Monday 18 June 2012

Modern man aiming at Limbo?


While The Screwtape Letters is deservedly a Christian classic, its 1959 sequel Screwtape proposes a toast is at a somewhat lower level of literary inspiration and seldom gets much attention.

Yet it was a clear prophecy of social and psychological trends which most people only began to perceive a decade or more later.

Lewis is, indeed, describing the End Times.


Screwtape is a demon, by the way.


The quality may be wretched; but we never had souls (of a sort) in more abundance.

...We are tempted to say that such souls — or such residual puddles of what once was soul — are hardly worth damning.

Yes, but the Enemy (for whatever inscrutable and perverse reason) thought them worth trying to save. Believe me, He did.


You youngsters who have not yet been on active duty have no idea with what labour, with what delicate skill, each of these miserable creatures was finally captured.

The difficulty lay in their very smallness and flabbiness. Here were vermin so muddled in mind, so passively responsive to environment, that it was very hard to raise them to that level of clarity and deliberateness at which mortal sin becomes possible.

To raise them just enough; but not that fatal millimetre of “too much.” For then, of course, all would possibly have been lost. They might have seen; they might have repented.

On the other hand, if they had been raised too little, they would very possibly have qualified for Limbo, as creatures suitable neither for Heaven nor for Hell; things that, having failed to make the grade, are allowed to sink into a more or less contented subhumanity forever.


...The sort of souls on whose despair and ruin we have — well, I won’t say feasted, but at any rate subsisted — tonight are increasing in numbers and will continue to increase.

...The “great” sinners, those in whom vivid and genial passions have been pushed beyond the bounds and in whom an immense concentration of will has been devoted to objects which the Enemy abhors, will not disappear. But they will grow rarer.

...Our catches will be ever more numerous; but they will consist increasingly of trash — trash which we should once have thrown to Cerberus and the hellhounds as unfit for diabolical consumption.

...It is a change for the better.

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints.

The virtual disappearance of such material may mean insipid meals for us. But is it not utter frustration and famine for the Enemy?


He did not create the humans — He did not become one of them and die among them by torture — in order to produce candidates for Limbo, “failed” humans.

He wanted to make them Saints; gods; things like Himself.

Is the dullness of your present fare not a very small price to pay for the delicious knowledge that His whole great experiment is petering out?


Excerpted and edited from Screwtape Proposes a Toast - by CS Lewis, 1959



josh said...

Haven't you been saying evil is getting worse or at least more distinct from good?

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - Sorry, I don't understand your point.

Anonymous said...

Dr Charlton,

With regard to Josh's comment on Limbo, I think I can help him out.

You have referenced as I understand it, to the notion that the distinction between good and bad is getting sharper, more pointed, as time goes by
(as voiced by Dr Dimble in Hideous Strength).

He seems to think that this means we will be routinely seeing more spectacularly evil acts and characters, where in fact it is just that the lines
of  demarcation are more obvious. We'll see fewer obvious Sauron and Nazguls but the orcs and Wormtongues will be coming out the woodwork; impossible to ignore.

I think this is apparent in the area of political correctness. When I started college in 1970 it was but a thunderhead on the horizon; today it is ubiquitous, blatant, yet also far more visceral, less reasoned and more mean-spiritedly malicious than it was.