From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

L. Frank Baum: Santa Claus meets the Wizard of Oz

(The Wizard Himself)
When L. Frank Baum’s Methodist family of origin celebrated Christmas, Frank (which he preferred to be called) would often be playing Santa Claus.  He would hide behind the drapes and talk to the family from there.  Frank’s Santa became the unseen “ruler” of the Baums’ family Christmas just as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (otherwise known as the Wizard) became the unseen ruler of Oz (short for Oscar Zoroaster).

Like the Wizard, Baum was inventive to the point of appearing magical.  His endeavors included printing his own home journals, breeding specialty poultry, marketing fireworks, acting, teaching, translating, playwriting, journalism, singing, editing and sales.  Also like the Wizard, Baum sometimes projected himself in a terrifying fashion.  According to Wikipedia, Baum “urged the wholesale extermination of all America’s native peoples” in a column he wrote for a Dakota newspaper just days before the massacre at Wounded Knee.

When in Aberdeen, Baum joined the Episcopal Church.  However, Wikipedia reports that this was more for practical than religious reasons.  His more serious spiritual connection seemed to be with Theosophy, which he and his wife became associated with in 1897.  Because the Baums believed that
“religious decisions should be made by mature minds,” they favored an ethical upbringing for their children rather than a religious one.   

According to, Baum did not accept all of Theosophy’s teachings.  Although he believed in reincarnation, he did not believe in the transmigration of souls (from animal to human, and vice versa).  He did believe in karmic theory, and in the notion that “man on Earth was only one step on a great ladder that passed through many states of consciousness.”

His final words seems to be in keeping with these beliefs.  Baum succumbed to a stroke shortly before his 63rd birthday.  Before dying, he clearly said:  Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.

Copyright May 15, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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