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DMT: The Spirit Molecule – Review

by: Strassman, Rick M.D.

Publisher: Park Street Press (www.InnerTraditions.com)

Copyright: 2001

Cover: Alex Grey/Peri Champine

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/15/2006

Summary: Highly recommended. The pineal gland and the effects of DMT.

N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring chemical found in plants and mammals, including humans. Author, Dr. Rich Strassman, points out that the traditional view of DMT is that it is a by-product of metabolism. He rejects that idea. He also rejects the idea that the chemical serves no useful purpose.

In a government permitted study between 1990 and 1995, Dr. Strassman administered DMT to volunteers at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine in Albuquerque where he was a tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry. DMT produces a psychedelic affect when administered in strong doses. Strassman prefers the term psychedelic over hallucinogenic because the former “show you what’s in and on your mind, those subconscious thoughts and feelings that are hidden, covered up, forgotten, out of sight . .”. Whether or not this distinction is merely semantics, Strassman’s approach is to look for the commonality of the mind experience through a chemical effects. DMT is the chemical of choice. (The slogan, “Better Living Through Chemistry” may seem appropriate here. But for Strassman, there is a catch).

Like all psychedelic or hallucinogenic chemicals (LSD, mescaline, MDMA [“Ecstasy”], psilocybin [“magic mushrooms]), DMT acts upon the brain’s serotonin system. Strassman presents a complete and easily understood discussion of how these chemicals interact with serotonin receptors. There are at least twenty different types of serotonin receptors. “The new, safer, and more effective antipsychotic medications all have unique effects on serotonin”, he writes. Prozac, an antidepressant, also modifies serotonin behavior in the brain.

All psychedelic compounds consists of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. In turn, the drugs are divided into two families. Phenethylamines compounds are built from carbon and nitrogen atoms. Mescaline and MDMA (“Ecstasy”) are two resulting drugs. The tryptamine family of drugs include serotonin, DMT, psilocybin, psilocin, and LSD. Tryptamine consists of two nitrogen and ten carbon atoms. Strassman goes on to explain that while we know a lot about the “pharmacology” of these drugs–how they enhance, block or redirect the activity of serotonin receptors–we know next to nothing about “how changes in brain chemistry directly relate to subjective, or inner, experience. This endeavor, as Strassman goes on to point out in the book, is a great deal more convoluted than it would at first appear.

Strassman points out that DMT, like glucose, is one of the few chemicals in the body that is quickly broken down and used by the body. The work is done by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAO). DMT is being produced in the body all the time, though it is highest during the time we are sleeping. DMT is also one of the few chemicals which can cross the blood-brain barrier and is utilized by the brain in its compound form. The major question science has to answer in this process is where in the body is DMT produced?

Matter Versus Spirit

Once every five years or so, the debate resurfaces over whether the human Mind is merely the fumes and particulate matter resulting from the chemical factory of the body or whether the mind is really a Spiritual receptor, subject to the influence of its physical housing but ultimately without physical moorings. In the 1950s and 1960s, the debate hinged upon the finer points of behaviorism–the physical brain trained to interact with its marco-environment. From the 1980s forward a compromise of sorts was worked out and the debate subordinated the Sprit aspect of the discussion to whether social influence could mitigate structure–the nature-nurture argument. A new debate is in the works, this time fueled by theoretical quantum physics. The debate threatens to become a lot more complex. Strassman’s amazingly clear discussion in DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE does add gist for the mill of debate.

In discussing a previous study he conducted to learn about melatonin–another body chemical–Strassman lays out his contention that the pineal gland is Man’s Spiritual gland. The pineal gland produces melatonin. It is also, according to Strassman, where DMT is produced. Science has not pin-pointed the precise purpose of melatonin though its levels in the bloodstream has been tracked. After puberty, melatonin production declines dramatically. Strassman says that “some investigators think this may allow the sexual apparatus to free itself from the pineal restraint and thus begin functioning in an adult manner”. The only documented effect of melatonin is that it contributes to the drop in body temperature during sleep (usually around 3 A.M.). Melatonin production in the body is reduced when light, any type of light, is present.

There is no documented purpose for DMT. But Strassman theorizes.

The facts are fascinating. The pineal gland does not become visible in the developing fetus until “seven weeks, or forty-nine days, after conception”. The gland, located in the center of the brain, develops from tissue in the roof of the mouth. It ends up in it’s final position before birth and is not a part of the brain itself, though it is embedded within the folds of the brain. According to Strassman, in stressful situations the pineal gland produces DMT instead of melatonin. Under extreme stress, a jolt of DMT alters the mind’s perception of the environment, producing a psychedelic experience of varying levels of connectivity to reality. Thus, near-death experiences, encounters with aliens, “blinding white light, encounters with demonic and angelic entities, ecstatic emotions, timelessness, heavenly sounds, feeling of having died and being reborn. . .”, and other altered mind-states can seem real to the person undergoing the experience.

The body seems extremely well equipped to regulate and curtail the presence of DMT and other mind-altering chemicals in the blood stream and entering the brain. This, conversely, is one of the arguments Strassman makes in defining DMT as the spirit molecule. He discusses the possibility that “[W]hen our individual life force enters our fetal body, the moment in which we become truly human, it passes through the pineal and triggers the first primordial flood of DMT”. He farther theorizes that when we die, the last substance produced by the body–for up to an hour or more after brain-wave death–is DMT from the pineal gland.

Finally, Better Living Through Chemistry

Where does the “I” in “me” come from?

In a sense, what Strassman’s hypothesis about the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and DMT point toward is a unified theory of consciousness. It is rather beautiful in its simplicity.

Parents beget a physical entity–the fetus. At forty-nine days, this fetus is imbued with consciousness from an external source. The external source could be called God, Universal Consciousness, or more generically, the Life Source. Once this Consciousness enters the physical entity, it is constrained by the limitations of its physical world. At the end of its sojourn in this physical world, the Consciousness leaves the physical body and returns to its non-physical reality. At appropriate times–or inappropriate, as the case may be–the physical body may loosen its grip upon the Consciousness through a relative flood of DMT or other chemicals flooding the body and seeping across the blood-brain barrier set up to lock Consciousness in place. But for the most part, Consciousness is locked in place until the physical body expires. This theory pretty much covers the spectrum of mystical and religious perceptions on how the human experience originates and ends.

Is there a problem, Mr. Zulu?

Well, yeah. If Consciousness opts to enter the physical entity in the first place, why is there such a headstrong, seemingly life-long push to leave–prematurely as it would be?

Yes, and this is really the question Dr. Strassman raises toward the end of the book, though not in those words.

After examining the weird experiences reported to him by the volunteers subjected to varying doses of DMT and taking those experiences at face value, as something originating from an alternate reality, Strassman reported that “there was a nagging discomfort in taking this approach in responding to reports of contact. I began wondering if I were starting a descent into some sort of communal psychosis”. Communal psychosis indeed.

With his training as a Buddhist, Strassman eventually turned to that training to place his DMT experiments in perspective. He quotes from a letter he received from a Buddhist abbot in which she says, “That DMT might elicit enlightenment experiences is delusional and contrary to the teachings of Buddha; Hallucinogens disorder and confuse the mind, impede religious training, and can be a cause of rebirth into realms of confusion and suffering. . . .”

The abbot’s assessment of the DMT “trips” experienced by Strassman’s volunteers is in line with most established religions regarding chemicals and spirituality. In simple words, it is a dead-end. But this does not necessarily invalidate Strassman’s unified theory of consciousness. In fact, it might just support it.

DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE might at first glance seem to be one of those books you could skip reading to go on to something with seemingly more substance, such as Dean Radin’s ENTANGLED MINDS. But Stassman’s book is a definite must read because it nicely straddles the divide between science and religion, demolishing some of the pillars underlying both. The process leaves us with questions. Questions are a good thing.

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Secret History of Ancient Egypt: Electricity, Sonics and the Disappearance of an Advanced Civilization – Book Review

SecretHistoryOfAncientEgyptby: Herbie Brennan

Publisher:  Berkley Books: Penguin Putnam Inc.

Copyright:  2000

Cover:  Kristin del Rosario

Type:  Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, November 6, 2006

Summary: Recommended for the questions raised. How was the Great Pyramid built? Is civilization older than 7,000 years? 

There was recently a program special on the HISTORY channel (cable-TV) concerning the architecture of ancient Egyptians. The question might be asked as to when there is not a program special on the DISCOVERY or HISTORY channel concerning the ancient Egyptians (or Hitler and the Nazis). These “Egypt discovered” programs–99% of the time (a wide-eyes guess)–simply regurgitate the Egyptologist’s perspective that the ancient Egyptians simply popped-up along the Nile Delta some five thousand years ago with a highly developed corporate (religious) society, reached a pinnacle of development some thousand years later and spent the next 2000 years going into a state of decline until the Romans marched in and took over. But it is television. Entertainment and education for the masses. FCC (as in Federal Communications Commission) forebid raising anything like a debatable question. Or, if a debatable question is raised, devote equal time to both sides. One talking head says this, the other talking head says that. You decide based upon the most superficial facts squeezed between camera cuts, commercials and repetitious re-statement of the superficial facts stated seven minutes before. It is television.

There are of course alternative views on the development of Egyptian civilization. This statement should normally be followed by the observation that some of the alternative views are sort of wacky. But given all that we do not know about Egyptian civilization, despite what the Egyptologists say they know, it would be naive to rule out any but the most fanciful ideas on the how and why of ancient Egypt. Herbie Brennan, in THE SECRET HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, has a knack for raising questions–the best possible expression of alternative ideas there is.

Brennan’s approach is purely technical. He looks at the science of the ancient Egyptians and concludes that there is more history than the Egyptologist would have us believe. In reading the book, we are inclined to agree, though the science, as presented by Brennan, is speculative. Could the ancient Egyptians have used electricity, aircraft and sound waves to manipulate their environment? There is no reason they could not have. The proof may indeed be buried in the arcane wording of their rituals and ceremonies.

From Brennan’s THE SECRET HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT and similar efforts, the impression is inescapable that there were two ancient Egyptian cultures. There was the culture which built the Great Pyramid and Spinx, and the culture that followed, imitating the one before. The science of the former became the rituals and ceremonies of the later. In the process, the culture of rituals and ceremonies, which could not duplicate the science, stylized the procedures in dogma of life and life after death. It is an impression. But it is difficult for anyone to explain ancient Egyptian civilization as a cultural continuum. By focusing on the science, Brennan does not even try. He does take up the subject toward the end of the book when he looks at the theory of evolution.

The various theories on how the Great Pyramid was constructed are presented by Brennan.

The conventional wisdom–by which is meant Egyptologist–maintain that the 50 to 80 ton stones in the King’s chamber of the pyramid were put in place by use of inclined ramps. Common sense rejects the idea, but that does not mean it was not possible. But compound the difficulty of moving such massive weight with the precision by which it was done leads to doubt. Evidence presented in support of the ramp theory is evidence created after the fact. The Egyptian pictures of slaves dragging massive stones on a level plane were created long years after the Great Pyramid was erected. According to Brennan, the supposition reported by Greek historian Herodotus that the Great Pyramid was built by Cheops (Khufu) around 2551-2528 BC creates numerous twists and turns which eventually leads to a dead end. Egyptologist take Cheops as being Pharaoh Khufu, but there is no supporting evidence that the Cheops mentioned by Herodotus was in fact the Pharaoh Khufu. So, the supposed time frame in which the pyramid was built may be wrong. It could be thousands of years older than we think.

The monuments we know as the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx at Giza are between 5000 and 7000 years BC according to Brennan. The civilization that built these structures is probably older than that. The author goes on to argue that a culture as rich and sophisticated as early Egypt was probably the recipient of an even earlier culture.

Toward the end of the book, Brennan takes on Charles Darwin by mentioning the oddities that pop up in fossil records. He cites the instance of a “human skeleton found in Switzerland is estimated to be between 38 and 45 million years old” among of list of some seventeen examples. The Ancient Egyptians themselves claimed that their civilization was 30,000 years old when the last of the Horus-kings, Narmer, ended his rule around 2925 BC.. For Brennan and others, this all points to a very strong case for the influence of a thus far mythical civilization called Atlantis.

In the last chapter of THE SECRET HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, rehashes Plato’s mention of Atlantis in his introduction to a history of Egypt. This is arguably the best chapter in Brennan’s work. While Atlantis may or may not have existed, there is too much unexplained about Ancient Egypt to blindly accept the logical though unfeasible history presented by Egyptologists.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT is definitely worth a read. It does not provide as many answers as it does questions. Questions, in history, are more valuable than answers.

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Hunt For The Skinwalker – Review

by: Kelleher, Colm A. PhD and George Knapp

Publisher: Paraview: Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Copyright: 2005

Cover: Tom McKeveny

Type: Softcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/3/2006

Summary: Recommended but not necessary reading. Some good side trips on other topics. Paranormal activities on a ranch in the Uinta Basin of Utah.

Report the facts. Evaluate the facts. Present an analysis of the facts. Next case.

HUNT FOR THE SKINWALKER reports the facts and terminates in process. Or maybe it is the scientific approach brought to bear in a paranormal arena that makes it just seems like a premature termination. In any event, there is a valuable conclusion beyond the sense of abrupt ending to be reached from reading the book.

On the way to that valuable conclusion is some highly informative and interesting peripheral material.

The National Institute for Discovery Science (NDIS) conducted a scientific study of paranormal activity on a ranch, dubbed the Skinwalker Ranch by the authors, located in the Uinta Basin in the northeast corner of Utah. The paranormal activity included sightings of strange animals, non-human forms, lights in the sky and on the ground. There were also animal mutilations. All interesting, unexplainable stuff. In walks NDIS with high-tech gear and the scientific attitude. An explanation forthcoming NOT.

Some of the more mundane but highly interesting subjects the authors touch upon in passing are the Buffalo Soldiers and Utes Indians.

Twenty percent of the U. S. Cavalry soldiers fighting the Indian wars of the 1800s were African American. As the authors point out, “what isn’t widely known about the Buffalo Soldiers stationed at Fort Duchesne is that many, if not most, of them were Freemasons.” Kelleher and Kapp go on to use this little known fact to raise the possibility that the strange going-ons in the Uinta Basin may be related to these soldiers. A small graveyard once existed for the soldiers which abuts the land of the SkinWalker Ranch. The gravesite is now covered by a 420 acre reservoir. Those who are so inclined may take from all this that the spirits of the Buffalo Soldiers are now responsible for the oddities in the area. But of course, this conclusion is not scientific, so we trudge on to the science in search of a more rational explanation.

In September of 1996, the NDIS brought in a bevy of equipment to study the phenomena at the ranch. The authors briefly discuss the precedent for doing this. Project Hessdalen in Norway and Gulf Breeze in Florida were among the first attempts to scientifically quantify the phenomena of strange lights. The Hessdalen Valley in central Norway was studied by engineer Erling Strand and others in 1984. From the equipment deployed–“a magnetometer, a radio spectrum analyzer, a seismograph, cameras. . .a Geiger counter, an infrared viewer, and a laser”–it was discovered that the mysterious lights and related phenomena were measurable. A protocol was developed and Strand, along with Bjorn Gitle Hauge, designed a real-time automated observatory.

The authors state that initially “there were indications of correlations among sunspot activity, geomagnetic storms, and the appearance of the lights, although subsequent, more intensive analysis ruled out that correlation”. Another study with equipment came to pretty much the same result. The Hessdalen Valley study was finally suspended in 2004 for financial reasons.

By the time a UFO “detection van” was deployed to Gulf Breeze, Florida, to examine the light sightings, UFO phenomena there (which occurred between 1990 and 1992), the phenomena ended. But there was an attempt to scientifically record the UFO sightings.

The authors state that the “full impact of these studies would elude us for several years”. It is a curious statement.

The intensity, or lack thereof, of the phenomena studied at the Skinwalker ranch was driven by reports from the former owner of the ranch, Tom. After the NDIS brought the ranch from Tom, he was retained as the manager of the day to day operations. The NDIS wanted to utilize him as an information resource on the strange goings-on. He came through, reporting lights, cattle mutilations and the searing death of his two dogs. He made “frantic” phone calls to the NDIS headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. The research team would suit up and go to the ranch to check their equipment and make observations. This seemed to be a pattern.

It is easy to surmise that there was some deception going on here. However, everything clearly points against that. Tom was not alone in detecting strange things happening on the ranch. His wife was often by his side. In addition, there was the physical aftermath–missing animals, dead animals. Though you detect the repetitive Tom-reporting-scientific-team-reacting pattern you logically exclude the possibility of deception by Tom because of the long history of such events occurring in the area. Still, only in two instances cited by the authors for the scientific team did they experience something akin to paranormal phenomena. So, what’s going on?

Once, two members of the scientific team reported a mysterious “huge black thing” moving in a tree line some two hundred feet away at night. The two team members were in separate areas communicating via radio. Curiously however only one of the team members actually saw the object. The other was pointing his camera in the general direction but not seeing anything other than the dark tree line. Eventually the other member reported that the thing was talking to him. It reportedly told him, “We are watching you”, and then vanished. Later this team member reported that the thing had taken control of his mind and it was on that level that the communication took place.

It is not until the later chapters of the book do the authors explore the possibility that the paranormal activities on the ranch might have something to do with mental capacity of the observer. But their efforts in this area are just as circumscribed as their examination of the physical phenomena. It could be that there “scientific” approach precludes the possibility of a bridge between the mental and physical worlds. So, the nearest they approach the matter is to haul out the standard paranormal fare of another dimension, an Indian curse (the Skinwalker mythology), and Jacques Vallee’s “hypothesis that the phenomenon represents a technologically advanced control system that may reside on this planet” and interacts with humans on multiple levels. Right, none of this comes even close to offering an explanation of what Tom and his family experienced on the ranch, but it sounds intriguing.

HUNT FOR THE SKINWALKER is worth reading for the wealth of peripheral information it provides on so called “hot spot” paranormal activities. But in offering an explanation, even a wide-eyed, exclamation saturated guess as for the how and why of the activity, it is lacking.

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Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance – Review

by: Lehr, Dick and Gerard O’Neil

Publishler: Perennial: HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright: 2000

Cover: Mark McGarry

Type: Softcover

reviewedby: Lynard Barnes 11/3/2006

 

Summary: Highly Recommended. The FBI entanglement with the Irish Mob of Boston. Events from 1965 to 2002.

 

Arrogance, as a character trait, never starts off as such. Behind every arrogant, egocentric persona is a flawed foundation.

In reading Lehr and O’Neill’s BLACK MASS: THE TRUE STORY OF AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE BETWEEN THE FBI AND THE IRISH MOB, it is the arrogance exposed more than the related crimes that stands out.

James J. “Whitey” Bulger decides he needed a legitimate business to cover his racketeering activities. Stephen and Julie Rakes had just opened a new liquor store , “Stippo’s” , in South Boston,. Bulger decided he wanted it and presented the couple with a bag of money and the ultimatum to take it and leave the store to him. Knowing Bulger’s reputation, they accepted. Bulger could do such things because he was arrogant. He was entitled.

The Rakes took their situation to a relative, Joseph Lundbohm, a Boston police detective. The relative said that he knew an “agent” in the FBI whom he believed would jump at the opportunity to pursue a case against an organized crime chieftain, which Bulger certainly was. The FBI agent, John Connolly, simply warned Bulger that the Boston police were aware of the intimidation scheme. John Connolly was not going to let a little case of extortion and intimidation interfere with the life of one of his prized informants, which James J. “Whitey” Bulger was. John Connolly could make such decisions because he was arrogant. He was entitled.

A couple of days after Lundbohm met with Connolly, the seemingly omnipresent Bulger told Stephen Rakes to inform detective Lundbohm to butt out. By 1984, Bulger’s “South Boston Liquor Mart”, Bulger’s new name for “Stippo’s”, was one of two business fronts he used to cover the money trail of his illicit enterprises.

Lehr and O’Neill’s book is not the only one on Bulger and the Boston mob, but it is the best. A straight, factual rendition of how one organized crime element in Boston used and, in effect, directed federal law enforcement, courtesy of FBI Special Agent John Connolly and those in the agency he managed to ensnarl in his grand scheme of self-aggrandizement. The surprising effect of the authors’ effort is how seamlessly it all fits together. A criminal enterprise determined to maintain control of its “territory” and keep out rival elements and an arm of federal law enforcement, swooning under the sway of John Connolly, dedicated to keeping its “stats” up to show how effective it was against crime-organized crime in particular. The arrogance in the mix merely highlights the self-centeredness of both the criminal and crime fighter. Both opted to pursue self-interest over any guiding principle or framework of principles. How it could happen is easy to see in retrospect.

By the time Bulger met with Special Agent John Connolly in 1975 and Bulger agreed to become his informant, Bulger was already in control of South Boston’s gambling and loan-sharking network. Bulger was ten years out of prison after serving a nine years sentence for what amount to racketeering. In the self-centered world of criminals, Bulger had already been an FBI informant of sorts. Recruited by Special Agent Dennis Condon throughout the early 1970s, Condon was unable to get Bulger to fully cooperate with law enforcement. Cultural differences may have been the roadblock according to the authors. Condon was not from South Boston. He was not “of them”–the folks of “Southie”. But Condon knew agent John Connolly and Connolly was from South Boston. Connolly had grown up in the same neighborhood as Bulger, went to the same schools and churches. Connolly knew the Bulger brothers, James and William, the latter an elected State Representative.

Condon helped Connolly get transferred from the Brooklyn FBI office to Boston. He then handed the Bulger informant file over to Connolly. The rest was a sordid history of abuse and misuse.

Connolly became an FBI agent in 1968, three years after Bulger’s release from prison. With seven years experience and with Condon’s help, Connolly was able to get transferred back to his hometown–to the old neighborhood. It is inescapable to conclude that the same qualities that made Connolly such a perfect match in getting James Bulger to rat-out his criminal colleagues were the same qualities that allowed Bulger to flip the relationship. Bulger had risen to the top of the criminal heap in Boston by ruthless, arrogant calculation. Bulger did not have to make any changes to his style or methods in dealing with FBI agent Connolly. For Bulger, it was always a question is this good for me or bad for me? A black and white question with no shades of gray. Special Agent Connolly’s downfall resulted from asking himself the same self-centered question. It is a quality rarely found in law enforcement officers of any ilk, but especially of FBI agents. Connolly was using Bulger to promote his self-interest above and beyond any interest related to the community, the FBI or anyone else. Bulger had made his bones by exploiting such people. Why should an FBI agent be treated any differently.

Connolly allowed himself to be used by Bulger. But of course Connolly, certainly at first, would not see it that way. He saw the relationship as an extension of his job. Putting bad guys in jail by getting information from another bad guy. It was an FBI strategy. But it was never FBI strategy to look the other way as other crimes were committed. That is the line that Connolly crossed. He, his supervisors, and to a lesser degree, those charged with directing the Boston FBI office at the time, crossed that line out of simple arrogance. Connolly’s career and his position were more important than any ultimate aim of justice.

Special Agent John Connolly was charged on October 11, 2000 with leaking FBI information to Bulger that resulted in the murder of three men during the 1980s. The Bulger criminal organization was finally dismantled in 2002 when all of his lieutenants were arrested and charged with racketeering. James “Whitey” Bulger however remains a fugitive.

BLACK MASS is one of those books dealing with a narrow subject with implications over an expansive range of seemingly mundane human experiences. There is the ongoing corruptive influence of egoists like Bulger and the corruption of law enforcement. Both are found in other places, other times. To generalize about the subject is simply to recognize a flaw in human nature-the tendency found in all of us to focus on self rather than principles of behavior or conduct. Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill have shown in this book how, even in the most exemplary of social institutions such as the FBI, one person can subvert noble goals. Nothing new. Even so, it is tragic.

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Biology of Belief, The – Review

by: Lipton, Bruce PhD

Publisher: Mountain of Love/Elite Books

Copyright: 2005

Cover: Robert Mueller

Type: Hardcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/3/2006

 

Summary: Highly Recommended. The new ground of biology and quantum physics explained in extraordinarily clear language.

The concept is extraordinarily simple. So simple that you wonder why no one has thought of it before. Of course, some have thought of it before. The concept is garbled in a host of religious and mystical creeds, sandwiched between broad generalities of faith and practice. But the genesis is neither clear nor generally circulated. Bruce Lipton, in THE BIOLOGY OF BELIEF, has remedied the clarity and circulation problem. The simplicity problem remains however. On the conceptual level, you tell yourself that nothing this simple can be true. Yet. . . .

The concept in one sentence: of the 50 trillion or so cells making up the human body, each cell is an entity with its own, individual creation, reproduction and death cycles. To fully grasp the significance, perhaps we must compare the cell to a fully functional human. Life, reproduction and death cycles. But there is another ingredient. Just as we as individuals respond to our environment–temperature, light, air quality, etc.–so too do individuals cells. In fact, as Lipton points out, “for the first three billion years of evolution, single cells were the only organisms on this planet”. They were life. Evolution–evolution in terms of organisms becoming more complex to sustain and perpetuate existence–brought about co-dependence of cells and specialization. Cells joining together to form more complex organism meant that cells could survive longer. Cells specializing–exchanging metabolic waste for oxygen, transmitting electrical signals, acting as barriers against life threatening externals–meant that cell groups could survive longer within groupings.

The biology is elegant. The implications, as Lipton explores on a somewhat perfunctory level, are staggering. He cites a few specific instances (pages 106 and 107) in which a drug designed to treat one illness has side effects indicative of another illness. In short, the blunt instrument treatment of one disease with the equivalent of a medicinal hammer affects neighboring cell which are not diseased or involved in an illness. Accepting the singular existence of a cell within a community of cells makes it easy to understand the “side affects” of medicine. As Lipton points out, all illnesses, from the most complex, such as the common cold, to the most complex, such as diabetes, starts with one single cell.

If we imagine the human body as an inverted pyramid in which one cell builds upon the function of another, how far can we take the concept to explain consciousness? Lipton makes a surprising and pleasant detour when addressing this issue.

Essentially, the subconscious mind is processing some 20,000,000 environmental stimuli per second. The conscious mind is aware of 40 environmental stimuli. (An analogy from aother book to be reviewed on this same subject compares conscious awareness to a crack in a damn in which only a trickle of water comes through). With these facts in mind, or facts similar, the obvious question is what is the conscious mind missing by not being aware of the other 99% of events in the environment. Lipton says that the two minds–the subconscious and conscious mind-are an operating system. The subconscious processes stimuli at an automatic level, freeing the conscious to focus on stimuli not requiring an automatic response. In other words, we could suppose that 99% of the stimuli reaching us does not really require our attention. We will survive, for the most part, by letting the automatic system handle it. As a result, if one cell in the body turns cancerous, the subconscious may be aware of it, but the information is not significant to the conscious mind at the moment. If millions of cells turn cancerous, the effects may start to intrude into the conscious mind. On another level, the subconscious mind can take over learned tasks, such as engaging the appropriate physical responses to control a car while we engage in a conversation with a passenger. We can focus our awareness on the passenger and conversation and let the subconscious mind deal with the minutia of controlling the car. But this operating system of awareness begs a larger question: what is the conscious mind so focused on that it can afford to ignore 99% of the stimuli reaching it?

The functional goal of a single cell is to exist as long as possible. The conglomerate of cells making up a person is also to live as long as possible. So again, we return to the analogy of an inverted pyramid to illustrate both the organization and priorities of the human biological system. Somewhere in, around or at a distance from that system is the conscious mind. The environmental impact upon the physical biological system is a given. What impact does environment play upon the conscious mind? Be forewarned, this could be a trick question.

Lipton tops off this approach to the biological system of humans with the conclusion that the mind is the pinnacle of functionality of our conglomerate cells. No where does it explicitly state such, but it is inferred. For instance, he writes on page 166, “Before the evolution of the conscious mind, the functions of animal brains consisted only of those that we link with the subconscious mind”. He presents a very strong case for the dominance of environment in the confluence of environment and genetics upon intellectual and personality development, giving due recognition to the underlying biological processes affecting intellect and personality. Up until the age of 12 years, children spend most of their existence in the Alpha waves mental state–brain wave activity with a frequency of between 8-12 HZ. This state of “calm consciousness” is the state in which we learn, plucking knowledge and skills from our surroundings, our environment. After 12 years, the brain slips more easily into a Beta waves state of 12-35 HZ. The Beta wave state is characterized by “‘focused consciousness'”, also a learning state but with selectivity. Lipton uses the existence of the Alpha state in children to bolster his contention that the personality formation which started in the womb continues after birth and the formation is primarily directed by environmental influences.

It is when he addresses the erroneous assumption that genetics dictate personality and intellectual development that he returns to the fundamental issue of volition–the conscious mind influencing environment. This is the flip-side of the environment-shapes-life coin.

In the Epilogue, titled “Spirit and Science”, Lipton writes, “I had spent years studying molecular control mechanisms within the physical body and at that astounding moment came to realize that the protein ‘switches’ that control life are primarily turned on and off by signals from the environment…the Universe”.

Lipton states quite convincingly that our experience as persons is shaped from the moment we are conceived in the womb. Genetics constitution plays a very small role in the defining what we become. Environment is everything, including the environment of the womb itself. It is within the womb that the subconscious mind is programmed to filter and process stimuli. Genetics and cells are the scaffolding, plumbing and conduits. By the time we reach consideration of the conscious mind, we have expanded beyond the immediate environment of the womb, parental nurturing, air and light quality to something called the Universe. It is here that Lipton essentially leaves his extraordinary analysis of quantum biology.

TH BIOLOGY OF BELIEF is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the direction in which the traditional life sciences are headed. Lipton has written an exceptionally clear discussion on a subject he obviously fascinated by. His enthusiasm comes through.

For some reading the book, it is unavoidable to be reminded of the old arguments of nature versus nurture in considering the most important influences upon human development. Lipton and others are redefining the parameters of the argument. No longer is human development a matter of a nature dictated (genetics) course or nurture (environment) influence, but a combination of the two. For the spiritually oriented, the question of ‘to what end’, who or what is orchestrating the energies of life, death and life-that question is still on the table. While Lipton concludes with God, as in Universe, the ultimate answer may be as close as examining the shape of your hand.

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