Excerpts from various parts of the book, “Road Less Travelled by Scott M. Peck“.
Again and again, I have emphasized that the process of spiritual growth is an effortful and difficult one. This is because it is conducted against a natural resistance, a natural inclination to keep things the way they were, to cling to the old maps and the old ways of doing things., to take the easy path.
But what is this force that pushes us as individuals and as a whole species to grow against the natural resistance of our own lethargy? It is Love.
Love was defined as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing ones own or another’s spiritual growth‘. When we grow, it is because we are working at it, and we’re working at it, because we love ourselves. It is through love that we elevate ourselves. And it is through love that we assist others to elevate themselves. Among humanity, love is the miraculous force, that defies the natural law of entropy.
To explain the miracles of grace and evolution we hypothesize the existence of a God who wants us to grow – a God who loves us.
And if we take this seriously , we are going to find that this simple notion of a loving God does not make for an easy philosophy.
If we postulate that our capacity to love, this urge to grow and evolve, is somehow ‘breathed into’ us by God, then we must ask to what end. Why does God want us to grow? What are we growing toward? Where is the end point, the goal of evolution? What is that God wants of us?
It is not my intention here to become involved in theological niceties, and I hope the scholarly will forgive me, if I cut through the ifs and buts of proper speculative theology. For no matter how much we like to pussyfoot around it, all of us who postulate a loving God and really think about it, come to a single terrifying idea: God wants us to become Himself (or Herself or Itself). We are growing toward godhood. God is the goal of evolution. It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force, and God who is the destination. This is what we mean when we say that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
No idea eve came to man which places upon us such a burden. It is the single most demanding idea in the history of mankind.
It is one thing to think of a nice old God who will take good care of us from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could never begin to attain. It is quite another to believe in a God who has it in mind for us precisely that we should attain His position, His power, His wisdom, His identity.
Were we to believe it possible for man to become God, this belief by its very nature would place upon us, an obligation to attempt to attain the possible.
But we do not want this obligation. We do not want to work that hard. We don’t want God’s responsibility. The idea that god is actively nurturing us so that we might grow up to be like Him brings us face to face with our own laziness.
In examining love, we are also examining that non-love is the unwillingness to extend ones’ self. Laziness is love’s opposite. Laziness is the force of entropy within us, pushing us down and holding us all back from our spiritual evolution. Spiritual growth is effortful.
In the section on discipline I spoke about the fact that people find new information distinctly threatening because if they incorporate it they will have to do a good deal of work to revise their maps of reality, and they instinctively seek to avoid that work. Consequently, more often than not, they will fight against that new information rather than for its assimilation. Their resistance is motivated by fear, yes, but the basis of their fear is laziness.
Psychotherapists know that although patients come to us seeking change of one kind or another, they are actually terrified of change — of the work of change.
There are many, who by virtue of their passivity, dependency, fear and laziness seek to be shown every inch of the way, and have it demonstrated that each step will be safe and worth their while. This cannot be done. For the journey of spiritual growth require courage and initiative, and independence of thought and action.
While the words of the prophets and the assistance of grace are available, the journey must be travelled alone. Rituals are only learning aids, they are not the learning. No words can be said, no teaching can be taught that will relieve spiritual travellers from the necessity of picking their own ways, working out with effort and anxiety their own paths through the unique circumstances of their own lives toward the identification of their individual self with God.