Monday, February 17, 2014

The Screwtape Letters: My Own Chapter

Dear Wormwood,

In your last letter I sensed concern for your patient’s new understanding of the human condition. You explained he is beginning to understand that the human nature is split; humans do not possess just one single will, but many at the same time. He is beginning to see that, while some people genuinely desire one thing, they also want and often do the opposite simultaneously.

His general knowledge of the conflicted nature of human beings is grave news, however, it may not be as serious as you think. You can still use it to your advantage. For instance, he is less willing to admit his own share in a double-nature. While he must recognize himself as a human being and therefore a person possessing a conflicted identity, he nonetheless distinguishes himself by other things, such as his external life and occupation, rather than his double-minded humanness; he is unable to truly and completely define himself. Your patient does not like acknowledging that he is in a state of conflicting natures, or that his very identity is in fact conflicted. He would rather state that something else, like his profession, is causing him to be two-faced or double in nature.

While he knows that he is a human, let him consider himself a more complicated exception to the rule, a “superhuman” of sorts. Even with all the ability and knowledge to perceive others and the world, it does not have to change how he sees himself, which you should suggest is somehow separate from everything and everyone else. Rather than owning to the double-nature he knows and even confesses to have, let him continue to assert himself above the idea. The result will be the development of an autonomous identity, which is a reaction of the “double” nature of the self; rather than accepting his anonymous place in society, he will begin attempting to become autonomous or independent. It’s a sort of coping mechanism. While he sincerely may not want to be in opposition or above others, in the same way he does not want to be independent from them, he nevertheless, at the same time, actually does; he is human and therefore caught in a relentless duality. He knows that he is and should want to remain anonymous, and yet, if handled properly, he will nevertheless assert himself in an attempt not to be. Whatever you do, do not let him discover that the “loss” of his conflicted, dual self, that is, becoming anonymous in a family of other selves, can only begin by accepting that both of his desires do in fact exist, both are sincere, and both are a part of his dual existence, which is perfectly normal. 

Within this perceived sovereignty and individuality, your patient has a need to both transcend and dominate over others by seeing himself as wholly separate and independent from them. Plant in him a fear of the truth that he is a lightweight, both thin and insubstantial to the continuation of a larger reality. A promising and predictable reaction will be for him to try to invert himself as autonomous, like I said, by attempting to dominate over through separating and distinguishing from others in his environment. Do not let him stop and consider how impossible this actually is. For example, the binaries in which he distinguishes himself as above and independent from are completely reliant on his specific environment. Even when he attempts to step back to assert himself as separate, the very concept of “separation” is wholly dependent on and connected to the environment in which he exists; your patient does not realize his environment or situation controls his perception of himself.

Make sure he does not realize that, in order to see himself as autonomous or independent and separate from everyone else, he needs other selves to self-identify. By self-identifying through the binary of self and other, he understands who he is only based on who he is not; he is unaware that his attempted dominance and “autonomy” or independence is completely reliant on the thing he is being dominant over and independent from for any real sense of meaning. In this way, he is not autonomous from the other, or religion, or the Enemy.

Do not allow him to accept both sides of his conflicted dual existence--that he wants to be autonomous and also does not want to be autonomous, that he is drawn to physical and mental diversions and at the same time not drawn to them--he must continue to act in defiance of them, which only perpetuates his actual reliance on all of them. Inherently, a human being needs submission in order to relinquish its conflicted, double self from its displaced autonomy. Since he lives in a subjective world based on the influence of his community, whether he chooses to or not, he is controlled by those who surround him, whether he considers himself above them or below them, it does not matter. He cannot know that asserting an autonomous identity is not only foolish, it is legitimately impossible. Let him think it is possible, let him think he is an independent soul. The sooner you can convince him to devalue and deny the need of his community and loved ones, the better.

Your affectionate uncle


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