Friday, August 17, 2012

VIII: The Importance of Espionage



VIII

My dear Nightshade,

          It has been some time since you have responded to my letters, and I am beginning to grow concerned. I understand that my tone has been adversarial of late, but that is no excuse, and I will not relent. In my defense, I simply could not resist sending the Department of Compensation's new instructional and motivational video; the torments are so much more... poignant when presented in that medium. That being said, additional discipline from me is no excuse for your moping. You have begun the most important journey of your boy's life. Play your cards right, and you can win him back. Your recent incompetence has not entirely erased the good work you had done earlier, and you will have significantly more leverage as he navigates the unfamiliar territory of the university.
          He is in a circle of entirely new people, and he has the opportunity to build from scratch. My experience shows that that a man's patterns are most pliable during times of dramatic change such as this. Get your boy, in this first week, to choose just once or twice to stay in his room, rather than attend social events, and his newly developed extroversion will fade quickly into the much more familiar social fear you worked up in his heart years ago. Getting him to eat meals alone is critical. Solitary entertainment of any kind is invaluable. It goes without saying that any time alone with a computer is a golden opportunity, I suspect that even you can find the leverage to capitalize on it.
          Despite your lack of correspondence, my sources within the infernal police have worked up a dossier on your situation (portions of which are in the portfolio which I have attached). You have many senior tempters working in close proximity to you. While you isolate him, be sure not to isolate yourself! Get in contact with all of your new colleagues, as their collective knowledge is sure to contain hundreds of tools which you can use to your advantage. Above all else, be sure to study the portfolio I have sent, and do your homework on the threats that are present in your area. I did not have time to read the full report that the infernal police sent to me, but I saw enough to know that you are traversing a minefield of the enemies agents. The stakes have been raised, Nightshade, and you must avail yourself of the intelligence you have been given. I repeat, study your surroundings.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

Thursday, August 9, 2012

VII: On Generational Curses



VII

My Dear Nightshade,

          If only I could take back every word of praise that I wrote in my early letters, how is it, that in so short a time you have forgotten everything about the proper use of generational curses. It is well that I pressed you for your plan before your put it into practice. A boy's relationship with his father is one of the enemy's favorite tools, and if you cannot bring yourself to refresh your knowledge on the subject before you scribble out a plan at this most critical of junctures, you are sure to fail.
         Your plan is so beyond repair that I have not even bothered to append my comments to it, and will instead endeavor with you to start from scratch. Allow me to start by saying that you managed to place your finger on only one aspect of the generational curse. Yes, your boy, like his father, experiences inadequacy intensely. A freshman at the training college could have told me as much. From you, a graduate, I expected at least half a dozen other angles. I do not have time to lecture you in the identification of vices, and so I will attempt to address the still more glaring error in your scheme.
          The main point of generational curses is not simply to perpetuate some vice. Our researches have made that task simple enough for any individual. The point of generational curses is the passing on of a system of belief. Do not take me the wrong way, vice often begets vice. We can certainly use that, but the more important thing is that habitual vice always creates patterns of victimization, enabling, and numbing around itself. If, for example, your boys father was an alcoholic, your best option would not automatically be to make him an alcoholic.
          Allow me to draw an example from my own experience. I once worked on a man whose father was a compulsive gambler. If I had attempted to push him down the road of gambling I would have failed miserably. The man knew all too well the effect gambling had on his father's life, the arguments in the house which lead to a messy divorce, the subsequent drinking, debt, and depression. He saw the fruit all too well. I wouldn't gain one iota of traction if I had taken that approach, as you would so sophomorically suggest. Instead I used the pain that the son felt for his father. That pain is so close to selflessness, so close to the enemy's heart. With that pain, I was able to stump the man's spiritual growth altogether with the lie that he could somehow save his father from his bad decisions “if only...”
         He gathered more and more material accomplishments, became influential, wealthy, and well liked by his community. All the while becoming more dangerous to our cause, if he should ever turn his heart to the enemy's will... but he would never change his course. He spent his whole life running, while never once considering where he was going. No time for introspection, only comparison. No time to consider the soul, only the appearance. He strove and strove to manufacture an appearance attractive enough to gain the approval of (and thereby influence over) a man who was terminally incapable of approval. I would happily allow him to attend church, say his prayers, and even act altruistically, because I knew what he could never know. I knew that I had entrenched the importance of appearances so deeply in his mind that he could do nothing, however selfless, for anyone but the crowd that was watching, and subconsciously for his father. In public, he was a smiling upstanding citizen. In private, he was a nervous wreck... a boy juggling a man's responsibilities and just barely keeping it up; his anger flared, his selfishness burst out in binges of seemingly justified indulgence. How fortunate, in this case, that it is only the private man that matters in the end.
          You do not have that extreme of a case, and you do not have anything like the skill I had at that point in my career. However, the principle remains. You cannot simply stamp the boy with his father's vices and expect them to stick. I expect a much more complete plan from you in the near future. If you are to recover this case, you must take every advantage of the window of opportunity you will receive when the boy leaves home for his schooling.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

Saturday, August 4, 2012

XII: Covert Operations & Sabotage


XII

My Dear Nightshade,

          I suppose it is time I wrote to you on the tricky business of infiltration. You are entirely alone in your efforts to distract your patient. However you must think like your patient; while you only have control of your own actions, you must keep in mind the goals of some larger group. Not the Church at large, that would be an nigh unimaginable work, the cogs of which turn well below even my own considerable authority. Your focus is to be the church as it manifests itself in the few dozen souls surrounding your man. I would encourage you to begin (if you haven't already begun) corresponding with some of the more senior tempters in that organization. They have, in the past, done some good work, and there is a realistic possibility that the infestation that is currently plaguing our efforts in that city may yet be stamped out. That goal is well outside your purview, and should not even cross your mind, lest you allow yourself to be deluded to the current state of affairs. If you are to be of any help at all in this cause, you must learn the process by which such a victory is made.
          That process, on a different scale, does not look so very different from the one that I described in my letter concerning the subconscious mind. Except in the place of a man's subconscious is a group conscious. To sneak attitudes and ideas past the scrutiny of a group conscious is both easier and harder. Harder, because the walls that must be surmounted are, even in a weaker group, the sum of all the experience and knowledge of the group. Easier because in anything but a worst case scenario, there are holes in those walls which are clear to us, that we may exploit. Those holes are, of course, invisible to the humans, and are the products of the raising, culture and experiences of the group. Even in the earliest days of the outbreak, there were opportunities for this sort of attack. For example, our predecessors did not lose any time in dividing the churches between jews and gentiles, who by necessity had wildly varying understandings of the role of old testament law in the new arrangement. In a group of gentiles, a strain of deliciously shallow legalism could take root as they strove to prove themselves worthy of the attention of their jewish brothers. Or the exact opposite approach could be taken, and licentiousness could become the byword of a reactive church's existence. These early dichotomies are simple demonstrations of the principle.
          It is vital, even if a hole in the defense is discovered that at least one (perferably more) of the humans understand group conscience to be a vote or debate. Ideally, something like “We all say our opinions, and we settle at the mean.” If one man, in such a arrangement can shout louder or speak more persuasively the result moves closer to his opinion. This is exactly the sort of thing we want, then the defenses can only ever be as great as the sum of those involved, and are rarely that efficient. In such circumstances divisions, bitterness, resentment, and all manner of delightful distractions may be achieved. If, however, the group conscience is ubiquitously understood to be a striving for a principle that is larger than the group itself, and by extension the individuals therein, the situation is much more dire. They multiply, rather than add their defenses, and are watchful against any insurrection within their own understanding, whether it be your ham-fisted fumbling or  my own subtle craft. Any attack on this ground will be quickly rooted out and foiled.
          As I said earlier, you are simply to take this into consideration in your own schemes. If I should receive one iota of suggestion on your part, last months corrective training will be a pleasant memory.

Your affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape