Actress Shirley MacLaine at the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in California.   

Picture: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Actress Shirley MacLaine at the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in California. Picture: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Shirley Maclaine's provocative new book.
Shirley Maclaine's provocative new book.

London – Her bizarre views on topics such as reincarnation and UFOs have often left the public baffled.

And now Shirley MacLaine has provoked widespread fury by claiming the the six million Jews and millions of others systematically murdered in Hitler’s death camps in the 1940s were ‘balancing their karma’ for crimes committed in past lives.

The veteran actress also suggests that cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking may have subconsciously given himself his debilitating motor neurone disease.

MacLaine’s comments, in a recently published book, were attacked on Thursday night by Jewish campaigners and other activists as offensive and wrong.

In her memoir, the 80-year-old, who won an Oscar for Terms Of Endearment, 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.’

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which campaigns against anti-Semitism, said: ‘The first impressions are that these comments will offend and bemuse many Jews – and many other people too.’

In her book What If…, MacLaine, who was raised a Baptist but is well known for her unconventional views on reincarnation and alien life, suggests Professor Hawking had subconsciously brought his crippling medical condition on himself.

She says he may have created his illness in order to ‘free his mind’ from the needs of his body, so he could focus completely on his scientific research.

MacLaine, who has previously insisted that she lived on Atlantis in an earlier life, claims to be friends with the scientist, whose life inspired the award-winning film The Theory Of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.

Her book – subtitled A Lifetime Of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses And A Few Things I Know For Sure – poses the question: ‘Did he “create” the disease that has crippled him in order to learn to be dependent on caregivers and the kindness of strangers so that he could free his entire mind to the pursuit of knowledge?

‘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?’

Her views were branded ‘utterly ridiculous’ by disability charity Scope, while a spokesman for Disability Rights UK added: ‘She obviously has some very confused ideas that a lot of disabled people will be baffled by. It’s completely wrong to say people choose their disabilities, especially Professor Stephen Hawking, who has a genetic condition.’

MacLaine, who played Lady Grantham’s American mother in Downton Abbey, writes that she is recognised more for her part in the ITV drama than for any of her film roles. She also suggests that she felt so at home on the set because she may have lived in the 1920s during a past life.

Representatives for MacLaine declined to comment.

Daily Mail