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on September 5, 2011
I am a community builder (Google "One Community Ranch") and this book is mandatory reading for anyone joining One Community and our world changing vision. Dr. Peck did a lot of research on the differences between traditional community and what he calls "true community" and this book is about how and why he came to the process of studying and teaching people how to get into true community, what the pitfalls are and what can be achieved with true community, a few examples of true community tracked over many years, and how it all applies to the individual and the world. Loaded with interesting stories, anecdotes, real world examples and experience, this book is a page turner and a good read for anyone that works with groups, in a group, or who would like to improve their relationships.

Seventeen chapters and 334 pages, the book is divided into three parts: The Foundation, The Bridge, and The Solution

PART I: THE FOUNDATION
Appropriately titled, "The Foundation" is the first 160 pages of the book and contains the real "gems" and details of community building and maintenance. If you read only this section you will be glad you purchased this book. Peck spends about 45 pages talking about the profound impact 4 "true community" experiences had in his life, the classes he has taught, and other details building his case for the true meaning and potential of community that he summarizes as this:

-Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
-Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
-Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
-A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
-A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
-A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others' gifts, accept each others' limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others' wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
-A group of all leaders: Members harness the "flow of leadership" to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
-A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will.

As a community builder and organizer with my own set of experiences, reading the first 80 pages of this book was hugely emotional as Peck described in great detail what I'd experienced myself but never thought to put into words and structure. Next Peck goes into detail about the 4 stages of getting to and maintaining true community: pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness, and true community

>Pseudocommunity: This is a stage where the members pretend to have a bon homie with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist. Pseudocommunity can never directly lead to community, and it is the job of the person guiding the community building process to shorten this period as much as possible.
>Chaos: When pseudocommunity fails to work, the members start falling upon each other, giving vent to their mutual disagreements and differences. This is a period of chaos. It is a time when the people in the community realize that differences cannot simply be ignored. Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards community building.
>Emptiness: After chaos comes emptiness. At this stage, the people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing their entry into community. Emptiness is a tough step because it involves the death of a part of the individual. But, Scott Peck argues, this death paves the way for the birth of a new creature, the Community.
>True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in community are in complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other's feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.

The rest of this part of the book is about the further dynamics of community with two stories covering a couple communities tracked over years.

PART II: THE BRIDGE
In this section of the book Peck talks about human nature, our capacity for change, emptiness and vulnerability, and the stages of Spiritual Growth (Chaotic, Antisocial - Formal, Institutional - Skeptic, Individual - Mystic, Communal) in relation to community building and maintenance. These stages line up beautifully with Clare Graves' Spiral Dynamics stages of Human Values Evolution and are part of Peck's breakdown of the emotional/psychological/spiritual growth and transformation created in an environment of unconditional love and acceptance, why a person might be resistant to such an experience, and how to better understand and help them if they are. This section of the book is about 80 pages.

PART III: THE SOLUTION
Peck finishes the final 70 pages or so of his book discussing what the entire book means in relation to the world with the following subsections: Community and Communication, Dimensions of the Arms Race, the Christian Church in the US, The US Government, and Empowerment. Each of these sections is explored from the perspective of "where we've come from and where we are going" approach in relation to all the major points of the book and creation of True Community.

Here are two quotes from Peck that I think summarize this book beautifully, if you resonate with these, then you will love this book: "In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully." AND "If it is so channeled, life in community may touch upon something perhaps even deeper than joy... what repeatedly draws me into community is something more. When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word. I almost hesitate to use it. The word is "glory."" If you want see what can be created from all this, check out our website and One Community: [...]
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on May 4, 2001
Community isn't what we think it is. Peck does an impeccable job of explaining true community and why it is so elusive in our society. Though he mentions over and over that he is an idealist, Peck presents some very intelligent arguments as to why a community approach just makes sense. He isn't naive either. He says the road to community can be painful and extremely hard.
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on September 27, 2005
Once again Peck's integrative approach (integrating psychology, spirituality (not dogma), and philosophy with practical experience) has produced a work of profound depth and value. In our times of "global war," the doctor's ideas about community making and peace are a prescription we could all benefit from.
In the context of spirituality, Peck draws from the Christian tradition as well as Judaism and eastern philosophy (e.g. Zen). However, readers of any religious persuasion should find abundant value and wisdom in this book.
On a personal note, his portrayal of a healthy non-dogmatic Christianity was one of the factors that made me want to become a Christian when I first read his work many years ago. This book, along with the "Road Less Traveled" series had a profound impact on my life and will remain at eye-level on my bookshelf forever.
[If you're interested in good non-dogmatic and readable Christian theology and life-changing ideas... I also highly recommend works by Richard Rohr.]
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on April 24, 2012
I think this book is groundbreaking and outright revolutionary in some ways, but I also think that it loses me on certain points, and has some serious shortcomings that cloud the message and make it hard to extract the truth from it, especially as one gets deeper into the book.

I think that, in this book, Peck accurately grasps the distinction between what he considers true community, and what he later calls "pseudocommunity". It is this distinction that I think is so groundbreaking and revolutionary. I was unable to find much else of value in the book though. Peck makes the bold claim early in the book that he's figured out how groups evolve from "pseudocommunity" into true community, and that he is going to outline it in a clear theory in such a way that allows people to replicate this process and thus create community. I think the book falls very short of this bold claim. I also think that while Peck is very good about presenting his own religious and spiritual beliefs as subjective, rather than forcing them on the reader, he is completely terrible about doing the same for his own psychological views, which he presents as objective AND forces on the reader in such a way that, ironically, goes against the sort of community Peck is trying to create.

I was really on board with this book for the first four chapters, in which Peck was speaking mainly from his own personal experiences, and making observations that I found to be more objective. But part of the way through the fifth chapter, I found that the book started getting into more subjective analysis of group dynamics. I also found that the subjective analysis did not resonate as much with my own personal experience as did the personal experiences that Peck shared earlier on in the book. Peck outlines a theory, but I don't buy into the theory. Early in the book, Peck highlights generalizations as a typical indicator of "pseudocommunity", which he defines as a group dynamic which appears positive, but which is not necessarily healthy or constructive, a dynamic in which negative feelings or ideas are ignored or even considered taboo. Yet when Peck goes into his analysis of group dynamics, in Chapter 5 and beyond, he is engaging in generalizations!

I particularly don't like the way Peck presents his theories of group dynamics as objective truth. If he were to come to the table and say: "This is one way of understanding group dynamics, which I have found resonates with my personal experience and which is the best I can come up with." then I'd feel better about it. But that's not how I found it...I read chapter 5 and onward as stating: "This is how groups work." Ironically, this approach contradicts the sort of "community" that Peck is trying to create, one in which people speak from experience and in specifics, using I statements, rather than making general statements that are presented as universal fact. I find this contradiction very problematic because I think that in trying to advance a particular goal, it is more important to lead by example than to outline a description of how to proceed, but do so in a way that contradicts the example.

There are also some things that I don't like about this book right from the start. The book is clearly describing something, something remarkable that happens in certain groups. I'm not sure that "community" is the best word to describe it, however. The word "community" is rather mundane, and in some senses does not do justice to the sort of supportive, self-aware, functional dynamic that he is describing and trying to replicate. But it also contradicts the way people use the word "community" in daily life. I'm a believer in using language based on societal consensus, rather than trying to redefine words so as to create your own jargon, or promote an agenda. Ironically, I think that the act of redefining common words is one thing that leads to the separation or isolation of people of one particular ideology or belief system--something which Peck seems to be aiming to prevent. So why does he do it himself?

I also think that many of the subjective analyses that peck dives into are not particularly empowering. His whole psychology seems to be based on the pseudoscience of Freudian psychoanalysis and the disciplines that grew out of this. I don't find this particular model of psychology to be particularly objective or empowering. I prefer the different approach offered by more modern fields like cognitive behavioral therapy and related theories, which seem to eschew subjective analyses and focus instead on specific things that people are actually thinking. This may be another reason that Peck loses me.

So this book is a mixed bag. I think it contains some immensely valuable gems of knowledge, but I don't think it goes in a very good direction in the end. I think the most valuable part are the first four chapters.
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on October 26, 2000
After being catapulted to fame by his first book--the best-selling "The Road Less Travelled" --psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck follows it up with another one on psychology and spirituality. The chapter that captured my interest without let was the one on his theory of psychospiritual development. He delineates four stages, each representing a more mature level of development than the preceding stage.
Peck claims that he arrived at this theory through experience, although he footnotes the fact that there have been many theories on psychological development prior to his, the most recent being a six-stage faith developmental model (see "Stages of Faith" by James W. Fowler)
Although Peck's elucidation of his theory is informal and sketchy, I find his model of psychospiritual development idiosyncratic enough to be regarded as a separate theory by itself.
Peck aptly calls it psychospiritual since it has both psychological and spiritual/religious dimensions. It is much akin to the developmental theories in psychology, yet it has a very strong religious flavor--Stage 1 being the lack of spirituality/ethical behavior, Stage 2 as orthodoxly religious, Stage 3 as a time of religious skepticism or atheism, and Stage 4 the mystical level.
Yet I believe Peck's theory tends to be ethically judgmental in character, i.e., it explicitly holds the higher stages as undeniably better than the lower ones, and tends to describe people in ethical terms--'chaotic/unprincipled' (Stage 1), or dogmatic (Stage 2), or principled (Stage 3)
Nevertheless, I see the veracity of such categories, albeit demanding much care and caution. Pigeonholing, specially in ethical terms, is dangerous business and can easily be misused and abused. However, I believe that Dr. Peck has realized the limitations of his theory and has provided caveats and exceptions in his later books, such as in "Further Along the Road Less Travelled"
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on June 27, 2016
The quintessential Peck and quintessential book on his model of the Community Building Circle... I love most all his books, but I think this is my favorite. Bought this copy for a friend.... read this the first time over 25 years ago.
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on March 3, 2013
I found this book to be very helpful in the dynamics of a community and the steps into and out of community. It was insightful in a look at the mystic's mind also. Stick with it in the beginning to get to the meat of the good stuff 3/4 of the way in!!
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on April 14, 2014
Wouldn't it be nice to have community in our own lives. Too often the places that say they are a community are the ones where it is hardest to find. Creating community and keeping it alive is difficult but not impossible. Scott Peck has some great examples from his own life to share. One of the reasons I purchased the book was the story in the very beginning about a monastery that was dwindling.
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on December 11, 2014
I am surprised that Peck's other books have so many reviews and this one has so few in comparison. This is another excellent book by Peck. There are some authors that resonate so deeply with me that I try to read most of their work. Peck is one of those authors. In this book he offers some extraordinary insights about community.
-Amos Smith (author of Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity's Mystic Roots)
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on December 19, 2009
M. Scott Peck does it again. His books have always struck a chord with me due to their wisdom, sincerity, and practicality. This book definitely does for groups what The Road Less Traveled does for individuals. It explains the problems with the simplistic views on groups that are prevalent nowadays, and instead pleads for people to learn not to tolerate, but to welcome and celebrate individual differences. However, it is realistic in its recognition that forming a true community where individual differences are celebrated will require the hard work of emptying ourselves of our own prejudices and preconceived notions. Highly, highly recommended for just about anyone.
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