In Shirley MacLaine's 11th book, "Sage-ing While Age-ing," the actress briefly reviews her life as a Broadway dancer and her early years in Hollywood.
She then launches into a discussion of the many metaphysical issues that have long intrigued her, including her conviction that the government conceals its knowledge of aliens from the public. Ms. MacLaine is proud of her spiritual quest and she urges readers to stay open-minded. CBS Corp.'s Atria imprint is printing 80,000 copies.
Ms. MacLaine debuted in Hollywood in 1955 in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry." She has performed in such movies as "The Apartment" and "Irma La Douce," and won an Academy Award in 1984 for her performance in "Terms of Endearment."
Stuart Applebaum, a Random House spokesman who worked with Ms. MacLaine for many years, notes that her books have sold millions of copies. "She is one of America's best-selling memoirists," he says.
Ms. MacLaine, 73 years old, was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg by telephone.
The Wall Street Journal Online: What prompted this book?
Shirley MacLaine: Getting to be this age and taking time for myself to dream, think, ruminate and remember. I'd just moved into my house in Santa Fe, and it all came together as a kind of recollection of things that were important to me.
WSJ.com: Do you think it's possible for anybody today to have the type of career you enjoyed, or the longevity?
Ms. MacLaine: Sure, if the person decides to be forever aware of the real priorities, which are the inner terrain, the inner thinking, the inner feeling and sense of being. In my day, it wasn't tabloid nation like it is today. The seminal moment was when People magazine came into being because it birthed an industry of tabloids. Sometimes people who have their lives played out in public don't feel they have the privacy to continually journey within. I did, and that's why I have longevity.
WSJ.com: You write, "I believe that I lived on the lost continent of Atlantis," and reminisce about your experiences there. Is there a scrim between what you believe and what you have experienced in this lifetime, or are the two blended together?
Ms. MacLaine: It really does speak to the question that nuclear physicists and the Einsteins of the world were always discussing: what is the nature of time, and what are its parameters? Is it linear, is it holographic? Is all time happening at once? Sometimes I feel an impingement of something I went through in another lifetime. But I like to concentrate on the absolute present. That's why I love my animals. They live in the present.
WSJ.com: What have you observed about the people who read your work?
Ms. MacLaine: Most of them are curious about who they are, and they must find some kind of inspirational jumping off point for how to look at their own circumstances. That's why they come to my seminars. There's no journey worth taking except the journey through one's self. That's the most important journey you take. I found that out as I went around the world many times: I was learning about me.
WSJ.com: Your face appears on the cover of your first book, as well as on the cover of your newest. Did you see these works as spiritual bookends?
Ms. MacLaine: My face is on all 11 books. Are you kidding? The publisher isn't dumb.
WSJ.com: In this book you suggest that your true mate is yourself. Any concerns that this suggests a certain level of self-obsession?
Ms. MacLaine: I think in the end we all know that our best friend is ourselves. We are born alone and we die alone. That's the journey. I'm just privileged to have come to this understanding at 73. What we live with is ourselves. And when you have your own identity you are much easier to live with.
WSJ.com: You successfully sued a major studio for breach of contract in a case that was heard before the Supreme Court. Do you see yourself performing a similar role on behalf of those who believe in aliens and issues of reincarnation?
Ms. MacLaine: I didn't see myself as a champion for others. I did it for me. If they want to use it as a point of inspiration, that's fine. I have never seen myself as leading for others. What's important is that I know who I am. Not completely. But I'm coming around third base.
WSJ.com: What are your views on alien life?
Ms. MacLaine: The presence of extra terrestrial life is fairly overwhelming, and I think it's time we looked at that. The world needs help, and from what I'm gathering they are there to help. They have shown up. They have taken certain people aboard their craft, including some who went willingly. What the star beings were saying was to be very careful about what we're doing on earth.
I think there has been a culture of concealment. Many are afraid of humiliation. Pilots have been fired because they encountered UFOs. People are reluctant to face what they see in their own lives. The visitors are here; there is no question. They are asking to be acknowledged. The governments of the world should release their files. Ours hasn't. It would be good to have more disclosure.
WSJ.com: Where are these aliens?
Ms. MacLaine: I don't think they are working on the 16th floor. But I've seen them in their craft. They seem to be far superior in every way. Look at what we are doing to our planet. We are like children. They are in the teacher mode. I've learned a great deal from them. It doesn't negate God. They are teaching spirituality.