By Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.
“If you could be anybody, who would you be?” I used to spend an inordinate amount of time pondering that question. I was obsessed with the fantasy of changing my identity because I wanted to be anybody but me. I had a good career as a cell biologist and medical school professor, but that didn’t make up for the fact that my personal life was, at best, a shambles. The harder I tried to find happiness and satisfaction in my personal life, the more dissatisfied and unhappy I became. In my reflective moments, I resolved to surrender to my unhappy life. I decided that fate had dealt me a bad hand, and I should simply accept it. Que sera, sera.
My depressed, fatalistic attitude changed in one transformational moment in the fall of 1985.I had resigned my tenured position at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and was teaching at an offshore medical college in the Caribbean. Because the school was so far from the academic mainstream, I had the opportunity to think outside the rigid parameters of belief that prevail in conventional academia.
Far from the ivory towers, isolated on an emerald island in the deep azure Caribbean Sea, I experienced a scientific epiphany that shattered my beliefs about the nature of life.
My life-changing moment occurred while I was reviewing my research on the mechanisms by which cells control their physiology and behavior. Suddenly I realized that a cell’s life is fundamentally controlled by the physical and energetic environment with only a small contribution by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a “contractor” who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a cell’s life. It isa single cell’s “awareness” of the environment that primarily sets into motion the mechanisms of life.
As a cell biologist I knew that my insights had powerful ramifications for my life and the lives of all human beings. I was acutely aware that each of us is made up of approximately fifty trillion single cells. I had devoted my professional life to better understanding single cells because I knew then and know now that the better we understand single cells the better we can understand the community of cells that comprises each human body and that if single cells are controlledby their awareness of the environment so too are we trillion-celled human beings.
Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.
On the one hand, this new understanding of the nature of life was a jolt. For close to two decades I had been programming biology’s central dogma—the belief that life iscontrolled by genes—into the minds of medical students. On the other hand, my new understanding was not a complete surprise. I had always had niggling doubts about genetic determinism. Some of those doubts stemmed from my 18 years of government-funded research on cloning stem cells. Though it took a sojourn outside of traditional academia for me to fully realize it, my research at that time (1985) offered incontrovertible proof that biology’s most cherished tenets regarding genetic determinism were fundamentally flawed.
My new understanding of the nature of life not only corroborated my stem cell research but also, I realized, contradicted another belief of mainstream science of that time. I had been propounding to my students—the belief that allopathic medicine is the only kind of medicine that merits consideration in medical school. By finally giving the energy-based environment its due, it provided for a grand convergence uniting the science and practice of allopathic medicine, complementary medicine, and the spiritual wisdom of ancient and modern faiths.
On a personal level, I knew at the moment of insight that I had gotten myself stuck simply by believing that I was fated to have a spectacularly unsuccessful personallife. There is no doubt that human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity, and hyper-rational scientists are not immune. Our well-developed nervous system, headed by our big brain, is testament that our awareness is far more complicated than that of a single cell. When our uniquely human minds get involved, we can choose to perceive the environment in different ways, unlike a single cell whose awareness is more reflexive.
I was exhilarated by the new realization that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs.
I was instantly energized because I realized that there was a science-based path that would take me from my job as a perennial “victim” to my new job as “co-creator” of my destiny.
It has been 30 years since that magical night in the Caribbean when I had my life-changing moment of insight and 10 years since I published the first edition of The Biology of Belief. In the intervening years, and particularly in the last decade, biological research has corroborated the knowledge I gained on that early morning in the Caribbean. We are living in exciting times, for science is in the process of shattering old myths and rewriting a fundamental belief of human civilization. The belief that we are frail, biochemical machines controlled by genes is giving way to an understanding that we are powerful creators of our lives and the world in which we live.
The times are indeed changin’, which is why I’m particularly excited about this tenth-anniversary edition of The Biology of Belief. In fact, I thought about a new title for this edition: The Biology of Belief and Hope. However, I reconsidered because I like the alliteration of the original title! Nevertheless, during this time of change (despite, I can’t deny, a slew of negative news headlines), I am filled with hope.
Hope because the size and enthusiasm of the audiences for my lectures about The Biology of Belief, which has been published in 35 countries, have grown exponentially.
Hope because more and more professionals, who agree that biomedicine needs to change its drug-focused ways, are coming to my lectures and engaging me in spirited debate.
Hope because I’ve met so many people who “get” that The Biology of Belief isn’t just about individual empowerment, and it certainly isn’t just about me. I was deeply honored to receive the Goi Peace Award in 2009, and I was also thrilled that the President of the Goi Peace Foundation, Hiroo Saionji, made it so clear that though I was the recipient, the award was actually for the “new science” outlined in The Biology of Belief: “[This] research . . . has contributed to a greater understanding of life and the true nature of humanity, empowering wide layers of the public to take control of their own lives and become responsible co-creators of a harmonious planetary future.”
It is also my sincerest hope that everyone who reads The Biology of Belief recognizes that many of the beliefs that propel their lives are false and self-limiting. You can take control of your life and set out on the road to health and happiness, and you can band together with others you meet on that road so that humanity can evolve to a new level of understanding and peace.
As for me, I am ever thankful for that moment of insight in the Caribbean, which enabled me to create my now wondrous life. In the last decade, I’ve traveled around the world several times teaching the New Biology, written two more books—Spontaneous Evolution (2009) and The Honeymoon Effect (2013)—become a grandfather three times over, and, oh, become a septuagenarian. Instead of slowing down with age, I feel more and more energized by the life I’ve created, the connections I’ve made with those who are also dedicated to creating a harmonious planet, and the continuing honeymoon I’m enjoying with Margaret Horton, my best friend, my life partner, my love, as I described her in the first edition’s dedication and still describe her now. In short, my life is so much richer and more satisfying that I no longer ask myself: If I could be anybody, who would I be? For me, the answer is a no-brainer. I want to be me!
This article is an excerpt from The Biology of Belief, 10th Anniversary Edition by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. It was published by Hay House this month (October 2015) and is available in bookstores and online at www.hayhouse.com.