ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
SUMMARY AND NOTES:
In The Screwtape Letters C. S. Lewis takes an opposite approach to teaching important lessons about following Jesus, by using points from the view of a demon named Screwtape – A senior devil whose letters of advice to his nephew, and apprentice tempter. There are alot of valuable lessons that can be learned from this classic work of C.S. Lewis that holds valuable for us today. This post will merely scratch the surface on this topic. I encourage you to buy the book and analyze the points of each chapter for lessons that apply to your life.
Click here to pick up a copy from Amazon: The Screwtape Letters
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in 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 the materialist and the magician with the same delight.” (Preface, p.3)
Here is a brief summary of each of Screwtape’s thirty-one letters that advise Wormwood how to tempt his “patient” (who becomes a Christian between letters one and two):
- Make him preoccupied with ordinary, “real” life—not arguments or science.
“”It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.” (Screwtape, ch.1, p.7-8)
- Make him disillusioned with the church by highlighting people he self-righteously thinks are strange or hypocritical.
“Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.” (Screwtape, ch.2, p.12)
- Annoy him with “daily pinpricks” from his mother.
- Keep him from seriously intending to pray at all, and if that fails, subtly misdirect his focus to himself or an object rather than a Person
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (Screwtape, ch.4, p.20)
- Don’t hope for too much from a war [in this case, World War II] because the Enemy often lets our patients suffer to fortify them and tantalize us.
“A faith which is destroyed by a war or a pestilence cannot reallyhave been worth the trouble of destroying.” (Screwtape, ch.5, p.27)
- Capitalize on his uncertainty, divert his attention from the Enemy to himself, and redirect his malice to his everyday neighbors and his benevolence to people he does not know.
- Keep him ignorant of your existence, and make him either an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist who regards his cause as the most important part of Christianity.
- Make good use of your patient’s series of troughs and peaks (i.e., “the law of undulation”), and beware that the Enemy relies on the troughs more than the peaks.
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” (Screwtape, ch.8, p.39)
- Capitalize on tough periods by tempting him with sensual pleasures (especially sex), making him content with his moderated religion, and directly attacking his faith as merely a “phase.”
“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research thus far has not enabled us to produce one.” (Screwtape, ch.9, p.41)
“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.” (Screwtape, ch.9, p.43)
- Convince him to blend in with his new worldly acquaintances.
“All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.” (Screwtape, ch.10, p.46)
- Understand the four causes of laughter (joy, fun, the joke proper, and flippancy), and shrewdly use jokes and flippancy.
- Don’t underestimate the power of “very small sins” because “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one.”
- Don’t allow him to experience real pleasures because they are a touchstone of reality.
- Make him proud of his humility; use both vainglory and false modesty to keep him from humility’s true end.
“When they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors.” (Screwtape, ch.14, p.65)
- Make him live in the future rather than the present.
- Encourage church-hopping.
“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” (Screwtape, ch.16, p.72)
“The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.” (Screwtape, ch.16, p.73)
- Encourage gluttony through delicacy rather than excess.
- Convince him that the only respectable ground for marriage is “being in love.”
- Understand that the Enemy does not genuinely love humans (but we don’t know what his real motive is).
- Don’t give up if your direct attacks on his chastity fail; try to arrange a desirable marriage.
- Convince him to use the pronoun “my” in the fully possessive sense of ownership (e.g., “my time,” “my boots,” “my wife,” and “my God”).
“Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.” (Screwtape, ch.21, p.96)
- Understand that the Enemy has filled his world full of pleasures and that you must twist them before you can use them.
- Encourage him to embrace a “historical Jesus” and to treat Christianity as merely a means to a political end such as social justice.
“‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.” (Screwtape, ch.23, p.109)
- Confuse him with spiritual pride for being part of an elite set.
- Replace “mere Christianity” with “Christianity And” by increasing his horror of “the same old thing” and thus increasing his desire for novelty.
“The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart – an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship.” (Screwtape, ch.25, p.116)
“But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so usefully.” (Screwtape, ch.25, p.118)
- Sow seeds of “unselfishness” during his courtship.
“A woman means byUnselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others.” (Screwtape, ch.26, p.121)
- Twist his prayers.
- Guard his life so that he grows old because real worldliness takes time.
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” (Screwtape, ch.28, p.132)
- Defeat his courage, and make him a coward.
“He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.” (Screwtape, ch.29, p.137)
- Capitalize on his fatigue, and manipulate his emotions with the word “real.”
- His end is inexplicable, but we must win in the end.