Screwtape Writes Again

by Ethan Mack


My dear Wormwood,


I have just recently been alerted from high command that your new patient is a student beginning his first term at Boston College. I sincerely hope that you have not taken to your new assignment with such elation and delight as to become overconfident and reckless. You must remember that there is no cause for celebration of any kind until the moment when a soul is delivered as a fresh captive to our father down below.

That being said, it is true that the task set before you is one of the easiest for a tempter. You would do well to take time to understand why this is the case. Ask your self the question: why is it that men are so susceptible to our influence during this period of their lives? Gaining insight into this natural advantage will aid you in choosing the way forward. Thus, I will offer some thoughts for you to ponder.


You will find (and no doubt you already have) that the humans (especially the young) can suffer from a sort of amnesia. They have the incredible (and for our purposes, useful) ability to forget the past and with it, the many trials and tribulations they have overcome to get where they are. Thus, when a certain crisis presents itself, they will act as though they have never overcome any crisis before. They ignore the past, absolutize the present, and fear the future like nothing else. For them the present moment is not placed within a larger context, but rather the present is the only context. And thus when a man feels lonely or isolated, he can fail to see this emotional state in its temporality and act as though it is a permanent condition of his existence. He has undoubtedly had periods of loneliness in the past that dissipated, but that doesn't necessarily matter. He can convince himself that this is the time when his life will truly unravel.


It is of great importance that you press your advantage here. Make your patient become lost in these dark thoughts until he no longer knows the way back. Make him so obsessively focused on the tree that his mind forgets the forest even exists. His despair will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he truly believes that things will never improve, then he'll never make the effort to improve them. The Enemy will give him a way out and he will be utterly convinced of its futility.


You will find that as a college freshman, your patient will be going through a volatile time of change and transition. Change is often one of our greatest allies. Change can accompany fear, anxiety, uncertainty, isolation and self-doubt. Feed these emotions and don't allow him to say, “In time things will get better,” but rather, “This is just how it is.” This important task would be well illustrated through an example. A month or two into a college semester, a new student can lament the fact that he has made no close friends. He looks around and sees happy people with a solid group of friends; he looks inward and sees trivial friendships or none at all. Of course, this is utter nonsense. The very people he is envious of are often experiencing the same isolation he feels. However, you must ensure that your patient never sees past an illusion such as this. Make him see himself as the only student who has not made a true, lasting friendship. Only then will he see himself as the problem and thus begin a self-fulfilling cycle of despair. 


But you mustn't stop there. After all, some of the Enemy's favorites went through long periods of darkness and doubt. Placing your patient into a state of perpetual uncertainty is useful only if he fills that void in the correct manner. For if he turns to the disgusting practice of prayer, it could be devastating and yield effects that prove irreversible. This is why you must be constantly vigilant. The amount of patients we've lost due to a momentary decision to pray is too numerous to count. You must keep him occupied with the pleasures of the world around him.  Direct him towards “easier” solutions to his problems, whether those be alcohol, drugs, sex, or one of the many other pleasures taken to excess by the culture around him. Going back to the example of the student who feels uniquely friendless, it would be wise to convince him that alcohol will make him more personable and more likable. He will drink in the search for genuine friendships, but ironically the resulting relationships will be quite superficial and inauthentic. However, if you do your job right, you can convince him not to reverse course, but to go further down this path. The patient with thus be left in a continual cycle of dissatisfaction and thus, far from the clutches of the Enemy.


Your Affectionate Uncle,



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