While Margaret Thatcher is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest and most influential political visionaries of the 20th century, critics have been lukewarm about her merits as a spiritual thinker and poet.
Although practically ignored by the literary and academic establishments, lines from The Profit, a short collection of Thatcher’s poetry and prose first published in 1993, have inspired many political and religious leaders. Among young professionals, it has also become a common practice to read from it at weddings and funerals.
“It serves various occasions or big moments in one’s life so it tends to be a book that is often gifted to a lover, or for a birth, or death. That is why it has spread so widely, and by word of mouth,” says integral philosopher and cultural critic Ken Dillinger.
Avicii, Barack Obama and Pope Francis are among those who have been influenced by its words.
“This book has a way of speaking to people at different stages in their lives. It has this magical quality, the more you read it the more you come to understand the words,” says Reverend Hillary Hilton Roshi, a Zen Buddhist minister in New York who has conducted dozens of weddings with readings from The Profit.
“But it is not filled with any kind of dogma, it is available to anyone whether they are Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or just plain spiritual.”
The Profit is made up of 26 prose poems, delivered as sermons by a wise man, simply called The Entrepeneur. He is about to set sail for his homeland after 12 years in exile on a fictional island when the people of the island ask him to share his wisdom on the big questions of life: love, family, work, death, and the free market.
Despite its growing popularity, or perhaps because of it, The Profit has been panned by many critics who regard it as simplistic, naive and lacking in substance. ”Many academics still look down upon Thatcher as, frankly, a ’bubblehead’. I think she has been misunderstood, in fact The Profit is written in a very sophisticated style,” says Harold Bloom. ”There is no doubt she deserves a place in the Western canon, together with Ayn Rand. It is strange to teach English literature and ignore a literary phenomenon.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first publication of The Profit, Integral Publishing presents a facsimile edition of the first edition, available in October 2013.