For the past fifteen years, I've used The Wizard of Oz to teach mythology, fairy tales, and Eastern philosophies to my college Literature students, sometimes three classes per semester, three semesters per year. Recently, instead of paying attention to the spiritual/transformational theme, I've taken greater note of my students' responses to the characters on the Oz adventure. Once Dorothy hooks up with her companions and skips along the yellow brick road in search of home and self, ( a symbol of the third chakra, the "I am" of individual existence), we see how each character mistakenly perceives that finding a particular physical organ (heart, brain) or specific personality trait (courage) will render him complete, turn him from what he was to what he should be. First of all, we are already what we should be, which is Dorothy's great lesson. It is not the missing fragment itself that needs replacement. That fragment is just a symbol for the specific chakra that needs activation and healing.
Of course we know that no essential parts are missing; the chakras are there, but the characters have not yet been awakened to them. This pretty much parallels the way so many of us live our lives in the ordinary world which dulls the senses with noise and debris. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy -- in this case, Dorothy's isolation from home and desperate need for familiarity -- to deliver to us truly important lessons. So it's not the heart or brain that's delivered, no: WE are delivered as we discover our spiritual core. The messengers along the way are not always obvious. Yes, we know the wizard was a fraud. But who is the true wizard of this film? Who makes possible this spiritual unification? TOTO.
Enter the four-legged angel. Toto is the Divine emissary who propels us into higher consciousness . What prompts Dorothy's escape from home in the first place? It was Toto's mischievous exploration of Elmira Gulch's garden. When Dorothy is captured and imprisoned by the Wicked Witch of the West, who bravely leads her trio of companions to the dark tower where she's impsironed (a symbol of her subconscious self)? Who swiftly draws the curtain, exposing the Wizard as a shameful fraud? And who prevents Dorothy from taking the passenger seat home in a hot air balloon? Toto, who leaps out as the balloon ascends, forcing Dorothy out to retrieve him. (Hmmm....lots of lessons about retrieval in this story.) The result is instruction in meditation and chanting from Glinda the Good Witch; Dorothy must close her eyes and visualize, using her third eye/brow chakra to will herself home. She realizes what the higher energies want us to see: that there are no fields greener than our own and no wizards greater than ourselves. Toto, as the animal guide, transports her to higher planes, her spiritual teacher in every regard.
As I've been monitoring students' responses to the characters, I notice that they differ markedly from mine. Overwhelmingly, they identify the Cowardly Lion as their favorite character, symbolizing perhaps, their anxieties over failed social expectations. I, however, get weepy every time Dorothy bids a soppy farewell to Scarecrow, her first and completely unselfish, loyal protector. I'm sure this triggers a deeply rooted wish for such devotion in my life.
Take the time to watch this film again no matter how many times you've seen it. Where does it strike you? Where does your inner empath begin to manifest? It may tell you where you need to do your next round of self-therapy.
Lisa Shaw is a spiritual counselor, animal communicator, writer, and English professor. She has taught metaphysical classes in South Florida for over 25 years and currently hosts a women's spiritual learning circle in Ft. Lauderdale, where she lives with a brood of unruly animals.