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Philosophy, Cosmology and Religion

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Philosophy, Cosmology and Religion

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I - The Three Steps of Anthroposophy

September 6, 1922

Before I begin my lecture today may I express to our esteemed guests my heartiest greetings out of the spirit that prevails here in the Goetheanum and that underlies all the work that is developed here. This kind of spirit does not spring from any human one-sidedness, but from a total all-encompassing humanness. For this reason, what is offered and accomplished here can originate in scientific knowledge, art and religious devotion while at the same time its spirit should be that of a free humanness, combined with generosity of heart and soul.

Now when the construction of the Goetheanum was begun in 1913 it was upon this spirit that it rested, as on the finest foundation stone. At a period when the whole of Europe and vast areas beyond were embroiled in warfare and bitter hostilities, here in Dornach people from all the nations of Europe worked together out of a free, encompassing humanness. Here, the international work never ceased. Allow me to point to this fact especially today because I desire to bring you this greeting out of such an international spirit. Out of no other spirit can the work done here be carried on, for only this spirit of many-sided, universal, free humanness can produce genuine spiritual science, spiritual art and truth-filled religion, which in itself can only be spiritual and international. But this spirit also gives, I think, that largeness of heart that is able to welcome and greet every human being affectionately. So, it is out of this spirit that rules here at the Goetheanum that I speak of these first words of greeting. They are therefore meant from the heart. In this heartfelt manner, then, may I express the wish that in the days to come we may successfully work together and exchange ideas on some topics drawn from the most varied areas of science and life, something that everyone who had wanted to come here will carry home with a certain measure of gratification. When we who have worked at the Goetheanum for years find that our visitors look back with joy to what they have experienced here, we are filled with special satisfaction. With this feeling let me welcome you and thank you for coming and express the wish that your visit may prove gratifying to you all.

As already indicated, the aim here is to engage in spiritual research so that it will be the foundation for making life in all its aspects more fruitful. The spiritual knowledge we seek here at this Goetheanum should not be confused with much that today is promoted as occultism, or the many things that go by the name of mysticism. This occultism, pursued today in many forms, actually runs contrary to the spirit of our age, the spirit of real modern life, which results from the development of natural scientific knowledge in recent times. What is cultivated here as spiritual knowledge must certainly reckon with what in the strictest sense of the word is in keeping with the spirit of modern scientific knowledge. What is frequently called occultism today is founded on ancient traditions; it is not directly governed by the spirit of the present time. Old traditions are revived. But since present-day humanity cannot unfold corresponding perceptions from the same substrata of soul, one can say that these old traditions are often misunderstood; as such, they are presented in dilettante fashion by one or the other group today as a knowledge intended to gratify the human soul.

We have as little to do with such partly misunderstood traditional occultism as we have with the kind of occultism that seeks to do research in the supersensible worlds by borrowing the usual scientific methods of sense observation and experimentation. If this is done, the fact is overlooked that the methods of scientific research developed during the past few centuries are preeminently adapted for gaining knowledge of the external sense reality; for this very reason, however, they are unsuitable as a means of research into the supersensible realm.

On the other hand, much is said today about mystical immersion, inner mystical experience. There, too, one often has to do with nothing else than immersing oneself in the soul experiences of the old mystics, trying to repeat these soul experiences of the past. But again, the unclear introspection that is used can lead only to a dubious knowledge.

I only pointed to these things in order to warn against confusing the work here at the Goetheanum with what is often carried on in such an amateur, dilettante fashion, even if out of sincere good-will. Here a scientific method for gaining supersensible knowledge as being cultivated, as rigorous, as exact and as scientific as is demanded today of the methods in the area of natural scientific research. We can reach the supersensible realm only if we do not remain limited to the paths of research suited only to the sense world. We cannot, however, scientifically ascend into the supersensible worlds by proceeding in a spirit other than the one that has proven itself so well in the domain of the sense world. Today I should like to give just a few indications concerning the purposes and goals of the work carried on here. Therefore, more detailed discussions of what I will but mention today will follow in the days to come. May I point out first that for the purpose of supersensible research here we are concerned with drawing from the depths of the human soul those forces for gaining knowledge that can penetrate the supersensible world in the same way as the forces of the outer senses penetrate the physical sense world. What the spiritual research requires first of all is to direct his soul's attention to his own soul-spiritual organism, which is able to approach the super-sensible. This distinguishes the spiritual investigator from the ordinary scientist. The latter uses the human organism as it is, directs it toward nature, and employs the exactness needed to gain results about the facts of outer nature. But the spiritual researcher, just because he is grounded in correct natural scientific knowledge, cannot proceed in this way. He must first direct his attention to the soul-spiritual organ of knowledge — I can perhaps call it 'eye of the spirit.' But this attention, which initially prepares and develops the spiritual eye, must be such that the inner conformity of this spiritual eye appears before it exactly; as exact, for instance, as a mathematical problem appears to a mathematician, or the content of his experiment appears to the experimenter. This work that must be applied by the researcher upon himself in preparation for the actual attainment of knowledge is the essential point in spiritual research. Thus, as the mathematician or natural scientist is exact in the search for results, the spiritual researcher must be exact in preparing his soul-spiritual organism, which then can perceive a spiritual fact as the eye or ear perceives facts in the sense world.

The spiritual research referred to here must be exact, in the same way that mathematics or natural science is exact. But I should say that where natural science with its exactness stops, spiritual science with its own kind of exactness begins. It must be rigorous in developing one's own human nature, so that all the work man does on himself in order to become a spiritual researcher is carried on in rigorous manner. For this exact work, then, fully justifiable to science, turns, as it were, into the inner spiritual eye when it begins spiritual research and encounters the existence of the supersensible world. While what is often termed mysticism has little clear understanding of the soul, in genuine spiritual research every minute step must be taken with the same clarity and insight as is required of a mathematician confronted by a mathematical problem. This will then lead to a kind of awakening, an awakening on a higher level of consciousness comparable to what we experience when we awaken from our usual sleep and have the sense world around us again.

When I speak here of the exactness needed especially for spiritual research, the word relates to the exact, scientific preparation of what must precede the research, namely the soul-spiritual organization of man. It is this above all that must stand before the spiritual researcher in transparent clarity. Then he may begin to penetrate within the world of supersensible phenomena.

This is just a preliminary indication, not one that proves anything. Because one strives for this exactness in preparing for genuine spiritual perception, if one is to call the kind of spiritual perception meant here 'clairvoyance,' one can indeed speak of 'exact clairvoyance.' It is to be the specific characteristic of the spiritual research carried on here that it is based on methodologically exact clairvoyance. The exactness of the clairvoyance is to be the distinctive mark of the spiritual research practiced here. From this point of view, one would want to consider not only a narrowly circumscribed area, but to attain to something into which flow all other sciences and patterns of life of the present age. What is spiritually achieved here is not merely to be a spiritual super-structure having as its foundation the natural scientific mode of observation; what humanity has developed in the spirit of this modern natural scientific point of view should also be led up into the spiritual region in order that the attainments of natural science may be crowned with what spiritual research can provide.

As an example, I may cite medicine. The way this science has developed today out of materialistic knowledge, and has achieved its admirable results, is fully recognized by what is cultivated here as spiritual knowledge. But it is possible to carry further by means of the spirit of an exact clairvoyance what has now been achieved out of a purely external approach to medicine. Only then will the whole fruitfulness of natural scientific medicine as presently practiced be attained. Similarly, we desire to gain here in a spiritual way knowledge that is in a position to lead the artistic into the spiritual. We strive for an artistic element here, which in a spiritual way arises out of the totality of man's nature, as does the knowledge we seek. A religious, a social element is also to be cultivated here in such a way that they both arise as something self-evident flowing from the spiritual knowledge attained.

The spiritual knowledge we strive for is to lay hold of the whole man, is to come forth from him, not from a single human faculty. It is therefore the nature of this knowledge that it desires to have all areas of theoretical as well as practical life flow into the spiritual life, and that thereby only the completely human, the universally human, is to be achieved. From this standpoint I would like to speak to you in these lectures mainly about three areas of knowledge, using these three examples to show to what extent the spirit of modern science can lead into the spirit of higher spiritual science. I would like to speak to you about philosophy, cosmology and religion, in a manner that shows how through anthroposophy they are to gain a certain spiritual form.

Philosophy was once the all-inclusive knowledge, which, in ancient times, threw light on all the separate areas of reality that men experienced. It was not a specialized science. It was the universal science, and all the sciences we cultivate today developed fundamentally out of the substance of philosophy as it still existed in Greece. In recent times, a specific philosophy has arisen by its side that lives in a certain sum of ideas. The strange thing that came about is that this philosophy, out of which all other sciences actually have grown, has now come to the point of having to justify its own existence before them. The other sciences, which have indeed grown out of philosophy, busy themselves with this or that recognized field of reality. The field of reality is there for the senses, or for observation, or experiment.

One cannot doubt the justification for all this scientific pursuit of knowledge. In spite of all these separate areas of study having been born out of philosophy, it is forced today to justify its own existence, to explain why it develops a certain body of ideas, whether these ideas are perhaps quite unreal, do not relate to any reality, are merely something people have thought out. Just consider how much hard thinking is devoted nowadays to justifying those ideas, which, incidentally, have already taken on a quite abstract character and today are called the content of philosophy, in order that they can still enjoy a certain standing in the world. They have nurtured the sciences, which, I might say, are well accredited in regard to their own specific areas of reality. Philosophy, on the contrary, is not accredited today. It first has to prove that its existence is justifiable. In ancient Greece that was never brought into question. There, a man who was capable of developing himself far enough to attain a philosophy felt the reality of philosophizing in the same way a healthy person feels the reality of breathing. But today, when a philosopher examines his philosophy, he experiences the abstract, cold, sober quality of the ideas he has developed in it. He does not feel that he stands solidly in reality. Only a person working in a chemistry or physics laboratory, or in a hospital, has matters well in hand, so to say. One who nowadays has philosophical ideas and acts upon them often feels miles removed from reality.

There is an additional consideration. It is with good reason that philosophy bears a name that does not point merely to theoretical knowledge. Philosophy is “love of wisdom,” and love exists not only in one's reason and intellect but has its roots in the whole human heart and soul. A comprehensive soul experience, the experiencing of love, is what has given philosophy its name. The whole human being should be engaged in the development of philosophy, and one cannot love, in the true sense of the word, what is mere theory, matter of fact and cold. If philosophy is love of wisdom, those who have experienced it assume that this Sophia, this wisdom, is something worth loving, something real and tangible, whose existence does not require to be proven. Just think a moment. If a man were to love a woman, or a woman a man, but would find it necessary to first prove the existence of the loved one — , quite an absurd thought! But this is just the case with philosophy taken in its present sense. From something that was warmly alive and received in a heartfelt way by man, the existence of which was self-evident, philosophy has turned into something abstract, cold, dull and theoretical. What caused this?

When one turns back to the origin of philosophical life — not through outer history but with an inwardly experienced and felt knowledge of history — one finds that philosophy originally did not live in man as it does today. Man, today, basically only recognizes as valid what is achieved through sense observation, or through experiments developed in the field of the senses, when he thinks in a scientific way; this is then put together by the intellect. But these achievements belong to physical man, for the senses are physical organs imbedded in the physical body. What man's physical body attained in knowledge is today considered scientifically acceptable, but in this way one only reaches as far as physical man. In him what the ancients considered as philosophy cannot be found. I will go further into this in the days to follow but must here point out that what was called philosophy in the golden age of Greek philosophy — that spiritual substance experienced within the soul — was not experienced in the physical body but in a human organization that permeates the physical body as etheric man.

In present-day science we really know only physical man. We do not know the body that, as a fine etheric organism, permeates man's physical body and in which the Greek philosopher experienced his philosophy. In the physical body we experience breathing, and the process of seeing. But just as we have this physical organization before us, so man also has an etheric body; he is an etheric man. When we look at the physical body we see something of the breathing process; physically and biologically we can make clear to ourselves the process of seeing. When we look at supersensible, etheric man we see the medium in which the Greek carried on his philosophizing. The Greek constitution was such that a man of that time felt — lived — in his etheric organism. In the activity of exerting himself through his organism — as one does physically in breathing and seeing — philosophy came into being in the etheric man. As there never can be any doubt about the reality of our breathing, because we are conscious of our physical body, so the Greek never doubted that what he experienced as philosophy, as wisdom, which he loved, was rooted in reality, for he was conscious of his etheric body. He was clearly aware that his philosophizing took place in his etheric body.

Modern man has lost perception of the etheric body. In fact, he does not know he has one. Therefore, traditional philosophy is a sum of abstract ideas for the reason that it considers to be reality only what one experiences as reality while philosophizing. If one has lost the knowledge of etheric man, the reality in philosophy is also lost. One feels it as abstract; one feels the necessity to prove that it really exists.

Now imagine that man were to develop an organism still more powerful, solid and material than his present physical body. Then the breathing process, for instance, would gradually appear to be almost imperceptible by comparison with this more powerful experience, until finally he would no longer know anything about what is now his physical body, just as modern man knows nothing about his etheric body. The breathing process would be a theory, a sum of ideas, and one would have to 'prove' that breathing was a reality, just as one must now prove that philosophy is rooted in reality. Doubt as to the reality of what one should love in philosophy has arisen because the etheric body has been lost to human perception, for it is in the etheric, not in the physical body, that the reality of philosophy is experienced. If, then, one is to recover a feeling for philosophy as a reality one must first gain a knowledge of etheric man. Out of this knowledge a true experience of philosophy can come. The first step in anthroposophy therefore is to bring out the facts concerning man's etheric organism.

I want to proceed in three steps and would like to ask Dr. Sauerwein [Dr. Jules Sauerwein, born in 1880; one of the most prominent French journalists between World War I and World War II; he met Rudolf Steiner in Vienna in 1906 and translated a number of his works into French.] to translate now. After the translation I shall continue.

In philosophy man has initially an inner experience of himself, of his etheric body. From the time humanity began to think it has also felt the need to incorporate each single human being into the whole cosmos. Man not only needs a philosophy, he needs a cosmology. As an individual firmly grounded within his organism at a certain place on the earth, he wants to understand in how far he belongs to the whole universe, and to what extent he has evolved out of it.

In the earliest stages of human evolution man felt himself to be a member of the whole cosmos. As physical man, however, he cannot feel himself as part of the cosmos. His experience as physical man between birth and death belongs directly to the life of his physical sensory surroundings. Beyond this he has his inner soul life, which is completely different from what he bears in his physical body out of his physical sensory environment. Since man wishes to feel, to know himself as a member of the whole cosmos, he also must feel and know his inner life of soul as part of the universe.

In the most ancient periods of human evolution men were actually able to see the soul life in the cosmos, not only by means of what today is mistakenly called anthropomorphism, but through an inner power of vision. They could perceive their own soul life as part of the soul-spiritual life of the universe, as one can see one's physical bodily life as part of natural sense existence. But in most recent times men have only developed in an exact way natural scientific knowledge based on sense observation, experiment, and a thinking similarly limited. Out of the natural scientific results achieved in this way, bringing together all the separate findings, a universal science, a cosmology, has been formed. But this cosmology contains merely the picture of facts from sense reality that are combined by thinking. One constructs a picture of the universe, but the separate parts of this picture are only the recognized laws of physical sensory phenomena.

This picture produced by the natural scientific cosmology of modern times is not like that of ancient times, which also contained the life of soul and spirit, for it contains only the sense world that natural science is able to examine. In this picture that stands as cosmology of the modern age man can re-discover his physical body, but not the inner life of his soul. In ancient times the inner soul life could be derived from the picture of cosmology; the soul's inner life cannot be derived from the cosmological view based upon natural science. This is in turn connected with the fact that modern perception cannot see the soul-spiritual in the same way as an old primitive perception was able to do. So, when modern knowledge speaks of the soul element in the body it speaks of the manifestations, the inner experiences of thinking, feeling and willing. It views the soul's life as being an outflow of what comes to expression in what is thought, felt and willed, separately and intermingled. It makes a picture of those three activities as phenomena playing a role in the soul's inner life.

When one observes the inner life of soul and spirit in this way one is forced to say, “Yes, what you have recognized and designated as an intermingling of thinking, feeling and willing arises in embryonic life, develops in the child, and perishes at death.” A scientist holding this view cannot fail to conclude that the soul must disappear at death. For actually, this thinking, feeling and willing between birth and death appear to be intimately bound up with the life of the physical body. Just as we see its members grow we watch thinking and feeling grow. As the body calcifies and we see it approaching physical decline, we see also how the phenomena of thinking, feeling and willing gradually diminish.

The distinguishing quality of the ancient viewpoint was a perception of the inner soul life that went beyond what lives in mere thinking, feeling and willing. The ancients perceived hidden within these a foundation for the life of soul of which they are only a reflection. We see thought, feeling and will originating and then developing further between birth and death. What lies beneath — of which thinking, feeling and willing are but the outer reflection — was beheld by the old primitive clairvoyance as the astral being of man.

So, as one at first recognizes the etheric body as a super-sensible member in physical man, one recognizes the astral body as a higher member in physical etheric man. This astral being of man does not consist of thought, feeling and will. It is the basis for them. It is the being which, out of soul-spiritual worlds, finds its way into our existence between birth and death. This astral man clothes himself between birth and death with the physical and etheric bodies, and after death goes out into a soul-spiritual world. In regard to this astral nature of man birth and death are only outer manifestations. Thinking, feeling and willing can be understood only in the context of man's physical organization, and can be found only between birth and death. There they develop, gradually decline, and disappear. The astral being underlying them, the foundation for the inner life of the soul, extends above physical and etheric man and is incorporated in a cosmic world. It is not enclosed within man's physical organism.

In order to arrive at a comprehensive cosmology, we need a knowledge of etheric and astral man, of which thinking, feeling and willing are a reflection. But, as manifested in each individual man, they cannot be incorporated in the cosmos. What constitutes their background, what is concealed in them between birth and death and is only accessible to a primitive or an exact clairvoyance — that can be incorporated in a spiritual cosmos of which the physical sensory cosmos is merely the reflection.

Modern cosmology is but a super-structure founded on the results of natural scientific research; a combination of facts found in the physical sense world. In such a cosmic picture man's inner life cannot be incorporated; but we only have such a cosmology because modern knowledge does not provide a picture of astral man. Anyone conceiving soul life as merely a combination of thinking, feeling and willing cannot defend the idea of its continuing beyond birth and death. Only if one first advances from these three activities to what lies concealed within them, to astral man, only then does one arrive at the human element that is no longer bound to the physical body and can be thought of as membered into the soul-spiritual universe. But man will never re-discover such a spiritual cosmos after abandoning it, because he has lost the perception of astral man. He will never be able to construct a picture of such a spirit-soul cosmos until he regains a picture of man's astral being. The possibility of a cosmology that again has soul-spiritual content depends upon the development of a perception of man's astral being. If we have merely an external cosmology comprising the physically perceptible, man himself has no place in it. We have come to such a physical cosmology because the perception of astral man has been lost. If the perception is again achieved, it will be possible to have a picture of the cosmos in which man himself is incorporated.

So, our concern is to succeed in developing a knowledge of man's astral being. Then we will also be able to attain a true cosmology that includes man. This is to be the second step for anthroposophy.

After Dr. Sauerwein has been so kind as to translate the second part, I shall discuss how matters stand with the third step in the last segment of my lecture.

* * *

Man experiences himself as condensed together into himself as for example when he philosophizes — and he also feels himself to be a part of the cosmos as depicted by cosmology. But in addition, he experiences himself as an entity independent of his own physical body as well as of the cosmos to which he belongs. He feels himself to be independent of his own corporeality and does not even feel part of the cosmos when he points to his own higher spiritual being — something that is today only hinted at when we utter the word 'I.'

When we say, 'I,' we do not refer to that part of us encompassed by our physical, our etheric, or our astral body, insofar as through the latter we are part of the cosmos. We refer to an inner, self-contained entity. We feel it as belonging to a special world, to a divine world, of which the cosmos is only the outer reflection, the external replica. As human beings who address themselves as “I,” we feel that this entity, this spiritual man indicated by the word “I,” is only enclothed with everything in the cosmos; that even the physical sense body is a covering of the actual being.

Because man in ancient times — through an inner if primitive vision — experienced his human entity as independent both of his body and of the cosmos, he knew he belonged to a divine world. But he also knew that between birth and death he was placed outside of this world and was clothed in a physical body. He knew he was placed in the soul-physical cosmos. He knew that his ego, the essence of his being, is concealed by the cosmic, by the physical-bodily elements, and he sought for union of this I-being with the divine world to which it belongs. In this way primitive man — with his clairvoyant experience of his egohood attained above and beyond his physical and etheric bodies and his astral nature — attained a union, religion , with the divine world. Religious life was that into which flowed a perception that was both philosophical and cosmological. Man found himself united with that from which he had been separated by his own body and by the outwardly visible soul-sensory cosmos. In religious experience he was united with the divine world, and this religious experience was the highest flowering of the perceptual life.

This religious experience on a primitive level, however, depended on a real inner experience of egohood, of the real spirit man. Only when the ego is experienced can the longed-for union with the divine world be attained — the religious feeling.

But to the modern way of thinking, what has the ego, this true spiritual man, become? It has become nothing but the phenomena of thinking, feeling and willing conceived of as a single, abstract idea. The ego has now become a kind of cosmic, or at most one or another composite formulation made up of thought, feeling and will — in any case something abstract. Philosophers themselves arrive at a notion of the ego by combining the experiences of thought, feeling and will into an abstract concept. But in this composite, nothing has been found that is not disproven every night when a person sleeps. Take the characterizations of modern philosophers concerning the “I,” for example, Bergson. Throughout, you will only find in these characterizations something that is disproven every night in sleep, for what the ego absorbs of these concepts, these ideas, is extinguished every night in sleep. Reality refutes these definitions, these characterizations of the ego. Furthermore, what I say here is not refuted by claiming that memory reconnects us after sleep with the “I.” It is not a matter of interpretations, but of facts. This implies that modern knowledge, even the finest philosophical knowledge, has lost perception of the ego, the true spirit man, and with it also the way to an understanding of religion.

So it has developed that in recent times, alongside the knowledge resulting from the attainable world of observation and experimenting, there are traditions handed down from a true religious life of past ages. They are accepted in a historical sense. But man's knowledge no longer has access to them; therefore, he only believes in them. Thus, for modern man, who will not extend knowledge to cover religious experience, science and faith confront each other. The whole content of the faith of today was once knowledge and is brought up only as a memory retained in tradition. No declaration of faith exists that is not a reminder of ancient knowledge. Because mankind today does not have a living perception of the true ego through exact clairvoyance — the ego that is not extinguished with every sleep but underlies both the sleeping and waking conditions — the path of knowledge is not pursued all the way into religion. Faith, which actually only perpetuates the memory of old traditions, is then placed alongside knowledge.

Today, therefore, what once was a unity — knowledge both of the physical and the divine worlds — has split into two external, parallel fields, knowledge and faith. That has come about because the old, primitive clairvoyant vision of the true ego — the foundation of man's being even when sleep extinguishes thought, feeling and will — that ancient knowledge has been lost, and exact clairvoyance is not yet advanced enough to see man's true egohood, the spiritual man. Only when it wants to advance to this point — as it must advance to seeing the etheric and astral parts of man's constitution — only then will a direct extension of knowledge of the outer world into knowledge of the divine world take place. Then, again, the content of science will pour into religious life.

This gap between knowledge and faith exists because the living, clairvoyant vision of the true ego, the fourth member of man's being, has been lost. Therefore, it is the task of the new spiritual life to restore knowledge of the true ego through exact clairvoyance. Then the way will open for advancing out of world knowledge to divine knowledge, out of the knowledge of the world to a renewal of religious life. We shall be able to view faith only as a special, higher form of knowledge, not, as now, something specifically different from knowledge.

So, what we need is the possibility for a real knowledge of the ego. From that will also result the possibility for a new experience of religion. We need to bring about this ego knowledge so that it takes its place within spiritual science just as does the previously characterized cognition of etheric man, who is not perceived in the human physical body, and the perception of astral man, who endures beyond birth and death. Thus, too, a perception of the ego, which exists beyond sleeping and waking as the foundation for both, needs to be cultivated to bring about a revitalization of life. This is to be the third step of anthroposophy. What should result organically from the viewpoint of anthroposophical research is therefore:

A modern philosophy through an exact clairvoyant knowledge of the ether body.

A cosmology that includes man, through a clear grasp of his astral organism.

A renewal of religious life through an exact clairvoyant comprehension of the true human ego which exists beyond sleeping and waking.

From this point of view, I will make further observations in the next lectures on philosophy, cosmology and religion.




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