This is an excerpt from my upcoming book:
The Magic of Glinda
Chapter Two: Foreshadowing Empire
By Scott W. Webb
The Wizard of Oz is considered to be an original American myth. We might think of myths as made-up stories about fantastic characters from ancient civilizations, like Super-Hero comic book characters. But myths meant something more than that to the common people who understood the symbolism. The stories opened ways to appreciate the human condition, to build character, and improve society.
You wouldn’t call a myth just social entertainment. It wasn’t a fable with a moral ending either. A myth offered a representation about a relationship of one thing to another. This would include how the gods, or divinity, related to humanity. It would be about the rawness of nature pertaining to humans on a planet without the benefits from electricity and motors. Myths were about virtue, which is the play between humans, the gods, and nature, where it overlaps a choice.
We can be aware of mythic symbols in our own experience or live unaware. We’ve heard it said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” which is not a judgment, just something to ponder for ourselves. The question is not just, “Why are we here?” but, “Why am I here?” Another question is, “What does it mean to be human?” Which asks, “Where do I fit-in between the vast scope of nature and divinity?”
A second example of an American myth is the Star Wars movie series. We might find these films interesting because of the innovative costumes and special effects, while missing their deeper universal appeal. What many fans don’t know is that the writer and director of Star Wars, George Lucas, was influenced by the author, Joseph Campbell, who wrote about world myths and their common themes.
The character of Luke Skywalker was patterned after the heroic figures from many cultures and times, extracted from Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Here is a link to an interview Bill Moyers filmed with George Lucas talking about his influences in creating the mythic adventures of Star Wars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuNQ9pA6avw. Or search it on YouTube if the link is not available.
It is fine to enjoy Star Wars without knowing anything about the creation of it. We can likewise attend a religious worship service and need not know anything about how a church or synagogue or temple came to be important. In the same way we can appreciate the moon and stars shining across our sky without understanding the radical discoveries in astronomy by Galileo or Einstein.
When viewing a myth as thematic, we can compare Dorothy to Luke Skywalker for their subtleties. For example, they both are “coming of age” while living on a farm with an aunt and an uncle. The landscape of both opening-places is barren and desolate. The energy of past, present, and future feels out-of-sync. This alienation “of place” was symbolic, not accidental.
Both Dorothy and Luke are victims of circumstances beyond their control, testing their character, which expands their self-confidence. Both meet mentors who help them along their journey and they find friendships in unusual characters and places. There was also presented a rift between good and evil forces, both finding themselves at the center of a struggle, and each becomes important to the destinies of those around them.
The comparisons between Dorothy and Luke are not just coincidental. In fact, there are specific patterns to the lives of people who transform from “the ordinary” to the heroic. They are like us, and by knowing their stories, we better see and frame our own experiences in their light, helping us along our journey as well. Often their paths are circular, ending at the same place where they began, and this helps us to contrast their deeper transformations, instructive yet entertaining.
We might likewise experience hardship in our own life and it helps to know that others have faced similar challenges, common to people like us, who rose from obscurity to achieve great things, including confrontation with their own deepest fears and insecurities. There is also a sense of a higher power, which comes to our aid, often via an accident or coincidence or miracle.
We sense that Glinda the Good Witch watches over Dorothy as her image appears within a backdrop of the sky, sending snow to wake Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion from their sleep in the poppy field. We see this in Star Wars as Obi Wan Kenobi takes the form of a spirit after his death and guides Luke from “the other side,” telling him to run or use the Force.
Religion is often seen as a contrast to myth, in that religion correlates to “real life” and a literal divinity, while myth is seen as merely fantasy. But religion too is highly fantastic in story and ritual, including talking animals, plagues of frogs, walking on water, and the like. The better we understand the symbols of religion, the more informed can be our own spiritual practice. Broad symbols include water, fire, animals, extreme weather, shaking ground, harvest or the lack of it, weaponry, battles, miracles, and returning from places and spheres beyond.
There are many hundreds of these symbols presented to us from across the literature of spirituality. The trick, and there is a trick, is to notice the symbols as they appear in our own lives, generally unannounced and at first glance, insignificant. Yet the symbols can inform us about who we are, point us in a direction, awaken hidden powers, and trigger some kind of improved emotion like gratitude and wonder.
Similar themes are found across traditions, such as “a helpless child cast adrift, the orphan with a great destiny.” This is our story, your story too, if you ponder it.
Common themes cross religions originating from places like Egypt, Israel, Rome, Greece, and India. And from Iceland, China, Russia, and New Zealand. Like a great flood, images overlap cultures. And as various peoples adopted new religious ideas, they melded their own myths into beliefs and traditions, making certain parts more meaningful, while changing the whole thing. These are the notes scribbled into the margins, the evolution and improvement, while the original is lost or forgotten.
If truth does not leap out, it softly blows just beneath the surface. It goes this way and it goes that way. If it slaps us, then it runs away into the forest. We might even believe we’ve gotten hold of it, while it chuckles, yet elusive from behind a tree.
Nature is fluid. The gods are likewise fluid and humanity must pay attention to the nature of things as they change. If our human beliefs should harden, certain benefits are lost. In this case, the evidence is that matters of spirit or politics grow harsh and unforgiving.
If the lines dividing myth and religion become blurred, symbolic images sharpen into what’s taken to be literal. A line is then drawn between the conscious mind and the unconscious forms. The conscious takes command, while magic and mystery are sublimated, subverted, and even oppressed. Now, we forget our own influences that caused us to form our opinions, while adhering to the outer edges. Without deeper insight, the dream-insight, we remain in a barren landscape and never understand who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.
For example, we might view that our Roman forbearers held religious views as being human caricatures of divinity. Their primary god, Jupiter, seems foreign and cartoon-like. Nothing relevant seems there because we have forgotten the original dream. We think our story is what’s left after carving the rest of history away. And then, the outer edge denies that there ever was a middle.
One example of this would be a fringe group springing from Christianity within the past one or two hundred years who will deny that their forbearers came through a Protestant tradition, and before that were Roman Catholics, and before that, Jews. If they accept that they were once Jewish, then it traces directly to the notion of being a people particularly chosen, as they are. In this way, the whole blessed thing rises to the surface while the middle section goes directly to hell.
To the Romans, the name Jupiter was meaningful in itself. Iuppeter comes from Old Latin Iou and Pater deriving from the Indo-European vocative compound Dyēu-pəter which means “day/sky Father.” Paternal originates from the same roots as Jupiter, the idea of fatherly.
Jove, another name for Jupiter, comes from the English formulation where we get the word “jovial,” which carries similar connotations to the biblical idea that, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Jupiter likewise co notated joy of the father, joy of the mother, and of the child, as strength and as a bond important to society.
As Christianity came to replace Roman mythology as the dominant European paradigm of spirit, many concepts prior to Christian conversion, were already in practice and made sense symbolically to the pre-Christian Romans. Many centuries later, Americans are aligned so philosophically with the Romans that their political ideals are inseparable. This is the Republic, or government of the Romans, which included an executive branch, a senate comprised of the wealthier landowners, and representatives from among the common people. The bird associated with Jupiter was the eagle, likewise an American symbol.
We could say that woven into the American tradition is not just a Christian heritage, but a specifically Roman heritage, including their mythic and spiritual traditions, most of which we are unaware. The weaving together of traditions goes the other way as well, for example, the celebrations of Christmas and Easter originated not from Christian traditions, but pagan. This comes from the middle-ground beneath what is conscious, forgotten, lost or maybe even denied.
In the origins of language, weaving has been a common theme and important to the development of culture. The root of the word weaving comes from tec where we get the words textile and text. The early idea of writing verse is literally “the weaving together of words” or text, which is the passing down of wisdom and expression, of this crossing over that.
Culture, likewise, is a woven fabric of influences, which includes many ideas intended to better understand ourselves and our communities. Therefore, to appreciate our ancient past is to better appreciate our origins and our common challenges with those who came before us, in many ways, exactly like us. To those who suggest that “their religious beliefs are the only standard by which to measure life,” a religious zealot’s horizons might be expanded if they appreciated that literal interpretations can suffocate an original inspiration.
As layers of interpretation pile up like so many angels dancing on a pin, the original inspiration is lost.
For example, the name Jesus is the English transliteration through the Latin translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua. In the historical Israel, no person was literally named Jesus. The term Christ comes from ancient Egypt and Fifth Century B.C. Greek, from the word Chrestos, not of Jewish origin, but pagan.
The idea of a “Jesus Christ” is just as magical in that context, that Jesus Christ was multicultural in origin, even when understood that the notion of a Christ came through earlier pagan myths. For more about this subject, read the historical background behind The Gospel of Mark at http://www.askwhy.co.uk/christianity/0070TheGospels3.php.
And here is a recent example of the confusion between a literal conception of Jesus Christ versus a symbolic one:
If Christ was on the cross thinking of you, then he would also need to be thinking of every person who had ever lived. If it requires ten minutes to flip through pictures of the average high school yearbook, and there were six high schools in your town, then it would take a whole hour just to think of everybody from your town. Not just that, but each person’s life story would need to be set within the context of their yearbook photo, which would require a few extra minutes. If you add the people of your town, there may have been time enough for Jesus to think of them, but not if you include the people in your entire state, plus Hawaii and Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and all the people of China. We run out of time for all that thinking. Plus, we have missed a few continents.
So, this sign’s message must refer to a metaphoric kind of divine thinking.
The literal image is just too absurd, for if Jesus sits now at the right hand of God, while preparing a special place in Heaven just for you, that’s a lot of building going on, like multiple crews of builders at work around the clock. Meanwhile, who is watching over you day and night? Because the Jones’s will need a house too. We don’t think this kind of thing through because we don’t have time to think these things through, therefore we prefer to let Jesus do all of our thinking for us.
In the Name of Deity
Some Christians today end their prayers by saying, “In the name of Jesus.” This also comes to us as a Roman tradition. The idea of adding the name of Deity to a prayer, or an oath, lingers in our culture with the expression, “By Jove,” meaning, “In the name of Jupiter.” The Roman practice of swearing by Jove to witness an oath in law courtsis the origin. Christians then adopted the idea of swearing on the Bible, which is, invoking divinity into human affairs.
This might be humbling, maybe painful for some, but likewise illuminating as we can appreciate the weaving of various influences, which have mostly been long forgotten or suppressed. To the ancients, apocalypse and revelation, originate from the same root, and similarly for the Chinese, crisis and opportunity come from one word meaning both. Yet, this is difficult for many to grasp, that “tearing down” can be identical to achieving a positive outcome as “building up” can be.
In English, we call this epiphany.
The history of human language is veiled and obscured. Likewise, in The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard, the wise one, is hidden behind a veil. Dorothy has brought him a broom, an offering, as he requested, and his response was to ignore her offering. In this case, the Wizard bellowed forth another request from his flaming image to send Dorothy after another broom.
Therefore, Dorothy, like us, might benefit to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. It’s no big deal, except that the Wizard would have us to do his bidding, to bring him offering after offering, while he remains safely cloaked.
Dorothy in this case is representative of the heroic personality, who must disobey “the Wizard deity” in order to free herself of a false duty to it. Dorothy must come into her own power, which she did, along with the help of her friends. She informs us, awakens us, just as a Jesus can do for us, or spirit-filled prophets, running contrary to the religious leaders of the day, resisting the impositions of a false god presented by a false or misleading leadership.
Joseph Campbell writes that the goal of the journey is compassion. It’s the Father forgive them for they know not what they do end-of the journey thing.
The question is how we get to that, which is, the divine attitude.
We might see our neighbor mistreating an animal or a child and say, “Have some compassion!” Yet, we too could mistreat another, and others can say to us, “You should apologize.” We might respond, “I will not apologize because I do not feel sorry.” In our case, we generally feel that our behavior is justified.
So, the feeling-element matters. It is a very different thing if Jesus feels disgust while looking down from the cross and says, “Forgive them,” versus looking down and feeling genuine compassion. The affirmation of the Divine is lost had Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they disgust me.”
If we think of Dorothy’s neighbor, Miss Gulch, we understand her as a person functioning with a limited range of feelings. Judging from the way she speaks and dresses, she is equally uptight as she is upright. We can assume that she does not often apologize because the emotion of sorrow and empathy would not come to her easily. What is basic to “a witch” is this very lack of compassion.
In contrast, we observe Dorothy weeping often. She weeps when she is told that the great Wizard of Oz will not see her. She is shut out from him. Then, the gatekeeper feels compassion and he weeps with her, even greater than she weeps.
This is no accident of the script. The aspect here which touches us deeply, as well, is the idea that our sorrows are understood at the level of the court, where our merits will be weighed and measured. We come from a “lower” position, but if those of “higher” position feel our sorrows, the playing field is made more equal by acceptance, and through empathy.
This is the meaning behind, “While Christ was on the cross, he was thinking of you.”
The gatekeeper blocking Dorothy’s way could just as easily viewed Dorothy’s tears with disgust. He does not, because in the classic myth, the Divinity feels our sorrows. We might note that the character of the gatekeeper is the same actor as the one who plays the Wizard, Frank Morgan.
Dorothy’s weeping at the door of Oz is symbolic and archetypal in nature. To “feel sorry,” even for yourself, is what it means to be human. In this sense, Dorothy is “more human” than Miss Gulch. Likewise, in being our most human selves, we are opened to our divine self, and then, the divine power recognizes us and lets us in.
Then we might notice that the word apology looks a lot like the word Apollo. Now the deeper mythic connection opens, and the concept of “making apology” one to another is not just Christian, but early Greek.
For more on that, visit: http://truthiracy.blogspot.com/2012_01_23_archive.html
Miss Gulch thrown into the Tornado
Now we can wonder about Miss Gulch. What would bring her to some form of tearful apology to Dorothy, and to Toto, for her evil, unfeeling ways? That’s easy. We send her on her own journey. We throw Miss Gulch into Dorothy’s house and lock the door. We send her up into the tornado to see what happens when she opens the door to the Land of Oz. We let Miss Gulch meet herself in the form of a Wicked Witch. We send her to the Wizard and let him break his agreement with her. We let Glinda tell her that she wears the ruby slippers, and finally, we let Miss Gulch awaken in Dorothy’s bed with Aunt Em patting her gently on the head, and we see whether she still wants to stuff Toto into a basket and taken to be killed.
In fact, we can imagine each of the characters from Kansas being sent one-by-one to the Land of Oz to receive their transformation. Let each of them be rescued by Toto, who escapes from the terrible Witch’s clutches, yet returns to the castle on his own merit to rescue the human companion. Then, let’s see whether any of them are willing to have the little hero be taken away and killed without mercy.
We forget that back in Kansas, Dorothy refuses to give Toto to Miss Gulch. It is Uncle Henry who places the little dog into Miss Gulch’s basket for destruction. Shame on you, Uncle Henry, for having no spine! We are going to send you into the tornado next.
Let’s send Professor Marvel from Kansas to meet himself as the Wizard and see how he feels when he refuses to keep an important agreement, with himself. See how he feels when he tells himself to “Come back tomorrow.”
Here is the problem with all of that. The Land of Oz is Dorothy’s dream. Therefore, we cannot send the other characters into Dorothy’s unconscious. For as much as the unconscious realms share a similarity, each person is entirely different. If Miss Gulch was sent upwards into the tornado, when we open the door to her fantasy world, we will find a very different Land of Oz, indeed. She will very likely resonate with the Wicked Witch of the West, steal the ruby slippers via intrigue, and then rage a bloody war with Glinda and the Munchkins. Grimmer yet, we see the falling house of Miss Gulch land directly upon Glinda.
In this understanding, we can see the challenges to awakening the good heart. This illuminates the power of myth, which is intended to awaken the individual to what is possible as virtue. Miss Gulch is most certainly a church-going woman in the strictest sense. If she knows the story of Jesus on the cross, she sees sinners, entirely missing the idea of forgiveness. This is because a specific intent does not awaken within her, which is, the desire to have the desire to emulate the compassion-element of the story. What Miss Gulch lacks is desire.
The archetypal individual lacking the feeling element is classically dead, while living.
In the case of Star Wars, we are brought into the inner sanctum of the Empire, the executive table within the Death Star where we find a meeting conducted without feeling. This is the land of the heart without compassion. This is likewise the heart of Miss Gulch. Luke Skywalker, representative of the opposite nature, seeks to break through this most barren landscape of the heart. His great destiny is to discover whatever is worthy in himself, to grant him the power to remove the evil mask from his own father. Upon doing so, we find Darth Vader as his vulnerable self, awakened just briefly before he dies by the power of his son’s compassion and desire.
Next we see Darth Vader, in spirit form, mask off, awakened by compassion to a rebirth. We do not find here any of the other characters who had been ruling in the Death Star. Nor would we expect to see a character like Miss Gulch here, either. In context, we would not expect the afterworld of Miss Gulch to be much different than the dull consciousness of the woman we see in Kansas, although to herself, Heaven-bound. Nor would we hope to go to Heaven and find Miss Gulch there as our neighbor, nor the leaders of the Death Star.
Transformation is therefore, not just a mental assent. If there is a “death of self” prior to rebirth, we cannot know it, unless we desire it. We don’t think of Miss Gulch ever singing the song, Over the Rainbow. But if she could, then this would awaken the possibility for her to change into something else.
Asking, therefore, is the key. Asking, is the seed of the flower. This would also be the power of the ruby slippers, to ask.
Dorothy’s version “of asking” first began as she sang Over the Rainbow. This is her Kansas-connection to Glinda. Glinda represents the Higher Power which is drawn to the naïve Dorothy from within, from seemingly across the stars. We miss the symbolic power that the ruby slippers hold, if we imagine that Dorothy does not yet wear them back in Kansas. Yet, we recognize this in the end, that she merely had to think of her desire, click her heals, and back home she went. Her desire expressed in her song, Over the Rainbow, accomplished this same thing at the beginning of the movie, as she literally sang the Land of Oz to her, like magic.
Now most religions have a song or two, as political ideals have songs, as the American Indians sang songs. When sung with feeling, then they do have power, creative power. What do Americans sing? “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” Ancient myths tell us that the very Universe was created through song. Here are more lyrics to America The Beautiful, first published in 1895. We can read the words as a “calling forth” of this land to us, now in mythic terms.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Americans love the idea that “all success be nobleness and every gain divine.” The Wizard of Oz, an American invention, begins the story on this theme, except in this case, neighborliness has turned sour, a true blight upon the land. As we enter this Midwestern farm’s living room, we find each of the three adults, and Dorothy, in need of God’s grace and “a crowning of good with brotherhood.”
How are we going to get these people to that? For this is the question of The Wizard of Oz, the great mythic question, Roman, Greek, American, from time immortal.
The whole world is moving in one direction and it requires a lot to take it in another. It has been the heroic, by theme, pointing the way. Yeshua, Dorothy, and Luke, point us in an entirely new direction. It might be the opposition to tradition, or Empire, or identifying the real evil as cloaked, or long-robed, and thereby redefining what is good and virtuous, for our clarity and benefit.
How do we learn from all this general confusion of you and me, on a planet, amidst a cast of characters in a great circus? Well, we study it. We observe and identify what generally has been in front of our stupid faces the whole time.
If you have seen The Wizard of Oz once, you have probably seen it twice. The author Salman Rushdie wrote a commentary on The Wizard of Oz, stating that he watched it repeatedly and each time discovered new meaning. Knowing that, it is amazing to see how much he missed, in fact, most of it! He writes that he is annoyed by Toto and by the acting of Glinda. We can respect an author like Salman Rushdie, but we don’t want to make his same mistakes. He misses what is right there in front of him.
For example, many viewers gloss-over the first scenes in Kansas as merely prequel to the fun stuff. Again, this is the scene where Miss Gulch visits Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in their living room. She has come to take Toto away to be destroyed because Toto has bitten her on the leg. Miss Gulch produces a written order from the local sheriff granting her such authority, “Unless you want to go against the law,” she says to Aunt Em.
Meanwhile, Dorothy refuses to cooperate. Aunt Em tells her, “We can’t go against the law, Dorothy.” Uncle Henry then takes Toto from Dorothy’s arms and puts him into a basket.
There is something profound taking place here. It comes from the subconscious of the script writers, which impacts us on our own subconscious level. Then we forget the details of the scene while a deeper impression has been made. Something terrible has just occurred. What is it? The spirit of the law has been violated.
The origins of the word law are recorded in what might be called “the collective unconscious.” We may think of the “law of Moses” or “the law of the land,” but this is not what is being referred to in the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz.
The original definition of a law was “that which binds a people together.” Salman Rushdie writes that the conflict in this scene was between the world of the adults and the world of children, that the Land of Oz was child-like with its Munchkins. He scorns the idea that Dorothy is knocked unconscious as a Hollywood ploy, as the means to gain access to what is essentially a child’s landscape.
However, the unconscious is the perfect backdrop because we are exploring issues that are basically beneath the conscious awareness. The film is not about the contrast between “adult and child,” but about “that which binds people together.”
The original, ancient conception of law was equal in meaning to the word link. When Miss Gulch presents herself to Dorothy’s caretakers, she comes bearing a link to them in the form of a written order from the sheriff. Dorothy’s reply is to say to Miss Gulch, “I do not accept this as something which binds us together.” Her literal words were, “I will bite you myself!”
The concept which Dorothy presents is anything-but childish. Miss Gulch is a neighbor representing social contract. In this sense, her entering into the living room of Dorothy’s house is to present “a link” or “a law” as a proposed model of neighborly connection.
Dorothy has correctly identified that a deed of “bad faith” is occurring and calls this out. In contrast, Aunt Em is accepting the proposition that what is presented by one party as law, must be accepted by necessity in reciprocal.
Dorothy represents the power to refuse a particular linking between persons and neighbors. In this case, it is the idea that Miss Gulch is faking her injury and we know this, because we observe no injury as she has been riding her bicycle just moments before. Then, as Dorothy is taken-up into the eye of the tornado, we again see Miss Gulch riding her bicycle as she transforms into the Witch riding a broom. The unconscious realm is where symbols become vivid and clear, not just to Dorothy, but to the viewer as well. The evil is the social contract that has been presented by Miss Gulch earlier that same day, now symbolic in the form of a witch.
The genius of the movie is that the Wizard later makes this same violation of virtue. He forms an agreement, a bond, with Dorothy and later does not keep his contract. Even after the movie has ended, we still personally like the Wizard, because his deep violation against Dorothy remains subtle, and barely reaches us on a conscious level. However, the underlying theme of the entire movie is about social contract. It asks the question, a very old and ancient question, concerning those things which bind people together, such as laws, including verbal agreements, as human virtue.
One such idea is that small people have rights. Social contract matters as an issue of the spirit of the land in which we inhabit. Mythological writers since ancient times understood these things. The Romans attempted to provide the “little people” a voice as their social contract. The great Roman lawyer Cicero defended in court the disenfranchised and was a hero in this own time. The Wizard of Oz likewise is a myth of modern times and worthy of examination because the spirit of a land can be broken by bad law, or bad links, one neighbor to another.
Americans honor George Washington for refusing to be king, but this opportunity may have been somewhat invented, as Julius Caesar had also “refused” publically to be made king over the Roman Empire. America is patterned after Rome in the idea that no living ruler’s image should be put upon the people’s coinage. Caesar violated that trust in placing his image on coins while he lived and this helped bring on his assassination. Monarchs, as we observe in England today, place their picture on money while still living, but we don’t do this in America, because we are a Republic.
Caesar’s violation of trust is then retold in the story of Jesus, when Jesus asked, “Whose image is on the coin?” Then he said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” We know that Jesus did not write his own autobiography. Did the biblical writer intend this as a slam against Caesar’s actions of moving the Empire toward monarchy? Absolutely! Likewise, Jesus turned down the idea of his becoming a King, because his Kingdom “was elsewhere.” Jesus was an easy role model for the Romans to accept because he was more interested in character than he was in ruling subjects.
Yet a literal take on this idea of Kingdom, brings back the idea of Jesus as a King, a reason for the stupid-side of the human brain to go into battle, for the sake of a King and a Kingdom rule. It gives humanity another kingdom to fight and die for, while the symbolic meaning, and power, as metaphor, is lost.
The later Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, presented a similar idea in his written Meditations, Stoic ideals, like not to toil after fame, not to “lose one’s life” in the pursuit of ambition. We might think of the Roman Empire as power-hungry and running contrary to Christian teaching, not as possessing a similar humility bubbling up through it. “Alone of the emperors,” wrote the historian Herodian, “Marcus Aurelius gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines, but by his blameless character and temperate way of life.”
In this way, we see Rome as critical of itself, with good character as the standard. We can likewise view ourselves with a critical eye, as Dorothy did, as Christians can, as Americans can, as all humanity can.
The Wizard if ever a Wiz he was.
A simple and new interpretation can open fresh meaning to the events taking place throughout The Wizard of Oz, which we never noticed. Dorothy’s house landing upon the evil witch voids “the contract” presented by Miss Gulch in that same living room, that is, if we can view the movie’s theme as investigating social contract.
Now we have a replay of this same scene in the Land of Oz, three women in a discussion, except Dorothy stands before the Witch with the protective arms of Glinda draped over her shoulders. Glinda stands “getting Dorothy’s back.”
Glinda shows no fear in this “second” confrontation of three females: the Witch, the human, and the Higher Power. (See Toto in the middle, again.) In fact, Glinda tells the Witch to her face, “Be gone!” Aunt Em was unable to be so strong, and so in Dorothy’s unconscious, Glinda is representative of the refusal of the bad social contract by her Higher Power.
We never see the home of Glinda, but one thing for sure, it resides in Dorothy’s unconscious. And we see that Glinda travels via a ball of light. If this light resides “in Dorothy,” then it resides in us. When we become aware of it, if we give it a literal interpretation, we call it religious. If symbolic, we call it mythic. With myth, the light or “day” of Jupiter, like the bright light which blinded Saul on the road to Damascus, like the glow of Glinda, are alike as illumination, as Higher Power bringing epiphany. One epiphany is that Higher Power knows us, accepts us as we are, and has got our back covered.
Dorothy’s refusal to accept Miss Gulch’s proposal throws her into uncharted territory. In this same way, the ruby slippers are placed upon her feet by powers she does not understand, enacting a “regional mythic power” she barely can appreciate. Aunt Em will not make the same journey because Aunt Em accepted Miss Gulch’s notion of the law as holding genuine power over her.
The question of law is worked through the unconscious Dorothy, how she will incorporate the powers of Glinda into her own internal model, or paradigm. The Wizard is her teacher, not her mentor. The mentor is Glinda, who appears at the end of the journey to supply the epiphany to Dorothy, which she needed and did not yet possess, which is self-reliance and confidence, coming as a divine gift, and which the Wizard could not supply nor recognize.
Dorothy has made peace, unconsciously, accepts her power, and returns to Kansas somehow resolved. Now we observe a replay of “this same Dorothy” in Kansas. The feeling is of a revitalized relationship to all those around her. She brings the Land of Oz forward as she identifies the people there in Kansas as having gone with her. But, there is much, much more to the story, meaningful to us, as we too are on a journey, potentially important for us to understand and to examine for the sake of all.
One More Thing to Consider
It’s interesting to note the appeal of “a wizard,” false as he may be. When Dorothy discovers “the man behind the curtain,” we see the lie. He tells her that he is the Great and Powerful Oz, which is true. To this one truth we get from the Wizard, Dorothy replies, “I don’t believe you.” That is the irony and the confusion of belief.
In the history of conflict between the Catholic Church and scientific discovery, the scientist Galileo was forced to recant his findings under the threat of his life. One of his discoveries was that the heavenly bodies behaved by laws exactly the same as on our planet. At this time, important to the church was that Heaven was considered to be a place wholly other, operating under its own laws just beyond the blue.
The Catholic Church made its own discovery at this time of the 1500s. This was that the common people did not notice nor care much for science. They preferred the Wizard of the ball of flames over the quirky, humble little man. Essentially the people said, “Put the shroud back and speak to us again from the smoke and fire.”
This is when the unexamined life became accepted into the collective unconscious. This is to accept that belief equals faith. Here, “the devil is in the detail.” While ignoring the complexity of belief, and by avoiding the historical context and symbol of belief, the idea of virtue as a feeling and resulting from taking a journey or going through a test, is lost. At the extreme, compassion is likewise lost, faith becomes a script to be mouthed, and now we have the Inquisition.
Miss Gulch we can see now leads the Inquisition.
Meanwhile, the Wizard is wily and hidden behind the scenes. He pulls the strings while we are out chasing the Witch. He is highly forgivable. He takes in Dorothy and her friends, passing out diplomas and certificates and whatnot. It’s hard not to believe in him, that is, until we reach the end of ourselves and discover his replacement. That is, discovering a heart, a brain, and a courage to possess us.
The ruby slippers possess us, by nature, which we learn cannot be given away or sold for any price. Their power is not worth much, that is, not until awakened.
The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1938, just prior to the start of World War II. This theme of law as “the link between neighbors” provides a kind of serendipity in light of pending world events. It asks a question begging for an answer in this time of agreements and breaking agreements between nations.
Germany and England had many longstanding disputes going back many centuries. For one, Roman armies had successfully invaded England during the reign of Caesar. The Germanic people were formidable in Europe at this same time, such that Rome avoided a direct confrontation until after Caesar was assassinated. Then, when Rome did attack Germany, the Roman army suffered a terrible defeat, weakening the entire empire, causing the Roman army to abandon England. Starting in the fifth century, German armies invaded England and easily took over and inhabited the British Isles. These settlers are known as Anglo-Saxons, ancestors to half of the English population today.
What is important to note here is the idea that one race of people are inferior or superior to another. The ideology of the German people in 1939 was based on a longstanding superiority arising from their cultural position in Europe, except for their defeat in World War I, even by the hands of their own kin from England, like Cain and Abel.
In light of the social contract previously examined as law, neighbors are linked by agreements. As we view Dorothy’s first encounter with the Wizard, she bows before him in a form of submission while he proceeds to throw insults at each of her friends. Then, when the Wizard makes an agreement with Dorothy, he does so as from the position of one who her superior.
Therefore, when she stands before him for the second time, Dorothy arrives as one who has been tried and proven successful. The playing field might have been more level, but this change in Dorothy is never acknowledged. The Wizard continues in his expression of superiority, as indicated by his outright refusal to honor his agreement with her, which he bellows from a ball of flaming fire.
The Germans likewise had made an agreement with England and other nations following World War I, not to arm themselves for war-like aggression. However, by 1939, Germany was not keeping this agreement by virtue of their own sense of rightful superiority, regardless of agreements. Whatever the universal mythic quality that The Wizard of Oz held, it made no impact on the German nation at that time. The movie released in August 1939, while Hitler invaded Poland the very next month in September.
Hitler provided justification for war on Poland exactly as Miss Gulch had. He claimed that Germany was first attacked by Poland. And we see that like Miss Gulch, his nation suffered no harm “in the attack.” Miss Gulch comes bearing the law, or link, and so do the Germans, which is the assumption of land under false pretense. One pretense the Nazi party offered was their belief that the Poles were an inferior people, a kind of racial justification. For whatever the reasons, England chose not to honor its agreement previously made with the Polish people, that Allied forces would defend their nation, and a terrible blood bath resulted in Poland that year.
This problem, superiority versus inferiority, is universal. The Nazi party makes for an easy target for identifying bad behavior. But think of the many Americans who flock to the islands of Hawaii each year never imagining that the identical provocation of superiority happened there, too.
The Hawaiian Islands were taken by force by the U.S. Marines in about one day. The native lands had been slowly subsumed by Christian missionaries from America and these same missionary families continue to own vast tracts of Hawaii to this day. It was another classic case of the domination of strangers arriving in an attitude of superiority, and the acceptance of another as being inferior. In this case, it was superiority by religious tradition, or again, a kind of bond. It was through this acceptance that the Hawaiian people became enslaved to work on their own land.
The Wizard presents Dorothy and her friends with this same concept, that he is superior. After she brings him one broom, he immediately demands that she bring him another. There is a pregnant pause here in which he tells her to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This is the classic abuse of force, exactly the same as Miss Gulch had done, which was to destroy Toto for no good reason, other than intimidation. Miss Gulch even informs Dorothy’s aunt and uncle that she could “take their farm.” Taking Toto is her first step to accomplishing just that, which Dorothy refuses, but Uncle Henry accepts, predicting his future fate in the hands of Miss Gulch, had the story continued in Kansas.
We want to understand how Dorothy takes her journey, not just to escape with Toto, but to bring a change for her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, as well. The Miss Gulches of the world were making their moves all across the planet in 1939, across Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia, and in the case of the people of Poland, there was no place for them to escape. In answering the question, “What recourse does Dorothy have to save Toto?” the answer to her question applies for all humanity.
What recourse did Luke Skywalker have after the murder of his relatives by the Empire’s forces? This would be the battle between “the inferior versus the superior.” The answer lies in redefining of those very terms. If we do not understand it, we are destined to repeat it. In this case we already have been through this question in America. We believed that blacks were inferior enough to be slaves, or that women were inferior, also treated in some cases as slaves. How, how, how, is this sort of entrapment to be overcome?
Dorothy never provides us with the answer. Glinda does. And that requires a study. For the answer has been hidden. Behind a curtain, no less.
The problem is the insufficiency of our own myths. For the Wizard represented the insufficiency of myth. This was not rooted-out by Dorothy, but by Toto. Thus Toto represents the trouble-maker, just as Jesus represented a trouble-maker to the established authority of his day. We could say that Jesus went to the Jewish temple and bit the leaders in authority there on the leg, couldn’t we? He was crucified for the impression that he claimed to be superior, or Divine, while clearly inferior to the religious leaders of his day.
Superiority then, is an aspect leading to the insufficiency of myth. This was at core the problem Israel presented to the Roman world. Included in the Jewish idea was the concept that they were a chosen people, not self-chosen, but God-chosen, thus superior even to Rome. If one was not Jewish in ancient times, what was one to do? Now we have the exact antithesis showing up on the scene, a carpenter born of humble circumstance, yet bearing the seed of the Divine. The contrast was absolutely needed and how profound. Truly. Symbolically profound.
This man stated that he represented a new law, which we remember, is a link. The new law is to relate in a new way, not superior to inferior, but instead, going about forming bonds based upon highest virtue. This is the idea of divinity as living within what is most basically human.
Under symbolic interpretation, this is radical, old, and beautiful. However, taken literally, Christianity is a quick replacement of the Jewish notion of being chosen, morphed into another form of chosen. The long robes and tassels of the Pharisees might be replaced by the robes and tassels of the Roman Catholic priests. Instead of Jehovah, it’s Jesus who does the choosing. Instead of Jupiter, it’s Jesus, and now you can go to war based on Kingdom ideals, again.
And we did, humanity did, that is. In Poland. In Hawaii. And to the utter-most parts of the world. The mistake was buying the myth as literal, not symbolic, and not even beautiful. Not even something new as a model of virtue.
Dorothy was not a hero in any religious sense, but we can view the shoes upon her feet as the seeds of her awakening spirit. The Wizard never once acknowledges the ruby slippers upon Dorothy’s feet. The Wizard represents the literal interpretation of magic and so we require another mentor, a Glinda to point-out what is truly magical, and let us find out on our own, what is not.
And what is magical about Dorothy is also magical about us, says Glinda.
Salman Rushdie writes of Glinda: “Glinda is a trilling pain in the neck and the Wicked Witch is lean and mean. Check out their clothes: frilly pink versus slimline black. No contest.” He writes that Glinda is some kind of motherly embarrassment.
What’s going on here? It’s that there are two eyes to see. One eye misses it, while the other gets it. We want to be the eyes that see. This is also a Christian metaphor, how the Jewish leaders missed the brilliance and magic of Jesus, also. This is because they never sang the song to welcome him in, while others did.
The origin of the word silly in antiquity meant the same thing as “to be blessed.” Glinda represents this, but we must know that the other half of her silly presentation is likewise to come as one who has been blessed.
When the Wicked Witch first appears in Munchkinland, Glinda rebuffs her by suggesting that she should leave, unless another house might fall on her, as it just had her sister. This is quite profound. The Wicked Witch is equally as intense as Glinda is lighthearted. If houses were randomly falling from the sky, then Glinda might also consider taking cover and warning the Munchkins to do so, as well.
Out of this silly exterior exudes her confidence. No house will fall on her. If the divine resides within, there is a particular divine displacement to fear. In fact, we notice specifically this quality in those who are filled with spirit or divinity, their lack of fear. This surely goes back to Roman days, that the name of their divinity, Jove, contains the idea of jovial, a quality which can appear silly at times.
Aunt Em is not jovial, rather we see her filled with fret and worry in Kansas and inside the Witch’s crystal ball. There is no character from Kansas resembling Glinda in all her silliness. We must venture into Dorothy’s unconscious to find her.
If we search for Glinda across the conscious and unconscious world available on this planetary plane, we can find her. She is fully superior, yet never condescending, for she projects equality, acceptance, and the same silly joy as a Zen master. Now we see her. Where? In the links and bonds we form with one another, and from within the self, from the inner life, outward. Therein lays our virtue and our divinity.
The time has come for us to return back to The Wizard of Oz, to review the story once more with a fresh eye. Let’s see what it has to tell us, for our benefit, again.