Screwtape’s Legacy: Slogbud’s Education

By Patrick McGucken, Class of 2015

To my apprentice Slogbud,
I am so pleased to hear that you are interested in attending the Belial University of Master Tempters. It seems like only yesterday that you joined the Screwtape Academy of Young Tempters. Iʼd like to introduce myself to you. I am Torid, and I will be helping you through the final stages of your application. As you know, you must prove to be a talented tempter to get accepted. To show this you must convert a man who is a firm believer in the Enemyʼs camp. While I know it might be frightening to attempt to convert a patient who is already a Christian, but I have faith that you can accomplish such a task. Understand, however, the simple ploys like haunting him with a deceased family member or twisting relationships with his parents will not work well with this patient. You will need to rely on some of the more subtle and deceitful traps.

Because I am officially sponsoring you through your trial, I would like to remind you that your failure would result in punishment. As the head of the Secret Police, I would have no trouble in reporting you for punishment. However, I have never had an apprentice fail. I will do what I can to make you successful. To further help your endeavors, Iʼve done some research on your patient. It appears that he attends a private Christian school known as Westminster School at Oak Mountain (how predictable that it would be named after a church) and is a musician. I recommend that you prevent him from playing his music for it attracts the Enemy. You must distract him at all costs! For your sake, I have attached a plan that I would use if I were converting this patient. It is of absolute necessity that you plant the seeds of pride, uncertainty, and flippancy in the patientʼs heart. With these seeds of discord, you can reap the very virtues of Our Father Below in your patient.

Earlier I mentioned that you must prevent your patient from playing music as it draws the presence of the Enemy nearer. However, I believe that you possess the capabilities to corrupt his music to a prideful state. While this does involve some risk, I believe that it will hasten the fall of the patient, for pride strictly comes before the fall. For when the patient is subject to pride, in forms of showing off to his friends, he will instantly seek to become humble. That is when you spring the trap. Show him how he is being humble and convince him to have pride in his humility. I promise you that this tactic is successful, for even the honorable Screwtape suggested it in his letters: “Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ʻBy jove! Iʼm being humble,ʼ (Lewis, 69). Screwtape knows that the power of pride is so great that it can be used to completely destroy humility. While being humble is a threat, it is very easy for you to convince your patient to rejoice in his ʻhumility.ʼ In our current situation, you must fill him with arrogance to the extent that his friends are avoiding him. In this situation, he will ask for forgiveness and attempt to become a more humble person. You must take advantage of his weakness and convince him that he has been humble. This will end up corrupting his sense of humility and will lead to him being even more prideful. Overall, this tactic alone will not be enough to make the patient reject the Enemy, but it does provide a step in the right direction.

Once you have implanted the idea of this ʻhumilityʼ in the patient, you need to strike with your next attack. As you know, humans have colleges that accept students based on their academic performances on tests and other classes. I believe you will find some humor in the desperation that many of your patients will show in attempting to get into one of the more prestigious universities. These colleges give you the perfect opportunity to make him focus on the future, as opposed to the Present. I would like you to recall what Screwtape writes on the ideas of the Present and future: “The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present,” (Lewis, 75). You see the Enemy wants them to be attracted to the present, because as Screwtape later writes, that the Present is closest time to eternity (Lewis, 75). Since our goal is to deter the ways of the Enemy, we must use forces other than the Present to distract our patients. Ideally, we force them to focus on the future. Screwtape explains that the goal is to have patients waiting for happiness in the future, preventing them from being happy now (Lewis.78). So for the sake of your patient, fill him with fantasies of the joys of college. Give him the hope of being accepted, and how he will be happier than he is currently. You can also manipulate his failed relationships, and convince him that a good relationship is lying in the future. Anything that you can use to distract him from the now is of upmost importance. With his mind set in the future, it will lead to a state of misery in the Present.

I donʼt mean to drown you in all this information, but I care for you deeply and would hate to see you end up like Wormwood did. However, Iʼm sure you would be very tasty. Never mind that, I would like to advise you that the final step to corrupting your patient is through flippancy. The corruption of a personʼs humor is one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal, Especially given the popularity of sexual based jokes, I believe that this would be the final nail in the coffin. Flippancy is effective because it mocks virtues, which will influence the patient to not value these virtues. Screwtape writes, “Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue…If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know.” (11.56). When joking about virtues, it devalues these actions and makes the patient view them in a less-serious light. When he thinks of virtues, he will mock them instead of accepting them. In our case, I believe that surrounding him with his work friends is the best idea. A majority of them are already on our side, and have no limits on their jokes. If we encourage him to spend time with them, he will certainly pick up on their flippancy because he is too dependent on their respect. He will soon become just like them in their jokes, and over time will be won over to our side.

My final request is that you merely do not disappoint me. I do not wish to be plagued by having a pathetic and insolent tempter fail under my watch. While I am one of the heads of the Secret Police, I have no ability to protect you from punishment if things do not work out. With that said, I wish you only the best of luck and give you my full support.

All Hail Our Father Below, T orid
Chief Evil of Secret Police

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