This Is What Happens When I Read Too Much* C.S. Lewis

*I kid, of course, there’s no such thing.

My Dearest Benoth,

In your last letter, you mentioned a need for more ideas in approaching your patient. I must confess myself disappointed in your lack of creativity and initiative. Has she not made new or deeper acquaintances in these last months? Does she not have several goals she is working to meet, and a number of future events to which she looks forward? Is she not annoyed by how some of her longer acquaintances have behaved lately? Does she not still spend a vast number of her hours in the online realm, which affords a number of opportunities such as even we could not have dreamt of? Was your patient not unhappy with the sermon she heard at church on Sunday? All these chances for advancement, Benoth, and you do not seem to see them!

In the same letter, however, you also remain convinced that constant interruption and corruption of your patient’s mental and physical restoration is the best course for completing your mission. If you are so determined, I suppose you ought to continue in this thread for as long as you can. Eventually the Enemy may break it off from you, and as we are prevented from knowing His timing or purposes, you must make what you can of it, while you have the means.

You have already seen what a lack of sleep does to your patient, and what complications it adds to her relationship with the Enemy. This is another example of the Enemy’s curious tendency to put those He claims to love into the most irritating situations. Indeed, as He is so fond of the vile bodies these creatures inhabit, I cannot think why He would allow your patient to be kept from obtaining something so essential to her health. No matter, though, as it gives you an excellent foothold. Your work thus far has been splendid: drawing her nighttime thoughts into territories the Enemy would rather she not traverse, providing fearful or puzzling dreams that cause her to wake up long before she needs to, and then introducing thoughts that scatter her mind and erase all hope of her ever going back to sleep.

Still, you must be careful. Even where you are most effective, the Enemy may be not far behind, ready to undo your every effort. (I cannot help but wonder why He should take such an interest with your patient, as even you report that He seems to have little apparent use for her.) When she wakes up from the slumber you have rendered insufficient, you may be delighted by her groans and sighs and her tears of frustration and her apparently unheard appeals to the Enemy. She will wonder why this has happened once again. She will question the purpose of prayer. This is all excellent, but this is also where you cannot rest on your laurels.

Once the morning has come and your patient is thoroughly annoyed, in fact, you might encourage her slumber (once she has shut off her alarm clock!). Otherwise, in spite of her weariness, she will still get out of bed and go about her business and get her work done. Not only that, but she may have a cup of her favorite tea and listen to her favorite music and have a chat with her favorite people. These are all things that the Enemy would encourage, as they may turn her mind back to Him. Often these activities are enough to help her get past the previous night’s unpleasantness, and you will be, as the saying goes, “one step forward and two steps back.”

You have not told me whether your patient does these things out of habit, or specifically because she knows of their effect on her exhaustion. (Have you noticed that the same music that can lull your patient to sleep at night will also help rally her energy in the morning?) If it is the latter, as I suspect it is, then it is all the more essential that you continue your disruptions after she has woken for the day.

Humans suffer from an amusing lack of what is often referred to as “self-awareness.” This flaw has made us able to complete some of our best work with remarkable ease. In the case of your patient, however, I am sorry to say that the Enemy seems to have allowed her to develop an unusual amount of it. This makes many of your tasks more difficult, but surely you have seen that it also provides its own particular amusements and rewards.

It is because of this self-awareness that I recommend you be very careful in your work on your patient’s sleep. Given her history, it is likely that she will begin to recognize your effect in this particular area, and will seek the Enemy’s assistance in resisting you. How dreadful it is when one not only has the Enemy to contend with and maneuver around, but the active participation of one’s own patient! You must never let go of whatever hold you can get of your patient’s mind. This is the most vital battleground in our efforts against the Enemy, and it is where all our best work originates.

I know that you still cling to the romantic idea of inducing your patient to commit one of the “great” sins—premeditated murder, perhaps, or adultery—but she has been in the Enemy’s camp for too long to be so easily encouraged toward something so obvious. But with this increased awareness of her own failings (even though it also may make her more knowledgeable about the things she considers her talents) your patient is at greater risk of frustration, discouragement, fear, depression, and despair. She knows what she does wrong, and is saddened by it. This will provide you with many more opportunities for temptation, and many more hours of entertainment. Indeed, often you will not have to encourage her toward them—she does it so well on her own! All this is encouraged, of course, by the lack of sleep. Remember, too, that there is a certain amount of pleasure in those “great” sins, though we twist it for our own purposes. It is best when humans succumb to vices that, in fact, give them no pleasure. In the case of your patient, I can promise you that the other failings I have listed, the ones most active in her, will give her no such relief.

Your Affectionate Cousin,

Screwtape

P.S. I am pleased that you managed to get your patient away from most of her writing efforts. Of course we want her to avoid such things, since it gives her the most pleasure of anything, and is the Enemy’s chosen vocation for her. I urge you, as much as you can, not to allow her to resume it.

(Inspired by true events; posted with apologies to C.S. Lewis)

3 thoughts on “This Is What Happens When I Read Too Much* C.S. Lewis

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