Few movies can interpret life’s journey so that it makes you contemplate the bigger picture, like The Wizard of Oz. Written initially as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, the beloved children’s book by L. Frank Baum, turned 1940 Best Picture Oscar winner, is filled with universal themes that are part and parcel of a metaphysical understanding of life and worth your attention when expanding your consciousness. It is brimming with symbolism and written allegorically, mimicking a spiritual quest for self-actualization and enlightenment. Baum was a famous Theosophist whose beliefs, consciously or unconsciously, undoubtedly influenced his fabled fairy tale. Notable theosophical ideas include:
· The existence of a single, divine power promoting unity
· The interconnectedness of all things
· Nature follows universal laws
· Direct contact with Spirit is established through intuition and evolving consciousness.
The land of Oz and Dorothy’s journey through it parallels the awakening journey toward spiritual realization and becoming a spiritually conscious individual. So, let’s break down the movie’s tropes to examine the universal themes and unearth their hidden messages, shall we?
DOROTHY – The Spiritual Aspect
First up is the film’s protagonist and heroine, Dorothy. She is transported to the world of Oz through a traumatic twister that finds her lost and confused in a strange and unknown land. The chaos of the tornado is shocking and distressing, much like other painful events in life, such as the passing of a loved one or the loss of health, wealth, or love. These and similar events are catalysts to growth because we tend to learn significant life lessons. After such events, and like Dorothy, we, too, can find ourselves in a different world; the death of a loved one can leave us feeling empty and alone, and the diagnosis of a terminal illness can leave us feeling hopeless and out of control. In contrast, a divorce or financial loss can leave us starting over. They bring about change in one way or another.
Painful events can push us out of our comfort zone for our own good, even if we believe it’s against our will. It can be a harsh lesson, especially if we resist change. It creates inner and outer chaos that shakes our world unnecessarily. Yet, such events give us deeper insight to climb a little higher on the consciousness ladder. Though unpleasant, these events offer us a new level of understanding and awareness that we otherwise wouldn’t have had unless we went through it. Johnson says, “They are the internal tension that brings us to a higher place.” And I can testify to that; my Mother’s passing catalyzed my awakening journey and subsequent spiritual realization.
Throughout the movie, Dorothy longs to return “home” to Kansas. From a metaphysical perspective, Kansas represents Spirit, the universal “home” for each of us. Spirit is our natural state, fundamental truth, and essence of who we really are. Consider when you go on vacation and leave your house. Your time away will be filled with exciting adventures and even a few mishaps, yet I ask you, how good does it feel to come home? Whether you’re a homebody who enjoys the solitude of your private sanctuary or a social butterfly who thrives on the hustle and bustle of being on the go, returning to what’s familiar to you always feels good – that’s the cycle of life. When we are born, we separate from The One Source (Spirit) to experience physical life and to know Spirit through form. The not-so-secret secret to life is integrating Spirit and body to bring about wholeness, thus unifying the Divinity within ourselves. It is no small feat; for most of us, it takes many lifetimes. We live and learn each lifetime, only to do it again with different experiences and forms. Incarnation into physicality is like taking a vacation from our natural home, our spiritual (non-physical) state, only to return again and again. Spirit is where we all come from, lifetime after lifetime. And it is where we will return lifetime after lifetime—a continuous cycle of consciousness evolvement.
Johnson sums up Dorothy’s metaphorical journey beautifully: “It is a move towards self-actualization, atonement or at-one-ment, whole-ness or holiness. It is a re-membering or becoming again one member with what we once were.”
Dorothy is always seen with Toto close by, and for good reason. Toto, the dog, represents our intuition, which is never far from us. Baum chose a fitting symbol for our intuition because dogs are faithful and loyal protectors who love unconditionally. Our intuitive self does the same. Using Toto reminds us to always listen to that “little voice in our head,” our gut feeling. Pay particular attention to his behavior the next time you watch the movie, and you’ll see he was never wrong, always guiding Dorothy when appropriate.
Ruby Red Slippers
Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz and discover that they’ve killed the Wicked Witch of the East, who, up until that time, wore ruby red slippers. Glinda tells Dorothy they must hold magical powers if her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, badly wants them. She’s right. Notice how the ruby red slippers never leave Dorothy’s feet once they appear on her. Although Ginda tells Dorothy not to let the slippers off her feet lest she be at the Wicked sister’s mercy, Dorothy couldn’t if she tried. They can’t come off because they represent her inner power. Our inner power can never be taken away from us, even if we try to deny it or inadvertently serve it to others on a silver platter. When we succumb to negativity or the manipulative influence of others, we temporarily give away our power, but it is never truly gone. As Glinda also remarked, “There they are, and there they’ll stay,” meaning that once we overcome negativity or adverse life situations, we reclaim our innate power.
Glinda, the Witch of the North
She represents our spiritual team, whether they be our Higher Self, guardian angels, or ethereal beings who guide and help us without interfering with our free will. Notice how Glinda appears in both physical and non-physical form. Such is the case with our religious deities and Ascended Masters, many of whom have walked this planet physically just like our loved ones who eventually cross on to watch over us.
Equipped with her inner power, intuition, and spiritual cheerleading team, Dorothy sets out on the yellow brick road searching for help from the Wizard himself.
SCARECROW – The Mental Aspect
She soon encounters the Scarecrow, who desires a “brain.” The Scarecrow symbolizes the mind and the ability to think cognitively. Cognitive thinking is learning, remembering, reasoning, paying attention, and comprehending information to turn it into knowledge. The Scarecrow didn’t believe he had this ability, yet he:
- Instructed Dorothy to “bend the nail down in the back” so he might slip off.
- Astutely observed, “But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”
- Cleverly says to Dorothy: “I’ll show you how to get apples,” then makes a funny face at the tree that throws apples at them.
His plight of desiring a brain exemplifies The Hermetic Principle of Mentalism, which states, “The All is Mind; the Universe is mental.” This principle teaches that all things are created from and expanded from the mind via thoughts. Thoughts are energy that are continually being acted upon and responded to through Universal Law. They are our most important tool in creating the life we desire. Everything starts as a thought because thoughts are the first step in the three-step creative process of THOUGHT-WORD-DEED. When you think about it (that’s the thought), when you speak or write it into existence (that’s the word), and when you act on it (that’s the deed), that’s the process for how everything in our physical world manifests. Whether that initial thought comes from your imagination or through inspiration from others, it is the seed that produces the fruit.
TIN MAN – The Emotional Aspect
With the Scarecrow in tow, he and Dorothy continue walking when they encounter the Tin Man, who desires a “heart.” He symbolizes emotions and the ability to love unconditionally. E-motion, or energy in motion, is fundamental to being human. There is a plethora of emotions that can all be traced back to one of two basic emotions – fear and love. And even emotions born out of fear can be traced back to love – the love of safety, security, and self-preservation.
Emotional regulation is a necessary skill that one must develop to navigate life successfully. Properly processing your emotions allows you to respond rather than react to life. The goal of emotional regularity is not to never have or show emotions but to express them healthily to further your growth while not harming another. Is it okay to be sad? Yes. Is it okay to be angry? Of course. Is it okay to take it out on another? Absolutely not! Try as we may; we can never rid ourselves of emotion. We can suppress them with all our might, yet they never leave us, and we must honor our feelings even when it causes us distress to do so.
In dream interpretation, water represents emotions. Notice how the Tin Man says that he rusted when it began to rain. It is a fitting metaphor for becoming emotionally stagnant when unable to process our feelings appropriately. So, to keep dancing in the rain, so to speak, “feel your feels” and express your feelings with honesty, integrity, and authenticity because they are the avenue to liberation, as demonstrated by the Tin Man freeing Dorothy by using his axe to break through the castle door.
LION – The Physical Aspect
The trio sets forth, only to come to a “dark and creepy” forest, as Dorothy calls it. Herein lies the Cowardly Lion, who desires “courage.” He symbolizes physicality, self-confidence, overcoming fear, and taking action. Physical life can be “dark and creepy” for those kind and gentle souls unaccustomed to its dense and polarizing energies.
Is it ironic that Baum represented the confidence and courage to overcome life’s challenges with a “Cowardly” Lion, the so-called King of the Jungle? Perhaps, but it’s also apropos. Lions are “prideful” creatures that represent strength and power, two skills necessary to tackle the obstacles of physical life.
Many things in life are paradoxical and not what they seem. The Lion’s initial display of bravado and machoism falls flat with the group as it often does in the real world. Aggressiveness and combativeness often mask insecurity, like when the Lion, who in a fighter’s stance, says, “Put ’em up! Put ’em up! Which one of you first?” only seconds later to turn into a blubbering pile of mush.
Then, funnily enough, Toto pipes up, as does our intuition, in such times to test our commitment to the choices we’re making. Then, in response to the Lion’s chase of Toto, Dorothy slaps the Lion on the nose just as our intuition can “slap us in the face” with some harsh life lessons. As a result, the Lion then shifts from an over-confident brute to a slobbering, albeit humble mess.
Life has a way of humbling us, whether that be through failure, trauma, mistakes, embarrassment, etc. It’s then up to us to decide how to proceed from there. Do we pick up the pieces and move on, or stay right where we are? Do we play the victim and blame everyone else or take accountability for our behavior? Do we push ourselves outside our comfort zone or stay where it’s safe? Choices, choices, choices.
Since life is all about movement, it’s also about taking action. Growth and little else will occur without the will to take action. Positive thinking and mindful affirmations are great, but more is needed to do the job. To successfully manifest your desires, you have to be willing to act. You must be willing to do what scares you. You know, feel the fear and do it anyway. The saying “nothing changes if nothing changes” comes to mind here. Never believe something is beyond your ability because if you desire it and are willing to work for it, you can achieve it.
The 4 Aspects of Self and Gateways to Life
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion represent the four aspects of self and the gateways to experiencing life. As Alego points out, “Dorothy’s three companions are clearly thinking, feeling, and doing; the mental, emotional, and physical bodies. And she acquired them in that order, from “highest” to “lowest,” just as we do when we come into incarnation.”
Together, they seek the Wizard they believe will solve their problems. However, our beloved foursome doesn’t realize that they already have the power to solve their problems themselves. Each one embodies what they believe they don’t have. Dorothy is already home, having never really left Kansas; Scarecrow is the group’s brain, always coming up with ideas; Tin Man is very compassionate, wearing his proverbial heart on his tin sleeve, and the Cowardly Lion isn’t cowardly at all, courageously being the first to protect the group from danger. Ironically, they all exemplify the qualities they yearn for yet don’t believe they have.
Of particular note, the Wicked Witch shows up when Dorothy and Scarecrow meet Tin Man. She says, “Helping the little lady along, are you, my fine gentlemen?” indicating that the mental and emotional faculties work in cooperation with each other and when something threatens the ability of one, like when the Witch throws the ball of fire at Scarecrow, the other is there to assist like when Tin Man put out the fire with his tin hat. This scene reminds us that when something negative confronts us, we can rely on our mental and emotional faculties to see us through the experience if we approach it rationally. Dorothy then says to her newfound friends, “Oh, you’re the best friends anybody ever had. And it’s funny, but I feel as if I’ve known you all the time,” indicating that even when we suppress our feelings or deny our intellect, they are always a part of our being.
The Wicked Witch of the West – Obstacles to Growth
As the fabulous foursome journeys on toward the Wizard, the “dark and controlling presence” of the Wicked Witch is stalking their every move. She represents obstacles to growth, be they internal or external. Their purpose is to take our power away, as evidenced by the Witch stating, “Take special care of those ruby slippers; I want those most of all.”
Johnson states, “The Wicked Witch represents our Shadow side, the dark or unconscious part of the personality that the conscious ego tries to ignore.” Our internal chaos, such as confusion, suppression of feelings, or a self-sabotaging inner monologue, can dangerously work against us if left unchecked. To illustrate the internal conflict of our shadow side trying to “quiet” our intuitive self, notice how she puts Toto into baskets and her spell of the poisoned poppies puts him to sleep.
While Johnson’s statement is true, the Wicked Witch can also symbolize external problems, such as a lack of funds or support from others that hinder the path to success. Toxic relationships, family drama, and negative people will always be there to try to thwart our personal development, but only if we allow them to.
Regardless of what blocks our progress, life offers opportunities to “slay the beast” of our burdens, much like the Wizard asking the foursome to bring him the Witch’s broomstick. Courageously, Dorothy melts her with water in much the same way as being in touch with our feelings allows us to reclaim our power, overcome obstacles, and align with that which serves our highest good. Once we “dowse our inner wickedness” or confront the “witch in others,” there’s nothing we can’t do.
The Wizard – The False Prophet
Although described by Glinda as “very good but very mysterious,” the Wizard represents external spiritual teachers, gurus, and anyone who speaks of The Love and Light of Spirit yet has ulterior motives or those “of the cloth” that are well-intentioned but lack the self-awareness to be of any real benefit to others.
As with many external teachers, behind the curtain, “The Great and Powerful Oz” turns out to be none other than just a regular guy with troubles of his own. He symbolizes the illusion that others can fix our life for us. Too often, we think that if we go to church more, take another self-help class, or travel to our world’s sacred sites, we’ll find the answers we seek. Unfortunately, this is not true. While these activities are an excellent supplement to seeking enlightenment, they are but a complement to what we already know within. When we depend on an external source for enlightenment, we negate our power as an individualized expression of Spirit. We end up denying the Divinity within.
The Power of 3
When Glinda tells Dorothy to click her heels together three times and repeat the phrase “There’s no place like home,” the Good Witch shows Dorothy the power of 3. Numerologically, 3 is a catalytic number, meaning it brings together different things to create harmony so that something new can happen. It creates change without changing itself, which is its most powerful attribute. Here, it signals the uniting of the four aspects of self so that our “physical lives, emotional wellbeing, and spirituality can all flow in one direction.”
So, what’s the big takeaway from Dorothy’s journey through the land of Oz? Well, there are 2:
1. You have all the power to create the life you desire. You need not look outside for answers when you think for yourself, follow your heart, and keep moving forward despite obstacles.
2. There’s no “right” way to enlightenment and spiritual realization. Therefore, instead of following the yellow brick road (spiritual path) of someone else, follow your yellow brick road, and you’ll never be led astray.
So, the next time you watch this childhood classic, remember there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Thanks for reading!
“7 Tips for Improving Cognitive Thinking,” online.jcu.edu.au, Web. September 6, 2023.
Alego, John, “The Wizard of Oz: The Perilous Journey,” theosophical.org/publications, Web. August 28, 2023.
Fairchild, Alana, Messages in the Numbers: The Universe is Talking to You, Blue Angel Publishing, Australia, 2015.
Johnson, Andrew,” The Spirituality of Oz: The Meaning of the Movie,” theosophical.org/publications, Web. August 28, 2023.
The Wizard of Oz, Dir. Victor Fleming. 1939. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Film.
“Theosophy,” Wikipedia.com, Web. September 14, 2023.