The Occult Background of The Wizard of Oz
It is a known fact that The Wizard of Oz is everybody's all-time favorite, perennial fantasy film musical from MGM during its golden era. The Wizard of Oz was first re-released in 1949, and then in 1955, and then for many seasons, it was featured regularly on network TV as a notable primetime event. It soon became a classic film that had annual showings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and/or also during Easter time. This iconic film probably has been seen by more people than any other motion picture over multiple decades. According to the Library of Congress, the musical fantasy is the most watched movie in history. Its memorable story and its cast of colorful characters contributed to making it an American classic. Up until now, kids everywhere are still enchanted by Oz’s world of wonder. However, few only knows its deceptive simplicity, the story of the Wizard of Oz conceals an intriguing esoteric truths inspired by Theosophy. In this article, we’ll look at the Wizard of Oz’s occult meaning and its author’s background.
Although the Wizard of Oz is widely known as an innocent children’s fairy tale, it is very impossible not to attribute a symbolic meaning to Dorothy’s "fantastic" quest. As in all great stories, the characters and the symbols of the Wizard of Oz can be given another layer of interpretation. Many analyses appeared throughout the decades describing the story as an “atheist manifesto” while others saw it as a promotion of populism. It is through an understanding of the author’s philosophical background and beliefs, however, that the story’s true meaning can be understood.
Let's get to know L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz, He was a member of the Theosophical Society, which is an organization based on occult research and the comparative study of religions. The Theosophical Society is popularly known as an occult organization, mainly based on the teachings of Helena P. Blavatsky, it seeks to extract the common roots of all religions in order to form a universal doctrine.
“But it is perhaps desirable to state unequivocally that the teachings, however fragmentary and incomplete, contained in these volumes, belong neither to the Hindu, the Zoroastrian, the Chaldean, nor the Egyptian religion,.neither to Buddhism, Islam, Judaism nor Christianity exclusively. The Secret Doctrine is the essence of all these. Sprung from it in their origins, the various religious schemes are now made to merge back into their original element, out of which every mystery and dogma has grown, developed, and become materialized.”-H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine
“First — To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.Second — To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.Third — To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.”-The Theosophist, vol 75, No 6
At the core of Theosophical teachings are the same tenets found in many other occult schools: the belief of the presence of a “divine spark” within every person that with proper discipline and training, can lead to spiritual illumination and a state of virtual godliness. Another important principle found in Theosophy is reincarnation. It is believed that the human soul, like all other things in the universe, go through seven stages of development.
“Theosophical writings propose that human civilizations, like all other parts of the universe, develop cyclically through seven stages. Blavatsky posited that the whole humanity, and indeed every reincarnating human monad, evolves through a series of seven “Root Races”. Thus in the first age, humans were pure spirit; in the second age, they were sexless beings inhabiting the now lost continent of Hyperborea; in the third age the giant Lemurians were informed by spiritual impulses endowing them with human consciousness and sexual reproduction. Modern humans finally developed on the continent of Atlantis. Since Atlantis was the nadir of the cycle, the present fifth age is a time of reawakening humanity’s psychic gifts. The term psychic here really means the realization of the permeability of consciousness as it had not been known earlier in evolution, although sensed by some more sensitive individuals of our species.”
Did you know that before writing the Wizard of Oz, Baum held many jobs? One of which was being the editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In 1890, Baum wrote a series of articles introducing his readers to Theosophy, including his views on Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius and Christ. At that time, he already showed a deep understanding of its philosophy. Here’s an excerpt of his “Editor’s Musings”:
“Amongst various sects so numerous in America today who find their fundamental basis in occultism, the Theosophist stands pre-eminent both in intelligence and point of numbers. Theosophy is not a religion. Its followers are simply “searchers after Truth”. The Theosophists, in fact, are the dissatisfied with the world, dissenters from all creeds. They owe their origin to the wise men of India, and are numerous, not only in the far famed mystic East, but in England, France, Germany and Russia. They admit the existence of a God – not necessarily of a personal God. To them God is Nature and Nature is God…But despite this, if Christianity is Truth, as our education has taught us to believe, there can be no menace to it in Theosophy.”Baum discussed also the use of mystic symbolism in fiction, something he accomplished ten years later with the Wizard of Oz:
-L. Frank Baum, Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, January 25th 1890
“There is a strong tendency in modern novelists towards introducing some vein of mysticism or occultism into their writings. Books of this character are eagerly bought and read by the people, both in Europe and America. It shows the innate longing in our natures to unravel the mysterious: to seek some explanation, however fictitious, of the unexplainable in nature and in our daily existence. For, as we advance in education, our desire for knowledge increases, and we are less satisfied to remain in ignorance of that mysterious fountain-head from which emanates all that is sublime and grand and incomprehensible in nature.The appetite of our age for occultism demands to be satisfied, and while with the mediocrity of people will result in mere sensationalism, it will lead in many to higher and nobler and bolder thought; and who can tell what mysteries these braver and abler intellects may unravel in future ages?”-L. Frank Baum, Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, February 22nd 1890
Two years after writing those articles, L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage joined the Theosophical Society in Chicago. The archives of the Theosophical Society in Pasadena, California recorded the start of their membership as September 4th, 1892. In 1890, the Wizard of Oz was published. And when asked about how Baum got his inspiration for the story, he replied:
“It was pure inspiration…It came to me right out of the blue. I think that sometimes the Great Author has a message to get across and He has to use the instrument at hand. I happened to be that medium, and I believe the magic key was given me to open the doors to sympathy and understanding, joy, peace and happiness.”-L. Frank Baum, cited by Hearn 73The Wizard of Oz is very much appreciated within the Theosophical Society. In 1986, The American Theosophist magazine recognized Baum as a “notable Theosophist” who thoroughly represented the organization’s philosophy.
“Although readers have not looked at his fairy tales for their Theosophical content, it is significant that Baum became a famous writer of children’s books after he came into contact with Theosophy. Theosophical ideas permeate his work and provided inspiration for it. Indeed, The Wizard can be regarded as Theosophical allegory, pervaded by Theosophical ideas from beginning to end. The story came to Baum as an inspiration, and he accepted it with a certain awe as a gift from outside, or perhaps from deep within, himself.”-American Theosophist no 74, 1986The history behind the Wizard of Oz is interesting. It suggests that the Wizard of Oz has had an important part in the occult world all along.