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Narcissism


My dear Wormwood,

To return to my previous remarks about American suburbia - the final trait which I want to address, along with Self-deception and Materialism, is Narcissism.

This is a very different thing from self-interest, or even self-centeredness. All humans are born as creatures at the center of their own universe. Mewling and spewing, without sense or reason, they cannot conceive of Another, much like a Point. Of course, over time, the humans learn to recognize Mother and Father, siblings and other family and friends. It is not until much later than that they discover there are other humans who are very far away and have vastly different lives than theirs.

Fortunately, this knowledge generally does not stay with them for long. Encountering such wildly divergent viewpoints can be threatening, particularly if one hasn't really thought through one's own world view.

So, in general, American suburbanites retreat back to a place where the wider world rarely intrudes. I would call this the Suburban Bubble.

The Bubble is a curious phenomenon. It protects and nurtures them - according to its fashion - but it equally constricts, binds and holds them fast.

How does any of this relate to narcissism? If you'll recall from the classic myth, Narcissus gazed upon the water and became so enamored of his own reflection that he could not turn away. In the same way, suburban bubble dwellers look upon the surface of the bubble and see only themselves reflected back. They are so enamored of themselves they cannot look away - and, much like mewling infants, are ill-able to conceive of anyone other than themselves.

The name of this mirror, this self-reflective bubble mirror, is television.

As a corrupting influence, the invention of television must rank among the highest the Department of Infernal Macchinations has ever achieved. Thanks in large part to its ability to prevent humans from thinking, it has caused the greatest shift in human thinking, particularly to the diabolical, since, perhaps, the clock.

The clock - now that I mention it - had the pleasant and negative effect of separating humans from the natural world itself. Ruled by time from then on, they became quickly enslaved to time and time-keeping, ignoring much of their connection to the times of day, the seasons, the cycles of the sun and the moon and even their own internal workings.

Television, similarly, has enslaved humans to the Image. As I previously mentioned, it used to be that humans valued intelligence and experience. This has entirely fallen by the wayside. Ideas have been supplanted by Images.

This is nowhere more apparent than among the youth. The youngest - of course - are already predisposed to self-interest and self-centeredness. Rather, it is among adolescents that it seems most pronounced. Perhaps it is a trick (His trick) of hormonal imbalance, but adolescents are nearly incapable of imagining other beyond themselves, or at most, beyond their peer group.

Which leads me to consider the behavior of the eldest daughter. Her apparent sincerity, lack of narcissism and individuality must be some kind of anomaly. See if you can find a boyfriend (the most typical cause of this kind of behavior) - or girlfriend, or evidence of drug use.

Infernally yours,

Screwtape

Guns


My dear Wormwood,

It is a surprise to me to hear that the wife has taken the unusual step of buying a gun. Normally, it is the men who have an unusual fascination with these obviously phallic implements. Is suspect, well, more than suspect, that it is a result of her own guilty conscience. Feeling paranoia is a common human reaction to feeling guilt. The relationship between the two is worthy of much more study and observation.

Guns, as I should point out, have been an invaluable boon to our cause. A proliferation of them, wherever it is, leads to the happy result of producing more dead humans. This is always a good thing. Dead Christians (actual Christians) are good because they can no longer be a force for the Enemy in the world. Other dead humans are good because we can always use more food.

The beauty of the gun is its appealing lack of immediacy. In this, it is the successor to the bow and arrow, and the crossbow, both of which are capable of killing from a distance. This lack of immediacy - in which the human in not directly involved with the physical dying of the victim - enables humans to kills more easily, and with more justification.

Humans, particularly the American species, are terribly amusing in their attempts to defend or downplay the actual nature and purpose of these weapons; which is, of course, to kill. Ostensibly, to kill animals for food, since killing was easier from a distance and it would be harder to spook the prey. In some places, they continue to serve this exact function. In other places, they serve to kill otherwise naïve and defenseless animals for 'sport.' I do not sense that your Charges are interested much is this, but I feel fairly certain that their Fundamentalist friends probably do, and probably have many weapons of their own.

Increasingly, the number of animals killed by these weapons pales in comparison to the number of humans killing each other with them. In this capacity, the gun has an unusual felicity. Bowed weapons, even ones capable of firing multiple arrows, have a slow reload time. Some larger guns - rifles and shotguns - have this same disadvantage. Other guns do not. Some of them are capable of firing round upon round upon round - reducing whatever target aimed at to a pulp. These weapons are less for killing even, than they are for total annihilation.

Still, to be clear, make no mistake that these weapons have only one purpose, and that is to kill. Americans like to talk about using them for defensive purposes, but what that generally means is 'killing the other person first.' There is simply no other purpose for them. They are used in war and police work for precisely this reason; and criminals use them for the same.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever turned a gun into a plowshare.

For your Charges, now that this weapon has entered the house (an entire host of ethical problems with it), you have the opportunity to sow much discord. Now that the mother's guilt and paranoia have manifested into an action, this in turn will affect her relationships with everyone in the how, whether they know about the weapon or not.

Additionally, if you are able, see if you can lead the littlest one into finding it. We have had very good luck recently with children and these weapons, and no opportunity should be wasted.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

Translation


My dear Wormwood,

As I mentioned previously, there are numerous ways by which Fundamentalist groups distinguish themselves from each other. One of these distinctions is the translation of the book they use.

I wrote to you that these groups, while having great knowledge (at times) of the words themselves of the Book, but no real understanding of its meaning.

The 'King James Only' movement (as it is called), is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Its adherents actually believe that this one Translation is - if not the Word of the Enemy itself - then the nearest thing to it. That is, that this Translation, to varying degrees by group, is the actual Word of the Enemy revealed to English-speaking people. The actual translation itself is one you have encountered before in your previous sojourn. It is the classic translation of the Book into English.

But the translation was written 500 years ago. And the language it was written in, while respected, is no longer the language of the common people. Neither is it the language of the millions who have learned this language as a secondary one.

What this means for the Fundamentalists is that their translation has no commonality with the language of the world around them. They view this as a point of honor. However, this attitude, while promoting uniformity within the group, renders their communication - particularly their religious communication - nearly ineffective, since anyone wishing to talk to them about their religion must learn an entirely new vocabulary. This turns out to be a very effective barrier. The Office of Fundamental Affairs has endeavored to maintain this state of affairs as much as possible. If the Enemy's agents cannot be easily disposed of, then making them mute is the next best things.

English speakers in particular have the additional but opposite dilemma of perhaps having too many translations of the Book to choose from; all of them having amusing acronyms that must make no sense to the uninitiated: RSV, ASV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV, ESV, NRSV, CV, NASB, CEV, NCV. This situation, not an error, is effective simply by virtue of having the Book so common, as to be nearly worthless.

Both issues result from a misunderstanding regarding translation itself, a boring and tedious subject which I will only briefly mention. There seems to be a myth in many of these circles that there is one translation that is the best or the closest, for whatever reason, to the language of the original Greek or Hebrew. This myth, while amusing, fails to really account for the fact that no translation is ever perfect. Which means, ultimately, that all of them - and I mean all are right, and all of them are wrong, just as the Fundamentalists themselves. It is only by making an examination of all of the translations, that a true meaning can really be derived.

Speakers of other languages have to make do with whatever they can get; one translation, or merely bits and pieces. I read recently that a translation of the Book into a language called Bezhta, turned out to be the first published work in the language, and had been acknowledged as a symbol of national and ethnic pride. This lamentable situation was opposed by the Office of InferNational Affairs, but was routed by the Enemy's agents.

Make no mistake, my dear nephew, the Book is dangerous, in sum and in its parts. Do whatever you can to keep your Charges from encountering it, or barring that, do what you can to close their ears to it.

500 year old prose should do nicely.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

Fundamentalists


My dear Wormwood,

I am glad to hear that your Charges have met their neighbors. You may find this odd, since, as you mention, they are Christians. But make no mistake, many humans who claim to be Christians are not. Even some who sincerely think they are.

This is especially true of Christians who call themselves Fundamentalists.

I will not belabor you with a history of these cheery individuals. Suffice it to say that while their original intentions may have been pure-hearted and sincere, we - particularly the Office of Fundamental Affairs - have been fantastically effective in leading these individuals astray. As a tempter, it pleases me to come across them, as the pure-hearted gone astray are a prize like no other.

The most common error with which we catch them is bibliolotry. The strangest thing about this is that the essentials of this heresy have nothing whatsoever to do with His book at all. In fact, many of those who commit it have actually have great knowledge of the Book. What they lack is a true understanding of it.

It is a luscious irony.

What these humans worship then, is neither the Being they claim to, nor in fact His book, but rather their own interpretation of it. And, by extension, themselves. Since no one agrees on all points about what the Book is supposed to mean, the number of these groups continues to increase; each one choosing a different set of features to characterize itself, and exclude others. It's a merry exercise that results in smug satisfaction for its members, knowing their version of Christianity is the only correct one. It also encourages a festive game of pointing out the differences in the others and calling every one heretical.

The truth, of course, is that they are all right, and they're all wrong. But by playing such games, they prevent and are prevented from doing any of the work the Enemy might wish. The Office takes great pride in all of this.

In general, humans outside the group and outside Christianity find the entire scenario laughable, as it is.

One recent, perfect example of this is the foolish preacher who preached a sermon from his version of the Book about "him that pisseth against the wall." I hear they're still laughing about this down Human ReSources. Such things are wonderfully effective at keeping humans from the Enemy's eager clutches.

Do whatever you can to keep these individuals within your Charges' purview. The more your Charges know, the farther away you can draw them from the Enemy.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

Material Goods


My dear Wormwood,

Another facet of suburban life - though an unquestionably obvious one - is materialism. I know it may seem strange to us, as spiritual beings, to note that the material world can have such a hold on them, since it is so impermanent and transitive.

In fact, it holds such power over them that certain of their thinkers have made the assumption that the natural, material world is all there is; and that since the natural world seems to lack evidence that the Enemy exists, He must not. Of course, the evidence is all around them, but since it is not in a form that they can accept or recognize, their position continues to gain ground. We have much endeavored to disseminate this delightful idea among the other 'intellectuals' among them with very much success, weeding out others that might think differently.

Of course, we know better, entering the material world only out of absolute necessity. Trying to move in those flesh-heavy bodies is cumbersome at best, and the smell of the entire place is utterly odious. I will never understand how the Interloper thought it was worthwhile to go down to that foul place, take on that putrescent mass of flesh, and hang on for 33 years to die for a few paltry humans. I couldn't have taken the itchiness.

Even humans - even Christians - who acknowledge the transitory nature of the material world, are hard-pressed to think beyond it, so much does it dominate their thinking. If they really understood how fragile the whole thing was, how mutable and unpredictable, they might be tempted to seek their security elsewhere, and we must always endeavor to prevent them from doing so. Ideally, we should prevent them from taking their focus on the material objects around them in the first place.

Fortunately for us, the Enemy's chosen instrument, the Church, has never fully realized that it is the actual eyes, ears, hands and feet of the Enemy in the material world. If they ever did, the resulting disaster would be incalculable. As it is, the occasional human who does come to understand this - that accursed Francis comes to mind - has done us much irreparable harm. The thousand curses of the goat-suckled mother be upon his name!

Modern American humans do not understand their own materialism, which is all to our benefit. In ever-increasing ways they derive their satisfaction, and even their meaning, from the objects they possess. It used to be, not so very long ago, that human judged themselves based on the things they knew: the books they'd read, the places they'd been, the ideas they'd encountered. This idealism has been almost entirely replaced by material goods.

Not all humans are materialistic in the same ways, of course. In general, you should find the men among them concerned with cars and gadgets; and the women concerned with large, tastefully furnished homes. There are infinite variations on both of these themes. You may even find some humans engaged in an obsession with books, but these are every fewer anymore. Also, try not to snicker at the notion of 'scrap-booking.'

All Americans are additionally obsessed with the new, something I will speak of at a later time.

I will also speak later about the means by which American are able to finance all these material goods: a beautiful, devious and utterly diabolical system of debt.

Suburban Self-Deception


My dear Wormwood,

In addition to your comments regarding the family itself, I believe some mention should be made regarding their immediate surroundings. You did not speak of it in your letter, but I asked your sponsor, Killswallow, where you had been placed. When he told me that you had been placed in an affluent suburban neighborhood somewhat north of a large metropolitan city, I was a little surprised. I'm sure you are aware already of the great difference between pre-war Britian and modern American suburbia. The differences are so great, in fact, that I had to ask him why it was so. Urban tempting is so much easier, particularly in America. The lines are so clearly drawn, and there is so much human-created misery there, that it is much easier for us to do our work. Remind me later, and I will elaborate more on this.

Killswallow said simply that they needed more tempters in Suburbia. There really wasn't much more I could do at that point, but shrug and move on.

Be that as it may, I do not bring this up as a criticism.

Suburbanites are among the most fun (for us, anyway) humans to tempt. At least, I have always found it to be so. Among the many reasons why this is so is humans' innate and wonderful capacity for self-deception. They all do it, and in many and various ways; though, not equally and not in the same ways. There seems to be almost no limit to the deceptions humans can perpetrate upon themselves and it is true that occasionally one of them comes up with a new way to do it. The results are almost categorically comedic.

Further, one of the most common things humans deceive themselves about, is that they are in some way different from each other. They excel at finding - or creating - different boundary lines with which to look down upon each other from. The American looks down upon the British. The Catholic looks down upon the Protestant. The modern upon the ancient or the 'barbaric.' The thin upon the fat. The white upon the black. The woman upon the man. And all vice versa.

The reality, of course, is that all humans are the same, just as He created them. Regardless of their outward appearances, make no mistake, human nature, which is what we're really talking abut here, has not changed since humans were created, since He formed them from the dust of the earth. Humans are nothing but animals, after all, the same as the others He created; but the solitary one He endowed with the tiniest speck of His divine essence. This spark is dangerous and unpredictable and must be submerged beneath their more animalistic nature as much as diabolically possible.

Even the Christians, and I will wrap up with this, are not immune to these effects, even though the Enemy has made it quite clear in His Book that they are not to. It was once my great delight to sit among a group of Christians talking about ways to "reach the lost," (a quaint Christian expression to talk about those who do not believe in exactly the same way as they do). After a brain-storming some ideas, this group - a men's group, as I recall - began to talk about their different experiences with these "lost." Skulldigger, the community organizer, and my host, was very proud about what he'd been able to do: he had every irritating right to be.

For what came out of these men's mouths was refreshing in a way I had not felt in a long, long time. What was perfectly clear was that these Christians viewed these "lost," as something other than actual humans - sub-human, in-human, ab-human - take your pick; and so these Christians regarded them with palpable fear and paranoia. Actual fear; as if these humans were something so far removed from them they were a separate, and barbaric species. I think I may have laughed out loud from glee; it was so delicious. The truth, of course, is that whatever differences there are among humans, the similarities vastly outweigh them. All of them grasping in the dark.

The reason why I tell this story is because it gives me great satisfaction; and it illustrates my point. We will come across self-deception often, I am sure, and we can always turn it to our advantage; because what is hidden can always cause the greatest damage. The real danger with drawing artificial lines is that these lines can turn into chasms which cannot be crossed. By getting his charges to view these "lost" humans as something less than human, he effectively neutralized their ability to reach them. One thing humans can detect a mile away are condescension and insincerity.

Look for these lines, and look for ways to exacerbate them. The American suburban landscape would not be able to exist without them. We will speak more of this to come.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

Basics


Wormwood,

Do not waste my precious time and little patience with your turgid prose and overly optimistic expectations! I had quite forgotten this tic of yours, only to be rudely reminded with the arrival of your latest missive. Perhaps I had expected too much, thinking that your rehabilitation would have curtailed this trend. It seems standards have fallen even in hell. It makes me think I should write the Ministry of Infernal Affairs and see what kind of standards they are promoting at the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters. If they are not, I'm sure the Ministry will take whatever action they need to rectify the situation [and the thought of taking down that arrogant Gobslobber gives me no end of amusement.]

In the meantime, let me summarize what I believe to the situation. Your report sounds unusually favorable to us and our influence, and I want to clarify this before we decide any further courses of action. Of course, the advice I have already given you is invaluable, and you would do well to a). remember it, and b). follow it.

As for the Father. Am I to understand that he is a workaholic? If so, What fuels this need? Is it simple greed? Or is it some other internal, perhaps unknown insecurity with himself? Is it dissatisfaction with his home life? Do you what you can to investigate the root of this useful abnormality.

If the Mother is having an affair, as you write, we have so much luscious and ample opportunity to sow destruction, it almost makes me happy. It seems obvious from your letter that it is a direct result of the neglect of the husband, but may not necessarily be. For now, keep tabs on this rather typical human behavior and we will determine how best to use it to our advantage.

You say the eldest daughter, a teenager, is a vegetarian and a pacifist. As such, she seems to stand in direct confrontation with her parents. I realize that this sounds like fertile ground for corruption and temptation, but it may not be. Teenagers are notoriously unpredictable, and usually end up much more like their parents than they would like or admit. Keep an eye on her; there may still be effective ways to corrupt her.

Of the son, you seem to have nearly nothing to say other than "his behavior is odd." Granted that this may be so, you must find out the cause or elaborate on what this means. As vague as it is, there is not much I can surmise from this. I have ideas, but you need to do more observation.

As for the youngest daughter, still a child, there is not a lot of sophisticated temptation you can use on her. Her mind will still be largely unformed, unfertile. In this case, unsubtle and brazen temptations will work easily. All you really need to do is to get her to think of herself as the center of the universe, and the rest should follow naturally. The selfishness of human nature does wonders for our cause, especially among the young.

Above all else, what seems to be the case is that all these family member appear to be isolated from each other. This is a wonderful scenario. Do whatever you can to preserve this isolation. The Ministry of InferNational Development has striven to make the American species of human, in particular, utterly isolated from each other: to get them to believe that self-sufficiency is a virtue [even if it does not exist]; and that weakness, and the need to need one another is a vice to be avoided by all lies possible. The irony is sumptuous enough to dine on. The more isolated they are, the more prone they our to our suggestion; never once suspecting that by the damnable effects of community and confession [the Enemy's tricks], they draw farther away.

By all means, in addition to what else I have recommended, preserve this isolation. It will be helpful to no end to our cause.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

Distraction and Traffic Tickets


My dear Wormwood,

I am glad to hear your report that you believe your Charges to not be in the hands of the Enemy. This will make our job much easier. All we really must do now is to make sure that you keep all of them distracted; particularly if the Enemy manages to worm his way into their consciousness. We know that that One can insinuate Himself into their unconscious, by means our Researchers have abysmally failed to understand, but we must by all means possible prevent them from a moment's reflection on Him.

Fortunately, the modern human world has progressed to the point where distraction is everywhere. And make no mistake, this is entirely to our benefit. Humans that do not reflect do not have the opportunity to fall into the hands of the Enemy. Reason and reflection are His domain; and to encroach upon them makes us vulnerable. This is not an enviable position for us, since all that we really have to do is make sure they continue to be distracted, and our work is done for us. It is, frankly, much easier now than at any other time in the past: even easier than the last time you served on earth. To that end, make strident efforts to keep your Charges hooked on the Three Infernal Devices: Television, Internet, Cel Phones.

I will have more to say about all of these in turn, but for now, it will suffice to mention that all three (and their derivatives) have been among the greatest boon for us in the past half century.

Now, as for the Father, and his traffic ticket. I understand that this may seem like a small thing, but we should never waste any opportunity, particularly the opportunity to undermine authority. The anger and dissatisfaction he feels (as you write) needs to be channeled to the right source. Certainly to the local law enforcement; and perhaps the government. But these, while worthwhile, should not be your main focus. In whatever ways possible, try to expand upon his dissatisfaction to encompass the Enemy. He likes to consider Himself the ultimate Authority, and many humans have followed His lead in this. So, take this opportunity to make the Father judge a greater Authority based on the behavior of the lesser. To the extant that you can, the farther we can pull him from the clutches of the Enemy.

Infernally yours,
Screwtape

P.S. I am unable to rid myself of writing, even in these entries, in letter format. I suppose it is a trick of the technology. I would beg your forgiveness for it; but as you know, it is neither my custom or practice to ask for forgiveness for anything. Forgiveness is one of His words; and you would do well to expunge it from your vocabulary. The only time forgiveness is of use to us is when we tempt with the idea, "He will forgive me." All other uses are superfluous.

War


My dear Wormwood,

Inasmuch as you have been away being 'schooled,' I cannot help but be amused at your comments regarding the state of affairs in the world above. Things have changed greatly, my nephew, and the world itself more oriented toward our Father Below. However, this does not mean that we should let our guard down. It is at those precise moments that we do that the Enemy can sweep in and take our Charges from us. This can be extremely hazardous to a young Tempter, as you are well aware.

But your Charges' concern about the war are worth some comment. As you recall, it was just such a war that the Enemy used to take your previous Charge from you. Of course, this 'American' war is a small thing in comparison to the one you experienced previously; but war itself is a great blessing to us, despite the inherent dangers we face from the Enemy.

Let me explain:

ON the ground, war provides us with ample opportunity to add to our numbers, and in the most quick and direct way. This particular war is of interest to us, because the majority of one side already belongs to us. Should they decide to terminate themselves, the majority of Charges they kill - in addition to themselves - come directly here to be consumed by us and our Father Below. For the other side, a great majority claim to be followers of the Enemy, but, for reasons I will get to later, also belong to us. There is certainly the occasional Charge who is taken by the Enemy, but these are ever rarer. This felicitous circumstance is the fruit of years of work by the Ministry for Demonic Information, and feeds us nearly daily now, a situation we can only hope to prolong.

AT home, which is where you are seeing a different aspect of the war, there are, naturally, different forces at work. The most significant of these, for us, is that delicious virtue called Patriotism. You made mention that your Charges are very concerned about their country, and display their country flag conspicuously. This trend should by all means be encouraged. Patriotism keeps your Charges focused on terrestrial, territorial matters, and keeps them quite distracted from whatever macchinations the Enemy might have. He would have them consider the humanity of those on the opposing side; and this situation must be opposed by every means possible. As you have said that you are not yet certain of your Charges' affiliation, it is much better for them to be thinking good only of themselves; and only bad of the other side. This polarization of thinking will be highly profitable for us in many ways, as we will no doubt see in the future.

Infernally yours,

Screwtape

SCREWTAPE STARTS A BLOG



My dear Wormwood,

 

So much has transpired since last I wrote you, thinking I would dine on you!  Instead, Shadriel stepped in and took you away to the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters for more 'schooling,' seeing as your first encounter with humans was such a dismal failure. 

 Of course, I was livid with you to the point of distraction, to where it almost affected my work itself.  That that infernal busybody Shadriel should interfere with my charges galls me to this day.

 I was ravenous, after all.

 If I had known then the veritable banquet that was to be bestowed upon all of us, I perhaps may have been a little lenient.  As you well know, the increased level of demand here has led to an increased workload for all of us, but with additional reward. 

 With this in mind, I have chosen this human technological invention to communicate with you.  It preserves all the efficacy of the old, but with a few added wrinkles.  It takes less time for me to communicate and there's no chance that you could possibly, ever, lose my percious advice.

 Of course, tempting now is not like it was before, and the lessons I previously taught you, while of tantamount importance, will be somewhat different with the American species, than with your previous encounter with the British.  As such, it is much more imperative that we communicate clearly at all times.

 So, my advice to your, dear Wormwood, is to pay attention to what you read here and follow it as explicitly as possible.  While even a veteran demon, such as myself, can have an occasional Patient drawn up to the Light of the Enemy; loss of more than one in less than a millenium will have extreme deleterious consequences for the demon(s) involved.  I trust I will not need to elaborate on these consequences.

 For now, continue taking basic notes about your patients, and we can devise a plan to proceed. 

 Infernally yours,

 Screwtape.    


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