Hard to believe that Shirley MacLaine is 79 years old and her little brother, Warren Beatty is 76, though not as hard to believe as her conviction about UFOs and other unconventional topics on her website. Not that this is news. A 1994 New York Times piece noted that Ms. MacLaine, who has written numerous books about mysticism, spirituality and psychic communication, has made it very clear that she does not want to be identified with kookiness. But the 1983 publication of her best-seller “Out on a Limb,” in which she described her reincarnations and out-of-body experiences, linked her name to inexorably to the kooky label from which she has been trying to escape.
I confess picking up her latest book expecting a skim to reveal the rantings of a crazy person. But what if Shirley isn’t crazy after all? I’ll give her one thing: the woman has certainly retained a sense of humor. Each vignette in the book is introduced with a “What If” question. Shirley ruminates: “What if we stopped the screening of airplane passengers right now – suddenly – all at once, and the thugs standing around (TSA) went home … To date, the TSA has succeeded in apprehending with its pat-down and machines:
0 Terrorist plots discovered
3,172 Hemorrhoid cases
6,418 Incontinence cases
8,249 Enlarged prostates
59,350 Breast implants
3 Natural blondes”
I’m cruising through the pages, enjoying some of the Kool-Aid, until arriving at page 240, which begins: “What if we learned that there is no such thing as a victim?”. Hold on to your cosmic spaceship as you read the following passages because, as John Lennon famously warned, instant karma’s gonna get you … gonna knock you right in the face:
“What if we learned that most of the people who are murdered willingly choose to go that way in order to balance their karma? [Notice how Shirley hedges her speculation, qualifying it with ‘most’, perhaps an editor convincing her how offensive it might be to readers who have lost a loved one through murder.] In other words, on a superconscious level they understand that they were murderers in a previous incarnation. Since all energy returns to its source, it is necessary to experience that which we put out. It is, science says, a law of physics [Shirley possibly confusing ‘physics’ with ‘psychics’]. No energy ever dies. It simply changes form and returns to its source. What if all the horror on the earth is basically karma balancing?”
“What if most of the Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, solders with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.”
After describing her experiences in Brazil studying psychic healers, and witnessing mind over matter events that confused her Western, left-brained sense of reality, Shirley reveals: “When I probed into why they were healers, most of them said it wasn’t they who were doing the healing any way. The said human souls that had previously committed egregiously violent acts on other humans in past lives desperately wanted to balance their karma. So these souls channeled their psychic healing energies through these present- day healers. A few of the psychic healers told me that their ‘channeled doctors’ had been Nazis in the concentration camps who had been horribly cruel in their treatment of the prisoners. They desired to balance their cruelty now with healing.”
You gotta hand it to Shirley. At least she’s not a Holocaust denier; she’s merely a Holocaust rationalizer. I envision Ahmadinejad in a private moment with the Brazilian President whispering: “Lula, can you believe that Downton Abbey lady really thinks that Jucelino Nobrega da Luz was Joseph Goebbels in his previous lifetime? And they call me crazy in the States!
The subtitle of Shirley’s latest book is: “A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know for Sure.” It can be difficult to tell which category is which when reading through Shirely’s vignettes.
Round out the shape of Alan Dershowitz’s frames, and he’d bear resemblance to Woody Allen (aka Allen Stewart Konigsberg), a fellow Brooklynite with whom he shared the distinction of a miserable academic record, and surviving school by excelling in sports. “The Dersh” is a publicity hound, at one point agreeing to represent neo-Nazi icon Matthew Hale in defense of his first amendment rights, and defending the constitutional right of the American Nazi Party to stage a march in Skokie, Illinois. A jurisprudent Robin Hood of sorts, Dershowitz justified his stance by insisting that legal fees taken from Nazi sympathizers be donated to anti-violent causes and organizations. Some claim that people dismiss “The Dersh” as a clown and charlatan, and roll their eyes when Dershowitz speaks. At least if Dershowitz is a kook, one can say that there is method and purpose to his madness. He is passionate about Jewish causes including the State of Israel, and no one would mistake him for a Holocaust rationalizer. On balance he seems quite sane. Is Shirley MacLaine crazy? Perhaps not entirely, although that’s a scary proposition. At the very least, her new book poses some interesting “What Ifs” that are sure to generate discussion in a variety of circles.