For some 25 years I have had a troubling struggle with Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical book and movie Out on a Limb.
MacLaine was featured in the January 2012 edition of OMTimes, and that feature prompted me to consider this topic for an article.
Her book was published in 1983 and the movie was released in 1987. The essential message of each is that New Age spirituality is valid, with its advocacy of higher truths such as astral projection, reincarnation, karma, soul channeling, and related topics. The climax of the movie, for me, depicted MacLaine spinning ecstatically on a beach boldly proclaiming, with outstretched arms, “I am God!”
It is perhaps surprising that I would have a struggle with such a book and movie. For some 35 years I have been a member of one or more Rosicrucian orders, which teach many of the above spiritual topics, and more. So why was I troubled?
The answer has to do with my struggles between the orthodoxy of the Anglican (Episcopal) church and the mysticism of the Rosicrucian Order.
It all started around the winter of 1987, when I went on a family Christian retreat weekend at a remote country lodge. There were about fifty people there, and the general mood was one of evangelism, with raised, worshiping hands and lots of charismatic praising of Jesus. Immediately I felt uncomfortable in such company, but I had somehow signed up for the event, and there I was, stuck, with my family and various church friends.
At one point during the weekend, in one of the group presentations, the speaker admonished us that we must not read Shirley MacLaine’s new book Out on a Limb or watch the corresponding upcoming movie. Most of the participants cheered along the lines of, “Yea, God! Praise the Lord!” I knew who MacLaine was, of course, through her mainstream movies, but was totally unaware of that specific book or movie. So I was intrigued by being warned against them. On asking around, I learned that her advocacy of New Age topics in the book and movie had made her an anathema to most Christian communities, and that her recent ranting had been declared the work of the Devil!
Fascinating! My own interests in mysticism and non-canonical, esoteric Christianity back then would also qualify as the work of the Devil by many Christians, especially evangelical ones as were attending that weekend retreat, some of whom were from my own parish. So, I secretly resolved to read MacLaine’s book and watch her movie as soon as I could do so.
The book reaffirmed a lot that I believe in: karma, reincarnation, non-personal God, life elsewhere in the universe, and so on. Actually, the first part of the book was boring … just one more book about a novice discovering the notion of reincarnation and rapidly opening up her understanding, wide-eyed and incredulous. It was fluffy and superficial, up to the experience in Peru, the last third of the book. That last part was qute engrossing, and it made me hungry for such spiritual experiences and knowledge.
I became enthralled with her work, especially the movie, which I viewed again while preparing to write this article. It struck a chord in me, which I only realized many years later, with her falling in love with a man at first sight, later to realize that it was because they had been married in a previous incarnation.
So, MacLaine’s work was greatly inspiring for me, after I got over the consequent conflict with my Church membership. However, I had grown beyond her message over the years, and found no more inspiration from it. It was as if I had evolved my own message, and now it seemed time to proclaim it.
MacLaine’s spiritual work rode on the crest of the New Age movement in the 1980s. I owe a lot to her spiritual adventures. But I now believe that her work helped to prepare people to be ready to accept a more advanced message. With the world and humanity now plunging downward toward implosion on many fronts, it is essential for us who are seekers of a higher purpose to help bring them back onto the path to Light.
After a great many years of biting my tongue, afraid of rejection in my church, I now accept the responsibility to teach my truth, my understanding of Truth:
These statements can best, and perhaps only, be understood from a mystical viewpoint. Part of my mission is to help people understand them. Taken literally, “I am God” seems blasphemous, arrogant, and misled. Perhaps “I am one with God” might be more acceptable. But mystics and philosophers from the medieval Meister Eckhart to the modern Thomas Merton to the current Ken Wilber confirm their view of the stronger statement, essentially agreeing with MacLaine.
It might be helpful for readers who are new to this concept to recall that we are not bodies, but souls, temporarily occupying physical bodies. It may be easier to accept that our souls are one with God, or that they are God. This is a good starting point for meditation.
My sincere vision is that we, all of humanity, will grasp the distant memory of being united in Oneness as God, and will continue our upward reintegration back into that Unity as God. It is a huge Cosmic task, rediscovering the actuality of Truth. This is especially the case, given the modern world’s blatant temptations that lead us seductively away from that path, away from Cosmic Truth, and towards the reality of the world’s illusions. But I believe that we must strive, with vitally important seriousness, to be conscious of the actuality of Truth.
I offer my thanks to Shirley MacLaine (or more properly, to God for inspiring her) for being open to Cosmic inspirations and for courageously documenting them. My hope now is that we all can launch off from the high platform that she has erected for us, to consume some still more nourishing spiritual food, and to proclaim it to others for betterment of the world and humanity.