Saturday, November 7, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: introduction

And now for something completely different...

Some letters of a very interesting nature have come to my attention, reminiscent of and apparently by the same writer as a much longer series of letters published during the Second World War by an English academician, novelist, and philosopher. That gentleman, a Mr. Lewis, wrote at the time, "I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands." Having now been placed in a similar position, I can only say that I now understand both his determination to share the intelligence that has come to light and his circumspection concerning sources. I shall therefore confine my commentary to what the letters are, keeping mum about how I came by them.

The letters, then, purport to be from a senior administrative devil by the name of Screwtape to a younger (and apparently related) subordinate—not the Wormwood of Lewis' Screwtape letters, who it is implied met his end following the failure of his mission in England, but a certain Ticksnar. This Ticksnar, it would appear, is assigned to be the tempter of an American woman. Like Wormwood's "patient", we know about her only what we can glean from Screwtape's letters, for we have only his half of the correspondence, but the woman is apparently of middle age, widowed, and a conservative Christian struggling with the revelation that her daughter is gay. No doubt a fair number of people could be thus described, but therein lies the value, perhaps, of these letters, for while they obviously offer insight on this particular woman's spiritual struggles, it is likely that others could benefit from understanding the tactics and strategies employed by her demons; that by generalising from her case, we might all learn something of human nature and how our own natures are used against us—and without benefit of a police caution or (to use the American term) a Miranda warning, for we would be foolish indeed to believe that devils have a sense of fair play.

I will post the letters themselves at intervals of a day or two. But first, one other point, made so well by Mr. Lewis that I will not attempt to paraphrase, but instead quote him directly:

Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle. I have made no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I think it very unlikely that the portraits...are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.

Gargoyle photo shoot courtesy of Carissa, Laura, and the entire staff at Euphoria. Thanks!

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