Screwtape’s Toast: A Serial Retrospective

Blogger’s Note: It would be neither practical nor wise to divulge the means whereby the following dispatches came into my hands, and following the example of that great author upon whose work I have built, will say no more, but release them into the Internet, where intelligence from Hell will doubtless feel welcome and at home. I also with him encourage my reader to remember that the devil is a liar, and that not all he says should be regarded as true even by his own standards.

Introduction: It has now been sixty years since the recording of “The Toast,” which, although conceived as no more than a series of remarks delivered to a general audience of tempters, has in the interim become unhallowed as one of the foundational strategic texts of the Lowerarchy.

It is, however, perhaps fitting at this time to review the salient points of this great document, and comment upon the extent to which his vision and aims have been accomplished among our patients in the past sixty years, which have seen such changes wrought upon that planet as to make it almost unrecognizable. It has seen us triumph in ways that would have seemed unimaginable. And as we are not, in the words of a popular political slogan in the United States “tired of winning yet,” it is perhaps worth our time to examine this worthy document so as to safeguard and preserve the final victory that even now is in sight.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

It is customary on these occasions for the speaker to address himself chiefly to those among you who have just graduated and who will very soon be posted to official Tempterships on Earth… I well remember with what trepidation I awaited my own first appointment. I hope, and believe, that each one of you has the same uneasiness tonight. Your career is before you. Hell expects and demands that it should be — as mine was — one of unbroken success. If it is not, you know what awaits you.

While Screwtape himself has fallen out of favor with Those Below (some say for the grievous fault of being unable to restrain his incisive intellect, others that he was falling too far and too fast to suit the powerful. The precise charge, as always, is Secret), he has perhaps won for himself the distinction of being the first to simultaneously distinguish himself as a devil of parts, and a devil in parts. It is of course to be hoped that his intellect will one day be with us again, when his reeducation is accomplished.

I have no wish to reduce the wholesome and realistic element of terror, the unremitting anxiety, which must act as the lash and spur to your endeavours. How often you will envy the humans their faculty of sleep! Yet at the same time I would wish to put before you a moderately encouraging view of the strategical situation as a whole.

If Screwtape had remained to see the fruition of his designs, we can only assume that he would indeed be more than “moderately” encouraged. But we will speak of that later.

Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid.

Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.

Being assigned to the European theater of operations, Screwtape had reason to be, shall we say, disappointed with the abrupt change in his culinary fortunes. But had he taken a broader view, he would have dined on Chairman Mao, Idi Amin, and Fidel Castro, to say nothing of those who outlived the general slaughter on the general principle that we base our own rebellion on, that “the victors are never judged.” Curtis LeMay and Richard Nixon might well have warmed his gullet as well as any ancient Roman.

Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it?

And now, let us look at the first hints of our great success, because while these petty creatures still exist, and defile the plates of the more pathetic of us, today we have encouraged such Little Men — and women, let us not forget the importance of the division — with a burning resentment of the limits to their power, and the feeling that they truly deserve the meager resources they cheat their fellows out of. Some of them even add a delightful frisson of self-righteousness to the melange.

Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Casanova, they were nauseating.

These we still have with us, and for the same reasons. But we have taught more and more of them to invest their sexual antics with their entire reason for living. To boast of them openly as a sign of “liberation” and “rebellion” (while carefully avoiding any actually worthwhile activity that might make those words meaningful, to be sure) and to join an ever-growing movement that regards such activities as morally right and even “honest.”

The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.

The humans flatter themselves that such creatures are of the past, but really, as I hardly need tell you, we are getting them more and more often, in the two chief flavors of Corporatist, who does all these things while congratulating himself on his natural leadership and clear thinking (and the knowledge that if he did not do it, someone else would) and the Activist, who regards the bloodshed, famine, and extinction of liberty as not only excusable, but as positively desirable as long as it all happens to the right people in the name of the Cause.

Gastronomically, then, the situation has much improved, because while the human cattle were content to ignore the moral law in the age of the Toast, now we have taught them that flouting it is a supremely moral act, whose virtues are Envy and Greed, and whose blessings are pleasure and power, both of wich they have rights to.

William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act I, Scene vii


Yeah, okay, I couldn’t let this die, so here’s another scene, for your enjoyment.

Act I, Scene vii.

The Training Room of Castle Caladan
PAUL at table
Enter Duke LETO ATREIDES and guards

LETO (aside): Now is the time to dare, and win the name
Of daring in the Councils of the Landsraad,
Who name me Just Duke Leto, he who dares
To speak against the sycophants of power.
Now that power hath sent us to Arrakis
And I have dared to seize the chance, but how
Would I dare not? Defy the throne’s command?
That were fatal. So I, the daring Duke
See only what I dare not do. Not run
Though that were highest wisdom. Dare not show
The great fatigue that weighs within my bones.
Dare not drop this false uplifted face.
And dare not rest. And dare not miss the chance to rest
On ships. The great Heighliners of the Guild
Do open, off’ring all too brief a rest.

PAUL: Is Dune as dangerous as rumor hath it?

LETO (aside): This is my son; I’ll not be false to him.

Not so dangerous as hellmouth gate
Nor deadly as a viper, but ‘twill serve.

PAUL: Hawat says we’re to befriend the Fremen.

(aside) Why speak I not what that old woman said?

LETO: Hawat sees the main chance perilous
But more there is than danger: there is CHOAM,
The Combine Honnete Ober Advancer
Mercantiles, and in giving Dune to us,
We must be named directors of that wealth.
A subtle gain we’ve too long been denied.

PAUL: Did Reverend Mother warn you from this path?

LETO: The hand behind that warning was thy mother’s
Who would not see us placed in danger’s way.
‘Tis how she shows her love to us, to warn.

PAUL: Does she know of the Fremen?

LETO:                                                    Yea, and more.

PAUL: What more?

LETO:                         The CHOAM entangles as the kraken
Dark, unseen, strong in tentacular
Ubiquity. Machines of Ix, the art
Of Ecaz, horses, lumber, sharks and rice
Our pundi rice of Caladan trans-shipped
Along with that most precious load of all
Arrakis’ prize mélange. One fistful buys
A home on Tupile. Only from the mines
Of Dune’s vast desert comes that mystic spice
That lights the vasty deeps of trackless space
And holds off age, once leveler of men.

PAUL: And this we now control?

LETO:                                                 No more than half.
Yet all the Houses of the Landsraad hang
On profits from that spice, now in our trust.
What should transpire, should we fail in that charge?

PAUL: Who hoards mélange could do brisk trade in souls
For that rare drug, however high their toll.

LETO: Most excellent son! The learning I have hired
Is not in vain, and now know one thing more:
Harkonnen’s hoard hath grown for twenty years.

PAUL: They mean our charge to fail, and to your blame.

LETO: They wish our name to be dragged in the mire.
My star, late waxen in the Landsraad bright
To shine with light inconstant and to fade.
No House could stand with me were I to gash
Their purse with foolish policy. Be damned
The Great Convention! They’d be blind
To aught that would be done against me then.

PAUL: They’d let atomic weapons bring us down?

LETO: Nay, nothing flagrant such as that!
‘Twould bring the Great Convention down entire.
The forms must be obeyed, but only forms.
The spirit would be dead as Mother Earth.

PAUL: Then, why, sire do we walk into this snare?

LETO: Son, think! We know the trap for where it is,
And in that knowledge, know how to evade
The ambush set to bring our fortunes down.
As in the ars duello so we watch
The feint within the feint within the feint,
Unravelling the true strike from the false
And knowing the Harkonnen do hoard spice
We look to see who likewise hoards, and hopes
To make a profit from our forecast fall.

PAUL: Who’s in that scheming list of enemies?

LETO: Many we already knew for foes
And some we took for friends, these now proved false.
Yet these are trifles, naught beside the name
O’ershadowing all others, our great sire,
The Padishah, the Emperor himself.

PAUL: Couldst thou not call the Landsraad, and expose..?

LETO: And show our foe we see his hidden knife?
Where would he hide it next, and where’s our proof?
We’d gain a little time and buy mere chaos.
And never know whence came the next attack.

PAUL: Where goes the Padishah, go Sardaukar.

LETO: Clad in Harkonnen robes, without a doubt.

PAUL: How could the Fremen rabble help us then?

LETO: Hath Hawat told thee aught then of Salusa
Secundus, prison planet of the realm?

PAUL: Nay, my father.

LETO:                         What if it were more?
It begs the question, whence the Sardaukar?

PAUL: The Sardaukar come from the prison planet?

LETO: They are not spawned in void; they come from somewhere.

PAUL: The Emperor commands each world to levy…

LETO: ‘Tis what we’re led to think, like spavined sheep,
Yet naught hath changed in thrice a thousand years,
The balance of the realm remains unchanged
The forces of the Landsraad ranged against
The Sardaukar with levies close behind.
With levies, mark. They are not Sardaukar.

PAUL: But all report S.S. is like to hell!

LETO: No doubt. And where would you train fighting men?

PAUL: How could you then commend them, raised in hell?

LETO: The ways are known and ancient, nothing new
Is done under Salusa Second’s sun.
Lull them with stories of their secret worth
Their sorrow shared, the hell that did them birth
Now justified because it was their womb,
Regardless of how terrible a tomb
It was for them, they are the lords of stars
As long as they will fight the Empire’s wars.
Consider Dune, an endless burning waste
As hard a place as ever men have faced.

William Shakespeare’s Dune

In honor of William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and inspired by the recent discovery of his lost “Star Wars: A New Hope,” may I present the first two scenes of William Shakespeare’s lost “Dune” manuscript, which I have recently discovered. (I suspect a collaboration with H.G. Wells led to this) Who knows? If I’m encouraged enough, I might post further sections

William Shakespeare’s Dune

Dramatis Personae (so far)

The Duke Leto Atreides
The Lady Jessica — his bound concubine
Paul Atreides – his son
The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam — A Bene Gesserit Proctor

Act I, Scene i. The Castle Caladan

Paul Atreides’ Bedroom
Paul Atreides lies on his bed, asleep.
Lady Jessica and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

REV: Is not he weak and paltry for his age?

JES: Your Reverence, it is no cause for concern.
Th’ Atreides often stunt their early growth.

REV: Yet he hath grown already fifteen years?

JES: Aye.

REV:                         Yet he’s awake and listens to us now,
The slyness of a spider shall he need
If thou hast borne the Kwisatz Haderach…
Sleep well, thou spiderling, and have a care:
Tomorrow thou shalt meet my gom jabbar.

Exit Lady Jessica and Reverend Mother Mohiam

PAUL: I dream a dream of time to come and space
A thousand-folded futures, dreaming true.
What is this cavern cold, perfumed with spice?
Arrakis, Dune, the Desert Planet looms
In my mind’s eye, remembered, yet unseen
In any past that should lodge in my brain.
Harkonnen fief that was, and now is ours:
Such wealth should make my father laugh for joy
Of vict’ry o’er the cruel Baron’s pride.
And yet his mood is somber. Is’t indeed
As Mentat Thufir says, and out of fear
That Emperor Shaddam has granted us
Arrakis: spiced and honeyed as a trap?
But still! The crone did call me spiderling
And I lie fretting as th’ensnared fly.
My mother’s disciplines I shall recall
And choosing consciousness shall master all.

 Enter Lady Jessica

 JES: Didst thou sleep well?

PAUL:                                  Aye, mother, what’s the matter?

JES: Dress and come. The Reverend Mother waits.

PAUL: I dreamed of her. Who is she then to thee?

JES: My teacher once. A Bene Gesserit sage.
And now the Emperor’s Truthsayer is become.
Thou must discover for her all thy dreams.

PAUL: I will. But what’s a gom jabbar?

JES: In time the gom jabbar thou shalt well know.
The Reverend Mother waits upon thee. Haste!



Act I, Scene ii.

The Lady Jessica’s Morning Room

The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, pacing.

REV: My age, already heavy to be borne
The Spacing Guild and all its cursed ways
Doth magnify as surely as it were
I rode one of their torchships at full thrust
At slingshot ‘round a collapsar’s black well.
Damn’d girl, to bear the son that drags me here
And shakes th’Imperial peace to brink of war!

 Enter the Lady Jessica and Paul. He bows, shallowly.

REV: A cautious child.

JES:                                      So have I taught, Your Reverence.

REV: Now we see the difference ‘twixt the teaching and the self.
Leave us, and do thou meditate in peace.

JES: Your Rev’rence…

REV:                                                 Jessica, thou know’st ‘twere better done.

JES: Aye. Paul, I pray thee do regard
This test as though it held thy mother’s soul.
Remember thou art scion of a Duke.

She exits

PAUL: Dost thou dismiss the Lady Jessica
As though she were a common serving wench?

 REV: My serving wench thy lady mother was
For fourteen years at school, and never failed
Her charge. Now come thou here!

Paul approaches her. She produces the Box.

REV: See this? Put thy right hand within the box.

 He pulls back

REV: Is this then how thou heed’st thy mother’s voice?

 He obeys.

REV: Stop! At thy neck I hold the gom jabbar.
The gom jabbar, high-handed enemy.
A needle fine, the point envenomed, too.
That venom thou shalt feel if thou shouldst flinch.
Thou knowest aye of poison, and how not?
Duke’s son thou art, and subject in these times
To Musky, poison in the drink, or yet
Aumas, the poison in the food. Such words
Our language hath, denoting all the sorts
Of death we deal each other. Here’s one more:
The gom jabbar. It killeth only beasts.

PAUL: Thou darest to suggest I am a beast?

REV: That thou mayest be human, I suggest.
Hold fast! Crone I may be and yet my hand hath speed
To drive this needle through thy sinewe’d neck.

PAUL: How didst thou work this trick? My mother gone.
Art thou then a Harkonnen stratagem?

REV: Harkonnen? By the gods you miss the mark.
The test is simple, with one cardinal rule:
So long thy hand stays in the box thou liv’st.
Remove it, and thou shalt then surely die.

PAUL: If I cry out, thou too shalt surely die
Upon the steel of House Atreides’ blades.

REV: Thy guards would never pass thy mother’s watch.
Depend on that. She too survived this test.
Be honored; sons are few who suffer this.

PAUL: Suffer? What is in that shadow?

REV:                                                                          Pain.
Thou hast no doubt, heard of an animal
Ensnared, in pain, which in its agony
‘Scapes death by gnawing off its very limb.
Not so the human. He would play at death
Remain ensnared and in dread ambuscade
Await the trapper, and from his gory heart
Kill that whose pride dared hunt a human soul.

PAUL: Why dost thou this?

REV:                                                 To see if thou art human.

PAUL: It burns!

REV:                         Be silent, sirrah!

PAUL:                                                          Gods, the pain!

REV: Kull wahad! I am profoundly stirred.
No woman child e’er withstood that much.
I must have wanted thee to fail. Young human
Take thy hand from out that box and gaze
Upon thy membership in humankind.

PAUL removes his hand. It is whole.

REV: We do not maim the humans and then leave
The animals among us hale and well.
‘Tis ‘gainst all reason. Nerve induction suits
Our purpose – and would others’ just as well.

PAUL: Such blinding pain…

REV:                                                 What’s pain? No human bows
To earthy and abhorred nerve-bound pain.

PAUL: You did this also to my mother once?

REV: Hast thou never sifted sand through screens?
The Bene Gesserit do also sift
The people of the worlds to find true men
And women worthy of the name of human.

PAUL: And pain’s enough to find the truth of this?

REV: The crisis is the measure of the man.

PAUL: ‘Tis truth!

REV (aside):              He senses truth? Could it indeed
Be him who is the heir of all our works?
Be cautious, for the park of hope doth blind
The vision of the night which truly sees.

(to Paul)

Thou knowest when men speak the truth?

PAUL:                                                                             I do.

REV: Perhaps thou art the Kwisatz Haderach.
Sit here, my brother.

PAUL:                               I prefer to stand.

REV: Thou hatest us a bit, eh? Jessica!

Lady Jessica enters

REV: Hast thou yet forgiven all I taught?

JES: Both love and hate I bear for thee. From pain
I never shall forget I hate. My love…

REV: Is just the basic fact of life.
Stand silently. And see that no man enter.
Someday lad, thou too may need to stand
Without a door, and dread the consequence.

PAUL: Why dost thou test for humans?

REV:                                                                        To set you free.

PAUL: How free?

REV:                         To set themselves at liberty
Men once raised up machines to think their thoughts.
And so enslaved themselves to clever men
With like machines.

PAUL:                           “Thou shalt make no machine”
In likeness of the living mind of man.”

REV: Indeed! But what the Scripture should have taught
Was not to counterfeit the human mind.
Hast thou thy Mentat studied?

PAUL:                                  Thufir Hawat
Hath honored me by teaching me his arts.

REV: The Great Revolt forced humankind to think.
Of all the schools then founded, only two
Are left us. One, The Spacing Guild spreads out
The art of mathematics to the mind.
And folds the space between the stars of men.
The other, Bene Gesserit…

PAUL:                                  The body politic
Is it not so? Your diet is a strange one.

REV: Kull wahad!

JES:                              I have not told him this.

REV: Thou seest well. Our founders saw a need.
A need for humans set apart from beasts
To breed a race to rule o’er lesser men.

PAUL: How is it then, my lady mother knows
Not who her parents were?

REV:                                     Many do not.
We might have wished to breed her to a man
Consanguineal, a dominant to seal.
Our reasons are legion.

PAUL:                                  Legion, indeed.
Thou say’st I’m Kwisatz Haderach perhaps.
What’s this, a type of human gom jabbar?

JES: Paul, you must not…

REV:                                     Fear not, I will reply.
What dost thou know of that distilled elixir
Truthsayers drink when falsehoods must be found?
Hast thou the truthtrance seen?

PAUL:                                  Never. Why?

REV: ‘Tis perilous to use. Then can one see
The body’s memory, to pass within
The memories of women long since dead.
Yet there’s a place no Truthsayer may look.
It terrifies us, freezes up our blood.
‘Tis said one day a man shall pass within
And look with opened vision down the path
Of men and women both, and speak the truth
No woman can behold, and keep her reason.

PAUL: This Kwisatz Haderach shall do all this?

REV: Aye, he shall be at one time many places.
Many try. And none have yet succeeded.

PAUL: Is that the consequence? To try and fail?

REV: They tried and died. And bid their souls farewell.