Diabolical fragments: selections from Screwtape

I recently re-read The Screwtape Letters for Advent, and would have posted a review but realized I rather liked the draft review I’d written in 2013 more, so now I’m trying to graft the best of one onto the other, and we’ll see how it turns out. In the meantime, here are some choice quotes!

“Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy, but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward until they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only so far as they reach the Will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.” 

“It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never wit her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, which a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. […] In the second place, since his idea about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother.[…]   In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one.” 

“By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can forsee 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’.” 

“[…]the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”  

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and  almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear.” 

“[…] nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past  and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” 

“Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered.” 

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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1 Response to Diabolical fragments: selections from Screwtape

  1. I have this one, but have yet to read it. Perhaps this is the nudge I need!

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