Monday, August 27, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Part III

Read Chapter III of The Screwtape Letters here.

Dear Screwtape,

I continue to marvel at your ramblings about the savage herd we shepherd, er, that is, stalk. In one breath you say that “the Enemy will be working from the center outwards,” but with the next breath you clamor with contradiction that I should “Keep his mind on the inner life . . . by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual” duties (29). Isn’t that what some of our allies call a logical fallacy - The Enemy works inside out, you say, so keep the focus of the patient on his inner life but off his outer life? Then you suggest I should keep his mind off his mother’s rheumatism? Make him focus on the spiritual, not the physical? That seems a contradiction. Really, Screwtape, you would be shrewd if you were not so sincerely gullible. You actually believe your own propaganda, that attention to the those duties of the inner life strengthens our position. Be careful, dear fellow. Your emphasis upon the inner life might stir the curiosity of some patient who inclines toward righteous anger and holy hatred, and you know how those emotions can burn like Hell when inflamed by Heaven. If by “advanced spiritual duties” you mean bells, candles, and prayer books, then that’s just noise, smoke, and parroting; those things we certainly encourage. But I fear you do not really appreciate the genuine threat of real attention to the inner life: reading that old book, mortification, meditation, transcendent contemplation, and prayer.

The “inner life”? Ha! What’s that? Certainly your patients don’t know. You’ve actually done quite a smashing job in that case, but be warned! Serious attention to the inner life could greatly undermine our strategies. Have you forgotten Geneva and the midnight oil, London and Mr. Greatheart, the haystacks, and the Puritans?  (How venomously we have duped the public on this one: “Puritan” is now a synonym for “Pharisee”).

As for your note that my patient thinks “his conversion is something inside him,” are you implying that it is not? If he has become what we fear and continues to concentrate upon his inner life, what is on the inside will explode to the outside; it will affect his intellectual interests, his emotions, his attitudes, his interests, his society, even his tone of voice. Oh, shudder!  He won’t be able to stop it, and neither will we. Once the Enemy starts, He finishes.

Contrary to your instructions, in no wise will I encourage my patient’s attention to the inner life, but I will do the very thing you advised against: encourage my patient to concentrate upon “the elementary duties” of the “the obvious,” such as his mother’s rheumatism. You should watch more hellevision, Screwtape, the idiot lantern, especially the religious productions, or perhaps attend a local prayer meeting. If they are an accurate barometer, only one in a hundred patients prays about what you call “spiritual” things. The other ninety-nine do exactly the thing you fear most: they pray as if they were quoting the daily hospital admissions record or next year’s Xmas list. No doubt this makes you tremble, but you should rejoice at our patients’ egocentric preoccupations with “what I want” and “how I feel.” If your theory is correct, then you should quake to see the filthy lucre the masses mail to “faith healers,” most of whom know less than you about the Enemy’s propaganda. But, Screwtape, you have it wrong again; those patients’ prayers focus exactly where we want them - self, wealth and health - mostly devoid of any real spiritual interest at all, and completely in the dark with regard to spiritual illumination.

As for the patient’s old mother, dodage is in our favour. The Enemy can break a crusty, rusty old heart, but sometimes He just lets them be, “turns them over” in His words. But be prepared. If my Patient is a True Defector and continues his renewed interest in the old woman’s well being, the odds increase by the hour to the Enemy’s favour. I will keep Glubose informed.

    Your affectionate Nephew,

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