Preface to the Knockskull Epistles

In July of 1945 Clive Staples Lewis sat down to compose the preface to his newly written The Screwtape Letters.  He began with the following:

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands. There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.”       

Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters . HarperCollins.

With apologies to C.S. Lewis I find myself in possession of yet more correspondence between the devils.  It will be readily apparent that Knockskull is no match for the prose and intellect of Screwtape.  Apparently there is as much varying intellect and talent in the world of the infernal as there is on earth.

Though I have traveled widely and have technically been on “pilgrimage” five times, the pilgrimage to Scotland in 2016 proved to be a watershed pilgrimage for me and it was while on that trek in search of “the place of my resurrection” that I began intercepting the correspondence I offer to pilgrims below.

As so often happens, I was passing judgement upon another when I first became aware of the logs in my own eyes.  As we travelled through Scotland and encountered numerous defaced places of worship I was constantly being confronted with the violence and the arrogance of early reformers like Calvin and Knox whose preaching and teaching led to the desecration of many a cathedral and the persecution of not a few Catholic Christians.  Though intellectually I could accept that the Reformers were products of their time and place, I nevertheless struggled to see how any man of God who professed to be reforming the church, could then arrive at a place where the desecration of another’s place of worship seemed like Christ-like behavior.  As I passed judgement on the founders of my own faith tradition, God was merciful in also opening my eyes to the very real ways that I, myself (while on pilgrimage no less) was also prone to attitudes and behaviors which were unbecoming of a disciple of Jesus.

It was at the moment I realized the irony of my self-righteousness that I first noticed the presence of Augbeetle in my life.  He was, of course, immediately chagrinned that I had discovered him and was quick to vanish from  sight.  However, I have attained the knack about which C.S. Lewis wrote and I find myself unable to ignore the presence of Augbeetle now.  Perhaps as you read Knockskull’s epistles to Augbeetle you will find food for your own thought.  That, at least, is my hope in providing these communications as I have intercepted them.  While I am certain that Augbeetle has, at times, tempted me – I am unclear if the descriptions he gives of his pilgrim/patient are of me or of another pilgrim assigned to him.

In May of 1960 Lewis again sat down to compose a new preface to a revised edition of  The Screwtape Letters,  and in part, to explain his resistance to publishing any more correspondence of a similar nature.  He wrote:

“I was often asked or advised to add to the original Letters, but for many years I have felt not the least inclination to do it.  Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. . . though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced sort of a spiritual cramp.”

I am familiar with this spiritual cramping to which Lewis alludes.  Rendering the Knockskull Epistles into a medium for sharing with other pilgrims comes at a price.  Lewis showed remarkable endurance in completing the transcription of thirty one of Screwtape’s letters.  My stamina for this work will likely yield a lesser number.

This correspondence appears to come from Knockskull, who is on faculty at a prestigious demonary, to one of his former students who has recently graduated with a Master of Infernal Interference degree.  Augbeetle has been assigned to the Department of Pilgrimage Prevention and is wholly dedicated to the tempting of the pilgrims to whom he is assigned. While I find the correspondence I am sharing to be of potential use for other pilgrims like myself, I must caution the reader to remember that Knockskull, like all demons, is a liar and what he writes to Augbeetle should be viewed with healthy skepticism.

About Paul & The Pilgrimage

Paul H. Lang is Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, North Dakota.  A graduate of Furman University (BA Music), Paul continued his studies at Columbia Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1993, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2003.  He received the Lyman and Myki Mobley Prize in Biblical Scholarship for his paper on the use of musical settings of the Psalms in Christian worship.

Paul’s first solo-book is due out from Westminster/John Knox Press in March of 2019 — The Pilgrim’s Compass — Finding and Following the God We Seek .  In it he explores the discipline of pilgrimage and describes how this ancient practice can be a significant tool for adult faith formation and for the renewal of the church.

Paul coauthored a book with Ben Johnson on making a personal retreat (Time Away published by Upper Room: 2010), and has focussed on Spiritual Formation and leadership development in the church.  In 2010 Paul led the Fall Spirituality Retreat at Montreat through the Columbia Theological Seminary Certificate in Spiritual Formation (topic: Liturgy of the Hours) and he continues to teach and write/compose on the Liturgy of the Hours.  He has been an instructor for the Synod School of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, the Presbytery of the Northern Plains, and continues to write and teach in a variety of other settings around the country.

Since 2013 Paul has been developing a new congregation-based ministry of adult faith-formation called The Pilgrimage.

Mission Statement for The Pilgrimage

 For Christians hearing the call to go deeper — The Pilgrimage creates a community and provides tools and experiences through which we learn to hear the call of God and respond in faith, journeying together with friends on the path to a Spirit-led and joyful life.

Paul studied with Ben Johnson both during his Masters of Divinity degree program and later in his Doctor of Ministry degree and Ben remained a friend and mentor to Paul until Ben’s death in 2016.

Paul is proud to continue to work for the renewal of the church through the ministry of The Pilgrimage which is the principal focus of the Institute of Church Renewal for the coming years.
To learn more about Paul’s ministry in Fargo visit his website www.paulhlang.com  or contact him at paul@paulhlang.com.  To learn more about The Pilgrimage visit www.thepilgrimage.net.