Quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters



“I do not expect old heads on young shoulders.” (Well I’m sure this is applicable both to devils and to humans.)

“The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives.” (What a way to think of the glory of God from the perspective of the enemy!)

“And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.” (Contented worldliness. Hmmm. Something we should all watch out against.)

“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy.” (Here, the Enemy being referred to is God of course.)

“All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.” (A warning to people with obsessive compulsive tendencies like me!)

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” (This is one of the most beautiful passages ever written on faithfulness. It reminds me of Trufflehunter the Badger from PRINCE CASPIAN.)

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.” (A very good reminder about how the devil can use innocent pleasures for his own good.)

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.” (A great point.)

“All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.” (This reminds me of a quote from THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW: “Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”

“All these, as I find from the record office, are thoroughly reliable people; steady, consistent scoffers and worldlings who without any spectacular crimes are progressing quietly and comfortably towards our father’s house.” (Well I’ve always known all along that hell is not only the destination of serial killers and child rapists – but of those who have done no “spectacular crimes” yet have not received Christ. That’s scary.)

“And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately. This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely – which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do – we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy.” (How often do we feel the same uneasy feeling that we’re not doing what we should?)

“Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (Again, another scary thought.)

“The characteristic of pains and pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality.” (Screwtape goes to much pains to explain to his nephew Wormwood that it is always dangerous to let people experience real pleasure because it can always be used by God.)

“The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents-or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.” (This reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes quote on modesty or false humility being as much a departure from truth as an exaggeration.)

“Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind.”

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches… The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.” (I know a lot of people like this. Church critics and connoisseurs.)

“What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question.” (In the Screwtape letters, C S Lewis gives a creative reason behind the fall of Lucifer – the devil could not understand love, and could not comprehend how an infinite God can love mere mortals so much.)

“For as things are, your man has now discovered the dangerous truth that these attacks don’t last forever; consequently you cannot use again what is, after all, our best weapon – the belief of ignorant humans, that there is no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding.” (What a common defeatist thought that occurs to everybody at one point or another!)

“But here, as in everything else, the way must be prepared for your moral assault by darkening his intellect. Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury.” (This particular mode of attack by the devil makes a very interesting read.)

“I have looked up this girl’s dossier and am horrified at what I find. Not only a Christian but such a Christian – a vile, sneaking, simpering, demure, monosyllabic, mouse-like, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter miss. The little brute. She makes me vomit. She stinks and scalds through the very pages of the dossier. It drives me mad, the way the world has worsened. We’d have had her to the arena in the old days. That’s what her sort is made for. Not that she’d do much good there, either. a two-faced little cheat (I know the sort) who looks as if she’d faint at the sight of blood and then dies with a smile. A cheat every way. Looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth and yet has a satirical wit. The sort of creature who’d find ME funny!” (A really great perspective on true Christians from the point of view of the devil.)

“There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”

“A spoiled saint, a Pharisee, an inquisitor, or a magician, makes better sport in hell than a mere common tyrant or debauchee.”

“On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything-even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience.”

“It is always the novice who exaggerates. The man who has risen in society is over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic.”

“When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm.”

“I sometimes wonder whether you think you have been sent into the world for your own amusement.”

“He has been very frightened and thinks himself a great coward and therefore feels no pride; but he has done everything his duty demanded and perhaps a bit more.” (I hope I’d be the same when something happens to me. Just as the cabby frank said to Aslan, “A chap don’t exactly know till he’s been tried. I dare say I might turn out ever such a soft ‘un. Never did no fighting except with my fists. I’d try – that is, I ‘ope I’d try – to do my bit.”)

“Make full use of the fact that up to a certain point, fatigue makes women talk more and men talk less. Much secret resentment, even between lovers, can be raised from this.” (Haha what a warning! I never knew this before.)

“There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) As he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer. just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a hideous, shell-like tatter, as if he shuffled off for good and all a defiled, wet, clinging garment… he saw not only them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.” (What a lovely way to think of death – finally meeting Jesus face to face!)

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