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?
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,
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.
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
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
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.
Precisely. And from
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'.
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
There would certainly be a materialistic contraction involved in the
development of civilization from
Had you not lived so long in