Snippets from Screwtape

This has been sitting for awhile, as I finished Screwtape late last summer. Although I meant to add more, the odds of that seem very low at this point, so I’ll just send it out to the world as-is.

Just a few things that stood out for me in my reading of The Screwtape Letters (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s a fictionalized correspondence between a demon named Screwtape and his nephew and protege, Wormwood, discussing the techniques Wormwood can use to be effective in tempting a soul toward Hell. So references to the Enemy are about God, references to the patient are about the soul to which Wormwood has been assigned.):

On being a new Christian:

It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that the next pew contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours 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. [12]

On relationships with family:

…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. [16]

One of the things I’m enjoying about this, that heightens the realism for me, is that Screwtape chides, threatens, etc., Wormwood, and pacifies him when Wormwood is in a position to hurt him (Screwtape.)

On praying, as a new Christian:

At the very least, they 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. [20]

On facing fear:

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 him—the present anxiety and suspense. [29]

On the times when you can’t feel God:

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use.  Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish, He can only woo. For 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. [38]

On noise:

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell…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. [102-103]


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