Sunday, November 8, 2015

The new Screwtape letters: letter I


My dear Ticksnar,

I hope you will not be too much offended if I take an active interest in your current assignment, and offer my thoughts as to its management and resolution. It is not that I am in any way dissatisfied with my administrative function, but having been away from active service as a tempter for well over a century now, it is impossible to deny a sort of nostalgia for fieldwork, for the craft involved, for the (dare I say it?) intimacy of living with and endeavouring to ensnare a single mortal soul. Besides which, the reports which have reached me have excited my interest in what promises to be both a challenging and rewarding case.

So, if I have been correctly informed, your patient's daughter intends to be married—and to another woman. It is as well, then, that your patient is of a very conventional religious type—so much so that she may actually boycott her (the daughter's) wedding and refuse to acknowledge her (the fiancĂ©e's) children as relations.

"She", "her"—dear me, between your patient the mother, the daughter, and the prospective wife, we are likely to run into pronoun trouble if we're not careful. And I wonder, parenthetically, if this might not offer some small insight into her (your patient's) objections to the union. Never underestimate, my young devil, the humans' simplicity of mind and their resulting desire for simplicity in all things. Humans often conflate conventional piety of the rule-following sort for spiritual maturity, and I wonder if they do not often mistake their habitual classifications, born of laziness of thought, for piety. Encourage this tendency.

Encourage, also, your patient's likely feelings of embarrassment concerning her daughter's orientation—for a human who self-identifies as conventionally pious naturally surrounds him- or herself with other conventionally pious humans, with their own resistance to change, notably resistance to change their own habitual patterns of thought. Confusion, distaste, judgment, embarrassment, and shame—all these, besides being enjoyable to watch, will distract her from examining her own conscience and will therefore serve to separate her from the daughter and her intended.

Let me know how you get on, and fill me in more completely on your patient and her mindset, with regard to this as well as other matters. Be as thorough as possible, for even with my other duties I shall find ample time to peruse your missives, and as they say, the devil really is in the details. I look forward to your reports with avidity.

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape

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