Written by Bruce Lipton Phd

When Science Marries New Age

Review by Gunnel Minett

Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist and when he describes New Age ideas it’s a good marriage between science and such beliefs.

Perhaps not a marriage made in heaven but certainly a good family constellation that can produce interesting offspring. In this book Lipton refers to quantum physics, cell biology, consciousness theories, neuropsychology and chemistry to illustrate how some of the central concepts of New Age can actually work. This is a really good contribution for New Age ideology, which for some can be much too outrageous to be taken seriously.

The idea of ‘thought is creative’ is a central concept in New Age. A spinoff of this idea is that you can create your ideal life if you concentrate on changing your thought pattern. To illustrate how this works, New Age often turns to parapsychology, ancient beliefs and/or a concoction of a number of ideas. To ‘channel’ information, i.e. to ‘receive messages’ from sources other than earthly human ones, is often presented as a (better) alternative to scientific evidence. For many dedicated New Agers, science even represents the opposition in society and is met with the suspicion of standing in the way of ‘true knowledge’.

So when a scientist explains New Age ideas, drawing from science itself, it becomes much more credible (at least if you take out the most extreme ideas of thinking yourself rich, immortal, forever young etc.) Lipton describes how mindfulness and increased awareness as to how we react to life can help us to achieve, in particular, better relationships but also to a general improvement in the quality of our lives. A positive aspect in this context is that he uses very colourful and non-scientific language. He talks about how our “drive to bond”, “good vibrations”, “love portions” and “noble gases” influence our everyday thoughts and emotions. He also describes the unconscious mind’s influence on our relationship as “four minds not thinking alike”.

For someone interested in New Age ideas, but sceptical about how they are presented by some schools, this book is a good choice. Unfortunately the quality of the book is quite uneven. The personal examples given by Lipton in the beginning of the book are a bit difficult to relate to the explanations that follow. He talks vaguely about following your instincts as regards the ‘bad vibrations’ you might pick up from other people. He then describes an incident where he trusted a neighbour who turned out to be a crook. But the explanations later on in the book, regarding paying attention to “what you wish for”, do not really clarify the connection to this incident. Nor does it seem to match his explanations of unconscious influences getting in the way. Surely ‘gut instinct’ to ‘bad vibrations’ comes from the unconscious source that he says we should be aware of.

The same applies to the end of the book, where Lipton all of a sudden changes tone and starts talking about the imminent environmental catastrophe that awaits the planet in very negative terms. He even suggests stockpiling food in an individual attempt to survive. To relate this to being “aware of what you wish for” is not all that easy. Even if it isn’t to wish for it, being sure about a certain outcome must come very close. Would it not be better to focus on the positive sides of the current situation, rather than what he sees as an inevitable catastrophe? After all, according to many experts, there’s now a greater awareness of and positive attitude toward sustainable living. The main problem may not be technical but financial – i.e. how do politicians to convince people to invest more in green technology (that is often already available) than the short-term, cheaper alternatives. This, in turn, can be traced back to personal thoughts and change of awareness; in particular with regard to bringing up future generations. But for some reason Lipton fails to make this connection crystal clear.

All in all, the book gives the impression that the central ideas were not sufficiently developed to be presented in book form and that additional material was added to fill out the pages. For a future edition of the book, an expansion of the central ideas and a better link between examples and theory would improve the book tremendously.