MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
It is with great contempt with which I again take up my discourse
with you, because you allowed my previous collections of missives
which advised you on your former patient to fall into the hands of
the Enemy, thus being published and distributed throughout the world.
Worse, it has become a tool of the Enemy to use my own words against
me in order to strengthen His side.
It seems to me ironic,
then, that Our Father Below has chosen to punish you by giving you a
possibly greater challenge, giving you a patient with much more
training in the ways of the Enemy, indeed, one who has chosen a
career of direct service to Him. If you succeed, your sentence
may be decreased, but if you fail, not only must you again
taste the dizziness of defeat so familiar to you, but I again will
have a new entrée on my table.
Wishing to avoid the
latter, it being the lesser evil, I would like to offer some advice
on how the Enemy has twisted my words to further whatever goal He
pursues, apparently being unable to create anything of His own accord
and content to twist the infernal. If not for the end goal, I might
imagine this an admirable feature.
I propose a new method.
The former focused mainly on the actions and attitude of the patient.
However, this is like treating the symptom instead of the disease,
thus instead we should focus on an area of much greater mystery to us
and more familiar to the Enemy, attacking Him where He lives, as it
were. Focus on the deeds of the enemy in the life of your patient and
see that his focus is myopic so that he only sees as far as
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
It appears that the book which compiles my letters continues to be
distributed by the thousands. Apparently, one writer who used to be
ours noted, “As an unbeliever, I enjoyed Screwtape Letters
more for [its] manner than for [its] matter.”
Although I would almost be flattered if I cared at all about the
opinions of the beasts, he has now fallen into the camp of the Enemy.
This is inexcusable, and your excuses in your report will only add to
Now to the body of the
misuse of my previous collection, I begin with the most unknown of
the actions of the Enemy, that is, the love He claims to possess for
these things of earth and slime.
Now the Enemy’s
philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt to
evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are
to be many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the
goal of another. The impossibility He calls love, and this
same monotonous panacea can be detected under all He does and even
all He is or claims to be. Thus He is not content, even Himself, to
be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one,
in order that this nonsense about love may find a foothold in His own
As you can see, I have
demonstrated the presence of this shameless tactic, and its
impossibility is clear, yet He chooses to disclose Himself in this
manner for reasons unknown to our most fluent operatives.
however, are readily clear, as I have already stated:
One must face
the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service
being perfect freedom is not.mere propaganda, but and appalling
truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot
of loathsome replicas of Himself.
In response to reading
my works, one of them, although miscrediting, summarizes my statement
in saying, “Mr. Lewis (sic) reflects the old statement that God
doesn’t want something we have, but He wants us.”
This expression has
immediate ramifications on them, bringing them into a relationship
with Him beyond our ability to determine. “The Enemy has a curious
fantasy of making all these disgusting human vermin into what He
calls “free” lovers and servants “sons” is the word He
He accomplishes this
union through an act of which the details are sketchy at best. He
calls it “forgiveness.” “Even of his sins the enemy does not want him
to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns
his attention outward, the better the enemy is pleased.” His
forgiveness is so far reaching that complete failure is still met
with complete favor, “and if only the will to walk is really there He
is pleased even with their stumbles.” Here is a classic example of
His weakness which He makes into strength, an annoying habit to say
The prime example of
this, however, remains the ultimate humiliation of Our Father Below,
the act which the Enemy calls “the atonement.” As you know, the Enemy
somehow became one of them, giving Him an abominable advantage
knowing what it is to be both beast and pure spirit. Not only did the
culmination of these events seal our fate, but it saved His brutes,
and all this through a process our researchers still haven’t
unlocked. However, they seem to understand it, at least
superficially, which, if you should allow them to use against you,
will leave you reeling. Here is the place they have the advantage,
should they choose to use it. Avoid and remove the subject at all
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Your most recent report left me startled–did you learn
anything from Slubgob at college? The fact that your patient
has not only become enamored by the works of the supposed author of
my anthology, but he has become involved with a class dedicated to my
plagiarist’s works shows the answer to my question to be negative.
Perhaps the reviewer was closer when we imagined when he said, “The
Devil may well be an ass, but if his intended victims are more
asinine than he and Mr. Lewis gives indications that many of them are
the game will be his.”
This brings me to my
next point. Apparently, through some unknown process, the
aforementioned “atonement” has had a sickening effect on His camp. He
has not only declared them His, but He has also transformed them to
make them His. This makes them able to understand His teachings and
recognize and counter our machinations.
First of all,
Lewis uses the wisdom of Hell to turn the disparagers of
Christianity. Screwtape’s knowing advice takes for granted that
modern thought, such as philosophic materialism, is based not on
reason but emotion.
Through this process,
which they call “sanctification,” and through that Book I hate even
more than the published collection of my own works, they “are shown
truth and falsehood and given the power to distinguish.” The Enemy
persistently confounds all our efforts to confuse by using the
aforementioned items to equip them to face us, defining morality for
them. Aside from this, the Enemy Himself is present with them and
protects them in the face of temptation.
God aims at
the paradox of infinite differences among all creatures, a world
of selves in which the good of any one self is not competitive,
but is rather the good of all other selves, like that of a loving
This of course brings
us full circle to the concept of “sons,” a unity of theology enough
to incite extreme nausea in even a pure spirit.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Aside from those things which seem to focus more on the Enemy as He
reacts to His creatures, there exist problems needful of discussion
which pertain more to the patient himself as he relates to the Enemy
on a more earthly level, both directly and through the other
The first pertains
directly to my previous letter as well as my previous body of work.
In it, I discussed the sciences which could be used to counter the
simplicity of their thinking. Yet through the above process, they
have actually managed to untwist that which we so painstakingly
manipulated: “a highly subtle and penetrating psychology is itself
the offspring of ethics.”
This brings us to a
singularly uncomfortable experience with which you, I know, have made
acquaintance, that of conversion, the act of spiritual treason
against Our Father Below. The deepest problem we face when
confronting this phenomenon is the simplicity of the process. As
stated previously, “The earliest converts were converted by a single
historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine
(the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already
Once they have fallen
in with the enemy, which yours obviously has by your report, your job
becomes exceedingly more difficult, as you know from your former
patient. Indeed, because of the poor performance of yourself and
others, they have become secure in their faith and are thanking the
Enemy for your incompetence.
By the fact
that such incompetent youngsters are employed for the ruin of
souls one of two things, both comforting to sinners, is clearly
indicated; either there is a shortage of fiend-power in hell or a
strong lack of intelligence in those who control its
They rejoice in their
protection from us, and He actually encourages them, probably to lull
them into whatever trap He has arranged for them.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Being a student of my plagiarist was a painful blow, but now He is
writing papers about my works, revealing my works for His benefit, as
if for no other purpose than to mock me. If it were my position to
thrash you, I would do so immediately. Those petty daily sins of
weakness you count as triumphs are rendered useless if your patient
continues to bring them to the Enemy instead of retaining them within
himself. A lie is useless if without effect, so I will share a truth:
“Hell hates God’s undignified stooping to communicate and fellowship
with a man on his knees.” It seems the Enemy confuses His role by
serving those He created, still another reason Our Father Below left
heaven, and should the Enemy continue to place Himself below His
creation, we ought to be placed above Him as well. Unfortunately, He
is much harder to convince of this fact. Instead, we see Him come
again and again to His creatures, for “Wherever there is prayer,
there is a danger of His own immediate action.” For some reason,
again probably relating back to the status as sons, “If he applies to
Enemy headquarters, I have found that the post is nearly always
defended.” Therefore the key lies in removing prayer, because, true
to form, the paradox of praying for faith actually works!
Indeed, when they are in prayer, even though he is open to all kinds
of attacks, one as clear as him might indeed actually focus on the
Enemy Himself. This we cannot allow. As I informed you earlier,
“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated.”
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
I had assumed that your previous experience with the immortality of
the human soul would be enough to awaken you to the necessity of
obtaining it with great haste. He may seem young to you, but he could
be taken at any time, indeed, the Enemy seems at times to wait until
the patient is nearly in our grasp before stealing him out of our
fingertips. You should be well acquainted with the knowledge that
while they are also beasts, they are no less spirits, and thus as
much a part of the eternal world as I. You may have momentarily
forgotten because of the binds placed upon them by time, but our
Enemy has destined them to eternity.
Of course, if you fail
in your mission, which seems more and more to be the final outcome,
you will lose your patient to a life that for us is a painful memory,
but for him is something he has sought his whole life.
are] creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be
qualitatively His own, not because He has absorbed them but
because their wills freely conform to His.He wants servants who
can finally become sons He is full and flows over.
According to our
records, this immortality of those taken from us is manifested in
heaven as great joy, as previously described, like a family reunion.
However, the greatest joy they face, which is beyond even my
ability to fathom is the opportunity to see our Enemy and rejoice in
His presence. I trust you won’t allow yourself to be subjected to
this torture again. It is your job to fill his head with images of a
thoroughly boring eternity of harps, clouds, and perpetual organ
music. Lately, that has become possible simply by convincing him to
turn on the television.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Often, it is easy to focus on the lofty things of life and thus
forget the issues of the present. Keep his mind off of pleasures by
the chance that he might connect them back to the Enemy. Worldly
riches are not the root of evil, and your patient avoids your
temptations with childlike ease. The problem lies in the origin of
He makes no secret of
it; at His right hand are “pleasures for evermore”. He has filled His
world with pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long
without His minding in the least sleeping, washing, eating, drinking,
making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted
before it’s any use to us.
The Enemy so opposes us
that He offers these pleasures at times, pleasures like beauty,
silence, reverence, and music, merely to remind them of Him. Thus we
must take care, when tempting with pleasures, to examine their use
that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its normal and
healthy and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the enemy’s
ground it is His invention, not ours.
Aside from the tangible
earthly blessings, they have, as you know, protection. While he goes
about his routine, They constantly surround and protect him, and by
protecting his physical shell, they keep him within our reach, so
long as we take advantage of the situation.
This, of course, calls
to mind the important detail that time is indeed of the essence, for
the Enemy, again paradoxical, can use death to His advantage, as you
experienced, for at the moment of death, we have lost our last
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Either you are completely incompetent, or you are not taking your
work seriously. When your patient struggles in adversity, you fail to
press your advantage. This is of the utmost importance.
For we must
never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in
our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has
created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He
has taken away with His left.
firsthand how He pulled good from evil in the life of your last
patient. In the largest war in the history of the planet, men were
made to recognize their own mortality and need for forgiveness,
people turned their focus to humanitarian causes, and ultimately,
many were forever snatched from our hands.
The other purpose of
the Letters is to encourage the wavering Christian by showing
him that his uncertainties are nothing unique, and in all likelihood
are planted in his mind by agents of Our Father Below.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Your final option seems to be that with which I began with your
former patient. The Church seems to be the glue which holds him to
our Enemy, especially being surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses
as at a seminary. We have sometimes had luck, especially with his
Lutheran brothers, in dividing into schisms, but I will warn you
again, “The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended and we
have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the
characteristics of a faction.” You see, the Church is more than just
a social arrangement; it is majestic and formidable, and we would be
making a huge mistake if we underestimated it.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
Time is growing ever shorter. The age of your patient should be
apparent by the title “Emeritus” hanging over him, although my
confidence is as low as my appetite has peaked. When you experience
that horrible sensation of another lost to our Enemy, you may return
and understand that immortality is not always a blessing.
voraciously affectionate uncle
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This article originally written for Rev. Rossow’s class, “The Gospel in the Novels of C.S. Lewis.” It is also available in pdf format.