Self-Help Author M. Scott Peck Dies

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Megory Anderson, executive director of the Sacred Dying Foundation and a former Episcopal nun, talks to host Michele Norris about her longtime friend, M. Scott Peck. He wrote the best-sellier, The Road Less Traveled, among other self-help books. He died Sunday at age 69.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

`Life is difficult.' As first sentences go, that's quite a curtain-raiser for a book, especially a self-help tome. It's how the psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck began "The Road Less Traveled." The 1978 book on values and spiritual growth helped kick-start a revolution in feel-good publishing. After a life that included many more best-selling books, Morgan Scott Peck died this weekend at his home in Warren, Connecticut. He was 69.

Megory Anderson is a former Episcopal nun, now executive director of the Sacred Dying Foundation. She knew M. Scott Peck when he was working on "The Road Less Traveled," and she joins us now.

Thanks for being with us.

Ms. MEGORY ANDERSON (Executive Director, Sacred Dying Foundation): Thank you.

NORRIS: What are your memories of Dr. Peck?

Ms. ANDERSON: I was in an Episcopal convent in New York when the community received a letter from this unknown psychiatrist saying that he was finishing up his first book and needed some spiritual time, and would we be willing to consider having him move in with us. And Scott Peck moved into our little retreat house on the grounds for several months.

NORRIS: If you were to recommend the book to someone and they ask you, `Well, what's the book all about?' what do you think was the essence of this book?

Ms. ANDERSON: Spiritual growth as a discipline, as a way for our mind and our body and our soul to all find a common place and to work through that growth step by step.

NORRIS: So you really got to know him as a private man. What did you learn about him?

Ms. ANDERSON: Scotty has always been a very gregarious person, a very people-oriented person. It was wonderful. He loved living with a whole group of women day in and day out. He had a lot of wisdom. He had an inner sense that I think all of us responded to very positively.

NORRIS: Did he follow his own advice when he struggled with his own demons?

Ms. ANDERSON: I think after "The Road Less Traveled" became so popular and he went on the road as the guru, where people physically kind of fought to get close to him and almost touch him, it was easy for him to move into that role and see himself as a super human being, one that everybody wanted. But there were times when he didn't always live up to what he taught. I know he had difficulties with women, he had difficulties with his smoking, he had difficulties really containing that quiet, spiritual self that I saw when I first met him.

NORRIS: You've used this book in your own teachings. Do you still use it?

Ms. ANDERSON: No, I don't. I think it's past its prime. I think these are things that we already know and people have built upon for years now. And, in fact, going back and looking through it again, I think, `Oh, my goodness, this was new 30 years ago, wasn't it?' And we've come a long way since then. I think there's still a lot of truth to what he's saying, but collectively perhaps I think we've come a long way since then.

NORRIS: Megory Anderson, thanks so much for sharing your memories with us.

Ms. ANDERSON: Thank you.

NORRIS: Megory Anderson is a former Episcopal nun. She was speaking to us about her friend, the writer M. Scott Peck, author of "The Road Less Traveled." He died over the weekend at age 69. He had Parkinson's disease as well as pancreatic and liver duct cancer.

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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