What is the meaning of letters 23 and 24 of The Screwtape Letters?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Letter 23, senior hell-demon Screwtape advises junior demon Wormwood, his nephew, on how to further tempt and corrupt Wormwood's human charge. Wormwood has been assigned his first human, with the task of "converting" this human from a Christian into a prideful disbeliever. Screwtape starts by recounting what Wormwood has already done. To this point, Wormwood has been trying to tempt the human with base temptations: wealth, sex, and power. These tactics have not been successful. Screwtape advises Wormwood to try a more subtle method. He tells the junior demon to lure the human away from true piety by appealing to a kind of superficial, lazy intellect both demons have observed in this particular human. Screwtape tells Wormwood to distract the human with outward concerns such as the politics and history of Christianity. It isn't enough that the human charge become interested in these matters, says Screwtape. Rather, Wormwood must push these matters to the forefront of his mind, so that the human becomes entangled in them: forgetting personal devotion, and loosing touch with the very faith and sense of wonder that roused his interest to begin with.

In Letter 24, Screwtape goes on to advise Wormwood on planting other temptations. The man and his wife are both newly converted Christians. Screwtape advises Wormwood to distill a sense of superiority in the man. As a young, inexperienced Christian, the man is self-consciously aware of being different from those who do not share his faith. Screwtape tells Wormwood to transform the man's sense of being "different" into a sense of being "better." Screwtape believes that encouraging this prideful, false "spirituality" in the man will result in Wormwood winning his human charge's soul.