A Fundamental Dichotomy


MARTIN: Would you regard being reserved as a good or a bad thing?

DONAL: Why do you ask?

MARTIN: Well, I recently read of the British temperament being described by no less a writer than Anthony Burgess as frightfully eclarté but, nevertheless, preferable to the French one, which, as you know, is rather the opposite.

DONAL: Ah, I see!  And presumably you don't know whether or not to agree?

MARTIN: No, I suppose not.

DONAL: Well, in my opinion, the French temperament is preferable to the British one, even though it has its nasty side.  And I regard it as preferable because it reflects an uninhibited approach to life which indicates a divine rather than a diabolic orientation.

MARTIN: I'm not sure that I follow you.

DONAL: Doubtless because you are unaware that to be reserved is a star-like tendency in which one is shut off from other people in one's own little consciousness, in the assertion of one's individuality and separateness.  The stars, corresponding to the diabolic roots of evolution, tend to diverge from one another ... rather than to converge towards one another, to contract rather than to expand.  Well, a temperament described as eclarté does pretty much the same thing, since other people are not seen as presences to converge towards but, on the contrary, as something to avoid.  One prefers to remain imprisoned within one's own identity, reserved in one's conduct and speech.  The other person isn't someone to open up to but, more usually, someone to fear as a potential enemy or competitor.

MARTIN: Yes, but one can open up to people in a nasty way, abusing them with foul language, and I am sure the estimable writer I read had that in mind when he described the British temperament as being preferable to the French one.

DONAL: Maybe he did.  But such unpleasant speech is simply the reverse side of opening up to others in a pleasant way, and needn't imply that an uninhibited attitude to people is necessarily bad.  At least one is prepared to acknowledge others and to impose one's soul upon them, which is arguably better than to ignore them altogether, as if they didn't exist or were so many inferior creatures, scarcely human.  One embraces others spiritually, drawing them into one's world, affirming the communion of human beings, the fact that, although possessing distinct bodies, they are in some sense linked together mentally and should share a common aspiration towards spiritual unity.  Being reserved is to deny this, to prefer the separate to the unitary, the individual to the collective.  Of course, there are times when it is expedient to be reserved, when an uninhibited attitude to others would be foolhardy or simply out-of-place.  But I cannot agree with your author that a reserved temperament, such as the British are alleged to possess, is preferable to an unreserved one.

MARTIN: But why, as a rule, are the French so different from the British in this respect?

DONAL: Why indeed?  I think you will find that it has something to do with the respective national constitutions of the two peoples, with the fact, I mean, that nations are normally divisible into those which are predominantly materialistic and those, conversely, which are predominantly spiritualistic.  This is a fundamental dichotomy traceable, so I believe, to the basic antagonism at the root of the Galaxy between stars and planets, the one effectively feminine, the other masculine, and is the reason why some countries acquire a star-like materialistic tendency whilst others, by contrast, acquire a planet-like spiritualistic one.  Evidently the Protestant British developed from the former, whereas their French counterparts, more given to Catholicism, developed from the latter.  Hence the traditional antagonism between the two peoples, an antagonism which isn't entirely allayed even now, although it is certainly past its prime, so to speak, since we no longer live in a world dominated by dualism.  The British and the French came to power as imperialist nations at the dualistic stage of evolution, albeit as late dualistic powers.  They have since been superseded by the transitional powers ... in between dualism and post-dualism ... of, amongst others, Japan and the United States.

MARTIN: And presumably this same dichotomy between a predominantly materialistic and a predominantly spiritualistic orientation still applies on the transitional plane to which you allude.

DONAL: Yes, except that, as they are a little further up the evolutionary ladder, so to speak, the Japanese will be a shade less reserved than the British, while the Americans, by contrast, will be a shade more uninhibited than the French.  The diabolic side of evolution contracts while the divine side of it expands.

MARTIN: I seem to recall that the only time a complete stranger ever started a conversation with me was in a small public garden off the Boulevard de Clichy in Paris, and that he happened to be an American.

DONAL: Well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?  An American is usually the best bet, these days, for an uninhibited attitude towards strangers, and where better to display it in Europe than Paris, capital of the civilization preceding the American one on the spiritualistic side of evolution.  I trust you enjoyed the conversation?

MARTIN: To be sure, it was one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had, I who had grown all-too-accustomed to a reserved life in London.

DONAL: Considering you are an Irishman, that is a most unfortunate thing!  For we are also on the spiritualistic side of evolution, though we haven't as yet blossomed into the fully-uninhibited attitude or approach to life we shall adopt, once the next civilization gets properly under way and we are enabled to take our rightful place beside China on the full-blown post-dualistic level of evolution.

MARTIN: How do you mean?

DONAL: Well, what America is to France, Ireland will subsequently become, in conjunction with several other countries, to America, as post-dualistic civilization takes over from where transitional civilization leaves off.  As a spiritualistic people, we could only develop a more uninhibited attitude to life than the Americans currently possess, since evolutionary progress demands that spiritual expansion be stepped-up with each successive stage of civilized advancement.  And, simultaneously with this, it demands that the materialistic contracts, so that the Chinese will be less reserved, on the whole, than the latter-day Japanese, albeit still essentially a reserved rather than an uninhibited people.

MARTIN: Thus there will be progress along both the positive and negative sides of evolution, as the former becomes more uninhibited and the latter less reserved.

DONAL: Precisely.  And from Ireland, positivity will spread throughout the world ... to establish the ultimate human civilization, universal and transcendental.  The planet-like countries are destined to completely triumph over the star-like ones as the world becomes exclusively omega-orientated.  However, during the coming decades, the negative side of evolution will continue to exist, principally in the guise of China, though on a less reserved level, as I said, than is currently manifested among the Japanese.  But the Irish will begin to acquire a more positive outlook, compatible with Ireland's destiny as the next spiritualistic nation in the evolution of the world.  At present, they are still partly victims of the centuries-old influence of British imperialism on their country and therefore somewhat akin to convalescents recovering from a lengthy illness.  But once the last traces of bourgeois imperialism disappear from their system, they will be in a better position to develop their considerable spiritual potential, and thus take over from America the expansion of positivity in an even more unreserved attitude towards one another.  Why, in comparison with them, even the French might well appear reserved!

MARTIN: While the Chinese, as a less reserved people than their alleged national predecessors on the materialistic side of evolution, might well appear similar to the French, whose uninhibitedness you regard as less radical than the Americans'.

DONAL: Whether a lower stage of uninhibitedness could ever approximate to a higher stage of reservedness, or vice versa, is a moot point, though you may not be all that far from the truth in what you say!  Anyway, you would soon notice the difference between the converse situation, which would contrast, say, Victorian Britain on a lower stage of reservedness with the future transcendental Ireland on a higher stage of uninhibitedness.  However, that is merely intellectual speculation, unworthy of serious philosophical discussion!  We should concern ourselves with the actual and potential, not the imaginary.  And as long as we accept the fact that evolution progresses from Britain to China via Japan on the materialistic side, and from France to, amongst other countries, Ireland via America on the spiritualistic side, then I believe we shan't go far wrong - not, at any rate, as far as the progression from late dualism to early post-dualism is concerned.... Incidentally, the fact that Ireland is a small country materially is all the more reason why it should become a big one spiritually.  By contrast, China is such a big country materially that it could only be a relatively small one spiritually, since the one factor tends to condition the other.

MARTIN: There would certainly be a materialistic contraction involved in the development of civilization from America to Ireland, although the contention that China signifies a materialistic expansion over Japan precludes your theory from being logically consistent.  Nevertheless, irrespective of the countries concerned, there is probably something to be said for your underlining argument concerning the basic dichotomy between reserved and unreserved nations, whatever the respective size or shape of any given nation may happen to be, and I now incline to agree with you that the overall tendency of evolution is to contract the former and expand the latter, thereby gradually improving the moral constitution of the world.  If the British, Japanese, and Chinese would be less than flattered by your contentions, you can at least take some consolation from the likelihood that the French, Americans, and Irish would find them progressively more flattering, in accordance with their respective levels of uninhibitedness.  From now on I will know the truth about being eclarté, deeming it preferable to have a sociable rather than an unsociable, or reserved, national temperament.

DONAL: Had you not lived so long in England, you would have known the truth sooner.  But, frankly, I can't blame you for your ignorance!