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 Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us

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PostSubject: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Fri 29 Jan 2010, 7:26 pm

Set in an office in Hell, C. S. Lewis' play follows a senior devil, Screwtape, and his secretary, Toadpipe, as they train a new apprentice, Wormwood (Screwtape's nephew), on how to "undermine faith and prevent the formation of virtues" in a young man who has just converted to Christianity (The "Patient").

Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.

Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine.

C.S. Lewis originally penned "The Screwtape Letters" as a novel made up of thirty-one letters from Screwtape to Wormwood. We get the letters only from one side of the correspondence (Screwtape's), yet the story of the meanderings of the Christian "patient's" soul is clearly read between the lines. The letters begin with Wormwood's failure to keep his subject from becoming a Christian. The urbane Screwtape informs him that, although this is an alarming development, his patient is by no means lost to the dark forces of evil.

World War II serves as the backdrop for the Letters. Yet war and strife do not play a significant roll in the work. The book is about more everyday and universal problems. Problems every individual must deal with even today.

Thus, each letter addresses various aspects of the travails of the human soul and how the devil tempts that soul away from goodness and toward evil - not evil on a grand scale, but evil on a petty scale. They show how evil can seep into a Christian's relationships with friends and family, in his views on the church, even in his practice of prayer.

As each letter unfolds, we find the Christian "patient" slipping more and more out of the hands of Wormwood and his temptations. Screwtape's advice to the tempter becomes more firm and yet more subtle. And, by degrees, we come to see the workings of evil in our own hearts.


Below is a video intro to the audio series starring Andy Serkis (Gollum of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy). Put your headphones on and crank-up the volume for this.



Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Screwtape_Letters

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Screwtape-Letters-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652934

Audible.com

Study Guide
http://www.bookrags.com/The_Screwtape_Letters


Letters Online (HTML)


This post is to be continued. I will post highlights from the letters and try to show their significane. Please hold off from replying until I get all of those hightlights posted. I'll let you know.
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Fri 29 Jan 2010, 9:36 pm

CS Lewis was simply brilliant in showing us how the elite manage society. For example, in letter 12 of 31, we see how humans (the "patient"), are initially tempted to Sin by offering real pleasure as rewards. But over time, real pleasures are transitioned into meaningless pleasures, and ultimately transitioned into no need for pleasure at all, gradually cutting us off from all real happiness while still getting us to commit Sin. As our attention wanders, as we become more willing to do anything or nothing, for pleasure is irrelevant, we find ourselves more likely to simply waste ourselves in frivolous pursuits. In the end, we find that we invested our lives in things that did not matter or that we did not enjoy. Essentially, just wasting our time here. (see brown text)

I can now understand why I see such depressed people living in places like Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Countries. This mass depressions is deliberate.


Letter XII

MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around he Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.

For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realise the break it has made with the first months of his Christian life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn't been doing very well lately.

This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely—which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do—we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient's reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold. They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over. A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, "I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked". The Christians describe the Enemy as one "without whom Nothing is strong". And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. 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 no 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,

Your affectionate uncle
SCREWTAPE
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 2:33 pm

In another letter, Screwtape (the senior demon) is telling Wormwood (the junior demon) how relative truth and non-rational thought are employed to gain leverage over the patient (human subject who they are attempting to control).

"....if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about."
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 2:34 pm

Now this is a very interesting take on CS Lewis' work that I haven't heard before. I don't have the time to look into this right now unfortunately.
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 2:47 pm

Bert.G wrote:
In another letter, Screwtape (the senior demon) is telling Wormwood (the junior demon) how relative truth and non-rational thought are employed to gain leverage over the patient (human subject who they are attempting to control).

"....if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about."

An absolutely brilliant paragraph! I am bowled over... Shocked Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 2:50 pm

One of my favorite books ever. My dad gave it to me in Jr. High or early High School. It was an eye opener, and I would say it played a key role in forming my opinions of and reactions to the world. An excellent read.
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 2:54 pm

Have you read "That Hideous Strength"? Also a brilliant work by CS.

Welcome, sir. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 03 Feb 2010, 6:32 pm

required reading, imo.

and thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Mon 01 Mar 2010, 1:00 pm

Letter 1: The Eternal Benefits of Jargon
Must follow along with audio, as performed by Andy Serkis (download here)

This is a brilliant summary of many of the issues the we, the public face.



MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

I note what you say about guiding our patient's reading and taking care that he spends a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real".

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said "Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning", the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind", he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic". He is now safe in Our Father's house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable "real life". But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is "the results of modem investigation". Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle
SCREWTAPE

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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 26 May 2010, 3:49 am

Unfortunately I cannot find the Andy Serkis reading of the Screwtape Letters. Perhaps somebody can point me in it's direction?
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 26 May 2010, 1:43 pm

This is the only place that I know it is available.
http://www.screwtape.com/

I found this reading of one of the chapters, but I think that's all that is available online.
Screwtape Letter 1: The Eternal Benefits of Jargon.mp3 (darn, I can't find the link I had to this now), but below is a key excerpt from that part of the reading. I think the articles are online in text form.

Quote :
"if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" of "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.""
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PostSubject: Re: Screwtape Letters - This is What is Being Done to Us   Wed 26 May 2010, 1:57 pm

I found this really crappy reading. It pales in comparison to Serkis, but am making it available none the less.

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