Screwtape is an administrative functionary in the lowerarchy of Hell, and writes a series of letters to a bungling neophyte tempter, (his nephew), trying to mentor him into doing a better job of bringing his ‘patient’ to the side of ‘Our Father Below’. The letters all begin “My dear Wormwood” and proceed to offer advice and observations on the tempting of, and the nature of humankind in the spine-tingling voice of Screwtape, who signs off as “Your affectionate uncle”. (I spent the reading imaging Screwtape’s advice in the voice of Jeremy Irons at his smarmiest.)
It is funny, satiric, and very very biting. He tells Wormwood
So often, sin is accomplished by manipulating the pursuit of virtue. Therefore, catch the patient 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.
It is all about taking positive action in living a Christian life, but the thrusts and barbs are pertinent to all, no matter what religion one follows, or even none at all.
Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present, but fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
Don’t they just.