In the 1913 play Pygmalion by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), phonetics professor Henry Higgins makes an offer to Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Professor Higgins believes he can uplift Eliza’s social status simply by improving her speech patterns. Eliza visited Professor Higgins because a flower shop rejected her because of her accent. She offered to pay for his services, even though it was a relative pittance to Higgins. After some further conversation, Higgins makes Eliza an offer that could be considered an offer of a lifetime:
“You are to stay here for the next six months…learning how to speak beautifully like a lady in a florist shop. If you’re good and do what you’re told, you’ll sleep in a proper bedroom…have lots to eat, money to buy chocolates and take rides in taxis. But if you are naughty and idle…you’ll sleep in the kitchen amongst the black beetles…and be walloped by Mrs. Pearce [the housekeeper] with a broomstick. At the end of six months, you shall be taken to Buckingham Palace…in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the king finds out that you are not a lady…the police will take you to the Tower of London where your head will be cut off…as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls. But if you are not found out, you shall have a present of…seven and six [seven shillings and six pence, which was some money in 1913] to start life with as a lady in a shop. If you refuse this offer…you will be the most ungrateful, wicked girl…and the angels will weep for you!”
If you refuse this offer
Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because I feel like I should tell you my answers to some of the questions in the Religious Conditioning Self-Test. I mentioned this in the previous post. I am focusing on questions 2 through 4. Question 2 is “If I continue to follow my religion, will I gain something?” I don’t believe I will necessarily become wealthier, more beautiful or more charming. I do believe that I will become simpler and deeper. I believe that I will become stronger and more competent. Question 3 is “If I stop following my religion, will I lose something?” I might lose the trail of Knowledge within me. I might become more affected by the conditioning of my culture, the mental environment in which I live, and the shadows of the past. Question 4 is “If I stop following my religion, will something bad happen to me?” There is no punishment involved, but I might have to try again in fulfilling my purpose.
I wish for every practitioner of every religion to feel the way I feel about my studenthood of the New Message from God. Like the offer of Henry Higgins to Eliza Doolittle, the chance to study Steps to Knowledge feels like the offer of a lifetime to me. I don’t really know why this is something I am being offered. But here it is. All I know is that if I were to stop following the Greater Community Way of Knowledge, I feel like the angels would weep for me.
What do I mean? I mean it just doesn’t feel good enough for me anymore for one part of humanity to succeed at the expense of another. I love my country. I want it to succeed. But I would take no joy in its success if it involved the failure of another nation. Is there any victory that isn’t a funeral? I dream a world where every nation has a memorial to the enemy combatants and civilians killed in its wars.
I must stretch myself in space and time. What do I mean? I mean it just doesn’t feel good enough for me anymore to think of some future event and say, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to be around to see it.” I feel like taking a page from the Great Law of the Iroquois and considering the impact of something on humanity seven generations from now. I consider this as 140 years. The Iroquois realized that this was tricky. In their words, it required having “skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” I’m not sure I have that yet. All I know is that I’m working on it.
I must stretch myself in space and time. What do I mean? I mean I have to adjust my awareness to think a little bit more about the success of the human family. I mean I have to adjust my awareness to think further ahead than I’m used to thinking. Can I help my people succeed 140 years from now? All I know is that I must try.
I am recalling the Rumi poem which I have already shared once in this space:
Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
Chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
And fall in.
I should be suspicious
Of what I want.
Someone is going to ask, “Well, what should we do then?” Steps to Knowledge recommends at this point that we cultivate a healthy suspicion of what we want for the world. Steps to Knowledge recommends at this point that we reserve a space for what Knowledge knows it must contribute, for the mission we have in life to fulfill, for the work we have come to the world to do.