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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Illustrated Summary of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis


As One Devil to Another was C.S. Lewis' original title for his clever book on how temptation works by what he called "teaching in reverse." In this summary I quote directly from the book and add descriptive titles and illustrations for each letter from the senior devil, Screwtape, to Wormwood, the junior tempter.

PrefaceKey Foundations

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils," explains Lewis. "One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. The devils themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.... Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true, even from his own angle."

C.S. Lewis was often asked if he really believed in the Devil. His answer? "If by 'the Devil' you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a 'perfect badness' opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself), there would be none of him left. The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels.... Some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us." Lewis lists 4 sensible reasons for what he believes:
  1. It agrees with the plain sense of Scripture.
  2. It agrees with the tradition of Christendom.
  3. It agrees with the beliefs of most men and most times.
  4. It conflicts with nothing that any of the sciences has shown to be true.
Moral Inversion
The purpose of The Screwtape Letters is "not to speculate about diabolical life, but to throw light from a new angle on the life of men  ... by moral inversionthe blacks all white and the whites all blackand the humor that comes from speaking through a totally humorless personna." Apparently the silliest devils, like the silliest people, take themselves way too seriously! C.S. Lewis wrote 31 Screwtape letters. Here are vivid  highlights from them all with a simple list of the letters and their subjects in case you want to look for certain topics rather than read this straight through:

Screwtape Subjects at a Glance:
Letter I (1)Jargon, Not Reason
Letter II (2)Anticlimax after Belief
Letter III (3)Domestic Pinpricks
Letter IV (4)The Painful Subject of Prayer
Letter V (5)Uses and Dangers of War
Letter VI (6)Suspense and Anxiety, Benevolence and Malice
Letter VII (7)All Extremes Except...
Letter VIII (8)Dry Spells or Troughs
Letter IX (9)Moderation and Phases
Letter X (10)Worldly Friends
Letter XI (11)Use and Abuse of Humor
Letter XII (12)The Safest Road to Hell
Letter XIII (13)Real Repentance and Real Pleasures
Letter XIV (14)True Humility
Letter XV (15)Present vs. Past and Future
Letter XVI (16)Church Hopping
Letter XVII (17)Gluttony Exposed
Letter XVIII (18)Sexual Temptation
Letter XIX (19)Love Askew
Letter XX (20)The Wrong Kind of Woman
Letter XXI (21)Sense of Ownership
Letter XXII (22)True Love, Music, and Silence
Letter XXIII (23)Spiritual Corruption
Letter XXIV (24)Sly Self-Congratulation
Letter XXV (25)Christianity And...
Letter XXVI (26)Thinking the Other Is Selfish
Letter XXVII (27)Nullifying Prayer and History
Letter XXVIII (28)Safety and Time as Allies
Letter XXIX (29)Fear and Cowardice
Letter XXX (30)Fatigue and the Word Real
Letter XXXI (31)The Soul That Slips Away
Screwtape Proposes a Toast: mainly on Education—click here for separate blog post: *

Letter I (1)Jargon, Not Reason
"My dear Wormwood" is how all the Screwtape letters begin. Is that a surprising way for one devil to address another? Maybe not when you consider, as Lewis does in his preface, that "the greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered ... in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.... My symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern... .On the surface, manners are normally suave.... Every now and then ... the scalding lava of their hatred spurts out."

So what does the senior devil write to his junior? Screwtape describes Wormwood's human victim as a patient and God as the Enemy. He begins by wondering if Wormwood is being naive by bombarding the patient with materialist  reading and friends: "It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But ... we have largely altered that.... Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageousthat it is the philosophy of the future. That is the sort of thing he cares about.

"The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in the really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason.... Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach! Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape." (C.S. Lewis, as a faithful, well-instructed Christian, certainly knew the Bible teaches that all the angelic beings were created at the same time so therefore neither family ties nor age differences exist among angels and devils. Perhaps Lewis couldn't resist humanizing his literary devils a bit since he explains in the preface, "The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded.")

Letter II (2)Anticlimax after Belief

"My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties.... In the meantime we must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult 'converts' have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us." That reflects the biblical truth of 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us." (Click here for more on  the doctrine of eternal security.)

Screwtape reminds Wormwood that whether his patient is a true Christian or one in name only, "All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor. One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic ... building.... When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbors whom he has hitherto avoided.... You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy's side. No matter.... Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.... Never let him ask what he expected them to look like. Keep everything hazy in his mind....

"Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted ... by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.... There lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt."
 
Letter III (3)Domestic Pinpricks

"My dear Wormwood, I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man's relations with his mother. But you must press your advantage. The Enemy will be working from the center outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient's conduct under the new standard, and may reach his behavior to the old lady at any moment.... Build up between you and that house a good settled habit of mutual annoyance: daily pinpricks. The following methods are useful:

1. "Keep his mind on the inner life ... or rather to that very expurgated version ... which is all you should allow him to see.... Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic: the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination  ... without discovering any of those facts about himself that are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.
2. "It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very 'spiritual,' that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism.... His attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself....
3. "When two humans have lived together for many years, it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows ... and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy.... Never let him suspect that he has tones and looks that similarly annoy her....
4. "In civilized life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things that would appear quite harmless on paper ... but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face.... Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same judging all his mother's utterances with the ... most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and ... suspected intention.... You know the kind of thing: 'I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.' Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offense is taken."

Letter IV (4)The Painful Subject of Prayer

"My dear Wormwood, The amateurish suggestions in your last letter warn me that it is high time for me to write to you fully on the painful subject of prayer.... The best thing, where it is possible is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether.... He may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularized ... in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part.... At the very least, [humans] can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget what you must always remember: that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.

"If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection.... Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so.  The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves.... But of course the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion. But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient's mind when he is praying, you will not find that.... There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation; there will be vaguer ... images associated with the other two Persons.... If ever he consciously directs his prayers 'Not to what I think You are but to what You Know Yourself to be,' our situation is ... desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room ... then it is that the incalculable may occur. In avoiding this situationthe real nakedness of the soul in prayeryou will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose. There's such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!"
 
Letter V (5)Uses and Dangers of War

"My dear Wormwood ... You say you are 'delirious with joy' because the European humans have started another of their wars. [The Screwtape Letters was written during World War II.] You are not delirious; you are only drunk.... For the first time in your career you have tasted that wine which is the reward of all our labors—the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul—and it has gone to your head.... Do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues. Give me without fail ... a full account of the patient's reactions to the war, so that we can consider whether you are likely to do more good by making him an extreme patriot or an ardent pacifist. There are all sorts of possibilities. In the meantime, I must warn you not to hope too much from a war.

"Of course a war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all.... Let us therefore think rather how to use, than how to enjoy, this European war. For it has certain tendencies inherent in it that are, in themselves, by no means in our favor. We may hope for a good deal of cruelty and unchastity. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves to values and causes they believe to be higher than the self....

Devil's Choice?
"Consider too what undesirable deaths occur in wartime. Men are killed in places where they knew they might be killed, and to which they go, if they are at all of the Enemy's party, prepared. How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even ... withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death that war reinforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever."
 
Letter VI (6)Suspense and Anxiety, Benevolence and Malice

Barricades to the Soul
"My dear Wormwood, I am delighted to hear that you patient's age and profession make it possible, but by no means certain, that he will be called up for military service. We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricaded a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.

"Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy's will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to himthe present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that the daily bread will be provided.... An important spiritual law is here involved.... In all activities of mind that favor our cause, encourage the patient to ... concentrate on the object, but in all activities favorable to the Enemy, bend his mind back on itself: Let an insult or a woman's body so fix his attention outward that he does not reflect 'I am now entering into the state called Angeror the state called Lust.' Contrariwise let the reflection 'My feelings are now growing more devout, or more charitable' so fix his attention inward that he no longer looks beyond himself to see our Enemy or his own neighbors....

1. Fantasy, 2. Intellect, 3. Will
"Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.... All sorts of virtues painted in the fantasy or approved by the intellect or even, in some measure, loved and admired, will not keep a man from Our Father's house: indeed they may make him more amusing when he gets there."

Letter VII (7)All Extremes Except...

Deceptive Comic Portrayal
"My dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism, and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy....  The fact that 'devils' are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that ... he therefore cannot believe in you....
"All extremes except extreme devotion to the Enemy are to be encouraged.... Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages ... are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.... We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended, and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results."

Preferring Pamphlets over Prayers
Let your patient begin by treating Patriotism or Pacifism, for instance, as part of his religion. "Then let him ... come to regard it as the most important part.... The attitude you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours."
 
Letter VIII (8)Dry Spells or Troughs
"My dear Wormwood, So you 'have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away,' have you?... Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation? Humans are amphibianshalf spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy ... is undulationthe repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his lifehis interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down....

Flowing over into the Trough
"To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite.... It may surprise you to learn that ... He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks.... We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over.... That is where the troughs come in.... His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them ... but He never allows this state of affairs to last long.... He leaves the creature ... to carry out from the will alone duties that have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.... But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also."

Letter IX (9)Moderation and Phases

How Devils Turn Pleasure into Pain
"My dear Wormwood ... I have always found that the Trough periods of the human undulation provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly those of sex. This may surprise you because, of course, there is more physical energy, and therefore more potential appetite, at the Peak periods; but you must remember that the powers of resistance are then also at their highest.... The attack has a much better chance of success when the man's whole inner world is drab and cold and empty.... You are much more likely to make your man a sound drunkard by pressing drink on him ... when he is dull and weary than by encouraging him to use it as a means of merriment among his friends when he is happy.... Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same it is His invention, not ours: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is encourage the humans to take the pleasures that our Enemy has produced at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in returnthat is what really gladdens Our Father's heart....

Moderation and Apathy Make Us Vulnerable
"Make him acquiesce in the present low temperature of his spirit and gradually become content with it, persuading himself that it is not so low after all. In a week or two you will be making him doubt whether the first days of his Christianity were not, perhaps, a little excessive. Talk to him about 'moderation in all things.' If you can once get him to the point of thinking that 'religion is all very well up to a point,' you can feel quite happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at alland more amusing.

Beware of Dismissing Truth
"Another possibility is that of direct attack on his faith.... Of course, there is no conceivable way of getting by reason from the proposition 'I am losing interest in this' to the proposition 'This is false.' But, as I said before, it is jargon, not reason, you must rely on. The mere word phase will very likely do the trick. I assume that the creature has been through several of them beforethey all haveand that he always feels superior and patronizing to the ones he has emerged from, not because he has really criticized them but simply because they are in the past.... Keep his mind off the plain antithesis between True and False. [Use] nice shadowy expressions: 'It was a phase''I've been through all that'don't forget the blessed word 'Adolescent.'"
 
Letter X (10)Worldly Friends
Implying Complicity
"My dear Wormwood ... The middle-aged married couple who called at his office are just the sort of people we want him to knowrich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly skeptical about everything.... You seen to have made good use of all his social, sexual, and intellectual vanity. Tell me more. Did he commit himself deeply? I don't mean in words. There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a mortal can imply that he is of the same party as those to whom he is speaking. That is the kind of betrayal you should specially encourage, because the man does not fully realize it himself; and by the time he does you will have made withdrawal difficult.


"No doubt he must every soon realize that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based.... Persuade him to postpone any open acknowledgement of the fact, and this with the aid of shame, pride, modesty, and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and skeptical attitudes that are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be....

"Delay as long as possible the moment at which he realizes this new pleasure as a temptation. Since the Enemy's servants have been preaching about 'the World' as one of the great standard temptations for two thousand years, this might seem difficult to do. But fortunately they have said very little about it for the last few decades.... I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as 'Puritanism'and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life.

"Sooner or later, however, the real nature of his new friends must become clear to him.... If he is a big enough fool you can get him to realize the character of the friends only while they are absent; their presence can be made to sweep away all criticism. If this succeeds, he can be induced to live ... two parallel lives; he will not only appear to be, but will actually be, a different man in each of the circles he frequents. Failing this ... he can taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the [worldly] friends all the more because he is aware of a 'deeper,' 'spiritual' world ... they cannot understand.... Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction. Finally, if all else fails, you can persuade him, in defiance of conscience, to continue the new acquaintance on the ground that he is, in some unspecified way, doing these people 'good' by the mere fact of drinking their cocktails and laughing at their jokes, and that to cease to do so would be 'priggish,' 'intolerant,' and (of course) 'Puritanical.'

"Meanwhile ... take the obvious precaution of seeing that this new development induces him to spend more than he can afford and to neglect his work and his mother. Her jealousy and alarm, and his increasing evasiveness or rudeness, will be invaluable for the aggravation of the domestic tension."

Letter XI (11)Use and Abuse of Humor


"My dear Wormwood ... I am specially glad to hear that the two new friends have now made him acquainted with their whole set. All these, as I find from the record office, are thoroughly reliable people; steady, consistent scoffers and worldlings who, without any spectacular crimes, are progressing quietly and comfortably towards Our Father's house. You speak of their being great laughers. I trust this does not mean that you are under the impression that laughter ... is always in our favor.... I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What the real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven.... Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

"Fun is closely related to Joya sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

"The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field. I am not thinking primarily of indecent or bawdy humor, which, though much relied upon by second-rate tempters, is often disappointing in its results.... The real use of Jokes or Humor is in [those] who take their 'sense of humor' so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame. Humor is for them the all-consoling ... and all-excusing grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame.... Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations ... can be passed off as funny....A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man's damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke....

"But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else.... Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner that implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armor plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it."

Letter XII (12)The Safest Road to Hell
Course Away from the Sun
"My dear Wormwood, Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around the Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.

Vague Uneasiness
"For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer.... I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realize the break he has made with the first months of his Christian life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy feeling that he hasn't been doing very well lately.

Letting Sleeping Worms Lie
"This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game.... If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance ... it increases the patient's reluctance to think about the Enemy.... When thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold. They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a bankbook. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over. A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart.... His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

Staring at a Dead Fire in a Cold Room
"As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptation. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayer or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return....

"You will say that these are very small sins.... Do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual onethe gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
 
Letter XIII (13)Real Repentance and Real Pleasures

"My dear Wormwood ... A repentance and renewal ... on the scale which you describe is a defeat of the first order.... You first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea therea walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words you allowed him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger of this? The characteristics of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore ... give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. Thus if you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method .. .submerged in self-pity for imaginary distressesyou would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem. But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is, by palming off vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off ... the kind of crust you have been forming ... and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself? As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself, and had made some progress in doing so. Now, all that is undone.
 
"Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way.... When He talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamor of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so.... It is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human's own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste that is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for ... collecting stamps or drinking cocoa.... There is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them that I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favor of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books....

"It remains to consider how we can retrieve this disaster. The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance.... No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will.... The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel." 
   
Letter XIV (14)True Humility

"My dear Wormwood, The most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion. No more lavish promises of perpetual virtue .. .but only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation! This is very bad.... Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility....

"By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the man's attention away from self to Him, and to the man's neighbors....  You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it, not as self-forgetfulness, but as a ... low opinion ... of his own talents and character.... To anticipate the Enemy's strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more ... glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents.... He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own....

"His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man's mind off the subject of his own value altogether. He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one. Your efforts to instill either vainglory or false modesty into the patient will therefore be met from the Enemy's side with the obvious reminder that a man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all, since he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame.... The Enemy will also try to render real in the patient's mind ... the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the color of their hair.... Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased."

Letter XV (15)Present vs. Past and Future
"My dear Wormwood, I had noticed ... that the humans were having a lull in their European war ... and am not surprised that there is a corresponding lull in the patient's anxieties. Do we want to encourage this or keep him worried? Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions. The humans live in time, but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them ... either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.


"Our business is to get them away from the eternal and ... the Present.... We sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar)  to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the Past.... It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear ... hence the encouragement we have given to ... schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism.... Nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead....

"The Enemy wants men to think of the future toojust so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity that will probably be their duty tomorrow.... Its material is borrowed from the future; the duty, like all duties, is in the Present.... But we want a man ... haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy's commands in the Present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other.... We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now....

"Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real course of his tranquility, his tranquility will do us good, because it is only piling up ... disappointment and  ... impatience ... when his false hopes are dashed. If, on the other hand, he is aware that horrors may be in store for him and is praying for the virtues wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there, and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, his state is very undesirable and should be attacked at once."

Letter XVI (16)Church Hopping
"My dear Wormwood, You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it.... Do you realize that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing?... If a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him  ... looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

"The reasons are obvious. In the first place the [local church] should always be attacked because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires.... In the second place, the search for a 'suitable' church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants ... is an attitude that may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful ... but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment.... There is hardly any sermon, or any book, that may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper....

"The two churches nearest to him ... have certain claims. At the first ... is a man who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for a supposedly incredulous and hardheaded congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul's Christianity.... At the other church we have Father Spike.... The man cannot bring himself to preach anything that is not calculated to shock, grieve, puzzle, or humiliate his parents and their friends....  There is also a promising streak of dishonesty in him; we are teaching him to say 'The teaching of the Church is' when he really means 'I'm almost sure I read recently....'
 
"There is one good point both those churches have in commonthey are both party churches.... If your patient can't be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don't mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is, the better. And it isn't the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say 'mass' and ... 'holy communion' when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker's doctrine and Thomas Aquinas'.... And all the purely indifferent thingscandles and clothes [and music]are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men's minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach ... that the humans without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples.... You would expect to find the 'low' churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his 'high' brother should be moved to irreverence, and the 'high' one refraining from those exercises lest he should betray his 'low' brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labor. Without that, the ... Church ... might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility.

Letter XVII (17)Gluttony Exposed

"My dear Wormwood, The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls ... shows only your ignorance. One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it.... This largely has been effected by concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess. Your patient's mother ... is a good example.... Her whole life is enslaved to this kind of sensuality, which is quite concealed from her by the fact that the quantities involved are small. But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?... She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants ... always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile, 'Oh, please, please ... all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.' You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others....

"Her belly now dominates her whole life. The woman is in what may be called the "All-I-want" state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted. But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things 'properly'because her 'properly' conceals an insatiable demand for the exact, and almost impossible, palatal pleasures she imagines she remembers from the past ... when her senses were more easily pleased and she had pleasures of other kinds that made her less dependent on those of the table. Meanwhile, the daily disappointment produces daily ill temper: cooks give notice and friendships are cooled....

"Now, your patient is his mother's son. You must not neglect a little quiet infiltration in respect of gluttony....  Males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity. They ought to be made to think themselves very knowing about food ... on having found the only restaurant ... where steaks are 'properly' cooked. What begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into habit.... Bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence ...'puts him out.'...

"Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy. Its chief use is as a kind of artillery preparation for attacks on chastity. On that, as on every other subject, keep your man in a condition of false spirituality. Never let him notice the medical aspect. Keep him wondering what pride or lack of faith has delivered him into your hands when a simple inquiry into what he has been eating or drinking for the last twenty-four hours would show him whence your ammunition comes and thus enable him by a very little abstinence to imperil your lines of communication. If he must think of the medical side of chastity, feed him the grand lie ... that physical exercise in excess and consequent fatigue are specially favorable to this virtue. How they can believe this in the face of the notorious lustfulness of sailors and soldiers, may well be asked.... But this whole business is too large to deal with at the tail end of a letter."

Letter XVIII (18)Sexual Temptation


"The Enemy's demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma: either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since Our Father's first great victory [the Fall of Humankind, as recorded in Genesis 3 in the Bible], we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter ... we have been closing up as a way of escape ... by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived phenomenon which they call 'being in love' is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy.

"The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one ... self is not another self....  What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them.... 'To be' means 'to be in competition.' Now, the Enemy's philosophy is ... one continued attempt to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility He calls Love, and ... can be detected under all He does and even all He is.... Thus He is not content, even Himself, to be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that this nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature. At the other end of the scale, He introduces into matter that obscene invention the organism, in which the parts are perverted from their natural destiny of competition and made to cooperate.

"His real motive for fixing on sex as the method of reproduction among humans is only too apparent from the use He has made of it.... The Enemy has gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual desire. He has also made the offspring dependent on the parents and given the parents an impulse to support itthus producing the Family, which is like the organism, only worse; for the members are more distinct, yet also united in a more conscious and responsible way. The whole thing, in fact, turns out to be simply one more device for dragging in Love.

"Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as 'one flesh' [Genesis 2:24—'A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'].  He did not say 'a happily married couple' or 'a couple who married because they were in love,' but you can make the humans ignore that. You can also make them forget that ... Paul [in 1 Corinthians 6:16] did not confine it to married couples. Mere copulation ... makes 'one flesh.'... The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them that must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured....

From the true statement that this transcendental relation was to produceand, if obediently entered into, too often will produceaffection and the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire they call 'being in love' is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because 'being in love' does very often, in western Europe, precede marriages that are made in obedience to the Enemy's designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility, and goodwill; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion.... Humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves 'in love,' and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other seems to them low and cynical.... They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life as something lower than a storm of emotion!"
 
Letter XIX (19)Love Askew
"You complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being in love as a desirable state for a human or not.... Can't you see there's no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind,  in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us. Thus it would be quite a good thing to make the patient decide that Love is 'good' or 'bad.'

"If he is an arrogant man with a contempt for the body really based on delicacy but mistaken by him for purityand one who takes pleasure in flouting what most of his fellows approveby all means let him decide against Love. Instill into him an overweening asceticism and then, when you have separated his sexuality from all that might humanize it; weigh in on him with it in some much more brutal and cynical form.

"If, on the other hand, he is an emotional, gullible man, feed him on minor poets and fifth-rate novelists...until you have made him believe that 'Love' is both irresistible and somehow intrinsically meritorious. This belief is not much help ... in producing casual unchastity; but it is an incomparable recipe for prolonged 'noble,' romantic, tragic adulteries, ending, if all goes well, in murders and suicides. Failing that, it can be used to steer the patient into a useful marriage.... There must be several young women in your patient's neighborhood who would render the Christian life intensely difficult to him if only you could persuade him to marry one of them.... In the meantime, get it quite clear in your own mind that this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favorable either to us or to the other side.... Like most of the other things which humans are excited about, such as health and sickness, age and youth, or war and peace, it is, from the point of view of the spiritual life, mainly raw material."
 
Letter XX (20)The Wrong Kind of Woman


“My dear Wormwood, I note with great displeasure that the Enemy has, for the time being, put a forcible end to your direct attacks on the patient’s chastity. You ought to have … stopped before you reached that stage. For as things are, your man has now discovered the dangerous truth that these attacks don’t last forever; consequently you cannot use again our best weapon: the belief that there is no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding. I suppose you’ve tried persuading him that chastity is unhealthy?...

“If we can’t use his sexuality to make him unchaste we must try to use for the promotion of a desirable marriage. In the meantime I should like to give you some hint about the type of woman—I mean the physical type—which he should be encouraged to fall in love with.... In a rough and ready way … this question is decided for us by spirits far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I. It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy and fertile marriages are most likely. Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed … to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females—and there is more in that than you might suppose.

Statuesque Type
Boyish Type
Exaggerated Feminine Type
As regards the male taste we have varied a good deal. At one time we have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men’s vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. At another, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine  type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them shall be at a premium. At present we are on the opposite tack … and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old … and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

Airbrush Fakery
“And that is not all. We have engineered a great increase in … the representation of the apparent nude … in art, and … on the stage or the beach. It is all a fake.... The real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slenderthan nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet, at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being ‘frank’ and ‘healthy’ and getting back to nature. As a result we are … directing the desires of men to something that does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more … important and at the same time making its demands more … impossible....


Encourage your patient’s desires in one of two directionsa terrestrial and an infernal Venus.... Oneis naturally amendable to the Enemy—readily mixed with charity, readily obedient to marriage, colored all through with that golden light of reverence and naturalness we detest.” The other type “he desires brutally” and is “best used to draw him away from
Terrestrial vs. Infernal Venus

marriage altogether but which, even within marriage, he would tend to treat as a slave, an idol, or an accomplice. His love for the first might involve what the Enemy calls evil, but only accidentally; the man would wish that she was not someone else’s wife and be sorry that he could not love her lawfully. But in the second type, the felt evil is what he wants; it is that ‘tang’ in the flavor which he is after. In the face, it is the visible animality, or sulkiness or craft or cruelty that he likes; and in the body, something quite different from what he ordinarily calls Beauty, something he may even, in a sane hour, describe as ugliness.... The real use of the infernal Venus is as prostitute or mistress. But if your man has been well trained in nonsense about irresistible and all-excusing ‘Love,’ he can often be induced to marry her. And that is very well worth bringing about. You will have failed as regards fornication and solitary vice; but the unhappiness produced is of a very lasting kind.”

Letter XXI (21)Sense of Ownership

My Time?
“My dear Wormwood, Yes. A period of sexual temptation is an excellent time for working in a subordinate attack on the patient’s  [irritability].... The sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feelill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time … he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor … or the friend’s talkative wife … that throws him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.... The assumption you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defense. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift.... Let his sense of ownership-in-Time lie silent, un-inspected, and operative....
 
My Body?
“The humans are always putting up claims to ownership that sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell, and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they ‘own’ their bodiesin which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of Another!... We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun—the finely graded differences that run from ‘my boots … dog … father … country’ to ‘my God.’ They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of ‘my boots.’… The joke is that the word ‘mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.... They will find out in the end … to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong.... The Enemy says ‘mine’ of everything on the pedantic, legalistic ground that He made it. Our Father hopes in the end to say ‘mine’ of all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest.”

Letter XXII (22)True Love, Music, and Silence

“My dear Wormwood, So! Your man is in loveand in the worst kind he could possibly have fallen into not only a Christian but such a Christian—a …  demure, monosyllabic, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter miss!... We’d have had her to the arena in the old days ... not that she’d do much good there, either. A two-faced little cheat … who looks as if she’d faint at the sight of blood, and then dies with a smile.... Looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and yet has a satirical wit. The sort of creature who’d find ME funny!... Insipid little prude—and yet ready to fall into [your patient’s] arms like any other breeding animal. Why doesn’t the Enemy blast her for it, if He’s so moonstruck by virginity—instead of looking on there, grinning? He’s a hedonist at heart.... At His right hand are ‘pleasures forever.’ Ugh! I don’t think He as the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision.... There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side....


Silence and Music vs. NOISE
“Then, of course, he gets to know this woman’s family and whole circle. Could you not see that the very house she lives in is one that he ought never to have entered?...  It bears a sickening resemblance to the description one human writer made of Heaven: ‘the regions where there is only life and therefore all that is not music is silence. Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell … no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth … but I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it."


Letter XXIII (23)Spiritual Corruption

“My dear Wormwood, Through this girl and her disgusting family the patient is now getting to know more Christians every day, and very intelligent Christians. For a long time it will be quite impossible to remove spirituality from his life. Very well, then; we must corrupt it....  The World and the Flesh have failed us; a third Power remains. And success of this third kind is the most glorious of all. A spoiled saint, a Pharisee, an inquisitor, or a magician makes better sport in Hell than a mere common tyrant or debauchee.

More Than Meets the Eye...
“Looking round your patient’s new friends, I find that the best point of attack would be the borderline between theology and politics. Several of his new friends are very much alive to the social implications of their religion. That, in itself, is a bad thing; but good can be made out of it.... Many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began … departing from the doctrine of its Founder at a very early stage. Now, this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a ‘historical Jesus’.... In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a ‘historical Jesus’ on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new ‘historical Jesus’ on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold.


  •  ”In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each ‘historical Jesus’ is unhistorical. The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new ‘historical Jesus’ therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another, and by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary life....
  • ”In the second place, all such constructions place the importance of their ‘historical Jesus’ in some peculiar theory He is supposed to have promulgated.... We thus distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did....
  • ”Our third aim is … to destroy the devotional life. For the real presence of the Enemy … we substitute a merely probable, remote, shadowy … figure, one who spoke a strange language and died a long time ago. Such an object cannot in fact be worshiped. Instead of the Creator adored by its creature, you soon have merely a leader acclaimed by a partisan....

“About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do wantto make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anythingeven to social justice for the Enemy will not be used as a convenience.... You see the little rift? ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.”

Letter XXIV (24)Sly Self-Congratulation
Welcoming the New Family Member


"My dear Wormwood, … It is always the novice who exaggerates.... In this new circle your patient is a novice. He is there daily, meeting Christian life of a quality he never before imagined and seeing it all through an enchanted glass because he is in love. He is anxious (indeed the Enemy commands him) to imitate this quality.... The new circle in which he finds himself is one he is tempted to be proud for many reasons other than its Christianity. It is a better educated, more intelligent, more agreeable society than any he has yet encountered. He is also under some degree of illusion as to his own place in it. Under the influence of 'love' he may still think himself unworthy of the girl, but he is rapidly ceasing to think himself unworthy of the others. He has no notion how much in him is forgiven because they are charitable and made the best of because he is now one of the family. He does not dream how much of his conversation, how many of his opinions, are recognized by them all as mere echoes of their own. Still less does he suspect how much of the delight he takes in these people is due to the erotic enchantment which the girl, for him, spreads over all her surroundings. He thinks that he likes their talk and way of life because of some congruity between their spiritual state and his when in fact they are … far beyond him.... He is like a dog that should imagine it understood firearms because its hunting instinct and love for its master enable it to enjoy a day’s shooting!

Unhealthy Pride in One's "Set"
“Here is your chance. While the Enemy, by means of sexual love and … very agreeable people far advanced in His service, is drawing the young barbarian up to levels he could never otherwise have reached, you must make him feel that he is finding his own level—that these people are 'his sort' and that, coming among them, he has come home. When he turns from them to other society he will find it dull; partly because almost any society within his reach is, in fact, much less entertaining, but still more because he will miss the enchantment of the young woman.... He must be made to feel (he'd better not put it into words) 'how different we Christians are'; and by 'we Christians' he must really, but unknowingly, mean 'my set'; and by 'my set' he must mean not 'the people who, in their charity and humility, have accepted me,' but 'the people with whom I associate by right.'

Self-Congratulating Social Pride
"Success here depends on confusing him. If you try to make him explicitly and professedly proud of being a Christian, you will probably fail; the Enemy’s warnings are too well known....  What you want is to keep a sly self-congratulation mixing with all his thoughts and never allow him to raise the question 'What, precisely, am I congratulating myself about?' The idea of belonging to an inner ring, of being in a secret, is very sweet to him. Play on that nerve....The great thing is to make Christianity a mystery religion in which he feels himself one of the initiates."

 
Letter XXV (25)Christianity And...
"My dear Wormwood, The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’ You know—Christianity … and the New Psychology … and the New Order … and Faith Healing … and Psychic Research … and Vegetarianism … and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the Faith itself some [current issue] with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing."


Creating an Artificial Dread
"The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively.... Since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made.... He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same.... Just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this morning, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games....


"Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite … change kept up. This demand is valuable in various ways.
Built-in Problem with Novelty
  • In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns.
  • Continued novelty costs money, so … the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both.
  • The more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids….
  • Finally, the desire for novelty is indispensable if we are to produce Fashions or Vogues.


Not Helpful...

"The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice … we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood.

  • Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm.
  • When we are really making them all … drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere 'understanding.'
  • Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality,
  • Feckless and idle ones against Respectability,
  • Lecherous ones against Puritanism; and
  • Whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.


"But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing … so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will.... The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men to ask very simple questions: Is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now, if we can keep men asking: 'Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary?'... they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make.... Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective 'unchanged' we have substituted the emotional adjective 'stagnant.'"

Letter XXVI (26)Thinking the Other Is Selfish

"My dear Wormwood, Yes; courtship is the time for sowing those seeds which will grow up ten years later into domestic hatred. The enchantment of unsatisfied desire produces results that the humans can be made to mistake for the results of charity. Avail yourself of the ambiguity in the word 'Love': let them think they have solved by Love problems they have in fact only ... postponed under the influence of the enchantment....

NOT As Good As You Might Think
The grand problem is 'Unselfishness,' a negative word substituted for the Enemy's positive Charity.... Teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them, but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them. That is a great point gained. Another great help ... is the divergence of view about Unselfishness that we have built up between the sexes. A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy's service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man except those whom Our Father has dominated completely; and, conversely, a man will live long in the Enemy's camp before he undertakes as much spontaneous work to please others as a quite ordinary woman may do every day. Thus while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people's rights, each sex ... can and does regard the other as radically selfish.

"On top of these confusions you can now introduce a few more. The erotic enchantment produces a mutual complaisance in which each is really pleased to give in to the wishes of the other. They also know that the Enemy demands of them a degree of charity which, if attained, would result in similar actions. You must  make them establish as a Law ... that degree of mutual self-sacrifice which at present is sprouting naturally out of the enchantment but which, when the enchantment dies away, they will not have charity enough to enable them to perform. They will not see the trap since they are under the double blindness of mistaking sexual excitement for charity and of thinking that the excitement will last....

Time and Patience Required
"Once a sort of official, legal, or nominal Unselfishness has been established ... it becomes obligatory that A should argue in favor of B's supposed wishes and against his own, while B does the opposite. It is often impossible to find out either party's real wishes.... They end up doing something that neither wants, while each feels a glow of self-righteousness and harbors a secret claim to preferential treatment for the unselfishness shown and a secret grudge against the other for the ease with which the sacrifice has been accepted.... A sensible human once said, 'If people knew how much ill-feeling Unselfishness occasions, it would not be so often recommended'.... This can be begun even in the period of courtship. A little real selfishness on your patient's part is often of less value ... than the first beginnings of ... elaborate and self-conscious unselfishness.... Cherish these things, and, above all, don't let the young fools notice them. If they notice them they will be on the road to discovering that 'love' is not enough, that charity is needed and not yet achieved, and that no external law can supply its place.
 
Letter XXVII (27)Nullifying Prayer and History

"My dear Wormwood ... When ... the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of [your patient's] prayers ... encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue .. .as if nothing had happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavors, then...you have done harm.... A promising line is the following: Now that he is in love, a new idea of earthly happiness has arisen in his mind; and hence a new urgency in his petitionary prayers.... Now is the time for raising intellectual difficulties about prayer of that sort....

"Humans can often be lured into direct disobedience to the Enemy, who ... has definitely told them to pray for their daily bread and the recovery of their sick.... But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will probably continue such 'crude' prayers whatever you do. But you can worry him with the ...'Heads I win, tails you lose' argument. If the thing he prays for doesn't happen, then it is one more proof that petitionary prayers don't work; if it does happen, he will ... see some of the physical causes that up to it, and 'therefore it would have happened anyway.'...You, being a spirit, will find it difficult to understand how he gets into this confusion. But you must remember that he takes Time for an ultimate reality.... The Enemy does not.... Men's prayers today are one of the innumerable coordinates with which the Enemy harmonizes the weather of tomorrow.... The Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it....

Some meddlesome human writers, notably Boethius, have let this secret out. But in the intellectual climate we have at last succeeded in producing ... you needn't bother about that. Only the learned read old books, and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so.... The Historical Point of View ... means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books ... or in the general history of thought, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man's own colleagues).... To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledgeto anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviorthis would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded. And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others.... There is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another.... Great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that 'history is bunk.'"
 
Letter XXVIII (28)Safety and Time as Allies

NOT Always the Prime Evil
"My dear Wormwood ... You tell me with glee that there is reason to expect heavy air raids on the town where the creature lives.... Do you not realize that the patient's death, at this moment, is precisely what we want to avoid? He has escaped the worldly friends with whom you have tried to entangle him; he has 'fallen in love' with a very Christian woman and is temporarily immune from your attacks on his chastity; and the various methods of corrupting his spiritual life ... are so far unsuccessful.... As the full impact of the war draws nearer and his worldly hopes take a proportionately lower place in his mind, full of his defense work [as an air-raid warden], full of the girl, forced to attend to his neighbors more than he has ever done before and liking it more than he expected'taken out of himself,' as the humans sayand daily increasing in conscious dependence on the Enemy, he will almost certainly be lost to us if he is killed tonight.... I sometimes wonder if ... you are ... becoming infected by the sentiments and values of the humans among whom you work. They ... regard death as the prime evil, and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda....


"If only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the ... despair ... of ever overcoming the chronic temptations ... the drabness ... we create in their lives, and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to itall this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If ... the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him....

"He has put eternity into man's heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
"The Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the Earth.... Even if we ... keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetrythe mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizonare always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven ... our best method ... of attaching them to Earth is to make them believe that Earth can be turned into Heaven by politics ... or 'science'.... Real worldliness is a work of time.... Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you can."
 
Letter XXIX (29)Fear and Cowardice
 
"My dear Wormwood, Now that it is certain that the German humans will bombard your patient's town and that his duties will keep him in the thick of the danger, we must consider our policy. Are we to aim at cowardiceor at courage, with consequent prideor at hatred of the Germans? Well, I am afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our Research Department has not yet discovered ... how to produce any virtue.... Hatred we can manage ... best combined with fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painfulhorrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear.... To make a deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage.

Value of Self-Knowledge from Failure
"Now, this is a ticklish business. We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or ... some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously ... important ... that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The danger of inducing cowardice ... is that we produce real self-knowledge and self-loathing, with consequent repentance and humility. And, in fact, in the last war [World War I, which C.S. Lewis experienced as a soldier and officer], thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice, discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely.... This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for creating a dangerous worlda world in which moral issues really come to the point.... Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.... A chastity or honesty or mercy that yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions....

"As to the actual technique of temptations to cowardice ... keep running in his mind (side by side with the conscious intention of doing his duty) the vague idea of all sorts of things he can do ... that seem to make him a little safer. Get his mind off the simple rule ('I've got to stay here and do so-and-so') into a series of imaginary life lines ('If A happenedthough I very much hope it won'tI could do Band if the worst came to the worst, I could always do C').... You may produce ... a determination that the worst shall not come to the worst. Then, at the moment of real terror, rush it out into his nerves and muscles and you may get the fatal act done before he know what you're about. For remember: the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good." 


Letter XXX (30)Fatigue and the Word Real 

"My dear Wormwood ... The patient's behavior during the first raid has been the worst possible. He has been very frightened and thinks himself a great coward and therefore feels no pride; but he has done everything his duty demanded and perhaps a bit more. Against this disaster all you can produce on the credit side is a burst of ill temper with a dog that tripped him up, excessive cigarette smoking, and the forgetting of a prayer.... You say that you still expect good results from the patient's fatigue. That is well enough. But it won't fall into your hands. Fatigue can produce extreme gentleness, and quiet of mind, and even something like vision. If you have often seen men led by it into anger, malice, and impatience ... it is not fatigue simply as such that produces the anger, but unexpected demands on a man already tired. Whatever men expect, they soon come to think they have a right to: the sense of disappointment can, with very little skill on our part, be turned into a sense of injury. It is after men have ... ceased to think even a half-hour ahead that the dangers of humbled and gentle weariness begin.... Feed him with false hopes.... The thing to avoid is the total commitment. Whatever he says, let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it 'for a reasonable period'—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter; in attacks on patience, chastity, and fortitude, the fun is to make the man yield just when ... relief was almost in sight.


"I do not know whether he is likely to meet the girl under conditions of strain or not. If he does, make full use of the fact that up to a certain point fatigue makes women talk more and men talk less. Much secret resentment ... can be raised from this.

"Probably the scenes he is now witnessing will not provide material for an intellectual attack on his faith—your previous failures have put that out of your power. But there is a sort of attack on the emotions ... that turns on making him feel when first he sees human remains plastered on a wall, that this is 'what the world is really like' and that all his religion has been a fantasy.... We have got them completely fogged about ... the word 'real'.... The general rule ... is that in all experiences that can make them happier or better only the physical facts are 'real,' while the spiritual elements are 'subjective'; in all experiences that can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality, and to ignore them is to be an escapist. Thus in birth the blood and pain are 'real,' the rejoicing a mere subjective point of view.... Wars and poverty are 'really' horrible; peace and plenty are mere physical facts about which men happen to have certain sentiments.... Your patient, properly handled, will have no difficulty in regarding his emotion at the sight of human entrails as a revelation of reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere sentiment."
   
Letter XXXI (31)The Soul That Slips Away 

Puny Devil
"My dear, my very dear, Wormwood ... You have let a soul slip through your fingers. The howl of sharpened famine for that loss re-echoes at this moment through all the levels of the Kingdom of Noise down to the very Throne itself. It makes me mad to think of it. How well I know what happened at the instant they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes ... as he saw you for the first time, and recognized the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer.
 
“Just think … what he felt at that moment: as if a scab had fallen from an old sore … as if he shuffled off for good … a defiled, wet, clinging garment. By Hell, it is misery enough to see them in their mortal days taking off dirtied and uncomfortable clothes and splashing in hot water and giving little grunts of pleasure—stretching their eased limbs! What, then of this final stripping, this complete cleansing?... He got through so easily! No gradual misgivings, no doctor’s sentence, no nursing home, no operating theater, no false hopes of life: sheer, instantaneous liberation. One moment it seemed to be all our world: the scream of bombs, the fall of houses, the stink and taste of high explosive on the lips and in the lungs, the feet burning with weariness, the heart cold with horrors, the brain reeling, the legs aching; the next moment all this was gone, gone like  a bad dream, never again to be of any account....


Did you mark how naturally—as if he’d been born for it —the Earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! ‘Yes. Of course.... The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?’ 

“As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower.... When he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone.... All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him that had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained....

He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like … to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralyzing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense.... All the delights of sense or heart or intellect with which you could have once tempted him … now seem to him … as the half-nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door. He is caught up into that world where pain and pleasure take on transfinite values and … all our [efforts are] dismayed.”

"Screwtape Proposes a Toast"—click here for separate blog post: *


2 comments:

  1. Devil works in a way that we cannot understand and unless we wage war(prayer) against devil, we will not be able to defeat devil. Devil goes after your mind by putting his lies into your thoughts. His purpose is to keep you ignorant of God’s will for you.
    Redeemed Gospel Church Thika-Town

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