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Thank you, Screwtape, for delivering my soul. You meant to damn, but here I stand.
Clives Staples Lewis took up the devil’s pen in the 1940’s. In a compilation of fictional notes entitled The Screwtape Letters, Lewis adopted the perspective of a senior devil (Screwtape) writing to his junior (Wormwood). I opened the book as a freshman in college, and initially I was confused: Good was bad and bad was good; God was now “the Enemy.” The irony was thick but refreshing. Scriptures excepted, the book chastised my soul more than any other piece of literature.
I read the book again recently, with similar response.
In the preface of The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis hints that we all might learn the language of devils. Not that he admonishes it. He simply declines to offer how the letters fell into his hands, and explains that “The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack.”
This year, I learned “the knack.” I was driven to it by necessity, and by revelation. I found myself constantly engaging in mental battle. My thoughts were ugly, disorganized, distracting, and laden with unwanted appetites. I didn’t know what to do. I could have visited a therapist, but instead I felt prompted to write. I remembered the Screwtape Letters, and took up the devil’s pen.
On my worst days, I received the best revelations. The creative endeavor of capturing Screwtape’s words took the edge off my own sins and left me free to explore the exploits of my inner demons. I could see their deceptions! The devils who afflicted me by day felt petty and sized-down when bound to pages of my notebook each night.
Screwtaping enabled me to acknowledge the temptations of hell whilst clinging to true tokens of heaven. It was epistolary exorcism.
* * *
I’m including a few letters here. They are rough drafts, but they are honest. If you can look past the flaws, they might have even a ring of familiarity.
* I am not the first to imitate C.S. Lewis. For a more sophisticated take on devilish doings, check out philosopher Peter Kreeft’s Snakebite Letters.