Dear Reader, you may read chapter thirteen of The Screwtape Letters here.
My Dear Screwtape,
Really now! You cannot Babel Lies if you bumble Truth. Your stunned reaction to what you call our patient’s “second conversion” proves that you are yet a child in understanding. Now just what in Gehenna do you mean that my patient has undergone “a second conversion,” and what relation, if any, does this second conversion have to do with the “first conversion” thus implied? Only three possibilities exist: either the first conversion was not real and the second conversion is real; or the first conversion was real and the second so-called “conversion” was not a conversion at all but rather a manifest evidence of the Enemy’s deepening work growing out of a genuine and antecedent “first” conversion; or, let us hope, neither “conversion” is real but both are merely manifestations of that false repentance which springs from the natural operation of the human conscience. Let me explain.
In your recent correspondence you spoke of a “whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt” that shrouded our patient’s conscience, but now you speak of a second cloud, an “asphyxiating cloud which prevented our attacking the patient.” Dear uncle, let us, if we can, penetrate these clouds and blow away their obfuscation that you may see your purpose more clearly. Now, these two clouds either do or do not represent the same thing. If these two clouds are really one and the same cloud, then we may have nothing to worry about, for then these clouds are really just a moral fog, what I have already described for you as my patient’s “natural operation of conscience.” By this I mean that the “repentance” of which you speak may be only a quite normal psychological reaction a patient undergoes when guilt smites his conscience for some wrongdoing; this, then, is the good kind of repentance in which the patient attempts to rid himself of guilt through some remedy concocted by his own intellect and directed by his own will, or someone else’s.
You see, in His original design, our Enemy wrote upon all human hearts His despicable Moral Code, and even in their fallen state, the humans possess an innate capacity to recognize the Enemy’s moral nature, their own fallenness away from His nature, and their worthiness of damnation; therefore, the humans are always going about performing what the Enemy calls “dead works,” attempting to sew fig leaves together in response to these inherent guilt mechanisms. Humans frequently call this “repentance,” though it is a mistaken counterfeit. This, we hope, is the “whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt” that shrouded my patient’s conscience, and even perhaps the “asphyxiating cloud which prevented your attacking the patient.” If so, fear not; this cloud is greatly to our advantage, for it is really only a fog.
If the idle mind is Our Father’s workshop, then the conscience is his hammer. We should use this hammer of conscience to smite the patient with self-interested guilt, thus intensifying the fog that shrouds his mind in self-conceived religious interest and moral impulse. We should beat our wings wildly to stir Gehenna’s smoke and surround the patient in all the foggy grey we can muster; then trust his fallen conscience to rationalize his own justification from evil with the rhetoric and liturgy of apostate religion. This creates the deception of a false conversion, which is really only a conscience-motivated “psychological release.” This is truly one of our best strategies, one we learned from a more recent tenant whom we call Siggy, and which we have successfully implemented toward the deception and damnation of many souls. It’s a modern version of our old “fowl-stone-thorn” technique that we used for centuries to steal away the Enemy’s seed or make it shallow or choke it with worldly cares.
But if either or both the first and second clouds was real, then we do have a problem on our claws. This cloud could be none other than the HANIKEHS, that same cloud which the Enemy put between our Egyptian allies and our Israeli foes at the Bloody Sea that proved impenetrable to our forces. Our strategy now should be to watch the fog for the slightest feathery slit and then to fly in swiftly at the first sign of black. But if no such incision appears, then it is indeed not a fog but a cloud, and I assure you that the breath of a thousand Hells fanned by Legion’s wings will not blow away that cloud. But let us prey for the worst.
Your affectionate nephew,