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The Wizard of Oz – A Myth for Our Age
“We’re off to see the Wizard!!……The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
Films have been a technological medium of the 20th century that have enabled the great movie makers to create powerful emotional experiences for audiences. One of the most loved films of the 20th century is “The Wizard of Oz”. It continually rates in surveys as one of the 5 greatest films of all time.
In this age of narcissism many people question themselves and want to become perfect, successful, more popular, and more powerful. There is now a whole industry of spruikers of quasi-spiritual and quasi-scientific or quasi-quantum physics based programmes who try and beguile the average innocent person (Dorothy) with messages of Self Transformation and Self Development.
Studies have shown that when adults get stressed or undergo a crisis they often retreat into a younger psychic space, and often find solace in idealised stories, myths, and stories. Films now add to that inventory of escapism. Many people also start their journey of healing or self development from a place of a recent crisis which may have had the effect of destabilising their beliefs, values and reality about life.
Given “The Wizard of Oz” is an early film that lacks the powerful special effects that we now come to accept as standard in Hollywood films then there must be a compelling reason why generation after generation of audiences are drawn to this film. The key reason this film moves those who see it is this grand film of the 20th century is actually a key myth about the loss and splitting of humanity in modern man. Such a film appeals to us all as it speaks loudly to each one of us at an archetypal level.
The encapsulation of the mythic is achieved via the book being written in the symbolic language of fairy tale. In both the book and the film entitled “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, we share the adventures of Dorothy and her friends as they “follow the yellow brick road” leading to the Wizard of Oz. However “The Wonderful Wizard of OZ” was not just a popular modern fairy tale. It was a meditation on the plight of modern men and women in our society.
In this film we find the common image of the variations of the wounded and lost human as “Tin man” without his heart, the “Straw man” without a spine and brain, and the “Cowardly Lion” who has disowned his courage and anger. These characters are archetypes for the wounded parts of ourself that result from our negative childhood experiences.
In each character and as an overall constellation of characters we find the typical expression of the average person in society who goes to the guru healer type as expressed as “off to see the wizard” to find their healing. The same paradigm can also be said to be true for those in society who seek out lifestyle, wealth and money gurus who will liberate them from the unhappiness and poverty in their lives.
Few people know that the author of “The Wizard of Oz” was L. Frank Baum, who was a healer, a follower of eastern mystics and paths of self realisation. He had witnessed the phenomena of gullible people seeking their truth through Spiritualism, gurus such as Krishnamurti, and the American snake oil salesmen and con man who were a part of American society in his day. Baum was like world famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung in that both became fascinated with eastern religions, mysticism and spirituality. Baum immersed himself in such experiences and this lifelong passion influenced the writing of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a myth of both warning and guidance for what is the human dilemma in the healing journey, or the path of “the yellow brick road”. In Baum’s time there was already unease in many people as to how their lives and how mankind was playing out their existence, with the mass industrial era in full swing and taking its toll on humanity and the environment.
In 2011 we have fully ripened the unease both in terms of the negative impact our technological age and societal demands are playing out in individual lives, and in terms of the New Age spiritual movement maturing into a fully fledged industry with a mix of the genuine and the conmen and women who promote deceiving and destructive philosophies and narcissistic based programmes on the innocent.
In 2011 we see a conjoining of healing practices and the psychology of manifesting via such popular packages as “The Secret”, the wealth and lifestyle transformation gurus, and the investment, property and self empowered business models being touted by a variety of “successful” entrepreneurs. Some are solid and some are illusory.
In Frank Baum’s time the Barnum and Bailey circus represented the event where one could find an emotionally arousing event that assaulted the senses with strange manifestations of people, often with deformities, spiritualism via palm readers and fortune tellers, exotic animals, and the traditional entertainment of the Big Arena of the circus. This stimulated and aroused the sense of wonder, excitement and aliveness in the public who went on their big day out.
In 2011 we find a New Age circus of packaged entertainment with carefully crafted environments, audiovisual stimulation, promotional material, and the mass hysteria generated in the audience as wild promises are made about how you too can be wealthy, beautiful, rich, retired and making money in your sleep!!
The advanced psychology and marketing techniques create the same swoon in the audience and the adult critical thinking mind vanishes, and instead is replaced by child-like desires of freedom, play time, and off loading of adult responsibility by now finally getting provided with the secrets of how to find a better you, to attract whatever you want into your life, to finally be happy, and to become perfect and free of self doubt and victimhood to the world outside.
In the audience the naive Dorothy just soaks it all in without censoring any thoughts and using discrimination, the Tin Man finds a heart start beating within himself that brings him truly alive again, the Lion starts to roar with approval and a new sense of courage to face the world, and the Scarecrow thinks he feels a spine developing and that he now has the ability to think with wisdom and walk tall without being propped up in the world. Welcome to the Yellow Brick Road and the modern Wizards of Oz.
In his time, Frank Baum wanted to both warn people and educate people as to the required “journey” that we necessarily may need to take to heal old childhood and life wounds, and to truly be able to be successful and adult in the world. Using the fairytale myth of “The Wisdom of Oz”, it was an illumination into the pitfalls and realisations of the path of healing and self realisation that one must take alone to come of age in the world. The successful adaptation to a Hollywood blockbuster film has sealed its message and legacy as one of the 20th century myths about the nature of mankind.
The Wizard character is central in this story. Baum intended him to be a reflection of both the spiritual and self acclaimed healer or guru types who plagued society in his day, and who are now are everywhere in this New Age of Enlightenment, and who now also operate in wealth creation, investment, lifestyle and psychology of wealth arenas.
Then as now these gurus promote and sustain their image with their projections of claimed special insight and financial and/or spiritual leadership. Baum also saw that the wizard also accurately reflected a common dynamic that ran across society in its other forms of leadership and definitions of manhood and self realisation.
His observations are uncanningly accurate about the splintered nature of mankind, and how gullible people often just gave away their power, and their adult critical thinking to false prophets, transformation and wealth gurus, and healer types today.
Psychologically speaking one notices that these arenas are also like a honey pot to narcissistic personality types who are prone to be grandiose, liberal with the truth, promise much, deliver little substance, and whose image projection sees them claim to have special insight and powers. In Baum’s day as well as our own such persons are often uncovered as frauds in the end.
Baum’s message is still as fresh and insightful today as 100 years ago when written. This is why succeeding generations are captivated by its message as it resonates with a timeless message and wisdom to us all.
Both the book and the subsequent movie has a plot where the five archetypal characters are searching for their heart’s desires somewhere “out there”, and have given their power away to others who have deluded them or robbed them of vital insights, qualities or psychological resources.
In our modern world this is a metaphor for the wounding many of us undergo in childhood as we go through our psychological developmental stages, and how developmental arrest or traumas occur to many of us in some way as a consequence. In some cases it was a parental wounding where we were hurt, controlled, suppressed or made to feel bad or unsafe as part of growing up.
Baum’s message is that one’s lost resources and subsequent happiness are to be found within ourself and not in some guru or wizard or outside force. The unfolding plot in the story comes from a classic struggle by the innocent and wounded against evil as demonstrated by the wicked witches, who represent both internal shadow energies and impulses within ourselves, as well as adults in the real world who have agendas and evil intent for us.
The story is a form of the Hero’s Journey as the wandering 5 characters must face tests and challenges to find their treasure or holy grail which lies within. They must uncover both their internal distorted beliefs, thinking, and conclusions about themselves and life, as well as learning to see beyond the deception of the real world deceivers who is the Wizard.
Dorothy is the feminine container for all the other 5 character sub-personalities or essential archetypes within each of us. These five primary characters are Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the scared Lion, Toto the dog, and the Wizard of Oz himself as the masculine. In Jungian psychology each archetypal personality demonstrates a set of strengths as well as a wounded shadow compulsion when not made conscious and re-integrated into the wider personality constellation.
JUNGIAN PRINCIPLES AROUND MYTHIC STORIES
In the style of the great mythic stories we see each of the characters in this mythic story as parts of our overall psychological self. Dorothy represents how the feminine principle in modern man has been completely split-off from the masculine principle and disowned altogether from modern manhood, and so travels as a separate person. She is the persona.
The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed that many symptoms of neurosis were caused by a feeling of spiritual disconnection with the world and with oneself, and believed that the individual’s innate need in life was to re-integrate and synthesize all the different parts of the self into an integrated whole. In this way one may be seen to have a primary container of self or a central self, and a constellation of disowned and unconscious parts of the self that we each had to give up in childhood to survive or to be acceptable/lovable in the eyes of others.
In psychological healing we now understand that it is necessary for many to re-integrate their disowned aspects of self back into that primary self or primary container of self. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz works from this Jungian architecture of a primary self (Dorothy) travelling with her disowned aspects of self that need healing and integration.
Jung proposed that we each have both masculine and feminine energies and archetypes constellated within our unconscious minds. If you are physically a man then your mental psyche must balance itself by incorporating the essence of the opposite sex via the opposing sex archetypes. The balancing or opposing female archetype in the male unconscious psyche is called the “anima”. The anima archetype holds all of the stereotypically female personality traits, such as love, emotional wisdom, sensitivity, empathy, etc.
Likewise the balancing male archetype in the female unconscious psyche is the “animus”. Here one finds the male archetype that embodies all of the stereotypically male personality traits such as strength, courage, independence, and power. We see in The Wizard of Oz both powerful anima and animus archetypes in the characters of the book and film.
The Wizard of Oz can be considered to “move” people due to its accessing symbols from our “collective unconscious”. The collective unconscious according to Jung consists of those images, figures and experiences that are shared by all humanity. These shared associations are expressed as universal themes in myth, art, literature, fairy tales, legends and religion. The Wizard of Oz was one of the first films to express these associations in the media of visual entertainment.
The theorist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme to encapsulate the concept of an idea, image, story or myth that arises and then exists in humanity independent of the story tellers or other persons. The concept of an urban myth is one example of how a meme arises and then is propagated in society and survives independently of that society or any one person in that society
Carl Jung implied this same idea as he saw that these archetypes transcended the personal unconscious of any one person or age. These archetypes had become independent and universal over time and now were carried through time as stories, myths, and in dreams of individuals. Archetypes like memes are propagated by a cultural process where everyone in the same culture hears the same stories, fairytales, myths and songs and sees the same images in books and now more recently on television and on movie screens.
A single person would typically not have all the wounds of self that are implied in Dorothy, the Tinman, Scarecrow, Lion, and the Wizard, but as a myth it is designed to illuminate the key archetypal wounds we typically can suffer in childhood. This is one reason why the film has universal appeal as each one of us finds ourself in both Dorothy and one or more of her travelling companions.
Archetypically Baum was also highlighting that modern man must embrace his feminine heroine archetype to heal wounded aspects of the psyche. Dorothy represents this as the primary character in her own constellation of travelling companions. Dorothy also embodies the need for society to reintegrate the feminine back into the overly dominating masculine self and values in our culture.
If you notice there are no male heroes in this story. The males are disowned animus (masculine) aspects of us all, and portrayed as the wounded masculine Wizard who acts out compulsive desire for power and a false mask or image as a compensation for his essentially weak and insecure wounded self. The true heroes are feminine via Dorothy and the Good Witch Glinda, who are central players in this mythic story.
The need to highlight the feminine and to show the masculine in its wounded aspect is the myth screaming at us all to awaken to the need to reassert our feminine and to heal the masculine if we are to be happy and to heal. The rise of the wealth, property, investment, money, psychology and spiritual gurus represents the abuse of power of our masculine self in society. These figures extol consumption and materialistic and superficial attainments as the false way to happiness.
In essence they say that instead of true internal self-esteem what we need is “other-esteem” which means to surround ourselves with material symbols, trappings, environments and images of success. This deception is meant to offer the unwary or unconscious person the way to happiness on The Yellow Brick Road. The masculine is the most common aspect of the wounded self that deceives people into relying on the illusion of external objects for attempts at self esteem and happiness.
Dorothy Gale was the central character in the book and was played by Judy Garland in the movie. Dorothy is the embodiment of the persona of the hero who must undertake their transforming journey of self discovery. Judy was chosen to embody the innocence and wide eyed collective ideal of the unconscious individual who is not self aware. This is a true starting place for many in their healing journey.
The audience can therefore resonate and identify with her character as it is our own persona or a part of our own self which catches our wonder and attention. In one sense such a film is like an external form of being our own observer to the dreams we have at night where we see ourself and parts of ourself played out in the symbols and characters arranged for such a performance in our sleep.
In a dreaming sense the film shows the unconscious introducing the disowned unconscious parts of ourself back to our persona so that a healing or integration might happen. Dorothy portrays through the story of her upbringing and childhood a wounded self in need of healing. She has no natural parents still alive and was being raised by her aunty and uncle. This is a classic wounding scenario.
Dorothy has compensations that developed from having to grow up too soon and by developing strong values. She demonstrates bravery in many encounters with the wizard, the witches, and amongst the quarrels with her travelling companions. She is able to defy the threats placed upon her as she embodies the wisdom of the feminine principle as a source of courage and a defender of others.
Dorothy as the feminine also holds the place of our eternal values of justice, hope, and love. At key times she scolds, sets moral standards, maintains the truth, and is able to foster hope even when the Wizard, after their first encounter, disappoints her and abandons her, in a recreation of a parent to child style dynamic.
The implications are clear from her embodiment. If we disown our feminine then we lose all these noble qualities and instead we have to rely on the masculine powers and qualities which are far more destructive and aggressive in nature. Both Jung and other commentators have noted the destructive nature of mankind who lives from the dominant masculine principle at the expense and the suppression of our feminine other half of self.
There is now emerging a discipline of Eco-psychology which picks up on this theme of looking at how mankind’s destruction of our planet and its ecosystems is a destructive impulse that has its counterpart inside the wounded nature of modern man. The “out there” visible outcomes of planetary degradation are outcomes from an inner sickness in modern men and women.
Andrew Harvey in his numerous books and in particular in his call for Sacred Activism via his book “The Hope”, argued for an active form of feminine based compassion and practical action within communities to overturn narcissistic and masculine dominated themes that run individuals, communities and societal values.
Harvey notes our masculine, materialistic and narcissistic society norms are unsustainable and have a destructive momentum that requires bottom up change starting with each person healing their wounded selves. Baum is alerting us to the same message.
Dorothy comes to realise that the vivid colours in the Land of OZ are not what matters and what is real. She learns that love is real and that she does love her Auntie Em and that “there is no place like home”. Dorothy learns love and the feminine fire of truth and principles. The grey skies of Kansas are then better than OZ for her happiness comes from within and not from the illusion of external objects and environments. Love becomes a central truth in her being.
In a sense many people delude themselves by pursuing their happiness “out there” via believing the gurus in life who promise such happiness via material wealth, success, opulent lifestyles, and narcissistic forms of self development and spirituality. My experience of gurus of any type is they are predatory and attract the dependent personality types, the low self esteemers, and the naive or uneducated in the area of interest where the guru hangs out.
Many travellers on the Yellow Brick Road will give their power and money to numerous Wizards and find disappointment, abandonment and betrayal in due course. While they continue to look beyond themself they will be attracted to the vivid colours of the Lands of Oz painted for them by their gurus.
The dog represents man’s animal instincts and impulses which too have had to be disowned and split-off from modern man. Our perfectionistic, narcissistic, and image driven society demands that to be acceptable we must be civilised and increasingly “perfect” and disowning of any relationship to our animal natures. As such the dog represents a shadow archetype which is the embodiment of the individual’s repressed impulses. The shadow is the ‘negative’ side of the personality, and the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide.
The dog then is a disowned aspect of our wider self and so must travel separate to Dorothy and the others. These two characters now live in the unconscious life of men and women as they have been rejected and disowned in our rational and scientific based society which consciously embraces power, success, wealth and acquisition, all of which are masculine principles.
It was the dog known as Toto who actually “sniffed around” and uncovered the deceptions of the Wizard, and then tore down the curtain or pretence that hid his real nature from the travellers. This is the intuitive sense in us which gurus seek to squash and instead replace with blind loyalty and submission to the ideas and directions of the guru.
Many people failed to heed the inner voice, or the gut instinct in them that activated at critical times when they were dealing with their form of guru. They used their head and intellect to override such informing bodymind messages and rationalised their way forward, normally with a large dose of carefully crafted manipulative words and messages from their Wizard!!
The scarecrow is the first of the wounded parts of the masculine part of ourself that are portrayed in the book and film. The scarecrow is supposed to be upright and strong and scary in order to scare away crows which mythology always portrays as evil, darkness, death and foreboding.
The scarecrow is a collapsed personality archetype and is first discovered hanging on a pole, symbolising dependency or co-dependency. The scarecrows life is not working out as crows mock him and do not fear him at all. The scarecrow has an identity crisis and cannot stand up for himself, hence why he is first seen propped up.
Dorothy is the persona who can heal and resource up this part of the wounded self via her act of removing him from the pole. The scarecrow gains realisation that he can actually stand on his own two feet due to the feminine wisdom which challenges the mask of victimhood. In the film he claims he cannot make up his mind but Dorothy is a wisdom principle that pierces the game he plays with himself by making conscious how he has made his mind up by instructing her to release him from the pole.
Dorothy resources him up so he can choose a direction to undertake. Many people in society are in two minds about their life, cannot make decisions, or are co-dependent on others. Some are dependent on various addictions to prop them up in their misery, or to numb them out so they can continue to live a token existence, much like a scarecrow who is not taken seriously by the crows. Many such people are ripe pickings for gurus to come and promise miraculous transformations in their lives.
I have personally seen how this type of personality is commonly found in cults, in co-dependent relationships with therapists, self help and self development groups and communities. Normally the guru is a narcissistic or predatory personality who appears to make the person feel special and wanted, and sort of ego inflates them up like a balloon.
Before long all that has happened is that the scarecrow person has swapped their pole of addiction or dependency from whatever it was, to the guru him or herself. The narcissist manipulates them with both encouragement and threats of abandonment whilst blood sucking both their emotional energies as narcissistic supplies, and normally their money, time and labour for his/her own end.
Unfortunately sometimes children are indoctrinated into a dependent stance in life via the brainwashing into religious doctrines or cults or toxic family system values. As adults they are already in a scarecrow outcome. A case in example is the chilling documentary “Jesus Camp” which highlights how children are vulnerable to being brought up within communities that indoctrinate them into blind loyalty around extreme religious ideals.
In my opinion it is a parent’s duty to develop a child with a mind that can examine and investigate any topic with an open mind and objective critical thinking. In my opinion some families and communities are mentally abusing their children into adopting extreme belief systems via adults applying psychological techniques that the child has no discrimination or power to challenge or prevent taking over their reality.
The justification in this documentary appears to be based on the premise that Muslim fanaticism is grooming children into unyielding blind adherence into their beliefs. This Christian group effectively seems to fight this by using the same extreme indoctrination of Christian children as a bulwark against the “opposition”. A person who is “propped up” by a belief system is a scarecrow. Suffer the little children who have this fate.
By contrast the true nature of the scarecrow shows the selfless and compassionate nature of the caretaking personality as well. The scarecrows function is to look after fields and crops, and so has a focus on others and other things with a duty of care and protection. Dorothy enables the positive pole of these human qualities like open mindedness, care, curiosity, leadership, and kindness.
The scarecrow is suitably able to encourage others from their focus being on others rather than themselves. In the film he observes the dilemma of Dorothy being hungry and finds a solution such as tricking the apple tree into throwing apples for Dorothy to eat. Scarecrows can have empathy and stand in the shoes of others, and so while food does not concern him personally he caretakes and enables Dorothy to have that need met.
The scarecrow may be in search of a brain and so this represents our intellect but in fact has been using both his brain and heart all the time. He also knows love, has great adult critical thinking and discrimination via such challenges such as to the gateman in Emerald City. Here he directly does not buy into the prevailing assumption or “truth” but instead asks ” given nobody has seen the great Oz – then how do you know there is one?”
If only more people had challenged the group think of their guru followers who act as gate keepers to the truth of the doctrine of whatever is being espoused, then less people would have lost money to wealth spruikers, cults and scams. In the film and book the Wizard cannot give the scarecrow the brains he desires, as the Wizard is a deception and not a truth. Instead the Wizard awards him a Diploma which is worthless, just as most of the products of some modern day wizards are worthless.
There is no accident in the fate of the Scarecrow to become the ordained leader of The Land of Oz once the deceptive Wizard is banished and leaves. We need more leaders and heroes who are scarecrows than we do wizards in society. We need more adults with adult critical thinking, and empathy and compassion for others, than we do the self serving, self centred, deceptive gurus and Wizards who seem to proliferate in modern society.
The lion is the second of the wounded parts of the masculine part of ourself that are portrayed in the book and film. The lion is supposed to be fearless and also have valour and humility. However like many people we find a person with a split or divided self.
The oppositional or unintegrated factors of courage and fearlessness oppose his contrary principles of discernment and practicality. This means he feels fear at danger. He is bound in a vice of opposing principles until he has arrived at a state where he is paralysed in fear as everything could be dangerous. His statement to Dorothy at their first meeting is “I’m even afraid of myself” which shows how he is hopelessly conflicted and frozen in fear.
This is often the moral dilemma of many people in modern society. Many people have intellects with ideals and value systems which are supposed to guide behaviours. However it is our heart based emotional energies that provide such virtues as valour and courage and fearlessness. Often people have moral lapses and cowardice due to being cut off from their heart and from living in their heads.
In effect our head is the centre of fear and our heart is the centre of courage. In the lion we find an archetypal model of this split in the unified persona. As a result the lion identifies more with his head than his heart and so fear (head) prevails. Dorothy as the feminine shows him the way to live more from the heart and so access those vital energies of courage, valour and fearlessness.
One sees in the film how Dorothy facilitates the reunification of head and heart by allowing the lion to step in and rescue her despite feeling the lion great fear when doing so. The lion gains realisation and learns to live from his heart and not his head and so is able to access great internal resources within as required. From a place of safety of these resources the lion can start to notice beauty, nature, and share and express his own heart based feelings to the others.
If only more people had the courage to speak their truth rather than to live in fear the world would be a better place. The masculine dominated, head based, rational science Western society is invested in being “right” (intellect/head), rather than being in truth (wisdom/heart).
The group think of guru followers means that most lose their personal courage to speak their truth. Most assume the common position of the group and are in fear of the guru or master. Gullible members of the public often get misled by spruikers as they fear being shamed by asking questions that may see them exposed as ignorant, confused or doubting, and so they stay loyal from a place of fear. They do not speak up until too late about whatever is being espoused, and so such people often end up losing money to wealth spruikers and scams, or minds and sanity to cults.
In the film and book the Wizard cannot give the lion the courage he desires, as the Wizard has no heart connection either and so is powerless. Instead the Wizard awards him a medal which is worthless and empty, just as most of the words of some modern day wizards are empty and not based on their own ability to “walk their talk”.
The Tinman is the third of the wounded parts of the masculine part of ourself that are portrayed in the book and film. The Tinman is supposed to be without a heart and so has become “rigid” via a metal body and joints that “lockup” when he has feelings. In a sense he has a head/heart split like that of the lion. He is portrayed in the film as being respectful, has integrity, rules, kindness, and community.
Many people have intellects with ideals and value systems which are supposed to guide behaviours. However it is our heart based emotional energies that provide such virtues as valour and courage and fearlessness. The rigid person has started identifying with head based intellect due to an overly sensitive heart that was wounded early in life. They try and numb out to their heart as it represents painful feelings.
The oppositional or unintegrated factors of sensitive feelings oppose his contrary principles of discernment and rationality mean he feels cut off from his heart and believes he has no heart. He is bound in a vice of opposing principles until he has arrived at a state where he is numb to all feelings even though he is quite sensitive and feeling based, as seen where anytime he sees pain in others he freezes and locks up.
His journey in the film is one back into the heart by realising he actually always had a heart. He does this by finding and having love and concern for others, and to not become emotionally overwhelmed by his intense feelings. In the film he needs oiling when that occurs but learns to become less rigid and more “fluid” which archetypically is about emotions which are a water or fluid element.
In the film and book the Wizard cannot give the tinman the heart he desires, as the Wizard has no heart connection either and so is powerless. Instead the Wizard awards him a testimonial which is worthless and empty, just as most of the words of some modern day wizards are empty and not based on their own ability to “walk their talk”.
In Dorothy we find a feminine persona and archetype, and so far in all the other characters we find the wounded masculine aspects of self. Dorothy also had her own feminine aspects of self to find and integrate into herself as part of her healing. Remember she had lost her mother and apart from Auntie Em, her farm was populated with male figures.
In therapy one will find that we each have disowned aspects of both a feminine and a masculine nature. The individual family dynamics and the nature of our parents will go a long way towards dictating whether we have a primary masculine or feminine wounding in our psyche.
In the film and book there is the good feminine with Glinda who acts the facilitator of Dorothy gaining consciousness over her own inner strengths and inner resources and disowned aspects of self. Glinda cannot do the work of integration for Dorothy but only show the way.
In this sense we see the inner feminine wisdom archetype showing up. What this wisdom informs us is that healing is a journey we must own and take on the hard work of inner transformation. She guides Dorothy onto the Yellow Brick Road, instructs her in the use of the Ruby Slippers, etc. The false promises of quick transformations and cures now touted in some healing modalities are an illusion as Glinda reveals to Dorothy.
The Wizard also represents the illusion of the quick fix which now is sold by many healers, and modalities to the unsuspecting public, who are impatient, or time starved, or who cannot make a disciplined commitment to a process of recovery and healing. Such people want a magic pill, a quick fix, or a miraculous healing event. All they end up with is a new layer of self delusion and deception which serves to deepen any wounding they have.
We all need our inner guide, our inner wisdom, or inner voice, and Glinda represents this as a feminine principle. Dorothy learns that she needs to “mother” herself which is the ability to self care, self nurture and contain one’s emotions in terms of emotional intelligence.
The Wicked witch also makes several appearances and represents the shadow archetypes and energies that we all possess. In life as in the film and book, Dorothy deals with her lower self animalistic impulses of anger, rage and hatred by disowning them. This disowning of such emotions and aspects of self is perhaps the most common problem I see in therapy, particularly in women.
In the film Dorothy is unable to fight Miss Gulch who steals away Toto her dog. This has several implications. Firstly when one disowns our life affirming anger, and the powerful forces of rage and hatred then one is left to become a victim to stronger others, who take from you at will. This was Dorothy’s fate. She swallowed her expression of anger and the mobilising energy to fight back and instead lost Toto. The Wicked Witch is the carrier for Dorothy’s repressed shadow energies which now exist only in the unconscious.
Toto is archetypically her animal instincts and intuition and courage that comes from the aliveness and expression and integration of such wicked elemental energies within oneself. When you disown or repress the Wicked Witch energies you lose Toto, or that animalistic intuitive sense as well. The two are interdependent. The loss of these two archetypal aspects of self normally creates a victim personality and related Depression as a bodymind disease or symptom of this loss.
In the film and book the Good Witch Glinda was able to waken Dorothy from her slumber in the Poppies. This is significant as sleeping a lot is a classic symptom of Depression, and also waking up is the first aspect of healing as it represents becoming conscious or waking from ignorance. The sleeping amongst Poppies symbolises addictions and how most victim personalities and Depressed people use a drug or an addiction to cope with their pain, rather than take the healing journey on The Yellow Brick Road.
The Yellow Brick Road has numerous layers of symbolism but here it represents a healing or spiritual path that needs to be followed by each of us to reclaim what Shamans call our “soul loss” or healing the splits and wounds in our psyche.
Dorothy does feel violence and rage toward Miss Gulch, evil old woman, and if in therapy this would at a deeper level no doubt translate into intense hatred and anger towards her abandoning mother. Dorothy was parentless from a young age in the book.
In the book and film we actually see the transformation of Miss Gulch into the Wicked Witch as part of the story. This is a cautionary observation that if you disown such negative parts of the personality, or our negative feelings, then they do transform internally within our unconscious into a frightening reality of Depression self persecution.
The Wicked Witch cannot defeat Dorothy just as she cannot give her any obvious gifts. The Witch must be overcome before a transformation can occur and this involves the taking back of the power of the witch, which is the taking back of one’s power from others as we cease to be their victim.
The Wizard is the key masculine archetype that is the final focus of Dorothy’s hero journey quest. He represents her father wound as well as the masculine archetype of the Trickster. He was first in the pre-healing life on the farm in Kansas as a travelling magician who used tricks and sleight of hand to beguile and deceive the unconscious public, as well as to impress them with his entitled sense of grandiosity and knowledge.
The Wizard is essentially the Narcissistic or predatory personality we so often now see heading up dubious cults, religions, Self-Help movements, and life transformation programmes. He is also the Corporate Wizard who has charmed and deceived his/her way to the top of the corporate ladder, and the spruiker and travelling salesman of wealth creation, property investment, lifestyle, and investment seminars.
I refer you to two separate articles to understand the narcissistic personality. The first one titled Narcissism is the generalised background article on the types and backgrounds of this personality type, and the 20 essential common characteristics they often exhibit in living from the various flavours of narcissism.
The second article Narcissistic Leaders and their Manipulation in Group Dynamics is specifically about how these predatory and deceptive personalities go about deceiving unsuspecting victims. This article looks at the various layers of camouflage they employ at the physical, mental, emotional, virtual, and spiritual levels to create a compelling image to woo and fool others. It then discusses the actual techniques and strategies they tend to use to trap and exploit those victims.
Once you have read these two articles you will have a good insight into the Wizard archetype and many of its guises. In the film one sees the Wizard showing cowardice and then later apparently showing grace by awarding the lion, scarecrow and tinman with awards. However one sees these as empty gestures without meaning or value as he himself does not own or possess the things they each seek.
The Wizard had to be exposed by Toto the dog before he showed his true nature and frailty as a weak old man. This was not volunteered but was an exposure which shows that the Narcissist resists healing and owning his true nature, and often as in real life, a moral or criminal lapse sees them unwillingly uncovered.
It was only the change of context that then allowed the Wizard to reveal true wisdoms and humanness. This essential point shows that sometimes a crisis or intervention is needed to collapse the false self we erect around ourself, and that we may be unable to stop operating from within that false self once we live out of integrity long enough.
The transformation can occur and we then see the Wizard employing his wisdom and resources for the moral purpose with Dorothy. However this can only come after the false self is exposed and dismantled. A key truth shown in the book and film is that society condemns modern adults to look outside themself for their meaning from a divided and split self that is deceived. The false self does not yield willingly to the truth and resists exposure.
Dorothy empowered herself in this confrontation and healed herself in the process. The cast of travellers all came to the end of the book and film finding their realisations and being able to access their disowned inner resources. They had found wholeness and then had to choose their own “path” or destiny as a result. Each chose their path which represents the conscious and self-aware person taking full responsibility for the choices in their life.
The key transforming scene in the film comes when all this entourage of travelling characters must face the wizard who represents the illusion of power, success, strength and manhood in society. This male wizard is a sham just as the projection of what defines modern leaders and which stereotypes describe the successful man and leaders in society today are often shams.
In the film the wizard is actually a small, insecure blustering old man which is the truth of all those who like the wizard employ tricks, dials, levers and projections of images to fool others about their truth, power and manhood. The wizard was hidden behind a curtain which represents the deceit, manipulations, lying and image management of the various deceivers, false spiritual gurus and power obsessed leaders in our society.
It is they who must hide their true self away and project a false image of success and power to bluff and deceive others that they are a powerful person. The whole concept of leadership and of manhood as dictated by power, money and success are exposed as an illusion and compensations by these insecure and wounded individuals.
Today we find our society bombarded with such false projections of manhood based around the pursuit of power, success, money, objects and control of others, just like the wizard portrays. Many commentators of society see our society trapped in a cult of Narcissism which seduces and ensnares the gullible “tin man”, “scarecrow”, and “cowardly lion” men and women into buying into false realities, and ways of being. We then buy-in to the false projections and magical stories of our leaders, spiritual gurus, spruikers, and self acclaimed healers in society.
In recent years we see at one end of the scale all the adoption of sporting and Hollywood stars as our new role models to ape, whilst those who seek to change go “off to see the wizard” and find themselves deceived by the power and success models being touted as the “magic” of the New Age, Self-Help and Transformation guru set. Both are deceptive, illusory and dead ends. The Wizard is the embodiment of these deceivers.
Our task is to become conscious and self-aware and see through the illusory nature of both the Wizards but also what they are offering. The opening scenes of the story set the scene for typically why we need to heal and how this starts to occur.
THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY
At the beginning of the story we see archetypically how we each get wounded and are forced via parental or caretaker demands to disown essential aspects of ourself lest we lose love or get punished. In the beginning of the story we find that Dorothy loses her essential animal instinct (Toto the Dog), when her weak and suppressed Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are unable to prevent the wicked Miss Gulch (who is really the Wicked Witch) from taking Toto away.
Archetypically this is an important dynamic as the dog which embodies the essential intuitive wisdom or “gut instincts” bites Miss Gulch who he knows is evil. What we see here is how our animal instincts can protect us from evil and danger. If the “good” masculine and feminine socialised parts of ourself (Auntie Em and Uncle Henry) do not stand up for that part of ourself, we will lose it as it will be seen to be part of our wickedness (the possession of the dog by Miss Gulch) and result in its loss to Dorothy.
This is the childhood dilemma of the battle of being in truth as a child in innocence, versus the need to suppress the child and make the child disown such qualities, and instead adopt a weak self that is “good”, “right” and/or based on an idealised projection created by the parents of what the child should be. The prevailing false wisdom of the narcissistic and perfectionistic household is that the children should be an extension of the false, idealised image, ridden reality which does not recognise their essential personality or natures.
In such households the child quickly learns to disown the aspects of self that do not fit in to the “Brady Bunch” image that typifies such families. In effect the Wicked Witch is the narcissistic parent that steals the animal instincts of the child and replaces them with their form of controlling, demanding and critical imperatives in a daily ritual of reality control and reality shaping.
It is such a dynamic that wounds many children in society. Our wounded parts and our animal instincts are disowned, along with our anger, rage, independence and will. Later on in life this can bring on a breakdown or get a person to collapse into a state of recognised unhappiness which is often the catalyst for a person to explore themself or go into therapy or self development.
Likewise the socialised masculine and feminine aspects of adult self (Auntie Em and Uncle Henry) are of no use when a person starts to feel their wounded self. That person as represented by Dorothy and their built up life (The farm), are vulnerable to the emerging elemental rage of the now dissatisfied self. In the story we see that neither Auntie Em nor Uncle Henry are able to contain the approaching tornado that represents all the repressed rage, anger, and elemental forces of the unconscious that now assail and take Dorothy away.
The choice of the symbol of a tornado is brilliant. In America the tornado even today represents a deep seated fear in modern man as to how powerless we are over nature and its unpredictable nature and fury in its powerfully charged state. This mimics how the perfectionistic man who tries to control themself and nature via the masculine use of power, is really weak, insecure, and powerless in the face of nature (external reality), and also to the power of the repressed feminine aspects of inner reality of the personality (mother nature/tornado).
Dorothy did not willingly go on her healing journey. She wanted to escape via going “over the rainbow” which is an analogy how many people distract themselves from their unhappiness and emptiness in life by seeking escapism in the many forms of distraction that society has to offer, whether that be via TV, alcohol, addictions, or work etc.
The tornado literally shows up out of nowhere, destroys and is gone, often with little warning, and has major consequences. In our inner reality a crisis of suppressed truths, unhealed woundings and abuse, repressed unconscious elements, may suddenly intrude into a quiet life of self control and denial like a tornado and take over one’s life in a breakdown or collapse.
We also see how Dorothy is sucked upwards and backwards. Symbolically we know that going backwards in dreams represents the past or the unconscious, and this principle is often shown in dreams in houses as going “up” into the attic”, or out into the “backyard” which is where our past memories and unconscious are symbolised. A number of other symbols also represent the same truths. The tornado is the process of taking Dorothy into her unconscious or dream state.
So Dorothy is suddenly taken out of her normal adult environment where the only conscious aspects of self have been her adult humanised or respectable masculine and feminine parts of self. The farm did constellate 3 farm workers who align somewhat to the Tinman, Scarecrow and the Lion.
This could be construed at one level how all the masculine characters or men in her life have been weak, wounded and not there for her. Uncle Em could not save her dog Toto being taken by Miss Gulch, and he let her down when Dorothy ran to him for support when that occurred. The moral is that the sanitised reality of the idealised and two dimensional form of feminine and masculine life that society imposes on modern man, is powerless to evil and its stronger power and energies.
Her seeking out the Wizard can be construed as a search for a strong fatherly figure which is a common dynamic in both men and women in our age who often come from families where the father is absent, wounded, weak or abusive. The wounded Dorothy does what many spiritual seekers do when they start out on their healing or spiritual path, or their version of “the yellow brick road”.
When Dorothy first meets the Wizard she gives her power to the Wizard through not yet knowing herself and not yet having reintegrated her disowned aspects of self. She is ruled by shame and the dialogue between her and the Wizard emphasises this. The challenges along the Yellow Brick Road also represent the ego challenges to her healing and her emerging spiritual path journey.
The Wizard who is representing the narcissistic and grandiose healer or spiritual guru proclaims himself as “the great and powerful”, but Dorothy fearfully replies by calling herself “Dorothy – the small and meek.” In real life we find narcissistic leaders, healers, and guru types projecting carefully crafted personas and images of magnificence and power which is an attempt to create a power in-balance from the outset with followers.
Many followers have low self esteem and perceive themself as weak and insignificant. Narcissists know how to make such a person feel special and worthy, all as part of a strategy to get their loyalty and buy-in, before commencing to exploit them.
Narcissistic healers, gurus and leaders will use grooming, dress, words and language, false claims and practised techniques and propositions to create an instant magnetic and plausible expectation and belief into the minds and hearts of those they encounter. This is what happened to Dorothy when she first encountered the Wizard. Stripped of her adult critical thinking and intuitive gut instincts (Toto the Dog), she could not question or doubt the fantastic claims of this man.
Seekers on the path of spiritual development, healing and the recent repackaging known as “Transformation” that such narcissistic leaders and spruikers use, are often conned by messages that appeal and are honed to their needs and wants. A look at the travelling salesmen or spruikers who live or visit “OZ” or “AUS” is illustrative. One notes that the wealth, money and lifestyle transformation industry is like a travelling circus visiting town, performing, and moving on.
My observation with these promoters is their much hyped self promotions will normally see them target the gullible or naive Dorothy’s to “find themself”, “transform into a powerful manifestor” and any of a hundred other images of healed, wealthy, successful, powerful, lovable, and perfect images that get put into their hearts and minds by such conmen gurus.
Dorothy also has to find her own masculine wizard within herself as part of her healing. She cannot live in the feminine alone just as those who live in the masculine alone are also unbalanced and wounded. We see how at the climax of the story Dorothy is able to claim her own greatness and power and reintegrate that disowned masculine aspect into her persona.
THE MIDDLE PART OF THE STORY
The main body of the story is about the dynamics and aspects of our wounded self that typically show up to be dealt with as part of the healing journey. There are numerous dynamics and I have touched on some of the key one’s elsewhere in this article. It is a journey of self-realisation and healing that comes under challenge by the ego and the unintegrated aspects of self.
CLIMAX AND END OF STORY
As the film then showed at the end, we need the integration of one’s own animal instinctual/intuitive basis, and with reclamation and honouring of our feminine, regardless of our male wounding. The “Tin Man”, the Straw Man”, and the “Cowardly Lion” all healed and found their “missing quality” which was all there but just lost through being deceived by others and by the false notions and images of leadership, power and manhood in our society. The wizard embodied this deception.
“The Wizard of Oz” shows us an eternal truth of our humanity. In the end it was the dog who exposed the deceptions and manipulations of the wizard by “sniffing around” and tearing back the curtain of deception and narcissistic pretence. The wisdom this portrays is that the way forward for modern man is to reclaim and trust our own animal instincts and intuition from this place, and stop giving our power away through blindly trusting the “wizards” in society with their quick fixes, transformations and quack cures.
The second key point is that Dorothy then confronted the wizard and this shows that man must reclaim and honour their feminine if they are to confront the illusions and projections of false manhood they carry within them. A confrontation both internally with the false self, and with the external false gurus and images within society will be needed as the foundation to enact real change in one’s life for those who are co-dependent on guru types and leaders who claim special status, power and insights.
In the end Dorothy returned home a healed person who was whole and integrated and able to receive and give love, particularly from Auntie Em. She returned home to ordinary life as her happiness was now an inner principle that was not tied to external objects, or gurus or “wizards”.
She completed the hero’s journey and faced her demons, won, and found her treasure, which was inner wholeness and happiness. Dorothy found her true self and had let go of the illusions of her own false self and the false realities “out there” in the world.
Her search was based on a false premise, just as that of her travelling companions. They were all perfect always, and their search was part of the illusion inasmuch as the answer was not about searching for answers out there, but it is to be found through a change in perspective, consciousness or reality.
Judy Garland (who played Dorothy) told in an interview before her death that Sigmund Freud once met her at a society gathering and commented that The Wizard of Oz was the most important film that had ever been made due to its psychological truths about the neurosis and psychological splits in modern man. Such is the power of film, images and stories as myth when it comes to affecting our collective unconscious.
In this article I explored how the story that unfolds in “The Wizard of Oz” is a deep and profound psychological myth of how in our modern age many unconsciously must journey forward blindly on a quest for self-healing and self-realization, from a place of a split self where we have disowned vital instincts, intuitive qualities, and our feminine self as part of conforming to modern stereotypes and portrayals of being successful, powerful and acceptable in society.
It is no wonder the book and film “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” remains a perennial classic and is much loved by us all. It is a personal message to us all, and resonates with timeless themes and truths to all of us.
- Baum, F.L. (1963). The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. New York: Ballantine Books (original work published 1900).
- Bettelheim, B. (1975). The uses of enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. New York: Vintage Books.
- Payson Eleanor, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family, ( 2002). Simon and Schuster, New York.
- Babiak, Paul, Hare, Robert. (2006), Snakes in Suits – When Psychopaths go To Work, Collins Business, New York.
- Harvey Andrew, The Hope – A Guide to Sacred Activism, 2009, Hay House, New Jersey.