Screwtape’s Apocryphal Letters
This concept and plot, the style of writing, several of the names and occasionally even certain phrases are due to the genius of C. S. Lewis, the author of the original 1942 text: The Screwtape Letters. Everything else is from me.
I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to you fell into my hands. Nor shall I explain why these five letters are considered apocryphal and thus were not included in the original publicized collection of letters; except to speculate that it is due to the letters being addressed to a different junior tempter, namely Grubclaw, and that they seem to be specifically written not with the broader Christian faith in mind but with the relatively insignificant movement known as Unitarian Universalism.
No attempt has been made to identify any of the people mentioned in the letters, though it is unlikely that the portraits of these people are just or accurate. As the previous publication has already mentioned in this respect, “There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.”
My dear Grubclaw,
I read in your recent note that you are concerned that your patient speaks of searching for Truth. I am a trifle surprised by your concern. Have you forgotten the lessons you received in Tempters’ Training College about what humans call ‘the contemporary perspective’? I understand Dr. Slubgob wrote that lesson himself. Need I remind you that the humans are in what they call the “post-modern era”? They no longer believe in Truth; instead they make noises about many truths and personal realities. The “modern” quest for The Truth is considered passé and old-fashioned. This can play very well into your hand if you proceed carefully, but you must lay your groundwork now before the Enemy can break in. Have you considered encouraging this search in your patient? But be sure to suggest that she has already discovered for herself the truth – or at least her own version of it. Indeed, with a little push on your part your patient can come to compare any snippet of real truth against her own prefabricated conception. It matters not one bit what small sophomoric tidbit she may latch onto, “Everyone is beautiful inside” or “If I think only lovely thoughts then only lovely things will come to me” or some other mushy twaddle of this sort will do. But I caution you, nephew, do not press to hard. What she must always hold to is that hers is the original version of her truth and that all other claims, however similar, are not her truth and are therefore secondary. In this way you may very well find that she has a perfect barrier to Truth by claiming she already has it! This can be both effective for our purpose and entertaining for you.
Humans are very interested these days in their own journey. Their religious sentiment has been absorbed by the general individualistic, consumer culture. They begin to think that religion is something they can fit around their needs rather than fitting themselves around the precepts of religion. Our Father has been seeding this sentiment for generations. By all means encourage your patient to be ‘spiritual but not religious’, and never let it enter into her head that the two are inseparable. This is actually a rather simple accomplishment! Keep her mind fixed on the abstract image of someone who is ‘spiritual’: a person who perhaps reads certain books, says certain phrases, and is aloof from the stress of the world. With this utterly unreal image as an ideal she will be kept from actually doing even a simple spiritual deed like giving money to a charity or attending a church worship service.
You begin to see the point? Thanks to the progress we’ve made over these past decades, they have come to worship themselves and their perceived needs above all else. So long as we feed a steady stream of novel packaging for the idea that they are indeed the center of their universes then these humans stay neatly on the path to our Father’s house. Ah, advertising, consumption mentality, self-value linked to stuff, leisure! To hear to you young fiends talk you would think you’ve invented all manner of trap and ensnarement, but it is we who came before you who laid the careful ground work in their culture.
Your affectionate uncle,
My dear Grubclaw,
I am severely aggrieved to learn that your patient is attending a church. Did you learn nothing from your cousin Wormwood’s example? And don’t think you have it easy because your patient is visiting a Unitarian Universalist congregation; “half way to Our father’s house,” you say. Have you forgotten that our Enemy is not contained by the walls of one religion? Still, there is hope for your case if you proceed carefully. Likely this is not a conversion, merely an exploration. You must keep it at the level of exploration and assure that what she discovers is unsatisfying. Yes, there are many humans who have a brush with Unitarian Universalism but never make the fuller commitment of joining. Ha, if these “UU’s,” as they call themselves, were a little more intentional and organized in terms of saving souls they would be truly dangerous to us. Rest assured, my young fiend, the statistics are in your favor and your patient will be well away from this group in short order.
Likely she is assuming there are low expectations of her; that she can just attend and be entertained without it actually having an impact on her life or her own personal truth. Tell me more about your patient’s entrance into this community. Does she find ‘like-minded people’ around her? Work with that. Don’t let her see that everyone there has a different take on truth and meaning just yet. Save that realization for a few weeks and then open her eyes to a very stark vision of it. Gorebase has made extensive study of these Unitarian Universalists and tells me they are all over the board, Humanists, Pagans, Deists and Agnostics all mixed in with Theists, Buddhists, Mystics, Liberal Christians and all manner of others. Don’t let her see just yet how big a variety there is, let her assume everyone is just like her and that she won’t have to be open and accepting of them. Focus her thoughts on how they are open and accepting of her without the necessary reciprocal. You may ask how it is possible to keep such an obvious idea from occurring to an inquisitive human mind. But it is, Grubclaw. Indeed it is a simply feat. These fools are so hopeful to find communities where their differences don’t matter that they are more than ready to delude themselves into seeing it.
You see we once had only a handful of ways to divide these humans into factions: nationality, ethnicity, race, class, and other such ridiculous notions. It was surprisingly easy to keep them from seeing other human beings as creatures like themselves. A few centuries ago we discovered ways to even use religion itself as a way to restrain them from interacting with each other. This is all to our benefit. Now, however, thanks to what these humans call marketing, we can also use clothing styles, musical preferences, technological advances, and even politics, age and morality to herd these humans into smaller clusters so that they never truly experience a different perspective that might break into the carefully constructed paths we have created for them. We have many of them so well in hand that they can’t even see their literal next door neighbors as “neighbors” the way the Enemy uses that term.
So, keep this in mind as your patient enters into this community. Make her mind focus on how she finds certain things interesting, perhaps the minister will say a clever turn of a phrase or the choir will make that loathsome noise they seem to enjoy. Let her think that all the people are just like her, how they must all share her politics and taste in music. Then after a visit or two, open her attention to the shocking variety – be sure to flood her awareness with it and overwhelm her sensibilities. See my notes to your cousin Wormwood in this regard, hypocrisies and annoying habits are found in religious communities of every stripe. Give her a little lead (not too long mind you), and then flood her with the differentness. Once a chink is made in that rosy initial impression then all the years of careful work we’ve done to create divisions will take over – driving a wedge between her fantasy of church and the flawed reality of it.
Your affectionate uncle
My dear Grubclaw,
While you have failed to break your patient away from this new community, I am most alarmed by your implication that my advice to you was in some way faulty. That is no way for a junior tempter to speak to the undersecretary of a department, or, for that matter, a nephew to his uncle. You must learn to take responsibility for your own inept attempts to follow sound and solid counsel. Do not imagine you will escape the normal consequences for your blunders. In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation. A great many of these so called ‘converts’ have been reclaimed after a brief stint in the Enemy’ camp and are now secure in Our Father’s house.
I am delighted to hear that your patient has acquainted herself with certain new friends at the church. These are just the type we can work with. You seem to have made good advantage of the situation. Your report is sparse, however, as to the details of this small group. Are they a ‘spiritual discussion group’? If so, it sounds like just the thing for your patient. These places are full of such groups, always talking about their spiritual happiness and satisfaction without ever actually doing anything. While they keep their attention on this abstract sense of the ‘spiritual’ they neglect to connect their armchair ruminations with anything that resembles the lives they are living. It is all well and good for them to speak of peace, sustainability and civil liberties so long as they continue to be voracious consumers, rude drivers, and secretly committed to their own comfort above all else – then our work remains relatively straight-forward.
Conversely, if the group is a Social Responsibility group instead – although that sounds unlikely if I am to believe the character you have painted of your patient in previous reports – then the details of your tactics will be somewhat different but generally it will be the same; namely: to keep any connection between behavior and belief from happening. Let them complain about national and global politics but avoid making a trip to the local soup kitchen. Keep a distance between the new ideas your patient is exploring and her actions. Do contact Bogrot and the Infernal Regulation Synod for a report on the others in this young woman’s group. And tell me more about her impressions of them. Are they richer than her, more educated? Do they seem take their connection to the larger church seriously? This may be a wedge you can nurture.
Your affectionate uncle
My dear Grubclaw,
You are obviously making excellent progress with your patient. My only fear is that you will attempt to hurry things such that you will awaken in her an awareness of her position. She must continue to imagine that all her choices are trivial and of no account in the grand scheme of her life’s direction. Maintain that feeling of entitlement and keep her focus on how everything is provided to support her own understanding of truth. Yet ever nurture that faint doubt in the background, such uneasiness and dissatisfaction will undermine any of the Enemy’s progress.
I understand from your report that she has taken to praising the minister’s sermons. I cannot stress how useful this can be both to you and to Fluglob who I see by his dossier is assigned to this particular clergyman. Fluglob has been puffing up this man, feeding him visions of importance and prominence. Most of these Unitarian Universalists are easily susceptible to pride and arrogance, though none quite as easily as the clergy. They really fuss at each other about anti-authoritarianism and their lay-led polity that they fail to see how central they really are to the spiritual lives of the human beings who sit in the pews each week. Consequently these UU ministers each harbor a secret longing to be seen as very important and especially unique. You see the point perhaps. Your patient’s praise contributes to the undermining of this fool’s humility edging him that much further along the path which Fluglob has laid out for him.
As for you, by all means put her attention on this young minister. Let her think that he is the very reason, the only good reason, she attends. He is sure to disappoint her sooner or later, likely sooner if I read the implications in Fluglob’s reports correctly. Then you can work that wedge in to drive her away from the community. There are always those in a congregation who are dissatisfied with the minister about one thing or another, his manner of dress or his selection of readings, the way he manages the funds or the tone of his voice. This is assuming there isn’t a rational ground for disappointment, should there be such – if it is known that he reads trashy novels or is overly flirtatious with the young women, or the young men for that matter – well then our job is that much easier. All you have to do is introduce the thought that since this one whom was thought to be so wonderful has this or that flaw, then how can any of what he says really be worth hearing. Dissatisfaction is the key. She has come because she is searching for truth and meaning, and she thinks she has found it now. Only show her the natural flaws and failings of those around her (especially that minister), and she will become disillusioned soon enough.
Now, tell me more about her financial situation. You mention nothing in your reports about the church asking for money, am I to assume from this that Unitarian Universalists don’t ask their members to support the church financially? Is money a taboo topic? You perhaps did not know to look for it, but there may be ambivalence about money in the congregation. We can use that to our advantage!
Your affectionate uncle
My dear Grubclaw,
I would not be surprised to find you’ve been removed from this case after this last blunder. She signed the book. Would that you had paid more attention to my cautionary notes! She has joined the church, made a financial commitment matching her spiritual one. I am confident that if you could be demoted you would be, but junior tempter is already the tip of the lowerarchy. And cap it all, you let her attend a social function at the church just for fun. You did not steer her to question whether she would be welcome at the event or to wonder what her mother would think of her attending such an affair. You didn’t even lead her to be anxious about bumping into an attractive young man. You simply let her attend and have fun. And now she’s gone and signed the book and joined the church. You shall pay for your blunders. I am enclosing a recently reissued booklet for your edification on the improved House of Corrections of Incompetent Tempters. The profuse and graphic illustrations assure that there is nary a dull page in the whole volume.
Meanwhile, it is time for you to overhaul your entire strategy. And it is long past time you buckled down to study the reports from Gorebase on these Unitarian Universalists, they are odd birds indeed and allow far too much freedom in their people. Perhaps you can get her involved in the petty politics of church business or corrupt her family relations in terms of this new religious connection. The game has grown quite serious for you. Let us be glad there are so few of these Unitarian Universalists to cause us such grief.
Your affectionate uncle
That is all we have of the apocryphal letters of Screwtape, I encourage you to review the originals as they are truly illuminating. There is much we can learn about ourselves by exploring the darker sides of our psyche and our world. May such exploration lead us into a greater understanding of our situation, our hope, and our power to make a difference.
In a world without end,
May it be so.