My Dear Wormwood, Letter 1


My dear Wormwood,

In your last letter, you told me that your patient has found herself at the crossroads of a monumental decision in her life. From what you’ve related to me of your patient, it seems she tends to be driven by a disgusting desire to do what is ‘right’ by both the Enemy, others, and herself. With this choice in front of her, this desire will be motivating her even more than is typical. It wearies me, Wormwood, that you are so unsettled by this! Have I taught you nothing about how easily a patient’s desire for the Enemy can be shifted to benefit us? Do not be concerned that she has this desire to do what is right. Instead, ensure that it is left untethered to a hopeful trust in the Enemy’s power. Dilute it by subtly evoking in her false expectations that what is ‘right’ will always bring about desired outcomes that she can control.

You must, therefore, not only twist this desire, but let it become all- encompassing, limiting the horizon of her moral imagination and crowding out the thoughts of the Enemy. This all-encompassing weight of the desire will weary her, and she will soon find that she has made the irrational leap from wanting to do ‘right’ to thinking that there is only one ‘right’ decision. You know how those pitiful and irrational beasts love myths. Suffocate her with this myth, and she’ll be eager to form a drastic escape plan—don’t let her out, or she may begin to see that there is more than one ‘right’ decision. Let her breathe enough only to aerate the seeds of anxiety you’ve already planted in her mind, dwelling repeatedly on every factor that goes into making this well-educated ‘right’ decision.

As you religiously keep up your efforts, ensure that you present her with a flurry of potentialities so that she comes to doubt whether this ‘right’ decision is even attainable. Assault her mind with these possible outcomes—these “what-ifs” and “buts”—but let her not see it as an assault from our side but as essential to her desire to do what is ‘right.’ Of course, as you know, at this point there is no more a desire to do what is ‘right,’ just an obsession with the thoughts we have given her. You see, my dear Wormwood, the goal is to transform her simple desire to please the Enemy into a scourge on her soul by planting her in our beautiful territory of unhelpful abstractions.

My dear boy, your anxieties about your patient’s desire are blowing like a cold wind across my desk. Why do you doubt me so? The Enemy wants you to be afraid that your patient’s desire will overcome our efforts. However, the only way that is possible is if your patient completely surrenders her desire to do what is ‘right’ to Him. But that is an absurdity, considering that every one of those beasts has a desire for control. So, use this to your benefit. As your patient keeps spiraling into a state of anxiety, she will inadvertently consider herself as more knowledgeable than the Enemy.

By the way, I recall you saying her eyes tend to drift toward the Enemy everyso often? Instead of wearing yourself out trying to distract her, when her mind tries to see the Enemy or hopes to voice her requests to Him, let Him seem as far, distant, quiet, and blurry as possible. Although we cannot actually make the Enemy distance Himself from our patient, the feeling of distance will suffice. Once her mind has drifted to a blurry picture of the Enemy enough times, she will eventually stop looking. This is good and will foster a discouragement that will make her feel all alone and open her up to more anxieties.

If she feels alone, she may turn to the Words of the Enemy, which you have a right to be concerned about. However, as we rejoiced in earlier, a bad tendency may easily be shifted to benefit our side. Remind her of her failure to obey the Enemy’s command to “not be anxious about anything.” Let this convince her that her anxiety itself is an awful sin, driving her into even more anxiety. I urge you again, my boy, to distract your patient when the Enemy gives her impulses to pray or seek Him. Let the distractions in solitude be more attractive than being with others or speaking to the Enemy. I truly believe that, with your faithful efforts, your patient will remain in her untethered and anxious state, far from the Enemy’s grasp.

Your affectionate uncle,




Prose and photo taken from the 2021 edition of Artos, the literary journal of Bethlehem College & Seminary students. Photo, “Sturm und Drang” by J. Heinrich, College Student.