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Occult History

Occult History: Lecture 1

Lecture 1

Stuttgart, 27th December 1910

THE character of Spiritual Science is such that the truths and data of knowledge contained in it increase in difficulty the farther we descend from universal principles to concrete details. You may already have noticed this when attempts have been made in different groups to speak about historical details, for example about the reincarnations of the great leader of the ancient Persian religion, Zarathustra, or about his connection with Moses, with Hermes, and also with Jesus of Nazareth. [see Note 1] On other occasions too, concrete questions of history have been touched upon. As soon as we descend from the great truths concerning the universe as pervaded and woven through by Spirit, from the great cosmic laws to the spiritual nature of a particular individuality, a particular personality, we pass from matters where the human heart will still accept, comparatively easily, this or that questionable point, into realms teeming with improbabilities. And, as a rule, those who are insufficiently prepared become incredulous when they confront this abyss between universal and specific truths.

Our study is intended to be an introduction to lectures which belong to the domain of occult history and will present historical facts and personalities in the light of Spiritual Science. In these lectures I shall have many things to say to you that will seem strange. You will hear many things that will have to reckon upon the will-for-understanding promoted by all the spiritual-scientific knowledge brought before you in the course of the years. For, after all, the finest, most significant fruit of the spiritual-scientific conception of the world is that, complicated and detailed as the knowledge is, we finally have before us not a collection of dogmas, but within us, in our hearts and feelings, we possess something that carries us beyond the standpoint we can reach through any other world-view. We do not imbibe so many dogmas, tenets, or mere information, but through our knowledge we become different human beings. In a certain respect, the aspects of Spiritual Science we shall now be considering call for more than a purely intellectual understanding — for an understanding by the soul, which at many points must be willing to listen to and accept intimations that would become crass and crude if pressed into too sharp outlines.

The picture I want to call up in your minds is that behind the whole evolutionary and historical process, through the millennia up to our own times, spiritual Beings, spiritual Individualities, stand as guides and leaders behind all human evolution and human happenings, and that in the greatest, most significant events in history, this or that human being appears with his whole soul, his whole being, as an instrument of spiritual Individualities standing and working with set purpose behind him. But we must familiarise ourselves with many a concept unknown in ordinary life if we are to gain insight into the strange and mysterious connections between earlier and later happenings in the course of history

If you will remind yourselves of many things that have been said through the years, you will be able to picture that in ancient times — and in Post-Atlantean times, too, if we go back only a few thousand years before what is usually called the historic era — men fell into more or less abnormal states of clairvoyance. Between our matter-of-fact waking consciousness, limited as it is entirely to the physical world, and the unconscious sleeping state, there was once a realm of consciousness through which man penetrated into spiritual reality. And we know that what is nowadays explained as poetic folk-fantasy by scholars who are themselves the originators of so many scientific myths and legends, is to be traced back to ancient clairvoyance, to clairvoyant states of the human soul which in those times gazed behind physical existence and expressed what it saw in the pictures contained in myths, fairy-tales and legends. So that in old, genuinely old myths, fairy-tales and legends, more knowledge, more wisdom and truth are to be found than in the abstract erudition and science of the present day. Therefore when we look back to very ancient times, we-find men who were clairvoyant; we know too that this clairvoyance faded away more and more among the various peoples in the different epochs. In the Christmas lecture to-day [see Note 2] I told you how in Europe, at a comparatively very late time, abundant remains of this ancient clairvoyance still survived. The extinguishing of clairvoyance and the advent of consciousness limited to the physical plane occur at different times among the different peoples.

You can conceive that through the culture-epochs after the great Atlantean catastrophe — through the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, Egypto-Chaldean, Greco-Latin culture-epochs and an into our own — the effects produced in the plan of world-history by the activities of men have been very diverse — inevitably so, because the peoples all stood in different relationships to the spiritual world. In ancient Persian and also in ancient Egyptian times, what man inwardly felt and experienced extended upwards into the spiritual world, and spiritual Powers played into his very soul. Not until the Greco-Latin epoch did this living connection between the human soul and the spiritual world cease in essentials; nor did it disappear completely until our own times. As far as outer history is concerned, the connection exists in our time only when, with the means that are accessible to man to-day, the link between the human soul and the realities of the spiritual worlds is sought consciously. Thus in ancient times, when man looked into his own soul, this soul enshrined not only what it had learnt from the physical world, had pictured according to the pattern of the things of the physical world, but the spiritual Hierarchies ranging above man up into the spiritual worlds were experienced as immediate realities. All this worked down to the physical plane through the instrument of the human soul, and men knew themselves to be connected with these individual Beings of the higher Hierarchies. When we look back, let us say, into the Egypto-Chaldean epoch — but it must be the earlier periods of it — we find men who are, so to say, historical personalities; but we do not understand them if we think of them as historical personalities in the modern sense.

When as men of the materialistic age we speak of historical personalities, we are convinced that it is only the impulses, the intentions, of the actual personalities in question that take effect in the course of history. But with this conception we can in reality understand only the men of the last three thousand years: that is — approximately of course — the men of the millennium which ended with the birth of Christ Jesus, and those of the first and the second Christian millennia in which we ourselves are living. Plato, Socrates, possibly also Thales and Pericles, are men who can still be understood as having at any rate some resemblance to ourselves. But farther back than that it is not possible to understand human beings if we attempt to do so merely by analogy with those living to-day. This applies, shall we say, to Hermes, the great Teacher of the Egyptian epoch, also to Zarathustra, and even to Moses. When we go back before the thousand. years preceding the Christian era we must reckon with the fact that wherever we have to do with historical personalities, higher Individualities, higher Hierarchies stand behind and take possession of these personalities — in the best sense of the word, of course. And now a strange phenomenon comes to light, without knowledge of which the process of historical evolution cannot really be understood.

Five culture-epochs including our own, have been enumerated. Many, many thousands of years ago we come to the first Post-Atlantean culture-epoch, the ancient Indian; this was followed by the second, the ancient Persian; this by the third, the Egypto-Chaldean; this by the fourth, the Greco-Latin; and this by the fifth, our own epoch. When we go back from the Greco-Latin to the Egyptian epoch we must change our whole way of studying history: instead of looking at the purely human aspect — which it is still possible to do in connection with the figures of the Greek world as far back as the age of the Heroes — we must now apply a different criterion by looking behind the single personalities for the spiritual Powers which represent the super-personal and work through the personalities as their instruments. We must have These spiritual Individualities always in mind, so that working behind some human being an the physical plane we can discern discern a Being of the higher Hierarchies who, as it were, takes hold of him from behind and Sets him at the appropriate place in evolution.

From this point of view it is highly interesting to perceive the connections between the really significant happenings — those which were determinative factors in the course of history — in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch and in the Greco-Latin epoch. These two culture-epochs follow one another, and to begin with we go back, let us say to the years from 2800 to 3200–3500 B.C. — which comparatively speaking is not so very far. Nevertheless we shall not understand happenings then — of which ancient history is already able to tell something to-day — unless behind the historical personalities we discern the higher Individualities. But then it also becomes evident to us that in the fourth, the Greco-Latin epoch, there is a kind of repetition of the really important happenings of the third epoch. It is almost as if things that in the earlier epoch an be explained through higher laws, must be explained in the following age through laws of the physical world, as if everything had sunk down, had become a stage more material, more physical. There is a kind of reflection in the physical world of great events of the preceding period.

By way of introduction, I want to draw your attention to how one of the most important happenings of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch is presented to us in a significant myth, and how this event is reflected, but at a lower stage, in the Greco-Latin epoch. I shall therefore be speaking of two parallel happenings which in the occult sense belong together, the one taking place half a plane higher, as it were, and the other entirely on the physical earth but like a kind of shadow-image on the physical plane of a spiritual event of the earlier epoch. Outwardly, it is only in the form of myths that humanity has ever been able to tell of events behind which stand Beings of the higher Hierarchies. But we shall see what lies behind the myth which describes the most significant event of the Chaldean epoch. [see Note 3] We will look only at the main features of this myth.

There was once a great king, by name Gilgamish. From the name itself, one who understands such matters will recognise that here we have to do not merely with a physical king, but with a divinity standing behind him, a spiritual Individuality by whom the king of Erech is inspired, who works and acts through him. Thus we have to do with one who in the real sense must be called a god-man. [see Note 4] The story narrates that he oppresses the city of Erech. The city turns to its deity, Aruru, and she causes a helper to arise out of the earth. These are pictures of the myth. We shall see what deeply significant historical events lie behind it. The Goddess of the City produces Eabani out of the earth. Eabani is a kind of human being who, in comparison with Gilgamish, seems to be of an inferior nature, for we are told that he was clothed in the skins of animals, was covered with hair, was like a wild man. Nevertheless in his wild nature there was divine Inspiration, ancient clairvoyance, clairvoyant knowledge, clairvoyant perception.

Eabani comes to know a woman of Erech and is attracted by her into the City. He becomes the friend of Gilgamish and this brings peace to the city. Gilgamish and Eabani together are now the rulers. Then Ishtar, the Goddess of Erech, is stolen by a neighbouring city. There upon Eabani and Gilgamish go to war with the marauding city, conquer the king and bring the Goddess back again to Erech. Gilgamish lives near her, and here we come to the strange fact that he has no understanding of the essential nature of the Goddess. A scene takes place, directly reminiscent of a Biblical scene described in the Gospel of St. John. Gilgamish confronts Ishtar, but his conduct is very different from that of Christ Jesus. He upbraids the Goddess for having loved many other men before she had encountered him, reproaching her particularly for her most recent attachment. Thereupon the Goddess carries her complaints to that deity, that Being of the higher Hierarchies, to whom she belongs. She goes to Anu. And now Anu sends a bull down to the earth; Gilgamish has to engage in combat with it. Those who recall Mithras's fight with the bull will see a resemblance here. All these events — and when we come to explain the myth we shall see what depths it contains — have led meanwhile to the death of Eabani. Gilgamish is now alone. A thought comes to him that gnaws at the very fibres of his soul. Under the impression of what he has experienced, he becomes conscious for the first time of the thought that man is mortal; a thought to which he had previously paid no heed comes before his soul in all its terror. And then he hears of the only man of earth who has remained immortal, whereas all other human beings in the Post-Atlantean epoch have become conscious of mortality: he hears of the immortal Xisuthros far away in the West. And because he is resolved to fathom the riddle of life and death, he sets out on the perilous journey to the West. [see Note 5] — I can tell you at once that this journey to the West is nothing else than the search for the secrets of ancient Atlantis, for happenings prior to the great Atlantean catastrophe.

Gilgamish sets out on his journey. The details are interesting. He has to pass through an entrance guarded by giant scorpions; the spirit leads him into the realm of death; he enters the kingdom of Xisuthros and there learns that in the Post-Atlantean epoch all men will inevitably be more and more penetrated with the consciousness of death. Gilgamish now asks Xisuthros whence he has knowledge of his eternal being; how comes it that he is conscious of immortality? Thereupon Xisuthros says to him: “You too can have this consciousness, but you must undergo all that I had to experience in overcoming the terror, anxiety and loneliness through which it was my lot to pass. When the god Ea had resolved to let perish” (in what we call the Atlantean catastrophe) “that part of humanity which was to live no longer, he bade me to withdraw into a kind of ship. I was to take with me the animals that were to remain, and those Individualities who are truly to be called the Masters. By means of this ship I outlived the great catastrophe.” Xisuthros then tells Gilgamish: “What was there undergone, you can experience only in your innermost being; but you can attain the consciousness of immortality if for seven nights and six days you refrain from sleep.” Gilgamish wishes to submit to the test but soon falls asleep. Then the wife of Xisuthros baked seven mystic loaves which by being eaten are to be a substitute for what would have been attained in the seven nights and six days without sleep. With this “life-elixir” Gilgamish continues his journeying, bathes as it were in a fountain of youth, and again reaches the borders of his own country in the region of the Euphrates and the Tigris. A serpent deprives him of the power of the life-elixir and so he reaches his country without it, but all the same with the consciousness that there is indeed immortality, and filled with longing to see the spirit at least, of Eabani. The spirit of Eabani appears to him, and from the discourse which then takes place we can glean how, for the culture of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, a consciousness of the link with the spiritual world could arise. — This relationship between Gilgamish and Eabani is very significant. I have now outlined pictures from the significant myth of Gilgamish which, as we shall see, will lead us into the spiritual depths lying behind the Chaldean-Babylonian culture-epoch. These pictures show that two individualities stand there: the individuality of one — Gilgamish — into whom a divine-spiritual being has penetrated; and an individuality who is more of a human being, but of such a nature that he may be called a young soul, who has had few incarnations and for that reason has carried over ancient clairvoyance into later times — Eabani.

Eabani is depicted as being clothed in skins of animals. This is an indication of his wild nature; but because of this very wildness he is still endowed with ancient clairvoyance an the one hand, and an the other hand he is a young soul who has lived through far, far fewer incarnations than other souls who have reached a high level of development. Thus Gilgamish represents a being who was ready for initiation but was not able to attain it, for the journey to the West is the journey to an initiation that was not carried through to the end. On the one side we see in Gilgamish the actual inaugurator of the Chaldean-Babylonian culture, and working behind him a divine-spiritual Being, a kind of Fire-Spirit. [see Note 6] And beside Gilgamish there is another individuality — Eabani — a young soul who descended late to earthly incarnation. If you read the book Occult Science, you will find that the individualities returned only gradually from the planets. — The exchange of the knowledge possessed by these two is the root of the Babylonian-Chaldean culture, and we shall see that the whole of this culture is an outcome of what proceeds from Gilgamish and Eabani. Clairvoyance from the divine man, Gilgamish, and clairvoyance from the young soul, Eabani, penetrate into the Chaldean-Babylonian culture. This process, enacted by two beings working side by side, each of whom is necessary to the other, is then reflected in the later, fourth culture-epoch, the Greco-Latin, and in fact reflected on the physical plane. We shall of course only very gradually reach complete understanding of such a process. A more spiritual process is thus reflected on the physical plane when humanity has descended very far, when men no longer feel the relation of human personality to the divine-spiritual world.

These secrets of the divine-spiritual world were preserved in the places of the Mysteries. So, for example, many of the ancient, holy secrets which proclaimed the connection of the human soul with the divine-spiritual worlds were preserved in the Mysteries of Diana of Ephesus and in the Ephesian temple. A great deal in these Mysteries was no longer comprehensible in an age when human personality had come into prominence. And like a token of how little the purely external personality understood what had remained spiritually, there stands the half-mystical figure of Herostratus, who has eyes only for the superficial aspect of personality — Herostratus who flings the burning torch into the temple of Ephesus. This deed is like a token of the clash between the personality and what had survived from ancient spirituality. And on the very same day when a man, merely in order that his name might go down to posterity, throws the burning brand into the sanctuary of Ephesus, there is born the man who has achieved more than all others for the culture of personality — and on the very soil where the culture of were personality was meant to be overcome. Herostratus flings the burning torch on the day when Alexander the Great is born — the man who is all personality! Alexander the Great stands there as the shadow-image of Gilgamish. [see Note 7] A profound truth lies behind this. In the Greco-Latin epoch, Alexander the Great stands there as the shadow image of Gilgamish, as a projection of the spiritual on to the physical plane. And Eabani, projected on to the physical plane, is Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great.

Here indeed is a strange circumstance: Alexander and Aristotle standing, like Gilgamish and Eabani, side by side. And we see how in the first third of the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch there is carried over, as it were, by Alexander the Great but transformed into the laws of the physical plane — that which had been imparted to the Babylonian-Chaldean culture by Gilgamish. This comes to wonderful expression in the fact that, as a result of the deeds of Alexander, there was established an the scene of Egypto-Chaldean culture Alexandria itself, the city founded by Alexander in 332 B.C. in order that the great achievements of the Egypto-Babylonian-Chaldean culture-epoch might be brought together in one centre. And gradually all the streams of Post-Atlantean culture that were intended to come together did indeed converge on Alexandria, the city established an the scene of the third culture-epoch but with the character of the fourth.

Alexandria outlasted the beginnings of Christianity. Indeed it was in Alexandria that the factors of greatest significance in the fourth culture-epoch developed, when Christianity was already in existence. There the great scholars were working; there the three most important streams of culture flowed together: the ancient Pagan-Grecian stream, the Christian stream and the Mosaic-Hebrew stream. They interpenetrated one another in Alexandria. And it is impossible to conceive that the culture of Alexandria which was built entirely on the foundation of personality — could have been inaugurated in any other way than through the being who was inspired by personality — Alexander the Great. For now, through the very existence of this centre of culture, everything that formerly was super-personal, extending from the human personality upwards into the spiritual world, assumed a personal character. The personalities we find in Alexandria have, as it were, everything within themselves; the Powers from higher Hierarchies who guide the personalities and set them in their allotted places, are very little in evidence. All the sages and philosophers working in Alexandria seem to be embodiments of ancient wisdom transformed into human personality; it is the personal element that speaks out of them. The singular fact is that everything in ancient Paganism that could be explained only by the teaching of how gods came down and united with daughters of men in order to bring forth heroes — all this is transformed into personal forcefulness in the men in Alexandria. And the forms which Judaism, the Mosaic culture, assumed in Alexandria can be described from what is in evidence precisely during the period when Christianity was already in existence. Nothing is to be found of those deep conceptions of a link between the world of men and the spiritual world which were present in the age of the prophets and are still to be found in the last two centuries before the beginning of our era. In Judaism too, everything has become personality. There are gifted, able men in Alexandria, men possessed of extraordinarily deep insight into the secrets of the ancient occult teachings ... but everything has become personal; personalities are working in Alexandria. And it is there that to begin with, Christianity appears, shall we say, in a distorted, debased state of infancy. Christianity, whose real function is to lead the personal element in man upwards into the impersonal, made its appearance in Alexandria in a very ruthless form. Christian personalities, in particular, acted in such a way that we often have the impression: their deeds are anticipations of later actions by bishops and archbishops working on a purely personal basis. This applies both to Archbishop Theophilus in the fourth century and to his kinsman and successor, St. Cyril. [see Note 8] We can judge them only an the basis of their human failings. Christianity, which was to give to mankind the greatest of all gifts, reveals itself to begin with in its greatest failings and from its personal side. But in Alexandria a sign and token was to stand before the whole evolution of humanity.

There again we have a projection on the physical plane of earlier, more spiritual conditions. In the Orphic Mysteries of ancient Greece there was a wonderful personality, one who was initiated in the Mystery-secrets and was among the most loveable, most interesting pupils of these Mysteries, well prepared by a certain Celtic occult training undergone in earlier incarnations. This individuality sought with deepest fervour for the secrets of the Orphic Mysteries. The pupils of these Mysteries had to live through in their own soul what is described in the myth of Dionysos Zagreus, who was dismembered by the Titans but whose body was carried away by Zeus into a higher life. How, as the result of a certain path taken in the Mysteries, man's life is surrendered to the outer world, how his whole being is torn in pieces so that he can no longer find his bearings within himself — this was to become an actual, individual experience in the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries.

When in the ordinary way we study animals, plants and minerals, what we learn is merely abstract knowledge because we remain outside them; but anyone who wishes to obtain knowledge in the occult sense must train himself to feel as if he were actually within the animals, plants and minerals, in air and water, in springs and mountains, in stones and Stars, in other human beings — as if he were one with them. all. Nevertheless, a pupil of the Orphic Mysteries had to develop the inner strength of soul which would enable him, re-established as a self-based individuality, to triumph over the disintegration of his being in the external world. When all this had become an actual human experience, it represented in a certain sense one of the very highest secrets of Initiation. And many pupils of the Orphic Mysteries had undergone such experiences, had lived through this disintegration in the world and, as a kind of preparation for Christianity, had therewith attained the highest experience within reach in pre-Christian times.

Among the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries was the loveable personality of whom I am speaking, whose earthly name has not come down to posterity, but who stands out clearly as a pupil of these Mysteries. Already in youth and then for many years, this person was closely connected with all the Greek Orphics during the period preceding that of Greek philosophy — a period of which no account is given in books an the history of philosophy. For what is recorded of Thales and Heraclitus is an echo of what the Mystery-pupils had accomplished in their way at an earlier period. And one of the pupils of the Orphic Mysteries was the individual of whom I have just spoken, whose pupil in turn was Pherecydes of Syros, referred to in the lecture-course given at Munich last year: The East in the light of the West [see Note 9]

Investigation of the Akasha Chronicle reveals that the individuality of that pupil of the Orphic Mysteries was reincarnated in the 4th century A.D. We find this individuality amid the activity and life of those gathered together in Alexandria, the Orphic secrets now transformed into personal experiences of the loftiest kind. It is very remarkable how all the Orphic secrets were transformed into personal experiences in this new incarnation. At the end of the 4th century, A.D., we find this individuality reborn as the daughter of a great mathematician, Theon. We see how there flashes up in her soul all that could be experienced of the Orphic Mysteries through vision of the great mathematical, light-woven texture of the universe. All this was now personal talent, personal genius. These faculties had now to be of so personal a character that it was necessary even for this individuality to have a mathematician as father in order that something might be received from heredity.

Thus we look back to times when man was still in living connection with the spiritual worlds, as was this Orphic pupil; and we see the shadow-image of this pupil among those who taught in Alexandria at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century A.D. This individuality had as yet experienced nothing that enabled men at that time to see beyond the shadow-sides of Christianity at its beginning. For all that had remained in this soul as an echo of the Orphic Mysteries was still too powerful to enable any Illumination to be received from that other Light, the new Christ Event. What arose round about as Christianity, represented by men of the type of Theophilus and Cyril, was in truth of such a nature that this Orphic individuality, working now with personal faculties, had things far greater, far richer in wisdom to say and to give than those who represented Christianity in Alexandria at that time.

Theophilus and Cyril were both filled with the deepest hatred of everything that was not Christian in the narrow ecclesiastical sense in which these two bishops, in particular, understood it. Christianity had assumed in them such an entirely personal character that these two patriarchs levied hirelings in their service; men were collected from far and near to form bodyguards for them. Their aim was power in its most personal sense. They were utterly obsessed by hatred of what originated in ancient times and yet was so much greater than the new that was appearing in caricatured shape. The deepest hatred was directed by the dignitaries of Christianity in Alexandria against the individuality of the reborn Orphic pupil. The fact that she was branded as a black magician will not therefore surprise us. But that was enough to incite the whole mob of hirelings against the noble, unique figure of the reborn pupil of the Orphic Mysteries. She was still young, but in spite of her youth, in spite of the fact that she was obliged to undergo much that in those days, too, imposed great hardships an a woman during a long period of study, she found her way upwards to the light that outshone all the wisdom, all the knowledge existing in those days. And it was wonderful how in the lecture halls of Hypatia — for such was the name of this reincarnated Orphic pupil — the purest, most luminous wisdom in Alexandria was presented to the enraptured listeners. She drew to her feet not only the Pagans, bat also Christians of deep and penetrating insight, such as Synesius. She was an influence of outstanding significance, and the revival of the old Pagan wisdom of Orpheus transformed into personality could be experienced in Alexandria in the figure of Hypatia.

World-karma was working in the truest sense symbolically. What had constituted the secret of her Initiation was now projected, mirrored, on the physical plane. And here we come to an event that is symbolically significant in the case of many things that have taken place in historical times. We come to one of those events that is seemingly only a martyrdom, but is in reality a symbol in which spiritual forces, spiritual intimations are coming to expression.

On a day in March in the year 415 A.D., Hypatia fell victim to the fury of these who formed the entourage of the patriarch of Alexandria. They resolved to rid themselves of her power, of her spiritual power. The utterly uncivilised, wild hordes were rushed in from the environs of Alexandria as well, and the chaste young sage was fetched away under false pretences. She mounted the chariot, and at a given sign the enflamed rabble fell upon her, tore off her clothing, dragged her into a church, and literally tore the flesh from her bones. The fragments of her body were then scattered around the city by these hordes, completely dehumanised by their rapacious passions. Such was the fate of the great woman philosopher, Hypatia.

Symbolically, so to say, there is indicated here something that is deeply connected with the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great — although it happened a long time after the actual founding of the city. In this event, important secrets of the 4th Post-Atlantean epoch are reflected. This epoch, destined as it was to represent the dissolution, the sweeping-away, of the old, contained so much that was great and significant, and with paradoxical grandeur placed before the world a most pregnant symbol in the slaughter — one can call it nothing else — of Hypatia, the outstanding woman at the turn of the 4th-5th centuries of our era.




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