Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford



“The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of
Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”—Luther
“The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked.”—Thomas More




I HAVE no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to
the public fell into my hands.

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the
devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to
feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally
pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same
delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily
obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but disposed or excitable
people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.

Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that
Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle. I have made
no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I
think it very unlikely that the portraits, say, of Fr. Spike or the patient’s
mother, are wholly just.

There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.

In conclusion, I ought to add that no effort has been made to clear up the
chronology of the letters. Number XVII appears to have been composed before
rationing became serious; but in general the diabolical method of dating seems
to bear no relation to terrestrial time and I have not attempted to reproduce
it. The history of the European War, except in so far as it happens now and then
to impinge upon the spiritual condition of one human being, was obviously of no
interest to Screwtape.

July 5, 1941



I note what you say about guiding our patient’s reading and taking care that he
sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naпf?
It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the
Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries
earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved
and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it.

They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as
the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other
such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever
since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about
together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” of
“false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”,
“conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping
him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism
is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the
philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s
own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind
I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of
Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason;
and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of
thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have
been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal
issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense
experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to
call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that
abominable advantage of the Enemy’s!) you don’t realise how enslaved they are to
the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to
read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought
in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his
elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work
beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by
argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck
instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested
that it was just about time he had some lunch.

The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it
the end of a morning”, the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I
had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind”,
he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was
won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going
past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an
unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head
when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by
which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that
sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in
later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality
which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic”. He is
now safe in Our Father’s house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them
centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar
while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the
ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the
real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage
him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. There have been sad cases
among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics
and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life”. But the
best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea
that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual
talk and reading is “the results of modem investigation”. Do remember you are
there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would
suppose it was our job to teach!
Your affectionate uncle


I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not
indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties; indeed, in your
better moments, I trust you would hardly even wish to do so. In the meantime we
must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair; hundreds of
these adult converts have been reclaimed after a I brief sojourn in the Enemy’s
camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily,
are still in our favour.

One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand
me. I do riot mean the Church as we see her spread but through all time and
space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess,
is a spectacle which makes I our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is
quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished,
sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees
the local grocer with rather in oily expression on his face bustling up to offer
him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them
understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of
religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew
and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has
hitherto avoided.

You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father
below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or
have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite
easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his
present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he
supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is
full of togas and sandals and armour and bare legs and the mere fact that the
other people in church wear modern clothes is a real—though of course an
unconscious—difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him
ask what he expected them to look like. Keep everything hazy in his mind now,
and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the
peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords.

Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming
to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this
disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. It occurs
when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey
buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married
and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of
life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The
Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these
disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His “free” lovers and
servants—”sons” is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the
whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals.
Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere
affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves
them to “do it on their own”. And there lies our opportunity. But also,
remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness
successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much
harder to tempt.

I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew
afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course if they do—if the
patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge-player or
the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner—then your task is so much
the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question “If
I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should
the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is
mere hypocrisy and convention?” You may ask whether it is possible to keep such
an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is!
Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been
anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he
says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom,
he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s
ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great
humility and condescension in going to church with these “smug”, commonplace
neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.
Your affectionate uncle


I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man’s relations with his
mother. But you must press your advantage. The Enemy will be working from the
centre outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient’s conduct under
the new standard, and may reach his behaviour to the old lady at any moment. You
want to get in first. Keep in close touch with our colleague Glubose who is in
charge of the mother, and build up between you in that house a good settled
habit of mutual annoyance; daily pinpricks. The following methods are useful.

1. Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside
him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of
his own mind—or rather to that very expurgated version of them which is all you
should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary
duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that
most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You
must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an
hour without discovering any of those facts about himself ,which are perfectly
clear to anyone who has over lived in the same house with him or worked the same

2. It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we
have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always
very “spiritual”, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and
never with her rheumatism. Two advantages follow. In the first place, his
attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little
guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are
inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of
the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at
all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since
his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in
some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to
make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother—the
sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage
so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will
ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own
so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned
prayer for a wife’s or son’s “soul” to beating or insulting the real wife or son
without a qualm.

3. When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that
each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably
irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of
your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to
dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him
assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy—if you know your
job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of
course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy
her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.

4. In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things
which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in
such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the
face. To keep this game up you and Glubose must see to it that each of these two
fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own
utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual
words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the
fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and
the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence
from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced,
that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: “I simply ask her what
time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.” Once this habit is well
established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the
express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.
Finally, tell me something about the old lady’s religious position. Is she at
all jealous of the new factor in her son’s life?—at all piqued that he should
have learned from others, and so late, what she considers she gave him such good
opportunity of learning in childhood? Does she feel he is making a great deal of
“fuss” about it—or that he’s getting in on very easy terms? Remember the elder
brother in the Enemy’s story,
Your affectionate uncle


The amateurish suggestions in your last letter warn me that it is high time for
me to write to you fully on the painful subject of prayer. You might have spared
the comment that my advice about his prayers for his mother it “proved
singularly unfortunate”. That is not the sort of thing that a nephew should
write to his uncle—nor a junior tempter to the under-secretary of a department.
It also reveals an unpleasant desire to shift responsibility; you must learn to
pay for your own blunders.

The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious
intention of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently
re-converted to the Enemy’s party, like your man, this is best done by
encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of
his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim
at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what
this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a
vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence
have no part. One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray
“with moving lips and bended knees” but merely “composed his spirit to love” and
indulged “a sense of supplication”. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want;
and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as
practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and
lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least,
they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their
prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they
are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny
how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our
best work is done by keeping things out.

If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention.
Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are
ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away
from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to
produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask
Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable
feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When
they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When
they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven.
Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing
the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of
that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the

But of course the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Wherever there is prayer,
there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the
dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on
their knees He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion. But even
if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The
humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily,
cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and
searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you
look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you
examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a
composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be
images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the
discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps
quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons. There
will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying
it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where
what the patient called his “God” was actually located—up and to the left at the
corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the
wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying
to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may
even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement
of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination
during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever
he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what
thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate.

Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with
a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself
to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room
and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the
incalculable may occur. In avoiding this situation—this real nakedness of the
soul in prayer—you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not
desire it as much as they suppose. There’s such a thing as getting more than
they bargained for!
Your affectionate uncle

It is a little bit disappointing to expect a detailed report on your work and to
receive instead such a vague rhapsody as your last letter. You say you are
“delirious with joy” because the European humans have started another of their
wars. I see very well what has happened to you. You are not delirious; you are
only drunk. Reading between the lines in your very unbalanced account of the
patient’s sleepless night, I can reconstruct your state of mind fairly

For the first time in your career you have tasted that wine which is
the reward of all our labours—the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul—and
it has gone to your head. I can hardly blame you. I do not expect old heads on
young shoulders. Did the patient respond to some of your terror-pictures of the
future? Did you work in some good self-pitying glances at the happy past?—some
fine thrills in the pit of his stomach, were there? You played your violin
prettily did you? Well, well, it’s all very natural. But do remember, Wormwood,
that duty comes before pleasure. If any present self-indulgence on your part leads to the ultimate loss of the prey, you will be left eternally thirsting for that draught of which you are now so much enjoying your first sip. If, on the other hand, by steady and cool-headed application here and now you can finally secure his soul, he will then be yours forever—a
brim-full living chalice of despair and horror and astonishment which you can
raise to your lips as often as you please. So do not allow any temporary
excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and
preventing the formation of virtues. Give me without fail in your next letter a
full account of the patient’s reactions to the war, so that we can consider
whether you are likely to do more good by making him an extreme patriot or an
ardent pacifist. There are all sorts of possibilities. In the meantime, I must
warn you not to hope too much from a war.

Of course a war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans
is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But
what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to
Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape
us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet
and then denied the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all. The
Enemy, true to His barbarous methods of warfare, allows us to see the short
misery of His favourites only to tantalise and torment us—to mock the incessant
hunger which, during this present phase of the great conflict, His blockade is
admittedly imposing. Let us therefore think rather how to use, than how to
enjoy, this European war. For it has certain tendencies inherent in it which
are, in themselves, by no means in our favour. We may hope for a good deal of
cruelty and unchastity. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands
turning in this tribulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go
so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves
to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self. I know that
the Enemy disapproves many of these causes.

But that is where He is so unfair.
He often makes prizes of humans who have given their lives for causes He thinks
bad on the monstrously sophistical ground that the humans thought them good and
were following the best they knew. Consider too what undesirable deaths occur in
wartime. Men are killed in places where they knew they might be killed and to
which they go, if they are at all of the Enemy’s party, prepared. How much
better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie,
nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the
dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even,
if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it
should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is
the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons,
contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can
believe that he is going to live forever.

I know that Scabtree and others have seen in wars a great opportunity for
attacks on faith, but I think that view was exaggerated. The Enemy’s human
partisans have all been plainly told by Him that suffering is an essential part
of what He calls Redemption; so that a faith which is destroyed by a war or a
pestilence cannot really have been worth the trouble of destroying. I am
speaking now of diffused suffering over a long period such as the war will
produce. Of course, at the precise moment of terror, bereavement, or physical
pain, you may catch your man when his reason is temporarily suspended. But even
then, if he applies to Enemy headquarters, I have found that the post is nearly
always defended,
Your affectionate uncle



I am delighted to hear that your patient’s age and profession make it possible,
but by no means certain, that he will be called up for military service. We want
him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with
contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind
against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business
is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with
patience to the Enemy’s will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he
should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to
him—the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say “Thy
will be done”, and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will
be provided. It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the
present fear as his appointed cross but only of the things he is afraid of.
Let him regard them as his crosses: let him forget that, since they are
incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practise
fortitude and patience to them all in advance. For real resignation, at the same
moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and
the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation
to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is
far easier and is usually helped by this direct action.

An important spiritual law is here involved. I have explained that you can
weaken his prayers by diverting his attention from the Enemy Himself to his own
states of mind about the Enemy. On the other hand fear becomes easier to master
when the patient’s mind is diverted from the thing feared to the fear itself,
considered as a present and undesirable state of his own mind; and when he
regards the fear as his appointed cross he will inevitably think of it as a
state of mind. One can therefore formulate the general rule; in all activities
of mind which favour our cause, encourage the patient to be un-selfconscious and
to concentrate on the object, but in all activities favourable to the Enemy bend
his mind back on itself. Let an insult or a woman’s body so fix his attention
outward that he does not reflect “I am now entering into the state called
Anger—or the state called Lust”. Contrariwise let the reflection “My feelings
are now growing more devout, or more charitable” so fix his attention inward
that he no longer looks beyond himself to see our Enemy or his own neighbours.
As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on
those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in
Christian, or anti-Christian, periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can, of
course, be encouraged to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed
towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes. But it is
usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary
scapegoats. He has never met these people in real life—they are lay figures
modelled on what he gets from newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred
are often most disappointing, and of all humans the English are in this respect
the most deplorable milksops.

They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door. Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate
neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the
remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly
real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming
his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is
growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the
train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the
innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly
hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the
Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are
finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward
into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there
embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us. (I don’t, of course,
mean what the patient mistakes for his will, the conscious fume and fret of
resolutions and clenched teeth, but the real centre, what the Enemy calls the
Heart.) All sorts of virtues painted in the fantasy or approved by the intellect
or even, in some measure, loved and admired, will not keep a man from our
Father’s house: indeed they may make him more amusing when he gets there,
Your affectionate uncle



I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in
ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase
of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for
the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We
are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our
existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no
magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them
materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall
learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an
extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will
creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life
Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove
useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the
man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while
denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight. But
in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much
difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that “devils” are
predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any
faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a
picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot
believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore
cannot believe in you.

I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an
extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to
the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some
ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet
faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone
to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound
together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop
inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great
deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause”
is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group
exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the
Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that
those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive
self-rightousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of
course, heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all
the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often
produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth
down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.

If your patient can be induced to become a conscientious objector he will
automatically find himself one of a small, vocal, organised, unpopular society,
and the effects of this, on one so new to Christianity, will almost certainly be
good. But only almost certainly. Has he had serious doubts about the lawfulness
serving in a just war before this present war of serving began? Is he a man of
great physical courage—so great that he will have no half-conscious misgivings
about the real motives of his pacifism? Can he, when nearest to honesty (no
human is ever very near), feel fully convinced that he actuated wholly by the
desire to obey the Enemy? If he is that sort of man, his pacifism will probably
not do us much good, and the Enemy will probably protect him from the usual
consequences of belonging to a sect. Your best plan, in that case, would be to
attempt a sudden, confused, emotional crisis from which he might emerge as an
uneasy convert to patriotism. Such things can often be managed. But if he is the
man I take him to be, try Pacifism.

Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating
the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under
the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part.
Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion
becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly
because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British
war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that
in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once
you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man,
and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.
Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades,
matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the
more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a
pretty cageful down here,
Your affectionate uncle


So you “have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away”, have
you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old
Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the
law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to
produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father
to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world,
but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be
directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in
continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to
constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which
they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched
your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department
of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his
physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of
emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of
numbness and poverty.

The dryness and dulness through which your patient is now
going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a
natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.
To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to
make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in
His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even
more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer
and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is
primarily good; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of
our own area of selfhood at its expense.

But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really
does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of
Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively
like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely
conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants
who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are
empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in
which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants
a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the
Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls
in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the
Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of
His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt
presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do)
would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble
idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but
yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is
prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with
communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with
emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this
state of affairs to last long.

Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more
than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He
wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those
which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting,
because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered
with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to
learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to
walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived,
Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer
desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe
from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been
forsaken, and still obeys.
But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I
will give you some hints on how to exploit them,
Your affectionate uncle

I hope my last letter has convinced you that the trough of dulness or “dryness”
through which your patient is going at present will not, of itself, give you his
soul, but needs to be properly exploited. What forms the exploitation should
take I will now consider.

In the first place I have always found that the Trough periods of the human
undulation provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations,
particularly those of sex. This may surprise you, because, of course, there is
more physical energy, and therefore more potential appetite, at the Peak
periods; but you must remember that the powers of resistance are then also at
their highest. The health and spirits which you want to use in producing lust
can also, alas, be very easily used for work or play or thought or innocuous
merriment. The attack has a much better chance of success when the man’s whole
inner world is drab and cold and empty. And it is also to be noted that the
Trough sexuality is subtly different in quality from that of the Peak—much less
likely to lead to the milk and water phenomenon which the humans call “being in
love”, much more easily drawn into perversions, much less contaminated by those
generous and imaginative and even spiritual concomitants which often render
human sexuality so disappointing. It is the same with other desires of the

You are much more likely to make your man a sound drunkard by pressing
drink on him as an anodyne when he is dull and weary than by encouraging him to
use it as a means of merriment among his friends when he is happy and expansive.
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and
normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we
have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not
ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to
produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures
which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has
forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any
pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and
least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure
is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul
and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens our Father’s heart.
And the troughs are the time for beginning the process.

But there is an even better way of exploiting the Trough; I mean through the
patient’s own thoughts about it. As always, the first step is to keep knowledge
out of his mind. Do not let him suspect the law of undulation. Let him assume
that the first ardours of his conversion might have been expected to last, and
ought to have lasted, forever, and that his present dryness is an equally
permanent condition. Having once got this misconception well fixed in his head,
you may then proceed in various ways. It all depends on whether your man is of
the desponding type who can be tempted to despair, or of the wishful-thinking
type who can be assured that all is well. The former type is getting rare among
the humans. If your patient should happen to belong to it, everything is easy.
You have only got to keep him out of the way of experienced Christians (an easy
task now-a-days), to direct his attention to the appropriate passages in
scripture, and then to set him to work on the desperate design of recovering his
old feelings by sheer will-power, and the game is ours.

If he is of the more hopeful type, your job is to make him acquiesce in the present low temperature of his spirit and gradually become content with it, persuading himself that it
is not so low after all. In a week or two you will be making him doubt whether
the first days of his Christianity were not, perhaps, a little excessive. Talk
to him about “moderation in all things”. If you can once get him to the point of
thinking that “religion is all very well up to a point”, you can feel quite
happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at
all—and more amusing.

Another possibility is that of direct attack on his faith. When you have caused
him to assume that the trough is permanent, can you not persuade him that “his
religious phase” is just going to die away like all his previous phases? Of
course there is no conceivable way of getting by reason from the proposition “I
am losing interest in this” to the proposition “This is false”. But, as I said
before, it is jargon, not reason, you must rely on. The mere word phase will
very likely do the trick. I assume that the creature has been through several of
them before—they all have—and that he always feels superior and patronising to
the ones he has emerged from, not because he has really criticised them but
simply because they are in the past. (You keep him well fed on hazy ideas of
Progress and Development and the Historical Point of View, I trust, and give him
lots of modern Biographies to read? The people in them are always emerging from
Phases, aren’t they?)

You see the idea? Keep his mind off the plain antithesis between True and False.
Nice shadowy expressions—”It was a phase”—”I’ve been through all that”—and don’t
forget the blessed word “Adolescent”,
Your affectionate uncle



I was delighted to hear from Triptweeze that your patient has made some very
desirable new acquaintances and that you seem to have used this event in a
really promising manner. I gather that the middle-aged married couple who called
at his office are just the sort of people we want him to know—rich, smart,
superficially intellectual, and brightly sceptical about everything in the
world. I gather they ore even vaguely pacifist, not on moral grounds but from an
ingrained habit of belittling anything that concerns the great mass of their
fellow men and from a dash of purely fashionable and literary communism. This is
excellent. And you seem to have made good use of all his social, sexual, and
intellectual vanity. Tell me more. Did he commit himself deeply? I don’t mean in
words. There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a Mortal
can imply that he is of the same party is those to whom he is speaking. That is
the kind of betrayal you should specially encourage, because the man does not
fully realise it himself; and by the time he does you will have made withdrawal

No doubt he must very soon realise that his own faith is in direct opposition to
the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based. I
don’t think that matters much provided that you can persuade him to postpone any
open acknowledgment of the fact, and this, with the aid of shame, pride, modesty
and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in
a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he
ought to be silent.

He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and sceptical attitudes which are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary. The real question is how to prepare for the Enemy’s counter attack.

The first thing is to delay as long as possible the moment at which he realises
this new pleasure as a temptation. Since the Enemy’s servants have been
preaching about “the World” as one of the great standard temptations for two
thousand years, this might seem difficult to do. But fortunately they have said
very little about it for the last few decades. In modern Christian writings,
though I see much (indeed more than I like) about Mammon, I see few of the old
warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time.
All that, your patient would probably classify as “Puritanism”—and may I remark
in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid
triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans
from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life.

Sooner or later, however, the real nature of his new friends must become clear
to him, and then your tactics must depend on the patient’s intelligence. If he
is a big enough fool you can get him to realise the character of the friends
only while they are absent; their presence can be made to sweep away all
criticism. If this succeeds, he can be induced to live, as I have known many
humans live, for quite long periods, two parallel lives; he will not only appear
to be, but actually be, a different man in each of the circles he frequents.
Failing this, there is a subtler and more entertaining method. He can be made to
take a positive pleasure in the perception that the two sides of his life are

This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a “deeper”, “spiritual” world within him which they cannot understand. You see the
idea—the worldly friends touch him on one side and the grocer on the other, and
he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while
being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel,
instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction. Finally, if all
else fails, you can persuade him, in defiance of conscience, to continue the new
acquaintance on the ground that he is, in some unspecified way, doing these
people “good” by the mere fact of drinking their cocktails and laughing at their
jokes, and that to cease to do so would be “priggish”, “intolerant”, and (of
course) “Puritanical”.

Meanwhile you will of course take the obvious precaution of seeing that this new
development induces him to spend more than he can afford and to neglect his work
and his mother. Her jealousy, and alarm, and his increasing evasiveness or
rudeness, will be invaluable for the aggravation of the domestic tension,
Your affectionate uncle



Everything is clearly going very well. am specially glad to hear that the two
new friends have now made him acquainted with their whole set. All these, as I
find from the record office, are thoroughly reliable people; steady, consistent
scoffers and worldlings who without any spectacular crimes are progressing
quietly and comfortably towards our Father’s house. You speak of their being
great laughers. I trust this does not mean that you are under the impression
that laughter as such is always in our favour. The point is worth some

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and
Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve
of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided,
but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a
time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not
know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the
humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless
acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter
of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the
phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity,
and austerity of Hell.

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play
instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to
divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling
or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes
charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more
promising field. I am not thinking primarily of indecent or bawdy humour, which,
though much relied upon by second-rate tempters, is often disappointing in its
results. The truth is that humans are pretty clearly divided on this matter into
two classes. There are some to whom “no passion is as serious as lust” and for
whom an indecent story ceases to produce lasciviousness precisely in so far as
it becomes funny: there are others in whom laughter and lust are excited at the
same moment and by the same things. The first sort joke about sex because it
gives rise to many incongruities: the second cultivate incongruities because
they afford a pretext for talking about sex. If your man is of the first type,
bawdy humour will not help you—I shall never forget the hours which I wasted
(hours to me of unbearable tedium) with one of my early patients in bars and
smoking-rooms before I learned this rule. Find out which group the patient
belongs to—and see that he does not find out.

The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is
specially promising among the English who take their “sense of humour” so
seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which
they feel shame. Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the
all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying
shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is “mean”; if he boasts of it
in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no
longer “mean” but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice
boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can passed off as
funny. Cruelty is shameful—unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical
joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s
damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be
done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows,
if only it can get itself treated as a Joke. And this temptation can be almost
entirely hidden from your patient by that English seriousness about Humour. Any
suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as
“Puritanical” or as betraying a “lack of humour”.

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only
a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else;
any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant
people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it;
but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have
already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy
builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know,
and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.
It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the
intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it,
Your affectionate uncle



Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting
to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and
I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally
different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of
direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around he
Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected
this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to
suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a
line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.
For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a
communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that
he should realise the break it has made with the first months of his Christian
life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be
made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements
but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he
thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a
definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling
that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.

This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake
him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it
entirely—which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do—we lose
an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a
feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower
into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s
reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some
such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a
whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.
They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment
hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit,
but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them
as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as
possible when they are over. A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality
and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to
you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will
want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective
contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed
from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the
uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real
happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and
flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit
fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is
sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book,
which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a
column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste
his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in
conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You
can make him do nothing at all for long periods.

You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and
nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients
said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing
neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one
“without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to
steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of
the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of
curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of
fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in
the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give
them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature
is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young
tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do
remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the
man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that
their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the
Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the
safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without
sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,
Your affectionate uncle



It seems to me that you take a great many pages to tell a very simple story. The
long and the short of it is that you have let the man slip through your fingers.
The situation is very grave, and I really see no reason why I should try to
shield you from the consequences or your inefficiency. A repentance and renewal
of what the other side call “grace” on the scale which you describe is a defeat
of the first order. It amounts to a second conversion—and probably on a deeper
level than the first.

As you ought to have known, the asphyxiating cloud which prevented your
attacking the patient on his walk back from the old mill, is a well-known
phenomenon. It is the Enemy’s most barbarous weapon, and generally appears when
He is directly present to the patient under certain modes not yet fully
classified. Some humans are permanently surrounded by it and therefore
inaccessible to us.

And now for your blunders. On your own showing you first of all allowed the
patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order
to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you
allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there—a walk through
country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words you allowed him two
real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger of this?
The characteristic of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real,
and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of
reality. Thus if you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method—by
making him a kind of Childe Harold or Werther submerged in self-pity for
imaginary distresses—you would try to protect him at all costs from any real
pain; because, of course, five minutes’ genuine toothache would reveal the
romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem. But
you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off
vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures.

How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn’t you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery
which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of
pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all?
That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been
forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself?

As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from
himself, and had made some progress in doing so. Now, all that is undone.
Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in
a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and
sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of
their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will;
once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and
boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more
themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even
their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own
nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so.

The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the
starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from
those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is
always desirable substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or
fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry
this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong
personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite
trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking
cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue them; but there is a
sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I
distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the
world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about
it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of
attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or
books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the
“important” books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to
social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

It remains to consider how we can retrieve this disaster. The great thing is to
prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it
does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little
brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it;
that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants
in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his
imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As
one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but
passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he
will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to
feel,Your affectionate uncle



The most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making
none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion. No
more lavish promises of perpetual virtue, I gather; not even the expectation of
an endowment of “grace” for life, but only a hope for the daily and hourly
pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation! This is very bad.
I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble; have
you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once
the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch
him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the
gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately
pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and
tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so
on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear
you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh
at you and go to bed.

But there are other profitable ways of fixing his attention on the virtue of
Humility. By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the
man’s attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbours. All the
abjection and self-hatred are designed, in the long run, solely for this end;
unless they attain this end they do us little harm; and they may even do us good
if they keep the man concerned with himself, and, above all, if self-contempt
can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves, and thus for gloom,
cynicism, and cruelty.

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him
think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely,
a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he
really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe
those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are
in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great
thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus
introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what
otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have
been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they
are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they
are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot
succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly
revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible.

To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the
man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world,
and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or
less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done
by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his
own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as
in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He
wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even
himself) as glorious and excellent things.

He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves,
including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as
themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. For we
must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our
Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back
to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.
His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man’s mind off the subject of
his own value altogether.

He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one. Your efforts to instil either vainglory or false modesty into the patient will therefore be met from the Enemy’s side with the obvious reminder that a man is not usually called upon
to have an opinion of his own talents at all, since he can very well go on
improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise
niche in the temple of Fame. You must try to exclude this reminder from the
patient’s consciousness at all costs.

The Enemy will also try to render real in the patient’s mind a doctrine which they all profess but find it difficult to bring home to their feelings—the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the
colour of their hair. But always and by all methods the Enemy’s aim will be to
get the patient’s mind off such questions, and yours will be to fix it on them.
Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are
repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy
is pleased,
Your affectionate uncle



I had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European
war—what they naпvely call “The War”!—and am not surprised that there is a
corresponding lull in the patient’s anxieties. Do we want to encourage this, or
to keep him worried? Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable
states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions.
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. For the Present is the point at
which time touches eternity.

Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union
with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of
conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving
thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With
this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in
the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the
past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity.
.It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes
all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the
Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making
them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is,
of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal
part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all
lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those
schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or
Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of

Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to
the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
Do not think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin
(which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the
process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the
sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a
Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is
necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be
their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty;
though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is
in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the
Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man
who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation),
washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns
at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over
him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an
imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the
present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the
other—dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he
will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the
rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere
fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered
them in the Present.

It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for
your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t much matter which)
about this war than for him to be living in the present. But the phrase “living
in the present” is ambiguous. It may describe a process which is really just as
much concerned with the Future as anxiety itself. Your man may be untroubled
about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he
has persuaded himself that the Future is, going to be agreeable. As long as that
is the real course of his tranquillity, his tranquillity will do us good,
because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience,
for him when his false hopes are dashed. If, on the other hand, he is aware that
horrors may be in store for him and is praying for the virtues, wherewith to
meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there, and
there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, his
state is very undesirable and should be attacked at once. Here again, our
Philological Arm has done good work; try the word “complacency” on him. But, of
course, it is most likely that he is “living in the Present” for none of these
reasons but simply because his health is good and he is enjoying his work. The
phenomenon would then be merely natural.

All the same, I should break it up if I were you. No natural phenomenon is really in our favour. And anyway, why should the creature be happy?
Your affectionate uncle



You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to
attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not
wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on
the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it
is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man
can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the
neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster
or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should
always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it
brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity
the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each
church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or
faction. In the second place, the search for a “suitable” church makes the man a
critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.

What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it
does not appraise—does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but
lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is
going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!)
This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to
our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul.
There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it
is received in this temper. So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round
of the neighbouring churches as soon as possible. Your record up to date has not
given us much satisfaction.

The two churches nearest to him, I have looked up in the office. Both have
certain claims. At the first of these the Vicar is a man who has been so long
engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for supposedly incredulous
and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with
his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul’s Christianity. His
conduct of the services is also admirable. In order to spare the laity all
“difficulties” he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and
now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his
fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the
danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should over
reach them through Scripture. But perhaps bur patient is not quite silly enough
for this church—or not yet?

At the other church we have Fr. Spike. The humans are often puzzled to
understand the range of his opinions—why he is one day almost a Communist and
the next not far from some kind of theocratic Fascism—one day a scholastic, and
the next prepared to deny human reason altogether—one day immersed in politics,
and, the day after, declaring that all states of us world are equally “under
judgment”. We, of course, see the connecting link, which is Hatred. The man
cannot bring himself to teach anything which is not calculated to mock, grieve,
puzzle, or humiliate his parents and their friends. A sermon which such people
would accept would be to him as insipid as a poem which they could scan. There
is also a promising streak of dishonesty in him; we are teaching him to say “The
teaching of the Church is” when he really means “I’m almost sure I read recently
in Maritain or someone of that sort”. But I must warn you that he has one fatal
defect: he really believes. And this may yet mar all.

But there is one good point which both these churches have in common—they are
both party churches. I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be
kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party
within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more
lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend
for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say
“mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly
state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any
form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent
things—candles and clothes and what not—are an admirable ground for our
activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow
Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials—namely, that the human
without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would
think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the
“low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of
his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining
from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And
so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of
usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of
charity and humility,
Your affectionate uncle



The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching
souls, in your last letter, only shows your ignorance. One of the great,
achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience
on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a
conscience troubled about it in the whole length and breadth of Europe. This has
largely been effected by concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy,
not gluttony of Excess. Your patient’s mother, as I learn from the dossier and
you might have learned from Glubose, is a good example. She would be
astonished—one day, I hope, will be—to learn that her whole life is enslaved to
this kind of sensuality, which is quite concealed from her by the fact that the
quantities involved are small. But what do quantities matter, provided we can
use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience,
uncharitableness, and self-concern? Glubose has this old woman well in hand. She
is a positive terror to hostesses and servants. She is always turning from what
has been offered her to say with a demure little sign and a smile “Oh please,
please…all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest
weeniest bit of really crisp toast”.

You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognises as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes that she is practising temperance. In a crowded restaurant she gives a little scream at the
plate which some overworked waitress has set before her and says, “Oh, that’s
far, far too much! Take it away and bring me about a quarter of it”. If
challenged, she would say she was doing this to avoid waste; in reality she does
it because the particular shade of delicacy to which we have enslaved her is
offended by the sight of more food than she happens to want.
The real value of the quiet, unobtrusive work which Glubose has been doing for
years on this old woman can be gauged by the way in which her belly now
dominates her whole life.

The woman is in what may be called the “All-I-want” state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted. But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things “properly”—because her “properly” conceals an insatiable demand for the exact, and almost impossible, palatal
pleasures which she imagines she remembers from the past; a past described by
her as “the days when you could get good servants” but known to us as the days
when her senses were more easily pleased and she had pleasures of other kinds
which made her less dependent on those of the table. Meanwhile, the daily
disappointment produces daily ill temper: cooks give notice and friendships are
cooled. If ever the Enemy introduces into her mind a faint suspicion that she is
too interested in food, Glubose counters it by suggesting to her that she
doesn’t mind what she eats herself but “does like to have things nice for her
boy”. In fact, of course, her greed has been one of the chief sources of his
domestic discomfort for many years.

Now your patient is his mother’s son. While working your hardest, quite rightly,
on other fronts, you must not neglect a little quiet infiltration in respect of
gluttony. Being a male, he is not so likely to be caught by the “All I want”
camouflage. Males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity.

They ought to be made to think themselves very knowing about food, to pique
themselves on having found the only restaurant in the town where steaks are really “properly”
cooked. What begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into habit. But,
however you approach it, the great thing is to bring him into the state in which
the denial of any one indulgence—it matters not which, champagne or tea, sole
colbert or cigarettes—”puts him out”, for then his charity, justice, and
obedience are all at your mercy.

Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy. Its chief use is as a
kind of artillery preparation for attacks on chastity. On that, as on every
other subject, keep your man in a condition of false spirituality. Never let him
notice the medical aspect. Keep him wondering what pride or lack of faith has
delivered him into your hands when a simple enquiry into what he has been eating
or drinking for the last twenty-four hours would show him whence your ammunition
comes and thus enable him by a very little abstinence to imperil your lines of

If he must think of the medical side of chastity, feed him the grand lie which we have made the English humans believe, that physical exercise in excess and consequent fatigue are specially favourable to this virtue. How they can believe this, in face of the notorious lustfulness of sailors and soldiers, may well be asked. But we used the schoolmasters to put the story about—men who were really interested in chastity as an excuse for games and
therefore recommended games as an aid to chastity. But this whole business is
too large to deal with at the tail-end of a letter,
Your affectionate uncle


Even under Slubgob you must have learned at college the routine technique of
sexual temptation, and since, for us spirits, this whole subject is one of
considerable tedium (though necessary as part of our training) I will pass it
over. But on the larger issues involved I think you have a good deal to learn.
The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete
abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory,
we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few
centuries, we have been closing as a way of escape. We have done this through
the poets and novelists by persuading he humans that a curious, and usually
short-lived, experience which they call “being in love” is the only respectable
ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement
permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This
idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy.

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is
not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is
my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate
object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies;
if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them.
A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for
us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a
stronger. “To be” means “to be in competition”.

Now the Enemy’s philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt
to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be
many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another.
This impossibility He calls love, and this same monotonous panacea can be
detected under all He does and even all He is—or claims to be. Thus He is not
content, even Himself, to be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three
as well as one, in order that this nonsense about Love may find a foothold in
His own nature. At the other end of the scale, He introduces into matter that
obscene invention the organism, in which the parts are perverted from their
natural destiny of competition and made to co-operate.

His real motive for fixing on sex as the method of reproduction among humans is
only too apparent from the use He has made of it. Sex might have been, from our
point of view, quite innocent. It might have been merely one more mode in which
a stronger self preyed upon a weaker—as it is, indeed, among the spiders where
the bride concludes her nuptials by eating her groom. But in the humans the
Enemy has gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual
desire. He has also made the offspring dependent on the parents and given the
parents an impulse to support it—thus producing the Family, which is like the
organism, only worse; for the members are more distinct, yet also united in a
more conscious and responsible way. The whole thing, in fact, turns out to be
simply one more device for dragging in Love.

Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as “one flesh”. He did
not lay “a happily married couple” or “a couple who married because they were in
love”, but you can make the humans ignore that. You can also make them forget
that the man they call Paul did not confine it to married couples. Mere
copulation, for him, makes “one flesh”. You can thus get the humans to accept as
rhetorical eulogies of “being in love” what were in fact plain descriptions of
the real significance of sexual intercourse. The truth is that wherever a man
lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation
is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.
From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended to
produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and
the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of
affection, fear, and desire which they call “being in love” is the only thing
that makes marriage either happy or holy.

The error is easy to produce because “being in love” does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not
always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to
regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of
something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the
first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from
seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves “in love”,
and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low
and cynical.

Yes, they think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a
partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the
transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion. (Don’t neglect
to make your man think the marriage-service very offensive.) In the second place
any sexual infatuation whatever, so long as it intends marriage, will be
regarded as “love”, and “love” will be held to excuse a man from all the guilt,
and to protect him from all the consequences, if marrying a heathen, a fool, or
a wanton. But more of this in my next,
Your affectionate uncle



I have been thinking very hard about the question in your last letter. If, as I
have clearly shown, all selves are by their very nature in competition, and
therefore the Enemy’s idea of Love is a contradiction in terms, what becomes of
my reiterated warning that He really loves the human vermin and really desires
their freedom and continued existence? I hope, my dear boy, you have not shown
my letters to anyone. Not that it matters of course. Anyone would see that the
appearance of heresy into which I have fallen is purely accidental. By the way,
I hope you understood, too, that some apparently uncomplimentary references to
Slubgob were purely jocular. I really have the highest respect for him. And, of
course, some things I said about not shielding you from the authorities were not
seriously meant. You can trust me to look after your interests. But do keep
everything under lock and key.

The truth is I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really
loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility. He is one being, they
are distinct from Him. Their good cannot be His. All His talk about Love must be
a disguise for something else—He must have some real motive for creating them
and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He
really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to out that real motive.
What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question. I do not
see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause
of Our Father’s quarrel with the Enemy. When the creation of man was first
mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw
a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview
and asked for an explanation.

The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the
cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever
since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay
His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt
a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart
that you did”. It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our
Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove
himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given
rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven.
Since then, we have begun to see why our Oppressor was so secretive. His throne
depends on the secret. Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if
ever we came to understand what He means by Love, the war would be over and we
should re-enter Heaven.

And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot
really love: nobody can: it doesn’t make sense. If we could only find out what
He is really up to! Hypothesis after hypothesis has been tried, and still we
can’t find out. Yet we must never lose hope; more and more complicated theories,
fuller and fuller collections of data, richer rewards for researchers who make
progress, more and more terrible punishments for those who fail—all this,
pursued and accelerated to the very end of time, cannot, surely, fail to

You complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being
in love as a desirable state for a human or not. But really, Wormwood, that is
the sort of question one expects them to ask! Leave them to discuss whether
“Love”, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or
education, are “good” or “bad”. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters
at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to
move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to
us. Thus it would be quite a good thing to make the patient decide that “love”
is “good” or “bad”.

If he is an arrogant man with a contempt for the body really
based on delicacy but mistaken by him for purity—and one who takes pleasure in
flouting what most if his fellows approve—by all means let him decide against
love. Instil into him an over-weening asceticism and then, when you have
separated his sexuality from all that might humanise it, weigh in on him with it
in some much more brutal and cynical form. If, on the other hand, he is an
emotional, gullible man, feed him on minor poets and fifth-rate novelists of the
old school until you have made him believe that “Love” is both irresistible and
somehow intrinsically meritorious. This belief is not much help, I grant you, in
producing casual unchastity; but it is an incomparable recipe for prolonged,
“noble”, romantic, tragic adulteries, ending, if all goes well, in murders and

Failing that, it can be used to steer the patient into a useful
marriage. For marriage, though the Enemy’s invention, has its uses. There must
be several young women in your patient’s neighbourhood who would render the
Christian life intensely difficult to him if only you could persuade him to
marry one of them. Please send me a report on this when you next write. In the
meantime, get it quite clear in your own mind that this state of falling in love
is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It
is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. Like
most of the other things which humans are excited about, such as health and
sickness, age and youth, or war and peace, it is, from the point of view of the
spiritual life, mainly raw material,
Your affectionate uncle



I note with great displeasure that the Enemy has, for the time being, put a
forcible end to your direct attacks on the patient’s chastity. You ought to have
known that He always does in the end, and you ought to have stopped before you
reached that stage. For as things are, your man has now discovered the dangerous
truth that these attacks don’t last forever; consequently you cannot use again
what is, after all, our best weapon—the belief of ignorant humans, that there is
no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding. I suppose you’ve tried
persuading him that chastity is unhealthy?

I haven’t yet got a report from you on young women in the neighbourhood. I
should like it once, for if we can’t use his sexuality to make him unchaste we
must try to use it for promotion of a desirable marriage. In the meantime I
would like to give you some hint about the type of woman—I mean the physical
type—which he should be encouraged to fall in love with if “falling in love” is
the best we can manage.

In a rough and ready way, of course, this question is decided for us by spirits
far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I. It is the business of these
great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be
called sexual “taste”. This they do by working through the small circle of
popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the
fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the
other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most
likely. Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent
of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard)
disagreeable to nearly all the females—and there is more in that than you might

As regards the male taste we have varied a good deal. At one time we
have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men’s
vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the
most arrogant and prodigal women. At another, we have selected an exaggeratedly
feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the
general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them, shall be at a
premium. At present we are on the opposite tack. The age of jazz has succeeded
the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are
scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind of beauty even
more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of
growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less
able to bear children.

And that is not all. We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely
drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and
propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than
nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world
is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to
nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to
something which does not exist—making the rфle of the eye in sexuality more and
more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible.
What follows you can easily forecast!

That is the general strategy of the moment. But inside that framework you will
still find it possible to encourage your patient’s desires in one of two
directions. You will find, if you look carefully into any human’s heart, that he
is haunted by at least two imaginary women—a terrestrial and an infernal Venus,
and that his desire differs qualitatively according to its object.

There is one type for which his desire is such as to be naturally amenable to the
Enemy—readily mixed with charity, readily obedient to marriage, coloured all
through with that golden light of reverence and naturalness which we detest;
there is another type which he desires brutally, and desires to desire brutally,
a type best used to draw him away from marriage altogether but which, even
within marriage, he would tend to treat as a slave, an idol, or an accomplice.
His love for the first might involve what the Enemy calls evil, but only
accidentally; the man would wish that she was not someone else’s wife and be
sorry that he could not love her lawfully.

But in the second type, the felt evil is what he wants; it is that “tang” in the flavour which he is after. In the face, it is the visible animality, or sulkiness, or craft, or cruelty which he
likes, and in the body, something quite different from what he ordinarily calls
Beauty, something he may even, in a sane hour, describe as ugliness, but which,
by our art, can be made to play on the raw nerve of his private obsession.
The real use of the infernal Venus is, no doubt, as prostitute or mistress. But
if your man is a Christian, and if he has been well trained in nonsense about
irresistible and all-excusing “Love”, he can often be induced to marry her. And
that is very well worth bringing about. You will have failed as regards
fornication and solitary vice; but there are other, and more indirect, methods
of using a man’s sexuality to his undoing. And, by the way, they are not only
efficient, but delightful; the unhappiness produced is of a very lasting and
exquisite kind,

Your affectionate uncle



Yes. A period of sexual temptation is an excellent time for working in a
subordinate attack on the patient’s peevishness. It may even be the main attack,
as long as he thinks it the subordinate one. But here, as in everything else,
the way must be prepared for your moral assault by darkening his intellect.
Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury.
And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been
denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to
make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now
you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to
find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal
unexpectedly taken from him.

It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked
forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he
looked forward to a tкte-а-tкte with the friend), that throw him out of gear.
Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his
courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards
his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore
zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption “My time is my own”. Let him
have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four
hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has
to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion
which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to
doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some
mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.

You have here a delicate task. The assumption which you want him to go on making
is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of
argument in its defence. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of
time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon
his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed a total service of the Enemy; and
if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for
even one day, he would not refuse. He would be greatly relieved if that one day
involved nothing harder than listening to the conversation of a foolish woman;
and he would be relieved almost to the pitch of disappointment if for one
half-hour in that day the Enemy said “Now you may go and amuse yourself”. Now if
he thinks about his assumption for a moment, even he is bound to realise that he
is actually in this situation every day. When I speak of preserving this
assumption in his mind, therefore, the last thing I mean you to do is to furnish
him with arguments in its defence.

There aren’t any. Your task is purely negative. Don’t let his thoughts come anywhere near it. Wrap a darkness about it, and in the centre of that darkness let his sense of ownership-in-Time lie silent, uninspected, and operative.

The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are
always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in
Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity
comes from men’s belief that they “own” their bodies—those vast and perilous
estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find
themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure
of Another! It is as if a royal child whom his father has placed, for love’s
sake, in titular command of some great province, under the real rule of wise
counsellors, should come to fancy he really owns the cities, the forests, and
the corn, in the same way as he owns the bricks on the nursery floor.
We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach
them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun—the finely
graded differences that run from “my boots” through “my dog”, “my servant”, “my
wife”, “my father”, “my master” and “my country”, to “my God”. They can be
taught to reduce all these senses to that of “my boots”, the “my” of ownership.
Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by “my Teddy-bear” not the old
imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for
that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but “the
bear I can pull to pieces if I like”.

And at the other end of the scale, we have taught men to say “My God” in a sense not really very different from “My boots”, meaning “The God on whom I have a claim for my distinguished services and whom I exploit from the pulpit—the God I have done a corner in”.
And all the time the joke is that the word “Mine” in its fully possessive sense
cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In he long run either Our
Father or the Enemy will say “Mine” of each thing that exists, and specially
of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time,
their souls, and their bodies really belong—certainly not to them, whatever
happens. At present the Enemy says “Mine” of everything on the pedantic,
legalistic ground that He made it: Our Father hopes in the end to say “Mine” of
all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest,
Your affectionate uncle



So! Your man is in love—and in the worst kind he could possibly have fallen
into—and with a girl who does not even appear in the report you sent me. You may
be interested to learn that the little misunderstanding with the Secret Police
which you tried to raise about some unguarded expressions in one of my letters
has been tided over. If you were reckoning on that to secure my good offices,
you will find yourself mistaken. You shall pay for that as well as for your
other blunders. Meanwhile I enclose a little booklet, just issued, on the new
House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters. It is profusely illustrated and
you will not find a dull page in it.

I have looked up this girl’s dossier and am horrified at what I find. Not only a
Christian but such a Christian—a vile, sneaking, simpering, demure,
monosyllabic, mouse-like, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter
miss. The little brute. She makes me vomit. She stinks and scalds through the
very pages of the dossier. It drives me mad, the way the world has worsened.
We’d have had her to the arena in the old days. That’s what her sort is made
for. Not that she’d do much good there, either. A two-faced little cheat (I know
the sort) who looks as if she’d faint at the sight of blood and then dies with a

A cheat every way. Looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth and yet
has a satirical wit. The sort of creature who’d find ME funny! Filthy insipid
little prude—and yet ready to fall into this booby’s arms like any other
breeding animal. Why doesn’t the Enemy blast her for it, if He’s so moonstruck
by virginity—instead of looking on there, grinning?

He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are
only a faзade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea,
there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right
hand are “pleasures for evermore”. Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling
of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s
vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of
pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in
the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying,
working, Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under
cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side. (Not that that excuses
you. I’ll settle with you presently. You have always hated me and been insolent
when you dared.)

Then, of course, he gets to know this woman’s family and whole circle. Could you
not see that the very house she lives in is one that he ought never to have
entered? The whole place reeks of that deadly odour. The very gardener, though
he has only been there five years, is beginning to acquire it. Even guests,
after a week-end visit, carry some of the smell away with them. The dog and the
cat are tainted with it. And a house full of the impenetrable mystery. We are
certain (it is a matter of first principles) that each member of the family must
in some way be making capital out of the others—but we can’t find out how. They
guard as jealously as the Enemy Himself the secret of what really lies behind
this pretence of disinterested love. The whole house and garden is one vast
obscenity. It bears a sickening resemblance to the description one human writer
made of Heaven; “the regions where there is only life and therefore all that is
not music is silence”.

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever
since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light
years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal
time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been
occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that
is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly
qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole
universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this
direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be
shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything
like it. Research is in progress. Meanwhile you, disgusting little——

[Here the MS. breaks off and is resumed in a different hand.]
In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to
assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest to my
secretary. Now that the transformation is complete I recognise it as a
periodical phenomenon. Some rumour of it has reached the humans and a distorted
account of it appears in the poet Milton, with the ridiculous addition that such
changes of shape are a “punishment” imposed on us by the Enemy. A more modern
writer—someone with a name like Pshaw—has, however, grasped the truth.
Transformation proceeds from within and is a glorious manifestation of that Life
Force which Our Father would worship if he worshipped anything but himself. In
my present form I feel even more anxious to see you, to unite you to myself in
an indissoluble embrace,
For his Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary
Screwtape, T.E., B.S., etc.



Through this girl and her disgusting family the patient is now getting to know
more Christians every day, and very intelligent Christians too. For a long time
it will be quite impossible to remove spirituality from his life. Very well
then; we must corrupt it. No doubt you have often practised transforming
yourself into an angel of light as a parade-ground exercise. Now is the time to
do it in the face of the Enemy. The World and the Flesh have failed us; a third
Power remains. And success of this third kind is the most glorious of all. A
spoiled saint, a Pharisee, an inquisitor, or a magician, makes better sport in
Hell than a mere common tyrant or debauchee.
Looking round your patient’s new friends I find that the best point of attack
would be the border-line between theology and politics. Several of his new
friends are very much alive to the social implications of their religion. That,
in itself, is a bad thing; but good can be made out of it.

You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that
Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder,
at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again
the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later
“accretions and perversions” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian
tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a
“historical Jesus” on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward
a new “historical Jesus” on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The
advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years
or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion
to something which does not exist, for each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical.
The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new “historical
Jesus” therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and
exaggeration at another, and by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the
adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten
shillings in ordinary life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new
Napoleons, new Shakespeares, and new Swifts, in every publisher’s autumn list.
In the second place, all such constructions place the importance of their
Historical Jesus in some peculiar theory He is supposed to have promulgated.

He has to be a “great man” in the modern sense of the word—one standing at the
terminus of some centrifugal and unbalanced line of thought—a crank vending a
panacea. We thus distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first
make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement
between His teachings and those of all other great moral teachers. For humans
must not be allowed to notice that all great moralists are sent by the Enemy not
to inform men but to remind them, to restate the primeval moral platitudes
against our continual concealment of them. We make the Sophists: He raises up a
Socrates to answer them. Our third aim is, by these constructions, to destroy
the devotional life. For the real presence of the Enemy, otherwise experienced
by men in prayer and sacrament, we substitute a merely probable, remote,
shadowy, and uncouth figure, one who spoke a strange language and died a long
time ago. Such an object cannot in fact be worshipped. Instead of the Creator
adored by its creature, you soon have merely a leader acclaimed by a partisan,
and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian. And
fourthly, besides being unhistorical in the Jesus it depicts, religion of this
kind is false to history in another sense.

No nation, and few individuals, are really brought into the Enemy’s camp by the
historical study of the biography of Jesus, simply as biography. Indeed
materials for a full biography have been withheld from men. The earliest
converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a
single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which
they already had—and sin, not against some new fancy-dress law produced as a
novelty by a “great man”, but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral
law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers. The “Gospels” come
later and were written not to make Christians but to edify Christians already

The “Historical Jesus” then, however dangerous he may seem to be to us at some
particular point, is always to be encouraged. About the general connection
between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we
do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political
life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a
major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men
treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own
advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.
The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing
which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values
Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be
used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in
order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of
Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite
easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage
in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the
ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the
birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because
it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game,
Your affectionate uncle



I have been in correspondence with Slumtrimpet who is in charge of your
patient’s young woman, and begin to see the chink in her armour. It is an
unobtrusive little vice which she shares with nearly all women who have grown up
in an intelligent circle united by a clearly defined belief; and it consists in
a quite untroubled assumption that the outsiders who do not share this belief
are really too stupid and ridiculous. The males, who habitually meet these
outsiders, do not feel that way; their confidence, if they are confident, is of
a different kind. Hers, which she supposes to be due to Faith, is in reality
largely due to the mere colour she has taken from her surroundings. It is not,
in fact, very different from the conviction she would have felt at the age of
ten that the kind of fish-knives used in her father’s house were the proper or
normal or “real” kind, while those of the neighbouring families were “not real
fish-knives” at all. Now the element of ignorance and naпvety in all this is so
large, and the element of spiritual pride so small, that it gives us little hope
of the girl herself. But have you thought of how it can be made to influence
your own patient?

It is always the novice who exaggerates. The man who has risen in society is
over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic. In this new circle your patient is
a novice. He is there daily meeting Christian life of a quality he never before
imagined and seeing it all through an enchanted glass because he is in love. He
is anxious (indeed the Enemy commands him) to imitate this quality. Can you get
him to imitate this defect in his mistress and to exaggerate it until what was
venial in her becomes in him the strongest and most beautiful of the
vices—Spiritual Pride?

The conditions seem ideally favourable. The new circle in which he finds himself
is one of which he is tempted to be proud for many reasons other than its
Christianity. It is a better educated, more intelligent, more agreeable society
than any he has yet encountered. He is also under some degree of illusion as to
his own place in it. Under the influence of “love” he may still think himself
unworthy of the girl, but he is rapidly ceasing to think himself unworthy of the
others. He has no notion how much in him is forgiven because they are charitable
and made the best of because he is now one of the family. He does not dream how
much of his conversation, how many of his opinions, are recognised by them all
as mere echoes of their own. Still less does he suspect how much of the delight
he takes in these people is due to the erotic enchantment which the girl, for
him, spreads over all her surroundings. He thinks that he likes their talk and
way of life because of some congruity between their spiritual state and his,
when in fact they are so far beyond him that if he were not in love he would be
merely puzzled and repelled by much which he now accepts.
He is like a dog which should imagine it understood fire-arms because its hunting instinct and love for its master enable it to enjoy a day’s shooting!

Here is your chance. While the Enemy, by means of sexual love and of some very
agreeable people far advanced in His service, is drawing the young barbarian up
to levels he could never otherwise have reached, you must make him feel that he
is finding his own level—that these people are “his sort” and that, coming among
them, he has come home. When he turns from them to other society he will find it
dull; partly because almost any society within his reach is, in fact, much less
entertaining, but still more because he will miss the enchantment of the young
woman. You must teach him to mistake his contrast between the circle that
delights and the circle that bores him for the contrast between Christians and
unbelievers. He must be made to feel (he’d better not put it into words) “how
different we Christians are”; and by “we Christians” he must really, but
unknowingly, mean “my set”; and by “my set” he must mean not “The people who, in
their charity and humility, have accepted me”, but “The people with whom I
associate by right”.

Success here depends on confusing him. If you try to make him explicitly and
professedly proud of being a Christian, you will probably fail; the Enemy’s
warnings are too well known. If, on the other hand, you let the idea of “we
Christians” drop out altogether and merely make him complacent about “his set”,
you will produce not true spiritual pride but mere social vanity which, by
comparison, is a trumpery, puny little sin. What you want is to keep a sly
self-congratulation mixing with all his thoughts and never allow him to raise
the question “What, precisely, am I congratulating myself about?” The idea of
belonging to an inner ring, of being in a secret, is very sweet to him. Play on
that nerve. Teach him, using the influence of this girl when she is silliest, to
adopt an air of amusement at the things the unbelievers say. Some theories which
he may meet in modern Christian circles may here prove helpful; theories, I
mean, that place the hope of society in some inner ring of “clerks”, some
trained minority of theocrats. It is no affair of yours whether those theories
are true or false; the great thing is to make Christianity a mystery religion in
which he feels himself one of the initiates.

Pray do not fill your letters with rubbish about this European War. Its final
issue is, no doubt, important, but that is a matter for the High Command. I am
not in the least interested in knowing how many people in England have been
killed by bombs. In what state of mind they died, I can learn from the office at
this end. That they were going to die sometime, I knew already. Please keep your
mind on your work,
Your affectionate uncle



The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely
Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains
mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep
them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know—Christianity and
the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order,
Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research,
Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must
be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for
the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror
of the Same Old Thing.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have
produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in
counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live
in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it,
therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must
experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at
heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating
Pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than
eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love
of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very
world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm.
He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so
that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an
immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual ear; they change from
a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce
gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a
demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we
neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed
novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum
pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be
perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games in which conkers succeed
hopscotch as regularly as autumn follows summer. Only by our incessant efforts
is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up.

This demand is valuable in various ways. In the first place it diminishes
pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature
more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns. And continued
novelty costs money, so that the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or
both. And again, the more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all
the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids. Thus by
inflaming the horror of the Same Old Thing we have recently made the Arts, for
example, less dangerous to us than perhaps, they have ever been, “low-brow” and
“high-brow” artists alike being now daily drawn into fresh, and still fresh,
excesses of lasciviousness, unreason, cruelty, and pride. Finally, the desire
for novelty is indispensable if we are to produce Fashions or Vogues.

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their
real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those
vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest
to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them
running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all
crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we
make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when
they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are
really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is
directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”.

Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against
Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritansm; and whenever all men are
really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.
But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate his horror of the Same Old Thing
into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in
the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of
modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so useful. The Enemy loves
platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to
ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now
if we can keep men asking “Is it in accordance with the general movement of our
time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?”
they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of
course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will
be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future
to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum,
we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided
on. And great work has already been done.

Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective “unchanged” we have substituted the emotional adjective “stagnant”. We have trained them to
think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as
something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever
he does, whoever he is,
Your affectionate uncle



Yes; courtship is the time for sowing those seeds which will grow up ten years
later into domestic hatred. The enchantment of unsatisfied desire produces
results which the humans can be made to mistake for the results of charity.
Avail yourself of the ambiguity in the word “Love”: let them think they have
solved by Love problems they have in fact only waived or postponed under the
influence of the enchantment. While it lasts you have your chance to foment the
problems in secret and render them chronic.

The grand problem is that of “unselfishness”. Note, once again, the admirable
work of our Philological Arm in substituting the negative unselfishness for the
Enemy’s positive Charity. Thanks to this you can, from the very outset, teach a
man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that
he may be unselfish in forgoing them. That is a great point gained. Another
great help, where the parties concerned are male and female, is the divergence
of view about Unselfishness which we have built up between the sexes. A woman
means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving
trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy’s
service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man except
those whom Our Father has dominated completely; and, conversely, a man will live
long in the Enemy’s camp before he undertakes as much spontaneous work to please
others as a quite ordinary woman may do every day. Thus while the woman thinks
of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people’s rights, each sex,
without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically

On top of these confusions you can now introduce a few more. The erotic
enchantment produces a mutual complaisance in which each is really pleased to
give in to the wishes of the other. They also know that the Enemy demands of
them a degree of charity which, if attained, would result in similar actions.
You must make them establish as a Law for their whole married life that degree
of mutual self-sacrifice which is at present sprouting naturally out of the
enchantment, but which, when the enchantment dies away, they will not have
charity enough to enable them to perform. They will not see the trap, since they
are under the double blindness of mistaking sexual excitement for charity and of
thinking that the excitement will last.

When once a sort of official, legal, or nominal Unselfishness has been
established as a rule—a rule for the keeping of which their emotional resources
have died away and their spiritual resources have not yet grown—the most
delightful results follow. In discussing any joint action, it becomes obligatory
that A should argue in favour of B’s supposed wishes and against his own, while
B does the opposite. It is often impossible to find out either party’s real
wishes; with luck, they end by doing something that neither wants, while each
feels a glow of self-righteousness and harbours a secret claim to preferential
treatment for the unselfishness shown and a secret grudge against the other for
the ease with which the sacrifice has been accepted. Later on you can venture on
what may be called the Generous Conflict Illusion. This game is best played with
more than two players, in a family with grown-up children for example. Something
quite trivial, like having tea in the garden, is proposed. One member takes care
to make it quite clear (though not in so many words) that he would rather not
but is, of course, prepared to do so out of “Unselfishness”. The others
instantly withdraw their proposal, ostensibly through their “Unselfishness”, but
really because they don’t want to be used as a sort of lay figure on which the
first speaker practices petty altruisms. But he is not going to be done out of
his debauch of Unselfishness either. He insists on doing “what the others want”.
They insist on doing what he wants.

Passions are roused. Soon someone is saying “Very well then, I won’t have any tea at all!”, and a real quarrel ensues with bitter resentment on both sides. You see how it is done? If each side had been frankly contending for its own real wish, they would all have kept within the
bounds of reason and courtesy; but just because the contention is reversed and
each side is fighting the other side’s battle, all the bitterness which really
flows from thwarted self-righteousness and obstinacy and the accumulated grudges
of the last ten years is concealed from them by the nominal or official
“Unselfishness” of what they are doing or, at least, held to be excused by it.
Each side is, indeed, quite alive to the cheap quality of the adversary’s
Unselfishness and of the false position into which he is trying to force them;
but each manages to feel blameless and ill-used itself, with no more dishonesty
than comes natural to a human.

A sensible human once said, “If people knew how much ill-feeling Unselfishness
occasions, it would not be so often recommended from the pulpit”; and again,
“She’s the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by
their hunted expression”. All this can be begun even in the period of courtship.
A little real selfishness on your patient’s part is often of less value in the
long run, for securing his soul, than the first beginnings of that elaborate and
self-consciousness unselfishness which may one day blossom into the sort of
thing I have described. Some degree of mutual falseness, some surprise that the
girl does not always notice just how Unselfish he is being, can be smuggled in
already. Cherish these things, and, above all, don’t let the young fools notice

If they notice them they will be on the road to discovering that “love” is
not enough, that charity is needed and not yet achieved and that no external law
can supply its place. I wish Slumtrimpet could do something about undermining
that young woman’s sense of the ridiculous,
Your affectionate uncle



You seem to be doing very little good at present. The use of his “love” to
distract his mind from the Enemy is, of course, obvious, but you reveal what
poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of
distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of
his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this, or any other
distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by
sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had
happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that
before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours,
then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which
has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy, makes against us in
the long run.

A promising line is the following. Now that he is in love, a new idea of earthly
happiness has arisen in his mind: and hence a new urgency in his purely
petitionary prayers—about this war and other such matters. Now is the time for
raising intellectual difficulties about prayer of that sort. False spirituality
is always to be encouraged. On the seemingly pious ground that “praise and
communion with God is the true prayer”, humans can often be lured into direct
disobedience to the Enemy who (in His usual flat, commonplace, uninteresting
way) has definitely told them to pray for their daily bread and the recovery of
their sick. You will, of course, conceal from him the fact that the prayer for
daily bread, interpreted in a “spiritual sense”, is really just as crudely
petitionary as it is in any other sense.

But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will
probably continue such “crude” prayers whatever you do. But you can worry him
with the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no
objective result. Don’t forget to use the “heads I win, tails you lose”
argument. If the thing he prays for doesn’t happen, then that is one more proof
that petitionary prayers don’t work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be
able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and “therefore it
would have happened anyway”, and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a
proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.

You, being a spirit, will find it difficult to understand how he gets into this
confusion. But you must remember that he takes Time for an ultimate reality. He
supposes that the Enemy, like himself, sees some things as present, remembers
others as past, and anticipates others as future; or even if he believes that
the Enemy does not see things that way, yet, in his heart of hearts, he regards
this as a peculiarity of the Enemy’s mode of perception—he doesn’t really think
(though he would say he did) that things as the Enemy sees them are things as
they are! If you tried to explain to him that men’s prayers today are one of the
innumerable coordinates with which the Enemy harmonises the weather of tomorrow,
he would reply that then the Enemy always knew men were going to make those
prayers and, if so, they did not pray freely but were predestined to do so. And
he would add that the weather on a given day can be traced back through its
causes to the original creation of matter itself—so that the whole thing, both
on the human and on the material side, is given “from the word go”.

What he ought to say, of course, is obvious to us; that the problem of adapting the
particular weather to the particular prayers is merely the appearance, at two
points in his temporal mode of perception, of the total problem of adapting the
whole spiritual universe to the whole corporeal universe; that creation in its
entirety operates at every point of space and time, or rather that their kind of
consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act
as a series of successive events. Why that creative act leaves room for their
free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy’s nonsense
about “Love”. How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not
foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them
doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is
not to make him do it.

It may be replied that some meddlesome human writers, notably Boethius, have let
this secret out. But in the intellectual climate which we have at last succeeded
in producing throughout Western Europe, you needn’t bother about that. Only the
learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are
of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so. We have done this by
inculcating The Historical Point of View. The Historical Point of View, put
briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an
ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks
who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with
what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer’s development, or in
the general history of thought, it illustrates, and how it affected later
writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man’s
own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the
last ten years, and what is the “present state of the question”.

To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge—to anticipate that what he said
could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour—this would be rejected as
unutterably simple-minded. And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all
the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others;
for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the
danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the
characteristic truths of another. But thanks be to our Father and the Historical
Point of View, great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the
most ignorant mechanic who holds that “history is bunk”,
Your affectionate uncle



When I told you not to fill your letters with rubbish about the war, I meant, of
course, that I did not want to have your rather infantile rhapsodies about the
death of men and the destruction of cities. In so far as the war really concerns
the spiritual state of the patient, I naturally want full reports. And on this
aspect you seem singularly obtuse. Thus you tell me !with glee that there is
reason to expect heavy air raids on the town where the creature lives. This is a
crying example of something I have complained about already—your readiness to
forget the main point in your immediate enjoyment of human suffering. Do you not
know that bombs kill men? Or do you not realise that the patient’s death, at
this moment, is precisely what we want to avoid?

He has escaped the worldly friends with whom you tried to entangle him; he has “fallen in love” with a very Christian woman and is temporarily immune from your attacks on his chastity; and the various methods of corrupting his spiritual life which we have been trying
are so far unsuccessful. At the present moment, as the full impact of the war
draws nearer and his worldly hopes take a proportionately lower place in his
mind, full of his defence work, full of the girl, forced to attend to his
neighbours more than he has ever done before and liking it more than he
expected, “taken out of himself” as the humans say, and daily increasing in
conscious dependence on the Enemy, he will almost certainly be lost to us if he
is killed tonight.

This is so obvious that I am ashamed to write it. I sometimes wonder if you young fiends are not kept out on temptation-duty too long at a time—if you are not in some danger of becoming infected by the sentiments and values of the humans among whom you work. They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. I
know it seems strange that your chief aim at the moment should be the very same
thing for which the patient’s lover and his mother are praying—namely his bodily
safety. But so it is; you should be guarding him like the apple of your eye. If
he dies now, you lose him. If he survives the war, there is always hope.

The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But,
if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull
monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are
excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to
persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and
youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the
chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the
drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with
which we teach them to respond to it—all this provides admirable opportunities
of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years
prove prosperous, our position is even stronger.

Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it”, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of
acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and
agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which
is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less
unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in
His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of
feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our
patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of
unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the
earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent. Even
if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable
winds of fantasy and music and poetry—the mere face of a girl, the song of a
bird, or the sight of a horizon—are always blowing our whole structure away.
They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent
connections, and the policy of safety first.

So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness
is a work of time—assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe
the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience. Experience, in the
peculiar sense we teach them to give it, is, by the bye, a most useful word. A
great human philosopher nearly let our secret out when he said that where Virtue
is concerned “Experience is the mother of illusion”; but thanks to a change in
Fashion, and also, of course, to the Historical Point of View, we have largely
rendered his book innocuous.

How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so
little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors,
a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important
chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to
that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of
the race, for what humans call a “normal life” is the exception. Apparently He
wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling
Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of
sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the
better we must use it. Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you
possibly can,
Your affectionate uncle



Now that it is certain the German humans will bombard your patient’s town and
that his duties will keep him in the thick of the danger, we must consider our
policy. Are we to aim at cowardice—or at courage, with consequent pride—or at
hatred of the Germans?

Well, I am afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our research
department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to
produce any virtue. This is a serious handicap. To be greatly and effectively
wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage,
or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh? But as we cannot supply
these qualities ourselves, we can only use them as supplied by the Enemy—and
this means leaving Him a kind of foothold in those men whom, otherwise, we have
made most securely our own. A very unsatisfactory arrangement, but, I trust, we
shall one day learn to do better.

Hatred we can manage. The tension of human nerves during noise, danger, and
fatigue, makes them prone to any violent emotion and it is only a question of
guiding this susceptibility into the right channels. If conscience resists,
muddle him. Let him say that he feels hatred not on his own behalf but on that
of the women and children, and that a Christian is told to forgive his own, not
other people’s enemies. In other words let him consider himself sufficiently
identified with the women and children to feel hatred on their behalf, but not
sufficiently identified to regard their enemies as his own and therefore proper
objects of forgiveness.

But hatred is best combined with Fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is
purely painful—horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember;
Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a
frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears,
the more he will hate. And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. To make a
deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage.
Now this is a ticklish business. We have made men proud of most vices, but not
of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a
war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so
obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone,
and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The
danger of inducing cowardice in our patients, therefore, is lest we produce real
self-knowledge and self-loathing with consequent repentance and humility. And in
fact, in the last war, thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice,
discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many
of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them
in a guise to which even we cannot blind them.

There is here a cruel dilemma before us. If we promoted justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces (for He permits it to produce) a war or a
revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands
of men from moral stupor.

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous
world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as
you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every
virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A
chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest
or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.
It is therefore possible to lose as much as we gain by making your man a coward;
he may learn too much about himself! There is, of course, always the chance, not
of chloroforming the shame, but of aggravating it and producing Despair. This
would be a great triumph.

It would show that he had believed in, and accepted, the Enemy’s forgiveness of his other sins only because he himself did not fully feel their sinfulness—that in respect of the one vice which he really understands in its full depth of dishonour he cannot seek, nor credit, the
Mercy. But I fear you have already let him get too far in the Enemy’s school,
and he knows that Despair is a greater sin than any of the sins which provoke it.
As to the actual technique of temptations to cowardice, not much need be said.
The main point is that precautions have a tendency to increase fear. The
precautions publicly enjoined on your patient, however, soon become a matter of
routine and this effect disappears. What you must do is to keep running in his
mind (side by side with the conscious intention of doing his duty) the vague
idea of all sorts of things he can do or not do, inside the framework of the
duty, which seem to make him a little safer.

Get his mind off the simple rule (“I’ve got to stay here and do so-and-so”) into a series of imaginary life lines (“If A happened—though I very much hope it won’t—I could do B—and if the worst came to the worst, I could always do C”). Superstitions, if not recognised as
such, can be awakened. The point is to keep him feeling that he has something,
other than the Enemy and courage the Enemy supplies, to fall back on, so that
what was intended to be a total commitment to duty becomes honeycombed all
through with little unconscious reservations. By building up a series of
imaginary expedients to prevent “the worst coming to the worst” you may produce,
at that level of his will which he is not aware of, a determination that the
worst shall not come to the worst.

Then, at the moment of real terror, rush it out into his nerves and muscles and you may get the fatal act done before he knows what you’re about. For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no
Your affectionate uncle



I sometimes wonder whether you think you have been sent into the world for your
own amusement. I gather, not from your miserably inadequate report but from that
of the Infernal Police, that the patient’s behaviour during the first raid has
been the worst possible.

He has been very frightened and thinks himself a great coward and therefore feels no pride; but he has done everything his duty demanded and perhaps a bit more. Against this disaster all you can produce on the credit side is a burst of ill temper with a dog that tripped him up, some excessive cigarette smoking, and the forgetting of a prayer. What is the use of
whining to me about your difficulties? If you are proceeding on the Enemy’s idea
of “justice” and suggesting that your opportunities and intentions should be
taken into account, then I am not sure that a charge of heresy does not lie
against you. At any rate, you will soon find that the justice of Hell is purely
realistic, and concerned only with results. Bring us back food, or be food

The only constructive passage in your letter is where you say that you still
expect good results from the patient’s fatigue. That is well enough. But it
won’t fall into your hands. Fatigue can produce extreme gentleness, and quiet of
mind, and even something like vision. If you have often seen men led by it into
anger, malice and impatience, that is because those men have had efficient
tempters. The paradoxical thing is that moderate fatigue is a better soil for
peevishness than absolute exhaustion. This depends partly on physical causes,
but partly on something else. It is not fatigue simply as such that produces the
anger, but unexpected demands on a man already tired. Whatever men expect they
soon come to think they have a right to: the sense of disappointment can, with
very little skill on our part, be turned into a sense of injury. It is after men
have given in to the irremediable, after they have despaired of relief and
ceased to think even a half-hour ahead, that the dangers of humbled and gentle
weariness begin.
To produce the best results from the patient’s fatigue, therefore, you must feed him with false hopes. Put into his mind plausible reasons for believing that the air-raid will not be repeated. Keep him comforting himself with the thought of how much he will enjoy his bed next
night. Exaggerate the weariness by making him think it will soon be over; for
men usually feel that a strain could have been endured no longer at the very
moment when it is ending, or when they think it is ending. In this, as in the
problem of cowardice, the thing to avoid is the total commitment. Whatever he
says, let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear
it “for a reasonable period”—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the
trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter; in attacks on patience,
chastity, and fortitude, the fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but
known it) relief was almost in sight.

I do not know whether he is likely to meet the girl under conditions of strain
or not. If he does, make full use of the fact that up to a certain point,
fatigue makes women talk more and men talk less. Much secret resentment, even
between lovers, can be raised from this.

Probably the scenes he is now witnessing will not provide material for an
intellectual attack on his faith—your previous failures have put that out of
your power. But there is a sort of attack on the emotions which can still be
tried. It turns on making him feel, when first he sees human remains plastered
on a wall, that this is “what the world is really like” and that all his
religion has been a fantasy. You will notice that we have got them completely fogged about the meaning of the word “real”‘.

They tell each other, of some great spiritual experience, “All that
really happened was that you heard some music in a lighted building”; here
“Real” means the bare physical facts, separated from the other elements in the
experience they actually had. On the other hand, they will also say “It’s all
very well discussing that high dive as you sit here in an armchair, but wait
till you get up there and see what it’s really like”: here “real” is being used
in the opposite sense to mean, not the physical facts (which they know already
while discussing the matter in armchairs) but the emotional effect those facts
will have on a human consciousness.

Either application of the word could be defended; but our business is to keep the two going at once so that the emotional value of the word “real” can be placed now on one side of the account, now on the other, as it happens to suit us. The general rule which we have now
pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make
them happier or better only the physical facts are “Real” while the spiritual
elements are “subjective”; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt
them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an
escapist. Thus in birth the blood and pain are “real”, the rejoicing a mere
subjective point of view; in death, the terror and ugliness reveal what death
“really means”.

The hatefulness of a hated person is “real”—in hatred you see men as they are, you are disillusioned; but the loveliness of a loved person is merely a subjective haze concealing a “real” core of sexual appetite or economic association. Wars and poverty are “really” horrible; peace and plenty are mere physical facts about which men happen to have certain sentiments.

The creatures are always accusing one another of wanting “to cat the cake and have it”; but
thanks to our labours they are more often in the predicament of paying for the
cake and not eating it. Your patient, properly handled, will have no difficulty
in regarding his emotion at the sight of human entrails as a revelation of
Reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere
Your affectionate uncle



How mistakenly now that all is lost you come whimpering to ask me whether the
terms of affection in which I address you meant nothing from the beginning. Far
from it! Rest assured, my love for you and your love for me are as like as two
peas. I have always desired you, as you (pitiful fool) desired me. The
difference is that I am the stronger. I think they will give you to me now; or a
bit of you. Love you? Why, yes. As dainty a morsel as ever I grew fat on.
You have let a soul slip through your fingers.

The howl of sharpened famine for that loss re-echoes at this moment through all the levels of the Kingdom of Noise down to the very Throne itself. It makes me mad to think of it. How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a
sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time,
and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer.
Just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that
moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a
hideous, shell-like tetter, as if he shuffled off for good and all a defiled,
wet, clinging garment. By Hell, it is misery enough to see them in their mortal
days taking off dirtied and uncomfortable clothes and splashing in hot water and
giving little grunts of pleasure—stretching their eased limbs. What, then, of
this final stripping, this complete cleansing?

The more one thinks about it, the worse it becomes. He got through so easily! No
gradual misgivings, no doctor’s sentence, no nursing home, no operating theatre,
no false hopes of life; sheer, instantaneous liberation. One moment it seemed to
be all our world; the scream of bombs, the fall of houses, the stink and taste
of high explosive on the lips and in the lungs, the feet burning with weariness,
the heart cold with horrors, the brain reeling, the legs aching; next moment all
this was gone, gone like a bad dream, never again to be of any account.
Defeated, out-manњuvred fool! Did you mark how naturally—as if he’d been born
for it—the earthborn vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in
the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to
itself! “Yes. Of course.

It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?
As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was.

You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with
spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that
the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing;
the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no
faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted
their existence.

But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and
realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when
he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not
“Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at
this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had
haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music
in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last
recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of
his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.
He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed,
could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light
to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.

You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his
self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer
knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing
sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of
Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they
embrace those pains.

They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure. All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had
believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door. He is caught up into that
world where pain and pleasure take on transfinite values and all our arithmetic
is dismayed.

Once more, the inexplicable meets us. Next to the curse of useless
tempters like yourself the greatest curse upon us is the failure of our
Intelligence Department. If only we could find out what He is really up to!
Alas, alas, that knowledge, in itself so hateful and mawkish a thing, should yet
be necessary for Power! Sometimes I am almost in despair. All that sustains me
is the conviction that our Realism, our rejection (in the face of all
temptations) of all silly nonsense and claptrap, must win in the end. Meanwhile,
I have you to settle with. Most truly do I sign myself
Your increasingly and ravenously
affectionate uncle