Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Comments on Theosophy

Comments on Theosophy by Robert V. Smith in The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart, and Courage. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2012. Pp. xvii + 259.

“Given Frank and Maud Baum’s belief in theosophy, it’s been suggested that the name Toto [for Dorothy’s dog] may be a contraction of totality — a word that embraces the Eastern philosophical concept if totality, or a natural ‘unity of matter and energy . . . both real and imagined’” (p. 4).

“Frank Baum believed in the tenets of theosophy, which include an acknowledgment of the power of the Buddha’s Golden Road, or path to self-understanding and enlightenment through a life of study and struggle” (p. 17).

“Despite her initial reservations, Matilda Gage [the mother of Frank Baum’s future wife, Maud] soon grew fond of Baum, in part because of his affable and kindly nature. She appreciated his creative talents and introduced him to theosophy, a religious movement brought to the United States by the Ukrainian psychic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whose writings were embraced by notables such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Thomas Alva Edison. Adherents of theosophy believe in the inalienable rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, or class. Theosophists seek truth through a blended understanding of philosophy, religious beliefs from all faiths, and science. Theosophists also believe science helps in the continuing illumination of religious belief. This enlightened interdisciplinary orientation and worldview influenced and informed much of Baum’s lifelong learning and writing” (pp. 24-5).

Baum’s “wide-ranging editorials [in his South Dakota newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer] covered many areas but emphasized such topics as women’s suffrage (he was a staunch supporter of a ballot measure required by the 1889 South Dakota constitution for women to get the vote), Prohibition (although no teetotaler, Baum believed the state constitutional clause should be obeyed to give the experiment a chance), and issues of faith and reason (highlighting theosophical principles and sharing concerns about traditional religious practices and beliefs). In one of his editorials, he commented that theosophists ‘are the dissatisfied of the world, the dissenters from all creeds . . . They admit the existence of a God — not necessarily a personal god. To them God is Nature and Nature God’ — thereby distancing himself from traditional Christian beliefs” (pp. 29-30).

“Works Cited and Consulted . . . / . . . Algeo, John. ‘The Wizard of Oz: The Perilous Journey.’ The American Theosophist [74.9], October 1986 [pp. 291-7; reprinted in Quest 6.2 (Summer 1993): 48-55]. / ———. Theosophy: An Introductory Study Course. 4th ed. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Society of America, 2007” (p. 231).