Friday, April 5, 2013

Letter 9

Well, Blankweed,
                                Now you understand. You thought you understood pain, did you not? Thought you understood it because you live with that dull pain every moment of every day. But now you know that pain comes in degrees, that the ache in a bone is different to a sword in the heart, that pain can always, will always increase. You understand that dread and fear are entirely different to despair and devastation.

You thought I’d sympathise? Empathise? You thought I’d share your regret, your remorse? I cannot understand your pathetic attempts to deceive me, Blankweed. Because we both know that you and I are incapable of remorse. And let me remind you that I cannot empathise because I, unlike you, have never failed.

This is just the beginning, it seems to me. After this will come the slow slide to everlasting destruction where all pain comes together in endless fire. Were it not that I cannot abide the thought of a soul escaped, I would relish your decline. You thought that I would support you because of a ‘regret’ I mentioned about the failure of another junior tempter? Blankweed, you misunderstand me. Regret? I feel nothing but the rage of missed opportunity, and the taste of his despair is ever on my tongue, strong and fiery. When you fail, they will give you to me: but you will be no feast. You will be a mere flavour on my palate. Nevertheless, I will relish the taste of your devastation for eternity.

However, there is, I suppose, hope yet. There is no way for you to escape the scalding agony of what has happened. But you may yet escape the everlasting flames. Until she is dead, until that very moment of her last breath, we may yet prevail. Understand this too: we may prevail, but only you can fail. The responsibility for this soul is yours alone.

So, let us consider the situation. Your patient has made a commitment to the Enemy. I am astonished by the number of points at which you disregarded my instructions. You failed to prevent her from attending this group, despite my careful advice. You failed to distract her mind. You failed to trap her emotions in a cycle of social ineptitude and doubt. And so, when her eyes opened to that glimpse of light (and you reeled back, blinded) she was undefended, and entirely on Enemy territory, surrounded by his troops. 

                                                     All our work thwarted.....

The point at which she (metaphorically) fell to her knees was the point at which you should have terrified her. I’ve seen the battle, which seemed lost, won even at that point of commitment. Unaccustomed as these creatures are to recognising the Enemy, they cannot distinguish between him and our disguises. But there is no point in going over this now.

But what now? Opportunities now abound. She floated home that night, feeling herself to be different, a new human being. But in many essential ways she is not. She has the same personality, the same inclination towards certain sins, the same job, the same home, and the weight of her life will encourage her to behave in the same ways she has always behaved. You see she does not, in all truth, understand what it means to give your life to the Enemy. She felt a disgusting shaft of joy. She felt that joy all the way home, and she woke up to it this morning. But it will not last. And this is where we take our chance because – you see – she thinks it will last. 

                                                  She thinks THIS is that a life of faith will feel like!

She thinks that now everything will be different. That she will be a better wife, better mother, better friend, better worker. She thinks it will now be easy to be kind and patient and generous. She thinks she will rise above all troubles with a smile of angelic joy on her face, that people will look at her and long to have her rapture. 

                                            longing to be a creature of rapture.....
Of course at a fundamental level she has now changed – or, rather, been changed. And the Enemy will carry her for a little while – it will be easier for some time. But the Enemy believes – ridiculously – that these creatures need to make a continuous choice for him, that they need to take each day each step in his direction. And so he sets them on their own feet. And leaves them to walk – supported, yes, but not carried – on their own feet. And this is where many a new convert falls into our hands.

First, she will have to deal with disappointment: but she didn’t think it was going to be like this! She thought it would be easier. Oh how sad! The new convert doesn’t realise they were being carried; they thought they were behaving differently because they’d transformed into a kinder, more patient, more generous person. And so we step in and fan their resentment. “but I gave my life to you so why are you making it so hard for me? Why aren’t you keeping up your side of the bargain” is the line we feed them. There are so many possibilities in emotional terms here: resentment, anger, a sense of betrayal, a sense they’ve been made a fool of. It’s like playing in a sandpit for us at this point – too many toys to choose between!

Second, she will have to learn what it really means to transform her life to follow the Enemy. She will need to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving. She will have to find people who will help her, learn ways of engaging with the Enemy, set up new routines, master entirely new strategies of self-examination, repentance, and trust. She has to learn how to be a different person in a world which expects her to behave in old ways. The pressures on the convert to revert to old behaviour are enormous, even without our help. And we’re committed to helping, aren’t we, Blankweed!

All is not lost. At least, I think not. Please let me know immediately which remedial courses you have enrolled for (DESP 106: Luring the new convert is a must). And I need more details of your patient’s current frame of mind AND some detail of how the people around her (her husband, family, and workmates) are responding to this new aspect of her life. I’d like to know, too, whether she’s talking about her experience or keeping it a secret – because we need different strategies for each of those scenarios.

I hope – but doubt – that you’ve learned your lesson.

Ravenously yours


Friday, February 22, 2013

Letter 8

Dear Blankweed,
You raise an interesting question – how do we know that the Enemy wants our patient to attend this church group, and how can we know that she is in greatest danger there? In one way the issue is irrelevant: regardless of what any human being does (except when engaged in activity which is directly sinful), they are exposed to the Enemy. He is always present to them in some form or another, and their eyes may be opened to that presence at any moment. That is why we must be always vigilant: any moment is the moment at which they may fall into the Enemy’s clutches. So, if she decides not to go to the Church group (for any reason – even a reason we have fed her), the Enemy may well reveal himself to her while she is lounging in an old armchair watching re-runs of a soap opera with her husband or sitting at the kitchen table doing homework with one of her children. Sear this truth into your brain, Blankweed: the Enemy is always there, in any situation, looking for an opportunity.

But it has to be said that the context of any situation means that the patient is more likely or less likely to recognise and correctly interpret the presence of the Enemy. Now you need to remember that human beings’ experience of the Enemy is very different to ours. We experience him – in those appalling moments when we are required to challenge him in a deathly duel (and I earnestly hope, Blankweed, that you never encounter such a situation)– as searing, destructive, eternal fire, a fire that even in its most limited form threatens, promises instant annihilation. But humans’ experience of him is much more muted. If he were to reveal himself in any more direct form than the faintest glow of that ghastly light he shines on everything, the human being would instantly be overwhelmed, overcome, and thrown to their knees. They too would not be able to resist that dreadful light. Their lives would change in the instant, their obedience would be unquestioned. They would see, with a certainty that could not be challenged, that this was what they were made for – for service to this….fffffffire. But for some reason, the Enemy makes  a great deal about not exposing himself in a way that would overpower their puny wills. He goes on about wanting them to choose, to give themselves of their own free will to his service – and so he does not reveal himself directly, but shines with only the faintest glow that these humans can recognise, if they are attentive,  without being overpowered. He calls this grrrrrace. This is where we get our chance.

The trick is to reinterpret that light so they do not realise it is the Enemy. So, for example, supposing the Enemy reveals himself (well, he is revealed at all times – so it is more a matter of preparing the patient’s mind to be receptive to that revelation) to our patient when she is watching television with her husband, relaxing over a glass of wine after a hard day.  She knows something has happened. She feels a change in herself, that ghastly receptive impulse which all humans have to something that comes from h-----.  (Incidentally, High Command  has worked hard to remove that impulse, but to no avail. It’s like a homing beacon: they are made for that ghastly place, and with the revelation of the Enemy, that receptor lights up.). She somehow opens up…..and here we have to work quickly.
Our task is to convince her that what she feels is not the Enemy, but something else. We tell her that her body is unwinding after that hard day – that what she’s feeling is not grace but the experience of being relaxed and healthy. Or we tell her she is simply feeling happy about being at home with her husband, with the children tucked up in bed, in the quiet evening.  We distract her by congratulating her on how the lampshade she chose throws a pleasing colour on the wall colour she chose – and that her feeling is an artistic one. Or we tell her – this is ridiculous, but you’ve no idea how often it works – that she’s feeling sexual desire. Objectively, of course, it’s impossible to compare any of these things – or anything at all - with the experience of the Enemy’s awful light. But if they’re not used to feeling his presence, and if there are other contextual factors that distract her, we can do it very neatly.
Now, to go back to your question: if, on the other hand, the Enemy chooses to reveal himself to her in a church, or in a room full of people praying or discussing the enemy’s textbook, or singing a song about the Enemy, then it is much harder for us to find issues that might distract her from recognising what is going on. Furthermore, she is surrounded by people experienced in the Enemy’s presence, who can correctly interpret her experience for her. You see – the context works against us. We are in terrible danger.
And this is why, even though the Enemy can ambush a human at any time, she must be prevented from spending time in a context which in dominated by the Enemy. She is more likely to recognise him, and the people around her are more likely to encourage that recognition, and explain the consequences of that experience to her. And, worst of all, they might encourage her to respond to that experience by pledging her allegiance. A husband with a headache and no experience of the Enemy (who, indeed, feels derision about the Enemy) is highly unlikely to encourage such a response. And the patient herself, even if she did recognise what has happened, is unlikely to understand what to do next. We then send her to bed, and in the morning, when her ‘real’ life rushes in at her (lunches to make, trains to catch, meetings to prepare for), we ensure that the whole experience slips away from her.

So it’s simple: stop her from getting to that meeting.

Your affectionate friend


Friday, February 1, 2013

Letter 7

Letter 7

Dear Blankweed, 
 Oh, get a grip! Of course I didn’t mean to imply all groups in all churches are full of vice and dissension and we should just let them get on with their own journey to Hell. Would that it were so. No, no, no – you must remember that churches are also full of saints, and saints-in-the-making, each of which can have a pernicious effect on the rest of any group they are in. Any church is a danger to us. Any church group is a threat to Our Leader’s great and glorious plan. You see, in any group at all (not just church groups but professional, social and familial groups) which contains a single servant of the Enemy there is a whiff of h-----. The others may not feel it directly, but they will be influenced it. This rot-filled individual does not even have to do or say anything specific: just by being there, they bring the Enemy into the circle. Sometimes with disastrous effect. Now, in a church group you can multiply that whiff of h----- by the number of people who have committed their lives to the Enemy. The impact of this is an appalling volatility. Despite all our careful planning and preparation, dreadful things can happen without warning. 
 Let me give you an example. A skilled but junior tempter I was once mentoring, was caring for a patient whose primary driver was power over others. He wasn’t aware of this, of course – we’d taken care to develop in him what he saw as an almost impregnable sense of justice and righteousness. In other words, he thought he was saving the world, when in fact all he was trying to do was establish his control over those around him, and extend his sphere of power. What fun we had working with him! He had no difficulty at all in saying, in that prayer they’re all so keen on, “Thy will be done” because he saw his will as being indistinguishable from what he called g--. Which it was, because he had invented that god, unbeknownst to him, in his own image. For years, even though he was an active and influential member of a church, we had him well in hand, and he was a wonderfully destructive force in his community. 

Then he joined one of these small, church groups. He joined for quite innocent and admirable reasons: because there were members of this group who he wanted to bring under his influence. We weren’t even worried. And then one day, in this group, almost as if a light had been shone on his soul, he saw what he was. That appalling whiff of You Know What, which reeked out of the saints around him in that group, had undone years of fine work on our part. We never got him back. It was a terrible tragedy. And his act of repentance had a profound effect on others, and the ripples of his revelation were felt through that community like an earthquake. Soul after soul escaped our grasp. I lost a fine tempter because of that group. Let that be a warning to you. 

 Now, sadly, to your dossier. I have to say it looks bad. We have much to concern us here. She has joined a bible study, which means she will be directly exposed to the Enemy and his teaching. And what’s more, she was invited to join this bible study by someone she genuinely admires and likes – not by someone she sees as useful to her career, or someone she envies and resents, or someone she feels patronising about. And this person is, I’m appalled to say, someone who is deeply immersed in the Enemy camp. What were you thinking of in letting her sit next to this woman on Sunday? She’s flattered to have been invited to join, and excitedly sees this as a step toward becoming more immersed in the church community – and yet not in such a way that she feels she’s been invited to join an inner sanctum of power. 

 And when I look at who is in this group, my heart sinks. The whole group stinks of smugness and righteousness and charity and faith. They enjoy one another’s company but they don’t form a clique. They laugh at each other’s jokes, but they don’t laugh at other people. They are more educated and dedicated than their pastor, but they honour his authority. They work hard – but they also find a way to work for the church. They are – well, words fail me. Of course, it must all be a con at some level. They must all be taking secret advantage of one another somehow. But we cannot yet see how. It will be our first priority, Blankweed, to figure out what they’re really up to. 

 What, then, to do? Our first priority is clear and simply, we must stop her from actually getting there. She has many other demands on her life, and other priorities. Can you arrange for her to be offered new responsibilities at work, which would require her to work at home in the evenings, without her reflecting on whether this will impede her ability to attend this group? You also need to stop her from even entertaining the question of whether attending this group might be more important than professional advancement. 

The Enemy, of course, will try to draw this to her attention, but with enough distraction from you, and subtle hints about the importance of this new work, we should be able to counter him. I suggest this work strategy because she’s ambitious professionally, and subject to flattery, so she might easily be distracted in this way. If she’s working at night, she’ll have less time to spend with her family and husband, so she’s likely to feel guilty about leaving them for another evening each week. Even without the extra work, can we work with her husband’s tempter to stir up opposition in him about this group? He might be persuaded to feel slighted, or jealous, or excluded. Use the pressures and conflicts of her ordinary life to make attendance too difficult.

If you can’t stop her from getting there, then we need to work on her feelings while she’s there. Now, I can give you broad advice here, but it’s really up to you to think on your feet and use the material that presents itself on a minute-by-minute basis. The key is to pay attention, Blankweed. Every thought that flickers across her mind must be instantly analysed and taken advantage of where possible. She will feel anxious and socially inept: these people are in so many ways her superiors that she will feel out of place. And her awareness of their superiority will make her feel insecure. Can you persuade her that these are not really her sort of people? That she’s out of her depth? They will be kind to her: can you make her think they’re not kind but patronising? They all know each other well and have many ‘in’ jokes and shared references that she cannot as yet share. Can you make her feel there is no way in and it’s a waste of time trying. Especially when she’s so very tired. Humans are always tired, Blankweed – remind her of how demanding and chaotic her life is. Does she really need to make effort in the evening after a hard day at work? 
tempt her to unkindness....
 And when she gets home and the house is a mess, or she still has to start preparations for the next day, and her husband is lying on the couch watching a trashy movie, can you tempt her to anger and self-pity and unkindness? Of course you can! Get to it. Pay attention, remember your lessons, and enjoy the mayhem.

 Your affectionate friend