Marianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. She has published eight books, four of which--including the mega-bestseller "A Return to Love" and the later "Everyday Grace"--have been #1 New York Times bestsellers. A popular lecturer, Williamson also co-founded the Global Renaissance Alliance (now called The Peace Alliance), a worldwide network of peace activists who hope to harness the power of non-violence as a force for good.

In person, Williamson has a luminous presence, even in jeans and a black turtleneck. With her sharp cheekbones and petal-soft skin, she looks far younger than 52--particularly after she curls up nervously on a big chair and slides her heels off onto the floor of her New York apartment. Recently, she chatted about her Texas upbringing, her teenage daughter, and her life in New York with Beliefnet Senior Editor Deborah Caldwell.

In your book, you describe this period in history as an "in-between" time. What do you mean by that?

We're at a critical juncture in history where the human race is challenged to mature to a higher level of consciousness. Our behavior is marked by extraordinary levels of violence toward each other and toward the earth itself. And the earth is literally not well-adapted for the continuation of our species. While some say that this is really no different than other times in history when there have been wars, in fact, the stakes have never been anything near as high as they are now. Nuclear proliferation has changed everything. When we were growing up, there were basically just two super powers doing the nuclear dance, both of whom for the most part could be counted on for some modicum of sanity. Today, we run the risk of global annihilation. Should we not be able to interrupt the current inertia of history?

So, in A Course in Miracles, it says that God has a plan; that God has an answer to every problem the moment it occurs and to me, God's answer is a plan, for healing our world that can only be accomplished by more mature people than we currently are. So I think everyone, whether they realize it or not, is in a speeded-up cycle of growth. Each and every one of us.

What do you mean by speeded-up?

Right now, each of us is going through whatever experiences are necessary to turn us into the people we are capable of being in order that we might then do what we need to do. Most of us have gotten to a place in our lives that we would describe in some ways as good. Many of the neurotic patterns that plagued us for decades, let's say, whether it was an addiction issue, a financial issue or relationship issue, or whatever, we seem to have for the most part beaten. But now it turns out, that that wasn't the end of the story.

Our children's children's children's children need us to become the men and women we are capable of being as quickly as possible, because only then will we have been lifted to a vibrational frequency of love and compassion that will form a radically new field of possibility for the human race.

So to say that we are in an in-between time is to say that the world is clearly not what it used to be and on a certain level, we're not who we used to be. But we don't quite see or know yet what the world is going to become.

Do you trace this change to 9/11 or is it before that?

When my sister was diagnosed with cancer in 1989, her doctor told her that the cancer had probably been in her system for 10 years. By the time cancer's diagnosed, it's usually been around for quite a while. So 9/11 was like the appearance of a cancer but the underlying causes far preceded that day.

You weave together the changes happening in the world with your own changes--getting older, motherhood. Why did you combine these two tracks?

Well, you know, the Course in Miracles says that there is no world outside you. If you're trained in metaphysics, you don't see the world as distinct from yourself. You are one with the world. The world is a projection of our collective thought world. And I think the new spirituality in American culture is being challenged to mature beyond what the individual might embrace alone.

What do you mean?

We did a lot of work in the 70s, 80s and 90s on using metaphysical principles to lift ourselves up from various forms of limitation. But now it's time to apply our spiritual perspicacity as well as every other form of power we have to healing the world. You know, Thomas Jefferson saw his view of the world is that the citizen would take until the age of 40 to make his fortune, and after that, he would spend his time concerning himself with the welfare of this country.