The Occult Symbolism of the Wizard of Oz

“There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer, there is not trial that a spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty a strong intellect cannot surmount”
– H.P. Blavatsky

The Strange Characters of the Wizard of Oz

Before writing the Wizard of Oz, the author L. Frank Baum was editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In 1890, Baum wrote a series of articles regarding Theosophy, including his views on the use of mystic symbolism in fiction, something he put into practice ten years later with the Wizard of Oz. At that time, he wasn’t a member of the Theosophical Society but he exhibited a profound understanding of its teachings. The story of the Wizard of Oz is greatly admired by prominent members of the Theosophical Society, so much so that in 1986,  they recognized Baum as a “notable Theosophist” who thoroughly represented the organization’s philosophy.

Although the Wizard of Oz is considered by many as a children’s fairy tale, it is rife with occult symbolism & spiritual allegory. The characters and the symbols

Margaret Hamilton the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz

in the Wizard of Oz not only relate to everyday archetypes that anybody can easily understand but also contain double meanings that are open to interpretation. One theory suggests the story is an “atheist manifesto” while another suggest it extols populism. It is through a careful investigation into the author’s background however, that the story’s true meaning is revealed.

L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz was a member of the Theosophical Society, which is an organization based on occult research and the comparative study of religions. Baum had a deep understanding of Theosophy and, consciously or not, created an allegory of Theosophic teachings when he wrote the Wizard of Oz. The entire story is an allegorical tale of the soul’s journey toward enlightenment. The same concept of The Yellow Brick Road, for example in Buddhism is referred to as the “Golden Path” & is an integral concept in theosophical beliefs.

The story begins with Dorothy Gale in Kansas, representing the material world, or the physical plane from where our spiritual journey must begin. By exhibiting a desire to seek a higher truth Dorothy has passed the Nadir, & yearns to go over the rainbow, and follow the path to illumination.

She is transported to Oz by a giant cyclone which symbolizes the cycles of karma, the cycle of errors and lessons learned. It also represents the theosophical belief in reincarnation, the cycle of the multiple lives & deaths of a soul toward divinity. In occult rhetoric, the spiral represents the evolving self, the Yellow Brick Road begins as an outwardly expanding spiral. This is the soul’s journey as it ascends from the lower depths of consciousness of matter into the higher plane of the spiritual world.

The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland

Before she begins her journey, Dorothy is given silver shoes in the original script, representative of the “silver cord” of Mystery Schools. In the movie Dorothy is given ruby slippers because the director, thought the color red looked better against the Yellow background of the Road. In occult schools, the silver cord is considered to be the link between our material and spiritual selves. Along the Yellow Brick road, Dorothy meets Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion who are searching for a brain, a heart and courage respectively. These characters embody the qualities needed by the initiate in order to complete their quest for illumination.

After encountering & conquering a series of trials, the troupe arrive at Emerald city to meet The Wizard. It is important to note the significance of Toto here. Throughout the movie, Dorothy has conversations with Toto, or her inner intuitive self. Toto represents her inner voice & is an integral part of the script. Toto was always right. Toto represents the inner, intuitive, instinctual, most animal-like part of us. Upon their encounter with the Wizards Toto barks at the little man behind the curtain. It is he who realizes the Wizard is a fraud. At the Gale Farm and again at the castle, the Witch tries to put Toto into a basket. What is shadow will try to block or contain the intuitive. In both cases, Toto jumps out of the basket and escapes. The lesson here is that our intuitive voice can be ignored, but not contained.

In the final scene, Toto chases after a cat, causing Dorothy to chase after him and hence miss her balloon ride. This is what leads to Dorothy’s ultimate transformation, to the discovery of her inner self. The balloon ride is traditional religion, with a spindly wizard promising a trip to the Divine. Toto convinces Dorothy to abandon the balloon, in order for her to find her Mojo. This reminds us to trust our gut feelings, to listen to our intuition, so that our minds may be more receptive to divine inspiration.

Toto: The Subconscious Self

The false Wizard invites Dorothy into his balloon to go back to Kansas, her final destination. She however follows Toto (her intuition) and gets out of the balloon, which represents the empty promises of organized religions. This leads to her ultimate revelation and, with the help of the Good Witch of the North (her divine guide), she finally understands: everything she ever wanted could be found “in her own backyard”or point of fact-‘within’.

In order to achieve enlightenment Dorothy following the advice of the good witches of the North and

Dorothy in a Field of Heroin Poppies

South has to vanquish the wicked witches of the East and the West. This is representing the perceived duality in the battle between good & evil. Their union forming a vertical & horizontal axis representing the material world & the vertical of the spiritual dimension, this is symbolic of the marriage between the two in perpetual conflict & perfect balance. “Toto represents the inner, intuitive, instinctual, most animal-like part of us. Throughout the movie, Dorothy has conversations with Toto, or her inner intuitive self. The lesson here is to listen to the Toto within. In this movie, Toto was never wrong. When he barks at the scarecrow, Dorothy tries to ignore him: “Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.”

At the story’s conclusion, Dorothy wakes up in Kansas: at the very point where she first began. Her spiritual & physical life are irreversibly intertwined. She is now comfortable within herself, empowered and, despite her family’s disbelief in this case representing the uninitiated in esoteric traditions, Dorothy concludes- “There is no place like home”.

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