In the late sixties and early seventies, as genetic research was heating up and grabbing both headlines and research grants, an unknown Wisconsin medical school professor with an interest in quantum mechanics was quietly upsetting the apple cart. More than a quarter-century later, Dr. Bruce H. Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief, has taken the world by storm—being lauded, for example, by Joseph Chilton Pearce as “the definitive summary of the new biology and all that it implies.” And it implies a lot. According to Lipton’s work, genes control neither our cells nor our destinies. Instead, they are themselves controlled by signals from outside the cell—including our thoughts, feelings and emotions. James Allen built a lasting masterpiece of modern entrepreneurial philosophy based on the Old Testament observation, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Bruce Lipton took it to the laboratory and proved is as scientific fact. — JDM

How did you start on the path that led to The Biology of Belief?

I started out as a cell research scientist, culturing stem cells way back in 1967. Through these studies, I started learning things about life that conflicted with what I was supposed to be teaching my medical students.

How so?

I could take a colony of cells all derived from one parent cell, split them into three different groups, and place them all in different environmental conditions. The first group would form muscle, the second would form bone, and the third would form fat. But these were genetically identical cells!

So what really controls what the cell becomes? Not its genetic makeup, but the environment into which the cell is placed.

How was your work received?

At the time, everyone was excited about genes and the genome project. My research was saying the genetic code does not control function and behavior after all—the environment controls the genes!

None of my colleagues wanted to hear that. I couldn’t get anyone to pay any attention to my work. To me, they all seemed like lemmings, running down this trail toward the goldmine of the genome. So I left my tenured university position and walked out.

Today, there is a new science called epigenetics that looks at this—but back then it didn’t exist. So I got involved with quantum mechanics and began expanding my expertise in communication systems. I wanted to understand, how does the environment communicate and control the expression of the cell?

Wasn’t there an actual moment of epiphany?

Yes. Late one night in 1985, I was sitting in my office reviewing my understanding of the cell membrane, and I jotted down a definition using terms I’d never used before. It was 1:59 in the morning, and I wrote:

“The cell membrane is a liquid crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”

I was a cellular biologist; I’d never used these phrases. Yet they sounded familiar. Where had I heard them?

On the corner of my desk, I noticed my first computer, a little Macintosh, and next to it a book titled Understanding Your Microprocessor. I picked it up and there, on page three, was their definition of a computer chip:

“…a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”

I froze. The next sequence of thoughts happened probably in milliseconds—but to me, it seemed like hours.

First I thought, “What a coincidence…that’s the same definition!”

Then a few more hour-long milliseconds… and then, “This is no coincidence! The molecular structure and function of a computer chip is identical to us!”

I saw that the cell membrane is a carbon-based, molecular equivalent of the silicon-based computer chip. Every cell is a programmable chip, with a hard drive (“nucleus”) and software (“genes”) and a keyboard for data entry (the receptors on the surface of the cell). So where does the data come from?

And suddenly the last piece came to me—

“…But what types on that keyboard, what programs my unique cells as uniquely me, is not any part of the cell—my identity lies outside the cell!”

Each of my cells is like a television set, downloading the Bruce Lipton show. Where does that signal come from? From the environment!

And if the cell dies, does the broadcast stop? No—if the cell dies, even if all the cells die, I don’t die. I’m not the television—I’m the broadcast! “I” am not my body. I am a spiritual entity.

So the “we” who is running the show is not anywhere inside our biology, but exists externally and independent of our biology?

Yes—but there are two parts to the mind: the conscious and the subconscious.

The conscious is the spiritual self, the identity, what we think of as “us.” The subconscious is a supporting function that stores and plays back the learning experiences of the conscious mind.

For example, when you were first learning to drive, you were alert and paid attention to everything. But now you’ve been driving for years. You get in your car, put the keys in the ignition, start a conversation with someone—and suddenly you’ve ended up at your destination miles away without having paid the slightest attention to any of the details of how you got there, let alone how you drove the car!

Who actually drove the car? Your subconscious. Its function is to carry out repetitive processing, to save the much more limited conscious mind from having to focus on all of these other details.

“Much more limited”?

Yes—while the subconscious is subordinate, in a sense, it’s a million times more powerful. It’s been suggested that the conscious mind can process about forty nerve impulses per second, while the subconscious mind processes forty million nerve impulses per second!

Have you ever looked up a phone number and then forgotten those seven digits by the time you’d put away the phone book? Your conscious mind is severely limited as to how much information it can process at once. Your subconscious can handle millions of tasks at once!

Consciousness can override the programs in the subconscious, if it wants, because consciousness is creative, while subconscious is habitual. However, cognitive neuroscientists say that on a day-to-day basis, we operate from 95 to 99 percent from the subconscious mind. As much as you might think you are running your life, 99 percent of your behavior is being run by the programs stored in your subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind is essentially a tape player: pure playback. Once a program is programmed in, it will play the same thing over and over. There’s no judgment involved.

This is why cognitive therapy so seldom does any real good. I find out that my mom did this, my dad did this, my friends did this, and this is why I am who I am today. So what? Being aware of it doesn’t change the program. That’s like trying to change an audio tape by talking to the tape player while it plays. The tape player’s not listening!

Where do these programs come from?

Studies in reading brain waves show that children don’t get into alpha waves, actual consciousness, as a predominant waveform until after six years of age. Up till then, the predominant waveform is theta and delta, which are below consciousness—also called a hypnogogic state.

In other words, for the first six years of life, a child essentially is in a hypnotic trance, downloading everything he observes!

That’s why a child can learn three languages at once when he’s three years old: he’s in a super-learning state. By the age of eight or nine, once he develops consciousness, teaching him even one new language becomes much more difficult.

During that six-year period you also download information on who you are, based on feedback from the people around you.

Imagine a couple pushing a stroller through Wal-mart. Suddenly the child in the stroller sees a toy and raises a cry: “I want that toy! I want that toy!” The parents say, “Shhh!” The child continues clamoring for the toy and one parent leans down and says, “You be quiet! You don’t deserve that toy!”

By the time the child is eight or nine, he’ll start having the capacity to interpret what the parent really means: “Please stop the noise! You’re embarrassing us!” But at the age of three, he can’t operate that way.

Instead, he just downloads the program: “I do not deserve.” Eventually, it becomes a habit.

Forty years later, he looks at his life and says, “I should be more successful. I’m a good-natured person, people like me, I have skills. Why am I not getting where I want?” And he concludes that he’s a victim—but in reality, it’s just him, operating 95 to 99 percent of the time from his subconscious program: “You do not deserve.” Whenever he starts doing anything out of alignment with that program, he will quickly “self-correct.”

And literally get with the program!

Exactly. We don’t see it, because we’re observing from our consciousness. But we’re behaving 99 percent from our hypnotically-learned download.

Most of our time our conscious mind is projecting into the future or the past. Therefore, in the present moment, the subconscious is running everything.

But think about what happened the first time you met someone whom you felt might be the love of your life.

The day before, it would take you five minutes to get dressed, and another five to eat—wipe your face with your sleeve and you’re done. But now, you’ve met this amazing person and you’re going on a date. Now how long does it take you to get dressed?

An hour and a half!

And when you sit down to dinner, you remember every rule of etiquette. You think about where your napkin is, whether or not you’re chewing while you talk, how you’re holding your fork. Time slows to a crawl, and suddenly you’re aware of everything.

Why? Because this is the honeymoon period.

What’s the difference? For this short time, you are operating from your conscious mind. That’s all “honeymoon” is. You’re not allowing the tape to run your behavior. You are fully conscious, representing yourself as the person you fully believe you are…and life works! Everything’s great!

And then…?

Soon life starts crowding in. Your job and all the other issues in your life press in again, demanding the attention of your forty-bit conscious processor—and consequently, your forty-million-bit subconscious and its programmed tapes take over the helm.

Soon your new sweetheart is wondering, “Hey, doesn’t he know how to use a napkin?” She might even say, “You’re not the person I thought you were!” The honeymoon is over!

So the secret to improving ourselves is to put ourselves in the honeymoon state.

Exactly—sometimes called “Buddhist mindfulness.” Buddhist mindfulness is, you’re conscious being here now, and you never really allow the tape player to play. You are running the show. Of course, this is a very difficult thing to do in the world we live in, with the pace and all the pressures.

What does this new understanding of the cell and the mind say about the power of belief?

It turns the traditional mechanistic thinking on its head.

Quantum physics has clearly established that as observers in the universe, we actually create our reality. The universe is mental, not physical—it’s mental and spiritual.

And by the way, this is from hard-line, mainstream physicists. For example, there was a beautiful, one-page article called “The Mental Universe” in the July 2005 edition of Nature, written by a physicist from Johns Hopkins. Here are the concluding two sentences:

“The universe is immaterial; it’s mental and spiritual. Live and enjoy.”

Your perceptions actually set the frame of the reality you experience. And the science of epigenetics gives us a biological foundation for seeing how this is so.

So Henry Ford had it right when he said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Yes, and traditional wisdom has said the same thing for ages. Jesus said exactly what the new biology is saying: “You can do everything I can do, including all these miracles, even better than I can—but you don’t believe you can.”

Belief is perception. I can walk across hot coals, if I believe I can. But I cannot walk across them if I don’t have that belief. I’ll just burn myself.

There are Pentecostal Baptists in the south who work themselves up into a Jesus state and play with rattlesnakes and copperheads, demonstrating that God protects them. They get bitten, but don’t suffer any consequences.

Now, how is that possible? Biochemistry is biochemistry, right? Venom in, death out! Yes, but there’s another understanding here: perception and belief are far more powerful than we thought.

Can you speak to the idea of approaching the world from a standpoint of scarcity versus abundance?

The human body is comprised of more than fifty trillion cells. Each cell is like a human inside a community. If I could shrink you to the size of a cell and put you inside the human body, you’d see a giant city.

While every cell is born with the potential to become anything, instructions from the environment turns them into muscle cells, bone cells, skin cells, stomach cells, and each specialized cell relies on all the others. If I’m going to be a bone cell, who’s going to take care of getting me food? Ah, the digestive system cells.

No man is an island—nor is any cell.

The rules for living in a community are best exemplified in the human body, where fifty trillion cells live in harmony. We can’t get six billion people to agree on anything on the surface of this planet! The ancient, mystical understanding that the answers lie within is not just a rhetorical saying, it’s a meaningful scientific statement.

But the philosophy we’ve developed as a society is totally out of whack with the philosophy our bodies used in order to evolve successfully. Our philosophy is Darwinian: life is a struggle for survival of the fittest based on competition. This is 180 degrees off track! It turns out that the nature of the cellular community (our inner world) and the biosphere (our outer world) is all based on cooperation.

Competition is not the foundation of evolution—evolution is based totally on cooperation. And if we can shift ourselves into that kind of a cooperative mode, we will get ourselves more in sync with the world we actually live in.

In an economic sense, we’re living in a world of abundance and we’ve programmed ourselves to see scarcity?

Absolutely—and to live in fear within that abundance. If you start with fear as the program, then no matter what your conscious mind realizes, the subconscious will see what it’s trained to see. So as you walk down the street, you don’t see all the beautiful things around you because your attention is looking in the dark alleys for something to be afraid of. And then you’ll find something to be afraid of, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But if you can shift that internal programming, even to the tiniest degree, it can make a profound difference. Every time you change the program, you change who you are.

Remember how wonderful everything was when you were in that honeymoon state. All of a sudden, life was beautiful.

What shifted? You brought your consciousness out of the past and future and focused on your actual life, here and now.

Everybody knows what that experience is like. It’s not only in a romance, but any time you are fully engaged. It could be in the passionate pursuit of an art or an idea. The epiphany I had in 1985 was an experience like that.

People remember those moments, and say, “Gosh, I really miss those days.” But you can have them any time you want! You can put yourself right back into that honeymoon state. You did it before, and you can do it again!

I think that’s part of the wisdom people often get back when they grow old. You start to realize that all you have is right now. And you return back to the childhood where you were all-powerful—until people told you that you weren’t.

Your readers are all entrepreneurs who are earnestly trying to make their lives be all they could be. If they can get even just a tiny bit of this awareness, it can empower them to make a huge shift.