Letter to Dan J. Russ continued..
Here is an illuminating section from Chapter VII of C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, (Remember that the Screwtape Letters are a correspondence between two devils, the senior, Uncle Screwtape, the undersecretary for the department of temptations and the younger, his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. The book is chockfull of suggestions on how to get your man safely into Hell, “our father’s kingdom below” as they call it.
“I wonder that you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism, and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least, not yet. 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.”
May I draw your attention to a few particular lines in the above quoted passage? “We shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science.” Science itself is a belief system. This year’s science books will be tomorrow’s trash. It is the nature of science to replace itself, yet people constantly say ridiculous things like, “Science has proven….” or “Religion is just a way to answer questions that science has not yet answered.” As far as I can tell, the more one knows about things like physics and microbiology, the more wondrous things become and the more questions there are to ask. Science for most people, especially those with a light smattering of learning, is not an inquiry but a belief system.
“The ‘Life Force,’ the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis may here prove useful.” This is an amazing line. There seems to have been an actual conspiracy in the 50’s and 60’s on the part of people like Sigmund Freud’s disciple, the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and the famed anthropologist Bronsilav Malinowksi to get young people to start thinking about matters intimate and solitary. This would help young people to stop worrying about God, and thus would free society from the restrictive tyranny of religion.
It worked. Now all we think about is sex. Every other commercial on television seems to counsel us on how to be ready when the moment is right. I blush to be any more direct. All it seems we ever talk about now is sex and how the stranger varieties are just fine. To say that maybe there are just some things that one should perhaps avoid is to indulge in hate speech and to have right-thinking people storm out on you and call you intolerant and unenlightened. We have exchanged the tyranny of religion for the tyranny of weirdness.
Tolerance is no longer enough. The truly good person must now joyfully endorse what in other time was thought ghoulishly unnatural. We have the bizarre phenomenon of the president of the United States congratulating a former Olympic athlete on his, I mean her, or its, or something on a change in gender that has involved a bad haircut and a lot of botched cosmetic surgery. The worship of sex and science is strange enough, but there seems to be a fascination with the occult among people who deny the existence of God in their ordinary lives and who certainly deny the validity of organized religion. “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.” Lewis wrote these thing around 1940, 75 years ago. How did he know that where the 20th century was headed? One smart fellow, if you ask me.
We worship sex and science and treat spiritual forces as a sort of parlor game that we can find on our smart-phones. Believe me, “The kingdom below” is no parlor game. In my line of work I have run into the devil a few times. I have never been an exorcist, but I have assisted in exorcisms and they are most certainly real. People think that evil is more interesting than virtue. It is all great fun in scary movies and ghost-hunting TV shows. Trust me. Hollywood has got it wrong. Over the years, people have come to me insisting they are possessed because they are hearing voices or there are things going bump in the night. 99% of those who have come to me with these problems just have over-active imaginations.
But then there is the 1 percent. Their situation is truly horrible. When someone comes to me with a Hollywood style demonic problem, they are usually just watching too much television. The real sign of demonic possession isn’t so much heat as it is cold. By this I mean that there is a great coldness about the devil. The devil rarely convulses and levitates, though those things actually happen. The devil is cold. There is a sudden coldness and distance about the person possessed. From being a person who loves kittens and butterflies, they become people who like to pull the wings off flies. They are cold, not so much overheated.
I have seen and heard of enough strange things to think the devil is real. It is not the strange things that convince me that it’s real. It is that when you run into a truly possessed person, at least in my limited experience, he is always the same as the others. It is as if you’ve got a snarling badger trapped under the porch. The devil is mean and colorless and humorless. There is nothing interesting about him at all. He is a devourer, as Lewis says, the stronger will devouring the weaker. He promises freedom but delivers slavery. We are a generation who believes itself free. We are badly mistaken. We are slaves to our own passions and desires. We believe that because I want it, it must be good. God, if there is a God, would never forbid me something I really feel or want.
Overwhelming appetite and passion, masquerading as love, justify any number of self-destructive behaviors and relationships. We are no freer than a fish firmly snared on a hook. The worm may be tasty but we cannot swim away. We are ready to be gutted, breaded and tossed in a frying pan for the devil’s delight. Hell is an eternally boring place where we experience the darkness that we chose in this world — yes, chose! You must choose to go to heaven, or choose to remain in hell. The truth is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell. He finds us there, and so sent us His only begotten Son to show us a way out.
Think about the human condition for a moment. Infants are complete narcissists. They live in a world of one. If the baby wants a bottle in his mouth, or needs a change of clothes, or simply wants mommy to hold him, he lets out that certain cry that can penetrate brick. It matters not that you have to be up at 5 AM to go to work. If that baby wants something the whole house is up! I know people who are 50 or 60 years old who are content only if they have a bottle in their mouths, a change of clothes and mommy to hold them.
Most of us never leave the fundamental egotism and selfishness into which we are born, and I suspect that when we leave this world the only thing that really happens is that time stops and we are who we have decided to be. If we cling to our childish narcissism then that’s who we will be forever.
I have met a number of people who, when they had a near-death experience, did not see a light and a tunnel, but experienced “an outer darkness” and absolute aloneness. If, on the other hand we admit our sinfulness and ask for the grace of repentance, if we do our best to respond to the grace that’s given, then He will lead us to a wedding feast, an eternal banquet of love. The choice really is ours. The devil wants to convince us that he is the interesting one when nothing could be farther from the truth. Hell is eternal boring sameness, a gray aloneness, lit only the fires of love denied.
“Deliver us, O Lord, from the evil one.” Please.
PS. If you want to learn more about the devil and how he works, don’t bother with the Discovery Channel or anything else on TV. Get CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and read it while listening to it read by John Cleese of A Fish Called Wanda and “Monty Python” fame. It’s easy to find on YouTube just do a web search for The Screwtape Letters (Narrated by John Cleese) - YouTube