Copyright © 1981-2010 John O'Loughlin
1. Nolan's Investigations
2. Living in the City
3. A Canine Crime
4. An Evening with Paul Kelly
5. Prospect of a Change
6. Extracts from a Journal
7. Dream Compromise
8. Appendix: Aphorisms
Gracefully, Bridget Nolan applied the clips of her white suspenders to the dark tops of their nylon stockings and, straightening up, regarded both legs with critical detachment in the wardrobe mirror. Yes, that appeared to do the job! Although the right clip needed to be adjusted a little, in order to bring it into line with the left one, so that the suspenders were equidistant down the middle of her thighs instead of slightly awry, as at present. She made the necessary adjustment and then regarded herself anew in the long mirror - this time with some satisfaction. For her underclothes looked pretty smart and sexy. The suspenders were every bit as fresh-looking as the nylon panties she was wearing for the first time. They didn't clash with the latter but formed a delicate harmony with them - a harmony in white. The clash, if anywhere, came with the dark tops of her stockings, which was as she liked it. There would soon be another clash lower down, when she stepped into her white shoes. But that, too, would be intentional.
Turning away from the mirror, Bridget reached into the wardrobe for the silk dress she was intending to wear out to dinner that evening - a white one which would go nicely, she thought, with everything else, including the stockings. She removed the hanger and put on the dress, letting it slide down over her slender body with obvious pleasure, since its contact with her skin was pleasantly smooth and cool. To be sure, it was a warm evening and the coolness of the dress felt agreeably refreshing to her, especially as she had only a short while before taken a bath, which had somewhat warmed her up. Even with talcum powder one was apt to sweat a little in the circumstances. Indeed, a few beads of sweat were at that very moment cascading down her back, but she wasn't particularly conscious of them, what with the feel of the smooth dress against her skin. And neither was she particularly conscious of the sudden entry into the bedroom of her husband, who came creeping up behind her and put his hand on her back, causing her to jump with fright. He was a few inches taller than her, a fact which allowed him to peer over her shoulders or head with comparative ease. His short curly-black hair contrasted sharply with her long wavy-red hair, as he stood right behind her with a slightly mocking expression on his pallid face. "Aren't you ready yet?" he commented, while his hand caressed her back.
Bridget had recovered her composure and gone back to looking at herself in the mirror. However, the dress hadn't quite fallen into place, so that a large part of her left thigh was exposed to his gaze. He grew intrigued by what he saw and, although she quickly smoothed the offending part into place, she was too late to prevent him from becoming sexually aroused. For he proceeded to caress her back more firmly, continuing to gaze over her shoulder at where the exposed thigh had been. "Would you like to do me up," she requested, growing uncomfortably conscious of her exposed back. For she was afraid that if she didn't do something to cool him down, he would mess her up, undoing the care she had put into getting dressed.
"Certainly," he said, and he pulled the zip up the length of her back to the base of her nape. "But now I'd like you to lift it up," he added, thereby assuring her that he was still pretty warm.
She frowned slightly and pretended to ignore him.
"Go on!" he demanded more firmly. "You know what I mean."
Reluctantly, she raised the rim of her dress in both hands, until part of her thighs was exposed.
"Higher!" he cried, becoming impatient.
She lowered her eyes and, with ever so faint a blush, lifted up the rim to a point where the dark ridges of her stocking tops were on display. Yet even that evidently wasn't sufficient for him, since he immediately repeated himself, compelling her to expose the white suspenders.
"Aha! so that's it," he exclaimed, staring more closely over her shoulder at the reflection of her thighs in the wardrobe mirror. "Virginal innocence this time, is it?"
She smiled and nodded in equally faint measures, for an instant flashing her bright-blue eyes at him. "Satisfied?" she sneered, though she might have known better where he was concerned!
"Now let's see your briefs," he demanded, smiling lustily.
Once again she was obliged to respond in kind and lift her dress still higher, doing so with noticeably less reluctance than before, because she was fairly proud of her new underclothes.
"Hmm, quite the little angel this evening, aren't we?" he remarked, as the first glimpse of her white panties came into view. "All spick-and-span. One would never think you had sexual proclivities, still less a cunt. But, of course, you have - in spite of your spiritual ambitions."
Bridget blushed anew, this time rather more deeply. Unfortunately she knew quite enough about his sexual proclivities by now, indeed she did! But he had to have his way if there was to be any peace in the house. One had to satisfy his whims as best one could. "Seen enough?" she at length asked, as the seconds ticked away and the business of holding her dress up became more tediously trying.
"In this context," her husband replied, his gaze still riveted on her latest exposure. "Although, while you're looking so seductive, you might as well get down on your knees."
"Oh, Barry!" she protested. "Do I have to?"
"Yes, get down on your damn knees!" he insisted implacably.
She knew from experience that it was useless arguing with him. He was her master, after all. She had to obey him.
"And keep your dress up," he reminded her.
Reluctantly she kept it held up, so that her thighs remained on display to his avid gaze.
"Now squat on your heels," Nolan directed with obvious relish.
Again she obeyed him, drawing her legs slightly closer together in the process. Inevitably the flesh on her thighs spread out conspicuously with the pressure of her calves against them, and this, she knew, was precisely what he wanted to see. For, to him, it contradicted her spiritual pretensions.
Nolan chuckled to himself awhile, then knelt down beside her and ran his hand up and down her nearest thigh a number of times. "What's this?" he sneered, referring to the seductive enlargement of the limb in question. "And what's this?" He had thrust the hand between her thighs and was resting its palm against that part of her panties which covered her crotch. "Is this a fiction?"
She had started to smile to herself as he said this. For it was only too obvious what he was getting at, especially as his hand had now begun to tickle her.
"And what's this?" he continued, sliding the hand further underneath her until it rested, with splayed fingers, against her rump. "Is this necessary for the spiritual life, too?"
It was still possible for her to treat his behaviour as a joke, in spite of the ironic sarcasm in his comments which, at another time, could have caused her to lose patience with him. For it was Saturday evening, after all, and Saturdays were somewhat different from other evenings as far as attitudes went. Had it been a Sunday or a Monday, she would almost certainly have lost her patience with him - assuming he would have been stupid enough to try it on then. But, under the circumstances, one just had to relax a little and enjoy oneself as best one could. Otherwise every day would be too much alike. On Saturday evenings one just had to take one's husband's perverse little self-indulgences lightly.
"Oh, but you know what they really are, don't you?" Nolan declared, having removed his hand from the last 'this'. "You damn-well know why you were given them, don't you?"
"Why?" Bridget rejoined innocently.
"To seduce men with!" came his implacable response. "To enable you to fulfil yourself sexually. To get seed into your womb! That's why you were given them - those thighs, this cunt, that arse. Not to mention those arms, these tits, that nape, this face. Oh yes, all of it! They weren't intended to facilitate meditation. They were made to seduce men with!"
A fresh blush had appeared on Bridget's face with the reception of this self-evident information. For although she had heard him speak like this before, she was still capable of being embarrassed, from time to time, by the coarseness of certain of the words he used, which assaulted her lady-like primness. Needless to say, he used them specifically for that purpose, since it gave him pleasure to drag her body through the dirt of sexual slang in defiance of her spiritual pretensions. He knew that a word like 'cunt', used in a specific context at a certain time of day on a day like today, had the effect of diminishing her spiritual morale and making her more accessible to his sexual demands. It worked like a spell on her, bringing her completely under his influence. Occasionally he would flatter her by telling her what a beautiful cunt she was, as though he were Mellors and she Lady Chatterley. Occasionally, too, he would flatter her by telling her what a beautiful cunt she had. But he would never use the word in any other context or with anyone else, the way he would sometimes use, say, the words 'dickhead' or 'arsehole' or even 'prick'. It was strictly entre nous, between man and wife. And the wife, being a well-bred young lady, would retain a discreet silence and perhaps even allow herself the luxury of a faint blush. She would never say "I know."
Which was how it was on this occasion, when the possibility of an affirmative response presented itself. The temptation to immodesty had to be avoided, if one wasn't to compromise oneself in either one's own or one's husband's eyes. To give the game away would have been unthinkable. Nolan could insinuate all he liked, but one would never confirm him in his insinuations. One had to pretend otherwise.
"And you don't need me to remind you," he continued, ignoring her latest blush, "how many times they've succeeded in enabling you to seduce me. Oh, no! You're perfectly well aware of the matter.... But I haven't finished with my little investigations yet. I've got other things to investigate. So I suggest you stretch out on the floor stomach uppermost, toute de suite."
Obediently Bridget did as requested, since it was a bit late to remonstrate now. Seeing as the game had progressed this far, there seemed to be no earthly reason why it shouldn't progress a little further, maybe even reaching a climax or logical conclusion, if such a thing were possible with Nolan. Besides, she had little doubt what was coming next. They had played this particular game at least three times already. It was becoming rather predictable, not to say monotonous.
"Would you like me to lift up the rim of my dress again?" she ironically inquired of him.
"No, it will be raised back in any case," he blandly assured her, "since I'm going to raise your legs up myself, if you don't mind!" And, sure enough, that is precisely what he did, as he turned his back on her face and, straddling her stomach, lifted up her dark-stockinged legs by the ankles until her inverted feet were pressing against his lower abdomen. Now he could look down the entire length of her legs and note the gradual progress of their flesh towards its culmination in the ample contours of her seductive rump. There was nothing to impede his view of her new panties from this vantage-point, which afforded him direct optical access, as it were, to the indisputable cynosure of her fleshy charms. Looking down at Bridget's rear from this angle was indeed a revelation, a confirmation of the woman's seductive power! And if she was blushing or feeling slightly insecure and vulnerable behind him, so much the better! That would teach her for playing the spiritual hypocrite and laying claim to certain religious aspirations which he lacked! That would put a dent in her spiritual pretensions for a while, even if it couldn't be guaranteed to completely demolish them. For he knew her well enough by now to know that she wouldn't give up those pretensions too easily, no matter what he did or said to her. No doubt, the fact that she was the daughter of a philosopher had something to do with it, making her more conscious of the spirit than would otherwise have been the case.
But she was still a woman, damn it, and therefore a creature, Nolan reasoned, in which flesh generally predominated over mind, in which appearance generally got the better of essence. She was entitled to meditate, by all means, but meditation wouldn't change her into a man! She would still possess all the physical charms with which nature had endowed her, including large breasts, the fluidal contents of which would not take kindly to the proximity of too much airiness, and it was from the exploitation of those bountiful charms that she would derive her raison d'être in life, not from the spirit! If she persisted in assuming the contrary, too bad! It would simply show that she was a victim of heredity, upbringing, and to some extent the times, which, as many people well knew, worked to further the development of masculinity or, at any rate, artificiality at the expense of the more natural feminine element in life. If she was primarily a victim of heredity and upbringing, there wasn't much Nolan supposed he could do about it. But to the extent that she might be a victim of the times, with her head up in the clouds of a prosperous career, he thought it possible she could be disillusioned to a degree which would make her more consciously feminine and, consequently, a better companion than she had occasionally shown herself to be. For although he wasn't entirely destitute of spiritual ambitions himself, he found their prevalence in a woman, especially a highly attractive and seductive one, both obnoxious and somehow irrelevant. Women weren't put into this world to develop their spirituality, he reflected, but to safeguard the flesh and thus keep the species going. Heaven, when it finally came, would be an entirely transcendent affair - pure spirit. To live with a well-endowed woman who regularly practised meditation for long stretches at a time and imagined that she was a potential candidate for the transcendental Beyond was simply to live with a dupe. Better to disillusion her if one could. And how better, Nolan conjectured, than to make her thoroughly conscious of her seductive power and, if possible, undo or, at any rate, undermine her past conditioning? True, it might not prevent her from meditating, but at least it could serve to remind her of her rightful interests in life, to make her conscious of the necessity of taking her physical charms more seriously. After all, one had to acknowledge the flesh to some extent, if mankind were to survive.
"Yes, what a pleasing arse you have," Nolan commented, once he had studied the development of her flesh from the calves to the thighs, and then from the thighs to the ample contours of her buttocks. "There are few women who could be accused of outdoing you, where the extent of its seductive potential is concerned."
"Really?" Bridget responded, her intonation betraying a calculated degree of petulant indifference; for this was usually the point where her husband terminated his investigations. Yet no sooner had she given vent to that ... than she felt a degree of concern entering her mind. For, to her surprise, Barry had now pulled her legs back to a point where her feet were almost level with her ears, having suddenly decided to squat down on her upended calves as though to pinion them or, at any rate, her shins to her chest. And this is precisely what he next proceeded to do, so that she was absolutely powerless to move. "Darling, what are you doing?" she asked in rhetorical bewilderment. Had he gone completely crazy?
But no, Nolan was simply taking his investigations a stage further than previously, squatting down on her calves while resting a palm on each of her buttocks. He was scrutinizing her white-pantied rump from an even more advantageous vantage-point. And not only scrutinizing it, but, to her greater surprise, caressing it, to boot! She was completely at his mercy.
"Yes, one can be under no doubt as to the quality of your arse, even with your briefs in the way," he remarked, ignoring her question. "But one will have to get rid of them if one wishes to verify the quality of what lies beneath." And almost immediately, before she could say anything, he seized her briefs in both hands and began to lift them away from her flesh, applying his teeth, in due course, to that part of them which had covered her sex. Before she could protest or inquire just what he thought he was doing, he had bitten a hole there and begun to tear them down the middle by pulling their material in opposite directions, causing a three-inch rent to appear. Now he could scrutinize her sexual cynosure close-up.
"But, Barry, they're my new panties!" she protested, as the enormity of his fetishistic eccentricity began to dawn on her. "I bought them specially for this evening ..."
"Did you indeed?" Nolan responded unconcernedly. And, without further ado, he began to apply his lips to her sex, gently kissing it and simultaneously inhaling the musty odour which emanated from its soft skin. There was nothing she could do to prevent him, for even her arms were pinioned down either side of her chest. He had her exactly where he wanted her at that moment. After the first few preliminary kisses, his investigations became a little bolder, as he proceeded to probe her opening with his tongue and even - heavens! she could hardly fail to notice - nibble at her emerging clitoris with his sharp front teeth.
Yes, he was exploring her flesh all right, and what he had discovered about it was sufficient to preclude him from changing his opinion of her spiritual pretensions. It simply confirmed him in it, making him, if anything, more determined to stick by his guns. For now that she was beginning to moan softly behind him, to experience her womanhood afresh, he could be under no doubt that the lesson he had to teach her was sinking in, and that she was responding to it in an appropriately sensuous manner. She would continue to respond to this lesson until he brought it to a thrilling conclusion. And then, well, then it was her duty to accompany him out to dinner dressed not in all-white, as it present, but in all-black - her proper colour. That was why he had put a rent in her new panties!
LIVING IN THE CITY
Pascal had said that a man would save himself a lot of inconvenience if only he could learn to sit still in his room, scorning the outside world as much as possible. Matthew Ryan, a leading twentieth-century writer, had come, through bitter experience, to appreciate the shallowness and narrowness of Pascal's oft-quoted dictum. He had indeed spent a great deal of time sitting still in his room, but instead of saving him the suffering that would presumably have come from venturing out of it for any length of time, this reclusive habit had resulted in his experiencing more pain than ever he would have got from the outside world, had he chosen to dwell there in defiance of Pascal. But he hadn't done so, and for the simple fact that he was a writer who needed somewhere private to work. He couldn't bring himself to write in the reference department of the local library, despite the ample provisions for sedentary toil, since he would have been exposed to public scrutiny and become self-conscious. He would also have been exposed to the coughings and shufflings, comings and goings, questions and answers, wailings and slammings, snivellings and sneezings, etc., which figured so prominently in the reference room on an average busy day, whilst from the street he would have heard children crying or dogs barking or cars honking or workmen hammering or women shouting or any number of other extraneous noises which invaded all departments of the library at virtually any time of day.
No, he couldn't force himself to work in the local library! There was far too much noise about and, besides, he needed privacy. Serious writing regularly entailed periodic deliberations, not to mention frequent erasions or modifications of unsuitable material. He would have felt embarrassed to behave in such a way in public, particularly as he also needed to take periodic breaks from his work during which time, usually amounting to ten minutes, he would simply be sitting there doing absolutely nothing. What he did or didn't do in private, on the other hand, was his own business. And so, eschewing the temptation - sometimes very pressing - to visit the local library or, for that matter, work in the local park when the weather was fine, he remained in his room, which became for him a kind of study. He had no option but to remain there.
Yet, contrary to Pascal's wisdom, he didn't escape all that much suffering by remaining put. For it was one of the noisiest rooms conceivable, or, to be more precise, was exposed to the noises made in other rooms of the house, as well as to noises issuing from the surrounding external environment, as with the library. He kept the noise level in his own room down to a minimum, but his neighbours had, for the most part, no pressing desire to follow suit. Rather, they indulged in it to the limit, or so it often seemed to him. Consequently the ordinarily difficult task of writing along serious philosophical lines was made doubly, nay, trebly difficult by the all-too-frequent prevalence of neighbour and environmental noises which, conspiring together, could only make for increased suffering. God knows, one suffered enough from one's work, without having to endure external noises as well! But there it was; by sitting still in his room, Matthew Ryan had discovered the relative and altogether limited applicability of Pascal's famous dictum. He had grown to despise it!
But here a discerning reader may well wonder why, if he hated noise so much, our writer couldn't find somewhere quieter to live. Well, the explanation here is simply that he couldn't afford anywhere quieter to live, that, for want of a sufficient income, he was obliged to remain in the relatively inexpensive accommodation in which he was living. But why, the reader might then wonder, was he in want of a sufficient income? Ah, the explanation there would have to be that he was a writer whose writings were too progressive and sophisticated to earn him a sufficient income and enable him to move to somewhere quieter. Yes, here was the paradoxical truth of the matter. For instead of serving to make him rich or, at any rate, moderately well-off, his writings only served to keep him poor, despite what he considered to be their intrinsic intellectual value. And they kept him in poverty because they were too elevated to appeal to the broad masses, the bourgeoisie - to all but a comparatively small number of people who preferred the pursuit of truth to the indulgence of vice. They kept him poor because of their quality.
Oh, you may well wonder, but
isn't it odd
that work of quality should fail to be appreciated on its true merits
granted due recognition? Ah, you clearly
fail to appreciate the nature of contemporary capitalist society if you
that! You fail to appreciate the fact
that, the commercial requirements of publishers notwithstanding, a
people are simply incapable of recognizing the merits of a work of real
quality. You haven't realized that the
majority of people in countries like
But, of course, Matthew Ryan had appreciated it and, being unable or unwilling to stoop to the popular level, had done his best to live with the fact, even if this did mean that he was obliged to resign himself to poverty while lesser writers grew wealthy on the stupidity and gullibility of the masses, grew rich by producing the kinds of writings which he, through spiritual nobility, was utterly opposed to producing. All he could do was carry-on with the kinds of writings which meant something to him and became him. And those writings were largely what kept him chained to the humble lodgings in which he lived - a prisoner of circumstances. There was no alternative fate, since he couldn't alter his style or content, bringing them more into line with popular taste, and thereby 'sell out', as the expression goes, to the lowest-common-philistine-denominator, producing not literature but commercial trash! A man is what he is, and nothing can change him. If he is destined to be like Schopenhauer or Nietzsche or Spengler or Hesse or Baudelaire or even Huysmans, there is nothing he can do to alter the fact. One doesn't choose to write for a mass readership; one is either disposed to doing so or indisposed, as the case may be. And for anyone with any degree of above-average intelligence and an appropriately serious temperament, there is not the slightest chance of one's being disposed to writing for the broad masses. There is not the slightest chance of one's stooping to the level of adventure stories or thrillers or ghost stories or sentimental romances or war novels or science fiction or horror or whatever else is usually read by a majority of the reading public, which is still a minority - even quite considerable - of the public in general. One simply can't do it. And consequently one can't expect to make all that much money from what one does do - from work which seems to one of real literary value. On the contrary, one has no option but to accept the fact that only a comparatively small minority of people are going to appreciate it, no matter how progressive it may be. Even Lenin and Marx didn't really write for the masses, but for those who would lead them. That is a significant distinction!
And so Matthew Ryan had come to accept the harsh reality into which circumstances had inexorably led him, contriving to persevere with it as best he could. In a sense there was no real alternative, short of suicide. But suicide wasn't something he particularly wanted to entertain, since death, whilst it might put an end to one's personal and professional problems, would hardly serve the world's improvement. For the world could only be improved by people like him remaining in it, continuing to fight on behalf of quality and progress, continuing to impose his higher thought upon it. To kill oneself would simply be to destroy what opportunity one had, by living in the world, to work for the general good. It would be to succumb to the evil in life, to fall along the way. But the most enlightened people had to survive if the world was to be improved. They had to continue the war against the Devil, against everything low and evil, vain and predatory. That was their raison d'être for being in the world, not simply to enjoy themselves. Only the people or, rather, a broad and usually youthful stratum of the masses could content themselves with self-enjoyment, with simple irresponsible hedonism - as Ryan had learnt to his cost! How many times, he reflected, had he struggled with his writings during the day while neighbours played rock 'n' roll or pop music on their record-players for hours on-end! Ah, it was terrible, the extent of the irresponsibility and inconsideration of these half-witted people, these mass types! Irresponsibility and inconsideration - weren't they the most frequent evils one encountered in lodging-house accommodation?
Yes, there could be no doubt of that fact in Matthew Ryan's mind! He knew his neighbours well enough, by now, to know that much! He hadn't spent years dwelling among them to be blind or deaf to their abuses. He knew that, left to themselves, they tended to behave just as they pleased, without respect or consideration for anyone else. Indeed, there were times when he had felt obliged to complain about the noise and humbly request that the volume of radio, television, record-player, or whatever, be turned down a bit. Sometimes the neighbours responsible for the noise responded sympathetically. Sometimes not. On one occasion, when his next-door neighbour's radio had kept him awake all night, he had received as response to his complaint at 4.00am a punch on the face and a barrage of highly abusive language that continued until after 4.30. The man had evidently been drinking in the company of some woman, presumably his latest girlfriend, and, being desirous to impress her or at any rate not lose face, had resorted to violence and bad language when asked to show some consideration. Inevitably, Ryan had beat a gentlemanly if, under the circumstances, slightly ignominious retreat to his room, since he had no desire to indulge in physical violence with the man, who, in any case, was older and stronger. Physical violence was all very well when one was on a par with the average muscular type, but when one was above it - ah! there could be no question of one's doing anything but turning the other cheek or, if one felt unduly endangered, threatening to sue the man for assault. After all, it isn't in the interests or nature of one who was more spiritually evolved to resort to physical violence, like a beast. The only kind of violence such a person could or should resort to is spiritual violence, like strong words or sharp looks, in accordance with his status as a gentleman, or someone who, for a number of reasons, was above physical threats. Spiritual violence was a gentleman's prerogative, in view of the fact that he shouldn't be expected to demean or compromise himself by indulging in physical violence. Only a 'man of the people' could reasonably be expected to resort to the latter, since he was less spiritually evolved and, consequently, more under the influence of his senses, his emotions, his body. And this was precisely what Ryan's nearest neighbour had resorted to on the night in question!
However, as relations between them gradually quietened down again, he had no reason to fear a repeat performance of that experience in future. Though he remained on his guard, so to speak, and refrained from acknowledging the man whenever they crossed on the stairs or in the hallway. It wasn't as though Duggan had become an enemy to him; just someone to be avoided and despised for his foul behaviour. An enemy, on the other hand, had to be someone closer to oneself, someone whom it was possible for one to hate rather than simply despise. His next-door neighbour was simply one of 'them', meaning an average Joe.
But Matthew Ryan had never gone out of his way to quarrel with average people or, more precisely, his neighbours. He had simply wanted to carry on with his work and forget about them as much as possible. Yet much as he wished to forget about them, they didn't necessarily wish to forget about him, but preferred to remind him, on various occasions, that he was a stranger among them, a social outsider. They would feign polite coughs or make vulgar wretching sounds or purposely drop things on the floor (his ceiling) or slam doors and cupboards. They had a number of ways of reminding him of his social origins, of the fact that his behaviour was inherently different from and even superior to theirs. It didn't matter how socialist or progressive one considered oneself to be, they didn't care what one read or wrote or thought, but based their opinion of one on one's appearance, accent, general behaviour, and occupation. Had Marx, Engles, Lenin, or Trotsky been living in similar circumstances, matters probably wouldn't have been any different. The neighbours would have sensed their intellectual distinctness and accordingly taken measures to oppose them, no matter how humbly. For the difference between average people and those who are above average is essentially one of intelligence, and it matters little whether or not the latter use their greater intelligence to improve the former's lot - at least not to the former themselves. The fact that one's behaviour is different suffices to make them suspicious of one, to regard one as an enemy or, at any rate, potential threat, whether for good or ill.
Thus Matthew Ryan had not struck-up friendly relations with any of his neighbours over the years of his confinement to this single room. He had simply dwelt among them. But, in dwelling among them, he had come to see them in a much clearer light than would have been possible had he still been living elsewhere - say, in the comparatively middle-class provinces. And in seeing them in such a light, he had avoided the illusions which usually befell those who saw them less clearly, as from a rosy distance in the comparative safety of their suburban or provincial environments. He had seen them as they really were, and that had been enough to convert him to socialism. Previously he had been an anti-bourgeois intellectual. Now he was a pro-proletarian intellectual. That was quite a distinction! He had changed from being a kind of latter-day Baudelaire into a kind of latter-day Lenin. He wanted to transform average people, in turn, into something higher and better than themselves - in a word, to make them noble.
Yes, there could be no doubt in his mind that most people had to be transformed and thereby dragged out of their wretchedness and baseness. How long it would take to improve the quality of the race, he didn't pretend to know. But no matter how long, the job had to be done if life was to become better (or perhaps one should say less bad). There were basically only two types of people in the world at present: namely, mob types and nob types. The raison d'être of social progress, as he saw it, was to transform all mob types into nob types in due course, to raise the general level of human life to a point where the highest possible type of nobility prevailed in the world at large, and mankind thus became spiritually united in their quest for ultimate transformation into supreme being, if not actually into the Supreme Being itself. At present, however, the mob type, which mostly stemmed from the proletariat, was ranged against the nob type, which mostly stemmed from the bourgeoisie. This latter type was divisible between those who served themselves, as capitalist individuals, and those who served the masses, as socialists; between the hard-core of traditional bourgeoisie on the one hand, and the revolutionary supporters of the proletariat on the other. There was no such thing, as yet, as a proletarian nob. For at present the only possible kinds of nobility (using that word in its broadest sense) were either aristocratic or bourgeois, with the latter tending to predominate. But bourgeois nobs can be in the proletariat's service, just as certain aristocratic ones were in the service of the bourgeoisie during the French Revolution, and this was certainly also true of many Bolsheviks at the time of the Russian Revolution. Their nobility was put to the service of the proletariat rather than predominantly reserved for themselves, as is generally the case with nobles of a traditional cast. But being a nob in the service of the mob doesn't mean that one intends to transform proletarians into bourgeoisie in due course, and Ryan was under no illusions whatsoever on this point. On the contrary, progress towards the highest possible type of nobility presupposed the transformation of proletarian mobs into proletarian nobs. The base clay, so to speak, of the urban environment had to be transformed into the highest possible humanity, not taken out of its rightful environment and reduced to a nobility compatible with the suburbs, if not the provinces. There could be no going back so far as evolution was concerned. Willy-nilly, a new nobility had to be created!
But Matthew Ryan was essentially a bourgeois or, at any rate, lower middle-class nob who, through force of circumstances, had become stranded in the city and thereby cut off from his rightful provincial habitat. Being confined to the city, he had not altogether surprisingly developed proletarian sympathies and become socially progressive, become revolutionary rather than remained rebellious, as he had been when still a suburban youth. Yet he hadn't ceased to be intellectually middle-class through enforced confinement in the city, as his neighbours often reminded him. And even if they hadn't reminded him, he would have known it, known he was fundamentally a fish-out-of-water or, rather, a deep-sea fish languishing in the shallows, which was how he saw the artificial nature of the urban milieu, with its scarcity of vegetation.
Yet that is a relative matter, so let us return to the problem of our philosopher vis-à-vis his neighbours again, rather than remain in the realm of metaphysical speculation. Nevertheless he was aware that his immediate neighbours were by no means untypical proletarians, being of a sensual disposition which allowed them to take city life more or less for granted. They were, he had often noticed, of a different build from himself - either muscular or fleshy rather than thin. They were what the American psychologist W.H. Sheldon would have classified as mesomorphs or endomorphs rather than ectomorphs, like himself. And they had no compunction about regularly visiting the local pubs or leaving cigarette butts lying around the house. Neither did they live alone, without the assistance of friends or the opposite sex. Had they done so, Ryan reflected, life might have been a bit quieter for him. But, of course, they couldn't be expected to do so, since they were too sensual to contemplate the prospect of remaining celibate. They behaved in a manner which more or less guaranteed them mental health, free from crippling depressions. Had Ryan stumbled upon a woman worthy of himself in the neighbourhood, life might not now be so trying for him either (assuming he would have been capable of responding to her in a relatively natural fashion - a somewhat debatable assumption in view of his lopsided spirituality!). But, unfortunately, he hadn't done so, since the only women he ever saw were proletarians, and they could scarcely be expected to appeal to him, a man for whom cultural and intellectual company was a must, if he was to have any company at all. An average girl, even when attractive, would quickly have bored him, having very little in common with him. A woman had to be more than just a sex partner; she had to genuinely share his tastes and interests. And, by god, there were very few women in his neighbourhood who could be expected to do that!
No, an above-average man couldn't be expected to live with a proletarian. His father had tried and failed hopelessly, leaving him the victim of a broken marriage and a half-witted and fundamentally philistine mother whom he had never ceased to despise. He had no intention of making the same mistake himself! If he were ever to live with a woman, she would have to be someone on or near his own wavelength whom he could respect. But, at present, he was still hopelessly isolated and therefore alone. The kind of woman he admired would probably be living in the provinces, somewhere far from him. And, in all likelihood, she wouldn't be living amongst alien or hostile types either. On the contrary, she would be living in accordance with the dualistic criteria of a compromise nobility, suburban and complete. How would he relate to her, after all this time cooped-up in the city? He wondered whether she would be as interested in Marx and Lenin as himself. Probably not, he surmised.
A CANINE CRIME
Swiftly, though with agitated fingers, old Mrs Gilmour slid back the rusty bolt and pushed open the door leading to the cellar. Almost immediately a whining noise erupted from its murky depths, some yards below, followed by the scampering of paws and the rattle of a light chain. "Alright, Scotty, it's only me," the old woman murmured, as she switched on the electric light and, closing the door behind her, began slowly and carefully to descend the stone steps, as much from fear of dropping the plate of meat she carried in her right hand as because of her age, which was past seventy. "It's only me, dearie," she repeated. For there was now much more excitement coming-up from the cellar than at first, though this was usually the case. Scotty was always anxious to see her, especially at meal times.
At last Mrs Gilmour reached the bottom of the steps, bearing the meat safely to its goal. "Shush! Not so much fuss," she protested, stretching out her free hand to pat Scotty on the nose. "Ah, how you strain at the leash, hungry one!" she added, before setting the plate down on the stone floor in front of the highly-excited spaniel who, having licked her fingers, straightaway proceeded to gobble up the meat, as though he hadn't been fed in days. "There! There! Take you time," the old woman chided him, wagging a reproachful finger at the greedy dog. "You'll get tummy trouble!"
She straightened up and looked around the cellar to check that everything was in order. Yes, there was still plenty of water in Scotty's drinking bowl and that was just as well, since too many trips up and down the stone steps were out of the question. Over in the far right-hand corner a little pile of droppings could be discerned, but that, too, was as it should be. "No worms, I trust?" Mrs Gilmour muttered, as she shuffled across to inspect the dung. "No, nothing to worry about, Scotty."
There was a small coal shovel and a heap of old newspapers lying nearby and, spreading out one of them on the floor in her usual patient fashion, Mrs Gilmour proceeded to shovel the dung onto the paper, making sure it was centrally placed. Then she wrapped it up into a neat little parcel and carried it back with her towards the opposite corner from 'the toilet' (as the old lady regarded the crapping area), where 'the bedroom', or dog's basket, was neatly made up, requiring only the slightest of adjustments to the soft cushions on which Scotty generally reposed. It was from here, through a bracket in the stone wall, that the slender chain holding him captive issued, though, being a long chain, his captivity wasn't confined to a few feet but embraced virtually the whole of the quite large cellar, so that he could move around fairly freely from corner to corner and even up to within a yard or two of the stone steps, as he had done today in his impatience to greet his benefactress. Occasionally, however, he would get himself caught-up in the chain and so find life rather more constricting than formerly. But, as a rule, he was intelligent enough to avoid this inconvenience, even when he dragged the chain across his bed and ended-up more or less sleeping on it. Somehow, he had learnt to live with his chain, just as he had learnt to live with his solitary confinement, broken only by occasional visits from the old woman. There was nothing he could do to get rid of it, since it was too strong to bite in half.
But old Mrs Gilmour couldn't have risked letting him off it, especially with the likelihood that, in his eagerness to greet her, he might bound up the steps and cause an accident either to herself or to the meat while she was painstakingly descending them. An accident could be fatal ... to both dog and owner alike. And then he might get out of the cellar altogether, run around the house or out into the street, barking at the top of his lungs. That would be terrible - even worse, if anything, than an accident on the steps! Obviously Scotty had to be chained up, as much for his own good as hers.
Satisfied that his 'bedroom' was in order, Mrs Gilmour shuffled back towards the meat-gobbling spaniel who, by this time, had consumed most of his dinner. She almost slipped en route on a small puddle of urine which, in his excitement, he must have recently made. Usually he confined himself to 'the toilet' where things like that were concerned, but not invariably, as the old lady was once again finding out, and this time with some annoyance.
"Really, Scotty, you are becoming careless!" she scolded him. "Why couldn't you have done it against the wall over there in the corner?"
But the little dog seemed relatively unconcerned by this slight departure from custom and continued to voraciously chew his meat, oblivious of the puddle behind him. It was all right for him anyway; he didn't have to clean it up. Such an unenviable task was always done by his owner, who descended the steps once every two or three days with a bucket of hot soapy water and a swab in her hands, expressly for that purpose. Today, however, she wasn't scheduled to do so, having put swab to wall and floor the day before. Yet really, what with a mess like that in the middle of the cellar, it was almost worth making an extra trip, if only to freshen-up the atmosphere a little.
"You'll have to go, Scotty!" warned Mrs Gilmour, wagging a playfully reproachful finger at the dog, who had now turned round to face her. "Go, do you hear? Like all the others...." But a feeling of compassion towards him overcame her with the utterance of this thought, and she bent down to stroke his silky back. Go? How could she ever let him go? He was the only living creature she had! No, she wouldn't give in, despite the hardships he unwittingly inflicted upon her. He was a companion to her, after all - more of a companion, in certain respects, than her late-husband had been in his last years, what with his laconic senility. She would hold on to the droopy-eared creature no matter how messy he became. And now he was wagging his tail and licking her free hand, the one not holding the parcel. Yes, he was glad to see her and be made a fuss of, she could tell that easily enough. But he oughtn't to bark, all the same.... "No, Scotty, not like that!" she cautioned him, giving him a gentle slap on the nose. "Keep your voice down, for heaven's sake!"
Obediently the dog quietened down again and, taking her leave of him, old Mrs Gilmour slowly began to ascend the stone steps, content that she had done her duty. Perhaps, on the other hand, she would fetch a bucket and swab to clean-up the mess below. She thought it might be a good idea, especially since Scotty had started to whine with her departure, and that always saddened her. He would be pleased to see her again. So she left the bolt drawn back when she got to the cellar door, as though to inform him that her departure was only temporary. His sharp ears were accustomed to hearing it slide to-and-fro.
Yet today was going to be different from previous days in more than one respect, more different than even Mrs Gilmour could have anticipated. For no sooner had she disposed of the parcel of dung in her private incinerator than she heard a loud banging on the front door, which quite startled her. She wasn't expecting any visitors - none, at any rate, who banged on the door in such a violent fashion, seemingly oblivious of the bell. Although her granddaughter sometimes visited her these days, that young lady was a lot quieter in her approach, preferring the bell to physical force. Perplexed, she hesitated a moment, undecided what to do next. But a repeat banging, coupled to a sustained ringing, prompted her to take action. So, curiosity aroused, she shuffled through the kitchen and down along the hall corridor towards the front door. In her bewilderment, she had quite forgotten about the dog!
Nervously she jerked open the slightly-warped front door and confronted her callers with a distinctly puzzled expression on her wizened face. For there were in fact two of them, and they were garbed in the dark-green uniform of the S12s - the special police. Only after a number of seconds had elapsed did this fact dawn on her, and with its realization a fearful anxiety entered her soul.
"Mrs Gilmour?" the taller of the two officers volunteered in the meantime.
"Er, yes," she at length admitted.
"We have a warrant to search your house in response to certain rumours which have been reaching us through various of your neighbours, who've heard what they took to be dog noises issuing from this residence," he informed her.
The shorter and younger of the two men said: "You do know that the possession of dogs is illegal, don't you?"
"Why, of course!" Mrs Gilmour replied, endeavouring to sound as matter-of-fact as possible; though she felt anything but relaxed in the circumstances. "I don't own a dog, I can assure you."
The two officers briefly exchanged sceptical glances. "Nevertheless we'd like to investigate your property for ourselves, if you don't mind," the taller one affirmed, brandishing his search warrant.
"Well, if you really must...." The old woman stepped aside to allow the men ingress, and then gently closed the door behind them. Only now, however, did she recall that she had left the cellar door slightly ajar, a recollection which caused her considerable trepidation, though she did her best to conceal the fact.
"I think we'd better split up, Sean," the first officer said, turning to his colleague. "I'll take the ground floor, you do upstairs."
"Right," the latter agreed, and he immediately headed along the corridor in the general direction of the stairs, which were conspicuous enough from the hallway.
Meanwhile the other officer had turned into the first room on the right, which happened to be the living room, and was rummaging around in search of incriminating evidence.
"I can assure you that you're wasting your time," Mrs Gilmour protested, as she stood watching him from the door. "The neighbours must have been imagining things."
The officer paid her no attention, however, but continued with his search, opening and investigating, by turns, the living-room's two cupboards.
'As if I'd keep Scotty in there!' Mrs Gilmour thought in a huff.
Satisfied that his potential quarry wasn't to be found in the living room, the officer next turned his attention to the dining room, where he once again began to open cupboards, looking ever more suspicious and threatening as he proceeded. Not surprisingly, Mrs Gilmour made a second verbal protest, but that, too, was duly ignored, the man being too engrossed in his search to have much time or inclination for her comments. But he noted, all the same, that her hands were trembling as he made his way past her and into the kitchen at the rear of the house. She had ample reasons to be apprehensive now, especially as his eyes had fallen on its half-open cellar door.
"What d'you keep down there?" he asked, pointing to it.
The old woman could barely answer; for a large nervous lump had suddenly welled-up in her throat, making it difficult for her to breathe. She thought she was on the verge of fainting. "Only some old b-belongings," she managed to stutter, as the officer's glance embraced her trembling hands again. But it was now that her worst fears were about to be realized. For no sooner had the man pushed the cellar door wide open door than an apprehensive whining emerged from its nether depths, accompanied by the sound of a chain being rattled. There could be no doubt, from his point of view, that some creature was down there, and, as he slowly descended the stone steps, the whining from his prey grew more intense, reaching a veritable crescendo with his eventual appearance in front of it. Poor Mrs Gilmour became paralysed with horror at the sound of this noise, and could only lean pitifully against the cellar door. A large tear detached itself from each of her grief-stricken eyes and went rolling heavily down her cheeks. She knew that Scotty was breathing his last conscious seconds, that any moment now the officer, disdaining ceremony, would train his stunner on the dog, shooting it unconscious on the spot before it could turn on him. For a moment the whining continued as before, and then, suddenly, a couple of piercing thuds impacted on Scotty's head, followed by a chill silence which confirmed her worst expectations.
She turned away from the cellar door and collapsed onto the nearest chair, stricken with grief and remorse. For three years, three long difficult years, she had held out against the authorities, defying their decree on dogs. And now, unexpectedly, it was all over. Her criminality had been exposed and she would be obliged to face the consequences. Liquidation for Scotty was one of them - the worst one. A heavy fine or up to a year's internment was another. Public disgrace would inevitably constitute a third, and so on. There could be no escaping them. She had known the risks she was taking by defying the law.
Meanwhile the second officer had come down from upstairs and, seeing the agonized and pitiful figure of old Mrs Gilmour in the kitchen, halted in front of her, just three or four yards from the open cellar door. He was on the point of offering her some sympathy when the sound of his senior colleague ascending the cellar steps precluded him from doing so and obliged him, instead, to hasten to his aid, principally by procuring the latter the means whereby the limp animal could be freed from its chain. The old woman was in no state of mind to fetch the key herself, so neither of the men bothered to ask her. Only when they had re-emerged from the cellar with their task accomplished did they bother to take any notice of her again, and this time it was the younger man who spoke.
"You really shouldn't have kept the dog chained up all this time," he remarked, turning to face her. "It was a cruel thing to do."
"Yes, and cruel to confine him to the cellar too," the taller man averred in a reproachful tone.
Mrs Gilmour could barely see them through the dense veil of her tears, but she could hear what they said clearly enough, even if she couldn't agree with it.
"You saw the anti-canine film, I take it?" the senior officer continued after a moment's pause, during which he readjusted his grip on the limp spaniel's hind legs.
"I did," she admitted weakly.
"Then there's no excuse, is there?" he said.
"No," came her feeble response. For the old lady had indeed seen the film in question at the time of its release, some three years ago, both on television and at the local video centre. There had been no way to avoid seeing it, since it was televised on a number of occasions on all the major channels, as well as screened at all the principal video centres. She could still remember the negative impression it had created on her, as though the event had taken place only yesterday instead of in 2009. She could still hear the narrator's voice saying: "In a post-humanist and transcendentalist society such as ours, where man prides himself on spiritual purity, commerce with animals must be discouraged as much as possible, since constituting a harmful impediment to moral progress."
Yes, she could still hear the opening salvo in the war against dogs. Could also hear fragments of the commentary that followed, in which dogs were condemned for the barbarous noise they made - the loud and often continuous barking which caused untold suffering to millions of human beings; for the mess they left on pavements and roads, making it both hazardous and disgusting for people to walk about; for their subconscious stupor, which resulted in their spending so much time dozing or sleeping; for being a bad influence on man's spiritual aspirations, since too readily given to carnal pursuits; for their aggression and suspiciousness, and so on ... through a long list of similar condemnations.
Yes, she could remember these fragments of the film commentary quite lucidly, especially now that her reactionary crime had been exposed. And not only was it the commentary that returned to her memory but, even more lucidly, snippets of the film itself - a clip of a dog fouling the pavement; another clip, this time of a bulldog, lifting one of its hind legs to urinate against a fence; then a clip of a very large dog, a Pyrenees mountain dog, she thought it might be, barking ferociously from its confined space overlooking an alleyway at some passers-by who were doing neither it nor its master's property any harm; then another similar clip, but this time of an intellectual or artist who was suffering from the incessant barking of a nearby Alsatian and, unable to continue with his writing, felt obliged to put hands to ears in a gesture of agonized despair; next a clip of a Labrador dozing with head on front paws and, juxtaposed with this, a man engaged in the intense alertness of Transcendental Meditation; finally, and most poignantly, a clip of a young child whose face had been savaged by a Rottweiler and was now a mass of scars.
Old Mrs Gilmour saw all these clips from the film run through her mind's eye in quick succession, as the two officers carried her last companion out to their van at the front of the house, before setting off for their next assignment in another part of town. They hadn't bothered to arrest her, since her age precluded any immediate haste on their part. She would receive the date of her trial in due time. They knew she wouldn't be able to escape them in the meantime. She was dependent on the State for her pension, after all. Her guilt was already recorded. It was simply a formality to disclose her sentence in due course, to have the presiding magistrate record the inevitable verdict of 'Guilty of dog ownership' and thus, by implication, of 'open-society reaction'.
Yes, she knew what lay in store for her and knew, too, that the person who had informed on her would soon be in receipt of a £5,000 reward for his/her social vigilance against 'beast-mongering enemies of transcendental progress'. Who could it have been? she wondered, as she drew a tissue from her trouser pocket in order to wipe the remaining tears from her eyes. She very rarely saw the neighbours and had no way of telling which one of them might have been seduced by the prospect of a substantial reward. She couldn't believe anybody would want to avail of the reward at her expense. And yet, someone must have betrayed her to the police for them to know, and that someone could even have been her granddaughter, who knew all about the dog and could well have spoken to one of the neighbours about it one day. It was a terrible thought, though not one that Mrs Gilmour could completely rule out.
"No, I can't believe that Sadie would have done such a thing," she muttered to herself as, with a bucket of hot soapy water and a swab in her still-trembling hands, she staggered over to the cellar door and began her painful descent of the stone steps with the intention of cleaning-up the mess down on the cellar floor, which doubtless now included, besides urine, some of Scotty's saliva. "It can only have been one or other of the next-door neighbours," she added, as tears came welling-up in her eyes once more. "Someone who begrudged me what little pleasure I had left in life!"
A few days later a State-registered letter arrived at Mrs Gilmour's residence, summoning her to attend court on the Wednesday of the following week. The day in question came and went, however, but Mrs Gilmour had made no appearance in court. Surprised, the police authorities sent the two offices previously involved in the case along to her house, in order to find out why she hadn't attended. There was no answer to the door when they knocked, so they forced a front window and let themselves in. But she wasn't to be found in any of the rooms of the house, neither upstairs nor down. Only when they descended the cellar steps, however, did they find what they were after, though hardly what they had expected! For the old woman was there all right, but she was lying on her back at the bottom of the steps, stone dead. Nearby her a bucket lay on its side, empty except for the presence, half-in-and-half-out, of a dry swab. There wasn't a trace of liquid.
"She must have had an accident on the steps, Sean," the senior of the two officers concluded, as he bent over the lifeless face of the old woman.
"Indeed!" confirmed the other, who noticed traces of dried blood there. "Slipped on something, by the look of it."
AN EVENING WITH PAUL KELLY
Paul Kelly had definite ideas about art and even about artists, especially twentieth-century ones. Indeed, he had definite ideas about a variety of subjects, including women. Trudi Keenan was beginning to find this out at first-hand as she sat in an armchair, a few yards in front of him, and listened to the flow of his definite ideas with a combination of bemusement and admiration. To her left, in another armchair, the artist Donald Connors was also listening to it, though he had heard much of it before and appeared to be showing signs of impatience with his principal guest. On his left, in the only remaining armchair, Patricia Connors was also listening to the oracle's pronouncements, though, to all appearances, with greater attentiveness than her husband. For the subject at issue was indeed women, and the two females present were, naturally enough, more interested in this than in anything else, especially since they were both relatively young and not unconscious of their attractiveness.
"As a rule," Kelly was saying, "women are more given to appearances than to essences, since of a predominantly sensuous disposition. Their principal duty in life, as they see it, is to keep the species going, not to direct that species on its course towards the transcendental Beyond. That, on the other hand, has to be done by the leading males, who pioneer mankind's advance towards the spiritual culmination of evolution. Women, by contrast, uphold the sensual aspects of life, and may consequently be said to stem from the Diabolic Alpha rather than, like men, to aspire towards the Divine Omega. And because they stem from the Diabolic Alpha, which, in the guise of stars, is the ultimate negativity, the ultimate agonised doing, they have a like-capacity for suffering, for negative living. One is almost tempted to say that they prefer negative emotions to positive ones; that, contrary to masculine procedures, they live for their sorrows."
There was a titter of disrespectful laughter from Trudi, the art critic's latest girlfriend, who found the idea slightly amusing, in spite of its inherent absurdity. Mrs Connors, however, had a more serious response on offer.
"It's probably true to suggest that we women do have a greater capacity for suffering than men," she conceded, "and that we bear-up to our trials and tribulations with greater fortitude, on the whole, than you do. Very few of us take to the bottle when we're under strain, whereas most men would doubtless go to pieces under adverse circumstances, if they didn't have some compensatory stimulant or woman to lean upon."
"That's putting it a little too cynically," Kelly averred, frowning slightly, "though there's certainly an element of truth in what you say. It isn't very often, at any rate, that one encounters women who are down-and-out. They appear to float better on life than men, to be buoyed-up on the current of life, which, considering they support and sustain it, needn't particularly surprise us. And this is because they're closer, in their physical and emotional constitutions, to the sun than men and are therefore more given to the apparent, the sensual, the stable, the natural. They burn up internally, like the sun, with negative emotions - doubts, worries, second-thoughts, fears, hatreds, resentments, suspicions, et cetera., and are consequently more prone to bad temper than men."
"One would think we were all born masochists!" Trudi interjected, casting her fellow-female a vaguely conspiratorial glance.
"Or sadists," said Mrs Connors.
"Certainly pessimists," Mr Connors volunteered, as he emerged from a long brown-study and proceeded to light himself a mild cigarette. "Women are generally more pessimistic or, depending on your viewpoint, realistic about things than men."
"That's true enough," Kelly confirmed, nodding briefly. "They're less easily swayed by imagination, primarily because they have less of it anyway."
"And would you say that they're more disposed to sunbathing than men?" Trudi inquired of her boyfriend.
"Yes, on the whole, I would," he answered. "Sunbathing for women is a form of sun-worship, a kind of pagan communion between the absolute supporter of all life on this planet and the relative supporters of it. Of course, men sunbathe too. But I'd say that women do so more shamelessly and enthusiastically, if not thoroughly, as well. It's almost a form of lesbianism they indulge in. For, although the sun isn't strictly female, still less feminine, it has a sensual essence which corresponds to the essence of woman, using the term 'essence' in the sense of fundamental nature rather than, as in a narrowly philosophical sense, with an implication of spirit or, better, soul. Thus while women, in relation to this latter context, may be said to reflect appearances over essences, their essence, in the former context, is one of sensuality."
"How confusing!" Mrs Connors objected, screwing-up her brows in disbelief. "You philosophers, with your paradoxical logic, are all the same!"
"Nonsense! It's perfectly clear to anyone with a lucid intelligence," the oracle retorted half-humorously. "The essence of woman is drawn to the sun, enabling women to soak-up more sensuality from its powerful rays and possibly draw additional emotional strength from it. Their natural sensuality is toned-up, as it were, by prolonged contact with the sun, and accordingly they're assisted to downward self-transcend in subconscious stupor."
"A quite pleasant form of relaxation," Mrs Connors declared, unscrewing her brows.
"So it might be," Kelly conceded. "But it's hardly conducive to the furtherance of the spiritual life! A time will come, I feel sure, when all forms of sunbathing will be considered undesirable and, consequently, no-one be encouraged to spend time lying around on beaches or in parks or wherever. Instead, they'll be encouraged to turn their back on the sun, so to speak, and get on with the infinitely more important task of developing their spirit, of cultivating the godly."
"Isn't he a spoilsport?" Trudi objected, turning to Patricia.
"A religious zealot would be nearer the truth!" the latter sneered in a deprecatory tone-of-voice.
"Not quite," Kelly responded, blushing faintly. "But I do have certain theories concerning the future path of evolution which I'd be loathe to contradict, as Donald well knows."
"Indeed I do," the artist confirmed, his lighted cigarette smouldering in his lap. "And, for the most part, eminently credible ones, too! I go along with them to the extent I'm able. For if we're eventually destined to attain to the transcendental Beyond, then it stands to reason that we'll have to clamp down on sunbathing at some point in the future. One can't indulge in solar sensuality and develop one's spirit at the same time! Dualism is gradually being superseded, after all."
"So it is," Kelly affirmed, anxious to return to the philosophical limelight again. "There can be only one way forward, and that's up through the spirit, not down through the flesh. Even the days of traditional marriage are numbered; though your marriage would seem to be one of the few exceptions, Don."
"Thank God for that!" Mrs Connors exclaimed on her husband's behalf.
"Frankly, God has nothing to do with it," averred Kelly, who was carried away by the momentum of his argument. "For the simple reason that, conceived in any ultimate sense, God is in the making, not an already-existent fact. No, it's the Devil, the influence of the sun and doubtless of stars in general, which cements marriages together. Love is a sensual phenomenon which is strongest where nature's influence is greatest, where there's a profusion of sensuous plant-life. Once one becomes accustomed to living in a big city for any length of time, however, one's capacity for love, or falling in love, is weakened and eventually reduced to a point where it either ceases to exist at all or only exists on a comparatively weak level - a level not guaranteed to cement marriages together for any length of time! For, without a strong sensuous influence, love begins to wither in the individual, to grow faint and fade away."
"How terrible!" Trudi opined.
"I don't agree," Kelly rejoined coolly. "For there's a great deal of difference between sensual love and spiritual love, between what is generally termed 'being in love' with someone and actually aspiring, through spiritual love, towards the eventual establishment of supreme being. Only the latter kind of love can eventually take man to his ultimate destiny in the bliss of transcendent spirit, not the former, which, by contrast, would keep him chained to the flesh, just as it keeps one chained to a particular individual when powerful. But these days, however, it's much less powerful than formerly and therefore marriages increasingly tend towards separation or divorce. The artificial influence, as it were, of the urban environment is a major factor in the growth-rate of divorce. Couples come unstuck more easily because the emotional cement which formerly bound people together is somewhat weaker or thinner than it used to be, and consequently they separate."
"I still think it's terrible," Trudi declared, unable to overcome her own feminine qualms. "The cities shouldn't have been allowed to become so large in the first place."
"Nonsense!" Kelly retorted. "If they weren't so big, we would still be nature's victims, as of old. Their very size is what guarantees us our future salvation in the transcendental Beyond. By contributing so significantly to the fall of sensual love, they have made the further development of spiritual love possible, and thus real evolutionary progress."
"But how can the break-up of so many marriages be equated with evolutionary progress?" Mrs Connors protested, coming to the assistance of her fellow female. "I just don't see your point."
"Neither do I," Trudi confessed.
Ah, it was difficult explaining things to these people! Paul Kelly was accustomed to encountering such incredulous opposition these days. It was the price one paid for being so radical.
"Well, let's just say that the age is becoming less dualistic and correspondingly more post-dualistic," he at length replied, doing his best to sound reasonable, "and that the demise of marriage is but one of several manifestations of this changing state-of-affairs. Dualism is being outgrown, and consequently men and women no longer live together on quite such a harmonious or complacent basis, on the whole, as previously. Sensual love is no longer binding them to one another, and so they wander between relationships more freely than ever before. They aren't enslaved to the sensual to the degree they used to be in the heyday, as it were, of marriage, but can develop a spiritual bias independently of matrimonial ties. Women are becoming masculinized to a point where many of them no longer desire to lead a traditional domestic or maternal lifestyle, and, by a like-token, men are becoming even more masculinized, even more intellectually and spiritually disposed. Consequently, the old dualism between the sexes is disappearing, disappearing, one might say, into the cult of unisex, where women dress in pants of one sort or another, like men. Women are increasingly being regarded as 'lesser men' rather than simply as women, like traditionally."
Mr Connors smiled to himself and vaguely nodded his head. "Perhaps the growth of homosexuality this century is another manifestation of this incipiently post-dualistic state-of-affairs?" he suggested, while stubbing-out the butt of his cigarette in a glass ashtray. "Homosexuality has become a fairly commonplace aspect of contemporary life, hasn't it?"
"So it would appear," Kelly admitted, ignoring the women's derogatory sniggers. "Which just goes to show that sexual relations between men have acquired, in the light of post-dualistic criteria, a respectability they wouldn't otherwise have had and certainly didn't have as recently as Oscar Wilde's time. They are somehow compatible with the masculine bias of modern civilization."
"A bias which you apparently don't share," Trudi commented, focusing her attention closely upon him.
"No, not as regards homosexuality," he confessed, blushing slightly in the process. "Maybe that's because I'm too much of an old-fashioned dualist in certain respects, and am therefore susceptible to the charms of women who, like yourself, are both very attractive and highly intelligent."
This time it was Trudi's turn to blush, and she did so generously, flattered, as she was, by her admirer's opinion.
"But apparently not so susceptible to them that you'd be capable of falling deeply in love and living with the same woman for the rest of your life," Mrs Connors observed in a suitably ironic tone.
"That's something I can't say for sure," Kelly responded. "Though since, with due respect to Trudi, I'm not deeply in love at present, I incline to that assumption, yes. It remains to be seen whether I shall ever get married at all."
"But you're not opposed to marriages breaking up," Mrs Connors rejoined, pursuing her old course at the expense, seemingly, of evolutionary progress.
It was a difficult allegation to answer, what with a married couple and a new girlfriend sitting in front of him, but Kelly made a brave attempt at doing so, nonetheless. "On a personal level, the tendency of so many modern marriages to collapse is bound to bring pain and suffering to the people concerned," he admitted, "and thereby evoke a degree of sympathy in us. But on an impersonal level the tendency of couples to separate can only be viewed as a good in the long run, because it testifies to a reduction in the traditional influence of egocentric possessiveness and personal selectivity, not to mention sensual enslavement to a particular person. 'What God has joined together let no man pull apart', say the priests at marriage ceremonies. But to what are they really referring by this word 'God'? I'll tell you what: to the Devil, the Cosmos, the Creator - anything but supreme being. God the Father is one thing, God the Holy Spirit quite another! Most people apparently don't yet appreciate that fact. But, increasingly these days, what the Devil has joined together men are pulling apart, which shows that they're at last making some real spiritual progress in life by turning more towards the eventual creation of a supreme level of being and away from worship of the creative Almighty. Of course, sensual love is still to some extent present, but in a growing number of cases it isn't strong enough to keep couples together for the whole of their lives, so they separate - some disillusioned by marriage, others in the false hope of finding a stronger love elsewhere."
"If you fail once you continue to fail," Mrs Connors averred, her dislike of Kelly's argument no less intense.
"Not necessarily," he countered. "Though failure in marriage may well lead to success in the cultivation of the spirit or in intellectual progress. One needn't look upon the break-up of so many marriages only from a negative point-of-view. There are degrees to everything, and this may well be but a stage on the road to complete liberation from the flesh and, hence, all forms of sexual activity - a liberation which will be reached when men attain to the culmination of evolution in discarnate spirituality, and thus become experiencers of Eternal Life. They're a long way from that blissful state-of-affairs at present, as you'll doubtless be aware. But the overcoming of dualism is an aspect of their struggle towards it."
"And hence the overcoming of women," Mrs Connors concluded huffily, a look of defiance in her dark eyes.
"Yes, there would seem to be no other course," Kelly confirmed, prompted by the integrity of his genius to draw the inevitable conclusion as to what evolutionary progress ultimately signified. "We live, as I've already said, in a post-dualistic society, and this society can only become even more post-dualistic in future, as we draw closer to the divine culmination of evolution. As a woman, you may not like the idea, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be happening. What happens must happen, for only through evolutionary progress towards the eventual creation of a supreme level of being does life acquire meaning and justification. As a stasis of perpetual dualism it would be absolutely meaningless, futile beyond words! Only continuous change lends it meaning and so justifies our presence here. But continuous change - what does that signify? It signifies - does it not? - the outgrowing of traditional patterns of behaviour and the acquirement, in their place, of new patterns. It means a time must come when what was once justified is no longer relevant but anachronistic, harmful to further growth, and thus subject to removal. Marriage, believe it or not, is no exception to this general rule. It isn't something that could or should last for ever, like Eternal Life, but something, on the contrary, that must give way to its logical successor in the progress of evolution - possibly to some communal sexual arrangement or, as is certainly the case at present, to a freer exchange of partners. And this in turn will give way to what stands above it on the next rung, so to speak, of the evolutionary ladder - namely to the widespread introduction of artificial methods of reproduction, reminiscent of Brave New World, which will result in a much greater freedom from the sensual. Eventually, life in the highest civilization will be so post-dualistic ... that there won't be any women in existence at all, since they'd be superfluous and a temptation to dualistic regression. Men will simply dedicate themselves to the important task of getting to the spiritual culmination of evolution via the path of Transcendental Meditation."
"Not forgetting that such a task will be facilitated by technology," Mr Connors interjected, recalling what he had already learnt from Kelly on a previous occasion. "Men will, by then, have been elevated to the status of so many meditating brains supported on artificial bodies, as it were, with artificial methods of keeping the brain alive, and most especially the new, or higher, brain."
"Absolutely," Kelly concurred, casting his artist friend an affirmative nod.
"The very thought of it makes me cringe," Trudi confessed, screwing-up her facial features in a demonstration of disgust.
"It does me too," Mrs Connors admitted, following suit.
"Naturally," Kelly rejoined. "But that's primarily because, as women, you're fundamentally appearance-over-essence, and thus more aligned with the sensual, the bodily, the apparent. You're society's born conservatives, opposing change to the extent you can. You're largely resigned to the world as it is, since the beauty of your natural bodies is quite acceptable to you. Needless to say, you wouldn't wish to be deprived, by advanced technology, of your physical assets. You put your chief pride in life in your appearance, not your essence, or spirit, which is no small wonder, since it's comparatively negative in relation to a man's spirit. Only men, as a rule, give precedence to the spirit, and you're a long way from being a man, even if both of you are somewhat masculinized females, like so many women these days, since intellectualized to an unprecedented extent. But no matter how far evolution masculinizes you, it can't literally turn you into men, changing the charge, as it were, of your spirit from negative to positive. Even the most spiritually-advanced women are still fundamentally female, with appearance-over-essence their chief characteristic. They're still slaves to their bodies, proud, if attractive, of their physical appearance, which plays a dominating role. So how could they be expected to approve of a technological strategy designed to free men from the flesh to an extent which resulted in their becoming artificially-supported meditating brains? How could they approve of the supersession of the natural body by an artificial one? They couldn't."
"Indeed not!" Mrs Connors exclaimed. "This whole idea strikes me as monstrous, if not positively insane!"
"That's how it strikes you," Mr Connors remarked, speaking directly to his wife for the first time all evening. "But it doesn't strike our genius friend here like that, he who has a much more objective and masculine view of it."
"To be sure," Kelly confirmed, blushing slightly for the compliment paid him by a man who, in his own sphere of creativity, wasn't entirely bereft of genius himself! Indeed, he might even have had as much genius as Piet Mondrian, a painter whom Kelly regarded, in company with many others, as the foremost artist of his generation. "Yet because it will strike the average female as monstrous, it stands to reason that women won't be expected to follow the male lead," he continued. "It stands to reason that any society in which such advanced technology was to be found could only be supermasculine, with essence triumphing over appearance to a quite incredible extent. Women, however, would have been gradually phased-out of society in the meantime, which, to some extent, is already happening, as the masculinization of the female well attests. Only men could be expected to continue evolving, in accordance with their spiritual predilections. And this evolution would inevitably entail their sacrificing physical appearance to essence, which could only be in their deepest spiritual interests. For women, on the other hand, such a sacrifice would be their greatest loss and destruction as females. However, have no fear! They won't be obliged to make it. Only men will attain to the culmination of evolution, women having been genetically phased-out of society some time before."
"It's mad, Paul!" Mrs Connors protested, unable to reconcile herself to the transcendental scope of Kelly's mind. "How can you say such a thing?"
"Modesty forbids me to confess," the art critic replied facetiously. "Yet the fact is that a view which tends to endorse a perpetual stasis of behaviour or custom would be madder, absolutely so! Life, remember, is change, and if it's to continue a time must come when women cease to exist and men are elevated to the quasi-divine status of artificially-supported brains. Evolution can't come to a halt in front of the natural body, like a horse in front of a solid wall. It must lead to man's overcoming the body and progressing beyond it, progressing to his ultimate salvation in the spirit. For the path of evolution, I need hardly remind you, leads away from nature, whether internal or external, towards the self. And, in leading away from nature, it can only lead towards the supernatural. Progress is a fact, whether or not you approve of it. The modern city has enabled us to push external nature away from ourselves to an extent quite unprecedented in the history of our evolution. The future city will doubtless enable us to progress still further in the direction of the supernatural, by causing us to push nature back even more, to thin out whatever of the natural is left in the city. Eventually, as recipients of the highest possible civilization, we'll completely escape nature's influence and attain to the transcendental culmination of evolution, attain to an area of space which will be at the farthest possible remove from the sensuous influence of stars, and which traditional idealists call Heaven. Yes, such a Heaven will surely come about, though not, however, following death, as Christians have believed, but at the climax of evolution, following the post-human millennium - a period of the highest civilization which will have been raised on the solid foundations of world socialism. Yes, socialism coupled to transcendentalism will lead to the millennial Beyond, and that, in turn, to the evolutionary culmination of life in supreme beingfulness. That will be a time worth looking forward to, believe me!"
"Perhaps for people like you," Mrs Connors corrected sarcastically.
"Naturally," Kelly admitted, offering her a faintly ingratiating smile. "But I can sympathize with you to some extent, especially in the light of my earlier remarks about women."
"Can you indeed?" Mrs Connors responded, and, turning towards Trudi, she said: "Isn't he kind?"
"Awfully," agreed the latter, who was privately of the opinion that, despite his considerable intelligence, Paul Kelly was a conceited jerk whose view of evolution, while broadly credible in a paradoxical kind of way, was woefully misguided in regard to gender, and just another example of male chauvinism. It wasn't women who would be left behind, she reflected, but men!
PROSPECT OF A CHANGE
It was a vertical canvas that the artist Brendan Martin had brought to show me, and I must confess, when I saw it, to being puzzled by its content. I had never seen anything remotely resembling it before, and could scarcely contain my astonishment.
"Well, what does it signify?" I asked him, as he stood back from the canvas in question to permit me an unimpeded view of a spectacle which, at first sight, resembled a tower, but was, in fact, three portraits - one above the other.
"You doubtless recognize the portraits, Mr Deasy," he crisply remarked.
"Of course," I answered, nodding affirmatively. "But why are they arranged in a vertical order?"
"Ah, that's the whole crux of the matter!" Brendan Martin replied. "They're arranged in what I consider to be a hierarchical fashion."
"Oh really?" I responded, somewhat baffled. "You mean in order of artistic importance?"
"Yes, one could put it like that," he admitted, smiling briefly. "Picasso at the bottom, Dali in the middle, and Mondrian at the top."
I drew a deep breath and knitted my brows. For the life of me, I still couldn't figure it out. Yet I had to admit, as I scrutinized the individual portraits in greater detail, that they were remarkable images of the actual men, done with virtually photographic exactitude. "But why do you conceive of them in that order?" I at length asked. "Why with Picasso, whom many people regard as the greatest artist of the twentieth century, at the bottom?"
Brendan Martin smiled anew and advanced a pace towards the canvas. "You perceive this background variation to each of the portraits?" he responded, pointing out the black background to the Picasso portrait, the grey background to the Dali one, and, finally, the white background to the portrait of Mondrian. As I made no objection, he continued: "Well, this serves to explain and justify the existing hierarchy. The black stands for the subconscious and hence, by implication, paganism; the grey stands for the ego, or conscious mind, and hence, by implication, Christianity; and the white stands for the superconscious and hence, by implication, transcendentalism. Each artist is equated with a specific religious tendency and arranged accordingly. Consequently, Picasso is regarded as the least of the trio and Mondrian as the greatest, while Dali comes in-between."
"Extraordinary!" I exclaimed, scarcely able to believe my ears. "You mean Picasso, for all his inventiveness, must rank lower than the others because his art often reflects a pagan or subconscious bias?"
"Absolutely, Mr Deasy," the artist confirmed. "Of course, none of them was wholly one thing or another. But they certainly reflected, in their different ways, a predominating psychological bias one way or another, which justifies me, I believe, in generalizing them into these respective categories."
I knitted my brows more deeply with the reception of this rather esoteric information and requested him to expand on it, to go into the subject in more detail. As it happened, I had no pressing engagement that afternoon and was accordingly in the mood to be instructed.
"You see," he complied,
"Picasso was very much an artist of the
"And not only his paintings," I impulsively volunteered, mindful of his romantic proclivities.
"Quite," Brendan Martin agreed, smiling wryly. "He was also pretty famous as a lover. However, to confine ourselves to his work, we may conclude that sensual influences played a significant role in it. He was by no means averse to depicting sensual women but, on the contrary, ranks as one of the most prolific nude-portrait painters of the century. Admittedly, he didn't paint women in the most literal or realistic of terms, since he was, after all, a modernist in regard to technique. But he rarely scorned an opportunity to emphasize their sexuality when the body was at stake. He was virtually a pornographer.
"However, women constituted only one aspect of his art, if a by-no-means insignificant aspect," Brendan went on, following a brief pause. "The sun also played an important role in it, as did the bullfight and ancient Greek mythology, thereby confirming a pagan bias. Furthermore, he was drawn to African and primitive art, which may likewise be equated with the pre-egocentric. Granted that his technique was, in its general sketchiness and penchant for expressionist distortion, decidedly modern, or post-egocentric, his themes and subject-matter were mostly pre-egocentric in nature, giving to his work an unmistakably pagan slant. Sex, sun, food, animals, landscape, wine, blood, bodies, primitivism - these are the constantly-recurring Camusian motifs, one could say, of his art, betraying his subconscious, and hence sensual, leanings."
"Yeah," I conceded, nodding once, "I think I'll have to agree with you there. He was, as you say, a true Mediterranean type.... Yet what of Dali, who was also a Spaniard but, according to your assessment, a different psychological proposition than Picasso?"
"Well, Mr Deasy," the artist responded, showing obvious signs of impatience to explain, "Dali was essentially a less sensual and consequently more spiritual painter whose work qualifies, on the whole, for the egocentric rather than the pre-egocentric category. His work often suggests a compromise between the subconscious and the superconscious, which is why I consider it fundamentally Christian, and hence dualistic. He considered himself to be artistically Picasso's superior, and so, I believe, he was, although his technique, being classically-orientated and profoundly articulate, is, as I say, egocentric rather than post-egocentric, and therefore somewhat anachronistic by truly contemporary standards. Nevertheless his subject-matter, especially when surreal, is distinctly post-egocentric, so he can't be dissociated from the moderns and equated with bourgeois tradition. His work is essentially avant-garde, but of the second rather than the first type - a looking down on the subconscious from the vantage-point of the superconscious, instead of an endorsement of the subconscious for its own sake and, as far as possible, on its own terms. Picasso's work, particularly when Expressionist, also falls partly into this second category, but by no means to the same extent or with the application of a truly egocentric technique. He is generally a proponent of the first type of avant-garde art."
"I see," seemed to be the appropriate response here, though, in truth, I was finding it difficult to assimilate the logic of Brendan Martin's contentions at the speed he was talking. A little slower, and it might have sounded clearer to me. However, since he was fully wound-up and eager to enlighten me, I bid him go ahead with an explication of Mondrian's painterly status.
"Piet Mondrian," he happily obliged, "was a true child of the North, with a puritan temperament. He scorned the sensual to an extent unprecedented in the entire history of painting, by concentrating on a spiritualized art relevant, as he saw it, to a metropolitan age. Instead of betraying an egocentric compromise in the manner of Salvador Dali, who even when dealing with transcendental themes - as in various of his late-period works - applies an egocentric technique, Mondrian approaches art from the vantage-point of the superconscious, in which a post-egocentric ultra-simplistic technique is put to the service of a truly transcendent art and, objectively considered, the greatest and most spiritually-advanced works of twentieth-century painting are produced - works appertaining to the third category of the avant-garde. With Mondrian, one is in the post-egocentric realm in both technique and subject-matter, which is why his paintings must rate above those of his two great contemporaries, who remain accountable to the subconscious. Consequently he is the greater artist, the one who deserves to be at the top."
"So that's it!" I exclaimed, casting an appreciative eye on the tall painting before me and, in particular, the Mondrian segment, with its white background symbolic of the superconscious. He was evidently the man whose art stood closest to the Holy Spirit. For I could now recall something Brendan had once said to me about the greatest art being that which most approximates, in concept, to the pure spirituality of the millennial Beyond, thereby encouraging us to focus on our essential destiny rather than on our apparent, or mundane, one. Appearance and essence were diametrically antithetical entities, he had told me - the former appertaining, as phenomenon, to the temporal, the latter, as noumenon, to the eternal. Now that I remembered this conversation, it seemed appropriate to draw on it in relation to Mondrian, whose art was evidently essential rather than apparent, and thus inherently religious.
"Indeed, Mr Deasy," the artist confirmed, a twinkle of spiritual satisfaction momentarily illuminating his dark-blue eyes. "Transcendental art pertains to the essential, or spiritual, and is consequently diametrically antithetical to Socialist Realism, or that which pertains to the apparent in contemporary urban, industrial, proletarian terms. There's no official transcendental art in socialist countries traditionally, because such countries are upholders of a materialistic one-sidedness in loyalty to an ideology which pertains to the temporal rather than the eternal. Only in the West has this kind of art been regularly produced."
"As I well know," I admitted, briefly nodding in apparent sympathy. "Western artists are often given to the ideal these days, which, in a society which doesn't profess any official allegiance to dialectical materialism, is only to be expected. However, where artists like Dali and Picasso are concerned, surely it's truer to say that they're more given to distorting the real than to actually pursuing an idealistic path?"
"To be sure," Brendan Martin conceded, smiling. "Particularly Picasso, whose early Cubist and later semi-Cubist portraiture provides a conclusive illustration of the fact. Dali, on the other hand, is less prone to distortion in his later, or mystical, works, though his idealistic aspirations are always depicted in realist or semi-realist terms, and are accordingly restricted in scope. Unlike Mondrian, he doesn't apply an abstract or truly idealistic technique to them, which is why I described him as fundamentally an egocentric dualist. His best work is undoubtedly great, but it stands lower in the evolutionary hierarchy than Mondrian's. Men aren't equal, after all, but decidedly heterogeneous in their various psychological or intellectual constitutions. The gap between Picasso at one extreme and Mondrian at the other ... is really quite immense in regard to lifestyle and artistic production. One can hardly believe they lived in the same century, as artistic contemporaries. Picasso's most sensual works and Mondrian's most spiritual ones are so different, so unrelated, as to suggest that their creators lived virtually centuries apart - the one in pagan times, the other in a transcendental age. The difference is really quite astounding!"
"Yes, I suppose it is," came my half-hearted agreement. "Mondrian probably wouldn't have deigned to shake Picasso's hand, had they met."
"Well, I'm not too sure about that, Mr Deasy," rejoined Brendan Martin in doubtful vein. "But he certainly wouldn't have approved of the latter's art, what with its uninhibited sensuality."
"No, I guess not," I chuckled, amused by the thought of how Mondrian would probably have reacted to the garish spectacle of Picasso's most unabashedly sensuous paintings! "Yet what of Dali?" I asked. "How would he have reacted to Mondrian's work? You've already told me, in so many words, that he didn't have a particularly high opinion of Picasso."
"Quite so," Brendan Martin confirmed, as he took a step nearer to his own canvas in order to peer more closely at the Dali segment. "If, in Dali's estimation, Picasso didn't produce a single masterpiece ... owing to the sketchy and distorted nature of his work, then Mondrian's art struck the egocentric Dalian imagination as too sparse, too barren, too simplistic, too ... nothing, to use a word he coined himself as a pun on Mondrian's Christian name, Piet, which became Niet, thereby suggesting nothing, the void. Nyet of course means 'no' in Russian."
"Yes," I responded, and suddenly burst out laughing at the unintentional clash of opposites my response had engendered! Brendan found this slightly amusing too, and then, returning to sanity, suggested that there was no need to speculate on the likeliest response Dali's art would have evoked in Mondrian's mind, since it was virtually a foregone conclusion that lack of appreciation would have been mutual.
"But what d'you think of my art?" he asked, having said as much as he wanted to say about theirs.
I hesitated a moment before committing myself to an answer, screwing-up my brows in an effort to bring greater concentration to bear on the subject. "Hmm, I quite like it, on the whole, though I'm still slightly bemused by its originality. In fact, I'm surprised that you've actually painted such a work, for you usually specialize in either Modern Realism or Socialist Realism these days, don't you?"
"To be sure, Mr Deasy," the artist answered, blushing faintly. "Although I occasionally venture further afield into other forms of artistic production, in accordance with my status as a Western artist, or someone who is under no binding obligation to toe a party line. Hard-line Marxists would probably regard it as a weakness, but I'm not in the best of positions to be a hard-line Marxist myself."
"No, I guess not," I wearily conceded. "In a sense, you know too much to be a hard-line anything.... Or is it because you don't happen to live in the right country?"
"That must undoubtedly have something to do with it," he candidly admitted. "One isn't given much incentive to be a hard-line Marxist here. People prefer one to be avant-garde."
"Some people do," I averred. "Though, as you know, I'm not one of them. Yet I take your point. It's probably true to say that a large proportion of Western avant-garde artists would be Social Realists under other circumstances, and not necessarily unwilling ones, either! You compromise a little with Modern Realism, yet even that would be considered bourgeois in some countries."
"Indeed it would," Brendan Martin agreed, a slightly-pained expression momentarily marring the purity of his handsome face. "Anything short of socialist propaganda would be considered bourgeois, including my triple portrait of three of the West's greatest artists."
"Which, incidentally, I'd like to buy," I declared, having finally made up my mind about it.
"You would, Mr Deasy?" he ejaculated, obviously delighted. "Well, that's something of a relief to me, since I feared that you'd reject it on the grounds of its unusual nature, and accordingly oblige me to find another dealer."
I laughed and said: "Have no fear, Brendan! I know your work too well by now to have any doubts about its artistic quality. A purchaser will soon be found for it, I can assure you." And, smiling ironically, I cast him a knowing wink, which quickly appeased him. This canvas, I reflected, would be one of the few works from him which could be sold over the counter rather than under it for once, thereby saving me some professional inconvenience. I relished the prospect of a change!
EXTRACTS FROM A JOURNAL
They are fools who imagine that the physical universe is expanding and that the stars are therefore getting bigger and hotter. They've got the wrong end of the cosmic stick! But Michael James Carey, solitary thinker and private writer, knows better. I know that, whilst one part of the Universe is expanding, another part of it is contracting. And I don't confound the one with the other, like the untransvaluated shallow-pates! For the fact of the matter is that while the infernal side of the Universe is contracting, its divine side is expanding - and quite rapidly, too! The sun is losing millions of tons of its matter each second, is shrinking through the conversion of hydrogen into helium by the so-called proton-proton reaction. Most other stars are doubtless doing something similar, for one sun is pretty much akin to another, no matter how varied they may be in size and solar intensity. And since stars represent the infernal side of the Universe at its most intense, we may conclude that it's this side of it which is contracting, whilst our side is rapidly expanding.
Yes, we are a part of the Universe, too. Everything to be found in this world is a part of it. But human beings may be said to represent its highest part - the part beyond stars and planets and nature. Naturally, there's a world of difference between one human being and another. But even the most dissimilar human beings have more in common with one another than with animals, whichever animals you care to name. Even the most stupid and ignorant of men is closer to the genius than to a dog or a cat. He is certainly superior to the animals! So human beings represent the furthermost point of evolution on earth to-date - the highest life form, in all probability, that the Universe contains.
Astonishing? Ah, I can imagine an imaginary reader wondering about the possible existence of other life forms in the Universe superior to ourselves. Hasn't he encountered stories and films depicting fantastic beings from outer space who put man in the shade in virtually every respect, including cruelty? Yes, of course he has! Yet whilst I'm not altogether immune to the imaginative appeal such stories and films may have, I rather incline to the view that, if the Universe is in fact peopled with other intelligent and evolutionary life-forms, they'll be more human in appearance than monstrous, being something like ourselves, only less evolved or more evolved, as the case may be.
So you see I incline to believe the highest life forms throughout the Universe to be human, and therefore akin to one another in respect of their superiority to animals. They may not look exactly like us or speak with similar accents, but I'm confident that they would be able to recognize one another as kindred, human-equivalent life forms, if brought into contact. And I'm confident, too, that they would be of approximately the same scale, not vastly dissimilar in height or build. I don't foresee earthmen grovelling before sixty-foot giants or, conversely, staring down at six-inch midgets in the course of their future space explorations. I'm cautiously hopeful, even optimistic, that they'll be able to see eye-to-eye, as it were, with their galactic neighbours.
I wrote the above yesterday afternoon, while the rain was pouring down outside my window in the swift wake of a violent thunderstorm. I expect there is rain and storms on other planets elsewhere in the Universe too, though it didn't occur to me to consider that possibility then. I was much too engrossed with the subject of scale, as recorded above. However, what applies to one life-sustaining planet is likely to apply just as much to others as well, its being assumed that life requires a given environment in which to evolve. There is no life on Mercury because the red planet is too close to the sun, and therefore far too hot to permit its development. Conversely we may admit that a planet at too great a distance from the sun, like Pluto, will be too cold to permit any life to emerge. A planet has to be in a solar position somewhere in-between the two extremes, if oxygen is to arise and thus encourage the development of life. So it has to be in an Earth-equivalent position, relatively speaking, no matter in which solar system it exists. And because of this, life throughout the life-sustaining planets in the Universe will have to share more things in common than not, will have to be quite similar, since in any one context, be it air, sea, or land, it requires a fairly uniform pattern of life-sustaining encouragement. It's no good expecting people to live where there is no rain or oxygen. And where there is rain and oxygen, it's a bit silly expecting monsters instead of people! A similar environment should give rise to similar life forms.
But I'm becoming too technical and speculative. I wanted to record in my journal that the Universe is both contracting and expanding simultaneously, in order to make clear to the misguided souls of this world exactly what the Universe is doing, and which part of it is doing what. For I will subsequently be developing this theme in a major essay, for the sake of literary respectability. My journal - a slightly pompous habit - is a first and rather tentative step in that august direction. Or perhaps I prefer to keep certain things to myself, from fear of arousing too much opposition? I am a rather controversial writer, I'll have to admit. Which, in a sense, is something to be proud of, since it proves that one is capable of independent thought and thus of innovation in matters intellectual - quite unlike the majority of writers who, by contrast, remain all-too-depressingly predictable, whether through cowardice or stupidity or commercial pressures ... I leave for them to decide! However, enough boasting! As long as I know my own worth, intellectually speaking, the intellectually pusillanimous can go to hell!
The Universe, then, is expanding spiritually. Let this be made absolutely clear! For there has been a great deal of shilly-shallying uncertainty this century. At one time it has been fashionable to contend that the Universe is contracting and, at another time, that it's expanding. Both views, I maintain, are equally correct, providing they are applied to the relevant parts of the Universe - a thing, alas, which hasn't always been the case! For example, some people have believed that the sun, growing in size and intensity, will one day burn the earth up, including them or their future descendants. Unable to take spirit seriously, they have applied the theory of an expanding universe to the stars! I, however, must do what I can to emphasize the erroneous nature of this misguided belief which, when considered in the light of factual reality, becomes positively absurd. How, one imagines, can a star which is losing millions of tons of its matter a second possibly be expanding? And even the tendency of stars to rush away from one another, as from a central void, is less an expansion, I contend, than a divergence. No, let's encourage people to get the right end of the stick and thereby view the Universe the right way up instead of, as in all too many cases, upside down, if not back-to-front as well. Let them see that, while stars slowly burn towards extinction, the human population of the globe continues to rise, and thus to increase the sum total of spirit currently in existence. Yet spirit isn't just related to population growth. It can grow, or be encouraged to expand, within the individual, so that any given person can become more spiritual than would otherwise be the case ... if he ignored his spirit or smothered it beneath sensual distractions. We are born with spirit, but we're also responsible for cultivating it, if we so choose. Hence the expansion of spirit is also dependent upon human effort, and we may assume that, with each succeeding generation, the level of spirit being cultivated generally rises, because the pressure of evolution is all the time directed towards increasing the spiritual at the expense of the sensual. The Universe is in a constant process of spiritual expansion through the medium of man.
I must have been in a highly idealistic frame-of-mind yesterday when I wrote the above, and now I feel quite proud of myself for having written it. I was talking to a friend, during the evening, who referred my attention to Teilhard de Chardin's theory concerning a convergence of the Universe to what he calls the Omega Point. He pointed out the difference, as he saw it, between the great French theologian's contention and my own, reminding me that while de Chardin stressed a convergence, I emphasize an expansion. We couldn't both be right, in his view, and I found myself to some extent agreeing with him.... Although, like so many things in life, I think both approaches are correct, provided one knows which approach to apply to which context. Let me explain.
If the Universe begins with the stars and progresses, via man, to the Omega Point, which should be regarded as the spiritual culmination of evolution, then a convergence from the Many to the One there most certainly is, since stars are separate, whereas the ideal climax to evolution would be unified, in accordance with the essence of absolute goodness. The agonized doing of the Alpha Absolutes would lead, via the world and its historical struggles, to the blissful being of the Omega Absolute, thereby reflecting a process of convergence from the Many to the One. To that extent, I have to agree that de Chardin is probably correct in his choice of terminology, since we can detect a process of social convergence at work in our own world, as manifested in the coming together of disparate races under similar living conditions and ideologies. This process may still have some way to go before a complete unification of spirit is achieved in a transcendental context, but at least we can detect a trend towards that desired culmination in the changing configurations of mundane society. A communal attitude is gradually gaining the ascendancy over the traditional individualistic, isolationist attitudes hitherto so prevalent in our world, thus vindicating the logic of Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary thesis.
But if there's a limit to the context in which a convergence towards the Omega Point can be maintained, it must lie in the fact that we are encouraged to visualize a tiny point of transcendent spirit as the climax to or culmination of evolution. Yet this would be misleading, in my opinion, since it contradicts the logic of a spiritually-expanding universe. One is confronted by the absurdity of a tiny point of transcendence existing in the immensity of infinite space, inwardly shining there like a lone star. Such an absurdity, however, is clearly inadmissible! We must confine de Chardin's theory to its rightful context, and use a different terminology for the actual development of spirit itself - one implying expansion. For there is, indeed, sound sense to the argument that, while stars continue to contract, spirit will continue to expand, in accordance with its blissful essence in eternal being.
Yes, there, if anywhere, lies the fundamental difference between the two viewpoints and, to my way of thinking, both of them are correct - in context. The Universe converges in space, but expands in spirit. Teilhard de Chardin stresses the external aspect, I, Michael James Carey, the internal aspect. He takes the converging process of evolution from A - Z, as it were, whilst I dwell on the nature of Z and its continuous expansion. In that sense there will never be an end to evolution, for the Omega Absolute will continue to expand into the void throughout eternity. Yet to the extent that its essence will be fixed ... in transcendent spirit, then it will certainly signify the climax of evolution, whether one chooses to regard such a climax as the Supreme Being, the Holy Spirit, Ultimate Reality, or even the Superman, to use a term coined by Nietzsche, who taught that the Superman would be the outcome of historical evolution, and hence 'meaning of the earth'.
Yes, how compelling his teachings were there, even given the philosophical inadequacy of their terminology! For this terminology has since lent itself to excessive vulgarization at the hands of men who have interpreted the Superman in terms of a Mr World-type figure, and thereby falsely endowed him with muscular significance. But, in reality, a muscular significance is the last thing that the Superman would have - as is the anthropomorphic projection of the pronoun 'he' which such a terminology encourages. For beyond man there can be only 'it' - the pure transcendence of ultimate divinity. After all, man, remember, is 'something that should be overcome', as Zarathustra well knew!
However, there are a number of things which Nietzsche's Zarathustra didn't know but which I do, having given some profound thought to them. My journal is full of notes relating to the means through which man is to be overcome in the struggle to attain to salvation, not the least important of which are the ones appertaining to his technological progress in the face of natural opposition. For instance, I have no doubt that, one day, man will overcome his natural body through the gradual perfection of an artificial one, since only by distancing himself from sensual needs and obligations, in part through technological progress, can he hope to arrive at a position whereby an exclusive and extensive spirituality will be possible to him. This advanced spirituality will only be possible, it should be emphasized, in the upper reaches of his psyche, which, in physiological terms, are compatible with the new brain and, in psychological terms, with the superconscious. The lower reaches, or old brain/subconscious, are aligned with the body in sensuality, and would therefore have to be guarded against and duly 'overcome' when the technological moment was ripe. One cannot compromise with the sensual and hope to attain to spiritual salvation at the same time. Evolution demands that man becomes ever more biased towards the latter, as he slowly but surely acquires the means to defeat the former. It demands, at its highest post-humanist level, a single-minded commitment to the cultivation of spirit, so that the human universe may expand more rapidly in the direction of spiritual transcendence. For attaining to a condition of pure bliss in supreme being is such an alluring prospect ... that we would be mad or foolish to wish for anything less! On the contrary, the nearer we get to our ultimate destiny, the more quickly do we evolve. For we are then in a better position to comprehend the direction we must take in order to achieve the maximum self-fulfilment in transcendent spirit.
Yes, the spiritual universe is certainly converging/expanding. But we should also remember that its root, or physical, part is simultaneously diverging/contracting, and will one day diverge/contract out of existence altogether. Exactly when that day will come, I cannot of course say, although it's to be hoped that we - and other beings like us elsewhere in the Universe - will already have attained to our goal in the never-ending expansion of transcendent spirit ... before the complete disintegration of stars and planets becomes a reality. Once that is achieved, the fate of the physical universe won't concern us. 'We' will no longer exist - only the complete and utter unity of the Omega Absolute, as it expands eternally in the void and ultimately replaces the infernal imperfections of the contracting stars with the divine perfection of its blissful being.
Thus speaks Michael James Carey!
I used to hate visiting old Mrs Donnelly, and would invariably wait until she wrote me an invitation before ringing her up and agreeing to a date. That would be once every three or four months, so I never had to visit her more than a few times a year. Nonetheless even that proved inconvenient to me, ever since I had first answered her invitation about four years ago. There were times when I needed all my perseverance and willpower to persuade myself to go!
It was an aunt of mine who had first written to Mrs Donnelly about me, and so it was she who was at the root of all this inconvenience. I used to dread getting letters from her because they would invariably mention the old lady and reprove me for not having contacted her for some time. Somehow Aunt Mary imagined that I would rush into Mrs Donnelly's arms as into those of a long-lost friend or future saviour. But when it eventually became clear to her that I entertained less than flattering opinions of the old woman, she instinctively resented it and took a highly critical attitude to me in her letters. I would get a scolding from her for not having taken due advantage of Mrs Donnelly's generosity, and, inevitably, a letter would subsequently arrive from the said lady inviting me to lunch and/or tea whenever convenient. The noose seemed to be tightening around me and I would invariably fall into it, like a convicted criminal, and ring my prospective hostess in order to fix a date. Regrets would automatically follow, but by then I was resigned to my fate and in no position to back down. I used to dread the prospect of another vituperative letter from Aunt Mary even more than the impending visit to old Mrs Donnelly!
Considering I had no other
contacts at the time, it might perhaps seem strange that a person like
should be so recalcitrant where the prospect of a little friendly
concerned. But although I had spent a
number of solitary years in an insalubrious part of north
But I said there were other reasons, and so there were. For all her faults, Mrs Donnelly was a devout Catholic and would attend Mass every morning virtually without fail. Like many genteel Irishwomen, especially of her generation, she was a religious fanatic and couldn't open her mouth without saying something about the Holy Virgin or the Blessed Saints or the Holy Fathers or the Good Lord or whatever. At eighty-two, and well-advanced in repetitive senility, she was probably more fanatic than she had been twenty or forty or even sixty years before, and it was this aspect of her life which constituted another of my reasons for being less than keen to visit her. I was almost certain to be bombarded with a résumé of Catholic doctrine, or recollections of the mystical experiences she had undergone in various odd places, or memories of the priests she had invited home to dinner, and so on, throughout the time I spent in her company, much of which, incidentally, was spent in the twilight of approaching darkness, since she only switched on the light as a last resort, as and when she was obliged to make me some tea, and must have feared that her conversation would be adversely compromised by her wrinkled features, did she not avail of the dark both to conceal them and enhance her personal standing with me at the same time.
Initially, she had high hopes of converting me, a lapsed Catholic in her opinion, back to the Faith, since she didn't know enough about me to realize that such a conversion was the last thing to which I would succumb. But slowly, by degrees, it began to dawn on her that, even in the approaching darkness, she wasn't getting anywhere and that, rather than admitting to faults, I was becoming ever more adamantly opposed to her faith and convinced of the validity of my own, which ran somewhat contrary to hers, though not in a Protestant manner. Slowly, the light started to fade from her eyes, and she began to perceive that I lived in a different spiritual world from the one she was accustomed to inhabiting. Her invitations to lunch thereafter grew less frequent, though by no means less cordial, and as though by a reciprocal compensation the threats and reproofs from Aunt Mary grew ever more frequent. But I wasn't to be swayed. I could see through Mrs Donnelly too easily to be in any way ashamed of who I was, and would console myself in the knowledge that I had the truth while she lived in illusion. Besides, I soon discovered from the excellence of the home-made and fresh food she provided that her religiosity was more a matter of lip-service to symbols to which long habit had ingrained her than any consciously-lived asceticism carried out, in defiance of the flesh, with intent to cultivating the spirit as much as possible. There was little of the half-starved saint about old Mrs Donnelly, who always prided herself on eating only 'the best', no matter how expensive. Religion didn't interfere with her stomach, nor, one might add, with her appetite, which for a person of her age was anything but slight. Yet, frankly, I would be a hypocrite to pretend that it interfered with mine instead. There is little of the half-starved saint about me, either!
I would ward off Mrs Donnelly's Catholic sermons as best I could, trying, in the process, to convert her to my transcendental standpoint, in which spiritual self-realization was the ultimate ideal. That, however, was no more likely to succeed than were her attempts at converting me to prayerful worship, and so we would eventually agree to a truce and tactfully change the subject. My literary career was sometimes an alternative one, and when, one day, I was able to tell her that I had at last found a publisher, she almost died of a heart attack, so unexpected was the good news. A publisher meant I would now have some money, and Mrs Donnelly had quite resigned herself to believing that I would always remain poor and dependent on the state. Now I was going to be self-supporting, and that came as something of a shock to her. She congratulated me in the most cordial terms and offered to pour me an extra cup of tea, which I gladly accepted. At last I should be able to afford somewhere better to live, she hoped, since my domestic problems were by now well known to her.
As luck would have it, that was the last I saw of her. For she was to die in the New Year, a few weeks after Christmas, and I received notification of the fact from her sister, Polly, one evening. It came as a surprise to me in view of her previously good health, though not as great a surprise as the knowledge that she had bequeathed her property to me - a two-storey semidetached house in Palmers Green. At first I thought I was imagining things, hallucinating or imposing subconscious hopes on the letter in my hand. But no, it was for real, and I, Nicholas Brennan, was to inherit her property! I could scarcely believe my luck! Without wasting any time, I dashed over to her sister's place, was given confirmation of the bequest, and duly handed the keys to the property that very same day. I was to have a home of my own at last!
Moving in was one of the most exciting experiences of my entire life, especially since the lodging house I was moving from was so dilapidated and depressing as to be a permanent nightmare in which to live. I couldn't wait to get away from the noisy neighbours in whose vulgar company I had spent the past four years, and was accordingly impatient to set-up home in this small private house, where I looked forward to a life of dignified peace-and-quiet instead of constant torment from aggressive boors. There were three rooms on the ground floor, including a kitchen-cum-dining room, and three upstairs, with the addition of a bathroom and toilet. The road in which the house stood was agreeably quiet, being wholly residential, and at the back stood a pleasantly elongated garden which gave-on to a tranquil canal that suggested not only peace, but privacy as well. The nearest houses, on the far side of this canal, also had gardens backing-on to it in similar fashion, so there was a wide-open space in-between, quite unlike anything to which I had been accustomed in recent years. Here, if anywhere, I believed I would be able to get rid of the depression I had contracted from the squalid boxed-in urban environment of my previous residence. More regular contact with nature was precisely what I needed!
The front room of the house was quickly transformed into a study, and I began to acquire a collection of books to line the bookcase I had placed against one of its walls. Previously I had been dependent on the local library for reading material, but now that I had some independent means I could at last afford to start a small private collection, to augment the worn paperbacks purchased by me as a youth. Thus I acquired a number of my favourite novels, including works by Lawrence Durrell, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse, Henry Miller, and Anthony Burgess, which I knew I'd feel inclined to re-read from time to time. Additionally, I purchased some philosophical works by Teilhard de Chardin, Lewis Mumford, Arthur Koestler, and Jean-Paul Sartre, and these I placed on a higher shelf than the novels. I had only to get some further works of a poetic or aesthetic nature in order to have the rudiments of a representative collection of choice twentieth-century writings, and was satisfied that my study would be a sufficiently dignified sanctum in which to carry on from where such great minds had left off.
As for music, I quickly acquired all the Shostakovich, Ravel, Martinu, Delius, and Prokofiev records I could get my hands on, and to these incomparable masters I added a number of modern-jazz albums by the estimable likes of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock for good measure. All I needed now, I felt, was a person with whom to share my house and tastes. But this desire was soon to be realized, since I received a letter, one day, from a young woman with whom I had been madly in love some years before, albeit without requital. She had read my recently-published novel, recognized herself in it, and, obtaining my new address from its publisher, was curious to find out whether I really meant what I had said about her. I invited her over to see me and duly reassured her that I did. Her name was Sheila, and she became my mistress that very first visit, despite being married.
In due course, she obtained a divorce from her husband on grounds - probably genuine - of infidelity, and came to live with me permanently. I fell in love with her all over again and duly proposed marriage to her, which, thankfully, she accepted. I had great need of such company as she supplied, and found that my depression was gradually lifting in consequence of our blossoming relationship. She was truly a beautiful woman and very generous with her charms, which were more than ample for my needs. I would make love to her virtually every day, using every resource for variety at my disposal. Life was beginning to improve for me after years of solitude, poverty, and pain. My wife gave me the sensuality I had so desperately needed, and this enabled me to get over my enforced celibacy. My writings were improving all the time, as was the public's response to them. People would write inquiring about my work or congratulating me on a particular literary achievement. The number of books in my private collection was steadily expanding, and to such an extent that I soon required an additional bookcase in which to house them all, as well as extra shelves for my records. Occasionally Sheila's friends would pop in to see us and talk about literature and philosophy. Someone brought me a large poster of Hermann Hesse, whom I was said to resemble, and someone else one of Nietzsche, my favourite philosopher. I would talk about politics and religion as well, and often enough we would end-up listening to a Shostakovich symphony or a Martinu concerto - a fitting climax to the evening. Sheila would pour a final round of wine or sherry, and I would go to bed feeling slightly giddy but relatively content. Her body was there beside me in the dark, and I had only to stretch out a hand to feel its softness and warmth.
One day, I followed her into the toilet and watched her going through the motions of relieving herself. Strangely, I felt curiously aroused by this spectacle and, before she could replace her panties, I lifted her up and carried her into the adjacent bathroom. There I quickly removed her jeans and panties and made her straddle the sink, so that her rump was facing me and I was able to soap it. She made no protest as I continued to lubricate her rear, but remained facing the wall with a vague smile on her lips. She had guessed what was coming next and, when it actually did, merely whimpered and blushed faintly. I was able to satisfy my lust while she pretended not to be aroused. But I could tell that she was secretly excited by this extension of our sexual relationship and able to fulfil herself in due course. Why had I done it? she wanted to know afterwards. I smiled weakly and replied that it was a concession to the post-dualistic nature of the age, which seemingly required a degree of artificial or unorthodox sexuality of one. However, I assured her that I wouldn't do it very often, since it was less satisfying than regular sex.
She smiled understandingly and brushed a gentle kiss across my brow. As long as I didn't become actively homosexual or even bi-sexual, she was prepared to tolerate such occasional deviations from strict heterosexuality. After all, she was a modern woman, which meant, amongst other things, that she was less natural and feminine than would otherwise be the case, had she been living under different or more traditional circumstances. In some respects, a modern liberated woman was almost a man, and therefore someone capable of attaining to greater freedom from nature or the natural than women had ever done before. I had already impressed this fact upon her in certain other contexts, including the cultural, and it had evidently sunk in, since she was anything but ashamed of the unusual experience I had just imposed upon her. Rather, she teased me for being like Salvador Dali, whose Unspeakable Confessions had shortly before made such a profound impression on us. Yes, I was rather proud of the analogy and told her so. Dali had been one of the world's most civilized men, and I still had high hopes of becoming another - with or without the aid of my beloved. I would be to literature what Dali was to art, only more so! She smiled approvingly and continued to regard me with a vaguely mocking look in her dark eyes. She could tell that she was as indispensable to me as Gala had been to Dali.
Later on, she came downstairs in nothing but a pale-blue semi-transparent nylon sari and asked me, in penetrating her, to wheelbarrow her around the house in the manner of an oriental despot. It was then that, realizing what was required of me, I panicked and woke up! Across the table, old Mrs Donnelly was still droning-on, in the merciful semi-darkness, about the Blitz and the Holy Fathers, seemingly oblivious of the fact that I had spent most of the preceding hour fast asleep. None of this, thank God, had really happened! Though die in the New Year she duly did, releasing me from what little remained of her life.
APPENDIX: A SELECTION OF APHORISMS
RELATED TO THE TEXT
1. A dualistic civilization can only tolerate truth in small doses, or diluted by illusion.
2. Women are society's natural conservatives - impeding change.
3. The Devil may have created woman, but man will create God (the Holy Spirit).
4. Women are akin to stars ... in that they attract men to themselves. However, their children shine, like moons, with a borrowed light - the light of maternal authority.
5. Man may be a slave of nature but he is also a rebel against it, and one day he will be its master, becoming supernatural.
6. Increasingly man will turn from natural drugs to artificial drugs. He will prefer upward self-transcendence in spirituality to downward self-transcendence in sensuality.
7. What, in physiological terms, the new brain is to the old one, in psychological terms the superconscious is to the subconscious.
8. Evolution proceeds from the Alpha Absolute(s) to the Omega Absolute via the sensual/spiritual compromise which is man.
9. In an absolute there is no dualism whatsoever, not even the slightest hint of an antithesis.
10. No two absolutes could be farther apart than the Alpha, which is Manifold, and the Omega, which will be One. They signify the extremes of evolution, and are accordingly antithetical in every respect.
11. Post-dualistic man won't confound the Devil with God, or vice versa. There will be no ambivalence or ambiguity in his religious sense.
12. The Devil exists, but God is in the making - a potential culmination to evolution rather than an existent fact.
13. There is no reason why atheism should prevent one from believing in the Devil. For the Devil most certainly exists - albeit in the non-figurative guise of stars.
14. Evolution is a journey, so to speak, from the unclear light of stars to the clear light of transcendent spirit.
15. Christ is a relative, anthropomorphic deity relevant to an egocentric stage of evolution.
16. A Christian is entitled to claim that God exists, insofar as he is referring to the god of the Christians, viz. Jesus Christ. But this relative deity is a long way from being the absolute divinity of ... the Omega Absolute.
17. The natural state of relations between the sexes is normally one of disharmony, not harmony, since women are less spiritual but more sensual than men.
18. In the so-called war of the sexes, men are slowly gaining the upper-hand. One day they will effectively vanquish women altogether.
19. Small minds invariably find genius abhorrent.
20. Technology will be the materialistic means via which the spiritual end ... of transcendence ... may be attained.
21. Without the assistance of advanced technology, no amount of meditation will carry one's spirit to the transcendental Beyond - the salvation which will come to pass at the culmination of evolution rather than in any posthumous heaven.
22. The traditional doing of the West will be placed in the service of the traditional being of the East as, increasingly in the future, East and West come together into one civilization - the transcendental civilization of post-dualistic man.
23. To live for the mere sake of living, without reference to the evolutionary struggle and its moral implications, is to live not as a man but as a beast - uncivilized, and therefore wild.
24. These days women are becoming so masculinized ... that it is expedient both to regard and treat them as men - albeit lesser ones.
25. The cult of unisex is but a reflection of the post-dualistic development of contemporary society. So, to a lesser extent, is the growth of homosexuality.
26. Pornography, in encouraging sexual sublimation, is a transitional phenomenon coming in-between literal sex and the eventual complete overcoming of sex ... in post-dualistic transcendentalism.
27. Nietzsche wrote that 'Man is something that should be overcome', which is true. But before he overcomes himself, man must first overcome woman ... in accordance with the post-dualistic requirements of evolutionary progress.
28. When the natural body has been superseded by an artificial support-and-sustain system for the brain, then man or, rather, his superhuman successor will be in the highest phase of earthly evolution - a phase in which essence will preponderate over appearance to such an extent ... that one might characterize it as supermasculine.
29. What essentially distinguishes a man from a woman isn't so much the brain ... as the psychology imposed upon it by the body's sex. Thus a woman's brain would become masculine or, at any rate, less feminine if deprived of a female body.
30. One is a 'he' or a 'she' because one isn't an absolute but a combination of sensual (feminine) and spiritual (masculine) elements. An absolute can only be an 'it'.
31. The relative, anthropomorphic god of the Christians, viz. Jesus Christ, is necessarily a 'he', since He is relevant to a dualistic stage of evolution. The literal, absolute deity that should emerge from the climax to evolution will be an 'it' - as suggested by the term 'the Holy Spirit'.
32. Hence if the Devil is an 'it' because of its absolute sensuality, God will be an 'it' because of its absolute spirituality - the former, remember, as the stars, and therefore Manifold; the latter as transcendent spirit, and therefore One.
33. Every development which makes for greater unity in the world - and therefore greater world unity - should be encouraged; for it is good.
34. Socialism is the material foundation upon which the erection of the transcendental civilization will take place.
35. By itself socialism can't lead to the transcendental Beyond. It can only lead to millennial civilization, since it is a materialistic phenomenon, and where materialism ends the spirit must take over.
36. We haven't ceased being idealistic. We have simply decided to apply a more realistic approach to our idealism.
37. Realism is of little account unless, ultimately, it serves the cause of idealism.
38. The post-human(ist) millennium will signify the maximum spiritual striving to attain to the transcendental Beyond. A time when men will be free from materialism and able to attend to the exclusive cultivation of spirit which their advanced technology had made possible.
39. The post-human millennium will be the higher phase of the transcendental civilization, the lower phase being a combination of socialism and transcendentalism - in other words, Social Transcendentalism.
40. The totalitarian socialism between the end of dualistic civilization and the beginning of post-dualistic civilization ... is the new barbarism - a largely communist phenomenon traditionally.
41. Civilization begins where barbarism ends - with the adoption of a relevant religion.
42. Pre-dualistic civilization was pagan, dualistic civilization is Christian, and post-dualistic civilization will be transcendental - an evolutionary progression from the Father to the Holy Spirit via Christ, Who, while being 'Three in One', and thus dualistic, is less alpha than the Father and less omega than the Holy Spirit.
43. The Father is a Christian euphemism for the infernal Creator, i.e. the Devil, in response to the diluted truth of dualism.
44. But, being dualistic, Christianity sometimes eschews the Father in favour of an antithesis between Satan and Christ - the former taking the place of the Father and the latter that of the Holy Spirit.
45. Our modern endeavour to prolong human life is indicative of an evolutionary struggle towards eternity.
46. At death the spirit ceases because it is defeated by the mortality of the flesh. We, however, wish to save the spirit but, because we lack the means, i.e. technology, to do so at present, must be content with prolonging the flesh as long as possible.
47. The fact that we now live longer is proof of our growing power over the flesh. Eventually we will live for ever, though not in this world but in the millennial Beyond - the next one.
48. A brain artificially supported and sustained would have a much longer life-span than one supported and sustained naturally, in or through the flesh. Indeed, it would probably have an indefinite life-span were it not for the fact that, at some point in millennial time, extensively-cultivated spirit would detach itself from the brain and soar heavenwards.
49. Until technology has been developed to a stage where the old brain (subconscious) can be removed from the new brain (superconscious), I foresee the necessity of synthetic hallucinogens (like LSD) being used to protect the latter from the sensuous influence of the former.
50. The lower mystical experience of artificially-induced visionary projections would have to precede the higher one of concentrated self-contemplation, or absorption in the light of superconscious mind.
51. To live wholly in the superconscious would be to live beyond egocentric reference to the personal self. It would be a prelude, on the individual plane, to the mass absorption of spirit into the Omega Absolute.
52. To live wholly in the superconscious would be to live without a subconscious - in other words, to live with only a new brain.
53. By degrees, people will be led beyond egocentricity, of whichever description, to an entirely post-egocentric phase of evolution, in which the superconscious will be completely free of subconscious influence and thereby able to aspire exclusively towards transcendence.
54. Because we are still egocentric, or recipients of subconscious/superconscious compromise, we find it difficult to identify the self with superconscious mind. But one day we will be the superconscious, and consequently take such an identification for granted.
55. As yet, the 'I' of egocentric reference has more appeal to us than the higher self ... of the superconscious. This latter, when we finally come to identify with it, will dispose us against thinking in terms of 'I'. For we will be so absorbed in the superconscious ... as to be at one with it, and therefore indisposed to personal reference.
56. The 'I' of egocentric reference stems, on its subconscious side, from the diabolic competitive roots of life in the stars. Each star is a furious rival, competing, in isolation, with other stars for mastery over a variety of planets. But each star is also an 'it', because wholly sensual. There can be no 'I' before the dawning of ego in dualistic compromise.
57. As a rule, women are more prone to the 'I' than men, since of an ego under a greater degree of subconscious influence.
58. The more a man thinks in terms of 'we' rather than 'I' or 'they', the greater is the influence being exerted by the superconscious on his ego.
59. 'They' is especially appropriate to the pre-dualistic egocentricity of a preponderating subconscious influence, 'I' to the dualistic egocentricity of a subconscious/superconscious balance, and 'we' to the post-dualistic egocentricity of a preponderating superconscious influence.
60. In the wholly superconscious phase of evolution, however, there will be neither 'I' nor 'we' but absorption in 'it' - the personal 'it', firstly, of one's individual superconscious, leading, via transcendence, to the transpersonal 'it' of collective absorption in the supreme being of the Holy Spirit.
61. Being of a supreme order - that is the essential meaning of the Supreme Being as I conceive of it, which is to say, in noumenal rather than phenomenal terms.
62. The highest art is ever an attempt to approximate the mind to a state of being which transcends egocentric selfhood.
63. Even the greatest art, insofar as it manifests in appearances and enters consciousness from without, is strictly limited in the extent to which it can provoke upward self-transcendence.
64. The internal stimulus of mind-expanding drugs is far more efficacious in facilitating upward self-transcendence than the external stimulus of art, for the simple reason that it acts directly upon the psyche from inside rather than indirectly ... from outside.
65. Art is the paradoxical employment of symbolic or beautiful appearances, in materialism, to facilitate the cultivation of essence, in spirit, and is accordingly strictly limited in scope.
66. Only by directly affecting the mind from within, through synthetic drugs, can greater degrees (in relation to art) of upward self-transcendence be achieved.
67. The more men develop essence, the less they can have to do with appearance. From dependence on beautiful appearances in art, men will gravitate to the much higher contemplation of the beauty within themselves, as set free by synthetic stimulants.
68. As evolution progresses, so man will free himself from the sensuous influence of natural drugs by subscribing to their gradual curtailment.
69. Tomorrow's world won't be one to encourage the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, tea, cannabis, or any of the stronger natural drugs (narcotics) which, by their very sensuous nature, appeal to the subconscious. Tomorrow's world will be geared to the superconscious, and thus only to artificial drugs (synthetic hallucinogens).
70. The higher the civilization or stage of evolution, the more the artificial prevails in life.
71. The most complete artificiality of the highest civilization will ultimately free man from nature altogether, enabling his extensively-cultivated spirit to break away, in a rush of ultimate deliverance, from the last vestiges of the brain and so become supernatural.
72. The supernatural will be formless but probably very extensive, considering that it will be compounded of all the spirit throughout the Universe which was capable of transcendence.
73. That evolution progresses approximately apace throughout the Universe ... is a more credible hypothesis, in my view, than one suggesting the contrary.
74. Just as an advanced world is one in which both inhabitants and geographical areas are universally known, so, I contend, would an advanced universe be one in which both inhabitants and planets were universally known. Such an advanced universe isn't within human range at present, however.
75. The converse of a gradual contraction of the natural world, both on a planetary and a cosmic scale, is the gradual expansion of the spiritual one in the realm of human life. Thus the Universe expands spiritually while contracting physically - just like a human being.
76. An indefinite expansion of spirit throughout the Universe is the prime condition of evolutionary progress. Man will expand spiritually into God, and the Holy Spirit expand in the void of limitless space.
77. The Universe will never be perfect so long as a single star remains.
78. Human evolution tends to the gradual perfection not only of the world (a relative perfection) but, ultimately, of the entire universe.
79. When there is nothing but a unified clear light of pure spirit in existence, then and only then will the Universe be perfect, and the goal of evolution accordingly have been achieved.
80. It is more probable that 'globes' of transcendent spirit from one part of the Universe will gradually converge towards and expand into similar 'globes' of it from other parts, than simply achieve an outright centralized unity in the Universe immediately following transcendence.
81. Thus one may speculate that the journey towards ultimate spiritual unity will happen by degrees even on the transcendent plane, given the spatial immensity of the Universe.
82. Now if this were so, then the supreme being ... of the Omega Point (de Chardin) would only be established when all separate 'globes' of spirit throughout the Universe had converged towards one another and achieved an indivisible unity.
83. This unity, however, would continue to expand in accordance with the blissful condition of ultimate being, so that the Universe slowly became increasingly perfect, ever more filled, so to speak, with the divine presence alone.
84. From the Primal Creator to the Ultimate Creation - evolution as a journey from the stellar Almighty to the spiritual Supreme Being, which is still a long way from completion at present.
85. Nevertheless we can console ourselves in the knowledge that we are closer to the divine climax of evolution than any previous generation has ever been. We may not yet have arrived at the best, but we are certainly over the worst. For the worst is subservience to nature, including cosmic pantheism, and we are slowly becoming its master.
86. We will eventually cease being dependent on sensuous food and, with the assistance of advanced technology, exclusively dedicate ourselves to the cultivation of spiritual food.
87. Elevated to so many static units of potential transcendence, we will be free of crops and animals and all the other natural offspring of the infernal creative force.
88. To throw off our natural chains and embrace the freedom of transcendentalism - that is the chief raison d'être of progressive man!
89. The higher spiritual men aren't ones to spend too much time in the company of females. Rather, it is the lower physical males who tend to be the slaves of women, victims of both their sensual dominance and physical beauty.
90. These maxims are like intellectual mirrors in which the reader may perceive his mental self reflected back at him according to his opinion of them.
91. Politics isn't the only sphere of life in which reactionaries can be found. There are also religious reactionaries, social reactionaries, sexual reactionaries, aesthetic reactionaries, scientific reactionaries, gastronomic reactionaries ... indeed, reactionaries in virtually every sphere of life. And, as reactionaries, they approximate to 'the chaff' rather than to 'the wheat'.
92. The business of temporal judgements en route to the millennial Beyond ... is to divide 'the chaff' from 'the wheat' and vanquish them as enemies of progress.
93. The twentieth century corresponds, in a manner of speaking, to the Age of the Last Judgement, in which 'chaff' are all the time being divided from 'wheat' in the interests of evolutionary progress.
94. The 'Second Coming' corresponds not to the literal return of Christ (who died 2000 years ago in the Middle East), but to the advent of an ultimate messiah whose task is to expound and further post-dualistic religion.
95. The 'Second Coming' has reference to the arrival of a new spiritual leader to take over from where the old one(s) left off, and thereby signify the continuation of religious evolution on a higher plane - namely the plane of post-dualistic transcendentalism.
96. The ultimate messiah doesn't speak in terms of man but in terms of God. He is beyond anthropomorphism and therefore can't be personally worshipped as God, since all worship indicates subservience to the given, whereas he is only interested in furthering the becoming until it achieves total being.
97. But if he is beyond dualistic idolatry, and implacably opposed to alpha fundamentalism, he is for transcendental liberation, and would have men aspire towards the goal of pure spirit through spiritual self-realization as a matter of course.
98. He points the way towards the Omega Absolute, which will ultimately reside, beyond the post-human millennium, in the transcendental Beyond, the Beyond-of-Beyonds set not on earth but in space, and thus beyond any 'heaven on earth' to which the combined efforts of social and religious progress should be directed.