Screwtape Letter #8 – Discussion Guide

Letter #8

The “Law of Undulation”.

Screwtape writes about the peaks and troughs in our lives

– and how to exploit them.



My dear Wormwood,

So you ‘have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away’, … law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. … The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.


8.1) Talk about the “Law of Undulation”.

For some background, I point you to a series on Hype Cycles and Revelation” from March – April 2010. The articles and links are:

Part 1 – Revelation & Hype Cycles

Part 2 – People & Hype Cycles

Part 3 – Jesus & the Hype Cycle

Part 4 – Parables & Hype Cycles

The topic is slightly different –
but the concept certainly applies to show how undulations work as explained by Screwtape in this letter.

With that in mind – talk about Screwtape’s Law of Undulation” and how it affects us humans.


The disciples were afraid


God knows all




To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. … Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

8.2a) Talk about the statement – Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.

Give some examples both from the Bible and your own experience.

Sorry – it’s your examples – no help here.




8.2b) Consider this statement from Screwtape – One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.

It is but one example where Screwtape may have it exactly correct. But – do we really get that – do we realize the implications – and especially do we get that point across to non-Christians?


Old Testament example: Moses


New Testament example: Paul





And that is where the troughs come in. … Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

8.3) Screwtape correctly says “It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.” Why do the troughs of the Christian life encourage more growth than the peaks?

This could continue on with the discussion in the previous question related to Paul. However – it can also apply to others that you may have talked about. The concept is the same – regardless of the example.

excerpt from Pathways to His Presence
Your Grace Is Enough





But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. …

Your affectionate uncle


8.4) Do you think this all sounds hard enough already – can there be even more opportunities for Screwtape & Wormwood to exploit us?


This is a totally personal question –
no guide here –
other than to say – never underestimate Satan –
but then – don’t overestimate his power either –
because – ultimately – he loses – God wins –
and we get to pick which side we want to be on.






Constancy & undulation – Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.

Constancy – the quality of being unchanging as in purpose, love, or loyalty; firmness of mind; faithfulness

Undulation – a wavelike motion. (This is where the peaks and troughs come in – the peaks are like the tops of the waves and the troughs are the very bottom.)

For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it;

Ignoble – of low grade or quality; inferior





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