A Lost Letter to Wormwood

My dear Wormwood,

Based on your recent report, I gather that distracting the patient with small pleasures and vanities has not been successful. As you know, the key to temptation is not to lead the patient completely astray, but rather to distract him. It is far easier to adjust the focus of the patient’s good desire than it is to get him to move entirely against it. His natural desire is something he will slip in to, like wagon wheels into a rut. He can be convinced of it being an endeavor he was created to do (because it is). Your task is to alter the patient’s way of pursuing it, so that he is not really pursuing it at all, only in name. You then achieve the greatest of all things for your patient: you harness his natural desire given to him by the Enemy. The patient has a desire to be home and will expend his energy to get there, but if you give him a map to prison instead, you use that desire and energy toward your own end.

One method that I am proud to say I developed myself, and has proven quite effective at times, is a way of corrupting repentance. Especially in America, a focus on “brokenness” can be an especially fertile ground for this. Let the patient think himself broken. Encourage the usage of that term. Let the patient focus on it, believing himself to be confronting his own sin in doing so. Especially if the Enemy is seeking him, the wheel will seek that rut. Let that happen. Reinforce it. He is broken. He does seek things other than the Enemy’s design. Let him sit in that. Tell him that he’ll always be broken.

This is subtle, but powerful. For him, there is a seductive appeal to focusing on his brokenness, and a path that you can lead him down which will be painful for him and delicious for you. First, he may start to consider that he has no agency. Not explicitly, of course, but practically. He’ll begin to consider whether his brokenness is without hope of redemption. He will be tempted to give up hope. You see, in this way you redirect his attempt at repentance away from it, because he believes himself incapable of change. Shift focus to the sin itself and away from the Enemy. Our Father Below is not called “The Accuser” for nothing! The Enemy, above all, wants the focus of these hairless bi-pedal monkeys to be on Him. This is your task: to ensure that it’s on anything else. His sin will do nicely.

If you’re able to accomplish this, you may achieve another stage that is seductive to the patient. The patient knows that his current state isn’t permanent. That his sin and pain are not beyond relief. But he simultaneously believes that it is. You see, what he knows and what he believes are contradictory. Reinforce the belief that he’s the kind of person who is broken, and he won’t fight his own sin: he’ll give up. He does, after all, want to give himself permission to keep doing it. Alongside this, whisper to him also that his current state, the results of his sin, do not have to be permanent if only he changes his circumstances. A new partner, perhaps, who does not criticize him quite so much. A new occupation where they truly appreciate him. Friends who truly encourage him. Perhaps even a better church! Yes, this might work nicely for this patient. Use his repentance against him to make him hopeless. Use his hopelessness to get him to blame something else and desperately seek a solution.

There is danger here, of course. A patient desperately seeking a solution may be driven to seek comfort in the Enemy. If you are able to reach this stage your effort needs to be to focus the patient on something outside of Him. At this point the patient’s sin is of no use to you. He is desperately fighting against the belief that his pain is beyond relief and his sin beyond redemption. He believes he’s worthless but knows this isn’t true. Direct the patient’s attention therefore to other people and circumstances as the cause of this feeling. If the patient can be made to believe that his sin is outside his control, while simultaneously believing that he is a victim, he will be tempted to seek relief. But he’ll do so not by seeking the Enemy: he’ll do it by attempting to change his circumstances.

If this happens you have concocted a delicacy that you can enjoy for the rest of the patient’s miserable days: his endless, painful search for relief that only brings about more pain. A promotion would certainly be in order.

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

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