Screwtape’s Letter to Mephistopheles

The Screwtape Letters was an interesting epistolic work of fiction by C.S. Lewis that I enjoyed reading when I was in my teens. They were written from a senior devil, named Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, and they contained plenty of advice about how Wormwood might go about ensuring that his ‘patient’ would eventually be condemned to an eternity in hell.

For a while, I have been turning a similar idea over in my mind. That, perhaps before the world began, when the devils were plotting and conspiring about how they might keep people away from leading a fulfilling life, they might have come up with a plan to ensure, as much as possible, that we would all be damned. So, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis, here is my letter from Screwtape to his line manager:

666 Devil Gate Drive
Diablonville
DE5 IL

Date: Before Terrestrial Time

Dear Mephistopheles

I have been thinking long and hard about how we should go about thwarting the natural human desire for fulfilment and I have come up with the following plan that I hereby submit for your approval.

We will need a way of stopping people from thinking and getting in touch with their true spiritual essence. We will do this using a device that will become known as popular music. The way it will work is that each successive generation will produce more and more literally shocking music to annoy their parents. Eventually, after just a couple of thousand years, they will be just listening to a thumping noise that will prevent them from ever being able to hear their inner thoughts.

We need to ensure that they will have absolutely no proper thinking time because then they might be able to work out how to get out of the rat race jobs that we have lined up for them. We will again use the device of noise (that they will think of as music) to fully occupy their conscious minds. We will get it played everywhere so that eventually there will be nowhere they will be able to go and be silent. We will get it played in elevators (when they are invented), in their chariots, in their workplaces, in their communications channels – everywhere. They will enjoy no thinking time.

We will also need a way to stop people from being active in their leisure hours and pursuing something really worthwhile. If they are allowed to study or improve themselves, they may be able to permanently improve their lot. We will do this using a substance they will come to know as alcohol. It will be in many popular drinks and it will have the effect of lightly drugging and anaesthetising them so that they will not want to do anything except fight, cry or sleep.

For the ones who will not be able to cope with rat race jobs and will end up wanting something more out of their hopefully miserable lives, we need to provide something that entertains them for a short while, but simultaneously addicts them and makes them permanent slaves. We have a variety of substances called drugs that will do the job admirably. They will think they are fun to begin with, but this array of substances will eventually completely debilitate those who try to escape by this route.

For those who get religion and feel morally compelled to stay away from some of our best substances, we will need a fairly timid looking method of causing them to lose their ability to think straight. We will do this using a device that will become known as television. Our master plan involves giving them progressively more and more of it over the years until eventually the air waves will be full of mindless and inane tripe that they will think of as entertainment, but will actually paralyse their ability to think.

The strength of this plan resides in its stealth. Humans will think they are having lots of fun, but our methods should keep them from ever discovering the true purpose and meaning of their Earthly lives. I submit this plan in the hope that you will see fit to implement it during the next few human millennia, once their terrestrial time has begun.

Yours malevolently,

Screwtape.

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2 Thoughts on “Screwtape’s Letter to Mephistopheles

  1. Val.S. on July 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm said:

    Will: You have certainly mastered what C.S. Lewis refers to in his preface to The Screwtape Letters: The sort of script which may be easily obtained by anyone who has learned the knack…

    Well done! This has been a very thought provoking read!

    I have one tiny moot point to make. You state:

    “…when the devils were plotting and conspiring about how they might keep people away from leading a fulfilling life, they might have come up with a plan to ensure, as much as possible, that we would all be damned.

    I think you’re making a bit of an understatement.

    Screwtape is much more decisive that that. ‘Might’ is not a concept Screwtape would ever entertain. He simply ‘does!’

    It’s interesting that you direct this letter to Mephistopheles.

    Mephistopheles, already trapped in his own hell by serving the Devil, generates in my mind, a powerful image of myself in my pre-spriritual rebirth’ days of being trapped in my own personal hell here on earth. The days of not knowing I had a choice.

    No one can serve two masters. The choice is always ours as to where we will cast our lot during our earthly sojourn. What a relief to finally bend my knee and transfer the ownership of my soul back to its rightful Master!

    Your article is also reminiscent of some of the concepts detailed by Francis Schaeffer in his 1976 book and film series: ’How Shall We Then Live.’

    Screwtape says:

    We will again use the device of noise (that they will think of as music) to fully occupy their conscious minds.

    Schaeffer says:

    …Musicians like John Cage tried to express the same idea through music—though the result was either noise or total silence.

    Screwtape also says:

    “We will do this using a device that will become known as television.

    Schaeffer also says:

    “Television manipulates viewers just by its normal way of operating,” because its images seem so compelling. The truth, however, is otherwise because the viewer is not granted a pristine receipt of objective reality, but an “edited symbol or an edited image of the event

    Screwtape’s summary says it all:

    The strength of this plan resides in its stealth. Humans will think they are having lots of fun, but our methods should keep them from ever discovering the true purpose and meaning of their Earthly lives.

    Thank you for a wonderful read and for some extremely thought provoking moments!

    (Val.S. from the WF)

  2. Hello Val

    Thanks for popping over and for making a wonderful comment too. I am not yet familiar with Francis Schaeffer, but I will certainly make it my business to read that book.

    I take your point about the use of the word ‘might’. If I decide to do anything more with the idea, I’ll make more of an effort to get into character, but I was really trying to make it perfectly clear that the letter was just a figment of my imagination.

    Hope to see you about, both here and at WF.

    Cheers,

    Will :)

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