The correspondence presented below is from
the Archive of M. Scott Peck's
Official Papers, housed
at the Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.
December 9, 1990
M. Scott Peck
Dear Dr. Peck:
Thank you for inviting me to write and share some thoughts
with you following your seminar yesterday in Phoenix. During a question and answer session, I asked whether community might
not be an end in itself rather than a methodology for the resolution of discreet conflicts. I also expressed a concern that
thinking of community in utilitarian or formulaic terms (e.g. as a technique rather than as a collective state of being which
is its own justification) might have the effect of setting up yet another layer of impersonal ideology/methodology between
people who are trying to come together.
After thinking about my own question for
awhile, it occurs to me that the personal issue behind the question is how (and with whom) to implement community on a more
pervasive basis. I have experienced my fill of weekend seminars and collective psycho-spiritual peak moments. The available
models of sustained community (such as the monastic brotherhoods you describe or the orthodox communities of my own Jewish
tradition) depend for their raison d'etre upon religious ideologies rooted in stage two. I understand your suggestion that
stage four and stage two types can coexist in the same religious environment, but I certainly have not been able to pull this
off. My sense is that for me and, I suspect, other nondenominational stage-fours-in-waiting, the existing communal structures
are too confiniing for our own emerging spiritual identities. On a more theoretical level, I also have the thought that any
structure born of ideology or doctrine will, sooner or later, prove inimical to the more elemental human/spiritual connection
to which we aspire; and that any forced embrace of an existing ritual system would only stifle the more authentic collective
self-expression which awaits us.
In short, I am asking whether there is not a collective
spiritual life we can forge which (a) is fully integrated with our worldly (economic), intellectual and emotional agendas
(rather than something that replenishes us temporarily or puts a spiritual gloss on selective interpersonal dealings) and
(b) does not depend for its existence upon entrenched and inherently divisive belief systems?
There is another
component to my question/frustration: The handful of people I have errcountered who can articulate a "stage four"
type concept of personal integrity and conscious (honest) communication invariably seem more interested in becoming seminar leaders on the subject than in living it in situ. If all the people who learn to love and communicate become teachers
rather than practitioners of the art, who will implement their discoveries in the sustained way that might help transform
the people and the institutions left behind? It is as though our new-found wisdom has sprung to life as an abstract subject
matter (indepepdent of the personal conundra and relationships through which it has gestated) which we then presume to carry
for its application into the lives and situations of people we do not know and with whom, for the most part, we will have
little further contact.
I have always had the same argument with psychotherapy,
though I realize (still grudgingly) that countertransference and other processes seem to dictate a professional separation
between the patient and therapist. Nevertheless, does it not become preposterous at some point to address the subjects of
intimacy and vulnerability through the medium of a definitionally impersonal professional relationship? Haven't the greatest
teachers taught by their demonstration, i.e., by their personal (rather than therapeutic) interaction with their students?
Another way of stating the issue is, is community a function of education or of friendship, in the most profound
sense of the word? When you wrote in The Road Less Traveled that "any genuinely loving relationship is one of mutual
psychotherapy," was that not a model for pervasive community, rooted not in a "technology" but in the relationships
of the individuals comprising it? Could not such a community expand beyond traditional blood relationships, and would not
such spirit-based friendships in time generate an authentic, indigenous collective spiritual expression?
In my own professional context as an attorney, I have struggled with the ad hoc application of community principles
in what seems an unrelentingly hostile environment (see, e.g., the enclosed memorandum to the founding partners of my firm,
just before I was made partner). In spite of such periodic attempts to inject a measure of emotional reality into my professional
relationships, I find myself consistently discouraged by the thought that I cannot do anything with this newfound insight
except to abandon my career and find a way to earn a living urging others to do what I have not accomplished myself. I obviously
need (and am pursuing) some personal help with paragraph 3 item (a), above.
family and I have also had an intensive communal living experience
over a three year period that ended almost five years ago. The ideals of this community, at least from our perspective, were
perhaps captured in the enclosed correspondence to my brother Frank. This experience has obviously colored much of what I
have written above, and we have also experienced the pitfalls that such a radical lifestyle can entail (the details of which
need not clutter this letter but obviously have something to do with item (b) in the third paragraph).
Finally, it occurs to me that the economic component of paragraph 3, item (a) is, perhaps, at the core of all
of this. Your dilemma about the abortion question comes to mind in this context (whether one can with integrity hold a judgment
that someone else should not abort until and unless one is willing to take some personal responsibility for the implications
of the decision in the lives of the people directly involved). Ultimately, is not the entire question of community a question
of collective, economic-physical (as well as moral-spiritual-psychological) responsibility for those we call our own? And
if who we call our own in this economic sense is to be limited to a nuclear family, can we really project "community"
beyond the small circumference of economic self-interest that we have drawn?
In the end, how personally can we afford to take
each other if the pocket book issue has not first been dealt with? This, it seems to me, is the point at which "pervasive
community" and "community as a technology" most poignantly diverge.
I don't know where
any of this goes from here, except that I could not pass up the invitation to dialogue with you on this subject. (Actually,
you only committed to read my monologue.) You must know from your work and from your contact with so many people who have
been inspired by your writings how extremely lonely and frustrating it is to have a concept of community but not know quite
how to implement it. Any suggestions you or your associates may have for me in Phoenix, Arizona would certainly be appreciated.
April 23, 1991
Mr. Elliot Talenfield
Thank you very much for your letter of
9 December. I'm sorry I haven't responded sooner, but you will understand. I also apologize for the fact that I must respond
with a degree of brevity which does not do justice to your letter. There are two ways I know that you will be able to obtain
a greater elaboration. Some elaboration will be contained in my sixth book, currently entitled "Civility," but it
won't be published by Bantam until very late 1992 or early 1993. The other is to, start struggling with us at The Foundation
for Community Encouragement (FCE) by coming to some of our conferences. The two most relevant to your concerns are our conferences
on "Community and Business" (the very first of these is being held in two weeks time at the University of Chicago,
but I think that it is all filled) and a much more long standing conference which we call the "Community Continuity Conference"
(or CCC), which focuses on issues of long term community maintenance. The next CCC will be in Knoxville on the 2nd, 3rd, and
4th of August. You can find out about these conferences and others by calling FCE at (615) 690-4334.
Like you, "I have experienced my
fill of weekend seminars and collective psycho-spiritual peak moments," not that they are without value. They serve the
purpose of introducing people to the notion of community, but our long term aim is to see community lived out in their lives.
But how is this to be accomplished?
Long term community is damn hard work. Even though it is worth it, there are virtually no organizations
which are currently willing to do that work. My sense is that they won't be until it becomes demonstrably cost effective.
And I don't think that will occur until organizations have repeatedly gotten their feet wet to such a degree that it begins
to dawn on them that community is not simply a tool for achieving this or that, but is a possible way of life for them.
So, for the foreseeable future, the market for FCE's ideas is not ikely to
be community as a way of life so much as for intervention. FCE's interventions with organizations are not simply for
conflict resolution, but also for organizational start up, organizational decision making, organizational restructuring, organizational revitalization, "preventive medicine,"
interorganizational collaboration, etc. It is our hope that
after [they] have used community as a methodology sufficiently often that organizations will, eventually, decide it is a cost
effective way to live. Still, I doubt that they will ever come to that decision simply because community is the most "alive"
way to live; I think it will have to be demonstrably cost effective.
The issue of the relationship between economics and community is so complex,
ambiguous, and such a frontier, that I have no wisdom to offer on the subject. As an organization, FCE currently exists as
some five overlapping communities, each with a specific task and function. One of those is the "Steering Community"
of the National Committee - a committee composed of FCE's major donors and fund raisers. One of the purposes of the Steering
Community of the National Committee is to wrestle, on an ongoing basis, with issues of community, spirituality, and money.
Finally, let me say that the overwhelming
impression I get from your letter and correspondence is one of integrity. The Board of FCE, which is now a six and a half
year old community, has designated a length set of values which comprise its "culture." While these values are all
interrelated, there is no question in my my mind that the number one value is that of integrity. No question is raised more
often in board meetings (which comprise my own primary community and which is, of course, a community with a task - namely,
to manage FCE) than, "Is this proposed action one which is in integrity with our value system?" I might add that
our value system seems' to be one which transcends culture in that people of all religions, all spiritual stages, and all
walks of life can buy into, I wish I could go into much greater length in answer to your provocative letter. I hope that what
little bit I have offered may be of some sustenance where there seem to be only a very few people interested in trying to
develop, by swimming upstream, "organizations that are both in the world but not of the world." (The preceding quote
may be one from the Gospels, but seems to me to be Jewish Christian Muslim at the very least. Perhaps I am particularly sensitive
to this since FCE will be sponsoring its second Jewish/Christian/Muslim Workshop in five weeks time.)
Thanks again for your interest in these
issues. Take good care of yourself.
Scott Peck, M.D.
June 16, 1994
M. Scott Peck, M.D.
As you. probably know, there is a tremendous debate underway nationally
over proposals for reform of the legal system. Part and parcel of the discussion is the adversary nature of our civil justice
system and the proper role of the attorney.
Arizona happens to be on the cutting edge of
this because we have gone further and faster than any other jurisdiction in replacing the "discovery" phase
of litigation (during which each party, through depositions, interrogatories, etc. attempts to "discover" the facts
and arguments which the other side will present at trial) with a "disclosure" system (requiring each side to "voluntarily"
reveal all relevant facts, witnesses and documents). This is a truly revolutionary concept which essentially scraps the adversary
system. Unfortunately, as addressed in the enclosed article, it won't work because it is premised, in my view, upon a misperception
of the root problem.
In the course of analyzing this, I make reference to your discussion
of adversarialism in A World waiting To Be Born: Civility Rediscovered. (See pages 14-16 in the enclosed.) Because of this
and the general thrust of my article, I thought it might be of interest to you.
additional interesting aspect of the process of writing this
article was the debate it triggered among my partners as to whether the entire first half of the discussion was even appropriate
for a piece addressed to lawyers about legal issues. In an ironic way, this confirmed my thesis that we lawyers are reluctant
to see the relational forest for the procedural trees and that this, not the adversary system, is the root of the problem.
I will be at the coming CCc in Denver. In the unlikely event you've had a chance to look at this by then, I'd
love to chat with you about it.
Very truly yours,
June 27, 1994
Elliot Talenfeld, Esq.
Thank you very much for your letter of
16 June and its enclosure of the article you have written about serious aspects of professionalism in the legal profession.
I respond with unusual rapidity for a
number of reasons. One is to express my delight that you will be at this year's Community Continuity Conference (CCC) in Denver
but also, ethically, to disabuse of the notion that I will be there. I am in the process of moving toward a mystical state
of "semi-retirement," and one of the things that means is that I have withdrawn from my ritual participation in
the CCC. Lily will be there, but I will be out in California at our new "retirement villa," hopefully playing golf
now and then. My absence is made clear in some of the literature, but probably not in all. I very much hope that you
will attend despite this last minute notification that I will not. Indeed, it has been something of an experiment to see whether
FCE can make the CCC a success without my participation. Thus far, the experiment has been a success in that it will be as
large as last year's and mostly with new attendees, despite considerable publicity (as you may not have received) that I will
not be there in presence -- albeit in spirit. I hope and assume that our inability to meet in Denver a couple of weeks from
now will not be reason for you to cancel at the last minute. FCE needs your participation.
I read your enclosed "brief" with somewhat more than my usual thoroughness.
It has left me in confusion or conflict -- both of which are healthy. I appreciate your quoting of my work accurately and
appropriately. My preliminary impression is that your critique of the "disclosure rule" is well justified, but your
proposal of an alternative is not fully adequate hence, leaving a bit of a void.
So I come to the second reason for responding so rapidly which is "self-interest."
I do sense
that there is a need for "reform" in our legal system. Profoundly. As someone moving into "semi-retirement,"
I want to make my "pro bono publico" time as maximally effective as possible. It occurs to me that this might be
such an area and, perhaps as the son of a once famous lawyer, I feel strangely called to the endeavor.
Consequently, I am turning your correspondence
back into a question to you. Do you think that, as a prominent psychiatrist and ethicist, I might have some role to play in
not just the Arizona debate but the national debate going on in this regard? Perhaps a sort of community building role, more
than a judicial one? I am fully cognizant that I would have immerse myself in the issues to play any such role. At this point,
I'm not sure I am willing to do so purely for the fun of it, without any likelihood of eventual success. On the other hand,
if you can envision the likelihood of some kind of organizational strructure in which I might be able to play a substantive
mediative role, I not only would be willing to do the work involved but be honored to do so.
What do you think?
If your response is positive, sooner or later our discussion will probably need
to move to the telephonic level. Since I am usually on the road in one place or another, I can best be reached through my
program director, [_____]. She always knows
where I am and is expert at setting up telephone appointments.
as busy as I want to be at the moment, I have no particular investment in this in that regard and will not be unhappy should
you respond with a lack of interest. On the other hand, I do sniff out an area where I might play a constructive role and
would be willing to become considerably involved if it all looks worthwhile in the big picture of things. I look forward to
hearing from you and to your advice.
I hope that things went well for you at the CCC.
July 14, 1994
M. Scott Peck,
Responding to your offer to participate in the legal community's current process about its image and proper role,
I will keep my eyes open to the possibilities and see how the situation develops in response to my article. It has been getting
wide circulation here and will be published in the fall issue of the ASU Law Journal. Much may depend upon the extent to which
the article is picked up and cited as part of the national debate.
On the other hand,
given Arizona's position on the cutting edge of the disclosure issue, it is possible that some innovative community building
process as part of the Arizona experience could itself become a matter of national interest. There are pilot disclosure projects
under way in a majority of the federal courts. In other words, they're experimenting with the "task" part of reforming
the legal system, but as my article tries in different terminology to convey, no one has even begun the process part of the
job (without which, as you know, real reform cannot take place) .
I also learned
today that a committee may be formed here, including non-lawyers, to address the underlying "relational issues"
I have raised. What strikes me as promising in this is that the State Bar President has reportedly realized that the issue
I have touched on transcends the jurisdiction of several standing standing committees, e.g. bench and bar relations, civil practice (rules), criminal practice. The ad hoc lawyer-lay committee he is considering may-therefore provide the opening
for you and me to do some exciting work together in Arizona -- possibly a pilot process program for handling the issues of
1) the breakdown in delivery/availability of legal services (the same issue I believe the medical profession is facing); 2)
why the public hates lawyers; 3) why lawyers and judges can't get along; and 4) why lawyers hate themselves or, at the least,
aren't having any fun.
I believe that if we get into these issues, we will find that money
and greed will have a lot to do with each and everyone of them. I don't say this in a judgmental sense -- the problem, as
I perceive it, isn't that we like to have nice things and live well but that we have not taken responsibility for our choice,
feeling somehow 1) entitled to the money yet 2) aggrieved when the public holds it against us. As I write this, it strikes
me that lawyers and doctors, who would probably be among the first to criticize the entitlement mentality in which our society
is mired, haven't a clue that they are in this sense as much a part of the problem as any welfare recipient.
It also occurs to me that if this were to go well with the lawyers,we could do some incredible combined programs
with the medical community. I belong to an organization of Jewish lawyers called the Cardozo Society which, I believe, has
chapters in major cities around the country. We recently had a joint program (locally) with the Maimonides Society, which
is the counterpart organization of Jewish doctors. I could certainly see that as a potential forum for this kind of a discussion
in which, instead of pointing the finger at each other as we are wont to do (lawyer vs. doctor), we could begin to grapple
with the role "excessive self-interest" has played in creating our current predicament. I'm also chairman of
one of three local Inns of Court, a kind of "guild" comprised of judges and lawyers of every experiential level
whose mission is to promote collegiality and professionalism. This, too, is part of a growing international organization.
The only difficulty I see in working you into this discussion is that it may have to start on a local (Phoenix/Tucson)
level before it picks up momentum. If you are willing to proceed on such a relatively (for you) small scale basis, I think
this would exemplify the pro bono publico motivation to which you refer.
If you'll permit
me, I'd like to transition from this to the flip side of the question of your participation, which is, how does "a nice
lawyer like me" fit into the "task" of "transforming" my profession (much less society as a whole)
-- and what do these terms really mean? To me, this is at the core, both from the personal and the theoretical standpoints,
of the conversation which you and I are about to have with each other and, potentially, with the legal profession.
In that vein, I will report that I did follow through with the CCC, and thus now have the opportunity to integrate
the thoughts I took to the event with the experience I had there. The group in which I participated was designated "Ongoing
Community" (the irony of which will shortly become apparent), and I'd like to share some thoughts which have been rattling
rather incessantly through my brain in connection therewith. I will also ask you to apologize for me to Lily, as I came on
rather suddenly and intensely with these ideas in an unrealistic effort to squeeze them into a ten minute conversation with
I believe the reason that you and FCE have struggled with the subject of "ongoing community" is that the term really
is a misnomer for "relationship." It seems to me that process and task are flip sides of "relationship
building," and that the confusion surrounding "ongoing community" would clarify if, instead of trying to turn
"community" into a verb or otherwise expand its definition beyond recognition, we simply left it as the fourth stage
of·the process model and realized that healthy relationships, whether "personal" or in the business setting,
are, by definition, the integration of process and task. (This is not at all in disagreement with your call in Civility for
making "integration of process and task" a household term, which I thought was profound and fantastic.)
From my above perspective, however, process, without any intention or even desire to forge ongoing relationship,
has no "heart," and "task," independent of its potential for ongoing relationship, has no soul. If "ongoing
community" is to have any meaning, it must be about putting our heart and our soul into what we're doing and with whom
we're doing it.
I also believe that the litmus test for a healthy relationship (from
the most casual to the marital) is the authenticity, integrity and proportionality with which the parties are addressing their
fluid emotional response to each other in the context of whatever task has brought them together. To use Buber's construct,
it's not so much a question of being in "I-thou" or "I-it" consciousness but of developing the capacity
to move gracefully along the spectrum as each unique combination of process and task (relationship) dictates. "I-it,"
in a sense, is task with no process; "I-thou," taken to the extreme, is process to the exclusion of task.
It's perfectly fine to pursue one or the other (or both) at an educational and psycho-spiritual event such as
a CCC or a CBW. My only concern is that if "community" is viewed as some kind of final destination rather than as
an instructive but fleeting state of collective being, offered as a tool for the forging of healthy, sustainable relationships,
we risk again missing the relational forest for the community trees.
I sense that the
focus at the workshops on transitioning from process into task (along with the expanding definition of community as a "way
of life" rather than a circle ritual) is an effort to fill in this missing relational piece. However, I don't think it's
possible to take community, as we have come to think of it, into task. Task is something we do. How we are handling the emotional
energy between us in the context of the task defines the relationship at that moment. Therefore, task represents the active
side of the pseudocommunity--chaos--emptiness continuum. If community is the ultimate state on the passive, consciousness
side, I suggest that the word which best describes its dynamic (active) counterpart is "service."
Service is community in action. It is the consciousness of community imbuing action with love to transform it
into an "act of loving kindness" (in Hebrew, "g'milut chasadim"). (This is also the bridge Mr. _______
is looking for between self-interest and professionalism.)
Community building process thus
enhances function/task by moving it along the continuum from self-interest (chaos in action) to service (community in action).
Whether or not the behavior rises to the level of "service" depends on the point along the consciousness continuum
at which the actors find themselves (in Hebrew,
"Kavana") at any given moment.
However, community building with strangers, in a setting wholly removed from one's ongoing
relational (process cum task) context, can only accomplish so much. This is because in
spite of the intensity and sincerity of our emotional outpourings,
for most of the participants, no piece
of their ongoing task is present or at risk. Therefore, from
a relational standpoint (as distinguished from an individual growth perspective), and without denigrating in the slightest
the value and depth of the individual growth which was achieved at our Denver CBW, the most we could attain there from a relational
perspective is what I'd call "pseudo-intimacy."
There is profound irony in the
fact that the dance we are doing at the CBW, moving between individual and group consciousness, ultimately prepares us for
something quite in the middle of the two, but
also quite unattainable at the event itself: sustained relational
intimacy. The irony of all the risk-taking my group did in Denver is that from an ongoing relational standpoint, there was
really nothing at stake. Our wives and our bosses ("self-interest," if you will) were not there to behold and to
challenge the reality of our experience. It is in this sense that the CBW provides a "safe" environment (a safe
place to be in terror, as one of our participants put it) in which to practice the art of relationship building. When we get
home to our wives and bosses, the safety net is removed and the real fun/terror begins.
Now, consider the
implications of the above for your or FCE's desire to take the CBW experience into IBM. If, as I am positing, the issue is
really about ongoing relationship, we can do only limited good with a two-day process, brought in from the outside, no matter
how transforming from the standpoint of the individual IBM participants. I believe you have already run up against this, as
described in Civility (the Monday morning phenomenon). The dilemma, then, seems to be that the circle ritual, despite its
emphasis on the group, is ultimately about individual and virtually spontaneous transformation, whereas organizations and
cultures tend to evolve slowly, over time and in relationship.
also is a verb-transitive, connoting an external transforming agent. "Evolve" is intransitive, connoting reliance
on internal processes. It's like the difference between plastic surgery, which can have a profound effect on the individual
but is only "skin deep" in its applicability to the species, versus mutation of a single gene, which, because it
occurs on the cellular level, affects all future generations. (Nevertheless, for a number of generations, the global impact
of the mutation may seem marginal.)
If the above makes sense, then organizational
evolution, unlike the personal transformation which results from activities such as a CBW, can only occur through the medium
of sustained relationship. You could also view any given instant within the relationship as a potential point of transformation
for the individuals involved, but it is the combined and cumulative effect of these moments which allows the consciousness
of the organization itself to move toward "civility."
that "relationship" is in this sense the missing
piece (bridge) between process and task, without which we don't
quite know what to do with ourselves when the circle exercise
is over. If the goal truly is to improve our profession,
our culture or our world, then the "agents" we need to
get the job done are indigenous, conscious people who are motivated
I know you said something like that in Civility, but
I can't seem to find it at the moment. However, as I recall,
you focused on "that visionary corporate leader," without whose help community building, as a specific technique
(group process) can't really get off the ground.
What I'm suggesting is that we not overlook that visionary corporate
employee who, though he may not be in a position to sway the organization in a transforming way, may return from a
CBW to plant relational seeds which, through the ongoing sweat of his brow, will make him a hidden but no less powerful spiritual
leader of the organization. It is by his example, and the relationships which he will forge in situ, that the system as a
whole will be impacted on the cellular level. This is the message of community which I hope to carry -- by demonstration as
well as words, into the legal profession. Such leadership/teaching by example is also captured in the Hebrew phrase, "Na-aseh
V'nishma" -- we will live it and we will learn it (task and process)
This discussion would not be complete if I didn't share
my preoccupation with how all this applies in the marital context. Not surprisingly, much of what I have written above and
what I brought to the group in Denver reflects issues with which I have been wrestling in my primary ongoing relationship.
That said, I believe we could all benefit from giving more thought to how the long term, committed relationship is impacted
by and impacts the community building process.
I realize that by your definition, marriage is "an organization,"
and therefore subject to the usual rules of community building. However, the element of commitment in marriage (akin to but
obviously much more consequential than the commitment to stay the course of the CBW) seems rather uncharted territory within the community building construct.
Since my ongoing task of earning a living prevents me from saying much
more about this here, I will simply pose the following specific question and leave it for another occasion to draw any theoretical
or practical conclusions: What does it mean when a young man is in torment over the fact that his wife will shortly give birth
to their first child, but he feels "called" to spread the gospel of community in a way that will apparently keep
him from participating as fully as he would like in the emergence and nurturing of his own nuclear family? I respectfully
suggest there may be something amiss here, and that it has to do with "relational
forests" and "community trees."
Should you wish to follow up on any of this, please don't hesitate to call or write.
M. Scott Peck
July 29, 1994
Elliot Talenfeld, Esq.
In my mystical state of "semi-retirement" out here in California, I
have just received your letter of 14 July, and because of that state will respond to it with undeserved brevity.
I am happy that you are keeping me in
mind in relation to any opportunity to be of major influence in assisting the legal profession to come to terms with the import
issues that you are properly so concerned about. I underline the word major, however, because while I am accustomed to spending
half my time doing pro bono work, as old age encroaches, I am increasingly devoted to seeing that that time counts. To give
you an idea of my situation, I have just rejected a requested phone appointment from one of the leading U.S. senators because
his agenda was relatively inconsequential to my mind.
this same line, let me say that I do not want to do anything that FCE leaders themselves can do. I have invested all that
I have in FCE over the past decade -- if you have not gathered -- precisely to make myself disposable. Many organizations
request my services in preference to FCE because of my prestige, but that is a trap -- a snare and a delusion. For instance,
if they insist that only Scott Peck can come to build community with them and I do so -- at an exorbitant fee -- and it succeeds,
then they will ascribe the success to the peculiar magic of Scott Peck and not come to terms with the reality that community
building is a "technology" that is utterly independent of me. My doing it just feeds into their resistance to making
it an ongoing process.
Which brings me
to your quite proper comments about the CCC in Denver and the nature of ongoing community as you continue to digest that event
(and, incidentally, you are correct that Lily was "put off" by your attempt to discuss these issues with her with
an intensity and brevity that did not fit in with the very large number of demands that were upon her at the time).
As promised, I will be unduly brief.
Although we have not had the time or money to prove the conclusions with any scientific rigor, at FCE we continue to hold on to the motto of "community building first, decision making second"
when it comes to consensual decision making. It is our repeated experience that a group of previous strangers who have been led "into community" will usually fall back
into chaos as soon as they are given a task. However, at
such three or four day conferences as the CCC, it is also our repeated experience that those groups who have achieved the
deepest level of "community" will be the ones most able to rescue themselves from chaos and most quickly go about
the business of realistically integrating task and process. Although we talk about ongoing community at such conferences --
and they are the only means we know to even decently begin to communicate to the public the issues involved -- we do not consider
such very temporary groups to be "ongoing communities." Things both look and feel very different in the truly ongoing
world of business organizations or marriages, and our work in these arenas is usually adjusted accordingly. In those arenas,
the community building technology is often best reserved for those times and situations where consensual decision making is
clearly required. The problem we wrestle with, however, is that organizations usually request our services only when they
are in a crisis, and there is a real reluctance to use the technology on a relatively routine basis to either prevent crises
or to recognize them sufficiently early so as to deal with them without major organizational disruption.
I hope that these condensed sentences
have been of some use to you.
Finally, getting back to the earlier issues, I think that there is real merit in your insight that the issues of
"greed," etc. facing the legal profession are much the same as those facing the medical profession. For your information,
I have recently received correspondence from [_____], a son of one of FCE's leaders. [He] is the president and CEO of a new
organization . . . [which] seems to be devoted to presenting seminars to the legal profession on improving lawyer/client relationships,
and seems to be hitting at the very same heart of the issue that you are dealing with. I have given him your name, and now
I give you his, and it seems to me that there might be some real benefit accruing from a relationship between the two of you.
One part of community building is networking, and I hope that this might be useful.
October 13, 1995
Scott Peck, M.D.
I thought you might enjoy the enclosed exchange of correspondence with an expert witness
(former New York Commissioner of Insurance and Chief Financial Officer of the ______ Corporation) whom we may be engaging
as an expert witness. In a related vein,
the enclosed proposal to do away with the draconian
"up or out" system of electing law partners has raised a similar debate within the firm.
December 12, 1995
Thank you for yours of November 27 asking if I have the energy to write you once again about
the misgivings I've had about FCE. It will take little energy since I've kept copies of our correspondence over the years
(all enclosed herewith).
Since I know you are also interested in how the process
of "community building" plays out in the "real world," I'll also enclose my latest missive to the firm's
Compensation committee. I trust you will continue to keep all such personal communications in confidence, and I hope I am
not too presumptuous in applying your "community building" term to what it is I think I'm attempting here.
It occurs to me in perusing all this correspondence again that my ongoing effort to reconcile economics with "truth-telling," professionalism with self-interest, does closely parallel your concept of integrating task and process. We could also call this the integration of sensation and relation. The "connective tissue" seems to be whatever it is that allows the Word to be continuously made flesh and vice versa, or, as we Jews would
more comfortably put it, "Uvetuvo Mechadeysh Bechol Yom Maaseh Bereshit," "Who, in His goodness, renews daily the work of creation."
Leonard Orr captured this with less spiritual fanfare when he
said, simply, "Money is God in Circulation."
Best regards to you and Lily for the holiday season and the
January 10, 1996
Elliot Talenfeld, Esq.
very much for your letter of 12 December. I'm sorry I haven't responded to it sooner, but it didn't get to me through my protective
net until just when we were leaving on the 19th for the holidays in Arizona (a week near you, at the"Boulders,"
and a week in Tucson, at Ventana Cavern -- glorious sunshine and nine holes of glorious golf each day, nine holes being all
that we are up to).
I actually share all of your misgivings
about FCE and more, although I also continue to have high hopes for the work. It is a frontier in terms of integrating this
work into organizations. We may have a few of the words, but basically we don't even understand the language yet. There are
no formulas and lots of potential pitfalls.
Nonetheless, the work goes on. I am asking FCE to send you a copy of a forty-five
minute video tape which is turning out to be rather inspiring and where over half the time is focused on FCE's work in a six
hundred person company -- a car dealership of all places. I hope you enjoy it.
From my vantage point in semi-retirement, my major interest in relation to "community"
or "relationship building" in organizations is that of structure. As you may know, I have divided communication
into structured and unstructured communication, and while it often looks unstructured, what we call community building is
actually highly structured communication -- structured to maximize communication -- and doing so by "structuring in"
have also written, businesses will ask, "When can we get rid of our FCE consultant?" The answer is the same as psychotherapists
give to people who ask, "How do you know when is the right [time] to leave psychotherapy?" The answer is that "You
are ready to leave psychotherapy when you have learned how to be your own therapist and therapy has become a way of life for
you." Businesses are ready to get rid of their FCE consultant when they know how to do it themselves and when it has
become a way of life -- meaning,
when community building or relationship building has become so embedded in their culture that they would no longer
think of not doing it. I do not think it can become so embedded in a culture without structure.
I like to talk about organizations setting aside a period from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
every Thursday for emptiness -- a period where people can feel free to be honest and where the tensions of the organization
can surface. To set aside such time for emptiness seems absurd to the typical corporate culture where everybody has to stay
busy. Nonetheless, it is possible. That 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. period represents a structure. Unsettling though the period might
be and seemingly cost-ineffective, my dream for a company is that they will get to the point where they would no longer think
about not having their 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Thursday meeting.
In reviewing your recent and old correspondence, I am impressed by the ongoing theme of money
and integrity. (I don't know whether you have yet read IN SEARCH OF STONES, but suggest that you do so. Among other reasons,
one of my twenty-one chapters therein is on money and another on integrity.) In any case, I hope that you will be continuing
to struggle with that theme for the rest of your days. I wish everyone. would struggle with it.
There are no clear answers, and never will be, except for the answer of continuing
the struggle. You may remember that I have written that integrity is never painless, and that to keep our integrity we must
struggle with tension daily. In our pain-avoiding culture, this is not good news. We would like to get rid of tension just·as
quickly as possible.
it is no accident, that perhaps the number one theme of my writing is that of dealing with pain (tension). People sometimes
ask me why I began THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED with "Life is difficult," and I answer, "Because I wanted to combat
the Lie." The Lie, with which we are bombarded by the media and even our churches and synagogues, is that we are here
to be happy and comfortable and fulfilled, and if we are not feeling these things, then we must not have the right car or
be eating the right cereal or somehow have it right with God. But I do not think that that is why we are here. I think that
we are here to learn and to grow and that we can learn and grow only through living in the tension with the greatest amount
of integrity we can.
me use this opportunity to thank you again for your donation to FCE, and now to thank you once more for a marvelous quote:
"Money is God in circulation." You attribute that quote to one Leonard Orr. Do you have a more elaborate reference?
It would be a favor if you could send me such.
I hope that this finds you well and that you have a wonderful new year.
P.S. I am reminded of a conference on community which was held about four or five years ago in Nova Scotia. I did
not attend, but was sent some of its reports. The people there were mostly New Age, counter-culture types who had started
intentional communities a dozen or more years ago, but in their middle-age had begun to become smart. One of the presenters
said what might sound almost like a cruel statement, but it has the ring of truth: "The greatest contribution we can
make to the poor is by not becoming one of them."
June 20, 1996
VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
M. Scott Peck, M.D.
I've just watched the Carlisle Motors tape, for which
I thank you. It was inspiring and well done, and certainly makes your point that community-building is not a one-shot deal
but the beginning of a whole new way of looking at relationship and communication.
As suggested in
Parts 4 and 5 of the enclosed, I remain convinced that long-term community-building is as much an economic undertaking as
a communicative one. In one of our early exchanges of correspondence, you described the economic issue as "the frontier."
Perhaps we've progressed inland since then from Plymouth Rock to about the Allegheny.
owner/manager confesses his divided loyalty between the people who are working for him (and the work ethic itself), on one
hand, and his family (in particular, his need to spend more time with his kid), on the other, everyone congratulates him.
They applaud his candor/vulnerability and express support for his decision to put the family first.
But the real integration of process and task won't begin until one of those employees who is still working
the 80-hour week realizes that his relationship with his own kids is also suffering. When he then comes to the boss and requests
to be put on a similar "flex-time" arrangement, management will have to deal with the practical implications of
letting others exercise the same prerogative of
working fewer hours. I have dealt with this issue in the law firm setting, and my guess is that
under current circumstances, Carlisle Motors will have the wherewithal to work through it.
The next layer
of the onion will be peeled, however, when the same or a similarly situated employee allows himself to weep in the boss' presence
over the realization that he and his son can't live on what he'd be bringing home were he to cut back from 80 hours to 40,
as the boss has done. At that point, will the manager's self-interest allow him to remain vulnerable and continue sharing
his own sense of conflict about this disparity?
If it keeps processing in an
honest way with the employees, management may have, eventually to consider some more fundamental adjustments to the economic-relational
status quo. Sooner or later, the owners' self-interest will remind them that they can easily fire this increasingly "problematic"
(fka "vulnerable") employee and start allover with someone who will be pleased to work the 80 hours -- who has never
heard of Scott Peck, FCE or community-building; and who wasn't around when the boss so indiscreetly opened up the entire Pandora's
box by admitting his own conflict about money vs. relationship.
At this point,
a separate process will begin among the owners, which will really put their values to the test. They will have to address
the reality that further community-building may entail some longer term financial sacrifice for themselves and their families.
They may decide, at that point, to stop the process dead in its tracks. If so, they'll probably write you a letter saying
that they gave it a fair shot but that it just didn't work out in the long haul or in the "real world."
The more honest statement at that point would be that they were ultimately unwilling to take on the personal
challenge of moving beyond what I call "neurotic self-interest" (which inhibits vulnerability and authentic communication)
to deal with the even more elemental issue of material self-interest (aka selfishness). What I'm suggesting here (and in the
enclosed) is that so far, the FCE community-building model only deals with neurotic (emotional) self-interest. The essence
of such group work is having the courage to lay down our defenses sufficiently to 1) experience our individual emotional reality
and 2) allow it to see the collective (interpersonal) light of day. This is truly a big step for all of us.
But the essence of ongoing "relationship-building," in my opinion, is the willingness to become fully
conscious of both the sensational and the relational implications of our "honest communication." This is another
way of defining the integration of task and process, and it's the question I put to you in my first letter almost six years
ago (quoted in Chapter 23): How personally can we afford (or are we willing) to take each other when our processing eventually
brings us eyeball to eyeball with the pocketbook issue?
will the owners/managers of Carlisle Motors (or any other business) be willing to take their employees if it means they may
have to work more for less so that those with whom they're building community may work less for more? We make such sacrifices
for close blood relatives; are we now ready to expand the circle of our economic (not just communicative) self-interest beyond
Money may be God in circulation, but some of us still have a lot more control over how much
of it circulates and to whom, and that is the latent issue to which sustained community will inexorably lead us. Therefore,
if people who have money are willing to make themselves emotionally but not economically vulnerable, they'd better confine
themselves to community building with their economic peers. For if managers and owners continue down the community-building
road with lower level employees, I predict it won't be just the cost of retaining an FCE facilitator for a year or two that
they'll be dealing with.
That's the reason the feudal lords didn't want the
peasants learning to read. And in the current psychological age, the same economic self-interest should give us pause about
practicing vulnerability with those who may soon expect us to share not just ourselves but our stuff. Unless, of course, we're
ready (as you and Lily obviously have been) to do so.
Monastic Brotherhoods (thank
God) don't have to worry about the implications of economic disparity for sustained community. The nuclear family is pretty
much the only place where we do process (however clumsily) the money issue -- which is probably why we have so many dysfunctional
families. So when we make the decision to begin processing with people outside the family, whose vulnerability (and our willingness
to receive/be affected by it) will eventually impact our financial well being, we've stepped onto a slippery slope towards
expanding our very concepts of commitment and relationship. If we do make it past the first frontier of "blood,"
the next question will be, "where do we draw the line?" And is it one line (either/or) or a whole, yet-to-be delineated
series of them?
In a sense, we confront this issue every time we decide to have another child (or not to have an abortion). The question reduces to
how many more "dependents" we are willing to let in. Is the immigration question really any different?
I hope such thoughts don't make me either a Republican or a Communist. I'm certainly not ready to give up my relatively small (at least in my eyes) slice of
the pie only to see it eaten by a faceless bureaucrat who's just as selfish as I am. But neither can I seem to settle for
"vulnerable communication" as the end goal of your life's work or my own.
I hope this finds
you and Lily well. I would certainly welcome any input from her on these issues should she have the time and inclination,
so please feel free to share the enclosed manuscript with her. (It may also shed some light on my sense of urgency about these
issues when I so rudely accosted her during the last CCC I attended.)
Very truly yours,
P.S. The anecdote I shared at your birthday party is Chapter
22 of the enclosed.
July 30, 1996
Elliot Talenfeld, Esq.
Thank you very much for your letter of
20 June. I am sorry I haven't responded to it sooner, but it arrived, along with your manuscript, after we had left for our
"semi-retirement" horne out here in California, and as you know, the shuffling back and forth of correspondence
can take a good deal of time.
First, let me thank you for being at my birthday party. Your presence was a surprise and a delight. I also thank
you for your excellent toast and the fun picture of the chicken in a business suit.
I am not going to comment on your manuscript at this point, other than to say
that it is extremely rich -- so rich that I do not have the time to give it the attention it deserves, and won't for some
months to come. Although "semi-retired," through circumstances I won't bore you with, I ended up with an excessive
load of writing and deadlines.
So let me just briefly comment on your letter. Once again, I do not have our file of correspondence
before me, and I may be saying things to you that
I have said before.
In the early days of FCE, we used the word community as a noun. Doing so, we gradually discovered we were raising the expectations of many people to impossible levels. They would
think, "Well, we are supposed to be a community, and that means that you can't fire me or lay me off, and you must assume
responsibility for my economic suffering."
Because of such impossible expectations, we have been trying in recent years to use community
as a verb. We speak of "operating" in a community mode at certain times, and not at others. Unlike a commune, such
as convents and monasteries are, we do not think of community as an economic system, but a systematic way of communicating
at certain times.
we think that this systematic way of communicating can be used to improve team performance, productivity, moral, etc., we
do not mean that in any way it will prevent the necessity for hard economic decisions; in fact, it will only make those decisions
all the more hard on an emotional level for people such as yourself who try to achieve some integration between economic values
and community values. I applaud the attempt to achieve some such sort of integration as far as reasonable and to be willing
to bear and experience the tension involved, but I do not, at this point in time, believe that an achievement of total integration
other words, I am more of a republican than I am a communist.I see the process of learning and building community as being
necessary and extremely helpful, but I do not see it as a panacea for all the ills of the world or even all the ills of a
law firm or business or family. Life continues to be difficult.
I'm not sure that added one iota of clarity to anything. Please do keep in touch
after the middle of October, when I expect the pressure to let up on me. Take good care of yourself.
Again, my heartfelt
thanks for the gift of your presence at my birthday celebration.
P.S. It just occurred to me that there is another way to answer the concerns of your letter
-- or better yet, put them in perspective. There was a Canadian management consultant by the name of [_____] -- and I am not
sure I am quoting him correctly -- who said, "Religion has to do with answers; spirituality has to do with the questions."
I think that this is an extremely valuable distinction. Among other things, it enables FCE's work to proceed at all in the
corporate world where many CEOs have been properly torn apart by bringing in religious gurus with the answers. FCE, as you
know, is a distinctly spiritual organization, but in no way a sectarian one. As you also know, in our community building work,
we tend profoundly to discourage the members of the group who think that they have the answers. Conversely, we encourage anybody
who is doing the questioning.
Neither FCE nor Carlisle Motors, I believe, has the answer to the man's dilemma who is working eighty hours a week
and neglecting his family or vice a versa. Or to the unequal distribution of wealth. Or to whether "flex-time" would
ever be an option. But even though there may be no completely satisfactory answers, we do in our work encourage the raising
of such issues and questions rather than stuffing them and making them off limits. Does this make sense?
P.P.S. If you want to get more deeply involved in the work of FCE, please
let me know. There is a vehicle called the Advisory Committee which requires from its members a donation of at least $1,000
a year and attendance at at least one annual meeting every two years. Members are also required to pay their expenses. The
next meeting will be in Connecticut on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of November (the 3rd annual one). It is designed to be a self-managing,
self-sustaining committee. It will probably play a significant advisory role only once every four or five years, but it allows
our donors a mechanism by which they can become integrated into the organization, and which currently about twenty of them
are finding deeply satisfactory. This is a very brief rundown. Should you
want to talk more about-it with me, please set up a phone appointment by calling
my program director, _____. I would be happy at almost any time to set up a half hour to one hour phone appointment with you to discuss the ins and outs of it, if you are interested. But please don't feel you have to be interested.