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The Screwtape Letters book cover

The Screwtape Letters Quotes

She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression.
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, Screwtape.
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.
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.
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.
Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still 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.
Suspicion often creates what it suspects.
When He [God] 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.
The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.
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...
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.
Humans are amphibians...half spirit and half animal...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.
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.
A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.
A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others...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 selfish.
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.
When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.
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.
Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
Music. A meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience.
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.
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 the impossible.
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.
We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.
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.
I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.
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 (God’s) ground…He [God] made the pleasure: 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 [God] has produced, at at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He [God] has forbidden.
The humans live in time but our Enemy (God) destines them for eternity.
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.
All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary.
The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forewarmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack.
All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: "O God, make me a normal twentieth-century girl!" Thanks to our labors, this will mean increasingly: "Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite.
Humour is...the all-consoling and...the all-excusing, grace of life.
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 him employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which h 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.
In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I'm as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish.The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers--or should I say, nurses?--will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.
We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God 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.
The claim to equality, outside of the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior.
It is in some ways more troublesome to track and swat an evasive wasp than to shoot, at close range, a wild elephant. But the elephant is more troublesome if you miss.
The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under.
Devils are depicted with bats' wings and good angels with birds' wings, not because anyone holds that moral deterioration would be likely to turn feathers into membrane, but because most men like birds better than bats.
The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.
You die and you die and then you are beyond death.
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 realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary.
We laugh at honor, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
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.
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.
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 favorable 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 neighbors at all.
Whenever all men are...hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.
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.
The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy.
The man can neither man, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.
We teach them not to notice the different sense of the possessive pronoun .. . 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.