The Mysticism of The Wizard of Oz: Our Journey Home

Have you ever considered that The Wizard of Oz is an excellent example of the Hero’s Journey, of the monomyth, of the mystical experience of our journey back Home?

The Wizard of Oz is a mythological story of a transformative mystical experience. (The following is based on the film version, that is claimed to have “been seen by more people than any other motion picture in history.”)

Dorothy had many perceived troubles in her life. It seems no one would listen to her, and her Beloved (pet) was going to be killed, sacrificed. Perhaps somewhere over the rainbow, way up on High in a Heaven, she’d find the answers to her hopes and dreams and the Love that would redeem her and her Beloved from suffering and death. She decides to try to run away from all her troubles, seeking that salvation, that liberation.

In the process she is knocked on the head, and falls unconscious into a mystical but very vivid and real technicolor dream-vision, an altered state of consciousness, a mystical state. There she only wants to return back Home to her Beloved family. She’s told if she will just follow the yellow brick road she’ll eventually find Home. She goes on a long journey to Oz, where the Godly wizard might be able to save her. She passes through many dark nights of the soul and struggles with an evil egotistical witch along the way, even encountering death itself. She meets friends along the way who are almost exact reflections of her Beloved family/friends back Home.

They finally reach the Emerald City, a great Temple, and after some tests, and even more dark nights with the egoic witch, they come to meet the great and powerful Wizard, the supreme God and Highest, who has been hiding behind a veil the whole time. They are disillusioned to find that he is not the Great Supernatural Magician everyone thought he was. Dorothy comes to discover that her way back Home to her Beloved was with her all along, throughout the whole journey, even the slippers on her own two feet, the great “Oz” within. Closing her eyes to focus deep within, tapping her ruby slippers together three times, and repeating a key phrase, a password-mantra, a meditation object, she passes through the true veil.

She Awakens in bed at Home surrounded by Beloved Family. She insists that her vision was real, the real Truth, but no one really believes her. She realizes that the Truth is that there is no place like Home with her Family; that’s where the Life and Love is that she was looking for, her Redemption, her Salvation, her Liberation, right where she was standing all along, in her own two shoes, and in the Life she is living with family and friends. It was within her all along, but she just couldn’t see it before. She was unconscious, unaware, unknowing, blind to her own Life, and the Love that was present even in her suffering.

It’s the Hero’s Journey, the monomyth, the story within almost every story, every narrative, every myth, every allegory, every scripture. We like this story because it is our story.

It is our journey. We are “Dorothy” on her way to “Oz.”

There’s no place like Home. As the poet T. S. Eliot also recognized:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

-T. S. Eliot

Look and See!

Here is a great quote about L. Frank Baum (the author of the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) that my wife, Raven, learned about in her graduate studies:

To help them get through the tough times, Gage [Baum’s mother-in-law] imparted to her daughter and son-in-law a faith that she called “the crown blessing of my life.” The Theosophical Society, founded by the world-traveler Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875, offered up a newfangled amalgam of Buddhism and Hinduism that spoke of following life’s golden path to enlightenment, a journey to find the wisdom, compassion and courage within. While Baum actually walked on a physical yellow brick road as a teenager on his way to boarding school, it was his reflections on Theosophy later in life that seemed to give the famous footpath in his story its higher meaning. Theosophy appealed to both Frank and Maud [his wife] because it seemed to be a way to transcend the disappointments of ordinary life. Members of the Theosophical Society often discussed how to meditate so intensely that they could realize an out-of-body experience in a mystical dimension called the “Astral Plane.”

Evan I. Schwartz, “Matilda Josyln Gage – the Unlikely Inspiration for the Wizard of Oz

This article also notes when the inspiration for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz struck Baum:

Shortly after Gage’s death, Baum was overwhelmed by a flood of images that converged during one transcendent moment in the entrance to his Chicago home. “Suddenly, this [one] story came in and took possession,” he later marveled. “The story really seemed to write itself…. I grabbed a piece of paper that was lying there.”

Evan I. Schwartz, “Matilda Josyln Gage – the Unlikely Inspiration for the Wizard of Oz

Indeed, they do write themselves.

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4 thoughts on “The Mysticism of The Wizard of Oz: Our Journey Home

  1. Bryce, “The Wizard of Oz” was a great movie. It was released in 1939, the year I was born. Your comparing Dorothy’s journey to a mystical experience seemed like quite a stretch until I read the story of the author Frank Baum and the Theosophical Society that made it quite reasonable. Thanks for this post.

  2. Everything we need is already within us. Everything ever created contains the ‘blue-print’ to find what we seek.

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