One of the most popular stories of the 20th century is “The Wizard of Oz.” It is really so popular because, as Jean Houston says, is really about The Wizard of US! At its deepest level, it is a parable about the journey to the True Self, the “treasure buried in a field”, deep within us all.
The central figure in the story is Dorothy. The name Dorothy comes from the Greek and means “gift of God.”Dorothy is a symbol of the soul, a complex gift of the universe in quest of the true meaning in life.
Dorothy comes from Kansas, a landlocked state, flat, frequently characterized as dull and grey, the way many of us perceive our lives to be. Unsatisfied with this state of our souls, we are all looking for more.
Dorothy’s journey towards something more begins with a cyclone which blows her house off of its foundations. Not everyone begins their spiritual journey by losing their bearings, of course, but mine did and so have many others. Most of us human beings need to be knocked loose from our moorings before we search for that treasure within.
Dorothy is blown away to the land of Oz, a place that fascinates, glitters and seduces. This is a symbol of the world of illusion, about which we have already spoken.
Once we have landed within this glittering world, we need to realize that all that glitters is not gold. Only the Golden path itself is worth following. This is the symbol of wholeness. If we are fortunate, an “angel”, like Glinda ,will steer us onto the right path. When we look back, most of us have had a Glinda show up in our lives at a critical moment.
Along the way in search of the Wizard (which we almost always think is a figure outside of ourselves), Dorothy picks up three companions. They are the Scarecrow (who thinks he lacks intelligence), the Tin Man (who thinks he lacks the capacity of love), and the Lion (who thinks he lacks courage).
These three figures are symbols of Dorothy’s “shadow”, the split off, rejected parts of herself. Rather than turn them away, she embraces them all unconditionally. Wonderfully, this embrace eventually brings out the characteristics that her companions thought were beyond them.
The Wizard is the one who technically “gives” the Scarecrow some brains; the Tin Man a heart, and the Lion his courage. Those qualities, however, were always within them. All they needed was for Dorothy to bring them out of them. The Wizard, it turns out, was never really necessary. Human teachers, like the Wizard, will almost always fail us. Human teachers are all “transitional objects” until we discover the Inner Christ, the Inner Buddha, the Spirit within us all.
The good witch then tells Dorothy that she does not need the Wizard to get home at all. She can rely on her own two feet and the “magic slippers” (not really “magic” at all), that will whisk her back to Kansas.
Kansas never looked so good, not because anything in Kansas has changed, but because now Dorothy penetrates beyond appearances and realizes that her “heaven”, her nirvana, was always there all along. All she had to do was to “wake up” from her sleep.
Dorothy’s journey reminds us of the words of the poet T.S. Eliot: “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
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