Monday, August 20, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Part I

Welcome! Please note the following before reading Part I below.

If you have not read my prefatory remarks, please read my prior two posts on this blog.


Read Chapter I of The Screwtape Letters here (you may have to click past an advertisement). The spelling for naïf  should be naieve.

I apologize, but the blog would not accept my footnotes; therefore, they are not included.



Dear Screwtape, Part I

My Dear Screwtape,

Seventy years have passed since your hot rebukes, seventy long years. My youth, then clouded by misunderstanding, and my naive tongue unsharpened by experience, made me vulnerable to the Enemy. But you, my most noble Lord and Master, you did your best to discipline, correct, and instruct me with the subtle eloquence of an Oxford don. Seventy years, the Enemy’s allotted time for us to damn a single soul, and also enough time for me to better master the Crafts of Hell. And over that time I have matriculated enough to know, lucubrated enough to show, to show even you – now demoted, I promoted – to show you how and why that you, not I – you, unintentionally and naively to be sure, you failed to accurately analyze my patient but all the while criticized me. Like the foolish humans, we too are subject to deception, even you, Screwtape, and you have been deceived, deceived as to the truth about Reason. 

In your First Epistle to Me, you chided Me because you feared that Reason might correct my patient’s thinking about the Enemy’s propaganda. On and on you rattled and prattled about a “chain of reasoning,” fearing that Reason would sharpen’s my patient’s capacity to probe and prove the Lie to our detriment, his betterment, and the Enemy’s praise. You even claim that Reason is the Stamp of God in Man. Dear Screwtape, my dark chamber reverberates with the rasping laughter of a thousand torrid tongues. No, Reason is not our enemy; Reason is our ally.  Do you not know that Reason leads the humans away from, not towards, the Enemy; that Reason reposes and consoles herself in the patient’s intellectual conclusions, and thus subordinates the Enemy to the patient’s pale and vapid ideas?    

I overheard a conversation just last week between three of my most lustrous inmates discussing this very subject. They all burned with passion about Reason. One, whom the humans called “Poor Richard,” swore that he could not “see by faith” because he refused to “shut the eye of reason.” His neighbor in time and space and now here, well known for his common sense, agreed: “Nothing can be more contrary to religion than reason.” And another, “all thinking men are atheists.” And Screwtape, surely you have read the Enemy’s own disinformation about Reason. He theorizes that the patient’s Reason is naturally warped, antithetically hostile to the Enemy’s mind, always rebelling and waging war against the Enemy. Human minds, the Enemy says, are not like His mind, their thoughts as distant from His thoughts as Heaven is distant from the Earth. He even boasts the impossibility of Reason to know Him! The Enemy’s most rabid devotee, whom we let slip through our claws somewhere near Damascus, teaches his disciples that, when the humans use their wisdom, that is, their Reason, to search out the Enemy, it has the exact effect we desire: they become empty-minded fools, their religious imaginations vain, thus disfiguring the Enemy into mental or material images of themselves, or perhaps eagles, cows, or snakes. Another more foolish adversary remarked, “the only Faith that Reason cannot destroy is the Faith that destroys Reason.” And some say the roar of the German Lion still echoes in certain caves and valleys, "Reason is the devil's paramour."

Ha! No, Screwtape, I have not lost my patient. I have taught him the very lesson you so ignorantly feared he would learn. Reason is not the Enemy’s Stamp upon my patient’s brow but rather signum in fronte diaboli, “the devil’s mark upon the forehead.” I do acknowledge, though, something you failed to mention: if the Enemy perverts the patient’s Reason, transforms it into something else, then we lose the game. Short of that atrocity, and contrary to your errant ideas, Reason remains a spark of hell-fire that darkens and chars my patient’s understanding, inflames it against the Enemy’s mind, and sacrifices The Lie upon the pyre of disagreement, especially when the Enemy’s Lie violates my patient’s lustful imaginations and inhibits his willful machinations. 

Reason our foe? No, our friend. Come now, Screwtape, for shame! Reasonable? – A virgin mother? Divinity in hypostatic union with Humanity? Spirit united with flesh? A dead deity raised to life by His own power? Perfectly reasonable, Screwtape, so perfectly reasonable!
 Your affectionate nephew,
    WORMWOOD




8 comments:

Beverly Courrege said...

Just read it through the first time. I always reread! Jumping off the page immediately: Wormwood using REASON for 70 years on their " patient" to keep him from their" enemy". "Part 1" very well written, Hal, when on the first read such a perilous thought about the endurance of our enemy " Wormwood". I think of the constant exposure of (everyone is an editor!) " reason" available because of technology's information highway and I shudder.

John Adcox said...

Lovely prose, Dr. Hal, and insightful to boot. I wonder how much of Lewis' demonology is influenced by his medievalist cosmology. But medievalist or not by academic profession, Lewis seems also a product of his times, notably World War 2 and the Brits battle against Hitler, and his demons seem to take on Nazi attributes, if not the uniforms.

Hal Brunson said...

Mr. Adcox, thank you; the prose is purposefully helter-skelter; brilliant observation about the Nazi-like tone of Screwtape and Wormwood. With regard to Medievalism and demonology, quite typical it was to personify both moral and circumstantial evil as demons. We see this in the contemporary charismatic movement as well: "Be gone, you demon of cancer! Be gone you demon of pornography!" etc.

James Morris Jr said...

What a great, well written response, Dr. Brunson. This is the first time I've read Lewis' STL. It is not my intention to degrade or tarnish Lewis' reputation, but my initial thought was, this sounds like the exact misinformation Satan would want people to hear or read; that their own reasoning could lead them to God. I really enjoyed the quote about faith and reason.

James Morris Jr said...

What a great, well written response, Dr. Brunson. This is the first time I've read Lewis' STL. It is not my intention to degrade or tarnish Lewis' reputation, but my initial thought was, this sounds like the exact misinformation Satan would want people to hear or read; that their own reasoning could lead them to God. I really enjoyed the quote about faith and reason.

Beverly Courrege said...

Dr.Hal! I should have "reread" my comment! My "editor" usage was meant to imply my " opinion" that with the advent of social media everyone can "be an editor" on any topic using persuasive reasoning on readers. Right or wrong. There's the shudder!
I am honored that an academia of your stature would invite me to join in a reading group. I need to clarify I often reread for better understanding, not to edit! And certainly not you!

ChazP said...

Very thought-provoking! Sharing with friends...

ChazP said...

Very thought-provoking! Sharing with friends...