Different Drums


Dr M Scott Peck has many bestsellers beginning with “The Road Less Traveled” and two others with similar titles. “Beyond Road Less Traveled’ and ‘Further Along Road Less Traveled’. For a full list of his books see here.

an earlier post on a book by Dr Peck . here

His books traverses though fields far beyond psychiatry and goes deep into mysticism and philosophy. He has also done some pioneering work in Community Building. His ideas and experiences in this field are covered in his “Different Drums”.

Dr Peck says, It is community building that would save the world. The world today is getting more and more pluralistic and differences are getting sharper by day, there is an effort to make people think and behave in a uniform manner. This is not going to work. The idea is to accept the differences and may be even celebrate them. This is not something new in India, but where we go wrong is in being very selective about accepting the differences or weird behaviour. A naga sadhu is considered too weird, which he is, while whole communities taking over a public road to pray, which is as weird , is not considered so. Probably, the only criteria to accept weirdness should be “does this behaviour threaten or inconvenience other citizens ?” If so , it cannot be accepted .

The approach to community building is designed to work for the smallest community, ie a nuclear family and also the largest community that we know today, the global community.

As long as one doesn’t threaten or inconvenience others, all ideas, clothing ,or lack of it, behaviour and life style should be perfectly okay.

The book is organized into seventeen chapters in three parts. The first part talks of characteristics of a community and problems in community building. The second part is aptly The ‘bridge’. It dwells on the human nature on dealing with situations. and Part III suggests solutions. In a book of this nature, it is better to go directly into the source before trying to explain.

Here are some excerpts from the book. These excerpts are from my highlights while reading the book. These are given as block quotes , while my own annotations are in red italics.

……..Secure though it was, my home was not a place where it was safe for me to be anxious, afraid, depressed, or dependent— to be myself……

At some place the author claims , the entire aim of evolution of an individual is to be himself or herself.


As it happens a child is exactly that. That is one reason Indian Philosophers have suggested “be child like”

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 61

Community is and must be inclusive. The great enemy of community is exclusivity. Groups that exclude others because they are poor or doubters or divorced or sinners or of some different race or nationality are not communities; they are cliques— actually defensive bastions against community.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 61 There was no pressure to conform.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 62 Our individualism must be counterbalanced by commitment.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 65 Begin to appreciate each others’ gifts, and you begin to appreciate your own limitations.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 65 : a group of people do these things— as they become a community— they become more and more humble, not only as individuals but also as a group— and hence more realistic. From which kind of group would you expect a wise, realistic decision: an arrogant one, or a humble one?

 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 67 : Once a group has achieved community, the single most common thing members express is: “I feel safe here.”

 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 67 : everyone enters a new group situation with his or her guard up.

Chapter III gives the characteristics of a community; inclusive, non-judgmental and non threatening. The corollary is that once you feel you ‘belong’, the guard is down.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
health and wholeness and holiness. (All three words are derived from the same root.)
 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
When we are safe, there is a natural tendency for us to heal and convert ourselves.
Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
So they focus not so much on healing as on making their relationship a safe place where the patient is likely to heal himself.
 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
are free to discard defenses, masks, disguises; free to seek your own psychological and spiritual health; free to become your whole and holy self. A LABORATORY FOR PERSONAL DISARMAMENT

In a community as visualized in this book, there is absolutely no effort to heal or convert. Normally when we are tolerant and sympathetic to someone having different views, there is an underlying assumption that the other person is sick and needs to be healed.

Dr Peck lays great importance to vulnerability. A child does not hide its vulnerability to her mother, though among playmates there may be an air of arrogance or bravado. Dr Peck goes to the extent of suggesting that for two nations to reconcile their differences they need to expose their weakness rather than arm themselves literally and figuratively. I am sure when people or close enough to one another they are not really looking to project their best appearance or behaviour. That is when one really feels at home, irrespective of the place be it an office, restaurant or a Temple. Today, one may include a social media group also. Are you part of the group to sermonize or seek information or just to be yourself and enjoy the warmth of the real community on a virtual platform.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 74
even the agnostic and atheist members will generally report a community- building workshop as a spiritual experience.

One area where there are profound differences is Religious beliefs. Replacing religious ‘isms’ spiritualism helps. Though many people don’t believe in spirit either , most people have experienced ‘out of the world’ feelings for which they are at loss to give a label.

Chapter IV: The Genesis of Community > Page 79
But I am reminded of the Chinese word for crisis, which consists of two characters: one represents “danger” and the other “hidden opportunity.

Interesting take on the word “crisis’

The author warns of pseudo community where everyone is polite to each other but the warmth would be missing. In a true community , there would be differences, there would be conflicts, every member may be becoming more and more of himself or herself, yet there would be not tolerance but acceptance of the individuality of others. There would be no conformity to generally accepted ideas , yet the conflicts would cease to be.

It is tempting to go into the complete book, which besides being a boring sermon may impinge on the Intellectual Property rights. I have uploaded my notes on the book in pdf form on my website , more for my reference than to be part of this post. I wind up with one final excerpt from Chapter IX. Dr Peck has categorized the evolution of individuals into four stages, based on his own experience.

Chapter IX: Patterns of Transformation > Page 188
Again it didn’t compute— until I realized that we are not all in the same place spiritually. With that realization came another: there is a pattern of progression through identifiable stages in human spiritual life. I myself have passed through them in my own spiritual journey. But here I will talk about those stages only in general, for individuals are unique and do not always fit neatly into any psychological or spiritual pigeonhole. With that caveat, let me list my own understanding of these stages and the names I have chosen to give them: STAGE I: Chaotic, antisocial STAGE II: Formal, institutional STAGE III: Skeptic, individual STAGE IV: Mystic, communal


Stage I is “who says”. There is disorder. One questions everything, every rule, every tradition or convention.


Stage II One is reconciled to following some rules imposed by an institution; may be a family, religious order, army . There is a need here for rigid beliefs to sustain the accepted behaviour.


Stage III One becomes skeptical about religion, and rules imposed by institutions, but acceptable behaviour holds.


Stage IV It is all mysticism and communal .Incidentally, ‘communal’ is not at all a bad word in this book. One is comfortable with God, religion, yours and others. One willingly works for the community without any induced incentives or threats.

Just as with any views, one may or may not agree with Dr Peck. But reaching the Stage IV for individuals as defined by the author appears to be a desirable goal. If nations follow this approach to community buiding, there would be no Wars of yesteryears or conflicts as they call it today.


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4 Replies to “Different Drums”

  1. Thank you Murali for sharing with excerpts and your comments/thoughts to complete a very comprehensive book review. Religion answers a human need to identify behaviours to take the individual to a higher plane. Asides, it has often formed the basis of not only defining communities but accentuating the differences between two differing faiths. Besides religion you have brought to the fore so many aspects including what would define a home for the family – is it a “friendly” place to open up to own vulnerabilities knowing that no one will exploit but only protect. And then the extrapolation of the home towards society in general, to nationhood and an eventual global context. The world with all technologies is becoming a better place, less conflict as compared to history but we are yet not “settled” – there is a lot that needs to be resolved before communities can co-exist. Thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks Murali.
    Community building, as I percieved hinges around the attainment of consciousness by its constituents. High level of consciousness would lead to peace and tranquility; and an ideal community. Similarly, no or a low level of conciousness would lead to a happy and carefree community; we closely observe in other species on the planet.
    The problem, I feel lies with the community that has to grapple with the congenital consciousness of all it’s being. A good guide or leader or guru can take community through the journey of accomplishment.
    Yet, the community building thrives on ground rules, justice and equality, at least a percieved one.
    Our own actions, reactions, responses to others are results of our programmed minds, DNA. Science and technology is fast catching up to clamantly engineer both our brain programming and DNA. Therefore, cutting short the last stage of mysticism. The Sufism, incidentally suggests it’s followers to wander in that state of mysticism or spiritual stupor for attainment of bliss.

    My views as these got triggered after reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Raj. The book covers a number of examples . some communities meet once a week for an hour or two for years. There are others who meet over an entire weekend or a whole week. A community by his definition, has to be inclusive and so there can be no stipulation on beliefs, secular (secular, understood as nothing to do with any religion ) or spiritual. so there have been communities that included, all kinds of people across the political spectrum, all kinds of believers and atheists, and even alcoholics. the author says there were only two occasions when the group had to evict or reject individuals, in his vast experience in the field. It happened when the entire community was affected by the behavior of one of the members, not by the opinions he or she held. The book, in my opinion is definitely worth reading.

      Science and mysticism or not mutually exclusive. see how the words meta-physics and physics are related; where one ends the other starts and often there is an overlap; same about psychology and parapsychology. Even in library, these books are kept together. CG Jung who along with Freud was a pioneer in study of mind or psychology, had this to say “All that I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. I only believe in what I know. And that eliminates believing. Therefore I do not take his existence on belief – I know that he exists (Sands 1955, p. 6)

      This was not a “blind faith”, as Dawkins has argued, but (according to Jung) a certainty that is based on evidence. His practice as a psychotherapist and his mythological research had convinced him of God’s existence.

      There have been renowned scientists who had no problems with spiritualism. In India , most of the scientists have never had a problem, be it Dr Abdul Kalam or Dr HJ Bhabha or Dr Subrahmanyam Chandrasekaran. In fact many were passionate believers. One could be a believer or non-believer in any field including science. Doesn’t matter really.

  3. The reason beyond a point gets blurred; probably limitations of algorithms running our brains and minds. The boggling strikes the seekers reaching that threshold of thought process. That’s where refuge into God, a hypothesis gets real. I have recurring thought which suggests is there a cycle of imagination-> story telling-> story writing-> believing-> proving-> and finally prove it or create it with science ultimately. You can have many examples. It reassures our belief systems. So a belief, is what matters, and can’t be qualified with blind as the two are intrinsic.

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