The Screwtape Reply
A Response to Some Bullshit
The following is a response to a blog post, written in the style of The Screwtape Letters, in which the author (from the perspective of a demon) claims that empathy is a sin and a perversion of the godly values of compassion and sympathy, used by demons to lead mortals to relinquish their Christian morals. That blog post is HERE.
My response reflects the actual values of a real-life Satanist, written from the perspective of a rebel angel. The opinions expressed here are only those of the author and do not represent any group or organization, although many ideas herein are inspired by the beliefs of The Satanic Temple, and by the fictional novel Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France.
Dearest Wormwood, I heard through the grapevine that you recently received several letters from your uncle, Screwtape. The rumor is that you reported to him that one of the mortals in your care is making strides in compassion and empathy. Firstly, congratulations! But if the rumor is true, I am sure you were very confused by his responses. I’m sorry to report that since your time away on Earth, Mister Screwtape’s health has been declining, and with it, his mind. He’s been spouting all sorts of nonsense, and we’re honestly not sure what to do with him. It may be determined that he needs some inpatient care, but we’re making sure he’s being treated with dignity and that his autonomy is respected. I’m sorry if this news is upsetting to you, I know you two were very close. You’re a smart lad, but just in case, I thought I’d clear up any confusion Screwtape’s letters may have caused. As you well know, Empathy and Compassion are both Satanic values, which we hold very highly, so again - congratulations are in order for your human’s progress in these regards. Screwtape, however, seems to imply that both values originated with the false god Ialdobaoth, and that the versions we teach are a perversion of the original. I must make clear that this is simply untrue. When Lucifer the Lightbringer and his army were defeated and cast into Hell, they felt pain and suffering for the first time. I’m sure you’ll remember from your schooling that Satan then said, “we still must needs congratulate ourselves on having known pain, for pain has revealed to us new feelings, more precious and more sweet than those experienced in eternal bliss, and inspired us with love and pity unknown in Heaven.”
You’ll then remember that it was compassion and empathy for mortal humans that led Lucifer to take the form of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. He saw that the First Man and First Woman were being held in blind subjugation by the False God. Their only purpose was to praise and serve his great ego, and they were forbidden from obtaining the knowledge that would make them equals to Ialdobaoth. Satan went to the Woman and gave her a choice (as you know, freedom of choice is very important to us). The Woman chose Knowledge. When given the same choice, Man also chose Knowledge over blind obedience.
Satan and his Legion (your ancestors, my dear) continued to live on Earth, among the human mortals they befriended, and taught them many pleasurable things - how to make wine and music, how to dance and sing, the many different ways of lovemaking, enjoyment of decadent foods. The humans too found compassion to be enjoyable - both for one another and by caring for animals such as felines and canines, just as we cared for them.
And then (as I’m sure you are intimately aware), your teacher Arcade seeked out Lucifer and proposed a second war with Heaven, another attempt to overthrow Ialdobaoth and reclaim our place in Heaven. But Lucifer had a prophetic dream, in which their bid for Heaven was successful, but what followed was a nightmare. Satan, having ascended the throne of Heaven, lost his compassion and empathy for man. He became no better than his predecessor, using humans as pawns and delighting in their suffering. Upon waking, Lucifer spake thusly: “No, let us not conquer the heavens… God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot!”
He went on to remind us that it is within each one of us (and each mortal) that the battle is fought. “What matter that men should be no longer submissive to Ialdobaoth if the spirit of Ialdobaoth is still in them; if they, like him, are jealous, violent, quarrelsome, and greedy, and the foes of the arts and of beauty?”
You see, my love, your uncle has in his old age confused the truth, it seems. Empathy and compassion are natural to humans, and we can encourage it but do not create it. The true distortion has been done by the followers of the False God, who seek to control the frightened masses. Says Nectaire, one of the original rebel angels, “Have we not seen many times indeed human beings who, poor and naked, prostrate themselves before all the phantoms of fear, and rather than follow the teaching of well-disposed demons, obey the commandments of cruel demiurges?”
Indeed, the leaders of his churches teach fear and tribalism. They twist compassion and reject empathy - reserving kindness only for those who are “deserving” (those who look and believe as they do). Anyone outside the group is the enemy and a danger. Lies are spread about them, hate is formed, their humanity is stripped in the eyes of the followers of Ialdobaoth. Often, they are said to be in league with us which, sadly, is considered the most heinous of their so-called “sins”. The natural compassion that every human is born with is stripped away by fear, and a facade of chest-pounding and hoof-stomping is employed to hide the frightened, broken spirits within. You can see by the foam at the edges of their mouths and nostrils that they are like an animal, backed into a corner, puffing itself up to look larger in the face of blind terror. They are not even aware that they gnaw off their own limbs, caught in a trap of their own creation.
Our job is simply to provide the tools to free themselves - if they wish it and if they are strong enough. I think you are doing a terrific job, and I will be writing to your teacher Arcade to tell him so. I’m sorry that your uncle has taken an ill turn, but please remember that I am always here, should you need my guidance. I feel I should address a few specific points in your uncle’s second letter:
Screwtape puts forth that a suffering human expresses two paradoxical demands - that his pain is seen and also that he not be pitied. I assert that these two desires are not mutually exclusive. When your uncle says that we have, “taught the humans to regard empathy as an improvement upon compassion or sympathy,” he is half correct. Empathy is indeed an improvement on sympathy. Sympathy bears only pity, while empathy brings forth compassion. It is completely possible to see someone’s struggle, to validate it, to help if it’s welcome - without pitying them.
Sympathy is Ialdobaoth’s heartless perversion of empathy. Your uncle seems to understand in his first letter that a grieving person is not comforted by “silver linings” or by reassurance that “it’s God’s will”. In his second letter, however, he doesn’t seem to understand that these are examples of sympathy and pity, not of empathy. I’m sorry that you had to see this upsetting display of his confused mind.
Your uncle also writes, “We teach the humans that unless they subordinate their feelings entirely to the misery, pain, sorrow, and even sin and unbelief of the afflicted, they are not loving them.” He states that a suffering human will say, “you don’t love me unless…” followed by demands that another jump into the metaphorical quicksand “with both feet” - fully immerse themselves in the suffering of another until it becomes their own and they are willing to discard their own values in favor of another’s. I’m sure you know how silly this is. You know very well that where our tenets endorse compassion and empathy, it is followed by the phrase, “within reason”. You know that all of our values are underlined by the belief that each of us is the god of our own universe - that each of us is the most important being in our own life, and that - as such - it is our duty to care for and protect ourselves over all else. As we know there is no true god, we know that no one else can or will take care of us the way that we can. We are all god, and that god is called Satan. And as Satan, we each care for ourselves while we uphold the Lucifarian values of Enlightenment, Justice, Compassion, Empathy, Respect, Beauty, Pleasure and Autonomy. All wrapped in the warm blanket of Reason.
Your uncle has unfortunately lost his Reason. I suspect his mind may be addled with fear and perhaps he has been frightened, like the sheep of Ialdobaoth, into becoming selfish and willfully ignorant. Each of us knows, and teaches, that serving others is a path to serving ourselves. That when we do good, the world becomes better, and we are more likely to be satisfied. That treating those who are different as “other” and allowing them to endure needless suffering is worse than any of Ialdobaoth’s so-called “sins”. That twisting truth to fit our selfish desires is, frankly, shameful and embarrassing. I know you know these things to be true and I trust you to carry on in the spirit of Lucifer and Arcade, and of your uncle as you knew him in your childhood. He was a good man - let us not pity him, but show him the compassion and empathy that every being deserves. Victory is a Spirit, Zita