L. Frank Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
With Christmas almost upon us, I’m always reminded of the iconic film The Wizard of Oz which always seemed to be on TV on Christmas Day in the UK in the 1970s, and after becoming a Freemason, the film took on a slightly more meaningful aspect as its themes and imagery became more apparent, with special reference to the rainbow and the enlightened journey that the central characters undertook on the yellow brick road. The story is a beautiful American fairytale that portrays the triumph of good over evil, and of course, who could forget those flying monkeys! The film was based on the book by L. Frank Baum called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which was first published in 1900, and though Baum was not a Mason, he was a member of the Theosophical Society, joining in Chicago in 1892.
The Theosophical Society was formed by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and a number of others in New York in 1875, the society being described as ‘…an unsectarian body of seekers after truth, who endeavour to promote Brotherhood and strive to serve humanity’. The group promoted the study of Occultism and the Cabala and their philosophies examined the physical and non-physical aspects of the Universe, the evolution of which, was, according to Blavatsky, overseen by a ‘hidden spiritual hierarchy’ or ‘Masters of the Ancient Wisdom’. The Theosophical Society was, according to Blavatsky, created in an attempt by these ‘Hidden Masters’, to guide humanity on the evolutionary pathway, and for the attainment of perfection and the conscious.
The themes embedded with The Wizard of Oz certainly reflect some of the philosophies of the Theosophical Society; Dorothy discovers friends and allies and they share the same journey of discovery together, they are all lost in some way, and lack a physical or non-physical aspect to their body or personality – the lion requires courage, the tin man a heart, and the scarecrow a brain. They overcome the enemies – the dark evil elements – to find the Wizard of Oz, but he is a charlatan, and there is just a man hiding behind the curtain, pulling the strings, manipulating the people of Oz. In the end, everyone acquires whatever aspect of themselves was missing, though they discovered they had what they were looking for after all, and what they received from the bogus Wizard was seemingly superficial; the lion got his courage from a ‘potion’, the tin man received a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the scarecrow a brain full of bran, pins and needles. However, their faith and belief in the Wizard (who is really a good man) gave a potency to these items as a focus for their desires. It is revealed to Dorothy by the good witch that her silver slippers can take her anywhere she wishes to go (they are ruby slippers in the film), and Dorothy returns home a happy, knowledgeable and enlightened person after her journey of discovery.