“An ideal is something we believe is right, but it may not be practical. Whereas an attitude should be something that we can put into practice right from where we are.”
TKV Desikachar

What Are We Seeking?

What is Ceptr Part 2: Receptors


The biology I lean on in this post is inspired by the work of Bruce Lipton. His famous talk Bruce Lipton’s The New Biology is still the most inspired presentation I’ve encountered about biology. Then there is this meeting of Bruce Lipton and Rupert Sheldrake where I got the fundamental idea for this post.

I also want to mention that I am deeply inspired by Rupert Sheldrake’s work (even more than Bruce Lipton’s) however I am less inclined to point to it directly. On the one hand his work underpins much of my world view. On the other hand, his work is theoretical (mostly because his core ideas tend to ask tough questions of science itself, causing the scientific community to keep at a safe distance from his propositions) and so it is not yet grounded like Bruce Lipton’s work. If you want to get a taste of Rupert Sheldrake I recommend his fairly recent conversation with Charles Eisenstein.

Cells: Nucleus and Membrane

If you were indoctrinated by a basic biology education similar to mine then you were taught something about the structure of a cell that looks like this:

And, like it was to me, it may have been insinuated to you that the nucleus, where the DNA is, is like “the brain” of the cell. When I ingest it, the brain metaphor creates two echos:

  1. The first is like an echo across scales: that there is subtle and profound underlying pattern which manifests both in a single-cell organism and in a complex organism like a human being that is made up of trillions of cells.
  2. The second is an assumption of center-ism: just as the brain is the center and controller of the body, so is the nucleus the center and controller of a cell.

Well, it seems that that there indeed may be an underlying pattern here, and that there are parallels between the nucleus-membrane & brain-skin BUT that the center-ism is not as straightforward as we may think it is, neither in the cell nor in a human body.

According to Bruce Lipton it is possible to remove the nucleus from a cell and the cell will continue to function as it normally does. It won’t be able to regenerate and it won’t be able to multiply. How is this possible? The answer seems to lie in the little poop-chutes (titled “vesicles”) you see in the diagram above. Let’s look at another diagram:

This diagram focuses on the membrane of the cell (I chose it because it doesn’t even mention the nucleus). For me this diagram has two prominent features:

  1. The membrane is no longer a thin line but a thicker area … it is a place not just an edge. It seems to be made of at least 3 distinct layers: an inner surface, an outer surface, and an insulating layer in between.
  2. The membrane has openings in it. These acts as ports that can let molecules into and out of the cell.

This diagram starts to pull attention outwards and away from the center. In a nucleus-centered view the cell can be seen as that which is encoded in the DNA. In a membrane-centered view the cell is the sum of its interactions with the world around it, it is defined by what it takes in and what it puts out. This diagram (probably a bit out of context because I borrowed it) suggests that these ports exist but does not explain how they open and close. It needs another piece … and I could not find a good diagram to demonstrate this in a whole way… so I settled on this one:

The missing element is the receptor. The receptor acts as a sensor that protrudes from the inside of the cell and reaches out like a biological antenna. It will respond only to a specific molecule. The receptor activates a lock, and the molecule that activates it acts as a key. When a matching key is inserted into the receptor-lock, the receptor responds by unlocking the port associated with it and allowing something into the cell.

What really defines a cell is therefore not its nucleus nor its ports but its receptors. Without receptors nothing can get in. Without receptors the cell cannot sense and respond to its environment. It may as well not exist. It can live without a nucleus, it cannot live without receptors.

Receptors and the chemical signals to which they are sensitized are the communication infrastructure the trillions of cells in your body use to coordinate and become you. What can our cells teach us about organization?


How then do cells “communicate”? I’d like to propose that they don’t. Consider this diagram:

There are two narratives in this supposedly scientific diagram, one is empirical, the other imaginary. It may be (I can’t authenticate this information, only refer to it metaphorically) empirically true that a secretory cell emits a hormone that is absorbed into the blood stream and reaches another cell who’s receptor responds to it.

What isn’t true is the path of arrows that lead from the secretory cell, through the blood vessel and into the cell labeled as “target”. There is no path and there is no target cell. The cells do not have a direct awareness of each other. They cannot, unlike us, look into each others eyes and address each other. Each cell is functioning autonomously:

  1. The secretory cell is sensing its own environment and responding to what it senses by producing and excreting a hormone. If the cell’s environment changes (certain signals cease reach it or new signals arrive) it may cease to produce the hormone or may produce more of it.
  2. The hormone enters the blood stream without a destination address. It is carried with the flow of blood. It does not press a button or pull a cord to get the stream to stop so it can get off at its destination station. It flows.
  3. When the blood flows past a cell that has receptors keyed to that particular hormone, those cells are activated and the hormone is “received”.

There is no higher power coordinating all this (it may be a whole other fascinating conversation how this came to be!). If each individual cell does what its supposed to do … co-operation emerges. There is no central processor or controller that directs hormones along a specific path. This is an imaginary construct that we create.

True to form, this is also how we modern humans shape most of out existence, our own collaborations. We pretend that there are paths and processes and structures that if we follow will lead to predictable outcomes. We do that KNOWING that it rarely works (in a world of living human beings, it works to some degree, with a lot of effort, in mechanical constructs such as physical machines or software).

What if we could tap into the wisdom that is built into the organic world WE ARE, where there is superior coordination without any direct communication lines?
What would relationships looks like, how would communication work, how would we coordinate?
What would we become if we embraced the wisdom of individual cells wrapped in the wisdom of their receptors, sending out signals and responding to others signals?

Ceptr is modeled after receptors. So, though we still don’t understand what Ceptr is, we do have some sense of its origins.

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