A Letter For Christmas
The genre used by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia, and his friend J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord Of The Rings is now used to popularize the concept of some supernatural force, contrary to that intended by Lewis and Tolkien who both attributed supernatural forces to the divine.
We now live in a society that is – at its best – ambivalent regarding any religious connection with angels and demons. At its worst; the acceptance of an analogous supernatural representation of good and evil, may reflect a growing belief in such ‘forces’. These analogous representations of the supernatural are now constantly reinforced by modern literature, film, television, ‘superheroes’, and media representations of Lewis’ and Tolkien’s work, to the point where any belief in a supernatural God is suborned in favour of a supernatural force.
This modern representation of the supernatural is understood by Screwtape who is a ‘Senior Tempter’ working on behalf of the Devil. Screwtape is mentor to his nephew Wormwood, having the task of guiding him in the subversion of one man (the patient) in the eternal battle with the Enemy (God).
The Screwtape Letters are those written to his nephew advising him on how to turn the patient against the Enemy. Screwtape understands the need to misrepresent the supernatural as is seen in the following abridged version of his seventh letter.
My Dear Wormwood,
I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful.
If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark.
The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.
Your affectionate uncle
In the original preface to The Screwtape letters C. S. Lewis writes: “I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man.
A reprise of: Here There Be Dragons originally posted on January 22, 2011.
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