Hay House 2011
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain*
(*This review was originally written for the Cygnus edition, 2005)
We’ve all been taught – whether by high school biology teachers, college lecturers or the journalists and TV documentary-makers of popular culture – that it is the DNA in our cells which determines who we are. Nurture is important but it is our genes that confer upon us our individual identity.
This identity, which we spend a lifetime maintaining and defending, walks around, gloriously ‘inner-directed’, in something we call ‘the environment’, something that is, by definition, not us. We exchange information with it, use it for our own ends and often we admire it or even love it, but it remains an ‘it’ and I remain an I, an egg in an egg-cup of non-egg otherness.
We might talk glibly about being at one with Gaia or the Universe, but do we really feel that, deep in our bones, deep down wherever we keep our unconscious beliefs? Or is it just a pretty idea?
Bruce Lipton’s brilliant Biology of Belief gives us, at last, the scientific nuts and bolts with which we can rebuild our high school, Newtonian biology into an Einsteinian model worthy of our spiritual rhetoric about oneness.
For me it has been one of those life-changing works that come along only occasionally. Lipton is an impeccably-credentialled biologist who, like Rupert Sheldrake, has followed his research interests so well and so passionately that they have eventually taken him to a place far beyond the comfort – and approval – zone of his conventional colleagues. (A familiar story in science, as we know).
The DNA in a cell, he has discovered, is not its most significant, regulatory mechanism after all. It is the cell membrane that runs the show. (He calls it the ‘mem-brain’)
Moreover, the cell membrane is governed to a huge extent by information coming from without. Like a TV set, the programs it plays are received, not self-generated. We truly are continuous with our environment. And the cells of our bodies not only take many of their orders from beyond our skin, at times they also translate those into standing orders, transmissable to our descendants. Yes, Lamarck was right all along; some acquired characteristics can indeed be handed on.
Many of us are aware, despite the apparent solidity of our bodies and surroundings, that all matter is reducable to nothing more than energy patterns. We live in a quantum world. Yet we go about our lives as though Einstein had never been born. Lipton breaks through all that. Taking us on a guided tour around the incredible, sub-molecular world of living cells and using clever visuals, an engaging manner and delightfully accessible language, he helps us finally to dismantle the Newtonian-based, limited beliefs we have about the way our bodies work. Some of these beliefs can, as he points out, make us ill by turning us into unquestioning pawns of the pharmaceutical industry whose magic blunderbuss bullets can play havoc with the delicate mechanisms of our cells. Others can keep us ill by not letting us believe our illnesses are curable.
We already know that ‘mind’ can control ‘matter’, but how does that actually work? Only by understanding what goes on deep within a cell can we answer that – and for the first time truly get it that there is no actual distinction between the two. The homework he sets us is to continue disinterring our basic beliefs – most of which were planted deeply in us during childhood – and updating them in the light of this new knowledge.
Lipton’s work is far-reaching in its implications, not just for our own bodies and our physical and mental health but for the birthing and raising of our children. And also for our spiritual lives. I highly recommend it.