The Screwtape Letters

Roosh

Cardinal
Originally posted on RooshV.com

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Early in my walk with Christ, I suffered continually from various temptations. Multiple priests recommended I read The Screwtape Letters, where C.S. Lewis imagines how the demons tempt us to sin. The book helped me understand how serious spiritual warfare really is.

Hiding death through comfort​

How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which was enforced. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.

When death is hidden, you don’t have to think about your life, and when you don’t have to think about your life, you don’t worry about what will happen to your soul after you die. Compare that state of affairs to the monastics, who keep death close, sometimes by storing and viewing the skulls of the monks who died before them. The more Satan can conceal death from you, the less likely you’ll be concerned about your salvation.

Distraction separates you from God​

Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to [someone] than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.

If only we could go back to an era where pamphlets occupied our attention! Now, thanks to the internet and smartphone, we can browse through photos, videos, and low-effort content all day without even using our minds. Days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, spent mostly in front of a screen. If we’re lucky enough, we can open our eyes before it’s too late and wean ourselves away from that which fails to nourish our souls.

Why God withdraws from new converts​

He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayer offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.

[…]

He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we [the demons] do to vice. He wants them to learn to talk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.

This happened to me. When I first came to God, the grace was overflowing in spite of still possessing beliefs, thoughts, and habits that were conducive to sin. I was on cloud nine yet knew practically nothing and wasn’t even receiving communion. In time, God removed the lofty feelings and allowed me to start working on all my problems and sins one at a time, at a level where I never felt overwhelmed or in crisis.

If I stopped progressing at the moment God entered my life, my virtue would be quite small. It’s through my daily spiritual work, often in dryness, that I am able to ascend closer to God by using the will and conscience He gave me.

The descent into hell is gradual​

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is not better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

Committing small sins is often combined with Satan’s lie of “moderation.” He will have you convinced that a little bit of sex or masturbation is okay, a little bit of status-seeking is okay, and next thing you know, your time on this earth is finished and Satan comes to collect your soul. “But I didn’t know a little bit of sex is bad!” Yes you did, but you didn’t want to listen, and allowed your pride and ego to make all manner of exceptions, deluding yourself into thinking that an expensive bill would never come due.

You are “yourself” only when you serve God​

…when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.

A woman does online pornography because she believes displaying her naked body to men allows her to express her “true self.” This is a lie. Your true self is being in communion with God as He originally created you, not serving the will of Satan.

Devout Christians want to primarily serve God and allow their faith to be who they really are without attempting to select a worldly identity and evaluate if it is “natural” or “biological.” If you’re using your body or hobbies to define yourself, I would wonder if you even depend on God at all.

Worldly success bonds you to Satan​

[If] the [middle-aged] years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. 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. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressures of absorbing and agreeable work, are building up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.

If worldly people call me “successful” then I must assume that I’m serving Satan instead of God. They see me as being of the world, in possession of various accolades and possessions that are coveted by those who also prize the world. Neither my work nor my achievements should ever garner acclaim by the multitude, and if they do, I must have made a wrong turn and forsaken God in exchange for earthly treasures.

Don’t seek heaven on earth​

So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or ‘science’ or psychology, or what not.

Man was once in Paradise and so we desperately long to go back, but the return will not happen in this life or on this earth, and any attempt to seek it here, whether it be through politics or ideology, is demonic. Ask God to help you endure the trials of this world, keep your faith steadfast, and you will experience the Kingdom once you pass the test of earthly existence.

Overall, The Screwtape Letters helped me realize that the demons will battle for my soul as long as I live. They have nothing else to do but to use me and other humans to spite God. Nothing personal, I suppose. I lament that I have to fight these creatures for the rest of my days, but fight them I will.

Learn More: The Screwtape Letters on Amazon
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PaulC

Robin
I have often used C.S. Lewis's fleet of ships analogy to explain why it is important not to have the morally bankrupt leading society and how our private indiscretions are not private at all, as they affect our neighbor through the steering of our own personal ship.

"The voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and, secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. As a matter of fact, you cannot have either of these two things without the other. If the ships keep on having collisions, they will not remain seaworthy very long. On the other hand, if their steering gears are out of order, they will not be able to avoid collisions." - Mere Christianity
 

REC3

Chicken
I was sent a number of C.S. Lewis' writings including "Screwtape" by a friend while in prison and found them to be very persuasive. He also wrote, "Mere Christianity" which was really decisive in motivating me to attend Sunday mass while I was in county jail for 30 months awaiting a plea bargain. Both are highly recommended as sources for rationalizing ones experience of the world with the naivety of faith.

Lewis was Anglican and his own faith was encouraged by his friendship and association with J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis' "Narnia" series and Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy are both suffused with Christian (Lewis) and pre-Christian (Tolkien) sensibilities. If you liked Lewis as a Christian commentator, your appreciation of Tolkien is greatly deepened by understanding how his Catholic faith shaped the "Lord of the Rings" narrative. The podcast at the end of this post was a great listen on that topic.

"The Lord of the Rings" is great literature in my estimate because its insights into human nature are universal revelations based in large part on Tolkien's Christian faith. "Lord of the Rings" has been called the most important fiction written in the English language in the last one hundred years and I agree with that hierarchical ranking.

Lewis, however, was a great polemicist and one hundred years from now his "Screwtape Letters' and "Mere Christianity" are still likely to be more persuasive than any of the turgid garbage written by Marx and Engels. Certainly, those who have actually lived under the regimes built by Marxist dictators and the Western democracies will likely find Lewis the more persuasive advocate.

I'd highly recommend the podcast below for its insightful commentary on Tolkien's Christian ethos in, "Fellowship of the Rings". Very much of a piece with Lewis and intriguing because of their personal friendship and small community of faith, Anglican and Catholic, mutually supportive and reinforcing.

The Great Books -- Episode 161: ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ by J. R. R. Tolkien [Rereleased Version] | National https://www.nationalreview.com/podcasts/the-great-books/episode-161-the-fellowship-of-the-ring-by-j-r-r-tolkien-rereleased-version/
 

Jive Turkey

Sparrow
Screwtape Letters was the first Christian book I read, and it presented such a strong evidence for the reality of demonic temptation it wasn't really possible for me to ignore.

Also Roosh, is it possible that instead of linking to (((Amazon))) you could link to books for sale on other sites? I think most of us here would agree that enriching Amazon is enriching the enemy.

Great article though!
 
A prior poster alluded to it, but That Hideous Strength is a dystopian novel that pre-dated 1984. It is book 3 of Lewis's space trilogy, but one can read it without reading the first two and not miss much.

Mere Christianity was based on radio talks he made during WWII, so the prose was designed more to be read out loud than to read, but still a good introduction.

Screwtape is great. I used to have an audio book of John Cleese reading it--I so wish I had not given it away. He made a great devil. There are a couple on eBay right now, but out of the UK and kind of pricey.

Some people love it and some people can not stand it, but The Pilgrims Regress is one of my favorites. I think I have read it half a dozen times at least.

The Shadowlands film with Anthony Hopkins was revisionist, in my opinion. The early film with Jos Ackland was far better.
 

Zanardi

Woodpecker
Can anybody tell me how come this book is described on Amazon as a:

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.
 
I am constantly listening to people like RauchV, Jay Dyer, Owen Benjamin etc. and I recently (~5 months) have been experiencing some really strange emotion that I never used to have. Its this feeling of someone from the inside driving me to buy certain books and I truly mean certain. The story goes something like this. Whenever one of the people mentioned are describing a book, I tend to write down that book into my reading list. Most of the time there are no emotions just archiving the list of books that I would like to own in the future. But I think I have gotten two times this feeling of inexplainable push to buy it as if someone is pushing me to do it as if being possessed. All of those books were are related to Christianity in one way or another. One of those urges were to buy a box set of 7 Christianity books by C.S. Lewis. I Don't Know to whom to contribute these feelings to... Holy spirit Guiding me or the other guy... I am a new convert I think I felt the holy spirit and since that time I do try to do at least the morning prayer (used to do both morning and evening but I am still working through my sins). I feel unsure following these feelings... as if I am acting rash.... I probably wanted to just write a thank you to Rauch for the streams and articles that have helped me a lot and to express my thoughts and doubts on following these feelings.

If anyone have any advice or thoughts on things of this nature I would gladly accept your input.
 

CR Smythe

Chicken
Thanks for a succinct overview of the demonic domain from someone who has been put through Screwtape's wringer, but came out the other side redeemed. Screwtape is most displeased with your conversion! The Focus on the Family dramatized audio version of TSL is excellent with Andy Serkis voicing Screwtape being very captivating.
 

MBell

Sparrow
Woman
Great insights, and I appreciate the application of the highlighted excerpts to your personal experiences. I always enjoy hearing how a written work by a single person can be utilized and interpreted by readers innumerable to understand and improve their situ ation. God bless, Roosh and every contributor to this post for your perspectives.
 
Like Jacob up above said, if you can find the audiobook read by John Cleese, it's a great way to 'read' this book. He's perfect for it, makes it very funny and entertaining.
 

Shwhite

Pigeon
Woman
There's so many great and quotable passages from Screwtape that I love. I read this today and the words really grabbed at me, so I thought I'd share.

"And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong—certainly not to them, whatever happens. At present the Enemy says ‘Mine’ of everything on the pedantic, legalistic ground that He made it: Our Father hopes in the end to say ‘Mine’ of all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest."

One of the most common arguments pro-abortion women will use is, "It's MY body. MY choice." Everything we have and "own" is a gift from God and God only, but it is ultimately our choice to decide what to do with what we were given. God help us to make the right choices.
 

Aloha50

Pigeon
I am constantly listening to people like RauchV, Jay Dyer, Owen Benjamin etc. and I recently (~5 months) have been experiencing some really strange emotion that I never used to have. Its this feeling of someone from the inside driving me to buy certain books and I truly mean certain. The story goes something like this. Whenever one of the people mentioned are describing a book, I tend to write down that book into my reading list. Most of the time there are no emotions just archiving the list of books that I would like to own in the future. But I think I have gotten two times this feeling of inexplainable push to buy it as if someone is pushing me to do it as if being possessed. All of those books were are related to Christianity in one way or another. One of those urges were to buy a box set of 7 Christianity books by C.S. Lewis. I Don't Know to whom to contribute these feelings to... Holy spirit Guiding me or the other guy... I am a new convert I think I felt the holy spirit and since that time I do try to do at least the morning prayer (used to do both morning and evening but I am still working through my sins). I feel unsure following these feelings... as if I am acting rash.... I probably wanted to just write a thank you to Rauch for the streams and articles that have helped me a lot and to express my thoughts and doubts on following these feelings.

If anyone have any advice or thoughts on things of this nature I would gladly accept your input.
Definitely the Holy Spirit. I get the same urges to buy certain books. And no doubt satan wouldn't want you reading The ScrewTape letters.
 

Thomas More

Hummingbird
Can anybody tell me how come this book is described on Amazon as a:
I would say this review is reasonably accurate. Is there really a demon working from an office that resembles the English bureaucracy in Hell? Probably not. The book is funny, and deadly serious. It addresses real issues in a clever way, but it is not precisely literal.
 

Philonous

Pigeon
Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” was tremendous for me. Book III, the chapter titled “Social Morality”. Might I quote 3 paragraphs of my greater interest?

“...All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one's work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no "swank" or "side," no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist. On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience — obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls "busybodies."

“...If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, "advanced," but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old-fashioned — perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.

“...Now another point. There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the middle ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest: and lending money at interest — what we call investment — is the basis of our whole system. Now it may not absolutely follow that we are wrong. Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or "usury" as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only dunking of the private moneylender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not. This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that three great civilisations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life.”

That’s what “Leftism” meant in 1952. It didn’t mean “getting freebies for existing”—rather, it meant every able-bodied adult produces something the surrounding society deems of value, while those who don’t are banished from it.

It also seems as though Mr. Lewis wasn’t much of a student of Strasserism, didn’t know much about it. I’d argue Strasserism is the better arrangement than socialism (or strict communism, rather), as it even though it declares all lands an industrial machinery the property of the state—with human users of those lands merely “renters” (it’s called “usufruct”)—the model still allows individual businesses to exist, with the proprietor keeping his profits—and these only dependent on his ability to run a productive operation.

A commission is establish to determine a minimum wage commiserate with the cost of living, and this should be evaluated quarterly, as it is subject to fluctuate. Similarly, in a large republic where prices may be different region to region, then a commission must be established for all major regions.

Most of the healthcare in such model would be paid for by the proprietor directly to his employees—if you were able-bodied, then you’d have to be employed to get healthcare. Similarly, there would be no “health insurance”—no middle-man to accumulate a great pool of money and then invest it however he pleases, or use it to buy lobbyists.

Much higher education would largely be paid for under a similar model—you work in order to learn.

All told, what you’re talking about is the Apollonian and the Dionysian halves of man, and then seeing these played out in a civilization—the “reasoning” side of man should govern control over his “animalistic” passions, should compel him to use them as a tool for his purposes, rather than allowing them to become a master over him.

Laissez-faire capitalism offers no similar structure by which such control may be encouraged, let alone enforced. It says wages are entirely at the discretion of the employer—whatever he sees fit to pay or not pay. Healthcare is for the highest bidder—as is education. All told, it’s just a silly model that allows the animalistic nature within the wealthy to run rampant and unchecked—you might as well argue for a return to outright feudalism, with a 2-tier justice system—one for the privileged, the other for the plebeian.
 
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