October 11, 2013

"The Screwtape Letters" is not an egg salad sandwich.

In yesterday's Boardwalk Café, Saint Croix said:
I should have said this in the Scalia post — the devil made me not do it — but one of the interesting things about The Screwtape Letters is the insight that a devil is simply an angel with free will.

Thus if you believe in an afterlife — and an overwhelming number of people believe in an afterlife — you should acknowledge devils. They are simply angels who are in rebellion with God. Which God allows, because God believes in free will for humanity.

What a fantastic book The Screwtape Letters is.

I would pay money for Althouse to blog that book!
Pay money to get me to blog about something? That's been done... to get me to eat an egg salad sandwich. I'd written a post — back in 2005 — listing "10 things I've never done," and #2 was "Eaten egg salad, devilled eggs, or cold hard-boiled eggs" — hmm, interesting second appearance of the Devil in this post! — and somehow that led to my saying you'd have to pay me $200 to eat an egg salad sandwich, and some commenters got together and collected $200 and PayPal'd it to me, and I blogged — vlogged! — The Eating of the Egg Salad Sandwich.

But I didn't want to eat an egg salad sandwich. Reading the "Screwtape Letters" is something I would like to do. I read it years ago — and I'm old so that "years ago" in the history of Althouse is almost half a century ago — but I'd like to read it again, especially with the ability to blog it and the context of Scalia's recent remarks about it.

So I added it to my Kindle. You can add it too: here. And if you use that link, you'll be sending me a little money (without paying more). If you like this blog, you can funnel money to me by entering Amazon through the Althouse portal and buying something, anything, at some point before clicking away. But to get me to blog on specific topics, you could attempt the Egg Salad Method. That might work for some things — bloggable, vloggable things, for the right price. You could also just ask, as Saint Croix did, and it might work, if I'm interested enough. This blog is all and only about what interests me.

So I bought "The Screwtape Letters" and read a few pages last night. Here's the first thing I highlighted, and I'll put it here out of context, because you know that I like isolating sentences from their context — so sue me — for the purposes of discussion. That's what we did last winter with The Gatsby Project, which actually has one post that got the "egg salad" tag. It was the post with the "salads of harlequin designs." Remember?

I'm not saying these "Screwtape Letters" posts will only be isolated sentences in the manner of The Gatsby Project. But I am getting us started with this sentence, as the devil Screwtape advises his nephew devil on how to screw with some human being, referred to as "the patient":
"By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?"
ADDED:  I've got to put that sentence in the context of its paragraph, because as it stands, out of context, it creates the impression that the God-oriented position is the avoidance of reason and the acceptance of authority. That isn't so:
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground. 
"The Enemy" = God. This is the Devil's perspective.
He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. 
So there's a distinction between "argument" and "really practical propaganda." Something rates as argument — and it works better for aligning with God — and something else is the Devil's territory. That is called "really practical propaganda." When are we to think that's argument, and God has a fighting chance, and when are we to think that's just practical propaganda, and we ought to be wary?
By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means by ‘real’.
A connection is made between propaganda (which is not true argument) and living in the moment, paying attention to the stream of immediate sense experiences. And true argument is connected to turning away from daily, worldly life, and attending to universal issues.

This reminds me that blogging — I said it just above — is really paying attention the stream of immediate experiences, though this form of following the stream (and creating a stream) is abstracted from one's own bodily senses, other than the vision of text and pictures on the screen and the touch of touch-typing.

I've got to admit — I've been saying it for years — that I think living in the real world and paying attention to it is exactly what one ought to do, and I am very skeptical of the kind of people who move too quickly to abstract ideals. That puts me in the position of C.S. Lewis's devils, and it's C.S. Lewis I mistrust.

64 comments:

Will Cate said...

Don't know if it's still available, but there was an audiobook version of Screwtape Letters voiced by John Cleese once upon a time. In fact I believe it was released on cassette tape, that's how old it is. Parts of it (or maybe even all of it) are on YouTube.

Paddy O said...

In my junior year of high school I wrote a research essay on CS Lewis and Screwtape Letters for my European Literature class.

Beginning then and into the first couple years of college I think I read almost everything he wrote. A couple years ago I picked up a copy of his Latin Letters, which are letters he exchanged with, I think, an Italian priest (it has been a while since I picked it up). Lewis didn't speak Italian and the priest didn't speak English. They both read and wrote Latin. Very interesting stuff.

I'm not a fan of Screwtape Letters, to be honest. It's a good and very useful book, mind you, but not really enjoyable to read. Lewis once said that it was the hardest and least enjoyable book to write.

I'm a big fan of his Space Trilogy and The Great Divorce.

bearing said...

It might be of interest to note that an audiobook version was released in 1999 with John Cleese as the reader (reading the part of Screwtape in the first person, of course).

It is out of print and hard to find, but my local library had a copy (on cassette tape!) and it was worth the hassle to set it up with a battery-powered cassette player plugged into my car's audio system on one long drive. Delightful.

Bob Boyd said...

How about a devil joke?
One day an angel was making a routine inspection flight along the wall between Heaven and Hell. He noticed that there had been a breach so he returned to base and reported it.
When God saw the report, he immediately got Satan on the horn saying, "Somebody from your organization has kicked out a hole in the wall and I expect you to pay for repairs."
The devil said, "It wasn't us and I won't pay. How do you know it wasn't done by somebody on your side?"
God said, "Because all the kicked out bricks were lying on this side."
The devil said, "I ain't paying and what are you going to do about it?"
God said, "I'll sue!"
The devil said,"Oh yeah? Where are you going to get a lawyer?"

Carnifex said...

I recently bought a book that is the first of a 1uadrilogy called the Reluctant Demon. This angel woldn't pick a side when the war in heavan started, and you know us conservatives(God is the ultimate conservative)and if you ain't wiht us, you agin' us.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Young adult book, so I passed it on to grand daughter.

Ann Althouse said...

I think I'd find it very irritating to listen to John Cleese reading that. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but rarely novels. I don't like the pressure of the pace of the audio, and I feel I need to see the words.

I do like some humor in audiobooks -- for example, anything written AND read by David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, or David Rakoff makes it onto my most-played list.

But an actor bringing alive someone else's writing usually lays it on too thick and goes too fast. I need time to think... if the thing is written well enough to be worth reading.

And I find an English accent particularly hard to take... unless it's Bill Bryson's "English"/Iowa accent.

jr565 said...

The other problem with Cleese reading the book is that I'm not sure how atheistic he is, but he tends to be pretty strident in his feelings. So there would be the fear that he would be disprespectful with his reading (ie inserting his parrot sketch voice into the equation at all turns). And een if he wasnt being disrespectful deliberately, there would still be the fact that Cleese relies on a lot of Cleesisms that make him funny, but which may not translate to books. How much is he doing John Cleese as opposed to reading the book?
Sometimes, these bombastic personalities work against the book itself, sometimes it actually enhances it.

Will Cate said...

It's a pretty straight read -- judge for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuYpkId7zoQ

bearing said...

Re: Cleese -- fair enough, I already knew the book quite well when I discovered the audiobook, so I didn't have my first reading influenced by Cleese's style. Probably it is best to read it on one's own.

Since we're talking about it and it's been on my mind: I'm a homeschooling parent and I recently assigned Mere Christianity to my eighth-grade son (an assignment that fell sort of between rhetoric and religion; I had him find the structure of the arguments and make outlines of them). He really enjoyed it, and I'm tempted to follow up with Screwtape but I'm not sure if it should wait till later, like high school, or if a philosophically-inclined eighth grader could really "get" the humor. What do those who've read it think?

bwebster said...

One of my favorite books, along with his "The Great Divorce".

Scott M said...

Read it years ago and loved it. Now I'll have to re-read it again. While I love ya, Ann, and have bought Amazon through your site before, I'm not shelling out $8 for an e-book of a physical book I already own :)

Clark said...

Ann, you are ignoring the difference between “living in the moment” and “fix[ing your] attention on the stream.” If you are a thoroughgoing empiricist who believes that the only thing going on in the moment is what is coming from immediate sense experience then you will be ok with this—but your blog suggests to me that you are not such an empiricist. If you accept that the moment involves an interplay of sense experience and universal issues then you might also accept that living in the moment and reflecting on it will involve sometimes attending more to the universal, sometimes tending more to what is coming from the senses. The devil (or this devil anyway) wants you to fixate on what is coming from the senses and to shut down reflection.

William said...

I've given up on metaphysics. I used to think you were all just shadows on the wall, but, as I near death, I discover that I'm the shadow on the wall. I was never able to figure out the real figure behind that shadow, but perhaps there never was one. Just the ghost of the sputtering light.

Bryant said...

I think you're missing the point of what the devil is suggesting his minion do. He is telling him to get the patient to focus on all the distractions of life and not look into their meaning. Just stay focused on the stream of events happening around you without putting them into any kind of larger context.

I think your blog does the exact opposite. It focuses on the stream of events that you find interesting and attempts to understand them and possibly understand their meaning.

eric said...

I think the idea comes from the Old Testament, paraphrased, "It's better to attend a funeral than a party."

The idea being, at a funeral you're reflective while at a party you're caught up in the moment.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's a pretty straight read -- judge for yourself..."

I find that very mannered and distracting. I want to pay attention to the words themselves and not be affected by Cleese's interpretation.

There's lots of variation in the stress and in the pitch, which I just get into a whole separate thing of thinking about.

That could be great if you want to experience a performance.... I just don't.

Ann Althouse said...

I want to make a recording of the text of the Bill of Rights to illustrate my point.

CONGRESS!!! shall make no LAW!!!...

Unknown said...

Ann, by the very act of blogging the stream of experience, you are attending to universal issues. Here, the demon is referring to those who just float along on the stream - vegged out watching reality TV, or mindlessly eating, etc. - without thinking about anything more. You are already awakened to reason.

m stone said...

"By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?"

This is demon "speaking."

Reason is the perfect human distraction from the spiritual: the soul dominating man's spirit (small S). That is the objective evil result. Lewis knows his demons.

Craig said...

Shall I compare thee to an egg salad sandwich?
Thou art better poached, with a runny yolk
On an English muffin covered in Hollandaise,
Duly peppered and served with jam and toast .

Donna B. said...

@bearing -- I think that if your son could get Mere Christianity, he will not have a problem with Screwtape.

Even if he doesn't 'get' all the humor right now, he'll get enough of it. Consider it a vaccination that will need a booster in 10 years or so.

Kirk Parker said...

Paddy O,

Yes, That Hideous Strength above all else. But no love for The Abolition of Man?

pduggie said...

"I've got to admit — I've been saying it for years — that I think living in the real world and paying attention to it is exactly what one ought to do,"

What do you mean by 'real'?

chris said...

pduggie said

"What do you mean by 'real;?". and herein lies the kicker from the quote Ann put up in the first place. Do not let him consider what 'real' is.

What appears real and natural to us, living in our little neighourhoods -- our bubbles if you will -- is not shared with others.

As an example, Ann lives in a world of beauty, snow, academy and Obamacare. I do not: I live in a world where the state has run health for 80 years. (Not. American.) My daily experience is different from hers. And one cannot generalize from our local experience to the greater world. One has to know and acknowledge that the greater world contains slavery, low wage factories and Detroit.

But to do that one has to awaken one's ability to read data, and from that develop an empathy -- perhaps even a sense of injustice -- about what is happening. The moral fibre is strengthened.

Screwtape would advise against this, and prescribe reality TV: let one's reality disconnect from life and be that of the Kardashians.

Saint Croix said...

You're taking the devil's side! Awesome.

I think living in the real world and paying attention to it is exactly what one ought to do

That totally makes sense from a materialist perspective. One of the things Lewis wants to do with this book is wake people up to the unseen.

(Pro-life link should go here!)

Elsewhere in the book he talks about intangibles that we cannot see. Screwtape uses the sciences as an example of how souls can be lost to heaven. ("There have been sad cases among the modern physicists"). But you could use justice or love or other things that are felt deeply in our soul (or mind) as opposed to the experience of our five senses.

That's another thing Lewis is trying to do with this book. He's trying to get people to think and reason and feel (spiritual or mind stuff) as opposed to touch/hear/see/smell/taste (animal stuff).

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

Reason applied to universal issues is not the best use of reason. It is strange that Lewis, via Screwtape, takes this route.

I prefer Nassim Taleb's distinction between techne and episteme. It is the difference between knowing "how" and knowing "what". Craft vs. abstraction.

It is fairly easy to see, in politics, the terrible consequences that occur when a state or political party focuses on universal issues. When you abstract people into statistics; when you design institutions that enforce conformity; when the universal superstructure is hostile to individual initiative, disaster awaits.

I am bemused by how many religious creeds adopt this same strategy, especially those hostile to political universality. The mills of the Gods grind slowly, but they are still His mills, not yours.

Lewis was awake to this problem. Screwtape's Hell is a vast, mendacious bureaucracy.

Freeman Hunt said...

The Blackstone Audio edition of The Great Divorce is excellent. So is the same edition of Mere Christianity. I like semi-restrained readings.

Freeman Hunt said...

It's been a long time, but I thought Lewis was referring to entertainments and diversions there.

Henry said...

I would add, in one of my favorite passages, Screwtape berates Wormwood for allowing the patient to enjoy immediate sense experiences -- of a particular kind:

On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there - a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words you allowed him two real positive Pleasures.

Saint Croix said...

I'm not a fan of Screwtape Letters, to be honest. It's a good and very useful book, mind you, but not really enjoyable to read. Lewis once said that it was the hardest and least enjoyable book to write.

What's really interesting/cool is that he said it was impossible for him to write the book from the side of the angels. He couldn't wrap his mind around the words he would need to sound like heaven. He didn't even want to try.

So yes, Screwtape was a dark and ugly (and funny!) book to write. And maybe it was spiritually draining for him to do it. But wow, what a dark side. It's such a brilliant analysis of sin and how easy it is to do.

I've read it several times. It's always a blast.

My favorite Lewis books are this one and A Grief Observed. That's actually not a fun read at all. Very painful. But it's so sad and touching.

Ironically most of his stuff I find too detached. But his dark grubby materialist book about how we need to be more spiritual, it speaks volumes to me.

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:
"I've got to admit — I've been saying it for years — that I think living in the real world and paying attention to it is exactly what one ought to do, and I am very skeptical of the kind of people who move too quickly to abstract ideals. That puts me in the position of C.S. Lewis's devils"

As I understand it, reason always deals with abstractions at some point and is therefore different from Baconian empiricism. One of the mistakes of the French version of the Enlightenment was that the philosophes elevated reason to the golden pathway to goodness. History has shown that they were wrong, reason is nothing but a mental tool which can be used for good or for evil.

CS Lewis was probably so immersed in the Enlightenment atmosphere that he naturally used their language and their assumptions in expressing himself. I agree with his statement, as I understand it, that abstractions are necessary to live a moral life -- provided those abstractions are based on the concept of a loving father
God.

Saint Croix said...

I would add, in one of my favorite passages, Screwtape berates Wormwood for allowing the patient to enjoy immediate sense experiences

Yeah, I think pleasure is kind of a wash for Lewis. It's not the path to hell and it's not the path to heaven. But the more selfish you are, the more you go after pleasure, the more it's denied you, and that's when you're on the road to hell.

Ann Althouse said...

""By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?" This is demon "speaking." Reason is the perfect human distraction from the spiritual: the soul dominating man's spirit (small S). That is the objective evil result. Lewis knows his demons."

That's exactly the reading I gave the sentence out of context and why I added to the post and gave the whole paragraph. Please read it. What you say makes sense, but it's not Lewis's meaning (which of course takes account of the devil speaking).

JackOfClubs said...

I've got to admit — I've been saying it for years — that I think living in the real world and paying attention to it is exactly what one ought to do, and I am very skeptical of the kind of people who move too quickly to abstract ideals. That puts me in the position of C.S. Lewis's devils
Not really. You are reasoning abstractly about the principle that one ought to live in the "real world" and avoid abstraction. You are still just a tool of the Enemy, albeit a more subtle one than usual.

TML said...

There is an exceptional one-off episode of "Millennium" based on "The Screwtape Letters." One of the best hours of TV I can ever remember.

http://www.millennium-thisiswhoweare.net/tiwwa/topic/188-somehow-satan-got-behind-me/

richard mcenroe said...

I want to make a recording of the text of the Bill of Rights to illustrate my point.

CONGRESS!!! shall make no LAW!!!...

"Heloooo! Madison!" *thud* *thud* *thud*

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Kirk Parker,

That Hideous Strength will bewilder anyone who hasn't read the two preceding books. (Well, frankly, parts of it will bewilder people who have read them, too. Like, what are the other five of the Seven Genders?) Still, among other things it contains the best description of academic politics in action that I have ever seen, and I'm counting David Lodge.

FleetUSA said...

The crux of the debate is "the patient's reason" versus "immediate sense experiences".

In other words thinking versus sensual (pleasure?). God vs. Satan.

SMGalbraith said...

In one of the letters, there's an exchange between the Devil and one of his minions, Wormwood, where he (Wormwood) reports back on one of his successful efforts.

It seems that the human (the Patient) was just beginning to understand good and evil and the world. He was starting to understand the argument.

But the minion succeeded in getting the human to think about lunch! What was he going to eat??

There, that distracted him enough to forget about good and evil.

"Well done" replied the Devil.

annk said...

I always took the living in the real world idea to refer to the Biblical injunction to be in the world but not of the world.

David said...

Yum, egg salad. Great if fresh. But not so congenial if over aged.

J. Wilson said...

I've always found 'The Pilgrim's Regress' as one of his better works, as it is quite biographical, and 'Surprised by Joy' also fills in much of Lewis' life story. But the 'Great Divorce' is probably the best. Lewis' remark here is somewhat autobiographical, in that he was an atheist who was converted 'kicking and screaming' by reason.

Terry said...

I would add, in one of my favorite passages, Screwtape berates Wormwood for allowing the patient to enjoy immediate sense experiences

Most of Lewis's theology was, I think, Thomist. Lewis believed that the source of all pleasure was God, and it was the task of the Devil to make us forget that, and to associate the feeling of pleasure, which is what we enjoyed, with the objects that induced that feeling of pleasure. We don't enjoy eating a slice of chocolate cake, we enjoy the pleasure we feel when we eat a piece of chocolate cake. The chocolate cake does not provide us with pleasure, God does.
This idea is repeated throughout Lewis's fiction and essays. He sometimes uses the metaphor of light. When we 'see' a thing, like a pleasant landscape, we aren't seeing rocks and trees and so forth, we are apprehending light, which is nothing like a tree or a rock.

Quayle said...

I think of you as monitoring the stream of really practical propaganda and pointing out the lack of reason behind it.

Remember, the devils are urged to not reason, just get their patients to go with the flow.

The flow of pop culture, the prevailing thought-fads, the look of reason without the substance.

"Living in the moment" to mu mind means adopting buzz phrases like "diversity is our strength" and nodding in righteous approval, never thinking long enough to realize that the statement only holds true if we have the same goal and objectives. And that diversity of goals and objectives rarely brings strength to a group.



ad hoc said...

Mere Christianity, A Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy are also great reads. The Screwtape Letters is not a favorite but is a worthwhile read. Lewis did say that The Screwtape Letters was his least enjoyable book to write.

ad hoc said...

Mere Christianity, A Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy are also great reads. The Screwtape Letters is not a favorite but is a worthwhile read. Lewis did say that The Screwtape Letters was his least enjoyable book to write.

Paddy O said...

Kirk, I'm a fan of almost all of Lewis. Some keep popping back in mind more than others. That Hideous Strength is a great one. It's funny to me because I loved the first two and it took me 3-4 tries to get past the first 100 pages of That Hideous Strength. When I finally did, it was amazing.

Freeman Hunt said...

If I recall correctly, he thought Till We Have Faces was his best work. I would agree with that even though it isn't my favorite to read. (The Great Divorce is.)

Jim S. said...

Lewis was raised on the British idealists, so it's not too surprising he gives more credit to reasoning versus mere sensing.

Jim S. said...

I wrote a loooooong post on C.S. Lewis's fiction for adults here, for anyone who's interested.

Terry said...

Jim S. wrote:
"Lewis was raised on the British idealists, so it's not too surprising he gives more credit to reasoning versus mere sensing."
Yes! I've been trying to come up with a short, sweet example that explain how reason can be more 'real' than physical reality, and what I've come up with is the statement 'the sun rose in the East this morning'. The statement sounds like an example of an indisputable fact, but in fact the sun did not rise (the Earth rotated) and the statement only works if the observer was on the surface of planet that rotates.
But if I say 'a cause always precedes its effect', it is always and everywhere true, even though it refers to nothing that is real.

Paddy O said...

I suggest a Meadhouse field trip to the Wade Center.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The Great Divorce is my favorite, too, Freeman Hunt, but the "space trilogy" books aren't far behind. I would love to see Hayao Miyazaki have a go at Perelandra. It would never happen, because so much of it is unspoken that it's un-filmable. The Great Divorce, though -- that might actually be doable.

Jim S. said...

But if I say 'a cause always precedes its effect', it is always and everywhere true, even though it refers to nothing that is real.

That reminds me of something Lewis wrote: "Reason knows that she cannot work without materials. When it becomes clear that you cannot find out by reasoning whether the cat is in the linen-cupboard, it is Reason herself who whispers, 'Go and look. This is not my job: it is a matter for the senses.'"

Having said that, I don't think your example works. A cause does not have to temporally precede its effect, although it has to at least logically precede it.

rcommal said...

.

rcommal said...

The devil and egg salad: and sulfur pops immediately to mind. Ha!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jim S.,

Having said that, I don't think your example works. A cause does not have to temporally precede its effect, although it has to at least logically precede it.

Can you elaborate on this? I can think of logical precedents to conclusions, obviously, but I don't think of them as "cause" and "effect." That two and two make four is a consequence of one and one making two, and two and one making three, but it seems odd to say that two and two making four is the "effect" of which two and one making three is the "cause."

You probably have something entirely different in mind, but in my world "cause" and "effect" are in strict temporal relation.

cyrus83 said...

I don't think Lewis is implying that one should not pay attention to the stream of immediate experiences, only that one shouldn't do so divorced from reason, i.e. one shouldn't be mindless about their experiences.

My take from that passage is that the devil prefers that you not think, which is I think a sound observation.

hombre said...

The Cleese audios are wonderful!

Jonathan Card said...

I saw it as a little different. A bit like the example cited where Wormwood distracts the patient with thoughts of lunch, but more like how the The Daily Show delivers the news. (I'm not saying the Jon Stewart is the Devil) It is sort-of deep until you think about it; it's funny because it seems right, but it isn't. Or like during the student loan subsidy debate, where both Republicans and Democrats had different solutions that both made some sense from different points of view, but Elizabeth Warren came with a third plan that said students should get 0.75% on their loans, because that's what banks got at the Fed. It sounds good, it has a false equivalence of treating poor students at least as good a rich bankers, and completely ignores the fact that banks are borrowing the money for 12 hours with the full collateral of a multi-billion dollar bank, and students are borrowing the money for a decade based on an earning stream that won't start for 4 years and no one knows how good it will be. Lewis is talking about the superficial reason that substitutes pithiness for depth, I think.

Kirk Parker said...

MDT,

Very good point--THS is, after all, the third book of a trilogy. But if all you had were the first two books, you'd go "interesting story" and that would be all.

THS is very much like Abolition of Man is saying so very much about our current intellectual situation. Isn't anybody going to join me in admiration of the latter???

Carl said...

Modern psychologists (cf. Kahneman's "Thinking Fast And Slow") would call the advice to the devil keep your mark in System 1, because if you waken System 2, all bets are off. Sound stuff. All charlatans, politicians, car salesmen and trial lawyers understand it very well.

He was also probably channeling the ancient Stoic warning that if you merely react instinctively (or System 1ishly) to events, you will willy nilly fall into the most childishly shallow form of personal philosophy, a squalid mix of materialism and sentimentality. Id est, beware the unexamined life: think about what you are experiencing, reflect, attempt to frame it within a general philosophy that guides your actions through thick and thin. It is not the abstraction of rationalizing and story-telling that Lewis prizes, but the distilled essence of reality produced by hours and years of concentrated pitilessly self-honest reflection and thought. Not the dehumanizing abstraction of a well-worn slogan ("From each according to his abilities!"), but the Platonic purity of a mathematical or physical law ("a body in motion will continue in motion unless acted upon by an outside force"). There is a profound difference.

Additional echos can be found in Frankl's concept of "logotherapy," or more broadly his assertion that the best philosophical foundation for living is to understand what for you gives life meaning -- and to sharply distinguish meaning from pleasure.

If you focus primarily on your immediate experience, and do not step back from it to consider goals of meaning, you won't eat your spinach, you'll be unconsciously cruel to those who don't advertise their woes or needs, you will not survive a concentration camp (or some other serious bad luck), and worst of all (for Lewis) you'll be a complete sucker for any Lightworker bullshit artist that comes along promising perfection in the here and now if you just remove these fusty old mental chains of fear and tradition that hold you back from tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Lewis, having endured the late 19th and early 20th century movements that felt scientific perfection was attainable, so long as we did not cavil at breaking a few eggs to form the perfect omelets -- hence eugenicism, unusually vicious racism, Nazism and fascism, Marxism, and assorted other bastards of Pride and Wrath -- appeared to be particularly sensitive to that last risk.

We will be, too, sometime in mid-century, I think, after the current increasing taste for monolothic perfectionist anti-human solutions has re-run its traditional tragic course, with God knows what carnage in its wake this time.

Sharc said...

They are simply angels who are in rebellion with God. Which God allows, because God believes in free will for humanity.

Just a technical point. Under no theory in all of Christianity are "angels," fallen or otherwise, part of "humanity." There is a strange but broadly held misconception that the afterlife for humans somehow consists of becoming angels. They are two entirely different creations. There is some great literature (and there are some pretty good movies) about the jealousy -- kind of a sibling rivalry -- that angels bear humanity.