Screwtape and MacDonald on Love and Marriage


From Screwtape: “The enchantment of unsatisfied desire produces results which the humans can be made to mistake for the results of charity. Avail yourself of the ambiguity in the word ‘Love’: let them think they have solved by Love problems they have in fact only waived or postponed under the influence of the enchantment….”

“The erotic enchantment produces a mutual complaisance in which each is really pleased to give in to the wishes of the other. They also know that the Enemy demands of them a degree of charity which, if attained, would result in similar actions. You must make them establish as a Law for their whole married life that degree of mutual self-sacrifice which is at present sprouting naturally out of the enchantment, but which, when the enchantment dies away, they will not have charity enough to enable them to perform. They will not see the trap, since they are under the double blindness of mistaking sexual excitement for charity and of thinking that the excitement will last.”

“Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as ‘one flesh.’ He did not say ‘a happily married couple’ or ‘a couple who married because they were in love’, but you can make the humans ignore that. You can also make them forget that the man they call Paul did not confine it to married couples. Mere copulation, for him, makes ‘one flesh’. You can thus get the humans to accept as rhetorical eulogies of ‘being in love’ what were in fact plain descriptions of the real significance of sexual intercourse. The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured. From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy…In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.”

gm1 louisa_1885From George MacDonald: “While one is yet only in love, the real person lies covered with the rose leaves of a thousand sleepy-eyed dreams, and through them come to the dreamer but the barest hints of the real person. A thousand fancies fly out, approach and cross, but never meet. The man and the woman are pleased, not with each other, but each with the fancied other. The merest common likings are taken for signs of a wonderful sympathy, of a radical unity. But though at a hundred points their souls seem to touch, their contact points are the merest brushings, as of insect antennae. The real man, the real woman, is all the time asleep under the rose leaves. Happy is the rare fate of the true . . . to wake and come forth and meet in the majesty of the truth, in the image of God, in their very being, in the power of that love which alone is being! They love, not this and that about each other, but each the very other. Where such love is, let the differences of taste, the unfitness of temperament, be what they may, the two must by and by be thoroughly one.”

“The negative and positive relation we live daily causes us to emerge from beneath the rose leaves and penetrate each other so as to have really seen and be seen. It takes the negative to arouse each of us from our sleep . . . But the miracle of love that comes to birth each time forgiveness appears is truly the kiss of the spirit.”

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


  1. Laurel

    Appreciate these quotes. Thank you for posting them. I especially like, “It takes the negative to arouse each of us from our sleep . . . But the miracle of love that comes to birth each time forgiveness appears is truly the kiss of the spirit.”

  2. Steve

    Ron, thanks!

    The story line immediately surrounding the MacDonald quote is one of my favorites, though that is a big list of favorites. Was the quote taken from an edited version or from the unedited, “What’s Mine’s Mine”?

    I am currently reading a collection of MacDonald’s letters entitled “The Expression of Character” which displays how much his own life modeled what he wrote. I don’t think it a stretch to assume his name could be added to the signficant list in Hebrews 11.

  3. Jon Dostert

    Ahh Screwtape, few other books are as poignant and hilarious at the same time. There are new things to be learned every time I read it.

  4. sid

    I went on a long rode trip and just listened to The Screwtape Letters on audio from Focus on the Family. I realized “again” how great that book is.

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