The Screwtape Letters for Modern Times


Screwtape

I have just come across this brilliant piece of work mimicking C.S. Lewis, which was posted on the blog Etheldredasplace (wow – that’s a mouthful ‘aint it?): for the original post, click here.

1 – I love C.S. Lewis and I love The Screwtape Letters.  This so very well recreates the intention of original writing.  If you’ve never read it… what are you waiting for?

2 – To be perfectly honest, I really have no idea what media mess this is in response to (I don’t watch the news… much less trust the secular media to accurately inform me of the workings of the Catholic Church); yet I still sorely benefited from such a reminder in many aspects of my life.  I hope you do too.

So without further ado…

My Dear Wormwood,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time about the dangers and opportunities presented to us by the Internet. The recent events at the Synod have given me a marvelous and delightful opportunity to talk about the opportunities. The dangers I will discuss another time.

You will see how much success we’ve had recently in sowing confusion, fear, doubt and despair among the humans. This is, of course, nothing new in itself. But the Internet allows us to magnify these effects in two important ways. Firstly, each and every public utterance of the leaders of the Enemy’s Church is now disseminated around the world in a matter of seconds. This was not always so: in fact, quite the opposite. For much of human history since that Great and Wretched Disaster, only the most serious, the most considered and the most thoughtful of the chief bishop’s utterances reached the ears of the ordinary Catholic. Many of them would go decades or even a lifetime without hearing a word from him. Even during the latter twentieth century, the age of radio and television, it was typically still through the written word that he communicated with the Enemy’s followers, and it was through this medium that they heard from him. This has now changed: every public utterance of his is now not only disseminated, but also analysed, commented on, digested and commented on again.
The second way that the Internet helps us is that, through articles and comments, we can magnify our efforts at creating despair by making one human’s worry affect thousands.

You’ll see here that I’m talking of those humans – happily, now a small minority – who are  not only baptized, but also making a serious effort to follow the Enemy, obey His commands and remain in what they call a ‘state of grace’. I am not concerned in this letter with the broad masses of men who by and large ignore the Enemy. And nor should you be, Wormwood. Your target is your man, and nobody else. We make war on the enemy to get hold of individuals. With all the excitement recently over heretic bishops and papal silence, I’m worried you’re making their mistake, and forgetting that it’s individuals we war over. What goes on in the Vatican is the concern of spirits far below us in the Lowerarchy, and you should not concern yourself with it. Your man is your concern, and his eternal soul is your goal. Never forget this.

But Wormwood – my first piece of wisdom is coming up, get ready – make sure he forgets this! You want him to be so concerned by ecclesial politics that it absorbs all his attention. This is good not only because of the effects it produces – anger, rancor, worry, neglect of duty, and so on – but also because all the time he’s brooding over these things, he is neglecting to think about his own soul. You want to exploit this. You want, above all, to wrench his gaze away from his own soul and his own salvation, over which he has complete control, and towards that which he has no control: the Church’s place in the world, or what the chief bishop really thinks about some question or other, or who’s really in control of the Vatican. Or something similar. The point isn’t what you direct it towards: the point is to get it away from himself and his soul.

You need to empathize with him, Wormwood. I know it’s hard to put yourself in the position of this filthy animal, but try anyway. You, being pure intelligence, can focus yourself all the time on your goal with relative ease. (Sometimes, of course, when I think of Him or Her and their perfections, I’m filled with such terror and despair and confusion that I can’t focus at all for a while – but what I say is generally true.) The human, on the other hand, since he inhabits the world of the senses, can be quite easily distracted by them. He can be easily induced to forget about his soul, simply because (in one sense) he can’t see it. In fact, even without your efforts, the concupiscence that blinds him means it’s a struggle for him to remember it. So exploit this animal nature. Make him think that Vatican politics is something more than the world of flesh which is passing away: inflate the immediate and the temporary in his mind, such that there is no room for the spiritual and the eternal. Make him forget that his salvation isn’t assured, that time spent thinking about politics is time not praying, or going about his duties, or working out his salvation in some other way. Don’t let him realize that your distractions not only keep him from prayer, but retard his disposition towards it.
Stop him from praying, Wormwood. That’s my second priceless pearl of wisdom. You won’t be able to do this immediately, of course. It may take years. But you can begin eroding his faith and confidence in the Enemy now, this very day, and in so doing build habits that are favorable to us. Make sure you remind him about ecclesial politics when he sits down for his prayers. And keep reminding him throughout. In so doing, you will not only (all things being equal) reduce the efficacy of the prayers and the graces he receives, but you’ll even over time be able to increase the unpleasantness he feels about prayer itself.

This is a long term thing (though far shorter than eternity), and you’ll have to be patient. Make his prayers vain, mindless and dead. Fill them with bitterness and rancour towards his superiors. You will, of course, find it much easier if he hasn’t developed the terrible habit of making a deliberate effort to turn his mind towards the Enemy before he prays. And for crying out loud, be subtle about it. If he realises what you’re up to, he’ll ask the Enemy or his Guardian protector for help, and then your efforts will be in vain.

The third point, and it’s so obvious that I don’t know why I’m mentioning it, is to keep him from the sacraments. Especially confession. Every single time he worthily confesses, all our work that we’ve built up to that point is destroyed. Not only that, but the Enemy’s grace is renewed in him, and he receives encouragement, peace and all kinds of other vile things. It is the most terrible thing, Wormwood – our destroyer and our dread. Keep him from confession! Again, if he’s the kind of Catholic I take him to be, you won’t be able to do this all at once. But make his confessions lazy, and bad and hurried. Work towards it. Take the long view. However long it takes, it’s much shorter than eternity.

So, keep him from thinking about his individual soul, keep him from prayer, and keep him from the sacraments. The same methods we’ve always used, just with a different hook: the Internet. But I think that for your man, the first point is most important. Make him forget his soul while keeping it constantly in mind yourself, and the rest will follow.

The individual is what matters, Wormwood! It is miserable and despairing and lost individuals that we seek to populate Hell with. And our means of doing this involve similarly individual methods. Think back to the last great human war of 1939-45. Think of how men at Stalingrad fought street to street, house to house, wall to wall, in their battle to take the city. So it is with us. We want to take every thought, every emotion, every occasion and make sin of it, in our battle to take the soul. But the Enemy acts in the same way, and if you’re not careful, your man will too. Just when you think you’ve beaten him, then like a starving soldier of the Red Army, ammunition gone, he’ll fly at you out of nowhere, lunging at you with fists, teeth and rocks, pummeling and bruising you and leaving you lying in the dust. So keep him from thinking about this, or acting on it. A soldier who constantly questions his generals’ strategy is useless, so keep him constantly questioning the Enemy’s strategy. Keep him concerned with matters of the war that don’t concern him, and that he can do nothing about. (Besides pray – don’t let him do that, of course. The usual tactic is to make them think that one prayer is useless in the grand scheme of things.)
Make him think his own salvation is assured, and that somehow he needs to act to save Christ’s Body as a whole. And then you will have him.

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape.

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One Response to The Screwtape Letters for Modern Times

  1. Wondering how you are doing? Love you!

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