We want him to be in maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy.
This is the advice the demon Screwtape gives his nephew, Wormwood in the book called The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis. Wormwood is a “demon in training” and his uncle’s advice is simple, when it comes to corrupting a man, one of the things you can do is make them either focus on the past or concentrate on the future. When you take an individuals mind off the present, that’s when things like uncertainty, suspense and anxiety begin to creep in.
We are anxious about how our future plans will turn out. Fearful that we will fail or face some kind of humiliation. We are uncertain if the mistakes of yesterday can be overcome tomorrow or if tomorrow will play out like we hope.
The mindset that doesn’t live in the Now is what the demon wants. When Screwtape mentions the “Enemy” he speaks of the good angels who are attempting to guide the individual towards the right path. Screwtape says that through suspense and anxiety, the good angels can be barricaded against. Meaning that when you aren’t living in the present, you aren’t following the righteous path.
He (“the enemy”) wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
It’s in the negative “what if’s” where Screwtape would like our mindset to be. In this manner, when we continually imagine what could happen, what could go wrong, how we could be disappointed, how our actions could lead to pain, thats how we become stagnant, unengaging with life and with it, fail to grow as individuals.
Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy’s will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him–the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say “Thy will be done,” and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided. It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of.
What the correct mindset should be towards tribulations and hardships is clear in this passage. It’s what the “Enemy” wants, according to Screwtape, which is to be patient and bear with dignity and grace whatever hardships you are going through. To view these hardships as obstacles deliberately laid down on your path for you to overcome and grow.
The incorrect mindset is what Screwtape advocates which is that we should be afraid of the obstacles, of the hardships and perhaps even waste our time complaining about how unfair our life is.
One can, therefore, formulate the general rule: In all activities of mind which favor our cause, encourage the patient to be un-selfconscious and to concentrate on the object, but in all activities favorable to the Enemy bend his mind back on itself. Let an insult or a woman’s body so fix his attention outward that he does not reflect “I am now entering into the state called Anger–or the state called Lust.” Contrariwise let the reflection “My feelings are now growing more devout, or more charitable,” so fix his attention inward that he no longer looks beyond himself to see our Enemy or his neighbors.
The mindset Screwtape wants is one where the negative feelings, harmful emotions are either acted upon or allowed to reign freely without a reflection or thought. Such emotions and feelings are those of anger, lust, hate, revenge, pain, essentially anything that you might associate with negativity. You can even put it simply as: The negative mindset is that of the demon.
While the opposite, the feelings or emotions of benevolence, charity, happiness, kindness can be associated with a positive mind. However, these can easily be corrupted when you attached the ego to it. As Screwtape suggests “fix his attention inward” meaning that when we start to act positively in order to boost our own image, to show the world how charitable or kind we are, it taints the positive actions and keeps you away from the good path.
When anyone speaks about Demons and Angels, it can instantly turn off some people. This is understandable, I’m not a religious person myself, however, there is a lot we can learn if we are able to look past that aspect of the text, if we don’t get lost in the weeds.
Demons and Angels may not be real but the consequences of a negative mindset and positive mindset are well documented. By associating the negative with the Demon influence it can snap you into attention. It makes this grey world we live in a bit more black and white, where how we should think, behave, interact with one another is made clearer when you attribute certain thought patterns with the Demon and others with the good Angels.
In this manner, life can be simplified a little bit.