Posted by admin on November 8, 2012
By BRUCE H. LIPTON, Ph.D. | New Dawn Magazine
Living in the world under your skin is a bustling metropolis of 50
trillion cells, each of which is biologically and functionally
equivalent to a miniature human. Current popular opinion holds that the
fate and behaviour of our internal cellular citizens are preprogrammed
in their genes. Since Watson and Crick’s discovery of the genetic code,
the public has been programmed with perception that DNA acquired from
our parents at the moment of conception determines our traits and
characters. This conventional view of genetics further has us believe
that our inherited gene programs are apparently fixed, the equivalent of
a computer’s “read-only” program.
The notion that our fate is indelibly inscribed in our genes was
directly derived from the now dated scientific concept known as genetic determinism.
It is still a conventional belief that genes “control” the many
wonderful attributes passed down through a family’s lineage, as well as
dysfunctional familial traits such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and
depression, among scores of others. As “victims” of heredity, genetic
forces outside of our control, we naturally perceive of ourselves as
being powerless in regard to the unfolding of our lives. Unfortunately,
the assumption of being powerless is the road to personal
irresponsibility. “Since I can’t do anything about it anyway… why should
Just as the Human Genome Project got off the ground in the late
1980’s, scientists began to acquire a paradigm-shattering new view of
how life works. Their revolutionary research has become the foundation
for a new branch of science known as epigenetic control. The
world of epigenetics has shaken the foundations of biology and medicine
for it reveals that we are not “victims” of our genes, but are in fact
“masters” of our genes.
The conventional version of heredity still being taught in schools emphasises genetic control, which literally reads as “control by genes.” However, newly revealed epigenetic control mechanisms provide a profoundly different view of how life is managed. The Greek-derived prefix epi- means “over or above.” Consequently, the literal translation of epigenetic control reads as “control above the genes.” Genes do NOT control life – life is controlled by something above the
genes. Knowledge is power and this knowledge of how life works provides
the most important element in our quest for self-empowerment.
Epigenetics leads us from our perception of victim to our proper role as
a participatory creator.
The new science of epigenetics recognises that environmental signals
are the primary regulators of gene activity. As described in the Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles,
cells read and respond to the conditions of their environment using
membrane protein perception switches. Activated switches send signals
into the cytoplasm to control behaviour and regulate the activity of the
genes, the hereditary blueprints used to make the body. Proteins are
the cell’s molecular building blocks and their characters provide for
our physical and behavioural traits.
Amazingly, epigenetic information can modify or edit the readout of a
gene blueprint to create over 30,000 different variations of proteins
from the same gene. This editing process can provide for normal
functional protein products as well as dysfunctional proteins from the
same gene. One can be born with healthy genes and through epigenetic
processes express mutant behaviours such as cancer. Similarly, one can
be born with defective mutant genes and through epigenetic mechanisms
create normal healthy proteins and functions.
The conventional belief that the genome represents “read-only”
programs is now proven to be false. Epigenetic mechanisms modify the
readout of genetic code, therefore genes actually represent “read-write”
programs wherein life experiences actively redefine an individual’s
genetic expression. As organisms experience the environment, their
perception mechanisms fine-tune genetic expression so as to enhance
their opportunities for survival. The environment’s influence over the
genome is dramatically revealed in studies on identical twins. When
first born, these siblings express almost the same gene activity from
their identical genomes. However, as they begin to experience life,
their personal individualised experiences and perceptions lead to the
activation of profoundly different sets of genes.
The “new” biology is based upon the fact that perception controls
behaviour AND gene activity! This revised version of science emphasises
the reality that we actively control our genetic expression moment by
moment throughout our lives. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of
our genes, we must come to own the responsibility that our perceptions
are dynamically shaping our biology and behaviour. The expression of a
healthy or dis-eased biology is directly influenced by the accuracy of
an individual’s interpretation or perception of their environment.
Misperceptions rewrite genetic expression just as effectively as
accurate perceptions, yet with far graver, perhaps even life threatening
From the Microcosm of the Cell to the Macrocosm of the Mind
For the first three and a half billion years of life on this planet,
the biosphere consisted of a massive population of individual
single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, yeast, algae, and protozoa
like the familiar amoeba and paramecium. About 700 million years ago,
individual cells started to assemble into multicellular colonies. The
collective awareness afforded in a community of cells was far greater
than an individual cell’s awareness. Since awareness is a primary factor
in organismal survival, the communal experience offered its citizens a
far greater opportunity to stay alive and reproduce.
The first cellular communities, like the earliest human communities,
were basic hunter-gatherer clans wherein each member of the society
offered the same services to support the survival of the community.
However, as the population densities of both cellular and human
communities reached greater numbers, it was no longer efficient or
effective for all individuals to do the same job. In both types of
communities, evolution led to individuals taking on specialised
functions. For example, in human communities some members focused upon
hunting, others upon domestic chores and some upon child rearing. In
cellular communities specialisation meant that some cells began to
differentiate as digestive cells, others as heart cells, and still
others as muscle cells.
Most of the trillions of cells forming bodies such as ours have no
direct perception of the external environment. Liver cells “see” what’s
going on in the liver, but don’t directly know what’s going on in the
world outside of the skin. The function of the brain and nervous system
is to interpret environmental stimuli and send out signals to the cells
that integrate and regulate the life-sustaining functions of the body’s
The successful nature of multicellular communities allowed evolving
brains to dedicate vast numbers of cells for use in the cataloguing,
memorising and integrating complex perceptions. The ability to remember
and select among the millions of experienced perceptions in life
provides the brain with a powerful creative database from which it can
create complex behavioural repertoires. When put into play, these
behavioural programs endow the organism with the characteristic trait
of consciousness. In this presentation, the term consciousness is used in its most fundamental context… the state of being awake and aware of what is going on around you.
Many scientists prefer to think of consciousness in terms of a
digital quality, an organism either has it or not. However, an
assessment of the evolution of biological properties suggests
consciousness, like any other quality, evolved over time. Consequently,
the character of consciousness would likely express itself as a gradient
of awareness from its simpler roots in primitive organisms to the
unique character of self-consciousness manifest in humans and other higher vertebrates.
The expression of self-consciousness is specifically associated with a small evolutionary adaptation in the brain known as the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is the neurological platform that enables us to
realise our personal identity and experience the quality of “thinking.”
Monkeys and lower organisms do not express self-consciousness. When
looking into a mirror, monkeys will never recognise that they are
looking at them selves; they will always perceive the image to be that
of another monkey. In contrast, neurologically more advanced chimps
looking in the mirror perceive the mirror’s reflection as an image of
An important difference between the brain’s consciousness and the prefrontal cortex’s self-consciousness is
that consciousness enables an organism to assess and respond to the
immediate conditions of its environment that are relevant at that
moment. In contrast, self-consciousness enables the individual to factor
in the consequences of their actions in regard to not only how they
impact the present moment but also as to how they will influence the
Self-consciousness is an evolutionary adjunct to consciousness in
that it provided another behaviour-creating platform that included the
role of a “self” in the decision-making process. While conventionalconsciousness enables organisms to be participatory members in the dynamics of life’s “play,” the quality of self-consciousness offers
an opportunity to simultaneously be an observer in the “audience.” From
the perspective of our being able to observe the role of “self” in the
unfolding of the “play,” self-consciousness provides the individual with
the option for self-reflection, reviewing and editing their character’s
performance. The conscious and self-conscious functions of the brain
may be collectively referred to as the mind.
In conventional parlance, the brain’s conscious mechanism associated
with automated stimulus-response behaviours is referred to as the subconscious or unconscious mind,
for the reason that its functions require neither observation nor
attention from the self-conscious mind. Subconscious mind functions
evolved long before the prefrontal cortex, consequently it historically
was able to successfully operate a body and its behaviour without any
contribution from, or involvement with, the more evolvedself-conscious mind.
The subconscious mind is an astonishingly powerful information
processor that can record perceptual experiences (programs) and forever
play them back at the push of a button. Interestingly, many people only
become aware of their subconscious mind’s automated programmed
behaviours when they realise they’re engaged in an undesirable behaviour
as a result of someone “pushing their buttons.”
The power of the subconscious mind lies in its ability to process
massive amounts of data acquired from direct and indirect learning
experiences at extraordinarily high rates of speed. It has been
estimated that the disproportionately larger brain mass providing the
subconscious mind’s function has the ability to interpret and respond to
over 40 million nerve impulses per second. In contrast, it is estimated
that the diminutive self-conscious mind’s prefrontal cortex can only
process about 40 nerve impulses per second. As an information processor,
the subconscious mind is one million times more powerful than the self-conscious mind.
As a tradeoff in acquiring its computational bravado, the
subconscious mind expresses a marginal creative ability, one that may be
best compared to that of a precocious five year old. In contrast to the
freewill offered by the conscious mind, the subconscious mind primarily
expresses prerecorded stimulus-response “habits.” Once a behaviour
pattern is learned, such as walking, getting dressed or driving a car,
those programs are processed as habits in the subconscious mind… meaning
you can carry out these complex functions without paying any attention
In contrast to the massive information processing by the subconscious
mind, the smaller prefrontal cortex responsible for self-consciousness
is limited to juggling only a small number of tasks at the same time.
Though its ability for multitasking is physically constrained, the
self-conscious mind can focus upon and control any function in
the human body. It was once thought that some body’s functions were
beyond the control of the self-conscious mind, such involuntary functions included
the regulation of heartbeat, blood pressure and body temperature,
behaviours controlled by the unconscious autonomic nervous system.
However, it is now recognised that yogis and other practitioners that
train their conscious minds can absolutely control functions formerly
defined as involuntary behaviours.
The subconscious and self-conscious components of the mind work in
tandem. The subconscious mind controls every behaviour that is not
attended to by the self-conscious mind. For most people, their
self-conscious minds are rarely focused upon the current moment since
their mental processing continuously flits from one thought to another.
The self-conscious mind is so preoccupied with thoughts about the
future, the past or resolving some imaginary problem, that most of our
lives are actually controlled by programs in the subconscious mind.
Cognitive neuroscientists conclude that the self-conscious mind
contributes only about 5% of our cognitive activity. Consequently, 95%
of our decisions, actions, emotions and behaviours are derived from the
unobserved processing of the subconscious mind.
Simple Insights… Profound Consequences!
Through the management of “programmed” perceptions, the mind controls
our biology, behaviour and gene activity. The seat of thinking,
freewill, personal identity, and our wants, desires and intentions is a
small 40 “bit” self-conscious processor that controls our lives only 5% of the day or less. The million times more powerful subconscious mind controls 95% or more of our lives using “habits” derived from instincts and the perceptions acquired in our life experiences.
This data reveals that our lives are not controlled by our personal
intentions and desires as we may inherently believe. Do the math! Our
fate is actually under the control of the preprogrammed experiences
managed by the subconscious mind. The most powerful and influential
programs in the subconscious mind were downloaded into consciousness in
the profoundly important formative period between gestation and six
years of age. Now here’s the catch – these life-shaping subconscious
programs are direct downloads derived from observing our primary
teachers… our parents, siblings and local community. Unfortunately, as
psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors are keenly aware, many of
the perceptions acquired about ourselves in the formative period are
expressed as limiting and self-sabotaging beliefs.
Unbeknownst to most parents is the fact that their words and actions
are being continuously recorded by their children’s minds. Consequently,
when they inform their child that he or she does not deserve things, or
that they are not good enough, or smart enough, or that they are
sickly, these pronouncements are directly downloaded into their child’s
subconscious. Since the role of the mind is to make coherence between
its programs and real life, the brain generates appropriate behavioural
responses to life’s stimuli to assure the “truth” of the programmed
Let’s apply this understanding to the behaviour in one’s life. Consider that you were a 5-year-old child throwing a tantrum in Walmart
over your desire to have a particular toy. In silencing your outburst,
your father yelled, “YOU don’t deserve things!” You are now an adult and
in your self-conscious mind you are considering the idea that you have
the qualities and power to assume a position of leadership at your job.
While in the process of entertaining this positive thought in the
self-conscious mind, all of your behaviours are now being automatically
managed by the programs in your more powerful subconscious mind. Since
your fundamental behavioural programs are those derived in your
formative years, your father’s admonition that “you do not deserve
things” may become the subconscious mind’s automated directive. So while
you are entertaining wonderful thoughts of a positive future and not
paying attention, your subconscious mind is automatically engaging
self-sabotaging behaviour to assure that your reality matches your
program of not-deserving.
Now here’s the catch – Behaviour is
automatically controlled by subconscious mind’s programs when the
self-conscious mind is not focused on the present moment. When the
reflective self-conscious mind is preoccupied in thought and not paying
attention, it does not observe the automatic behaviours derived from
subconscious mind. Since 95% or more of our behaviour is derived from
the subconscious mind… then most of our own behaviour is invisible to
For example, consider you intimately know someone and you also know
his or her parent. From your perspective you see that your friend’s
behaviour closely resembles their parent. Then one day you casually
remark to your friend something like, “You know Mary, you’re just like
your mom.” Back away! In disbelief and perhaps shock, Mary will likely
respond with, “How can you say that!” The cosmic joke is that everyone
else can see that Mary’s behaviour resembles her mom’s except Mary.
Why? Simply because when Mary is engaging the subconscious behavioural
programs she downloaded in her youth from observing her mom, it’s
because her self-conscious mind is not paying attention. At those
moments, her automatic subconscious programs operate without
Another familiar example of how “invisible” behaviour operates: You
are driving your car while having an intense conversation with a friend
in the passenger’s seat. You become so involved in the discussion that
only later, when your gaze returns to the road, do you realise that you
haven’t paid attention to the driving for the last ten minutes. Since
the self-conscious mind was preoccupied with the conversation, the car
was being driven by the subconscious mind’s “autopilot” mode. However,
if you were asked to describe your driving behaviour during that
ten-minute hiatus, you would be forced to say, “I don’t know… I wasn’t
paying attention.” Aha! That’s the point – when the conscious mind is
busy, we do not observe our own programmed subconscious behaviours.
Consequently, when life does not work out as planned, we rarely
recognise that we were very likely contributing to our own
disappointments. Since we are generally unaware of the influence of our
own subconscious behaviours, we naturally perceive of our selves as
victims of forces outside of us when things don’t work out as desired.
Unfortunately, assuming the role of victim means that we assume we are
powerless in manifesting our intentions. Nothing is further from the
truth! The primary determinant in shaping the fate of our lives is the
database of perceptions and beliefs programmed in our minds.
Where Did That Behaviour Come From?
There are three sources of perceptions that control our biology and
behaviour. The most primitive perceptions are those we acquire with our
genome. Built into our genes are programs that provide fundamental
reflex behaviours referred to as instincts. Pulling your hand out of an
open flame is a genetically derived behaviour that does not have to be
learned. More complex instincts include the ability of newborn babies to
swim like a dolphin or the activation of innate healing mechanisms to
repair a damaged system or eliminate a cancerous growth. Genetically
inherited instincts are perceptions acquired from nature.
The second source of life-controlling perceptions represents memories
derived from life experiences downloaded into the subconscious mind.
These profoundly powerful learned perceptions represent the contribution
from nurture. Among the earliest perceptions of life to be
downloaded are the emotions and sensations experienced by the mother as
she responds to her world. Along with nutrition, the emotional
chemistry, hormones, and stress factors controlling the mother’s
responses to life experiences cross the placental barrier and influence
fetal physiology and development. When the mother is happy, so is the
fetus. When the mother is in fear, so is the fetus. When the mother
“rejects” her fetus as a potential threat to family survival, the fetal
nervous system is preprogrammed with the emotion of being rejected. Sue
Gearhardt’s very valuable book Why Love Matters reveals that
the fetal nervous system records memories of womb experiences. By the
time the baby is born, emotional information downloaded from the life
experiences in womb have already shaped half of that individual’s
However, the most influential perceptual programming of the
subconscious mind occurs in the time period spanning from the birth
process through the first six years of life. During this time the
child’s brain is recording all sensory experiences as well as learning
complex motor programs for speech, and for learning first how to crawl
and then how to stand and ultimately run and jump. Simultaneously, the
subconscious mind acquires perceptions in regard to parents, who are
they and what they do. Then by observing behavioural patterns of people
in their immediate environment (usually parents, siblings and
relatives), a child learns perceptions of acceptable and unacceptable
social behaviours that become the subconscious programs that establish
the “rules” of life.
Nature facilitates the enculturation process by developmentally
enhancing the subconscious mind’s ability to download massive amounts of
information. EEG readings from adult brains reveal that neural
electrical activity is correlated with different states of awareness.
Adult EEG readings show that the human brain operates on at least five
different frequency levels, each associated with a different brain
EEG vibrations continuously shift from state to state over the whole
range of frequencies during normal brain processing in adults. However,
brain frequencies in developing children display a radically different
behaviour. EEG vibration rates and their corresponding states evolve in
incremental stages over time. The predominant brain activity during the
child’s first two years of life is delta, the lowest EEG frequency range. In the adult brain, delta is associated with sleeping or unconsciousness.
Between two and six years of age, the child’s brain activity state ramps up and it operates primarily in the range of theta. In the adult, theta activity is associated with states of reverie or imagination. While in thetheta state,
children spend much of their time mixing the imaginary world with the
real world. Calm consciousness associated with emerging alpha activity
only becomes a predominant brain state after six years of age. By
twelve years, the brain expresses all frequency ranges although its
primary activity is inbeta’s state of focused consciousness.
Children leave elementary education behind at this age and enter into
the more intense academic programs of junior high.
A profoundly important fact in the above timeline that may have missed your attention is that children do not express the alpha EEG frequencies of conscious processing as a predominant brain state until afterthey are six years old. The predominant delta and theta activity of children under six signifies that their brains are operating at levels below consciousness. Delta and theta brain
frequencies define a brain state known as a hypnogogic trance, the same
neural state that hypnotherapists use to download new behaviours
directly into the subconscious mind of their clients.
The first six years of a child’s life is spent in a hypnotic trance.
Its perceptions of the world are directly downloaded into the
subconscious during this time, without the discrimination of the, as
yet, dormant self-conscious mind. Consequently, our fundamental
perceptions about life and our role in it are learned before we express
the capacity to choose or reject those beliefs. We were simply
“programmed.” The Jesuits were aware of this programmable state and
proudly boasted, “Give us a child until it is six or seven years old and
it will belong to the Church for the rest of its life.” They knew that
once the dogma of the Church was implanted into the child’s subconscious
mind, that information would inevitably influence 95% of that
individual’s behaviour for the rest of their life.
The inhibition of conscious processing (alpha EEG activity)
and the simultaneous engagement of a hypnogogic trance during the
formative stages of a child’s life are a logical necessity. The thinking
processes associated with the self-conscious mind’s processing cannot
operate from a blank slate. Self-conscious behaviour requires a working
database of learned perceptions. Consequently, before self-consciousness
is expressed, the brain’s primary task is to acquire a working
awareness of the world by directly downloading experiences and
observations into the subconscious mind.
HOWEVER, there is a very, very serious downside to acquiring
awareness by this method. The consequence is so profound that it not
only impacts the life of the individual, it can also alter an entire
civilisation. The issue concerns the fact that we download our
perceptions and beliefs about life long before we acquire the ability
for critical thinking. Our primary perceptions are literally written in
stone as unequivocal truths in the subconscious mind, where they
habitually operate for life, unless there is an active effort to
reprogram them. When as young children we download limiting or
sabotaging beliefs about ourselves, these perceptions become our truths
and our subconscious processing will invisibly generate behaviours that
are coherent with those truths.
As an important point for personal reference, it should be noted that
acquired perceptions in the subconscious mind could even override
genetically endowed instincts. For example, every human can
instinctually swim like a dolphin the moment they emerge from the birth
canal. This might prompt you to ask, “Why is it that we have to work so
hard at teaching our children how to swim?” The answer lies in the fact
that every time the infant encounters open water, such as a pool, a
river, a bathtub, the parents freak out in concern for the safety of
their child. However, in the baby’s mind, the parent’s behaviour causes
the child to equate water as something to be feared. The acquired
perception of water as dangerous and life threatening, overrides the
instinctual ability to swim and makes the formerly proficient child
susceptible to drowning.
The following is further reference to the fact that our unconsciously
acquired cultural beliefs control biology and behaviour. Through our
developmental experiences we acquire the perception that we are frail,
vulnerable organisms subject to the ravages of contagious germs and
disease. The belief of being frail actually leads to frailty since the
mind’s limiting perceptions inhibit the body’s innate ability to heal
itself. This influence of the mind on healing processes is the focus of
psychoneuroimmunology, the field that describes the mechanism by which
our thoughts change brain chemistry, which in turn regulates the
function of the immune system. While negative beliefs can precipitate
illness (nocebo effect), the resulting dis-ease state can be alleviated
through the healing effects of positive thoughts (placebo effect).
Finally, the third source of perceptions that shape our lives is
derived from the self-conscious mind. Unlike the reflexive programming
of subconscious mind, the self-conscious mind is a creative platform
that provides for the mixing and morphing a variety of perceptions with
the infusion of imagination, a process that generates an unlimited
number of beliefs and behavioural variations. The quality of the
self-conscious mind endows organisms with one of the most powerful
forces in the Universe, the opportunity to express freewill.
Taking Personal Responsibility
The conclusions of the “new” biology provide a radical departure from
our conventional beliefs of how life works. In contrast to the notion
that we are biochemical automatons driven by genes, the new insights
reveal that it is the mind that controls genes, which in turn shape our
biology and behaviour. The self-conscious mind, associated with our
individual identity and the manifestation of thoughts, is guided by our
own personal desires and intentions.
While we generally perceive that our self-conscious mind is
“controlling” the show, neuroscience has established the fact that 95%
of our behaviour is under the control of the more powerful subconscious
mind. As most of our personal and cultural problems arise from the fact
that behaviours derived from the subconscious mind are essentially
invisible to us, we rarely observe our automated behaviour.
Compounding the problem is the fact that fundamental programs in the
subconscious mind are derived from others, people who generally do not
share your personal goals and aspirations. While our conscious minds are
trying to move us toward our dreams, unbeknownst to us our subconscious
programs are simultaneously shooting ourselves in the foot and impeding
The subconscious mind is simply a “record-playback” mechanism that
downloads experiences into “behavioural tapes.” While the self-conscious
mind is associated with creativity, the subconscious mind’s function is
to engage previously recorded programs. Unlike self-consciousness that
is overseen by an entity (you), the subconscious mind is more closely
related to a machine, meaning there is no thinking, conscious entity
controlling the subconscious programs.
We have all been shackled with emotional chains wrought by
dysfunctional behaviours programmed by the stories of the past. However,
the next time you are talking to “yourself” with the hope of changing
sabotaging subconscious programs, it is important to realise the
following information. Using reason to communicate with your
subconscious in an effort to change its behaviour would essentially have
the same influence as trying to change a program on a cassette tape by
talking to the tape player. In neither case is there an entity in the
mechanism that will respond to your dialogue.
Subconscious programs are not fixed, unchangeable behaviours. We have
the ability to rewrite our limiting beliefs and in the process take
control of our lives. However, to change subconscious programs requires
the activation of a process other than just engaging in a running
dialogue with the subconscious mind. There are a large variety of
effective processes to reprogram limiting beliefs, which include
clinical hypnotherapy, Buddhist mindfulness and a number of newly
developed and very powerful modalities collectively referred to as
For a list of resources, visit: www.brucelipton.com.