer?
It seems to me that the answers to these questions must be no. But all we can do is make assumptions. Let us assume that the divine is perfect, that seems like a good definition of a divinity. We should be aware though that there is a school of thought, or schools rather, which believe that god exists but is evolving over time, just as we have evolved. God has also been compared to an artist, as a creator but one who does not always create perfection. Lets leave those discussions aside for the moment and return to our assumption that the divine is perfect, always has been and always will be because, of course, you can’t change perfection. If you could then it wouldn’t be perfect.
It seems likely too that there is only one perfect, only one form of perfect. How could two or more forms of perfect differ from each other and yet both be perfect?
And yet, beyond human knowledge and our ability to imagine or perceive, it is possible that multiple versions of perfect quite happily exist side by side for eternity.
So we not only assume, we also restrict the possibilities, the potential – all in an effort to try to know god, to understand the divinity. Surely restrictions and god don’t belong in the same sentence.
Many great philosophers have come to the conclusion that all we can know about the divine is that we know nothing and can know nothing. Perhaps they are right, but if so why are we here, us humans. Is it an accident of evolution that we seem to be more developed in regard to mental capacity, linguist ability, capacity to understand, to plan, to imagine?, or is it our fate, our destiny? Are we here to know god? Or are we just here?
We all know what the ego would say – god created humans as special, with special abilities so that we could develop some understanding of the divine, so that we could ultimately join god, or join with god.
We also all know that the ego is generally the greatest obstacle to recognizing and accepting the truth. So if we strip out the human ego what are we left with; humans as another animal species. Humans have been the dominant species on earth for about the last 100 thousand years. Dinosaurs were the dominant species for about 175 million years. That rather puts us in perspective.
So we humans evolved, slower than the dinosaurs but ultimately more capable. What we can’t know, because we can’t foretell the future, is whether we, like the dinosaurs, are just another step on the evolutionary ladder.
You see when we start to try and seek the truth how many different options are available to us, how many different paths there are that we might wander down, how easily it is to become lost!
If god does not exist, then all our spiritual musings are as nothing, just another aid to avoidance, another way of passing the time. A meaningless way of spending meaningless lives. Of course we can live ‘good’ lives, no matter whether god exists or not, as many have before us. Ultimately though, it makes no difference, by living a ‘good’ life we will bring some happiness and joy in other meaningless lives, which is always better than the opposite, but, ultimately, it makes no difference. Good deeds are not immortal, no more than their recipients.
So, advantage the ego, let us assume that the divine exists, as a creator of all. This assumption allows us to see meaning in our lives, in all our lives, cue happy egos smiling all round.
God really is the difference!
and there is always Buddhism!
But just because the ego approves does not mean that our assumption is wrong, although it certainly raises the possibility.
Our paths diverge and separate and come back together again.
Let us press on.