The small group that meets at our house on (most) Tuesday evenings have just finished working discussing “The Screwtape Letters”. I led the sessions, ably assisted by “A companion and study guide to The Screwtape Letters” by William O’Flaherty, (main title: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell). I am glad he did not call it “To hell with C.S. Lewis”!

Screwtape, the author of the letters and an under-secretary of a department in hell, has his own secretary named “Toadpipe”. The letters are written to a nephew of Screwtape, a devil called “Wormwood”. It is his assignment to raise hell with the “patient”, and unnamed young man and his family, who will be tempted in all kinds of ways.

Other characters in The Letters are Fr. Spike, a minister at one of the churches near the patient, “Glubose”, who is in charge of the patient’s mother, “Scabtree”, who believes that during war is the ideal time to attach the patient’s belief system, “Slubgob”, in charge of the tempters’ training college, “Triptweeze, a demon who looks after a middle-aged couple, and a nameless Vicar. All are a part of Screwtape’s cabal to work on the patient and his friends.

Think of any vice or temptation that has plagued you and it will be on the list that Screwtape and Wormwood have at their disposal: Pride is big, but so is humility; anxiety and complacency form a perfect pair; gluttony is always available; various kinds of doubting prayer work well; distraction and disappointment will keep the patient from reason; fear and hatred are proven victors; and, of course, love and lust are candidates for bending. We could go on, but that is enough to make us shudder at the devil’s resources.

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