The Screwtape Letters
Friday Book Pick: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
When praying the Creed, we profess to believe in God as maker of “all things visible and invisible.” The visible world captivates our senses and easily dominates all our thoughts. Since our five senses do not perceive the invisible, it is easy to ignore the elements of this world that operate under the human radar, so to speak. To focus on the invisible requires deliberate attention of another kind. Our faith has always held the importance of acknowledging, learning about, and engaging the invisible world.
Think of your holy guardian angel for instance, invisible, but very real and with you always. Think of the Saints who are invisible to us now but are as alive as ever. Think of your own soul—though it is unseen, it will live on forever. There are also malicious spirits, rebellious angels, that inhabit this fallen world of ours, whom we cannot see but exist none the less. All of these objective realities are no less real for their invisibility.
This marvelous classic, The Screwtape Letters, takes the invisible world for granted. It is an epistolary novel, written in the form of a series of letters from one demon to another. The senior demon, Screwtape, is mentoring his nephew, Wormwood, who is new to the work of corrupting human souls. The older more experienced uncle writes his advice to his rookie nephew, and the reader gets a chance to see life from an entirely different perspective.
The demons have as their goal the destruction, not of humanity in a generalized sweeping way such as a nuclear war could potentially achieve, but in a specific, personal way. The junior demon is being coached by his mentor on ways to stir up pride, selfishness, and to diminish charity and concern for others, to name only some of his tactics. If one were to fall for every trick of Screwtape it would be like taking the direct route to hell at high speed, literally. But turn it around, and you have the enemy’s playbook.
To Screwtape and Wormwood, God is the enemy and the devil is their chief. Everything in The Screwtape Letters is inverted. This book could serve to stimulate your thinking about the battle that goes on around us, and indeed within us, all the time. In the letters you get a glimpse at the demonic strategy of manipulating our feelings and tempting us to think in certain ways. The book in no way denies the free will of the person; in fact, the ideas within The Screwtape Letters align completely with our Catholic faith, even though Lewis was not a Catholic.
Some choose to focus narrowly on the material world only, to their detriment. Those with a spiritual sense embrace a broader view. It would be a shame to know something of the invisible creation and then not act on what we know. Creative, insightful, provocative, and potentially helpful as you and I continue to engage the battle of receiving the good inspirations that God gives and rejecting the evil temptations from our enemy, it is a creative novel that could bear eternal fruit.
-Mother Clare, CFR
This is the first in a series on C.S. Lewis (November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963), one of the greatest Christian writers of modern times.