Framing the Dialogue

The Screwtape Letters

If you had ever asked yourself who the devil might be tempting you to the dark side you might be weird, inquisitive, have too much time on your hands or most likely all three.  Some of the darkest days of our recent history, World War II, provided the setting for a series of letters from a “senior” devil to his devil-in-training as he attempts to lure a man to the dark side. The Screwtape Letters is kind of like listening to one side of a telephone conversation in that C. S. Lewis only treats us to Screwtape’s (the senior from the netherworld) letters to his intern, Wormwood. 

The thirty-one letters offer a humorous glimpse into the world of temptation and how evil can corrupt even the best intentions,

“The grand problem is that of ‘unselfishness’.  Note, once again, the admirable work our Philological Arm in substituting the negative ‘unselfishness’ for the Enemy’s [God] positive charity.  Thanks to this you can, from the very outset, teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them.” 

Screwtape transforms the noble concept of unselfishness to a vise when “unselfish” behavior is done for the simple reason of show than one is not selfish.  The book compiles a series of letters originally published weekly in the Guardian in 1941.  I mentioned earlier that this a humorous glimpse as envisioned by Lewis; the humor is there, but not “LOL” humor.  Two parts not to skip WHEN you read this are Screwtape’s toast at the end of the book and Lewis’ Postscript,

“The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch.  Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded.  It almost smothered me before I was done.”

I am quite amazed at how many of the subjects touched by Lewis apply to the world of 2012.  Perhaps it is a lesson that history does repeat itself.  I leave you with a few passages…read this book;

“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.”

“In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a ‘historical Jesus’ on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new ‘historical jesus’ on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines.”

“in his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do…I heard the other day that in that country [England] a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a tool-shed in his own garden.”

Leave a comment

Use basic HTML (<a href="">, <strong>, <blockquote>)