Everybody knows about Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion and their adventures following the Yellow Brick Road. But there's more to the The Wizard of Oz than mere entertainment, according to some observers.
Toledo educator Claudia Cooper finds a number of metaphysical messages in The Wizard of Oz, which she will discuss at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Lyons Universalist Church, 145 E. Morenci St., Lyons, Ohio.
Dorothy and her fellow travelers in the Land of Oz are on a quest to find the Wizard, believing that once they meet him he'll be able to solve all their problems.
"What they find is that, in terms of their expectations, the Wizard is pretty ineffective," Ms. Cooper said in an interview.
"One of the big messages that I see is that we're always yearning for something that we think is unobtainable. Somehow we think we have to go through a lot of effort to get it," she said. "We also seem to think that there's only one approach to it, which is a conforming way of living our lives. By following the Yellow Brick Road, everybody knows that's how you solve things."
A major moral of the story, she said, is that people should stop looking outside themselves for answers.
"I come from a metaphysical tradition in that I feel our connection with the eternal, the divine, is an inward connection. It's ever present and just needs to be called upon," Ms. Cooper said.
A number of others have weighed in on the hidden messages of The Wizard of Oz, which was written by L. Frank Baum and first published in 1900 as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The classic movie starring Judy Garland was released in 1939.
Commentators have praised and condemned the messages of the book and movie, and Mr. Baum himself for his belief in theosophy -- which Webster's New World dictionary defines as "a religious or semireligious set of occult beliefs rejecting Judeo-Christian revelation and theology, often incorporating elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, and held to be based on a special mystical insight or on superior speculation."
Some observers believe Mr. Baum injected his theosophist beliefs throughout The Wizard of Oz.
"Everyone is yearning for the place over the rainbow. They need the wisdom and vitality won in the mythic realm," one Internet blogger writes.
Another links Mr. Baum and The Wizard of Oz to the clandestine Illuminati movement, writing that "the books have so much material from inside the secret world of the Illuminati that the few who understand the Illuminati wonder if Baum wasn't an insider."
Another Web site claims that "[Mr. Baum's] writings are boldly anti-Christ as we may see even from the title of his main book, for 'Wonderful' is one of the Lord Jesus Christ's' proper names."
Another observer points out that the Emerald City is shaped like an Oriental yin-yang symbol.
Ms. Cooper, who studied drama, received a bachelor's degree in special education, and attended St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., said one of the helpful messages that a person can take home from Oz is to not be limited by fear.
"We live our lives with all these worries, these concerns," she said. "Dorothy and the others are on their journey to see the Wizard, but if they go through the woods they are probably going to encounter 'lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!' The fears we have in our daily lives -- how are we going to pay these bills or do this or do that -- they are the lions and tigers and bears of our lives. And they turn out to be something we can very easily deal with. They're not as frightful as we make them out to be."
-- David Yonke