A Letter Of Demonic Advice
In The Style of C. S. Lewis'
Screwtape Letters

Submitted to a competition for the 1998 Mythopoeic Conference.

For those not familiar with Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, remember that this is one devil writing to another. For this book, Lewis conceived of hell as a many-layered bureaucracy, rather appropriate once one thinks about it. All references to "the Enemy" of course refer to God, "Our Father Below" is of course, Satan. You should get the hang of it soon enough. There are also references to Lewis himself in the text which those familiar with his life will no doubt spot immediately. Those not familiar with Jack, as Lewis liked himself to be called, may find this a necessary clue.

I hope that my very therapeutic outpouring may be informative, entertaining, and perhaps even useful to the reader.


January 30, 1998

Mr. C___
English Department,
___  State University

Dear Mr. C___,

Recently, I was reading the MERELewis Digest, and came across some information related to your involvement in collecting and collating selections of demonic advice in preparation for presentation of these very valuable documents to the Mythopoeic Conference this year. Of course, we all know how rare it is to come upon these letters, a comparison to hen’s teeth comes immediately to mind. I myself, was quite sure that nearly all of them, or at least the most important collection to date had been published by Mr. Lewis himself. Personally, I thank you for alerting us all to the potential existence of more of these documents than previously suspected. Allow me to explain.

As many on the MERELewis Digest know, my sixteen year-old son has recently been murdered. A regrettable act, to be sure, and we are adjusting rather well, all things considered. Throughout this ordeal, the works of C. S. Lewis have been of enormous comfort and strength to me. His book, A Grief Observed is, in my opinion, probably the most important book ever written on grief and faith. Many of his other works have taken on deeper meaning to me as I have had to deal with my own grief, and have had to help others with whom I am now associated, deal with theirs. I have also been actively participating in various other support resources. Some of the online grief bulletin boards and chats, as well as a local support group for homicide victims have enabled me to observe and talk to quite a few people in various stages of grief, some of whom seem to be making good, healthy choices on their journey, and some who seem to be headed in an altogether unhealthy, even self-destructive direction.

All this, by way of exposition, brings me to how I came about the attached document. One evening, following our local support group meeting, I noticed on the floor a very small scrap of what appeared to be parchment. It was singed around the edges, but for the most part seemed to be intact. As it was a curiosity, I examined it more thoroughly with a magnifying glass, and found that it seemed to contain a text of some sort. My interest piqued, I took it to one of my colleagues in the physics department of my university, and under careful magnification, I was able to actually transcribe the text after several long hours of work. What I found was both a delight, and a surprise.

Having been a long-time fan of Lewis, and having read The Screwtape Letters on several occasions, I realized that what I had in my hands was apparently a letter of instruction from a senior devil to a junior instructing him on the correct manner of tempting one who is in deep grief. My immediate thought was that you would be interested in the document, and so I am forwarding a copy of the text to you. It is rather thorough I’m afraid, but it is in fact the whole of the letter, and seems to be a remarkably accurate depiction of what many of us have gone through during this period. I hope you find it of some value or use in your collection.

I regret that the original did not bear well the stress of the examination process and has disintegrated completely. Though I do not know which of the good people in our group was the target of our little fiend, since he obviously has been careless and incompetent enough to lose such an important dispatch so quickly, I hold great hope that his efforts will be ineffective and come to naught.

I wish you peace,

Bill Jenkins
Assistant Professor
Virginia Union University

=Top Secret=
Tempter’s Eyes Only
Read and Destroy Promptly

My dear Quizzlecrib,

In your latest report, you tell me that your patient’s child has just died. This is very good news, indeed, and I hope that you will make the most of this fortunate opportunity to undermine your patient’s faith and bring them to ruin. I regret that our advance office has not yet reported the demise to me. As you know, we have such a difficult time accessing the records of children, especially the young ones, so your letter was the first I heard of it. I, of course, immediately notified the proper Special Infernal Forces, and things are even now moving into place to help you gain the immediate advantage in this marvelous development.

What a remarkable opportunity is now at hand for you. This is indeed what every tempter lives for. And to think it has fallen into your young lap. But you must take care, this delicate situation must be handled with utmost skill. One small misjudgment on your part will be your downfall. Everything hangs in the balance for you now. Ultimate triumph, or ultimate ruination. As is standard practice in such a crucial case, I have prepared some strategic advice on the matter which I trust you will execute with utmost efficiency and dispatch.

The great good fortune of this happy incident is that the patient is now, probably for the first time since they have been out from under their childhood cloak of the Enemy’s protection, fully awake and alert spiritually. This will enable you to place things in the mind of your patient with remarkable ease. This heightened spiritual sensitivity caused by the patient’s great pain is, of course, what the Enemy is counting on to accomplish His purpose as well, and if left unanswered by our torment, would bring about the type of human we fear most. Not the ones who believe rabidly in the Enemy and speak their mind to everyone they meet. They call it "evangelizing." Little do they know just how much harm it can do to their cause when handled in a grossly insensitive manner. Did you know that the good ones have been known to close the minds of hundreds in the course of one of their years with their merry little quips?

No, what you must avoid, at all costs, is the type of human who is living proof of the Enemy’s existence. One who lives out the Enemy’s purpose and will everyday as one of their fish swims in water. One who demonstrates their faith in a practical manner in all they do. This is the type of vile, hateful human monster who turns to torment us. These grotesques no longer "believe" in the Enemy because they are so sensitized to His constant presence in their daily lives that the word "belief" no longer applies in the normal sense. "Belief," even in the patients who are, despite our best efforts, moving steadily towards the Enemy’s stronghold must always entail an assumption, or "faith" based on the condition that the Enemy is not to them directly observable. Thus, doubt is always a potential weapon for us. We of course perpetuate this by making sure our patients never really see the Enemy, and even when observing His hand in the created world around them either ascribe it to human ingenuity and industry, or that wonderfully innocuous force, Nature. Neither of which will do us much harm as long as we keep them listening to their own prejudiced "experts," and keep them from reading the Enemy’s treatise in an iteration that they can actually comprehend.

You want to keep your patient from achieving through this experience, and I assure you they have every potential to do so, the step which we call the "Advanced Stage of Non-Compliance." At this level, they are shrouded in mystery and are formidable foes. These people know no doubt at all. They seem to walk between heaven and earth and they are virtually untouchable by us. You remember in your history courses the story of First Man? That is the way this sort seems to be, and few of even our most experienced tempters have been able to find a chink in their armor once they have donned it. The hard crust we worked on for so long and through so many channels is burned away in an instant by fire. And not the unbearably hot, insane, tormenting fire as we have at our disposal, but by a tempered fire (who ever heard of such a thing!) which seems to have a purifying and strengthening, rather than a destructive and weakening quality to it.

Our fellows in Resource Management have been working for ages on a means by which to abate or even quench this type of fire. But alas, most of their efforts so far have been engaged in creating a suitable test sample. None of the myriad of fires we have at our disposal seems to have exactly that quality, and we are now resorting to formulating various combinations to reach a satisfactory result. Our lads will keep at it though, even if we must ensure their motivation by regularly pointing up their miserable failures and making succulent examples of the more useless ones at feast-time, for this is one of the strongest weapons in the Enemy’s arsenal.

You must keep your patient from reaching this level. If you fail, you might as well chuck your whole career as a tempter. Far worse than allowing a simple conversion to the Enemy’s side, allowing an opportunity like this to slip through your scaly grasp will no doubt ruin you for good. Old Snozgrobbin is one such former tempter. You’ve seen him, the blind, toothless cur cowering on the ash-heap by the outer gates. His patient did that to him, yes. And every time another human reads one of his man’s contemptible books, or a child enters his patient’s insipid imaginary lands, old Snozgrobbin is wracked with further tortures. You see, we’re not so sure that the human didn’t somehow seduce Snozgrobbin himself. There is a matter of some missing files and letters …, but that is none of your concern. He was in fact, losing ground fast, but he lost his patient for good back just before that contemptible civil rights debacle. He too had an extraordinary opportunity to discredit the man completely, also brought on by an enormous grief. Unfortunately, the patient recovered, and the damage he subsequently did with one small book has twisted tails down here all the way to the Lowest One Himself. There had been hopes early on that the man would not live through one of their wars, for we were aware even then that he was shaping up into a dangerous sort which had the potential for causing us a great deal of trouble. But that plan was foiled rather miserably when we were blind-sided by an unexpected maneuver from the Enemy’s camp, and we have suffered ever since. So, I might add, has pathetic Snozgrobbin.

Be forewarned, the engagement you are about to embark upon is as serious as any you have ever encountered. This is not a drill. Your whole career lies before you, and you will be judged by how you handle this one case which fortune has brought to your door. But do not fear, we will mobilize as many of our forces as possible to come to your aid. At the same time of course you realize that the entire fault for failure will rest squarely with you, and I promise you, if you fail, your essence will be savored for a very long time indeed.

As I review the events which you have recounted, I see that your patient’s child was killed in a violent manner. As I said, access to children’s records is particularly difficult for us in the office, but it is of no consequence as the little squeak is lost to us anyhow. She would hardly have been a satisfying tidbit anyway, not having ripened enough for us to have distilled even a half a thimble-full of malice from her clear and insipid little spirit. Let the Enemy have her! Good riddance, I say! She never even got to the point of appearing on our ledgers for assignment, so accounting-wise, she is a write-off. Her main value to us is in how she affects those under your influence. Of course, the actual type of demise does not matter so long as it was traumatic to the patient. An illness will serve as well as a car crash, though a car crash does seem amusingly more shocking for some reason. Perhaps it is the mutilation of their pathetic little bodies which brings about the anguish which appeals to us so. But no matter.

You know that grief is thoroughly useful to us, and every human has to undergo it sooner or later, but your patient’s grief is caused by a child’s death. So much the better for you. Unlike the death of an aged and decrepit adult human, any untimely death, but especially the death of a child, will enable you to put the question of "justice" into the patient’s mind. It is a formidable wedge between them and the Enemy and you will find it to be of considerable use in short-circuiting their rational thought processes.

Of course, the entire mourning operation is thoroughly disgusting to us. Imagine, yearning for the past! However, one thing you must be certain to exploit is the fact that the little beasts generally have a false sense of what happens to them after their bodies cease to function. Haven’t you ever wondered why the vacancies at the Intake Office are in such demand? One look at the thoroughly befuddled expressions on the faces of the mortal spirits when you visited there in the Academy should tell you. Our brothers are always in hysterics at some comment or another. Delightfully naïve things such as, "But I don’t believe in Hell!" Oh, the things they come up with. And the expressions on their faces. No wonder our people love to work there. If it wasn’t for the increased workload of late, there would never be any vacancies at all. But I digress.

You have to understand that most of the mortals do not realize what they really are. They are at once, both spiritual and temporal. They exist in two planes (rather imperfectly, I might add). They are spiritually like many of the Enemy’s other creations, they metamorphose. Like the disgusting butterfly that emerges after the rather interesting looking caterpillar phase is over (one of the things He almost got right), or the frog from the tadpole.

When the humans die, as you know from your training, the husk is left behind, and the grain is taken on in whatever level of maturity it has reached to this immortal plane. There they are first given the opportunity to look into the Enemy’s face without our imposition. As you know, this was a small concession granted by Our Father Below in the early years, and it is of no great import, for if we have done our job properly, they arrive without escort, and it is but a short wait for us to receive them into our slavering jaws for all time, there to savor and feed on their terror at our leisure. Of course, the Enemy’s desire is that the human will immediately recognize His face and voice (almost reminds you of what they call a pet, doesn’t it). If they do, then I am afraid that they go beyond our reach forever into their land where it is rumored that they actually take a place higher than our counterparts on the other side and rule over them. Isn’t that the limit! It is almost beyond belief that such a product of mud should have charge over purely spiritual beings as ourselves. The Enemy’s contemptible behavior is really beyond the pale with this one, and if the rest of His feckless minions ever wise up like we did, He will be in for another riot for sure. What a glorious day that would be, would it not?

During their little meeting however, if they don’t come when they are called (to continue the delicious pet analogy), they wander off and ultimately wind up at our doorstep, simply because there is no other place to go. Did you know that one of our best lines of all time is that we have made the earthly humans actually believe that the Enemy sends them to us. Of all the ironies! They come to us of their own accord, and He gets the blame. Sometimes our cleverness really is too much.

There is one problem, however. Since we have been banned from these proceedings since the day when the Enemy walked among them in their shape and form in His feeble attempt to communicate with them directly, we really don’t know what happens to all of our property as some of it appears to turn up missing. Suffice it to say, we don’t get as much returned as we know goes in to that dreadful room. Even now, our accountants are busy tabulating this debt in preparation for filing a claim. We really should be getting far more than we actually realize from our efforts. Think of it, all the hard work we put into keeping certain stories out of men’s minds, supplanting them with more innocuous tales and fables from the Propaganda Department, but not seeing the profits. That is outright theft, to be sure. In fact my hunger seethes uncontrollably when I think of one of my most rational and intellectual atheists, stolen right out from under me. I looked for him for ages before realizing that he simply didn’t come out of the Enemy’s interrogation room. From that time on, I made sure all my patients were not only sincere in their skepticism, but morally bankrupted as well before they made the transition. I’ve had much better results since.

Their second great misconception is in how their world operates. They think the Enemy causes all the good things in their lives, and we cause all the bad. Oh, if it were only possible for us to do so, what havoc we could wreak. Sadly, and this point hinges on some of the legally binding agreements made during the time we know as The Great Cognition (That of course was the when Our Father Below helped the miserable wretches to realize their full potential and make up their own minds. A great service to them I might add for which He has never received due credit), we have only but so much power to cause their troubles. You see, until their transition, they are still legally the Enemy’s by right of creation. They must during their lives decide for themselves whose voice they will listen to more, His or ours. Of course we go to great lengths to set a pretty plate before them, as you know.

So, though we can prompt thoughts and manipulate uncontrolled emotions to our end, physically we really can’t touch them. I’m afraid there has even been a prohibition against merely attempting to do so by a long-standing order directly from the Throne. Rumor has it that there was once some long past personal embarrassment to Our Father Below himself regarding just such a situation, and He does not want a repeat, but the details are never spoken of.

No, the humans exist in the temporal plane, as I mentioned, and that world holds plenty of hardship and misery for them of its own accord. After all, they are fragile things, not meant for long-term durability at all. Their bodies tend to wear out, break down, and damage rather easily. The ravages of time, illness, careless accidents, wars and conflicts, not to mention people who are sufficiently under our control who come up with some very creative destructions, all these we cannot take direct credit for, but no matter. They are our spoils from The Great Cognition, and they will serve our purposes. As much as we would like to take credit for the little wretch’s demise, it simply isn’t true. Though, there is no reason you shouldn’t let your patient think that.

On the other hand, and this seems to be in direct violation of the contract but we have never been able to get an injunction through our Legal Department, our counterparts, the Enemy’s messengers (as He calls them), seem to be able to manifest a variety of skills that we have yet to master – some minor temporal manipulations, for example. As most of these efforts are hidden from us, we are largely uninformed as to their actual level of accomplishment in their trickery. However, suffice it to say, that neither we nor they are in the business of bringing about drastic alterations of events in human lives. A bit of what the humans call "bad luck" is about all we can manage. Of course, when the Enemy’s minions bring about some meager hocus pocus of their own, it is called a "miracle." Highly overrated if you ask me.

Another thing you’ll notice about the Enemy’s servants is that they are, in actuality, slaves. That is, they have no initiative of their own. They are not like us, working independently for the greater ill. They only work under the Enemy’s direct command and in a concerted effort. A highly inefficient waste of resources to my way of thinking. It must tax the Enemy’s attentions greatly. Our Father Below certainly doesn’t expect us to go running to Him every time we need to work every little temptation. Our freedom to work independently to bring the humans to their knees is one of the things I so relish about our job. Certainly we work together when the common ill is warranted, but in total unison and sense of purpose? I’d rather be stoking the fires of the very deep, rather than that!

So, now to your opportunity, and how to best exploit it. After giving it much thought, I think it is best in your case to proceed with the standard Griever’s Sympathy Torment Number One. This seems to hold the best promise for success for you at this time. As soon as you are in place, we will sound the general alert and mobilize others to your aid. For our part, we will arrange for a never-ending stream of sympathizers, well-wishers, and "friends" of the patient to constantly remind them of their loss with the empty and hollow words that we have been refining for generations here in our Platitude Division, an elite group within the Propaganda Section.

Through this process, there are many that have become great instruments in our cause. Not just having an indifference to the Enemy, as so many of our simple-minded patients do, but developing a true hatred for Him and everything associated with Him. A blinding hatred that not only overpowers whatever vestiges of trust they had in Him to begin with, but positively turns them into sincere mouthpieces for our cause. They, like us, will know He exists, of that there will be little doubt for them, but unbelief is not our goal with such as these. No, you want to go for sheer rage at the Enemy’s apparent action which has been imposed in their lives, and a complete unwillingness to trust Him ever again, not even for their daily bread. You want them to see the Enemy as He truly is, as we see Him, for the unreliable, mean-spirited, hated, two-faced, giving-with-one-hand-and-taking-with-the-other, cosmic sadist who causes not only their pain, but ours as well.

Remember the first rule in force here. At all turns, try to continue to push the patient in the direction of anger. That is your prime directive. Each of your patient’s comforters will say things, and this is the delightful part, that they think really will help. This makes it even easier for you to place in the patient’s mind the thought that their visitor is an insensitive, callous, and uncaring lout. It is an amusing little game, is it not? But take care that you do not become drunk on their emotions as some have, and let down your guard. The taste of their hatred will be sweetly intoxicating to you, but do not drink too deeply of it just yet. The Enemy will be at work as well, so you must be on alert at all times. Handle them carefully. Build their store of hatred and anger slowly and gradually until you have gorged them completely full of it, and when you dispatch them to us with your final, triumphant stroke, you will be able to savor the glorious fruits of your labor for many ages to come. It makes a most excellent vintage, full-bodied and with a distinct flavor of gall.

Each of these phrases has been developed by some of our best people. You must know how to use each of these lines as an arrow to strike at the heart with full force if you are to use them to your best advantage. Following is a list of the basic ones you should commit to memory, and the standard follow-up action which you should then initiate.

"It was God’s will." (Note, I use the Enemy’s formal name here by way of identification only, so I am breaking none of the literary statutes with regard to its use.) Though normally the mere mention of that ridiculously simplistic and banal word, not to mention the name of You Know Who, brings to us an excruciating pain when spoken by one who is actually speaking to the Enemy, in this context, it holds for us no more import than when it is used in the rather amusing little curses which the humans have come up with. "God damn" indeed! As if the spineless wretch would do anything of the sort! By the way, did you know that they came up with that one themselves? We had no hand in it. Creative little monsters, aren’t they?

Now, your response to this bit of advice is simple. This is your chance to do some real damage, and you should press your advantage to the fullest. If what was once a true friendship is sundered, all the better, for we know that once used, the carriers of our messages of despair to the grieving are expended and are of no further use. So do not hold back, you have been afforded a rare treat, make the most of it.

You must, immediately after this comment is made, bring all the anger of the patient’s that you can muster to the fore. Usually they are too polite to explode outright. (Oh, how I hate that word, "polite." The undercurrent of "polite" behavior has been a stabilizing force in their society for many of their generations, but we are making great progress with the young ones these days, most specifically through our influencing the behavior of many of the more visible and celebrated members of their society, though their self-absorbed and overworked parents who are too busy to give proper oversight have been of great assistance to us as well. We have hopes that in one or two more breeding cycles we may very well have them all in complete chaos and anarchy.) Where was I, oh yes, usually they are too polite to make a scene (delightful though they are to us). It is enough that they start to seethe and boil inside. Their anger will be kindled against three things. They are as follows.

A.) Their anger is kindled at the one who made the comment. This being useful in repaying your brother fiend who brought them to you. They will then be able to use it against their patient who will have thought that they were only trying to help, and of course you know how well we can manipulate and play a hurt feeling such as this for all it’s worth. Through one resented hurt, we can gradually turn that person into an empty shell, knowing no trust, no joy, and ultimately, no faith.

B.) Their anger will be kindled against themselves. We have made great strides in taking the very natural (for them) attitude of taking responsibility for one’s actions (This of course was the Enemy’s invention. You can see on the face of it how completely absurd it is!), and by pushing it beyond its natural limits have turned it to our purposes as Guilt. And here, it is imperative that you remember the definition you learned under Tinwipe in Normal Psychology in the Academy, not the Enemy’s version of Guilt [E], which is solely based on Justice [E] and Truth [E]. ( I have noted here, as with many of these volatile terms which are defined in more than one sphere, the [E] which is the Philology Department’s standard notation for distinguishing the Enemy’s simplistic and simperingly altruistic definition from our own standard and fully functioning one.)

Once you have initiated Guilt, they will find it inescapable. Well, there is one way to escape it, but we will not speak of that just yet. The ultimate triumph on your part will be to make the patient feel guilty not only about the things they could have affected, but also about the things that they could never have even begun to influence. (We have found that men are particularly susceptible to this very neat trap.) This is the real key, for this brings your patient to despair.

Once in despair, your patient will come to feel that they do not deserve any good thing, that they do not deserve even to get better, and that their loneliness has sentenced them to a life of misery from which there is no escape. From there, it is merely a short hop to full-blown depression, and if you can manage it, destruction of the patient’s body. And this is worth mentioning. If you can get your patient to violently destroy that roving conglomeration of water and chemicals which harbors their soul (how proud I am of our freedom of movement when I look at one of those hideous forms), and which the Enemy so delights in nurturing and bringing pleasure [E], you will bring about a cascade of self-perpetuating tragedies, affecting many lives, and falling as dominoes, one after another. You will have quite trumped us all. A sub-under-assistantship may quite be in your future for such a coup.

C.) The patient’s anger will be kindled against the Enemy Himself. The patient will begin to hate the Enemy with a passion which will become so tangible that both you and they will be able to taste it. This is because of a remarkable little concept which we have been gradually introducing into their society through our Capitalism Task Force. It has been around for years however, fostered by a whole profession, many of which I personally had under my wing, and whose spirits I now have aging exquisitely on my rack, reserved for very special celebrations. This concept is called Quid pro quo, and as I know that we are no longer teaching that discontinued human language in the academy, for it of course has no practical use to us anymore and has been discarded by nearly all except for a very few fiends in one of our Rome offices, I will translate for you. Quid pro quo -- Something for Something. This, my young protégé, is where we can corrupt both the mind and the heart at once, so listen carefully.

First, you must put into the patient’s mind that for some reason the Enemy is angry with them. That they are being punished for something of which they are unaware. The unfairness of this will become immediately apparent to them. Add to that, the seeming punishment of the child as an innocent victim (We know that they are not truly innocent, and we know that death is not a punishment for anything, but the parents will not see these minor details, trust me), and you have the beginnings of the rift between your patient and the Enemy.

Even if the patient has had a measure of faith in the past, this one perception of injustice can undo it all. They believed the stories of the Enemy’s love [E], why would He now do such a hateful thing to them? They feel the Enemy made certain promises to them, why has He now broken them? They prayed for protection daily for their child, why are they now betrayed? Where was the Enemy for them? Why did the killer live? Why couldn’t they have died in their child’s place? All these questions will arise naturally. You must ensure them fertile ground. Deals will be made, you must encourage them. Accusations will be leveled, you must feed them.

The patient must rage for as long as their body will sustain them, and then beyond. To accomplish this, you must torment their minds. Give them no peace, for if their minds do not rest, neither will their puny little bodies. You can see the Enemy’s inherent design flaw here, use it for all it’s worth. If you can, get them to over-medicate themselves with alcohol and pharmaceuticals. Keep their body running on anger for as long as possible. You will see them gradually spiral further and further down into exhaustion. Once there, you will have them at your complete mercy, for they will not care if they die, and they will not be functional enough to live. They will be your puppet to torment at your leisure for as long as you like until you finally dispatch them to us.

You want to numb them. The Enemy needs them alert to accomplish His purpose. That is partly the natural function of the pain they feel. The secret to circumventing His plan, however, is to let them dwell on their thoughts without engaging their consciousness. Keep them from writing. Don’t let them have substantive conversations. Make them sleep too much and eat too little. Above all, don’t let them read anything written my someone who has experienced a grief such as theirs, especially that horrid little book by Snozgrobbin’s former patient. Instead, put something incomprehensible into their hands. Something by a disinterested psychologist, doctor, or social worker perhaps. Even the Enemy’s own treatise will serve, as long as it is an enormous volume with lots of maps and color pictures written in their medieval tongue. You know the one I mean. The more they dwell on how they feel and the more they feel that no one else really understands what they are going through, the more you can get them to doubt their sanity.

Your patient will feel betrayed by the One they thought they could trust the most. They thought the promise of joy meant the promise of happiness. They thought the promise of protection extended primarily to their physical well-being, not to their spiritual as well. They heard the promises of provision for the body and missed the promises of challenging the soul. They heard the promise for comfort, and overlooked the part about why comfort would be so sorely needed in their lives. And they thought that they would get "something for something," that there was in fact a bargain involved, not realizing that the Enemy has no need or use for bargains (and we certainly have had some bad experiences on that front, let me tell you). They find what they perceive as the paycheck for all their hard work staying busy about the Enemy’s activities and dedicating themselves to His service a cheat. As long as you can keep them focused on the unfairness of it all, the Enemy will gain no ground and establish no beachhead.

Indeed, the Enemy often helps us along in this regard, for in an attempt to let the humans reach their own conclusion about their need for Him, the Enemy will often retreat like the utter coward He really is. You must look for this. The Enemy always shuts down the lines of communication with his pets and so creates a further confusion in their already befuddled little minds. Little do they realize that this condition lasts only briefly, and is designed to bring them back to a relationship with the Enemy stronger than any they have ever known. This is why you must strike now. In the time when the patient feels furthest from the Enemy’s face. When the door is locked and no amount of knocking seems to bring even a whisper of an answer. Now is the time for you to set your hook. Give them no rest for their bodies, give them no challenge for their minds.

He really does take an enormous chance here, you know. In allowing a grieving human to examine their own hearts and beliefs beyond their formal dogma in a completely objective way, seeing what life (albeit for a short time) without the Enemy’s presence is like (of course, we experience it continually and are no worse off), He risks alienating them for good. Sometimes He wins. Sometimes we do. Such is the battle for souls.

I often wonder that the Enemy takes as many risks as He does. Leaving His entire reputation to chance like that. Depending on the pitifully unpredictable creatures to see His quiet during the storm. Well, it is our job to see to it that the storm ever rages, so have at them my young fiend!

Having now covered the most important and most frequent comment we will send your way, let me finish by quickly summarizing some of the others.

"Your child is in a better place." This is a good one, especially for mothers. For what better place can a parent imagine than for their child to be with them? Much bitterness can be raised by these words, primarily because the patient doesn’t fully realize their role as caretaker of the Enemy’s creation. Thus, you begin a battle over a sense of property and ownership, "It was my child;" rather than of an entrusted gift, "They were given to me to care for, and I did all that I was asked." I see from reviewing your patient’s records that you have already given your patient the standard full work-up in the area of greed and have achieved some potentially promising results. Play on that groundwork, it will serve you well here.

"You can have other children." Also a good one for mothers, especially the young ones, though it works equally well with fathers. With humans, there is a sense that having something now is better than the hope of having something in the future. Thus, while this simple statement of fact is intended to be hopeful, the comment comes off as grossly insensitive because it is incomplete. Taken as it stands, it assumes that the grief can be alleviated, forgotten even, by replacement. As if the tears over a broken doll can be turned to smiles by replacing it with another. Again, get the patient to focus on the past, rather than the future. Do not let them realize that it is not a question of replacement at all, nor is it a question of forgetting. Nothing will ever replace their dead child, and they never will forget them, though if you let them slip through your fingers to the Enemy, their pain will become bearable, their open wounds will begin to heal over, and they will adjust to a new standard of what is normal for them. This is their true hope and you cannot let them think on it for a moment. Keep them focused on the loss which lives in the past, rather than the promise of healing which lives in the future.

"I know just how you feel." A fine all-purpose classic which has served us well for many years. Of course the visitor has no idea how the patient feels, they are just trying to be "sensitive and caring." The patient will see right through the attempt, I assure you. If any of these comments can generate an outburst of rage, this one will do it. Use those ripples well, you may affect several lives at once with some skillful maneuvering.

One very important point. It has come to our attention that on occasion, the Enemy will catch us off-guard with this one. Vet your visitors well. Check their credentials thoroughly. More than one tempter has lost all because he allowed himself to become distracted elsewhere after hearing the initial comment, and returned later only to find the patient had been engaging in meaningful conversation for some time. The visitor turned out to be none of ours, but one whom the patient immediately recognized as actually having shared their pain through a similar loss. The Enemy really is a sneaky one, and you must be on your guard constantly for these white sheep. Just one of these will undo all.

"They needed another angel in heaven." This one holds much promise of late, primarily because of the ignorance we discussed before regarding their spiritual natures. It is common knowledge among us that dead humans simply do not become angels. Angels, like us, are fully spiritual beings, and, if the rumors about their land are true, will be subordinate even to the littlest of children (the very idea!). But, thanks to our recent diversionary propaganda blitz on the human society, they are actually beginning to regard our counterparts as more important than the Enemy Himself. Some humans have even begun to offer up prayers and worship to them. I must remember to compliment old Trussthistle sometime on his cleverness as the head of that project. Anyway, if you can manage it, get the patient to believe this one wholesale. Several things will come of it to your advantage.

First, the temporal child will be replaced by a spiritual child in their minds and memory. This non-corporeal icon will then become more than perfect in their memory. All flaws, failures, imperfections, and in time, all resemblance to the actual child will disappear. As a result, siblings or later children will have little chance of living up to the expected standard the parents will now have set for a child living in their household. The toll this will take on the future generation is obvious.

Second, the parent will now begin to conceive of the child as being ever-present, perhaps even a protector of sorts. They will become completely distracted by the dead child’s presence, hopefully even to the exclusion of their mate and the others in the household. You must look for the point at which they begin to talk to the child. Now, this is not in itself helpful to us. In fact, there is some evidence that shows that this is actually a sign of healing and progress, so as always, you must push it beyond the healthy expression into an unhealthy obsession. Ultimately, if you are successful in this purpose, the patient will spend more time talking to the child than to the Enemy, and the scales will tip in our favor, bringing about exactly the opposite effect He desires. Some children have even been deified in their parent’s minds in this way, and thus the trap of idolatry can be sprung as well.

Third, the parent will forever consider the desires of the dead child in every decision they make. This is an exquisite trap, and if old Snozgrobbin’s patient had not seen through it himself, we may well be reveling in his obscurity by now. The point is, the patient will never be able to judge just what their loved one would have wanted, and so they project their own desires onto the dead. Of course, the dead child is now so perfected in their guilt-ridden minds that anything that smacks of their own benefit is suspect. As a result, they run around in circles, considering this non-present party’s wishes in everything they do, and denying themselves anything which would bring even the slightest benefit or peace. Through this delicious diversion we can prevent them from making any decision of any value whatever for a long time to come.

And Fourth, the patient will forever see their child as existing tantalizingly just beyond their reach. Let the patient believe their child is an immortal, but do not let them comprehend just where their child actually dwells. That too can be your undoing. The thought of their child abiding forever in a land which is more real than their own, with deeper joy than they can ever imagine must never enter their heads (it sets my teeth on edge just thinking about it). No, you want your patient to keep their loved one next to them at all times. Keep them on the earth, in their minds, it doesn’t matter where, as long as they don’t see their child frolicking with unbounded joy in the Enemy’s playground.

Soon your patient will begin to get desperate. If you have sufficiently undermined their trust, they will resort to anything except approaching the Enemy to get a glimpse of their child again. They will turn to their dreams. Initially the child appearing in a dream is all very natural as their unconscious mind tries to deal with the absence, but again, you must push them beyond the natural into trying to conjure dreams themselves in order to experience their child’s presence. The obsession for contact will lead them to look to psychics for comfort instead of the Enemy. When fully realized under your tutelage, the spiritualists will take over your patient’s life. Comfort will come from them, all spiritual contact will be with them, the patient’s faith in the unseen world will atrophy in the face of the tangible, and they will never again think to talk to the Enemy when they can talk to a human who can tell them what they so desperately want to hear. This ultimately results in our greatest goal, separation of the patient from the Enemy’s voice and face for such a length of time that they completely forget what He looks and sounds like.

The more your patient refuses to give their child over to the Enemy’s hand by keeping them beside them, in a shrine, or in the ground, the better your position. Their resolve will be strengthened against Him, and their intransigence will drive them further into defiance. They must be prompted to hold on as tightly as possible to their own concept of their child. For if they ever come to the point where they release them to the Enemy, where they realize that the only true conduit to their loss is through Him, He in turn will give back to them a conception of the child which will be disastrous to us in its assuring fullness and satisfying reality. He will give them a promise of future eternal reunion which will make their immediate yearning to join the dead vanish without a trace. It is another one of those horrid ironies of the Enemy’s, that the humans can only hold on to something when they let go of it; they can only possess their heart’s desire by giving it up to Him. You must convince them that the shadow they clutch so tightly now is to be preferred over the fully realized and joy-filled eternal companionship that the Enemy offers them for the future.

These then, are the standard-issue platitudes which we will do our best to send your way. Doubtless, other comments will make their way to your patient as well. Some will be of our making, some of the most insidious and hurtful comments of all will come from their own ignorance. Be quick. Think on your feet. Make the most of these opportunities while you can.

One warning which must be heeded, lest you find all your efforts lost. Remember I noted earlier that there was one way out for your patient? It is simply this. It is imperative that under no circumstances should you allow your patient to succumb to the Enemy’s directive to engage in Forgiveness. If they begin to embark down this path, you will find me most displeased, and most heartily relishing in the anticipation of your complete failure. You may indeed find your way into my rack of spirits yourself, there to join my finest magisterial vintages.

If your patient, through your incompetence, begins to physically recoup their energies; if you do not keep unsuitable reading matter out of their hands; if you allow them to cogitate and compose coherent thoughts; if you allow the wrong sort of people access to them, the kind of people who listen more than they talk and who quietly sympathize more than they advise, then the inevitable course will be that their faith will be rekindled with a deeper fire and they will rise up to blind you as they don their shining new plated armor, ultimately disappearing from your sight in a suffocating cloud of the Enemy’s protection as they approach that maturity of spirit of which we spoke before. Their prayers will become continuous, for now they will see the world as it truly is, and they will begin to perceive the things which require continuous prayer. They will see their connection to the Enemy which goes back through His own grief (much of it I am happy to say caused through our efforts), and connecting them even to First Man and First Woman and their grief at their own child’s loss (Oh, what glorious days those were!). If you allow this, ultimately your patient will come to an irredeemable and life-changing decision. They must forgive. They must forgive the people at fault, themselves, and finally, the Enemy Himself.

If they reach a point where they forgive all three, you are lost, and I will most heartily welcome you into my collection. You will be relieved of your assignment and a more experienced devil will be appointed. Few things will be able to touch your patient now, and only our Experimental Division even dares to take on such an assignment. Even then, they will be making it up as they go along -- trying various things and looking for any access to the patient that they can manage. It will be all clinical work I’m afraid. The data will be saved for later use, but no satisfaction for our ravenous hunger will ever be realized from this particular soul. The best we can hope for, or perhaps attempt to arrange, is as early a death as possible in order to prevent them from corrupting any more of our food supply. This will be difficult as well, for these humans are hard for us to track. The Enemy’s protective armor makes them remarkably stealthy to us, and often their corruption and demolition of projects we thought long ago wrapped up is discovered far too late for us to recover appreciably from the damage. I fear failure on your part will bring a severe drain on our resources down here if you lose this one.

There is hope however. If you can get your patient to withhold forgiveness from any one of these, you may still retain some control over the situation, thereby keeping your station, and your head. If you can keep them from forgiving the person who caused the death, you still have resentment to trade on. If they do not forgive themselves, you still have guilt. If they do not forgive the Enemy, you still have a spiritual barrier to your advantage. It is only when they forgive all three that you have an utter catastrophe. Hold onto that. Keep some resentment in reserve, and you will not go far wrong.

In my next missive, after I hear back how you are getting on, I shall discuss how you may go about sundering that most contemptible of relationships between your patient and their mate by convincing each of them that they must be strong for the other one, rather than realizing their value to each other in their honest weakness. It is a common ploy and results in such exhaustion from maintaining this untenable facade that they begin to feel themselves a failure and inadequate to the task of supporting the other one in their grief. Thus, the relationship begins to crumble. It has met with great success in the hands of many a tempter, and indications are that it has promise for your case as well.

We are all pulling for you down here, expecting a rousing success which will bring a rich feast to our ravening bellies. If you fail, of course, the standard punishment will prevail, and I don’t think that any sort of appeal will do in a case such as this where so much is at stake. I believe you have seen, have you not, the images dancing in the fires on the walls of the Academy which serve as a gentle reminder to all the students there that they must always put forth their best efforts, lest they lose their patient to the Enemy. The assuredly excruciating way with which we dispatch an incompetent devil in preparation for his appearing as the course of honor in our feast is always very patiently and deliberately executed by the assembly and attended to by our finest chefs. An interesting and amusing little game of dismemberment which results in some rather tasty morsels, if I do say so. Good hunting my delicate, tender, young, little protégé. I trust you will not return to me empty-handed.

Anticipating only success,

Chief Under Subvisor,
Temptation Division

copyright 1998 by Bill Jenkins


A short story written for the MereLewis Listserv discussion group just before Easter 1998:


One does not usually write what one cannot imagine will ever be believed.  Noting the recent discussions however, I will risk recounting the following with the hope that it may be of interest.


It was as normal a day as could be.   I was working in the back yard, doing a bit of spring gardening and tending to the new daffodils, when the sky darkened.  It appeared, as I was looking down, that heavy clouds were moving in, fast.  But when I looked up, there were no clouds in the noonday sky.  In fact, it wasn't noon at all, but long about dusk.  Looking back down again, I saw that this wasn't my garden.  An English garden?  An unfamiliar hedgerow?  Something very odd was happening, but despite the evening chill, I was not cold.  And despite the strange surroundings, I was not afraid.  Indeed, it was the most peaceful moment of my life, if life this was.


I stood for what seemed a very long time.  In the dim light, I was able to make out a small brick cottage, distinctly English, I could tell from the chimneys right away.  A few lights glowed in the windows.  I looked around.   Shrubbery, a line of silver birches.  I knew this place from pictures, could it be the Kilns?   But Doug had written that the birches were long gone, and I saw no signs of modern development or renovation.  Could this be the same place?


I began to suspect the truth of my situation, when I heard the rear door open. Resounding male voices bid those inside a good evening, and around the side of the cottage, two men emerged, walking sticks in hand.   Before setting upon their path, the larger of the two stopped to refresh the fire in his pipe, and by the matchlight I could see clearly, it was Jack.  The other -- moustache, military bearing, must be Warnie.  And I must be...oh my.


As they approached, I gradually became aware that I could recall everything I had ever read of Jack's.  In fact, all the books that had ever revealed to me truth were coming clear in my memory.  Story books, whole chapters of the Bible, even second grade textbooks.  Long forgotten lessons were drawing themselves on my consciousness like the magician's map.  And Jack's words, all there.  What a predicament!   To finally be face to face with the one for whom I had so many questions, and now with nothing to ask.


I approached.  "Sirs," I began.  With a gaze in my direction, and a hearty laugh (just as I had imagined it), Jack interrupted.   "Look brother, we have another Inkling joining us tonight.  I wonder if Tollers or the others will be adding some to our numbers as well?  Come along my boy," he said as my mouth hung open.  "Don't want to keep the group waiting."


"Sir," I began again, and again was cut off.


"Now, now.  We'll have none of that here.  I'm Jack, this is Warnie.  First name basis only.  That's the way things are now.  Did you have a good journey?  Some arrive a bit confused, I'm afraid."


"Thank you, yes."  I began feeling more and more like a foolish schoolboy as we set off.  Breathlessly, I followed as best as I could.  A bright step, walking canes swinging merrily, Jack and Warnie made good progress down the lane.  Jack moved the conversation along, perhaps to put me at my ease.   Warnie interjected his own comments at various points of interest along the way.  I answered their questions as best I could, still trying to take it all in.  "He was right," I thought.  "Everything good is here, nothing is lost.  The quintessential golden age, preserved, suspended perhaps, enduring forever at its pinnacle of development, before corruption takes men's hearts and minds astray, leaving ruin in its wake."


Suddenly needing to initiate a topic, I found myself blurting out, "We have a discussion group of our own back, well, back I suppose on earth.  We talk to each other about you over the computer network.  It's all connected through the telephone lines, you see."


Immediately, I realized how positively idiotic that sounded.


We stopped.  "Indeed?  And just what is it about me that you find so intriguing?"  I couldn't tell if he was serious or humored.  I sensed that the Don was now before me in all his fullness, and for all my own years of teaching, I felt as green as a freshman on the first day of class.


Carefully, I ventured forth.  "Well, we try to stay informed, mostly.  We discuss your works, their impact on our lives, that sort of thing.   We like to think of it as sort of an unofficial Inklings group.  For me, it has been a complete joy, and a welcome challenge."


"Much as the real Inklings, I expect.  To be informed is good.  To encourage one another is even better.  I approve, though the medium does seem to be a bit hasty.  Any gossip?"  He asked as the professor's facade began to fade to a smile.


"No sir, ah, Jack.  None at all.  Well, I don't think so.  Does speculation count?"  I dearly wished I could change the subject.


With a hearty laugh he said, "The trouble with gossip is that it invites an insatiable desire for novelty.  And you know what Screwtape said about novelty, don't you?"


"I think I begin to see what you mean."  I did remember, of course.  "I suppose that all speculation is not gossip, but all gossip is speculation, isn't it?  Speculation in itself is not wrong, but we must guard against putting a stumbling block in another's path.  Is that it?"  I asked, hoping for the professor's approval.


"Exactly," he replied.   "And above all, helping people to become more focused in their prayers, not providing them with distractions or excuses, as it were.  And do not neglect Charity.  It will help you determine the right course of action with regard to many such questions.


"What else do you talk about?"  he asked as we resumed our walk, apparently confident that I had learned the lesson at hand.


"Well, there has been some discussion lately of making you a saint," I said with a smile.


He turned and raised an eyebrow.   I hoped in the dim light, he would realize the humor behind my pronouncement.  I heard Warnie chuckling off to the side.


"Oh, I don't suppose there's anything to that," he said.  "I seriously doubt they could ever come to a consensus, don't you?"  Then, suddenly serious, "But surely you realize, the day will come when the whole of the concept of sainthood will be moot."


I thought for a moment.  "Yes, Jack.  I think I am beginning to realize that now."


"We're almost there.  I think you will be quite delighted with our little group.   It has grown mightily of late, and we meet much more often," he said, winking at Warnie.  "Oh, by the way," again he stopped and turned, this time with a twinkle in his eye.  "Every so often, we get a special visitor."


"Who, Jack?"


He leaned toward me.  Warnie was smiling.  The tobacco smell was strong now.  I began to feel lightheaded, even dizzy.  "I was right, you know.  About the Lion."


Suddenly, I felt an irresistible pull.   It was compressing me, drawing me back from whence I came.  I felt I was being forced into a suit now many times too small.


"Jack, what's happening?"   I cried as the light began to change to blinding fluorescents.


"Don't worry, my boy.  You'll be back at the end of the term.  I think you will find that the holidays here really are quite wonderful."


As the whirr of machines, the beep-beep of heart monitors, and the awareness of the ER flooded in on me, I caught one last glimpse of them as they stood under the square sign of the pub.  Warnie was saying, "Medical science certainly has come a long way, hasn't it?"  To which Jack thoughtfully replied with an enigmatic smile in my direction, "Yes, I suppose it has.  I suppose it has, indeed.  Well then, shall we go in?"


Voices were shouting at each other.   The light from a flashlight invaded my sight.   "He's back!  We've got him!  Sir, that was close.  We thought we had lost you there for a minute."


I opened my eyes.  The ache in my heart, I suspected, resulting from much more than its recent rough treatment at the hands of the doctors.


"No," I said weakly, "I wasn't lost."  But I don't think anyone was listening.



copyright 1998 by Bill Jenkins


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