A mechanistic hypothesis for the origin of the three domains of life is proposed. A population of evolving pre-cells is suggested to have had a membrane of a racemate of chiral lipids that continuously underwent spontaneous symmetry breaking by spatial phase segregation into two enantiomerically enriched membrane domains. By frequent pre-cell fusions and fissions these membrane domains became partitioned between two pre-cell subpopulations having predominantly one lipid enantiomer or the other. The origin of the Bacteria and Archaea is explained by divergence of first a population of proto-bacteria and later a population of proto-archaea from the evolving pre-cells, each by the emergence of an enantio-selective lipid biosynthesis within the corresponding pre-cell subtype. The origin of the Eukarya is explained by symbiosis between a population of Bacteria and a subpopulation of pre-cells with a predominance of the bacteria-type lipid enantiomers.