LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Oscar-winning actress and bestselling author Shirley MacLaine has long believed in all things New Age, but her suggestion in a newly updated memoir that Holocaust victims might have been paying for sins from a former life is opening old wounds.
Her comments in "What If ...," first published in 2013, are being assailed as hateful, hurtful and offensive.
KCAL9's Peter Daut says the actress has a history of saying controversial things about spirituality, reincarnation, the supernatural and UFOs.
MacLaine, who once said she lived in the lost continent of Atlantis, also suggested her friend Stephen Hawking brought about his crippling ALS on himself to "free his mind" so that he could focus better on his scientific works.
It is her comments about the Holocaust, however, that are raising the most eyebrows.
The updated memoir suggested Holocaust victims might have been the Roman soldiers who put Christians to death or the Crusaders who murdered in Christ's name. "The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee,'" she wrote.
The book, subtitled "A Lifetime Of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses And A Few Things I Know For Sure, " was originally intended for the actress to riff on a variety of topics, from the serious like world affairs, to show business ("What if ... the entire cast of 'Downton Abbey' was American?") to the ridiculous ("What if ... a frog had wings?")
"I think she made a terrible error. I think she's wrong," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
He says MacLaine's understanding of karma is flawed and nothing justifies the Holocaust.
"Whenever anyone comes forward with a sort of one-size-fits-all explanation about it, I think the alarm bells go off," Cooper said.
MacLaine spoke with Oprah Winfrey last year and discussed why she is motivated by controversial issues.
"The things that happen that we don't really want to grapple with. It's an inspiration to try to figure out what's going on here," she said.
Daut reached out to MacLaine, who lives in New Mexico, for a comment but did not hear back. Her representatives have also made no comment about the latest controversy.
MacLaine's credits include "The Apartment," "Irma la Douce," "Sweet Charity," "The Turning Point," "Postcards from the Edge," "The Trouble With Harry," "Guarding Tess," "Steel Magnolias," "Terms of Endearment," for which she won the Oscar, and TV's "Downton Abbey" and "Glee." In this life, she is also older sister to actor Warren Beatty.
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