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Thread: Excerpt from C. S. Lewis? ?The Screwtape Letters?

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    Jul 2005
    Rural NSW

    Default Excerpt from C. S. Lewis? ?The Screwtape Letters?

    Ok... so we got talking about the devil in another thread... to save you the bother of locating a copy of C.S Lewis' book I have posted an excerpt here for you to read.

    Basically: Screwtape is a devil. He is also a teacher and mentor to a demon-in-training called Wormwood. The Letters are Screwtape's instructions and advice to his student as to the best way to tempt, manipulate and secure the soul of a human. When reference is made to "The Enemy" this means he is talking about God in Heaven. I have bolded a high-light that you can read to get a quick sense of it all. It makes interesting and at times funny reading... enjoy

    C.S. Lewis

    To J.R.R. Tolkien

    "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."?Luther

    "The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked."?Thomas More


    I HAVE no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.

    There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.

    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. I have made no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I think it very unlikely that the portraits, say, of Fr. Spike or the patient's mother, are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.

    C. S. LEWIS
    July 5, 1941

    My Dear Wormwood,

    I note what you say about guiding your patient?s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle na?f? 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 what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn?t think of doctrines as primarily ?true? or ?false?, but as ?academic? or ?practical?, ?outworn? or ?contemporary?, ?conventional? or ?ruthless?. 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 courageous?that it is the philosophy of the future. That?s 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 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; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it ?real life? and don?t let him ask what he means by ?real?.

    Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said 'Quite... In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning', the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added 'Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind', he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about 'that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic'. He is now safe in Our Father?s house.

    You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defense against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can?t touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don?t let him get away from that invaluable ?real life?. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is ?the results of modern investigation?. 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

    Last edited by Bathsheba; July 8th, 2008 at 11:44 PM.

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