(The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a fictional series of letters from a senior demon in Satan’s army, named Screwtape, to his junior nephew, Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape is training Wormwood in techniques to attack the “patients” (humans) and win the war against the “Enemy,” who is God. Please note, the following letter was written by me, not by the inestimable Lewis.)
My Dear Rogwot,
I see you have made some progress controlling your patient’s thoughts during this crisis. Your last letter indicates you are rather proud of this fact. Beware. Do not underestimate the power of suffering to turn your patient’s mind back to the Enemy. This was one of the (many) weaknesses of your late cousin Wormwood, and you would do well to learn from his mistakes.
While a global crisis of this sort can bring many souls into our kingdom, we walk a fine line. Some of them will become more aware of us than before, and therefore more aware of the Enemy. It is paramount that you use your tools with subtlety and finesse. Your greatest advantage will be when your patient pays no serious attention to his thoughts, for when he begins to examine them closely, your position will become perilous.
Depending upon your patient’s personality and emotional state, you should take one of these approaches against his mind:
- Fear. Flood his mind with terrors. Find out what sorts of fears most influence him and direct his thoughts there. Is he terrified of losing everything and becoming destitute? Make that seem like a very real possibility. Is he afraid of falling victim to conspiracy and intrigue? You know what to do. Perhaps he lives in horror of becoming ill and suffering physically. Plague him with these thoughts. The more you can distract his mind with fear, the more useless he will be to the Enemy.
- Apathy. Perhaps your patient has a tendency toward laziness. Your slogan, then, will be, “It’s no big deal.” This is perhaps the easiest kind of soul to distract, for you have many tools available to you. Keep putting screens in front of him. Fill his house with food he doesn’t need. Give him lots of toys to occupy his time. I doubt you will have to do too much more than make sure his life is easy and comfortable.
- Anger. This is the trickiest technique to master. Your patient may be aware that he is in the midst of a war, particularly if he has belonged to the Enemy for some time. In this case, you must at all costs keep his mind from what—and who—the war is really about. Focus his mind on his fellow humans. Fill him with “righteous anger” about his “just cause,” as long as his passions are directed toward people who seem to have wronged him. If you master this technique, you will make your patient not only useless to the Enemy but quite useful to us, for he will cause divisions and sully the name of the Enemy he claims to serve.
Think carefully about the kind of person your patient is and choose your attack carefully. Do not, under any circumstances, allow him to pick up his sword.
Our Enemy (cursed be his name) actually sees these little wretches as his warriors and has actually entrusted them with a terrible weapon. I have seen it fell many a mighty soldier in our Father’s army. Do not make the mistake of trivializing this weapon. Many a stronger foe than you shakes in fear at the sword of the Word. If all of our Enemy’s people everywhere were to take up this weapon in full knowledge of its power, I tremble to think what would happen to us.
Your greatest advantage lies in the fact that so many of his people have forgotten the power of their sword, or they have never known it at all. Day by day they go about their tasks, most of them unaware of the war raging around them, but even those who are aware failing to pick up their weapon. In this we have been greatly successful.
Throughout the history of our Enemy’s disgusting experiment with these humans he cares so much about, our greatest foes have always been experts at wielding the sword of the word. For like any soldier training for battle, the more they read it and know it, the more aware they are of the true war being fought and the more powerful they become in fending off our attacks. Of course, we see this most clearly in our Father’s lamentable defeat in his attack on Jesus in the wilderness, but other examples abound.
It is therefore of utmost importance that you make your patient forget this fact. Use the abovementioned tactics wisely. Let him forget that his true calling is to make disciples (despicable!), to become a humble servant (revolting!), to seek the eternal kingdom (pathetic!), and to—ick—love their pathetic fellow humans. For some reason our Enemy thinks these backwards ideas will ultimately win the war. The battle becomes so much more difficult when the nauseating creatures actually begin to believe the promises of the Enemy.
I cannot express strongly enough that our great advantage lies in the fact that most of these loathsome souls are unaware of the great power our Enemy has given them in the sword of the word. They go about their days completely ignorant of or forgetting the fact that they could defeat us just as Jesus defeated our Father. We must not let that happen. Keep your patient from the Word at all costs. If he does pick up the vile thing, flood his mind with distractions so that he does not truly hear what the Enemy is saying to him. For when he begins to listen and to use his weapon against you, you, me, and our entire cause will be in grave peril.
As I said, you walk a fine line. Choose your attack wisely and don’t let your patient realize you are there. And no matter what, do not let him take up his sword. I do not need to remind you of the consequences to yourself if you should fail.
Your Affectionate Uncle,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17).
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)