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The Screwtape Letters: How a Senior Devil Instructs a Junior Devil in the Art of Temptation [Mass Market Paperback]

C. S. Lewis


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company (1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0020868707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0020868705
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  1,143 reviews
391 of 410 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd read this book many years ago... June 18 2000
By Rosemary Thornton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'd recommend this be one of the first books you read as you start your spiritual journey. This is a profound book that will jolt you awake from your apathetic musings and stir you to the depths of your soul.
I was a Christian for 12+ years before I picked up this little volume and it was of inestimable worth for me, but I regretted not having read it much sooner.
It's one of those books (like E. L. Prentiss's "Stepping Heavenward") that feels like it was written JUST for you. "Screwtape Letters" has that same feel - that C. S. Lewis crawled into your consciousness and described every mental battle you've ever had - and explains that those subtle arguments which steered you away from spiritual growth, were cleverly disguised devilish whispers. As Lewis points out, the path to hell is a gentle slope.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to differentiate between God's thoughts and the lies of evil. "Screwtape Letters" pulls back the curtain and reveals evil's best kept secrets and oh-so subtle tricks.
105 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a wise little book May 6 2000
By Bruce Kendall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was assigned reading when I was in 8th grade at a Catholic school. I remember I had no appreciation for it whatsoever at the time. I couldn't relate to the protagonist or his travails in wartime England. Perhaps one needs a little time in this world to appreciate the delicious simplicity of Lewis' allegory. Having read it recently I was struck by the wisdom, strength and genuine spiritualism this book exudes. One needn't, as commented upon elsewhere, be a believer to appreciate this work. Lewis never tries to foist any doctrinaire agenda upon the reader. Neither is he didactic. All that comes across (to this reader, at least) is a sense of hard-won wisdom. It offers some hints about how we might find a bit of peace and happiness on this earth if we are willing to think a little less selfishly and are able to set our powerful egos aside for awhile. I wish that those readers who wasted their money on The Celestine Prophecy and thought it provided wonderful spiritual insight would turn their attention Lewis' way. Here is the matter simply stated, without some wayward attempts at new-age jingoism.
335 of 362 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speak of the Devil Dec 28 2005
By Mark Blackburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Today I loaned a copy of "Screwtape" to a young woman - the receptionist where I work -- who just celebrated her 21st birthday. I HOPE she enjoys it, even as I wonder if a fifty year old book could strike a chord with her -- the way it did with me, when I was her age. She seemed eager enough to borrow a copy (I have two) just as soon as I described the book's delightful premise:

"Screwtape" I told her, "is letters from a senior devil to a junior devil - and it's the funniest thing C.S. Lewis ever wrote - Have you heard of C.S. Lewis?" I asked. "No? Well he authored `Narnia.' (Neither of us has seen the movie yet.)

I told her 'Screwtape' is funny because (like all good humor) it seems so TRUE. Or at least you want to BELIEVE it's real, as `Screwtape' the experienced devil coaches his nephew `Wormwood' in his first assigned task: to "secure the damnation" of his 'patient' -- a young man who has just become a Christian.

As with "Narnia," the story unfolds in wartime (WWII) England. That's a long time ago for someone 21 years old and "I'm really interested" I said "to find out if the 'dialogue' of this book still speaks to someone your age."

"Personally, I think it would make good movie" I said. "It has been made into a talking book - read, I think, by John Cleese - the funny guy who starred in the movie `A Fish Called Wanda" - I read somewhere he's recorded a version of `Screwtape.' "

----

So . . after loaning that copy of "Screwtape" today, I opened, at random, my OTHER copy -- it fell open to page 24 -- and I re-discovered why I've loved this book so much for so many years.

It's the sort of book you can open almost anywhere - years after you first read it -- and find yourself laughing out loud - and falling in love once again, with the written magic of C.S. Lewis at his 'finest hour.' Well here, if you can spare two minutes -- get comfortable and see if this random sampling, from page 24, "Chapter IV" -- 'speaks' to YOU:

----

"My dear Wormwood, The amateurish suggestions in your latest letter warn me that it is high time for me to write to you fully on the painful subject of prayer . . .

"The best thing, where possible, is to keep the `patient' (the young man who is spiritually up for grabs) from the serious intention of praying. When (someone like him) is an adult, recently re-converted to the Enemy' (Screwtape's term for Christianity's founder) - such as your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember - or to THINK he remembers - the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood.

"In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and `un-regularized' And what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional MOOD . . . in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part.

"One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray `with moving lips and bended knees' but merely `composed his spirit to love' and indulged a `sense of supplication.' That is EXACTLY the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence, as practiced by those who are far advanced in the Enemy's service, clever and lazy `patients' can be taken in by it for quite a long time.

"At the very LEAST, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget what you must always remember, that they are animals and that 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.

"If this fails, you MUST fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves.

"Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce FEELINGS there, by the action of their own wills. (So that) when they meant to ask Him for Charity, let them instead start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves - and not notice that this is what they are doing.

"When they are meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to FEEL brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to FEEL forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feelings, and NEVER let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.

"But of course, the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Whenever there is prayer there is danger of HIS own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of HIS position (and to OURS as pure spirits!) and to human animals on their knees He pours out self-knowledge in quite shameless fashion.

"But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon . . ."

After describing that more subtle `weapon' in detail, -- and it concerns the true nature of God as opposed to the `composite images' that can be "derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during (His) Incarnation" (20 centuries earlier) Screwtape advises his green nephew:

"Whatever the nature of his composite (picture of the `Enemy') you must keep your `patient' praying to IT - to the thing that he has made - be it something in his own head or a crucifix on the wall - and NOT to the Person who has made him.

"You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keep it steadily in his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers `Not to what I think thou art, but to what thou knowest thyself to be,' our situation is, for the moment, desperate."

The good news, says the `senior devil,' is that, "in avoiding this situation - the real nakedness of the human soul in prayer - you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose. There's such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!"

That "more than they bargained for," Screwtape explains (earlier in this same chapter) is that humans (at least the majority, who are far from saints) - "have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare (of true self-knowledge) which makes the background of permanent pain in our own lives (as devils).

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape.

-----

Late in life C.S. Lewis was asked WHY he never wrote a sequel (apart from a few pages entitled, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast"). The greatest of Christian `apologists' replied in effect, that it "hurt" him too much -- to maintain within himself the necessary state-of-mind where he was thinking purely as a devil -- in order that Screwtape's words could pour from his pen onto paper.

Living 'inside' "Screwtape" Lewis experienced an exhausting -- even terrifying -- spiritual/psychological torment that he was NEVER prepared to re-visit. Despite the fact this little book was, until "Narnia," his most enduring source of fame - so much so, it got C.S. Lewis onto the cover of TIME magazine -- fifty years ago -- a red cartoon devil on his shoulder, poised -- it seemed -- to whisper sweet words of prideful praise into Lewis' deaf ear.

Mark Blackburn
Winnipeg Canada
76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small gem from C. S. Lewis Aug. 26 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This small book contains within its pages a powerful example of the authors' penetrating insight into human nature. Although aimed primarily at christians, it provides observations of the human condition useful to any student of moral psychology. These lessons are set in a series of fictional correspondances between Screwtape, a high ranking demon, and his young protege Wormwood, a young demon that has been sent out on his first assignment to ensnare a human. The seemingly gentle and fatherly advice to the young demon from his patron exposes the true designs of the masters of Hell, as well as the frailties of the human psyche that they seek to exploit in their attempts to gain a convert for their side. The demonic viewpoints are presented in an ironically sensitive and almost plaintive voice, expressing the motives and problems of the demons from their viewpoint. This wonderful literary mechanism adds power to this probing treatise on the common frailties and pitfalls of humans as they struggle in a morally ambiguous universe. Short, concise, and easily apprehended, this is a classic example of Mr. Lewis' great value as a christian apologist and an observer of human nature. Highly reccommended.
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C. S. Lewis Jan. 27 2008
By thepaxdomini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Screwtape Letters is Lewis's classic collection of diabolical correspondence. In it, a senior devil gives continued advice to his protégé on how best to tempt his victim and keep him from salvation.

Lewis does not propose any concrete doctrine on devils here, and this is not his point. Rather he focuses on highlighting the ways, both large and small, that Christians are distracted from God. Lewis explores the dangers of not being purposeful toward God and life, as well as what happens to people when they give in to temptation.

The book is presented as a collection of letters, all from Screwtape to Wormwood. But Lewis does a good job of making the conversation not feel one-sided, and he does a fantastic job with the devils' personalities. In fact the book is rather deeper than this, as there are two other plots going on. First is the fate of Wormwood's man. Second is the relationship between the devils, and the fate of Wormwood.

The Screwtape Letters is deeper than it appears, and is thoroughly thought-provoking. Most every reader will find elements in it to which he or she can relate. Christians of all maturity levels can benefit from this book.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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