The ninth letter to Wormwood from Screwtape is more of an extension of the eighth letter more than a separate letter in itself. It begins by recapping briefly the conclusion of the last letter, about how the “troughs” in the human Law of Undulations can be exploited by Wormwood to subvert his patient from Christianity. The most obvious, says Screwtape, is that while the patient is in a trough, he is more prone to the temptations of the flesh – he wants sex, which is nothing new, but he lacks the resolve to resist. He will want to escape his trough, and this offers a convenient avenue, especially without the trappings of love. Screwtape also points out that other temptations will be more successful as well, such as drinking.
And now Screwtape makes an important point: all pleasure, however small, is derived from the Enemy – Satan cannot create a single pleasure. As such, whenever demons tempt a patient with pleasure, they are on the Enemy’s ground. However, there is a way around it. The goal should be to begin with an overload of pleasure, devoid of guilt; as the pleasure decreases, the guilt increases. The final result is the patients soul is delivered to Satan, at no cost to himself. A demon can and will use the Enemy’s creations against Him.
Screwtape is not finished with the troughs and their implications, though. The second and more devious way of exploiting the low point in the patient is by his own thoughts. Wormwood must begin by never allowing knowledge of the Law of Undulations to enter the mans head. He must believe that the heady attitude of his beginnings as a Christian should have been permanent, and as such these days of low attitude will likewise last for as long as he lives. After this “misconception” is imbedded, Wormwood has two courses of action:
- If the man is a natural pessimist, a despondent type, he should be steered clear of experienced Christians, and be allowed to dwell on the more despairing passages of scripture. “Set him to work on the desperate design of recovering his old feelings by sheer will-power, and the game is ours” write Screwtape.
- If the man is a more optimistic person, he should be convinced that he is not really so bad off after all, and that his first days as a convert were, well, a little excessive. The man will have thoughts like “all things in moderation,” and he will tailor his religion accordingly. Screwtape writes “a moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.”
Screwtape’s final advise, in closing, is that perhaps a direct assault on the man’s faith
would be appropriate. Convince the patient that his “religious phase” is dying away, like so many other phases of his life, and he is as good as Satan’s. He will use statements like “it was just a phase…” “I’ve been through all that….” and “adolescent
Letter #8 | Letter #10