What I meant to
say, my dear boy, in mentioning the boyhood crushes in my last
letter, is simply that you would stop pestering me with them.
Yes, I am well aware of the wonderful little trysts he imagines in
his head, and your subsequent delight. Yes, I am well aware that
these are particularly helpful to your cause in getting him to be
fully addicted to sexual fantasy, I have used the technique several
times myself. However; I am also fully confident in your
ability to handle this most simple of temptations without my
aid, or advice. Honestly, Nightshade, as Undersecretary of the
department, I have much more important things to do than to read your
jubilant stammering about his latest day dream, and how well it kept
him from real productive thought for it's duration. I have been
assigned to advise you, not to get to know you. It
almost seems as though you have slipped into some delusion of the
enemies concept of family. Eugh... it makes me sick to think of
bringing any two separate and competing wills that close to one
another. Be sure that you have no illusions as to the nature of my
instruction, lest I have need of sending some reminder of the
consequences of such heresy.
That being said, I
am encouraged by your more useful reports of the boy's growing
addictions to solitary dreaming, and sexual fantasy. These,
simultaneously, draw him away from any real change of heart, and also
produce a charming frustration by way of a mutual exclusivity of
ideals. On the one end he is an introvert and would really just like
to be left alone, and on the other he experiences an aching for
intimacy and romance of a kind so far from what our enemy really
intended that it should minimize the unfortunate side-effects of real
setting aside of self for another, mutual help, and selflessness that
spawn from healthy relationships. Play these chords against one
another properly, and you will create a wonderful reclusive cynicism.
From here it is not so far a fall to still greater and greater sins; ending, if all goes as planned, in something like sociopathy and an eternity of knowing exactly the one decision that
led him into our grasp, and not the enemy's. That is, of course, many
years of skillful guiding down the road, but it is not entirely
remiss to have goals, my dear boy. There are positions in the
administration opening more and more frequently these days, and a
skillful young tempter, such as yourself, would be most welcome to join
the ever downward climb on the lowerarchy, should you be able to win
such a fabulous victory for our father below.
The key to
achieving this kind of victory is minimizing and denying the impact
that such thoughts, feelings and actions have on his heart. This
task, unlike many of our struggles against the enemy has become an
increasingly simple one. This culture has distilled every kind of
vice to concentrations and potencies that were simply unheard of in
any other time in history. The everyday abuse of hard liquor in my
day cannot hold a candle to the latest productions of our infernal
researches. The humans, (with only the slightest nudging) have
created naturally occurring vice that only direct tyranny could have
achieved in the past. Go with me on this for just a moment,
Nightshade. Technology has advanced to the point that any man can not
only watch, but participate in literally hundreds of murders
(imaginary though they may be), and delight in them nearly as much as
we devils do. Better yet, a teenage boy with all of the grit and guts
of a kitten can experience the kind of sexually aggressive tastes
that once only emperors and kings could afford and carry out. Just
imagine the amount of empathy or compassion a man can have left to
his use after all that imagined domination. Domination, mind you,
that has been tied inextricably to the success and pleasure centers
of his brain. How will he accomplish any real goal or improvement; or
establish any healthy (oh, so complicated) intimacy when he is just
minutes away from a satisfying victory or sexual encounter in a world
that is completely under his control? All the while, if anyone should
grow wise to the effect these fantasies have, they are comforted with
the delicious little lie, “at least they aren't actually...” fill
in the blank. Sleeping around... going out and gunning down their
classmates... They may even be so deluded to think that these
fantasies act as an outlet for their appetites. Their ever increasing
appetites. Don't you
see! How marvelous a machine it is, that promises satiation, and
leaves only the desire for more, and more, and more still! All
achieved by the simple method of minimization. If they could only
see the poisonous mire that they have day after day poured into their
subconscious, they would go mad! That is just the point, Nightshade. They can't
see it. They can't feel it, and day by day they are armed with a
greater and greater defense against the protests of concerned friends
and family who can!
I cannot be too
overzealous in my teaching of this often overlooked tactic. So many
tempters are caught up in creating the conscious evil doer, one who
chooses evil for it's own sake. They mistake the means for the end!
Let him believe that his thoughts and actions are not in fact evil,
that it is better than “actually” carrying out the act, that it
is the best and only safe alternative. Then you will have him in a
vice only the most skilled of the enemies agents will be able to
crack, and you will have all the tools at your disposal to keep him
well away from them.
Still more good reports! I have picked up the dossier on your boy's church and I find much good to be said of it. You say that he is disenchanted with it, that it does nothing for his sense of awe, or his fantastic imagination. In that case keep filling his head with the challenge that “If this is all there is then...” Never let him finish it of course, just let it be a simmering question in the back of his mind. The moment he becomes certain he becomes an unknown quantity, there is nothing you can do to push him from his “then” being “then I will find some real believers out there” or “then I will live a life of debauchery because nothing matters in the end.” Your goal is a foggy doubt, an uncertainty just vague enough to not be worth inspecting, one that will slowly settle into his being and after 30 years of life will be so ingrained into his existence that nothing can shake it.
You tell me that he has recently been “confirmed” as a member of this church, a meaningless ceremony to him and the enemy. As you surely have read by now in the correspondence between Wormwood and I, (another delicious churning of the stomach, that you should learn from his blunders!) the repetition of passive habits reduce their hold. Ergo; the more this boy plays at church and sees the adult men and women around him acting in a similar fashion, treating it quite seriously, the more he will grow to think that faith, represented by the church he attends (what a helpful delusion there) is foolish, and a waste of his time. This is effective whether the adults he observes are legitimately in the enemies camp or no, he believes that they are all a bunch of fakes, and is not too far off in most cases (Oh, that we could capture those enigmatic few that dare to thrive in such an environment... It chafes me, Nightshade, that they can find anything of the enemy there, let alone a faith that protects them from even our most competent tempters.). If it remains self centered this is a wonderfully useful feeling, so far as it goes to make him shun all faith as farcical, but never let him turn it out to others so as to become indignant that so many men and women have dedicated their lives to such trumpery. That conclusion is far too close to the idea that surely this sort of hypocrisy could not have existed for 2000 years and there must be something more behind it, which he could find if he asked, sought, and knocked. Those three things are precisely what you are to keep him from doing, because if he does the Enemy will be at his side in an instant, and you will left out of his thoughts, having pushed him that direction all along.
You also tell me that he is beginning to have crushes on the girls in his classes, do not let these little lusts (while delightful) distract you from your main goal of making a lone dreamer out of him in the end. Boyhood crushes seldom produce any real steps along the path to our father below.
The report I have received on your previous work on this, your first temptorship, and the subsequent spite of your older school-mate and cousin Wormwood's will (that delightful warming of the stomach, though no compensation for his complete failure to provide any real food, is an added reward for your success) reminds me of what spectacular advances we have made in our methods, and the general state of things up on Terra-firma. Even so, you have out-classed your peers by far in your work on this most difficult case. I have even forwarded some of your work to Slubgob at the training college, would all our tempters be at once so ambitious, and innovative.
Do not let any of my praise go to your head however. I have been requested to join you as your adviser to assist you in a most important, and difficult struggle; one that, as skilled as you have shown yourself to be thus far, will require everything you have learned in your tenure at the training college. As you heard in my address to the training college (though you were not graduating I trust that your own fear of failure spurred your closest attention to a senior Tempter) I spoke of the relative flabbiness of most souls, and indeed more and more of the humans have grown to be completely ignorant, insipid, and best of all comfortable. Your patient is nothing of the sort, the boy has an imagination on him, and the wonderful work that our research has done to lessen the dangers of that sort of thing is completely impotent in his case because he is guarded by a most prudish sheltering from even a shred of popular culture. A culture of noise and clap-trap in which Bell-weather souls are proud of every sort of vice, and lead millions of would be candidates for limbo skipping mindlessly down the smooth sloping path to our tormentor's kitchens. Oh, what a disadvantage it is for us it is when the human children find some other entertainment, titillating their minds with books, and art, and play. Ugh, the little creatures imagining wonderful stories and creating worlds of good and evil, playing the hero all the time. All the while the enemy watches smiling, as he always does... everything is in his favor, Nightshade, even the invented worlds of little children prepare them so wonderfully for His understanding of the spiritual realms, with cute little morals all pointing to the ridiculous fallacy that one man's good can be the good of all, teaching courage, and that most annoying search for something more to life. All that being said, we can use this to our advantage, due to some fairly recent advances.
Humans of this type, whether they have survived our barrage of entertainment, or they have missed it altogether are easily drawn into the alternative realities they create. Let him read, play games, and watch movies so long as their grandness and fantasy keep highlighting how dreadfully dull “real” life is compared to these other worlds. In the time that I worked as a tempter it was my duty to always show the dullness of real life, and lead men to the conclusion that dullness was ordinary, proper, and mature. Your duty, particularly with this patient, is to work diligently at furnishing him with grander and grander fantasies, and to avoid anything that approaches the battle that is constantly taking place between us and the enemy. If I am to help you in this case you must provide me a report on what your aims are for the next few months and years, I should hope that you have planned that far ahead, this boy will need every bit of guiding you can give him, his imagination and lively mind raise the stakes of the game. A single misstep could mean a lifetime of watching from the outside while the enemy shields him from your grasp. I trust you are aware of the consequences.
Since I do so respect C.S. Lewis, whose work is being here imitated (as the highest form of flattery). I would like to quote his introductory admonition, as it applies as much to my work as it did to his, along with a brief admonition of my own.
The Preface of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
"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 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 ill-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 patients mother are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.
In conclusion, I ought to add that no effort has been made to clear up the chronology of the letters... in general the diabolical method of dating seems to bear no relation to terrestrial time and I have not attempted to reproduce it. The history of the European war, except in so far as it happens now and then to impinge upon the spiritual condition of one human being, was obviously of no interest to Screwtape."
5 July 1941
I too, will have no part in the education of how these dialogues are obtained. Whether or not I have "the knack" remains to be seen, I only hope that I do not prove to be one of those ill-disposed or excitable people Mr. Lewis had so warned.
Screwtape is still a liar. Should you begin to recognize any of the humans in this account, (or any of the demons for that matter) simply know that even if a person is one in a million there are 7000 people just like him interspersed all over the world. I will follow in my predecessors footsteps and make no effort to identify the subjects of this correspondence, I would recommend that you do the same.
The chronology of the letters may seem to make some sense at the beginning, but as Nightshade's blunders catch up with him later in the correspondence (and oh, how they do catch him) his frantic and desperate scrawlings are met with much less frequent responses, and the terrestrial events that inspire Screwtape's attention to his pupil are less easily divined. Screwtape is, for his part, a very patient devil; but he, like all of his ilk, has his limits.
So here's the deal. I'm trying something new, mainly because I think that something new must be tried.
Over the summer I will guarantee significant posts every Friday. "Wow," you say, "that's a lot of writing." Good news I've already got most of it written. The first few weeks will be a story that I could never actually publish, because the style, ideas and character(s) are shamelessly stolen from C.S. Lewis' Screwtape letters, which will likely be a theme I return to occasionally as experience allows but since I can't publish it you have the benefit of reading it as I go. In the mean time tell your friends, I think that this is really some of my best writing, and I want it out there.
That being said be prepared for a start this Friday on a new adventure in Blogging (other updates might happen during the week, but again, you can be sure of Fridays this summer)