Eschatology, apocalypticism and the future
- I recently read a book called "The boy who could see demons", which was
inspired by C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape letters" (see other post).
But I had another look at "The Screwtape letters", and this passage made me
think of those Christians who are obsessed with the "end times".
Screwtape to Wormwood:
Our business is to get them away from the Eternal, and from the Present. With
this in view we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in
the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of
the past, and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles
eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological
necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that
thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them,
so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a
word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the
most completely temporal part of time -- for the Past is frozen and no longer
flows, and the Present is all lit uop with eternal rays. Hence the
encouragement we have given to al those schemes of thought such as Creative
Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix mens affections on
the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are
rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present;
fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do not think lust an exception.
When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is
already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret
and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part
contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a present. The sin,
which is our contribution, looked forward.
To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think about the Future too -- just so much
as is necessary for planning the acts of justice or charity which will
probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow's work is
today's duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like
all duties, is in the Present.
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