Nonduality and the Wizard of Oz
by Tim Gerchmez
The movie "The Wizard of Oz" is actually more nondual than any other
movie Ive seen. When looked at carefully, just under the surface of a
childs story of witches and tornadoes and munchkins lies an amazing
collection of truths that have been with mankind for all time.
First, we have a girl who seeks escape from the evils and misery of samsara
("Somewhere over the rainbow..."). A tornado strikes (symbolic of the Dark
Night of the Soul) and knocks the girl out, drawing her into an inner
world. She is transported to a mystical land called "Oz," and encounters a
pair of ruby slippers (the value of which she does not yet suspect), but
also encounters Glinda, the good witch of the North (symbolizing Grace) who
urges her to put them on anyway. She then embarks upon a spiritual path
symbolized by the Yellow Brick Road. At the end of this path is the
"Wizard," which is an apt symbol for "the Guru." She meets other travelers
on this path who are unhappy with their lot in life as well, and walks with
them, and is repeatedly tempted by a wicked witch, a symbol of the ego or
that which would block one on a spiritual path. Mostly the witch attempts
to inflict fear, which happens to be that which is most capable of blocking
someone on the path of Self-knowledge. At one point, the witch actually
manages to work a spell putting Dorothy to sleep. This occurs as her and
her fellow travelers see the beautiful, gleaming emerald palace in the
distance, leave the proscribed path, and make a run for it - no shortcuts
allowed in sadhana. Its notable that only Dorothy fell asleep under the
spell of the poppies her traveling companions were unaffected, because
they arent central to the theme. They are really aspects of Dorothys
The witch seems to have won, but a benign force (Glinda, the good witch of
the North, symbolizing Grace) makes it rain, waking Dorothy up (her first
awakening, through Grace - Samadhi) and allowing her to continue.
Eventually, after many trials on her sadhana, she reaches the wizard/guru,
who informs her that she must first defeat the wicked witch of the west
(ego), bringing back a symbol as proof, after which he will grant all the
traveler's wishes (escape from samsara). In the process of defeating the
witch, both herself and her fellow travelers have to face themselves
directly and manifest those qualities which they believe they don't have
(courage, heart, brains, etc) - while Dorothy has to face death itself.
Finally, the witch is defeated by a simple bucket of water, showing her as
the "mirage" that ego has always been. A simple bucket of water is
sufficient to "melt" her. She seemed powerful, but a benign substance like
water melted her away in seconds. Only the correct "substance" needed to
be known. Interestingly enough, the dissolution of the witch happened
entirely by accident. Nobody was aware that water was the substance
needed. The ego cannot dissolve itself - it can only submit to the Higher
Self. When the Higher Self manifested through Dorothys unselfish act of
trying to put out the flames burning up her friend the scarecrow, she "lost
her ego" in the process of selflessly thinking of her friend, thus killing
the witch. This is Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
Upon return to the wizard, the travelers discover that he is a fraud (OR SO
THEY THINK), and is not able to confer those qualities they desire upon
them, not realizing that those qualities were already seen as present in
the process of the defeat of the wicked witch. The wizard ends up simply
making them aware (through symbolism) that *they had these qualities all
along*, and it was only ignorance of the fact that had to be lifted. It
turns out that the wizard/guru was not a fraud after all.
Dorothy, the central character in the story, has the most poignant and
difficult-to-fulfill desire of all: She wants to go home. Home here
represents the true Self, the eternal "home" which all of us long for. Yet
the wizard fails in taking her there. The Guru can lead the chela to the
brink but not "bring them home..." the chela has to discover the way for
him or herself.
Upon meeting again with the "Good witch Glinda (Grace)," she discovers that
she has had the power to "go home" all along, inherent in the ruby slippers
which Glinda (Grace) gave her BEFORE she began her sadhana. It was the
same with her. It was only ignorance preventing her from going home.
With great sadness she says goodbye to her traveling companions and the
rest of samsara, and takes the final step, attaining moksha. The repeated
phrase "There's no place like home... there's no place like home..." is
very reminiscent of a mantra repeated in meditation.
Upon return (and upon waking up - such a powerful symbol, especially in
Buddhism - WAKING UP), Dorothy realizes that indeed, "there's no place like
home." She has Realized the search she started at the beginning of the
movie; that what she desired (escape from samsara) had been with her ALL
ALONG. She wanted to run away, but was ignorant of the fact that
everything was already perfect, and that indeed it is the searching that is
false, that is imperfect. What she wanted at the beginning of the movie
she has found, and at the end, she's once again in the same place, but with
a greatly changed outlook on things - a shift in consciousness, if you will.
One of the most interesting points is that all of this was in INNER
journey. The "Land of Oz" was INSIDE Dorothy, as were her traveling
companions. When she wakes up, she sees the people who, inside, she
thought were the scarecrow, the tinman, etc. This is a nondual statement
that indicates that All is One, that all these people in Dorothys life are
both inside and outside her, that there is no difference at all between
those in Dorothys life and aspects of her personality. It is the people
in ones life that help to form the personality, and so it was them that
manifested as her traveling companions on the inner journey.
I believe that the perennial popularity (and classic film status) of the
Wizard of Oz is due to the fact that it helps explain a way to resolve that
"inner longing" that all people have for True Self. Through the use of
symbolism, it clearly shows the futility of the search, and the constant
presence of That which is desired -- whether or not we are aware it is
there. It contains an uplifting message that is also a true one, and
people subconsciously respond to that (especially children, who are
generally closer to Ground of Being than adults).
Another note: prior to Dorothy's travels to Oz, she met the man who
would be the wizard in her "dream," a kindly traveling salesman. Thus,
Dorothy met her guru before ever beginning her journey. Remember that "the
man who would be wizard" helped Dorothy back to her house just as the
tornado was beginning. The first act of kindness and compassion of the
guru: setting up the conditions for the journey, and preventing the journey
itself from destroying the "traveller."
One more note on Toto: I think he also represented the "still, small voice"
of the Infinite within each of us. Toto was a complex character. Perhaps
he represented the Infinite Itself. Toto is the mystery, Dorothy's spirit and will to go on. When the old lady
took Toto away, it also took Dorothy's spirit and happiness away, and
precipitated the dark night of the soul period which resulted in her
"traveling to the land of Oz." Toto is the aspect of unconditional love,
that aspect that is exquisitely vulnerable and yet at the same time
represents pure intuition and guidance and strength, both for "itself" and
for its "owner." Remember that Toto was smart enough to jump out of the
old lady's basket and escape, yet Dorothy was unaware of the fact. Toto
also "saved" Dorothy several times throughout the movie, if I remember
correctly. Essentially, Toto represents intuition and love.
It strikes me that Toto is intuition - the animalistic sense
that often gives
signals or warnings that conceptual mind and perception have missed.
Dorothy's response to the mean lady/witch was, as I remember, "You can't have
it!" Could that be also read, "You don't have it."? As Marcia mentioned
today, all head, no heart and no body connection. Intuition is often
described as "gut" or "heart" sense. Losing heart is what makes people mean.
(Since the heart center is in the body, not the head, accepting the body is
part of reclaiming Heart.)
Dorothy's relationship with Toto was all Heart. She'd do anything to protect
it. The Heroine. Her spontaneous, intuitive act to protect Toto - throwing
the bucket of water - caused the out-of balance meanness to melt away.
Melody Anderson writes:
Unconditional love. Intuition. Deepest Heart.
Perhaps some would simply call it Soul/Self.
Dogs are Man's best friend, no? Kick them, starve
them, ignore them, yet the minute you walk thru that
door, they wag their tails in excitement that you
are home. Be mad at them, give them only scraps to
eat ....yet when an intruder comes, the Toto's of this world will offer up
their lives to save you from harm.
Toto was the one to lead Dorothy home. Yet it never
"appeared" as though he was the wayshower. After all
he was 'just a dog'. :-)
Dorothy only knew that to lose Toto, to be separated
from Him, was to lose her Heart. She left home to
be with Toto, and it was with Toto's leadings and
assistance that she found her way back.
Notice that when they were loaded in the balloon
basket, ready to lift off for Kansas, it was Toto who jumped out of the
Deepest Heart knew that a basket ride would not
take Dorothy home, so Toto jumped out. And Dorothy
followed her Heart, as irrational as it seemed
at the time.
! and Tim Gerchmez (#)
# Does anyone (else) here see the nondual theme running
# through the movie "The Wizard of Oz?"
good witch/bad witch; home (Kansas)/Oz; sleep/dreams; colour/black-white
# Upon return to the wizard, the travelers discover that he is a
# fraud (OR SO THEY THINK), and is not able to confer those
# qualities they desire upon them, not realizing that those
# qualities were already seen as present in the process of the
# defeat of the wicked witch. The wizard ends up simply
# making them aware (through symbolism) that *they had these
# qualities all along*, and it was only ignorance of the fact
# that had to be lifted. It turns out that the wizard/guru was
# not a fraud after all.
the heart is mechanical; the diploma and medal are not given by
the proper authorities; the qualities do not reside in the body,
this film says, but in the spirit, and symbols can remind us of
this. the wizard does not supply brain or heart, however, only
a recognition (personal) that these qualities already exist in
the people themselves
the tin woodsman has compassion, which is not found in a heart,
only symbolized by it; the scarecrow has creative genius, which
is not found in a brain, only symbolized by a diploma; the
lion has courage, which is not found in a medal, only symbolized
by the recognition through its reward
# Dorothy... wants to go home. Home here represents the true Self,
# the eternal "home" which all of us long for. Yet the wizard fails
# in taking her there....
in truth he never attempts it, having left her behind by accident
(Toto foils the balloon journey, if memory serves); perhaps this
is a further symbol of a journey she must take to realize her desire
# Upon meeting again with the "Good witch Glinda (Grace)," she
# discovers that she has had the power to "go home" all along,
# inherent in the ruby slippers which Glinda (Grace) gave her
# BEFORE she began her sadhana. It was the same with her.
# It was only ignorance preventing her from going home.
# With great sadness she says goodbye to her traveling
# companions and the rest of samsara, and takes the final step.
ignorance did not prevent the woodsman, scarecrow or lion from
exhibiting the qualities that they desired; it merely kept
them from knowing that they had these qualities. ignorance
DOES keep Dorothy from being at home, however. we should ask
why Glinda did not inform Dorothy at the outset that she had
the ability to use the slippers to return to her world; is
Glinda sadistic? was she using Dorothy to benefit Oz as a
price for the information about the function of the slippers?
# Upon return (and upon waking up - such a powerful symbol,
# especially in Buddhism - WAKING UP), Dorothy realizes that
# "there's no place like home." She has Realized the search
# she started at the beginning of the movie; that
# what she desired (escape from samsara) had been with her
# ALL ALONG. She wanted to run away, but was ignorant of the
# fact that everything was already perfect, and that indeed
# it is the searching that is false, that is imperfect. What
# she wanted at the beginning of the movie she has found,
# and at the end, she's once again in the same place, but with
# a greatly changed outlook on things - a shift in
# consciousness, if you will.
now she has insights into the familiar faces of home -- their
alter-egos, perhaps. now she recognizes that she could have
been in a coma/fantasy-land forever and has been released to
experience what she had thought was a hellish life for which
she longed when separated from it
the message: be thankful for what you have; if you wish too
strongly for its evaporation you may find that you really
wanted it once it disappears -- that is, things can always
be worse than you imagine so be thankful that they aren't;
accept the status quo because if you set too much change
into motion by bucking the system you may find yourself
in greater jeopardy due to your folly; journies beyond
samsara may prove entertaining, but it is best to remain
in the Wheel, for greater dangers await those who explore
beyond it and you may never get back
but her journey is not yet ended. this is not the realization
of the no-self. she hasn't taken the lesson of Oz and applied
it in her waking life by casting a bucket of water upon the
Wicked Witch (expressing her emotions to her mean neighbor),
taking an INTENTIONAL journey to find the Good Witch (making
the choice to discover the divine) or the Wizard (accepting
instruction from an all-too-human guide), or discovering
the potency of the ruby slippers (finding a way to identify
and engage her inner power to FUNDAMENTALLY wake up -- bodhi)
# Amazing nondual parallels, in my opinion.
we are speaking of the film
was she a little girl dreaming she was a witch or a witch
dreaming that she was a little girl? what happened to the
people and place of Oz when she 'went home' (awoke)? why
was the Land of Oz in colour, and home, ESPECIALLY AFTER
SHE AWOKE, always in black and white?
Article from the L.A. Times http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-culver25dec25,1,5421391.story
COMMENTARY A Wonderful Wizard The creator of 'Oz' books gave
us a window on
By Stuart Culver, Stuart Culver is a professor of English at the University of
In 1900, the year "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was published, L. Frank Baum
released another book as well one that has long been forgotten by most of those
who ever knew of it and that was utterly eclipsed many years ago by the story of
Dorothy and her three comrades.
Two books in a year was not particularly unusual for Baum, who was, after all,
extraordinarily prolific and whose oeuvre includes (in addition to the 14 Oz
books) such lesser-known works as "The Magical Monarch of Mo" and "Queen Zixi of
Ix." His first book, published in 1886, was "The Book of the Hamburgs," a
nonfiction work for adults that was described as a "brief treatise" on the
mating, rearing and management of Hamburg chickens, based on his expertise as a
The book Baum published in 1900 was not a children's book, either. But it had an
effect on children in the sense that it had a small, but real, effect on
Christmas as we know it in America. It was called "The Art of Decorating Dry
Goods Windows," and surprisingly enough, it was about exactly that.
Why was one of the world's most creative novelists interested in the decorating
of shop windows? In the 1880s, Baum had briefly owned and managed a department
store in the small South Dakota city of Aberdeen. The store, Baum's Bazaar,
failed, a victim of the hard times depicted in the early scenes of Dorothy's
Kansas in "The Wizard of Oz" (along with a tendency to be too lenient with
credit). Baum, then 34 years old, moved to Chicago.
In those days, just shortly after the advent of large plate-glass windows, there
were few Christmas displays in America's department stores. The first show
windows had merely piled up goods in more or less attractive patterns.
Baum was instrumental in changing ideas about what such windows should look like.
In his book, he urged window dressers to think of the show window as the stage
for a unique style of urban theater. A successful window display, he argued,
should not simply show commodities and their prices but should let "objects tell
some legible story" to capture the eye of the "passive throng" on the city
streets. Machinery, he argued, is a necessary adjunct the half-revolving bust,
illusion windows, the vanishing lady were among his suggestions.
"You must arouse in the observer cupidity and a longing to possess the goods you
sell," he wrote. The best way to do this, he believed, was through the use of the
mannequin, especially one that had been set in motion to create the illusion of
life within the window's imaginary world. The mannequin would enact a drama of
desire that would captivate window shoppers. The Christmas window, which often
features no commodities at all, provides this captivating story in its purest
form, Baum believed, and he was central to encouraging window dressers to make
the most of holidays like Easter and Christmas "times of joy and brightness, of
full purses and generous hearts."
At first, Baum's career in children's literature might seem antithetical to his
work devising and promoting retail marketing strategies, but in fact the art of
window dressing helped shape his literary imagination. After all, he places at
the very center of his most successful fairy tale a child's encounter with the
mannequin-like Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.
It is tempting to read the Oz story as a meditation on what makes the mannequin
so fascinating. Dorothy's companions are such memorable characters because they
share so sincerely the show-window dummy's belief that the qualities that can
make them truly human are in fact detachable and purchasable objects.
The familiar 1939 movie version of "The Wizard of Oz" asks us to assume that the
moral is simply that you already have everything you really need to become a
complete person. Yet, read from the perspective of Baum's career in advertising,
the story seems to say just the opposite: The mannequin comes to life not because
he possesses the crucial object but because he feels an acute desire for it. It
seems that what makes Scarecrows and Tin Men truly human is just their belief
that they will always need something more than what they already have.
In the years that followed, the Oz books became enormously successful. "The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was adapted for Broadway. (Toto, in that version, was
replaced by a cow.) Baum left Chicago for Hollywood, where he proceeded to turn
out sequels and created three Oz movies. Shop windows were left behind.