Astrology Of September 2022 – Mercury Goes Retrograde

August 30, 2022 (

Can you believe it’s already September?

Despite being in the middle of the Virgo season, you may not feel particularly keen to get stuff done. That’s because Mercury is retrograde most of the month.

Let’s be honest – we all dread Mercury retrogrades.

But this is not your “Wake me up when September ends” month. September has a lot to offer: we have two beautiful, nicely aspected lunations, a new Mercury cycle at 0° Libra, and a “bring me good news” Mercury-Venus conjunction.

Let’s take a look at the most important transits of the month:

September 5th, 2022 – Venus Enters Virgo

On September 5th, 2022 Venus enters Virgo.

Virgo is a practical Earth sign. Virgo is also a mutable sign. Mutable signs move things around. That’s why Virgos like to be of service – they move stuff around, where that “stuff” is needed.

Since Venus is the planet of feelings, Venus in Virgo has the unique ability to tap into her feelings to get stuff done.

In the next weeks, Venus in Virgo will teach us how to be more pragmatic and “use” our feelings to achieve something concrete. Do you feel energized? Take on that project you keep procrastinating on. Do you feel emotional? Have a heart-to–heart chat with your Water sign friends. Do you feel angry? Clean the house. Channel your feelings and do something useful.

One great thing about Venus in Virgo (and any other Virgo transit), is that it makes harmonious aspects with Uranus in Taurus and Pluto in Capricorn. The Grand Venus-Uranus-Pluto Earth trine is active from September 20th to September 26th.

September 10th, 2022 – Full Moon In Pisces

On September 10th, 2022, we have a Full Moon at 17° Pisces.

This is a beautiful, “make a wish” Full Moon conjunct Neptune and sextile Uranus. The Full Moon in Pisces is perhaps one of the best Full Moons of the year.

Full Moons in general are not times when we want to be locked at home: they are times when we’re social, get out there, and connect with others.

And when we have a Full Moon in Pisces conjunct Neptune, the planet of “oneness”, we will just find it easier to open up and see the magic that surrounds us. Things will just feel right.

September 10th, 2022 – Mercury Goes Retrograde

On September 10th, 2022, Mercury goes retrograde at 8° Libra.

Mercury retrograde in Libra will ask us to revisit some decisions, do a bit more research (mid-retrograde Mercury will move back into Virgo), and then eventually make up our mind.

Mercury will turn direct on October 3rd, at 24° Virgo. If you have planets or angles between 24° Virgo and 8° Libra you will be especially influenced by this Mercury retrograde.

September 19th, 2022 – Sun Square Pluto

On September, 19th, 2022 Sun (at 26° Libra) squares Pluto in Capricorn. The Sun is our personal identity. Pluto is the power of nature – or what we call “fate”.

When we have a Sun-Pluto square, other people or events challenge and threaten our sense of Self. To deal with this tension, we either attempt to control these outside circumstances, getting into power struggles and ego wars, OR, we feel helpless and resign ourselves to circumstances.

But the Sun-Pluto square is an open invitation to find solutions so that we can get the best of 2 worlds: Pluto wants us to toughen up and let go of egoic concerns, and the Sun wants to alchemize Pluto’s power into inner strength and resilience.

Yes, we can change our circumstances, yes, we are not always at the mercy of fate… but the secret is, acting from our Higher Self, not from our Egoic Self.

September 23rd, 2022 – Sun Enters Libra

On September 23rd, 2022, the Sun enters Libra, which means we have the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.

No matter where you live on Earth, the day is equal to the night. Equality is a key Libra word. Equality is a balancing act – the result of lots of weighing and reflection. Equality also means getting outside our personal, subjective bubble, to see where the other is truly coming from.

We can find equality, balance and peace (Libra’s highest goals) when we open up to others. When we see others not as a means of personal gratification, not as a reflection of ourselves – but as individuals in their own right.

In the Libra season, it will become easier to open up to other people, put the “we” before “me”, and reach Win-Win outcomes.

September 23rd, 2022 – Sun Conjunct Mercury

On September 23rd, 2022, Sun is conjunct Mercury at 0° Libra.

When Mercury retrograde is conjunct the Sun, a new Mercury cycle begins. We have 3 Mercury cycles in a year, and these cycles are very useful in planning and managing medium-term projects.

This particular Mercury cycle is extra powerful since it happens at one of the 4 cardinal degrees. The 4 cardinal degrees (0° Aries, 0° Cancer, 0° Libra, 0° Capricorn) are the most potent degrees of the zodiac; they carry the energy of Mars.

Things are much more likely to come to fruition when we have a cycle starting at a cardinal degree. That’s why you want to pay particular attention to this Mercury cycle. Libra is a social, relationship-oriented sign, so any plans/activities that include others (for example collaborations) are favored.

September 25th, 2022 – New Moon In Libra

On September 25th, 2022, we have a New Moon at 2° Libra.

The New Moon is opposite Jupiter (at 3° Aries), giving us an appetite for risk-taking. Ready, set, action?

The New Moon ruler Venus is conjunct Mercury retrograde, so there are some considerations to make. The combined Mercury and Jupiter influence will help us weigh the details against the big picture, helping us come up with a plan where everyone can win.

September 26th, 2022 – Mercury Conjunct Venus

On September 26th, 2022, Mercury retrograde is conjunct Venus at 26° Virgo.

Most of the time our thoughts and feelings are 2 separate entities: our mind tells us one thing, our heart something else.

But when Mercury and Venus meet up, we finally find that sweet spot where the two agree with each other.

This is a great transit for communication and social activities: Venus will make our communication (Mercury) more persuasive, while our relationships (Venus) will benefit from Mercury’s clarity and insight.

September 26th, 2022 – Venus Enters Libra

On September 30th, 2022 Venus enters one of her favorite signs: Libra. And when Venus is happy, everyone is happy.

In the coming weeks, Venus will have a blast: it will walk hand by hand with the Sun, oppose Jupiter, and trine her lover Mars (now in Gemini).

The result? We will just feel at ease with life, ourselves, and others. Venus in Libra wires us to be receptive to others – so this is a good time for social activities and for anything to do with relationships.

Bio: Simone Weil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simone Weil
BornSimone Adolphine Weil
3 February 1909
Paris, France
Died24 August 1943 (aged 34)
AshfordKent, England
EducationÉcole Normale SupérieureUniversity of Paris[1] (B.A.M.A.)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophyFrench philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Marxism (early)
Christian anarchism[2]
Christian socialism[3] (late)
Christian Mysticism
Modern Platonism[5]
Main interestsPolitical philosophymoral philosophy,[6] philosophy of religionphilosophy of science
Notable ideasDecreation (renouncing the gift of free will as a form of acceptance of everything that is independent of one’s particular desires;[7] making “something created pass into the uncreated”),[8] uprootedness (déracinement), patriotism of compassion,[9] abolition of political parties, the unjust character of affliction (malheur), compassion must act in the area of metaxy[10]

Simone Adolphine Weil (/ˈveɪ/ VAY,[14] French: [simɔn vɛj] (listen); 3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) was a French philosophermystic, and political activist. Over 2,500 scholarly works have been published about her, including close analyses and readings of her work, since 1995.[15]

After her graduation from formal education, Weil became a teacher. She taught intermittently throughout the 1930s, taking several breaks due to poor health and to devote herself to political activism. Such work saw her assisting in the trade union movement, taking the side of the anarchists known as the Durruti Column in the Spanish Civil War, and spending more than a year working as a labourer, mostly in car factories, so she could better understand the working class.

Taking a path that was unusual among 20th-century left-leaning intellectuals, she became more religious and inclined towards mysticism as her life progressed.[16] Weil wrote throughout her life, although most of her writings did not attract much attention until after her death. In the 1950s and 1960s, her work became famous in continental Europe and throughout the English-speaking world. Her thought has continued to be the subject of extensive scholarship across a wide range of fields.[17] The mathematician André Weil was her brother.[18][19]


Weil with her father

Weil at age 13. The photograph was taken during a family holiday to Belgium, where she was laughing with her brother André.

Early life

Weil was born in her parents’ apartment in Paris on 3 February 1909, the daughter of Bernard Weil (1872–1955), a medical doctor from an agnostic Alsatian Jewish background, who moved to Paris after the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. Her mother, Salomea “Selma” Reinherz (1879–1965), was born into a Jewish family in Rostov-on-Don and raised in Belgium.[20] According to Osmo Pekonen, “the family name Weil came to be when many Levis in the Napoleonic era changed their names this way, by anagram.”[21] Weil was a healthy baby for her first six months, but then suffered a severe attack of appendicitis; thereafter, she struggled with poor health throughout her life. She was the younger of her parents’ two children: her brother was mathematician André Weil (1906–1998), with whom she would always enjoy a close relationship.[22] Their parents were fairly affluent and raised their children in an attentive and supportive atmosphere.[23]

Weil was distressed by her father having to leave home for several years after being drafted to serve in the First World WarEva FogelmanRobert Coles, and several other scholars believe that this experience may have contributed to the exceptionally strong altruism which Weil displayed throughout her life.[24][25][26] From her childhood home, Weil acquired an obsession with cleanliness; in her later life she would sometimes speak of her “disgustingness” and think that others would see her this way, even though in her youth she had been considered highly attractive.[27] Weil was generally highly affectionate, but she almost always avoided any form of physical contact, even with female friends.[28]

According to her friend and biographer, Simone Pétrement, Weil decided early in life that she would need to adopt masculine qualities and sacrifice opportunities for love affairs in order to fully pursue her vocation to improve social conditions for the disadvantaged. From her late teenage years, Weil would generally disguise her “fragile beauty” by adopting a masculine appearance, hardly ever using makeup and often wearing men’s clothes.[29][30]

Intellectual life

Weil was a precocious student, proficient in Ancient Greek by age 12. She later learned Sanskrit so that she could read the Bhagavad Gita in the original.[16] Like the Renaissance thinker Pico della Mirandola, her interests in other religions were universal and she attempted to understand each religious tradition as an expression of transcendent wisdom.

As a teenager, Weil studied at the Lycée Henri IV under the tutelage of her admired teacher Émile Chartier, more commonly known as “Alain”.[31] Her first attempt at the entrance examination for the École Normale Supérieure in June 1927 ended in failure, due to her low marks in history. In 1928 she was successful in gaining admission. She finished first in the exam for the certificate of “General Philosophy and Logic”; Simone de Beauvoir finished second.[32] During these years, Weil attracted much attention with her radical opinions. She was called the “Red virgin”,[32] and even “The Martian” by her admired mentor.[33]

At the École Normale Supérieure, she studied philosophy, earning her DES (diplôme d’études supérieures [fr], roughly equivalent to an MA) in 1931 with a thesis under the title “Science et perfection dans Descartes” (“Science and Perfection in Descartes”).[34] She received her agrégation that same year.[35] Weil taught philosophy at a secondary school for girls in Le Puy and teaching was her primary employment during her short life.

Political activism

Leon Trotsky, for whom Weil arranged to stay at her parents’ apartment in December 1933 while he was in Paris for secret meetings. She had argued against Trotsky both in print and in person, suggesting that élite communist bureaucrats could be just as oppressive as the worst capitalists. Weil was one of the rare few who appeared to hold her own with the Red Army founder in a face-to-face debate.[36]

She often became involved in political action out of sympathy with the working class. In 1915, when she was only six years old, she refused sugar in solidarity with the troops entrenched along the Western Front. In 1919, at 10 years of age, she declared herself a Bolshevik. In her late teens, she became involved in the workers’ movement. She wrote political tracts, marched in demonstrations, and advocated workers’ rights. At this time, she was a Marxistpacifist, and trade unionist. While teaching in Le Puy, she became involved in local political activity, supporting the unemployed and striking workers despite criticism. Weil had never formally joined the French Communist Party, and in her twenties she became increasingly critical of Marxism. According to Pétrement, she was one of the first to identify a new form of oppression not anticipated by Marx, where élite bureaucrats could make life just as miserable for ordinary people as did the most exploitative capitalists.[37]

In 1932, Weil visited Germany to help Marxist activists who were at the time considered to be the strongest and best organised communists in Western Europe, but Weil considered them no match for the then up-and-coming fascists. When she returned to France, her political friends in France dismissed her fears, thinking Germany would continue to be controlled by the centrists or those to the left. After Hitler rose to power in 1933, Weil spent much of her time trying to help German communists fleeing his regime.[37] Weil would sometimes publish articles about social and economic issues, including “Oppression and Liberty” and numerous short articles for trade union journals. This work criticised popular Marxist thought and gave a pessimistic account of the limits of both capitalism and socialismLeon Trotsky himself personally responded to several of her articles, attacking both her ideas and her as a person. However, according to Pétrement, he was influenced by some of Weil’s ideas.[38]

Weil participated in the French general strike of 1933, called to protest against unemployment and wage cuts. The following year, she took a 12-month leave of absence from her teaching position to work incognito as a labourer in two factories, one owned by Renault, believing that this experience would allow her to connect with the working class. In 1935, she resumed teaching and donated most of her income to political causes and charitable endeavours.

In 1936, despite her professed pacifism, she travelled to the Spanish Civil War to join the Republican faction. She identified as an anarchist,[39] and sought out the anti-fascist commander Julián Gorkin, asking to be sent on a mission as a covert agent, to rescue the prisoner Joaquín Maurín. Gorkin refused, saying she would almost certainly be sacrificing herself for nothing, as it would be most unlikely she could pass as a Spaniard. Weil replied that she had “every right”[40] to sacrifice herself if she chose, but after arguing for more than an hour, she was unable to convince Gorkin to give her the assignment. Instead she joined the anarchist Durruti Column of the French-speaking Sébastien Faure Century, which specialised in high-risk “commando”-style engagements.[41] As she was extremely short-sighted, Weil was a very poor shot, and her comrades tried to avoid taking her on missions, though she did sometimes insist. Her only direct participation in combat was to shoot with her rifle at a bomber during an air raid; in a second raid, she tried to man the group’s heavy machine gun, but her comrades prevented her, as they thought it would be best for someone less clumsy and near-sighted to use the weapon. After being with the group for a few weeks, she burnt herself over a cooking fire. She was forced to leave the unit, and was met by her parents who had followed her to Spain. They helped her leave the country, to recuperate in Assisi. About a month after her departure, Weil’s unit was nearly wiped out at an engagement in Perdiguera in October 1936, with every woman in the group being killed.[42]

Weil was distressed by the Republican killings in eastern Spain, particularly when a fifteen-year old Falangist was executed after he had been taken prisoner and Durruti had spent an hour trying to get him to change his political position before giving him until the next day to decide.[43]

During her stay in the Aragon front, Weil sent some chronicles to the French publication Le Libertaire, and on returning to Paris Weil continued to write essays on labour, on managementwar and peace.[44]

Encounter with mysticism

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi where Simone had one of three spiritual “encounters that really counted,” leading to her conversion to Christianity.[45]

Weil was born into a secular household and raised in “complete agnosticism”.[46][47] As a teenager, she considered the existence of God for herself and decided nothing could be known either way. In her Spiritual Autobiography however, Weil records that she always had a Christian outlook, taking to heart from her earliest childhood the idea of loving one’s neighbour. Weil became attracted to the Christian faith beginning in 1935, the first of three pivotal experiences for her being when she was moved by the beauty of villagers singing hymns in a procession she stumbled across while on holiday to Portugal (in Póvoa de Varzim).[48][49] While in Assisi in the spring of 1937, Weil experienced a religious ecstasy in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli—the same church in which Saint Francis of Assisi had prayed. She was led to pray for the first time in her life as Lawrence A. Cunningham relates:

Below the town is the beautiful church and convent of San Damiano where Saint Clare once lived. Near that spot is the place purported to be where Saint Francis composed the larger part of his “Canticle of Brother Sun”. Below the town in the valley is the ugliest church in the entire environs: the massive baroque basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, finished in the seventeenth century and rebuilt in the nineteenth century, which houses a rare treasure: a tiny Romanesque chapel that stood in the days of Saint Francis—the “Little Portion” where he would gather his brethren. It was in that tiny chapel that the great mystic Simone Weil first felt compelled to kneel down and pray.[50]

Weil had another, more powerful, revelation a year later while reciting George Herbert‘s poem Love III, after which “Christ himself came down and took possession of me”,[51] and, from 1938 on, her writings became more mystical and spiritual, while retaining their focus on social and political issues. She was attracted to Catholicism, but declined to be baptized at that time, preferring to remain outside due to “the love of those things that are outside Christianity”.[52][53][54] During World War II, she lived for a time in Marseille, receiving spiritual direction from Joseph-Marie Perrin,[55] a Dominican Friar. Around this time, she met the French Catholic author Gustave Thibon, who later edited some of her work.

Weil did not limit her curiosity to Christianity. She was interested in other religious traditions—especially the Greek and Egyptian mysteriesHinduism (especially the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita); and Mahayana Buddhism. She believed that all these and other traditions contained elements of genuine revelation,[56] writing:

Greece, Egypt, ancient India, the beauty of the world, the pure and authentic reflection of this beauty in art and science…these things have done as much as the visibly Christian ones to deliver me into Christ’s hands as his captive. I think I might even say more.[57]

Nevertheless, Weil was opposed to religious syncretism, claiming that it effaced the particularity of the individual traditions:

Each religion is alone true, that is to say, that at the moment we are thinking of it we must bring as much attention to bear on it as if there were nothing else … A “synthesis” of religion implies a lower quality of attention.[58]

Later years

A commemorative plaque on the exterior of the apartment building on Riverside Drive in New York City, where Weil lived in 1942

In 1942, Weil travelled to the United States with her family. She had been reluctant to leave France, but agreed to do so as she wanted to see her parents to safety and knew they would not leave without her. She was also encouraged by the fact that it would be relatively easy for her to reach Britain from the United States, where she could join the French Resistance. She had hopes of being sent back to France as a covert agent.[59]

Older biographies suggest Weil made no further progress in achieving her desire to return to France as an agent—she was limited to desk work in London, although this did give her time to write one of her largest and best known works: The Need for Roots.[60] Yet there is now evidence that Weil was recruited by the Special Operations Executive, with a view to sending her back to France as a clandestine wireless operator. In May 1943, plans were underway to send her to Thame Park in Oxfordshire for training, but were cancelled soon after, as her failing health became known.[61][62]

Weil’s grave in Bybrook Cemetery, AshfordKent, August 2012

The rigorous work routine she assumed soon took a heavy toll. In 1943, Weil was diagnosed with tuberculosis and instructed to rest and eat well. However, she refused special treatment because of her long-standing political idealism and her detachment from material things. Instead, she limited her food intake to what she believed residents of German-occupied France ate. She most likely ate even less, as she refused food on most occasions. It is probable that she was baptized during this period.[63] Her condition quickly deteriorated, and she was moved to a sanatorium in Ashford, Kent.[26]

After a lifetime of battling illness and frailty, Weil died in August 1943 from cardiac failure at the age of 34. The coroner’s report said that “the deceased did kill and slay herself by refusing to eat whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed”.[64]

The exact cause of her death remains a subject of debate. Some claim that her refusal to eat came from her desire to express some form of solidarity toward the victims of the war. Others think that Weil’s self-starvation occurred after her study of Arthur Schopenhauer.[65] In his chapters on Christian saintly asceticism and salvation, Schopenhauer had described self-starvation as a preferred method of self-denial. However, Simone Pétrement,[66] one of Weil’s first and most significant biographers, regards the coroner’s report as simply mistaken. Basing her opinion on letters written by the personnel of the sanatorium at which Simone Weil was treated, Pétrement affirms that Weil asked for food on different occasions while she was hospitalized and even ate a little bit a few days before her death; according to her, it is in fact Weil’s poor health condition that eventually made her unable to eat.[67]

Weil’s first English biographer, Richard Rees, offers several possible explanations for her death, citing her compassion for the suffering of her countrymen in occupied France and her love for and close imitation of Christ. Rees sums up by saying: “As for her death, whatever explanation one may give of it will amount in the end to saying that she died of love.”[68]


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Absence is the key image for her metaphysicscosmologycosmogony, and theodicy. She believed that God created by an act of self-delimitation—in other words, she argued that because God is conceived as utter fullness, a perfect being, no creature can exist except where God is not. Thus, creation occurred only when God withdrew in part. This idea mirrors tzimtzum, a central notion in the Jewish Kabbalah creation narrative.

This is, for Weil, an original kenosis (“emptiness”) preceding the corrective kenosis of Christ’s incarnation. Thus, according to her, humans are born in a damned position, not because of original sin, but because to be created at all they must be what God is not; in other words, they must be inherently “unholy” in some sense. This idea fits more broadly into apophatic theology.

This notion of creation is a cornerstone of her theodicy, for if creation is conceived this way—as necessarily entailing evil—then there is no problem of the entrance of evil into a perfect world. Nor does the presence of evil constitute a limitation of God’s omnipotence under Weil’s notion; according to her, evil is present not because God could not create a perfect world, but because the act of “creation” in its very essence implies the impossibility of perfection.

However, this explanation of the essentiality of evil does not imply that humans are simply, originally, and continually doomed; on the contrary, Weil claims that “evil is the form which God’s mercy takes in this world”.[69] Weil believed that evil, and its consequent affliction, serve the role of driving humans towards God, writing, “The extreme affliction which overtakes human beings does not create human misery, it merely reveals it.”[70]


Weil’s concept of “affliction” (Frenchmalheur) goes beyond simple suffering, though it certainly includes it. According to her, only some souls are capable of experiencing the full depth of affliction—the same souls that are also most able to experience spiritual joy. Weil’s notion of affliction is a sort of suffering “plus” which transcends both body and mind, a physical and mental anguish that scourges the very soul.[71]

War and oppression were the most intense cases of affliction within her reach; to experience it, she turned to the life of a factory worker, while to understand it she turned to Homer‘s Iliad. (Her essay “The Iliad or the Poem of Force“, first translated by Mary McCarthy, is a piece of Homeric literary criticism.) Affliction was associated both with necessity and with chance—it was fraught with necessity because it was hard-wired into existence itself, and thus imposed itself upon the sufferer with the full force of the inescapable, but it was also subject to chance inasmuch as chance, too, is an inescapable part of the nature of existence. The element of chance was essential to the unjust character of affliction; in other words, my affliction should not usually—let alone always—follow from my sin, as per traditional Christian theodicy, but should be visited upon me for no special reason.

The better we are able to conceive of the fullness of joy, the purer and more intense will be our suffering in affliction and our compassion for others. …

Suffering and enjoyment as sources of knowledge. The serpent offered knowledge to Adam and Eve. The sirens offered knowledge to Ulysses. These stories teach that the soul is lost through seeking knowledge in pleasure. Why? Pleasure is perhaps innocent on condition that we do not seek knowledge in it. It is permissible to seek that only in suffering.

— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (chpt 16 ‘Affliction’)

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What on earth is a xenobot?

What on earth is a xenobot? | Aeon

The more we understand how cells produce shape and form, the more inadequate the idea of a genomic blueprint looks

An AI-designed xenobot (parent organism, C shape, red) sweeping up stem cells that have been compressed into a ball (incipient offspring, green). Courtesy Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman

Philip Ball is a British science writer, whose work appears in NatureNew Scientist and Prospect, among others. His latest book is The Book of Minds (2022). He lives in London.

Edited by Sally Davies

30 August 2022 (

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Where in the embryo does the person reside? Morphogenesis – the formation of the body from an embryo – once seemed so mystifying that scholars presumed the body must somehow already exist in tiny form at conception. In the 17th century, the Dutch microscopist Nicolaas Hartsoeker illustrated this ‘preformationist’ theory by drawing a foetal homunculus tucked into the head of a sperm.

This idea finds modern expression in the notion that the body plan is encoded in our DNA. But the more we come to understand how cells produce shape and form, the more inadequate the idea of a genomic blueprint looks, too. What cells follow is not a blueprint; if they can be considered programmed at all, it’s not with a plan of what to make, but with a set of rules to guide construction. One implication is that humans and other complex organisms are not the unique result of cells’ behaviour, but only one of many possible outcomes.

This view of the cell as a contingent, constructional entity challenges our traditional idea of what a body is, and what it can be. It also opens up some remarkable and even disconcerting possibilities about the prospects of redirecting biology into new shapes and structures. Life suddenly seems more plastic and amenable to being reconfigured by design. Understanding the contingency and malleability of multicellular form also connects us to our deep evolutionary past, when single-celled organisms first discovered the potential benefits of becoming multicellular. ‘The cell may be the focus of evolution, more than genes or even than the organism,’ says Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona. Far from the pinnacle of the tree of life, humans become just one of the many things our cells are capable of doing.

In one of the most dramatic demonstrations to date that cells are capable of more than we had imagined, the biologist Michael Levin of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts and his colleagues have shown that frog cells liberated from their normal developmental path can organise themselves in distinctly un-froglike ways. The researchers separated cells from frog embryos that were developing into skin cells, and simply watched what the free cells did.

Culturing cells – growing them in a dish where they are fed the nutrients they need – is a mature technology. In general, such cells will form an expanding colony as they divide. But the frog skin cells had other plans. They clustered into roughly spherical clumps of up to several thousand cells each, and the surface cells developed little hairlike protrusions called cilia (also present on normal frog skin). The cilia waved in coordinated fashion to propel the clusters through the solution, much like rowing oars. These cell clumps behaved like tiny organisms in their own right, surviving for a week or more – sometimes several months – if supplied with food. The researchers called them xenobots, derived from Xenopus laevis, the Latin name of the African clawed frog from which the cells were taken.A swarm of living robots (xenobots) swimming through water, time lapse. Courtesy Douglas Blackiston

Some of this wasn’t entirely new. Scientists have known for more than a century that a piece of embryonic tissue destined to become skin will, if cut off and cultured, grow cilia. Such a piece of tissue is called the ‘animal cap’, and various studies have shown that Xenopus animal caps can, if given the right biochemical signals, grow into many other tissue types, including neurons, muscle and even beating heart tissue.

But Levin and colleagues now say that some of these structures are not just random blobs of sticky cells: they resemble autonomous organisms. If they are damaged, the cells heal back in the original shape. They can signal to one another by emitting pulses of calcium ions, although the researchers aren’t sure what the message conveys. They move with apparent purpose, sometimes circling one another or sweeping up other individual cells around them into piles.

The cells are like Lego bricks that can be assembled in different ways – except they do the assembly themselves

These xenobots seem to represent an entirely different developmental program, Levin says, that the frog cells can adopt. Having been freed from their usual environment, it’s as if the cells are able to discover a new way of life. What’s baffling is that they are genetically no different to ordinary frog cells. So what does the genome encode, if not a ‘plan for a frog’?

It seems that, instead, the genes are part of a molecular program that gives cells certain tendencies, for example to stick together in particular configurations. The cells are like Lego bricks that can be assembled in different ways – except that the cells do the assembly themselves. In the environment experienced by a normal embryo, the principles for assembly generate first a tadpole and then a frog. But these aren’t the only possible solutions to the collective computation that the cells perform. Xenobots are another one, and perhaps there are more morphologies – body structures – yet to be discovered.

A group of AI-designed organisms in a Petri dish (dollar bill for scale). Courtesy Douglas Blackiston

Levin and colleagues have recently found a new type of behaviour that xenobots can exhibit. They discovered that these pseudo-organisms can even replicate, after a fashion. Xenobots placed in a dish of cells will move to marshal those loose cells into piles that, over the course of a few days, cluster into new xenobots that then take off through the liquid themselves. Left to their own devices, the xenobots typically manage to produce only a single generation of offspring. But the researchers wondered if they could do better. They made computer simulations to search for xenobot shapes that were better at making new xenobots, using an AI program devised by their team member Josh Bongard of the University of Vermont. The simulations suggested that structures like C-shaped half-doughnuts could sweep up cells more efficiently than the spheroidal xenobots could, making larger (spherical) clusters of ‘offspring’.

The team then shaped such xenobots by hand, using tiny tools to manipulate the cells into the C-shaped forms, and then letting them go to work on dishes of fresh cells. Because the resulting offspring were bigger than those of earlier xenobots, they were able to sustain the replication process over more generations. Whereas the best spheroidal parent xenobots could ever do is make two generations before the offspring become too small to reproduce further, the C-bots could engender four further generations of offspring, each of them spheroidal and gradually decreasing in average size.

This is not, of course, how real living organisms reproduce. There’s no cell division involved for xenobots, so the parents don’t pass on genetic material to the offspring. Rather, the behaviour looks more like that seen in some robots made from reconfigurable parts, which have been shown to be capable of assembling copies of themselves when supplied with the parts. The xenobots can’t evolve this way, and have to be given the parts. Levin and colleagues call the process kinematic self-replication: making copies by movement rather than by biological reproduction. ‘Replication is what’s available to entities that cannot absorb new mass themselves,’ says Bongard. ‘They can behave, but not grow. Such systems can only combine objects in their external environment into copies of themselves.’

The work shows that, by combining biological xenobots with the exploratory power of AI, it’s possible to make a kind of ‘living machine’ devised for a purpose. ‘AI can be brought in to exaggerate an innate capability,’ says Bongard. ‘The AI can “program” new behaviours into organisms by rearranging their morphology rather than their genes.’ The researchers wonder if the simulations might identify other shapes that can assemble different structures, or perhaps perform other tasks entirely. ‘One of my primary interests in this project is exactly how ‘far’ from the wild type [the natural, spontaneously arising form of xenobots] an AI can push things,’ says Bongard. ‘We’re now working on incorporating several new behaviours into xenobots via AI-driven design.’

This perspective entails a new way of thinking about cells: not as building blocks assembled according to a blueprint, but as autonomous entities with skills that can be leveraged to make all manner of organisms and living structures. You might conceive of them as smart, reprogrammable, shapeshifting robots that can move, stick together, and signal to one another – and, by those means, build themselves into elaborate artefacts.

This might also be a better way to conceptualise how our own bodies are built during embryogenesis. That growth process is a gradual and sequential unfolding of shape in which each step creates the conditions for the next. Crucially, this unfolding involves changes in the state of the cells themselves, triggered by signals from their surroundings. For example, as a sheet of cells grows in a tissue that is confined at its edges by the rest of the embryo, the sheet is forced to buckle. The mechanical forces at the tip of a bulge might then be detected by sensors on the cell surfaces, which in turn triggers a chemical signal that’s relayed to the genes. Genes are then switched on so as to alter the cells’ properties – making them less sticky and more mobile, say, creating new options for the shape of the tissue. There is a continual dialogue between what is happening outside the cell and what is going on inside, between the shape and form of the overall structure of the growing embryo and the genetic activity inside its components.

This rich and subtle conversation can make it hard to predict which shapes cells such as ours will grow into – something rendered more difficult by the fact that, unlike those of bacteria, our cells alter their gene activity permanently as they divide and grow from general-purpose embryonic stem cells into specialised tissues, switching some genes off and turning others on. A new discipline called synthetic morphology seeks to accommodate and even exploit this complication in order to harness the constructive capacities of cells to make entirely new, non-natural, multicellular structures and devices. If it’s going to be capable of predicting and directing the outcomes, the endeavour will most probably rely on the kind of AI and other computational resources deployed by Levin and colleagues.

The most noticeable aspects of organisms – their overall shape and form – might be the most ‘shallowly’ encoded

It’s not too far-fetched to suppose that synthetic morphology includes the possibility of making entirely new organisms. Arguably xenobots are already such a creature, although these microscopic blobs are not much to look at. Could possible solutions to the assembly computation of frog cells – what mathematical biologists call attractor states – include totally different macroscopic bodies: fish-like, say, or worm-like?

‘We are asking AI to tell us more about the attractor landscape of X laevis,’ says Bongard. ‘The AI has found two such attractors so far. How many other attractors are out there to be discovered? And how many exist for other species?’

That thought might defy our intuitions about how life works, but the truth is that the most noticeable aspects of organisms – their overall shape and form – might in fact be the most ‘shallowly’ encoded, determined not so much by deep genetic resources as by the way the assembly rules happen to play out in any given instance. In some sense, the very existence of tadpoles and frogs (let alone xenobots) as viable outputs of the Xenopus genome testifies to that hypothesis: tadpoles are not morphologically mini-frogs in the way that babies are mini-adults, but they ‘work’ as organisms in their own right. They’re an attractor in which frog cells can temporarily reside.

The revelations about cells’ morphological potential shows why the fact we’re so genetically similar to our evolutionary relatives – having 99 per cent genetic overlap with chimpanzees and 84 per cent with dogs – kind of misses the point. Most of our genetic resources seem to be there to create and sustain the constructive capabilities of the cells that make us. Exactly which forms they build can look like an afterthought: from this perspective, all it requires to make the difference between a human body and a dog body is a little fine-tuning of the rules that govern development. Of course, those differences are vital to evolutionary success in the niche that an organism inhabits but, even so, morphology is lightly written into the developmental script.

This is indeed what evolutionary genetics seems to be telling us. There hasn’t been much innovation in genes themselves since the earliest complex multicellular organisms – the metazoans – appeared around 750 million years ago. Our shock at discovering, thanks to the Human Genome Project, that we have only about as many protein-coding genes as the tiny soil-dwelling worm Caenorhabditis elegans (which has just 2,000-3,000 cells in its body) might have been largely due to a sense of hurt pride that we are not so special after all. But perhaps it was an indication that we had the wrong view of what those genetic resources were for in the first place: they don’t supply the plan, but help to create options.

After all, most of the genes and capabilities needed for a multicellular lifestyle were present even in our single-celled ancestors. They already possessed the ability to send signals to one another to enable cooperative behaviour, to stick together, and to specialise into different cell types. We can see such abilities today in single-celled amoebae such as the slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum, which can assemble into multicellular ‘bodies’ under stress.

Ruiz-Trillo and his coworkers think that the genetic resources required for such multicellular behaviour stem largely from mechanisms for regulating genes – turning them on and off – rather than from any novelty in the genes themselves. ‘Much of the innovation in gene content seen in the transition to multicellularity is rooted in pervasive “tinkering” with pre-existing gene families,’ they say. The researchers were led to this conclusion from their studies of the amoeba Capsaspora owczarzaki, one of the closest evolutionary relatives of the first multicellular animals, which will have resembled sponges and comb jellies. Capsaspora has more genes involved in regulatory functions than any other single-celled organism, mostly encoding proteins called transcription factors. Ruiz-Trillo and colleagues discovered that the biomolecular interaction networks that these proteins govern in Caspaspora are often found in animals too. In other words, the networks were already ‘primed and ready to go’ before true multicellularity took off.

In some ways, tumours represent an alternative morphology of our own cells

In one sense, our continued proximity to the boundary of unicellular and multicellular lifestyles might be seen as the reason we (and nearly all metazoans) are prone to cancer, in which our cells seem to have abandoned the restraint required for multicelled living and to have returned to the proliferating excess of the single cell. ‘Probably the most important problem of being multicellular is the “cheating” of some cells that decide to go by themselves,’ says Ruiz-Trillo. ‘A lot of the genes that are crucial for animal multicellularity are genes involved in cancer disease. Perhaps being multicellular may be against our ancestral mode of living, and something that takes continuous effort and energy to maintain.’

The flipside of that view is that even single-celled living is apt to become collective. Not even cancer cells are bent on self-replication, oblivious to other cells around them. Many tumours look less like undifferentiated masses of wildly multiplying cells and more like a deranged version of organ growth. Cancer cells, too, can differentiate and specialise, as if following some new, lunatic trajectory. A tumour, far from growing heedless of the host tissues around it, can integrate with those tissues and even commandeer them for its own ends. In some ways, tumours represent an alternative morphology of our own cells.

This same pattern of evolutionary innovation through novelty in gene use, rather than in genes themselves, continued as multicellular life got more complex. The biologist Michel Morange of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris says that ‘the major changes observed during evolution are more the consequence of the reorganisation of [gene regulatory] networks than the modification of the protein links that form them.’ In 2011, the developmental biologists Craig Lowe, David Haussler and their colleagues investigated what kinds of regulatory changes have been involved in the evolution of vertebrates since their first appearance about 650 million years ago. They compared the genomes of various vertebrates – humans, cows, mice, and two types of fish (sticklebacks and medaka, or Japanese rice fish) – to see which genetic sequences they shared, and which their common ancestors presumably had too.

The researchers considered parts of the sequences not usually examined in such phylogenetic comparisons: so-called nonexonic elements, which fall outside of the sequences that encode proteins. Nonexonic sequences are often assumed to be random genomic junk accumulated by accident, but Lowe and colleagues reasoned that if some nonexonic elements were found to be highly conserved – to recur more or less unchanged in different species – then they probably have some functional role in the cell. This means they would be subject to selection pressure, which will preserve them, whereas random junk would be expected to degenerate quickly and diverge in sequence between different species. The researchers figured that such conserved nonexonic elements (CNEEs) will probably be involved in regulating the activity of genes.

In the Cambrian explosion around 540 million years ago, all manner of strange body shapes appeared

They found that, rather than smooth and gradual changes in the frequencies of CNEEs, three distinct eras of change seem to have occurred since vertebrates first evolved. Until about 300 million years ago, when mammals split from birds and reptiles, changes in regulation seem to have happened mostly in parts of the genome close to transcription factors and the key genes that they control. Then, between 300 and 100 million years ago, those changes tailed off; instead, modifications were observed near genes that code for the protein molecules serving as signal receptors at the cell surface. In other words, what seemed to matter for these evolutionary changes was a shift not in the content of cells but the way they talk to one another: the dialogue that makes multicellularity possible. Finally, as of 100 million years ago, during the emergence of placental mammals (that is, all mammals except marsupials and monotremes such as echidnas), the regulatory changes seem to be associated with mechanisms for modifying the structure of proteins after they have been synthesised in raw form, especially for proteins that are associated with transmitting signals within cells.

Evolution, then, might be considered to have successively discovered ways to innovate and generate new organisms by reshuffling, first, how developmental genes are switched on and off, then how cells communicate, and finally how information gets passed around inside cells. In all cases, the action is focused on how cells interact with and respond to one another, rather than what individual cells do: in other words, they are changes to the multicellular assembly rules. ‘It appears that our set of around 20,000 genes is capable of building morphologies that wildly vary in both their shape and complexity,’ says Lowe. ‘We think that complexity is encoded by how many rules are encoded in the genome to control when and where those genes turn on and off.’ The C elegans worm, while having roughly as many genes, has rather little of this regulatory sophistication, and so is stuck in a low-complexity form.

The generative potential of cells equipped for multicellular construction was evident almost as soon as this became a lifestyle option, in evolutionary terms. In the Cambrian explosion around 540 million years ago, all manner of strange body shapes appeared, many of which are no longer exhibited by any creatures on Earth. Perhaps we should regard those forgotten ‘endless forms most beautiful’, to borrow Charles Darwin’s resonant phrase, as an illustration of the constructive potential of the metazoan cell – an exuberant expression of the palette of solutions to the problem of cell assembly, which natural selection then stringently pruned.

Acknowledging that the human form is a contingent outcome of the way our cells are programmed for construction raises some mind-bending questions. Are there, for example, human xenobots (perhaps we might call them anthrobots)? If so, are they truly ‘human’? Might there be a kind of organ or tissue that our cells could make but don’t normally get the chance to? Might our still cells ‘remember’ older evolutionary body shapes?

Perhaps at least some of the attractors that AI algorithms could help identify in xenobot-type assemblies ‘are echoes of past targets of natural selection’, says Bongard. ‘At least some of these new configurations may tell us things about the environments and selection pressures that acted on these organisms in their distant past, and how they responded evolutionarily. In a way, these attractors are like fossils: they might be giving us partial glimpses into the past.’

They also raise questions about how much we can reshape biological forms – including our own. In one sense, we already know that the human body has considerable ‘plasticity’. No genetic signal tells an embryo to split into identical twins, for example: it’s just one way the assembly rules happen to play out. And even relatively modest genetic tweaks to the rules can generate markedly different bodies. The heritable condition called Kartagener’s syndrome, for example, which leads to respiratory problems in early childhood, can sometimes be accompanied by complete mirror-image reversal of the internal organs – the heart lying to the right, say – which leads to health complications. It’s as if one key step in the early formation of the body plan went awry but then the cells accommodated it as best they could. Developmental problems such as spina bifida, in which the neural tube that will become the spinal cord fails to close, have many complex and imperfectly understood causes that may all lead to the ‘wrong’ outcome of the assembly rules.

‘Wrong’, that is, for the health of the baby. But sometimes the rules result in a morphological outcome only a little different from the most common one: an extra finger, a shorter limb or overall stature, a cleft palate. These are only ‘errors’ if we choose to make them so; sometimes, a non-standard body shape is only a problem because, as a society, we don’t make adequate allowance for it, physically, aesthetically or socially. There are many ways that humans can look, because the result isn’t written into our genome. What cells get are guidelines for assembly, and the result is not prescribed. Nature has realised that there are better and more versatile ways to build than that.

Evolution Genetics Computing and artificial intelligence

Can we diagnose suffering without knowing a person’s history?

Can we diagnose suffering without knowing a person’s history? | Psyche

Photo by Angelo Rezutto/The Library of Congress

Christos Tombrasis a supervising psychoanalyst with a Lacanian orientation, practising in London.

Edited by Cameron Allan McKean

30 August 2022 (

The power of diagnosis is becoming more potent. In 2022, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the ‘bible’ of mental health professionals, appeared on The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list for the first time. It was also the top-selling psychiatry book on Amazon. Five editions have been published since 1952, and the latest, the DSM-5-TR (2022), is perhaps the most popular of them all. Why? Is it the promise that science can assess and understand human suffering? Is it the belief that this understanding can help us find specific, appropriate and effective treatment for our problems?

These are tempting but misleading promises. Human suffering is not defined by abstract categories. It does not exist independently of humans who are suffering. Useful as the DSM is, any project that seeks to list and categorise psychological problems in terms of some deviation from a definition of what is ‘normal’ runs the risk of forgetting that disorders do not appear out of thin air. They have their own history. They are also part of our histories. Moreover, they do not remain constant; they change just as we change.

From the moment it was conceived in the mid-20th century, the DSM was hailed by many as a liberating and revolutionary scientific project. Not everyone has agreed. It and other diagnostic tools have also been criticised for being vehicles of corporatised medicine, products of bureaucratic health systems, riddled with false categories, and for forgetting that psychological suffering is connected to the society that produced it. However, within this debate, the personal histories of those who actually experience suffering are often overlooked.

Human experience is distributed, non-specific, and flows in time. The checklist-style organisation of the disorders that populate diagnostic manuals and tests – including online questionnaires, mental health apps and personality ‘inventories’ – tend to forget that people have some awareness of themselves as agents in a timeline that is coming from somewhere (the past) and going towards somewhere (the future). This distinctly human feature of our experience, its historicity, has been at the centre of the work of philosophers like Martin Heidegger and psychoanalysts like Jacques Lacan. Less a question about the factual specifics of one’s timeline (what happened when and where), ‘historicity’ in philosophy refers to the fact that we are constantly creating and re-creating self-narratives. This is how we try to make sense of our lives as we move along the myriad pathways that connect our past to our future. These meandering and confusing pathways, full of dead ends and false connections, often contribute to our suffering.

It’s tempting to believe that we can see ourselves objectively reflected in the diagnostic criteria and checklists of ‘bibles’ like the DSM, but our individual stories and anxieties elude easy diagnosis because they do not exist independently of our history or our attempts to articulate them, make sense of them, and fit them into the identities we are constantly trying to form of ourselves.

Robert is finally able to give me a glimpse into his suffering. At this moment, I could try to turn his symptoms into a diagnosis

I am a psychoanalyst working in London. The people who come to see me, mostly self-referrals, are seeking help with those articulations, that sense-making and indentity-construction. Robert (not his real name) first came to see me when he was in his 30s. He came because he was worried about his job at an art gallery, where he felt like an intruder, having nothing in common with his colleagues. Just like his experience in previous jobs, he had a deep, debilitating fear that colleagues and bosses were always watching, waiting for him to make a decisive mistake. This fear would make him freeze. He couldn’t think. He wanted to disappear.

‘I disappear,’ he tells me. ‘I look at the mirror, and I am not there anymore.’

‘What do you mean, disappear?’ I ask.

He looks uncertain. ‘I don’t know how else to describe it. When I am in this state of worry and fear, the face I see in the mirror disintegrates. It’s not my face anymore. It becomes an assortment of features. An eye here, another eye, a nose, an ear… I cannot recognise myself. I can’t see a face. It’s empty. I don’t exist anymore. I just freeze.’

‘What does this mean?’ I ask again.

‘I see disconnected features. I stay there, in vain,’ he looks at me, ‘for long periods of time.’ He pauses. ‘For hours,’ he admits, lowering his gaze.

So, there it is. Robert is finally able to give me a glimpse into his suffering. At this moment, I could try to turn his symptoms into a diagnosis. Significant distress? Yes. Impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning? Yes. Preoccupation with physical appearance? Yes. Repetitive behaviour, such as mirror checking? Yes. Indications of an eating disorder? No. Diagnosis? ‘Body Dysmorphic Disorder’, coded F45.22 in the DSM-5-TR. The clinical picture painted by the DSM almost seems as though it was written for Robert.

The DSM was, from the beginning, organised according to results produced by statistical tools. As a scientific project, it suggests that we can and should speak only about things that can be observed and assessed clearly. This same idea appears in an array of psychological tools and instruments that seek to provide objective accounts of human experiences. These include the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), currently in its 11th revision, and the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC).

In the name of scientific objectivity, we violently transform multifaceted and complicated notions into a-historical sets of data

How are these accounts made? How can you assess mental illness, human suffering and distress in an objective way? The key is to quantify what you see with the help of simple unbiased tools such as structured interviews or questionnaires. These tools can reveal aspects of how large groups of people think and feel about the world and themselves. Through this data, patterns and categories emerge. Almost every category and criteria in our diagnostic manuals has been defined by these tools, which ask questions like:

On a scale from 0 (very bad) to 9 (very good) how would you assess your overall mood this week? What about last week?

Using a scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly agree) indicate your degree of agreement to the following statement: ‘I cannot find joy in anything any more.’

The underlying principles and intentions of these kinds of questions, and the tools they come from, are noble. And yet, things are not so simple. By representing our experience of something like sadness with objective data, are we being unfaithful to the actual phenomenon of being sad? Our sadness has a history and meaning within our own history. It started at some point, it has changed, it keeps on changing. Our sadness cannot be faithfully represented ‘using a scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly agree)’ or using any number of measurements on any kind of scale. By taking a snapshot of a ‘disorder’ – that is, by removing any reference to its context and history – we are forcing it to conform to concepts and tools that are unfit for purpose. In the name of scientific objectivity, we violently transform multifaceted and complicated notions into a-historical sets of data.

It’s all about history.

I ask Robert to tell me more. When did this start?

Robert cannot say exactly. He feels he has always had difficulty drawing faces – even seeing faces. When he looks in the mirror, he tells me, it is as if his own face is stripped of meaning.

Stripped,’ I repeat.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘And not just the face. The same happens with bodies. It is as if they are stripped of meaning, too. I end up drawing like Lucian Freud or Francis Bacon.’

‘Is that a problem?’ I ask, trying to ease the tension.

‘I didn’t intend it in this way,’ he says.

I invite him to say more about the human body. ‘Nudes are stripped from clothes,’ I offer.

DSM diagnosis like this is a single snapshot of one’s suffering. It’s accurate, but the history of that image is left out

‘Indeed,’ he says, pausing.

This brings a memory.

‘I am a bit embarrassed,’ Robert admits.

He remembers something that happened when he was around 13.

Entering adolescence, fascinated and overwhelmed by his sexuality, Robert started making small erotic drawings, vaguely involving himself and his sister who was around 15. One day, his mother found the drawings. Appalled, she decided that the best way to deal with this was to call for a family meeting. He watched in horror as she circulated the drawings, spoke at length about them, and publicly humiliated him. She made him ask for forgiveness from his sister, and then made him destroy the drawings ceremoniously in front of everyone, including his father who said nothing but kept nodding. When all this was over, he was ordered back to his room. There he cried bitterly for hours and later defiantly re-drew everything from memory. He carefully hid them somewhere, and insists that he hasn’t looked at them ever since. For him, they don’t exist any more.

Robert’s difficulties with faces and bodies had a precursor. Behind his inability to discern the meaning of faces was a past traumatic event.

Through the logic of the DSM, Robert’s suffering is defined by the precise form it takes at the specific point in time an assessment is made. In this moment, he may be pigeonholed as F45.22 or similar. A DSM diagnosis like this is a single snapshot of one’s suffering. It’s accurate, but the history of that image is left out: Robert’s humiliation and rejection by his family; the pain he felt; his guilt over his awakening sexuality; the fear that what he loves most – drawing with his pencil – will lead to him being ostracised and lost.

Robert had not been allowed to process this in a way that would help him discern its meaning. His suffering has an origin, and there are pathways leading from that origin to his current complaint. Robert’s ‘disorder’, the hours he spends in front of the mirror and the difficulty to discern and recognise his face, may be known and described accurately by the DSM with an appropriate code. But this disorder has a past that is lost to the user of a diagnostic manual.

At a moment when the DSM has become a bestseller, it’s important to consider that a ‘snapshot’ diagnosis, useful as it might sometimes be, represents a disconnected instant in one’s life. The paradigm of the snapshot diagnosis via quantification reveals its limits when we consider the historicity of our lived experiences and recognise that these cannot be represented by sets of a-historical data.

Psychological suffering is fundamentally unquantifiable. It develops across myriad meandering pathways. It shifts, changes, transforms. It invites us to discern meaning in our history, even as that meaning threatens to escape, overwhelm and confuse us – even as our very faces disappear in the mirror.

Simple Recipe for Overcoming Suffering | Eckhart’s Life Practices

Eckhart Tolle Aug 31, 2020 Are we suffering to change our perception and evolve our awareness? Eckhart offers his wisdom on the necessity of suffering and a simple way to help overcome that sense of suffering and a host of other simple techniques that anchor us in the present moment. Subscribe to find greater fulfillment in life: We’re excited to announce Eckhart Tolle’s first album The Journey of Awakening, streaming on Spotify right now! Click the link below to start your Journey of Awakening with Eckhart Tolle:… Want to watch and hear more of Eckhart’s Teachings? Become a member today and join our growing YouTube community! Interested in diving deeper into Eckhart Tolle’s work? Enjoy a FREE 10-DAY TRIAL to Eckhart Tolle Now:…

Major sea-level rise caused by melting of Greenland ice cap is ‘now inevitable’

Loss will contribute a minimum rise of 27cm regardless of what climate action is taken, scientists discover

Meltwater flows from the ice sheet into the Baffin Bay near Pituffik in northern Greenland.
Meltwater flows from the ice sheet into the Baffin Bay near Pituffik in northern Greenland. Photograph: Kerem Yücel/AFP/Getty Images

Damian Carrington Environment editor

@dpcarrington Mon 29 Aug 2022 16.00 BST (

Major sea-level rise from the melting of the Greenland ice cap is now inevitable, scientists have found, even if the fossil fuel burning that is driving the climate crisis were to end overnight.

The research shows the global heating to date will cause an absolute minimum sea-level rise of 27cm (10.6in) from Greenland alone as 110tn tonnes of ice melt. With continued carbon emissions, the melting of other ice caps and thermal expansion of the ocean, a multi-metre sea-level rise appears likely.

Billions of people live in coastal regions, making flooding due to rising sea levels one of the greatest long-term impacts of the climate crisis. If Greenland’s record melt year of 2012 becomes a routine occurrence later this century, as is possible, then the ice cap will deliver a “staggering” 78cm of sea-level rise, the scientists said.

Previous studies have used computer models of ice cap behaviour to estimate future losses, but the physical processes are complex and this leads to significant uncertainties in the results.

In contrast, the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change used satellite measurements of ice losses from Greenland and the shape of the ice cap from 2000-19. This data enabled the scientists to calculate how far global heating to date has pushed the ice sheet from an equilibrium where snowfall matches the ice lost. This allowed the calculation of how much more ice must be lost in order to regain stability.

“It is a very conservative rock-bottom minimum,” said Prof Jason Box from the National Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (Geus), who led the research. “Realistically, we will see this figure more than double within this century.”

The 27cm estimate is a minimum because it only accounts for global heating so far and because some ways in which glacier ice is lost at the margins of the ice sheet are not included.

The advantage of this study is that it provides a solid estimate of inevitable sea-level rise but the method used does not give a timescale over which the ice will be lost. Nonetheless, based on scientists’ overall understanding of how sheets such as Greenland lose ice into the ocean, the researchers said most of the rise would occur relatively soon. In 2021, other scientists warned that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet was on the brink of a tipping point.

“The minimum of 27cm is the sea-level rise deficit that we have accrued to date and it’s going to get paid out, no matter what we do going forward,” said Dr William Colgan, also at Geus. “Whether it’s coming in 100 years or 150 years, it’s coming. And the sea-level rise we are committed to is growing at present, because of the climate trajectory we’re on.”

Colgan said: “If [2012] becomes a normal year, then the committed loss grows to 78cm, which is staggering, and the fact that we’re already flickering into that range [of ice loss] is shocking. But the difference between 78cm and 27cm highlights the [difference] that can be made through implementing the Paris agreement. There is still a lot of room to minimise the damage.”

Mountain glaciers in the Himalayas and the Alps are already on course to lose a third and half of their ice respectively, while the west Antarctic ice sheet is also thought by some scientists to be past the point at which major losses are inevitable. Warming oceans also expand, adding to sea-level rise.

“There is growing support in the scientific literature for multi-metre levels of rise within the next 100 to 200 years,” said Colgan. A collapse of the colossal east Antarctic ice sheet, which would lead to a 52-metre rise in sea levels over millenia if it all melted, could be averted if rapid climate action is taken.

Prof Gail Whiteman, at the University of Exeter, who was not part of the study team, said: “The results of this new study are hard to ignore for all business leaders and politicians concerned about the future of humanity. It is bad news for the nearly 600 million people that live in coastal zones [less than 10m above sea level] worldwide. As sea levels rise, they will be increasingly vulnerable, and it threatens approximately $1tn of global wealth.” She said political leaders must rapidly scale up funding for climate adaptation and damage.

Tarot Card for August 31: The Nine of Disks

The Nine of Disks

The Lord of Gain is one of the cards which usually receives a hearty welcome when it comes up in a reading. At the mundane level it indicates the financial rewards which come from working diligently and dedicatedly on an important project, so it will often mark a stage of completion. In the workplace it will show that hard work is rewarded both by appreciation and an increase of salary. Sometimes it can indicate promotion (though rarely a total change of workplace) earned as a result of loyalty and attention to detail.

As you’ll remember, Disks not only deal with our financial area, but also with day-to-day security in the family environment. So sometimes the Lord of Gain can come up to indicate consolidation and achievement at home. Perhaps an emotional conflict has finally been resolved, or a long-standing problem finally dealt with.

At the spiritual level, this card talks a lot about the principle that what we give to life is what we get back. And here we have confirmation that we have lived as much as we are able in the moment, appreciating the things that come our way, and celebrating the bounty we have. As a result, more abundance flows in.

The card rarely indicates windfalls, or unexpected sources of income. Here we have worked hard to create something rewarding, and the Lord of Gain indicates the results of our efforts.

The Nine of Disks

(via and Alan Blackman)

Homo Superiors with Stephan A. Schwartz

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove Jul 23, 2017 Stephan A. Schwartz is a Distinguished Consulting Faculty of Saybrook University. He is the columnist for the journal Explore, and editor of the daily web publication in both of which he covers trends that are affecting the future. His other academic and research appointments include: Senior Fellow for Brain, Mind and Healing of the Samueli Institute; founder and Research Director of the Mobius laboratory. Government appointments include Special Assistant for Research and Analysis to the Chief of Naval Operations. Schwartz was the principal researcher studying the use of Remote Viewing in archaeology. Using Remote Viewing he discovered Cleopatra’s Palace, Marc Antony’s Timonium, ruins of the Lighthouse of Pharos, and sunken ships along the California coast, and in the Bahamas. He is the author of more than 130 technical reports and papers. He has written The Secret Vaults of Time, The Alexandria Project, Mind Rover, Opening to the Infinite, and The 8 Laws of Change. Here he discusses the common threads that unite the social movements that are organized around the denial of factual data. These include climate change deniers, deniers of biological evolution, and deniers of data concerning psi and nonlocal consciousness. Other movements involve holocaust denial and denial relating to gun violence. One implication of all of these movements is its impact upon science funding. Schwartz maintains that public policy cannot be effective unless policy makers are willing to forthrightly face the facts. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is also past-president of the non-profit Intuition Network, an organization dedicated to creating a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities. (Recorded on February 5, 2017)

Out of Body and Lucid Dreaming Exploration with Luis Minero

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove Aug 28, 2022 Luis Minero is president of the International Academy of Consciousness. He is also author of Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience. Here he discusses the various applications of out-of-body experience (OBE). For example, one tends to lose the fear of death after repeated OBEs. He also describes a number of scientific experiments involving out-of-body experience. These studies are important in establishing that OBEs are more than mere fantasy. An interesting feature of the out-of-body experience is the contact that is often reported with spiritual guides and helpers. Minero maintains that the out-of-body state is the most conducive for entering into conscious communication with such entities – and, as a result, establishing a stronger sense of one’s life purpose. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in “parapsychology” ever awarded by an accredited university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980). He is a past vice-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology; and is the recipient of the Pathfinder Award from that Association for his contributions to the field of human consciousness. He is also past-president of the non-profit Intuition Network, an organization dedicated to creating a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities. (Recorded on October 1, 2016)

Nonlocality with Edward R. Close

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishloveve Nov 20, 2019 Edward R. Close, PhD, is author of Transcendental Physics. He is coauthor (with Vernon Neppe) of Reality Begins with Consciousness: A Paradigm Shift That Works. He is also author of a lengthy chapter titled “The Mathematical Unification of Time, Space, Matter, Energy, and Consciousness” in Is Consciousness Primary? edited by Gary Schwartz and Marjorie Woollacott. Here he describes how the concept of nonlocality has been used in theoretical physics. He notes that the term has also been borrowed by people in parapsychology and consciousness studies. Some physicists object to the use of the term to describe the phenomenology of consciousness. However, in many ways, the term is apt. He then relates the concept of nonlocality to the Triadic Dimensional Vortical Paradigm (TDVP) model that he has developed with Dr. Vernon Neppe. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is a past vice-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology; and is the recipient of the Pathfinder Award from that Association for his contributions to the field of human consciousness exploration. (Recorded on September 20, 2019)