Thursday, May 24, 2012


It’s not all that clear in the book The Wizard of Oz, but in subsequent Oz books the author L Frank Baum, having changed elements of the storyline more than once, made it unambiguously clear---the Emerald City really is green. There is no need for special green spectacles to be worn, to make it all look green!

The Emerald City, in the initial book, was not emerald (or green) at all. It was merely white, but each visitor to, and inhabitant of, the city was given green-tinted glasses which made everything appear green. They were told the glasses were necessary to shield them from the blindingly shiny green colour---the ‘brightness and glory’ of the city---but it was a hoax, as are most of the claims of conventional religion. (NOTE. In the 1939 movie the Emerald City really was green.)

I am not that old. I am only 57, but I well remember a time when Roman Catholics were prohibited by their church from reading the Bible in their homes or otherwise in private, and from attending any services (eg weddings or funerals) in Protestant churches. As recently as 2007 Pope Benedict XVI declared that Christian denominations other than his own were ‘not true churches.’ And Protestants, especially evangelicals, were---and still are---often no better, with their cries against ‘Popery.’ Most of the Baptist ministers I have known---including the one who was the celebrant at the marriage of my wife and I in 1980---took the view that Catholics weren’t really Christians. (I only mention Baptists because I was reared as one.)

John Algeo, in a wonderful article entitled 'The Wizard of Oz: The Perilous Journey,’ writes:

The green glasses are like the dogmas that religious wizards insist their followers adopt so their ecclesiastical cities will look green and vital.

The joke is that the Emerald City really is made of emeralds; it really is green, quite naturally. Religion really is what it says it is--a place of treasures and marvels--but the humbug wizards who have got themselves put in charge of it--the priests and ministers--have no faith in the natural value of their city, so they require the unnecessary and artificial spectacles. They think that emeralds need the assistance of green glasses. ...

The Emerald City is green! There is no need for special green spectacles to ‘make’ it look green. That reminds me of studying Philosophy as an undergraduate. The lecturer would say, ‘The sky is blue. The sky does not become any bluer because you believe it to be blue. Further, the proposition---the sky is blue---does not become any truer because you believe it to be true.’ As already mentioned, Baum changed the storyline of Oz such that, after the Emerald City was conquered by General Jinjur and her Army of Revolt, the use of green spectacles was discontinued, for the city itself is green (see The Marvelous Land of Oz). I love that. They came to realise that there was absolutely no need for the green spectacles. More and more people are coming to realise that the special green spectacles dispensed by organized religion are not only unnecessary, they actually distort reality. Good stuff! Bring it on!

Yes, the world really is green---and note that word ‘green.’ We don’t need any special glasses to see that. Beliefs and dogmas are thought coverings or veils (āvarnas). That is how Shakyamuni Buddha referred to them. These thought coverings or veils do not reveal reality, indeed they distort reality. How? Well, they prevent us from knowing and experiencing things as they really are in all their directness and immediacy. Belief is conditioning. Knowledge is experiential. Bugger beliefs and dogmas!

Beliefs and dogmas are a menace to society---and a total, impenetrable barrier to true knowledge and wisdom. Beliefs and dogmas are always someone else's 'version' of reality---the result of someone else's conditioned mind, mental habits and fragmentary thinking, that is, the past. There is nothing of any value to believe, and there is nothing to be gained by believing anything or anyone. Just observe. Then you will know---and understand.

Beliefs and dogmas, being 'mechanical' in nature, and constructed entirely of past thoughts, are for spiritual cripples---that is, those who can't, or won't, think for themselves. In that regard, I have always found helpful these words attributed to the Buddha: 'Do not believe, for if you believe, you will never know. If you really want to know, don't believe.'  The current president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Peter Morales, has stated:

Religion is not about what you or I or Baptists or Catholics or Jews or Muslims or Hindus believe. I would even go a giant step further: Belief is the enemy of religion. Let me repeat that: Belief is the enemy of religion. [Emphasis in the original]

Morales goes on to say that any religion that is focused on belief is 'a dangerous corruption of true religion.' True religion, according to Morales, is 'about what we love, not about what we think.' It's 'about what you and I hold sacred.' The Unitarian Universalist movement, says Morales, offers religion beyond belief, 'religion that transcends culture, race and class ... religion where we can grow spiritually, a religion where we can forge deep and lasting relationships, a religion where we can join hands to help heal a broken world.' That is the kind of religion - or metareligion - that I embrace.

The great thing about mindfulness is that it ensures that there are no barriers between you---the person that you are---and external reality. That’s right---no barriers. So, forget all about beliefs, dogmas, priests, mediators, gurus and anything else that seeks to interpose itself between you and reality and your direct, immediate and unmediated moment-to-moment experience of reality. Beware of all ‘humbug.’ Eschew it! The Emerald City is green. It really is! Let us rejoice in that fact---and come alive!


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