Nonduality and the Wizard of Oz

by Tim Gerchmez

Just under the surface of a child’s 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 life (“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 attemptsto 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. It’s notable that only Dorothy fell asleep under the spell of the poppies… her traveling companions were unaffected, because
they aren’t central to the theme. They are really aspects of Dorothy’s personality.

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 Dorothy’s 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 Dorothy’s life are
both inside and outside her, that there is no difference at all between
those in Dorothy’s life and aspects of her personality. It is the people
in one’s life that help to form the personality, and so it was them that
manifested as her traveling companions on the inner journThe 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).

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