Veteran actress Shirley MacLaine drew the ire of Jewish groups Thursday after passages from her recently published book suggest that the six million Jews and others who died in the Holocaust were “balancing their karma” by paying for sins in a previous life.
MacLaine, 80, also compared Stephen Hawking to Jesus, writing that just as Jesus chose martyrdom, Hawking “chose to live” with a debilitating disease.
The passages are found in MacLaine’s memoir, “What If… A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know For Sure,” published last year, reports the Daily Mail.
Of Holocaust victims, MacLaine writes:
What if most 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, soldiers 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.”
Later, MacLaine claims that her “friend” Stephen Hawking chose to give himself amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) so that he could devote all of his energy to scientific pursuit.
What if he inadvertently chose to set an example of himself to show the rest of us that cosmic travel and universal understanding are available, regardless of one’s physical condition or circumstance?
If Jesus chose to die in a state of martyrdom, then Stephen Hawking could just as readily have chosen to live in a dual state of being: visibly physical weakness and unseen knowledge and power. What if all reality is an illusion?
Jewish groups and disability charities were quick to condemn the comments made by MacLaine, who won a Best Actress Oscar for Terms of Endearment in 1983.
“The first impressions are that these comments will offend and bemuse many Jews – and many other people too,” anti-Semitism watchdog Community Security Trust said in a statement.
Disability advocacy group Disability Rights UK was harsher with its criticism.
“She obviously has some very confused ideas that a lot of disabled people will be baffled by,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement. “It’s completely wrong to say people choose their disabilities, especially Professor Stephen Hawking, who has a genetic condition.”
MacLaine is notorious for her opinions on reincarnation; according to the Telegraph, MacLaine has claimed to be a Japanese geisha in a previous life, and that she seduced Charlemagne in yet another. She also reportedly believes her dog Terry is a reincarnation of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the afterlife.