She turned her tender eyes to me
But she blinded me with science
- She Blinded Me With Science, Thomas Dolby
The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
My Dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence.
The High Command has already answered this question – Wormwood, Screwtape, and their cohorts must remain concealed, for now. It has not always been so in the past, and it may not be so again in the future (at least the future for Lewis at the time he wrote the book), but for the present: act behind the scenes, without revealing identity.
Why? They face a “cruel dilemma”: on one hand, when the humans disbelieve in their existence, the pleasing results of direct terrorism are lost.
On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least not yet.
To believe in the devil inherently causes one to discount materialism and ponder the metaphysical – but belief in a philosophy grounded in materialism is also the enemy of God. The enemy of the Enemy is not the High Command’s enemy… “at least not yet.”
So what changes? What does Screwtape see in the future that might change things?
I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (although not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy.
The “Life Force,” the worship of sex, and some aspects of psychoanalysis can prove useful here, according to Screwtape.
There is much to unpack here. It will be recalled that Lewis previously used the phrase “real science.” Historically, there was no such thing as science absent philosophy and the metaphysical; science inherently included these. For Lewis, this was real science.
We know that real science has been torn asunder, certainly science the Enlightenment. Today, science – all science – is only science when it can be modeled, tested, proved, falsified. If it is not subject to these, it isn’t considered today to be science.
To be considered a science, all studies in what are commonly referred to as social science have been objectified – economics is one example, but all aspects of human behavior and the human condition also are included. We see it in every study of gender: instead of understanding the subjective differences of individuals and the subjective differences between male and female, we have the numbers to “prove it”: not enough women in position of authority, women are paid less than men, etc.
It is a self-reinforcing condition: to be considered a science today, each area of study must be objectified – and practitioners of these disciplines want to be considered real scientists, so they objectify their science. Further, the entire enterprise gives social planners reason to intervene. In the end, the High Command wins without being exposed.
What about emotionalizing and mythologizing science? One would think that absent the metaphysical, science would be de-emotionalized and de-mythologized. But this is not our experience. Is a rational conversation possible in the study of gender, race, the climate? The metaphysical is gone, and the conversation on these and many other sciences are completely emotional and mythologized.
What of this “Life Force” that can be useful in the task of the High Command? “Life force is energy that some people believe exists in all living things and keeps them alive.” In other words, “May the [life] force be with you.” Or, Jake Sully from the movie Avatar: “All energy is only borrowed and one day you have to give it back.”
There is no image of God, no difference between human life and any other life, no idea of an eternal soul, nothing beyond this life. It is not difficult to see how this is indirectly helpful to the High Command without directly pointing to the idea of devils.
The worship of sex? I need not comment here. This infuses our culture and destroys the relationships that are deducible from proper Natural Law – and, therefore, aids in destroying liberty. Some aspects of psychoanalysis? You might as well say “the worship of sex” when considering this; you can also add all of the drugs prescribed in worship of this science with effects unknown (or known but not advertised).
One can put all of this together – completely visible in our day, but some of which was in the future for Lewis – and see how the devils under the High Command creep into society without at the same time leaving a path for the Enemy.
In the same letter, Screwtape answers Wormwood’s earlier question: should we make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist? The answer to the question is relevant to the topic at hand:
All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.
Such extremes can be inflamed – and it only takes a few true believers. In such a state, devotion to “the Cause” is magnified – it’s us against the world, only we know the truth.
Let [the patient] begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part.
Forsaking all others…
Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.
And in this way, the High Command finds a playground amongst humans without risk of metaphysical questions being reintroduced.
Of course, the High Command is no longer concerned about remaining concealed.