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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
MY DEAR WORMWOOD, http://members.fortunecity.com/phantom1/books2/c._s._lewis_-_the_screwtape_letters.htm 2/07/2008 THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS Page 16 of 34 I had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European war—what they naïvely 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 temporality. 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
To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now...
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This note was uploaded on 02/07/2014 for the course MIS 304 taught by Professor Mejias during the Spring '07 term at Arizona.
- Spring '07