Screwtape on human individuality

In The Screwtape Letters, the elder demon Screwtape is instructing the younger demon Wormwood on how to properly tempt a human. He writes,

“Of course I know that the Enemy (God) 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 means only 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.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (bold emphasis mine)

I love this. God delights in our individuality; he has given us likings and interests–for example, my love for literature–and he delights when we use those interests in a healthy, God-glorifying way.

We’re not clones of each other, and we’re not intended to be exactly alike: thinking the same way, being interested in exactly the same things, and responding in duplicate to each circumstance of life.  God created a variety of people!

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13 thoughts on “Screwtape on human individuality

    1. Kitt, I had to read Screwtape for a college lit class (at my Christian college), and I loved it, too. In many of the Christian communities I’m involved in, it’s hard to have a discussion without someone bringing up a Lewis quote!

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  1. Here again by way of Kitt O’Malley.

    Yes, I think the Screwtape Letters are worthy of mention over and over again. C.S. Lewis crystallized so well the concept of free will to contemporary Christianity.

    Much of what I write about concerns The Hero’s Journey as explained by Joseph Campbell. Of course, I bring up the stage of Atonement (At-One-Ment) with the Father. No doubt, we who follow Christ know the submission of the Son to the will of the Father– and in so doing, also became one with us, to know our struggles and pain. This symbolism, however, as Campbell explained echoes and reverberates through works long before and long after Yeshu of Nazareth: apparently, it must be an eternal truth. It digs down through pain, fear, selfish desires– to face what seems terrible and frightening, to find the core of ourselves, and eternal bliss.

    The cave we fear to enter holds the treasure (the sword, the elixir, The Prize) we seek. We lose ourselves, in order to find ourselves.

    Till all are one

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    1. Jaklumen, interesting insight into the nature of atonement. I’d never thought about it in those terms before. I’ve read some of Campbell’s work, but I often hear about it and “the hero’s journey” as related to fiction writing. (The writer will usually bring up Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings at some point and relate plot points from those books to the hero’s journey as described by Campbell. And I’ll be baffled because I’ve never read HP or LOTR!)

      It seems to me that if a symbol or story or theme is repeated in so many different cultures and in different times and contexts, then it must be tapping on a universal truth, and that we would do well to pay attention to it. In this case, the idea of the need for atonement, and the need to lose ourselves to find our true selves.

      Thanks for stopping by again!

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  2. You had me at “elder demon Screwtape”, Laura!

    In my previous Laura Droege blog comments I’ve shared that my two favorite authors are L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle’s work has been compared to Lewis’ for decades, and in an interview when she was asked “”Has your fiction for children ever been compared with that of C. S. Lewis?” she answered,

    “Yes, it has. I think that the main difference is that C. S. Lewis has more answers and I have more questions. I wasn’t the right age to read him when he was being published. But my children grew up with him. I spent time this past summer at Oxford and Cambridge for a C. S. Lewis conference.”

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, Laura, but I’ve never read any complete work of C.S. Lewis! No “The Chronicles of Narnia” – well, maybe a few chapters, but that doesn’t count. The closest I got to C.S. Lewis was watching the “Shadowlands” movie with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger & “The Chronicles of Narnia” movie! So reading your blog post today was quite interesting. Madeleine L’Engle would approve of your introspective views – I know she would, and that makes me very happy.

    While I’m overwhelmed with the books I’ve purchased but haven’t read yet on my Kindle, someday I hope to read a Clive Staples Lewis’ book in its entirety such as “The Screwtape Letters” (thanks Wikipedia, for informing me what the C. and the S. stand for, as I didn’t pay attention to the movie! 😉

    p.s. I am so, so, sooooooo glad we are all different! The scariest thing in L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” aside from the evil “It” is the planet Camazotz, where everyone is, indeed, essentially the same. It is a very scary rendition of a world I’d never want to inhabit.

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    1. “The Screwtape Letters” is an awesome book; it works more as non-fiction than fiction, though, in my opinion. Lots of theological insights. I’ve never read Lewis’ space trilogy, though I’ve heard it’s good. The Narnia books were ones I grew up reading, and I’ve read them to my children. My younger one went through a Narnia phase where we had to read all of the books aloud over and over and over: I had different voices for Aslan and the other characters, and eventually knew the words by heart!

      Oh, I remember reading about “It” in A Wrinkle in Time, and I thought that was scary and sad. Everyone has the same rhythm, even when they’re only jumping rope. And the only thing that can break through and defeat the evil is love. 🙂

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      1. Thank you for your lovely reply, Laura – you always have great ones! :))) Off to wake up & get the girls ready for schoool, I mean “help” 😉 – forgive me – you know I’m Queen Groggy!!!

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