Monday, January 31, 2022

The Wizard of Oz: a modern spiritual allegory

(Note: the inspiration for this interpretation came as I contemplated the ebbing life of Nayaswami Anandi who left this earth just a few days after. Why this inspiration? I cannot say, perhaps the theme song "Over the Rainbow" was a subliminal connection, but I used it as the focus of a talk at Sunday Service on the day of her passing, January 30, 2022. See Ananda Washington YouTube channel and the Service entitled "Mystery of the Avatara." Link at bottom of this article)

A modern spiritual allegory can be found in the wonderful, popular, and delightful original movie "The Wizard of Oz."

Based on the story published in 1900 by author L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz was made into a movie in 1939. I first saw it as a child in the 1950's when it was aired on television.**

Here then is the allegory that unfolded into my mind as I recollected the story:

We, like Dorothy, are orphans for our souls are made in the image of God and, as St. Augustine put it, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." No one seems to understand us. They want to take away our daydreams which are in fact a memory of the pure happiness of the soul. Little Toto, her dog, represents her tiny but energetic and wise soul memory. 

At first, when life wants to steal our happiness we want to run away but our own sincerity (represented by the kindly Professor Marvel who reminds us that our loved ones will be saddened by our absence) beckons us to face reality courageously. But it cannot be found by seeking the innocence of childhood and the safety of the past.

So we can't go back home to childhood; we must move forward through our karma. But we are too often swept up in the tornado of adolescent and young adult years by the whirlwind of life's passions and confusions, and we find for a time that everything we hoped for and thought was true is "gone with the wind."

But our sincerity grounds us and out of the maelstrom, we land (sometimes hard) into a new world of spirituality and find that we have "killed" the "wicked witch of the West," she who would entice us to seek worldly goals. We are not in Kansas anymore! We may have crushed the wicked witch of material delusions but the wicked witch of ego aggrandizement is still very much alive. She is far more powerful and is bent upon preventing us from finding soul happiness. 

Though confused we pray for guidance and suddenly, Divine Mother, the kind witch of the East, appears to point us in the right direction and to give us the ruby red slippers of sadhana (meditation and spiritual practices). She says we must travel to the Emerald City (of superconsciousness) to find our guru, the wizard who can tell us how to find our true home (traveling via Aum). Clicking our red ruby slippers three times, chanting "Aum, Tat, Sat," we ready ourselves to embark upon our journey. 

With our goal clarified, the little Munchkins of our thoughts, intentions, and actions cheer us on to the "yellow brick road" of the spine. The astral world is golden-yellow and so, then, is the path to our home in Aum. But it is a lonely, interior path and it winds its way facing the obstacles of our own karma, energized by the leering, haughty witch ego hiding behind the trees of life. The yellow brick road represents the winding astral channels of ida and pingala, clogged at times with our karma and hiding the straight and narrow path of the sushumna. 

While yet alone we need help; we need companions. Our companions in life are the three paths of yoga, the "organs" of perception, feeling, and action. When we come to the inevitable crossroads of life, we need wisdom. But the scarecrow of our confused and restless mind must learn to concentrate and develop the intuition to know which path to take. Our resolve can rust our determination like a Tin Man in the rains of karma if we do not use the oil of devotion so we can continue our journey. (Like the foolish virgins of Jesus' parable who failed to keep the oil of their lamps topped off.) Our resolve and our wisdom are yet not enough. It takes lion-like courage to not only go onward but to resist the temptations and distractions along the way. 

As we journey along we encounter temptations to rest and to sleep in daydreams of happiness in the Elysium fields of the subconscious. But wisdom and devotion support our resolve even when our energy and enthusiasm flags. At last, we reach the Emerald City of superconsciousness. There we are welcomed by saintly vibrations and purified by the inner light but even now we cannot rest for the wicked witch of Ego remains at large. To achieve the blessing of the guru we must do our part and return to the world of our karma to do battle with the usurper of our soul kingdom.

We sally forth into the battle but the monkeys of body-consciousness, desire for comforts, material desires, approval, and recognition strive to imprison us. Little Toto--our soul memory--comes to our rescue by calling up our soul-wisdom, devotion, and courage to liquidate the ego and triumph with the capture of the "broomstick" of our spine now upraised by the power of Kundalini--the symbol and power of the transformation of the ego into the light of the soul. 

Now it is revealed to us with Toto's intervention that the guru is a human incarnation of God! In the human form, the guru might seem quite ordinary to those without "eyes to see," but the Wizard of Oz has power over life and death and access to the "controls." The guru awakens us to the "inner Toto" of soul-victory and now departs in the astral balloon of light, promising to us to send the Comforter, the Divine Mother to bring to our "remembrance all things." This is when Divine Mother reappears to remind Dorothy that she has always had the power to ascend, for she is none other than the immortal soul clothed temporarily in human form, just as was the guru. Tapping her ruby red shoes of sadhana three times and chanting AUM, TAT, SAT Dorothy re-awakens to her home in AUM, and in Divine Bliss.

Swami Hrimananda!

** A summary of the plot of the Wizard of Oz can be found at:

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