Book Review: People of the Lie (The Hope for Healing Human Evil) By M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Occasionally, a book is written that transcends normal categories and deserves a category of its own. The book People of the Lie is one such.

While this book is not directly about ritual abuse, the topic it covers, the existence of human evil, is very closely related. The author, Dr. Peck, is a psychiatrist of many years who early in his therapy took the normal psychological approach to his clients. But over the years, as he was confronted with both the best and basest in human nature, he believed that a new diagnosis should be created for the DSM: the category of evil.

This is a bold approach for a clinically –based doctor of psychiatry to take. To state that in his professional opinion, and based on his contact with certain patients (or their parents), that a true diagnosis of evil can be made.

He uses case studies to underline his argument. These studies are clear, recognizable, and include one man who made a pact with the devil (then later took it back at Peck’s urging), two children with emotionally brutal parents whom Peck considered candidates for this diagnosis, and others.

I believe that this book is worth reading for the ritual abuse survivor for this one classic paragraph alone:

To come to terms with evil in one’s parentage is perhaps the most difficult and painful psychological task a human being can be called on to face. Most fail and so remain its victims. Those who fully succeed in developing the necessary, searing vision are those who are able to name it. For to “come to terms” means to “arrive at the name (evil).” As therapists, it is our duty to do what is in our power to assist evil’s victims to arrive at the true name of their affliction.”

This is the emotional task that every victim of generational occult abuse must also face, and try to work through in therapy. If only every therapist understood the reality of evil, the capability that can work through parents to children, as Peck so clearly does.

Peck goes on to delineate the face of evil, to show what evil looks like. His contention is that evil does not often look like what we expect; those who are most evil will often appear most “together” or wholesome at first glance. The picture he draws of evil people is all too familiar to the child raised in such a home as he delineates the “evil personality disorder”:

He states:

“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorder, this one would specifically be distinguished by: (a) consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which my often be quite subtle. (b) Excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury. (c) Pronounced concern with a pubic image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiouslness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives. (d) Intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophreniclike disturbance of thinking at times of stress.

What child, raised in a generational cult family, has not been exposed to all four of the above in high degree in their family members? I remember well the day that my sister disclosed to me the fact that she went to our school guidance counselor (she was 17 years old) and told him just a little of the events ongoing at home. He became concerned, and stated that if this was true, she would need to be put in foster care. My sister agreed, jumped at the chance, then found out that she needed my mother’s permission to be placed in foster care (this was rural Virginia in 1975). She asked that night, and my mother unequivocably said “No” to her daughter’s request to be placed in a foster home. Her rationale? “What would the neighbors think if this happened?” she asked. “I can’t have them thinking I’m an unfit mother.” This illustrates point c above, and became the basis of the title of the book; “people of the lie” cannot stand to have the truth of who and what they are uncovered, it is intolerable to them. My sister did run away from home and lived with a teacher two months later, but she never forgot our mother’s response to her request, either. At no point was there remorse, or concern, or asking why she felt she could no longer live at home, which illustrates point b above. And my sister was labeled a “horrible, vicious, terrible child,” for wanting to leave home and later running away, which illustrates point a above.

I believe that any therapist who works with survivors, and survivors themselves, should read Peck’s classic work. It is an eye-opener to say the least, and will validate the survivor and their instinctive feelings about their family of origin. And most of all, it gives a label to what they have endured, at the hands of people of the lie.