Originally printed in the November-December 2000 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Baum, Frank. "The Wizard of Oz on Theosophy." Quest 88.6 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2000): pg 223.
By L. Frank Baum
Lyman Frank Baum (1851-1919), author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and prototype of the Wizard himself, joined the Theosophical Society along with his wife, Maud Gage, on September 4, 1892. Their membership records are in the archives of the Theosophical Society with headquarters in Pasadena, California (kindly made available by Grace F. Knoche and Kirby Van Mater).
The Baums joined the Society while they were living in Chicago, about eight years before he published what was to become the best-known American childrenâ€™s book. But Frank knew about Theosophy earlier than that, doubtless first learning of it from his mother-in-law, the noted feminist, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who herself had joined the Society on March 26, 1885. Not only did Frank Baum know about Theosophy, but he also wrote about it more than two years before he joined the Society and ten years before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
For fourteen months (January 25, 1890, to March 21, 1891), Baum published and edited a South Dakota weekly newspaper called The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Baum frequently contributed to the paper a feature he called "The Editorâ€™s Musings." The following is that feature from the very first issue of the newspaper under his editorship. It shows, not only his knowledge of Theosophy, but the Theosophical frame of mind with which he viewed the world.
The Editorâ€™s Musings
The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, January 25, 1890]
The age of Faith is sinking slowly into the past; the age of Unfaith becomes an important problem of to-day. Is there in this a menace to Christianity? This unfaith is not the atheism of the last century. It is rather an eager longing to penetrate the secrets of Nature--an aspiration for knowledge we have been taught is forbidden.
Many ages ago Budda came to enlighten the civilization of the East.
The pure and beautiful doctrines he taught made ready converts, and to-day his followers outnumber those of any other religion.
To the fierce and warlike tribes of Arabia, Mohammed appeared. His gentleness and bravery tamed their fierce natures. They followed him implicitely, as millions of their descendants follow him still.
Confucius with ready sophistry promulgated a "religion of reason."
His works are to this day the marvel of all intelligent people; his myriads of disciples have never wavered in their faith.
The sweet and tender teachings of Christ, together with the touching story of his life, have sunk deeply into the hearts of those nations which rank highest in modern civilization.
In their separate domains all these religions flourish to day. Their converts are firm and unflinching, their temples cover the land, and each in its own way sends praises to a common Creator--a Universal God.
Yet in every nation there is a certain element in society which acknowledges no religion and is bound by no faith.
Amongst the various sects so numerous in America today who find their fundamental basis in occultism, the Theosophist stand pre-eminent both in intelligence and point of numbers.
The recent erection of their new temple in New York City has called forth the curiosity of the many, the uneasiness of the few. Theosophy is not a religion. Its followers are simply "searchers after Truth." Not for the ignorant are the tenets they hold, neither for the worldly in any sense. Enrolled within their ranks are some of the grandest intellects of the Eastern and Western worlds.
Purity in all things, even to asceticism is absolutely required to fit them to enter the avenues of knowledge, and the only inducement they offer to neophites is the privilege of "searching for the Truth" in their company.
As interpreted by themselves they accept the teachings of Christ, Budda and Mohammed, acknowledging them Masters or Mehetmas, true prophets each in his generation, and well versed in the secrets of Nature. But the truth so earnestly sought is not yet found in its entirety, or if it be, is known only to the privileged few.
The Theosophists, in fact, are the dissatisfied of the world, the dissenters from all creeds. They owe their origin to the wise men of India, and are numerous, not only in the far famed mystic East, but in England, France, Germany and Russia. They admit the existence of a God--not necessarily a personal God. To them God is Nature and Nature God.
We have mentioned their high morality; they are also quiet and unobtrusive, seeking no notoriety, yet daily growing so numerous that even in America they may be counted by thousands. But, despite this, if Christianity is Truth, as our education has taught us to believe, there can be no menace to it in Theosophy.