The Screwtape Letters

Excerpts from The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis

Master devil Screwtape to apprentice devil Wormwood:

  • Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. […] It is His invention, not ours, He made the pleasures. […] All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. […] An ever increasing craving for a diminishing pleasure is the formula.
  • [Our Enemy] leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which 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. […] He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand. […] Our cause is never more in danger then when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
  • A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all.
  • 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.
  • One of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I know see that I spent most of my life doing neither what I ought nor what I liked’. The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong’. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [diabolos = the separator, my note]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfood, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
  • When [the Enemy] talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His, they will be more themselves than ever.
  • You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes, in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.
  •  Let him do anything but act. […] 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 feel.

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