The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
One Line Summary
Beliefs > Genes
How much are human beings really capable of?
This has been a big theme on Aurum Reviews. Mainstream science tells us one thing, but the more I look into this question, the shocking answer appears to be almost limitless.
We’ve probably all heard the expression “you can do anything you set your mind to”. And many people will smile and applaud that statement.
But how many people have really looked into this rabbit hole? How much power does the mind actually have?
Would that same people who agree with that statement be willing to believe that it’s possible to lift a giant boulder using only mind power? How about heal deadly diseases? Alter the weather?
This is the point where most people would say that you’ve gone too far. Science says this, that and the other thing about what’s possible.
But what’s the reality?
I’ve made a serious study of success in my life. I’ve found that no matter what area you choose, there is one constant: the importance of mind.
In Dr. Mind, we met Burque Raufi, a woman who tells the story of healing her terminal cancer with her mind. I’ve spoken with her many times and she is far from crazy.
In Supernormal and The Holographic Universe, I introduced the potentiality of “the siddhis”, i.e paranormal abilities. If you look into how these are performed, you’ll find that mind is an essential ingredient.
Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton gives a more scientific explanation of the power of mind. It’s a fascinating look at one biologist who made the leap from rational to transrational.
This book has a good amount of technical information in it. My understanding of biology is pretty poor, so it was difficult for me to grasp a lot of what he was saying. Therefore, I’ll be quoting Lipton a lot so you can draw your own conclusions.
If someone has a better understanding of biology would like to argue against Lipton, I’d love to hear it in the comment section.
Why it’s Awesome
Lipton’s story starts with him as an international medical school professor. One day, while studying cell membranes, he discovered something incredible:
“Twelve years later an Australian research consortium headed by B. A. Cornell published an article in Nature that confirmed my hypothesis that the cell membrane is a homologue of a computer chip. (Cornell, et al, 1997) The researchers isolated a cell membrane and attached a piece of gold foil under it. They then flooded the space between the gold foil and the attached membrane with a special electrolyte solution. When the membrane’s receptors were stimulated by a complementary signal, the channels opened and allowed the electrolyte solution across the membrane. The foil served as a transducer, an electrical pickup device, which converted the electrical activity of the channel into a digital readout on a screen. This device, created for the study, demonstrates that the cell membrane not only looks like a chip but also functions like one. Cornell and associates successfully turned a biological cell membrane into a digital-readout computer chip.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? The fact that the cell membrane and a computer chip are homologues means that it is both appropriate and instructive to better fathom the workings of the cell by comparing it to a personal computer. The first big-deal insight that comes from such an exercise is that computers and cells are programmable. The second corollary insight is that the programmer lies outside the computer/cell. Biological behavior and gene activity are dynamically linked to information from the environment, which is downloaded into the cell.
As I conjured up a biocomputer, I realized that the nucleus is simply a memory disk, a hard drive containing the DNA programs that encode the production of proteins. Let’s call it the Double Helix Memory Disk. In your home computer you can insert such a memory disk containing a large number of specialized programs like word processing, graphics, and spreadsheets. After you download those programs into active memory, you can remove the disk from the computer without interfering with the program that is running. When you remove the Double Helix Memory Disk by removing the nucleus, the work of the cellular protein machine goes on because the information that created the protein machine has already been downloaded. Enucleated cells get into trouble only when they need the gene programs in the ejected Double Helix Memory Disk to replace old proteins or make different proteins.
I had been trained as a nucleus-centered biologist as surely as Copernicus had been trained as an Earth-centered astronomer, so it was with a jolt that I realized that the gene-containing nucleus does not program the cell. Data is entered into the cell/computer via the membrane’s receptors, which represent the cell’s “keyboard.” Receptors trigger the membrane’s effector proteins, which act as the cell/computer’s “Central Processing Unit” (CPU). The CPU effector proteins convert environmental information into the behavioral language of biology.”
So essentially genes are not what we’ve been lead to believe they are. They are not the ultimate arbiters of our fates.
Out of essentially boredom, Lipton one day decides to pick up a book on quantum mechanics at the airport.
As a biologist, quantum mechanics was as world that he normally stayed away from. Biology goes by Newtonian physics, and physics was not his concern.
Side tangent, this is a real shame about the academic world.
I understand there are real benefits to specialization. You become an expert in your field, get to avoid making publically embarrassing comments about fields you don’t understand, and over all just get to stay in your corner of the world.
That might be useful if you’re going for a Nobel Prize in Mathematics. But how deep can your understanding of life really be if you just continue to examine your little piece of reality?
The fruits of tearing down the walls between fields of study are obvious. When you add fresh perspectives, suddenly you’re able to make connections you’ve never made before.
That’s exactly what happened to Lipton. Just by studying a bit of quantum mechanics, it revolutionized his understanding of biology.
Lipton discovered that in the quantum world, Newtonian physics breakdowns almost completely. Matter becomes equivalent to energy (E=MC^2) and is actually not physical at all at this level.
The ancients have understood this for years. This is where the energy practices of Acupuncture, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Reiki, Yoga and others come from.
What this energy / matter equivalence means is that you cannot separate the ethereal “mind” from the physical. Both are immediately connected and cannot be separated.
This is extremely intuitive when you think about it. Your thoughts have a direct impact on your emotions. They influence your every decision. And in many cases they can affect our health, i.e placebo effect.
So where is the separation?
Here is Lipton again with a technical explanation of how it is that mind influences body:
We learned in earlier chapters that the functions of cells are directly derived from the movements of their protein “gears.” The movement generated by assemblies of proteins provides the physiologic functions that enable life. While proteins are the physical building blocks, complementary environmental signals are required to animate their movement. The interface between environmental signals and behavior-producing cytoplasmic proteins is the cell’s membrane. The membrane receives stimuli and then engages the appropriate, life-sustaining cellular responses. The cell membrane operates as the cell’s “brain.” Integral membrane receptor-effector proteins (IMPs) are the fundamental physical subunits of the cellular brain’s “intelligence” mechanism. By functional definition, these protein complexes are “perception switches” that link reception of environmental stimuli to response-generating protein pathways.
Cells generally respond to an assortment of very basic “perceptions” of what’s going on in their world. Such perceptions include whether things like potassium, calcium, oxygen, glucose, histamine, estrogen, toxins, light, or any number of other stimuli are present in their immediate environment. The simultaneous interactions of tens of thousands of reflexive perception switches in the membrane, each directly reading an individual environmental signal, collectively create the complex behavior of a living cell.
For the first three billion years of life on this planet, the biosphere consisted of free-living single cells such as bacteria, algae, and protozoans. While we have traditionally considered such life forms as solitary individuals, we are now aware that signal molecules used by individual cells to regulate their own physiologic functions, when released into the environment, also influence the behavior of other organisms. Signals released into the environment allow for a coordination of behavior among a dispersed population of unicellular organisms. Secreting signal molecules into the environment enhanced the survival of single cells by providing them with the opportunity to live as a primitive “community.”
The single-celled slime mold amoebas provide an example of how signaling molecules lead to community. These amoebas live a solitary existence in the soil foraging for food. When available food in the environment is consumed, the cells synthesize an excess amount of a metabolic by-product called cyclic AMP (cAMP), much of which is released into the environment. The concentration of the released cAMP builds in the environment as other amoebas face starvation. When secreted cAMP signal molecules bind to cAMP-receptors on the cell membranes of other slime mold amoebas, it signals them to activate a swarming behavior wherein the amoebas congregate and form a large multicellular “slug.” The slug community is the reproductive stage of slime mold. During the “famine” period, the community of aging cells shares their DNA and creates the next generation of offspring. The new amoebas hibernate as inactive spores. When more food is available, the food molecules act as a signal to break the hibernation, releasing a new population of single cells to start the cycle over again.
The point is that single-celled organisms actually live in a community when they share their “awareness” and coordinate their behaviors by releasing “signal” molecules into the environment. Cyclic AMP was one of evolution’s earliest forms of secreted regulatory signals that controls cell behavior. The fundamental human signal molecules (e.g., hormones, neuropeptides, cytokines, growth factors) that regulate our own cellular communities were once thought to have arisen with the appearance of complex multicellular life forms. However, recent research has revealed that primitive single-celled organisms were already using these “human” signal molecules in the earliest stages of evolution.
Through evolution, cells maximized the number of IMP “awareness” proteins their membranes could hold. To acquire more awareness, and therefore increase their probability of surviving, cells started to assemble, first into simple colonies and later into highly organized cellular communities. As described earlier, the physiologic functions of multicellular organisms are parceled out to specialized communities of cells forming the body’s tissues and organs. In communal organizations, the cell membrane’s intelligence processing is carried out by the specialized cells of the organism’s nervous and immune systems.
It was only 700 million years ago, recent in regard to the time frame of life on this planet, when single cells found it advantageous to join together in tightly knit multicellular communities, organizations we recognize as animals and plants. The same coordinating signal molecules used by free-living cells were used in these newly evolved closed communities. By tightly regulating the release and distribution of these function-controlling signal molecules, the community of cells would be able to coordinate their functions and act as a single life form. In the more primitive multicellular organisms, those without specialized nervous systems, the flow of these signal molecules within the community provided an elementary “mind,” represented by the coordinating information shared by every cell. In such organisms, each cell directly read environmental cues and personally adjusted its own behavior.
However, when cells came together in community, a new politic had to be established. In community, each cell cannot act as an independent agent that does whatever it wants. The term “community” implies that all of its members commit to a common plan of action. In multicellular animals, individual cells may “see” the local environment outside of their own “skin,” but they may have no awareness of what is going on in more distant environments, especially those outside of the whole organism itself. Can a liver cell buried in your viscera, responding to its local environmental signals, make an informed response regarding the consequence of a mugger that jumps into your environment? The complex behavior controls needed to ensure a multicellular organization’s survival are incorporated within its centralized information processing system.
As more complex animals evolved, specialized cells took over the job of monitoring and organizing the flow of the behavior regulating signal molecules. These cells provided a distributed nerve network and central information processor, a brain. The brain’s function is to coordinate the dialogue of signal molecules within the community. Consequently, in a community of cells, each cell must acquiesce control to the informed decisions of its awareness authority, the brain. The brain controls the behavior of the body’s cells. This is a very important point to consider as we blame the cells of our organs and tissues for the health issues we experience in our lives.
TL;DR brain controls the cells.
My insights into how beliefs control biology are grounded in my studies of cloned endothelial cells, the cells that line the blood vessels. The endothelial cells I grew in culture monitor their world closely and change their behavior based on information they pick up from the environment. When I provided nutrients, the cells would gravitate toward those nutrients with the cellular equivalent of open arms. When I created a toxic environment, the cultured cells would retreat from the stimulus in an effort to wall themselves off from the noxious agents. My research focused on the membrane perception switches that controlled the shift from one behavior to the other.
The primary switch I was studying has a protein receptor that responds to histamine, a molecule that the body uses in a way that is equivalent to a local emergency alarm. I found that there are two varieties of switches, H1 and H2, that respond to the same histamine signal. When activated, switches with H1 histamine receptors evoke a protection response, the type of behavior revealed by cells in toxin-containing culture dishes. Switches containing H2 histamine receptors evoke a growth response to histamine, similar to the behavior of cells cultured in the presence of nutrients.
I subsequently learned that the body’s system-wide emergency response signal, adrenaline, also has switches sporting two different adrenaline-sensing receptors, called alpha and beta. The adrenaline receptors provoked the exact same cell behaviors as those elicited by histamine. When the adrenal alpha-receptor is part of an IMP switch, it provokes a protection response when adrenaline is perceived. When the beta-receptor is part of the switch, the same adrenaline signal activates a growth response. (Lipton, et al, 1992)
All that was interesting, but the most exciting finding was when I simultaneously introduced both histamine and adrenaline into my tissue cultures. I found that adrenaline signals, released by the central nervous system, override the influence of histamine signals that are produced locally. This is where the politics of the community described earlier come in to play. Suppose you’re working in a bank. The branch manager gives you an order. The CEO walks in and gives you the opposite order. Which order would you follow? If you want to keep your job you’ll snap to the CEO’s order. There is a similar priority built into our biology, which requires cells to follow instructions from the head honcho nervous system, even if those signals are in conflict with local stimuli.
I was excited by my experiments because I believed that they revealed on the single-cell level a truth for multicellular organisms—that the mind (acting via the central nervous system’s adrenaline) overrides the body (acting via the local histamine signal). I wanted to spell out the implications of my experiments in my research paper, but my colleagues almost died from apoplexy at the notion of injecting the body-mind connection into a paper about cell biology. So I put in a cryptic comment about understanding the significance of the study, but I couldn’t say what the significance was. My colleagues did not want me to include these implications of my research because the mind is not an acceptable biological concept. Bioscientists are conventional Newtonians—if it isn’t matter, it doesn’t count. The “mind” is a non-localized energy and therefore is not relevant to materialistic biology. Unfortunately, that perception is a “belief” that has been proven to be patently incorrect in a quantum mechanical universe!
TL;DR mind over matter.
However, this is not the conscious mind we are talking about. The subconscious mind, i.e mental programs we all have, is largely calling the shots.
This is where positive thinking ultimately fails. You can consciously tell yourself something, but if subconsciously you don’t believe it, it will not work.
The rest of the book is Lipton making the case for mind over matter. I’ve already given you a ton of a technical information so I’ll stop here. Read the book if you want to understand the rest of Lipton’s case.
Why Does It Suck
I’ll admit, a lot of the technical information I could not follow along with. A difficult book for the average lay person to simply pick up and try to understand.
The Wrap Up
Lipton shows a great amount of open-mindedness in this book. He has risked his scientific reputation by incorporating science and Spirit and spreads a positive message overall.
The ramifications of this book are incredible. Most people view themselves as “slaves to genetics”. Yet this is not only a disempowering belief, it’s not even scientifically accurate.
What exciting possibilities can come from this? Think of the diseases that could be cured alone, let alone increasing human potential.
Very glad I found this one. Add it to your reading list for the biology minded.