Screwtape Letter: 18

May 21, 2018 — Leave a comment

My dear Wormwood,

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 up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and
novelists by persuading the 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 say “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, of marrying a heathen, a fool,
or a wanton. But more of this in my next,

Your affectionate uncle

Screwtape

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