Christian apologists say that Job’s suffering points to the mysterious ways of God and highlights the need for faithful obedience in the absence of human understanding. Critics say that it depicts God as an immature, cruel tyrant. For instance, the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung and some Jungians say that God “makes a bet” with Satan. In the story, Satan contends that Job will not remain faithful if God allows Satan to torment him.
In Jung’s Answer to Job, a short commentary about the Job’s plight, Jung says the Biblical story reveals a dark, non-integrated aspect of God. Why would a perfect God, Jung argues, allow a blameless servant to be persecuted by the devil? When Job challenges God, asking why he suffers, God answers not on Job’s terms but by completely overwhelming him. God asks if Job is able to create the stars, the oceans and a sea monster.
Jung sees this as indicating God’s immaturity. For Jung, God projects his own dark side onto Job. While this dynamic may occur in many people, to Jewish and Christian believers it’s misguided to suggest that God would behave this way (See Isaiah 55:8-9). As God implies to Job, could an allegedly immature consciousness create all of creation?
Biblical scholars debate whether the story of Job refers to an actual person or if it’s just a folktale outlining the general human problem of why do bad things happen to good people? The author of the book is not mentioned. Some traditional rabbis and early Christian theologians believed the author was Moses. Today, some scholars believe that parts of Job were written by at least one additional author.
But to return to Jung, he seems to overlook the folktale aspect by treating Job as a real person. Jung’s writings about Job have also been criticized by Fr. Victor White. White says that Jung confuses a narrative image of God with the actual God. In Jungian terms, White says Jung confuses the God-image (archetypal image) with God (archetype).
Indeed, it seems that Jung analyzes God from the perspective of his own, man-made psychological theories. In reducing God to Jung’s all too human ideas, might Jung, himself, exhibit the psychological mechanism of projection? Theological critics of Jung would certainly say that his commentary on Job suffers from presumption—that is, intellectual arrogance.
Regarding the problem of evil, many theologians would maintain that God’s ways are usually way over our heads. Along these lines, we could hypothesize that God permits evil to torment Job for a greater good which, Job, Satan and Jung couldn’t hope to understand.
Jung’s (questionable) analysis aside, the story of Job has parallels in other cultures, most notably the ancient Egyptian Protests of the Eloquent Peasant.
- Lessons from Job. (katherineannesmith.wordpress.com)
- Jung-jung (knittedart.wordpress.com)
- “Why Do the Righteous Suffer?”: Wisdom From the Book of Job (thomaslovesjesus.wordpress.com)
- Putting Satan in his place (reassuringquotes.wordpress.com)
- Nuanced Media is Proud to Present the Southern Arizona Friends of Jung Website (prweb.com)
- Murray Stein and Brigitte Egger Discuss the Power of Water and the Vital Impact it has on Earth. The Asheville Jung Center will host “Elixir of Life” on April 4th (prweb.com)
- A Love Affair With Carl Jung (jeanraffa.wordpress.com)
- Do you relate to the greatest story of suffering yet, faith? His name was job…Read on (pastormikesays.wordpress.com)
- When I was back there in seminary school… (mclark.wordpress.com)
Cults and Religions – What’s the difference?
Many debate the differences between religion and cults. Some say there’s no difference. In other words, religions are cults and cults are religions. But this kind of thinking arguably doesn’t do justice to the complexities of faith and the supernatural.
One difference seems to be that, in a cult, a charismatic leader is undeservedly glorified. Some say that this would make Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Mahavira cult leaders. But cults also display a relatively short longevity (after the leader dies, the cult dwindles away). This didn’t happen in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. So they can’t be called cults by that standard.
Another difference is that cults typically isolate new members from their families and unbelievers. Religions tend to be less drastic, with most (not all, mind you) accepting interfaith relationships.
Steven Hassan, an expert on cults, says
Since all destructive cults believe that the ends justify the means, they believe themselves to be above the law. As long as they believe that what they are doing is “right” and “just,” many of them think nothing of lying, stealing, cheating, or unethically using mind control to accomplish their ends. They violate, in the most profound and fundamental way, the civil liberties of the people they recruit. They turn unsuspecting people into slaves. ¹
Others say the difference between religions and cults is a matter of degree, especially with those religions and cults that attract, institutionally legitimize and reproduce authoritarian personality types and the legalistic beliefs and structured practices that these individuals participate in.
In these instances, religious or cultic affiliation apparently provides a convenient means for the psychologically immature to overlook unresolved emotional issues. Accordingly, some critics of religion maintain that religious affiliation provides a safe but essentially cowardly means for unleashing centuries of culturally and perhaps genetically inherited anger onto those who don’t wish to sacrifice their free will to the dictates of an institution. These critics say that most religious institutions must incorporate (or reject) new developments within the context of their limiting teachings and traditions.
This too, seems somewhat simplistic. For religious believers will often say they are fully choosing to cooperate with God’s will as progressively revealed to them within their particular religious organization. Apparently there’s a richness in their spiritual life that the secular critics just don’t get. And individuals belonging to orgqanizations seen by outsiders as cults often say the same thing. “You don’t understand…”
This can make it difficult to tell the difference between a religion and a cult. Meanwhile, many new religions are cropping up. And some say they’re nothing more than cheap covers created by creepy masterminds aiming to get tax breaks on donations made by gullible believers.
When in doubt, draw a chart
One of the definitions for “cult” in Merriam-Websters dictionary is: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.”
The following chart compares some of the main beliefs and practices found within religions and cults. This is not the final word. The items in each column don’t universally apply and many of the distinctions made in this chart are debatable. In keeping with the classical sociologist Max Weber, however, this chart offers ideal types.
Ideal types are generalized constructs. They don’t provide precise definitions and they’re not comprehensive. But they are thought-provoking. And that’s their main purpose.
Above chart elaborates on many sources, including Gregg Stebben’s Everything You Need to Know About Religion (The Pocket Professor, Denis Boyles ed., New York: Pocket Books, 1999: 25-26).
¹ Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester: Park Street Press, 1988, p. 36.
- The beauty and the pain of fundamentalist religion (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Scientology Founder’s Great Grandson Denounces Religion As A Dangerous Cult! (perezhilton.com)
- Granddaughter Of Westboro Baptist Church Founder Defects From Hate-Cult To Speak Out (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
- Scientology should NOT be protected as a religion… (girlygirl.typepad.com)
- Mexican Authorities Raid Sex Slavery Cult Led By Reincarnated Christ Figure (disinfo.com)
- Claimed By The Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Rescue Her Son-Author Recounts Experience Saving Her Son From A Religious Cult (paramuspost.com)
- Author Geneva Paulson Recounts Experience Saving Her Son from a Religious Cult in New Book (prweb.com)
- “Cathy Don’t Go”: A religious cult’s lost new-wave gem (chicagoreader.com)
Conversion is a total and complete change of allegiance, belief and practice from a secular to a religious outlook, or from one religious belief system to another.
This is the textbook definition. In actual fact, conversion is usually an ongoing process in which old elements of the personality (and related attitudes and beliefs) diminish and possibly die out while being replaced by new ones.
Alternately, aspects of the old personality may endure but be transformed and applied within a new outlook. For instance, a musician may at one time play predominantly for the love of music and to please people, self-aggrandize and make money. After a conversion experience he or she may play music to glorify God.
The term also has more popular uses, such as “I converted from meat eating to vegetarianism.”
In the New Testament we hear of some conversion experiences that are sudden and powerful, such as the persecutor of Christians Saul falling off his horse and becoming St. Paul. But these are typically rare. The norm seems to be a gradual conversion, characterized by moments of grace and spiritual dryness. Or perhaps an initially powerful conversion experience is followed by periods of dryness and grace.
When someone has a powerful conversion experience they usually claim to “know” instead of “believe,” which arguably could be an interpretive mistake. And new converts are often overzealous and intolerant of other forms of belief. At least for a while. If they’re inherently sensible, the school of life usually balances them out over time. But if they’re not sensible about their beliefs, converts may continue to be fanatical and, perhaps, alienate more than inspire others.
- Concepts and Dimensions of Conversion and Religious Experience (marbaniang.wordpress.com)
- Fear and faith: Derren Brown and the Confusion (pw201.livejournal.com)
- Conversion All-echoing (simonmarsh.org)
- Critically evaluate the relative merits of visions, voices, numinous, conversion, and corporate experiences for proving the existence of God (mentaltyranny.wordpress.com)
- Book of Acts Part 1 (brakeman1.com)
- Conversion (braggschurchofchrist.com)
- What is in the Word? (thomaspritchard.wordpress.com)
Clairvoyance (French clair = “clear” and voyance = “vision”)
Just as the nineteenth-century medium is now called the channeler, and the former New Thought movement has been recast as the New Age, clairvoyance is a slightly antiquated term that’s been updated with the more specific ideas of psi, PK, and remote viewing.
The term clairvoyance seems to be making a bit of a comeback, however. It’s still being used as an umbrella term for practically every type of alleged paranormal perception—i.e. perception beyond the range of the normal senses.
Critics of the idea say that there’s no real hard scientific evidence to support clairvoyance. Sympathizers say that successful clairvoyance hinges on delicate factors, making scientific replication impractical.
Believers in God who are not hostile to clairvoyance (as some devilish trick) add that successful inner vision is entirely dependent on God’s will. That is, God permits clairvoyance to happen in specific situations for some good reason. If this is true, then it is ludicrous for science to expect God to always bend to the demands of scientific investigators. Skeptics like James Randi seem totally oblivious to this possibility. For them, if something cannot be replicated in a controlled experiment, it never happened.
Suburbanclairvoyant nicely sums up how many clairvoyants (and those sympathetic to the idea) would likely see skeptics and scientists who overreach the inherent limitations of science:
…the words “controlled experiment” are an oxymoron in the Clair world, and make me laugh. There’s no pinning this down. It just is what it is…¹
- Excerpts from “Seership! The Magnetic Mirror!” (1874) (vonfaustus.blogspot.com)
- Connecticut School Shooting – and a day that sucked to be psychic (ifyoucouldseewhatihear.wordpress.com)
- Free Jazz Saxophonist IVO PERELMAN Releases Three Albums: “Living Jelly,” “The Clairvoyant,” and “The Gift,” Available November 13 on Leo Records (theurbanflux.com)
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Clairaudience is the alleged inner hearing of sound different from, or beyond the range of, normal human hearing. Rosemary Ellen Guiley notes that the term comes from the French, “clear-hearing.”¹
The spiritually inclined see clairaudience as a phenomenon common to saints, mystics and seers throughout the ages.
The recently canonized Catholic Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38) writes in her Divine Mercy Diary that she often heard a quiet inner voice, accompanied with a feeling of grace. This synchrony lead her to believe that the voice was from God.²
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) heard voices which prompted her to masquerade as a man and enlist in the French army. She was eventually declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake at age 19 under a politically predetermined trial. Not until almost 500 years later did the Church canonize her in 1920.
St. Teresa of Ávila provides a more intellectual assessment of hearing voices, which she calls “locutions.” In her spiritual classic, Interior Castle, she says one must learn to discriminate among locutions that are from God, from the devil, and from the imagination. Locutions from God, she adds, are usually quite simple and accompanied with a strong and undeniable feeling of peace.³
In the Biblical Old Testament the voice of God tells King Solomon of his great wisdom. In the New Testament Christ beseeches Paul from the heavens, “Why do you persecute me?” Both of these example could be interpreted as instances of clairaudience.
Other possible examples of clairaudience are found in the religious and even philosophical literature. Plato’s Socrates, for instance, has a daimon hovering about him, forever cautioning him what not to say.
The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo writes of a voice which lead him to establish an ashram in the French settlement at Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo also speaks of “false voices.” These, he says, come from dark beings, called asuras, which forever try to distract and deceive spiritual seekers.4
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung writes of a “ghost guru,” whom he called Philemon. Philemon apparently guided Jung via clairaudience until Jung got tired of his direction and stopped listening, at which point Philemon went away.5
The British scholar of religion Evelyn Underhill writes that mystics must apply rigorous logic and sincere self-analysis to ensure that inner voices are not products of the imagination or evil spiritual entities.6
With regard to the possibility of auditory hallucinations, contemporary psychiatry distinguishes between unhealthy hallucinations and healthy beliefs that are in keeping with one’s religious tradition. Psychiatry, however, still cannot fully explain how the brain creates hallucinations, leaving room for hypotheses concerning an interplay of biological, developmental and evil spiritual influences.
Concerning the notion of evil spiritual influences, practically every religious tradition in the world suggests that evil spirits actively deceive (or impart partial truths cleverly combined with lies), while Godly spiritual beings always tell the truth.
Along these lines the gospel writer of Matthew says that one may judge alleged prophets by their deeds—that is, by their fruit.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew NIV 7:15-20).
While many fundamentalists uncritically latch onto this passage, for thinking people, some methodological issues do arise. For instance, how long must one wait to determine whether a prophet’s utterances are true or not? For that matter, will a prophet’s truth be realized within a given lifetime?
According to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, himself, spoke actual words that the people around him did not understand. And it wasn’t until after his death that the subtlety and power of his prophesying was realized. For example, Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV) is often interpreted to refer to Jesus’ own death, descent to hell and resurrection, a sequence of events which, according to scripture, lasted three days. But in his day, many would have supposed that Jesus was simply talking about a physical building.
With a misunderstanding like this arising from real, spoken words, it seems that ordinary people could be even more confused by inner voices.
¹ Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, 1991, p. 109.
² Saint Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2nd edition, Stockbridge Mass.: Marian Press, 1990.
³ St. Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers. Image Books, 1961, pp. 138-148.
4 Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.
5 See more details here: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/read/notables/jung.shtml
6 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
- An example of my Medium, Clairaudient and Claircognizant work (kevinhunter.wordpress.com)
- A shout out to Evelyn Underhill and her wonderful book (carlmccolman.com)
- Review – The Trickster and the Paranormal (Hardcover Book) (epages.wordpress.com)
- From language games to mysticism – Allan Watts and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (stottilien.wordpress.com)
- A brief summary of the unitive state (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
- Channeling (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- St. Teresa of Avila, “a woman extraordinarily gifted, both naturally and supernaturally…” (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- “St. John of the Cross” by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Celibacy (earthpages.wordpress.com)
In Catholicism cherubim are angels of the second highest order in a hierarchy of nine. The word cherubim is most likely derived from several variants of an Akkadian word, karibu, meaning “great, powerful, mighty,” “one who prays, intercessor” and “gatekeepers.”¹ St. Gregory says the name indicates “the fullness of knowledge.”
Cherubim appear quite often the Bible. Some notable instances are:
- Cherubim guard the gate at the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)
- Cherubim are gold figures forming the throne of God on the Ark of the covenant (Exodus 25: 18-20)
- Cherubim decorate Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6: 29)
- Cherubim guard the King of Tyre in Ezekiel (Ez. 28)
- Cherubim are a mount for God in Samuel (Sam 22:11).
Artistic representations and mythological ideas pointing to the idea of cherubim in the ancient world are also numerous. Archeological discoveries related to cherubim have been uncovered at Nimrud, Byblos, Nineveh and Samaria, among other places. It was not until renaissance times that cherubim came to be depicted as chubby, winged children.²
¹ Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. Allen C. Myers, 1987, p. 204.
- The Ark (ghettoscorner.wordpress.com)
- His Presence is in the Present (iwanttobelieveingod.com)
- P is for Putto (grandmalin.wordpress.com)
- Anointing the Most Holy, the Ark of the Covenant (seashoremary.wordpress.com)
- The One Who Dwells Between The Cherubim (cracked-pot.com)
- Did you hear the one about Catholics “worshiping” statues? (patrickmadrid.com)
- Guardian Angels and Mentoring (djmarinizela.wordpress.com)
The terms contemplation and meditation are often used synonymously. In Christian mysticism, however, contemplation is regarded as a higher and nobler activity than mere meditation. As the scholar of religion, Evelyn Underhill, puts it:
Now meditation is a half-way house between thinking and contemplating: and as a discipline, it derives its chief value from this transitional character.¹
This definition represents a developmental approach. Instead of being ‘this or that,’ as so many fundamentalists and conservatives tend to depict the world, meditation leads to contemplation. Along these lines, many Christians hope that those who don’t understand the unique beauty of their contemplative experience would come to realize it with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Contemplation emphasizes and encourages an inner union of the individual with God, which, at some point, involves intercession. By way of contrast, meditation doesn’t necessarily imply the existence of the individual or God, as we find in most forms of Buddhism.
Some Buddhists, however, use the word contemplation within their own social and religious framework. Whether or not Buddhists entirely escape the cultural assumptions and obligations bound up within that religion, as so many claim to, seems highly debatable.
In Catholicism, contemplation (as intercession) is recognized as a type of work distinct from more visibly active works, such as teaching or ditch digging. However, not all Catholics – to include priests, monks and sisters – immediately recognize this type of work when present in saintly individuals. Some Catholics are arguably just too thick (or perverse) to see a holy person when they’re right in front of their eyes.
For instance, St. Faustina Kowalska is now hailed as a great contemplative saint within mainstream Catholicism. But in her Divine Mercy Diary she writes that she encountered harsh skepticism from some of her religious superiors who really should have known better.
Perhaps part of the difficulty in recognizing bona fide saints whose contemplation is, in fact, their main work has to do with cultural preconceptions and stereotypes about the idea of holiness. We tend to applaud people who make their good works highly visible. Imagine, for example, a churchgoer who’s having clandestine sex with her minister and cheating on her husband. As long as everyone thinks she’s a “good Christian,” organizing religious events and sitting on the boards of charities, she can fool almost everyone into thinking she’s a saint.
Aside from religious hypocrites who never try to improve their immoral behavior, as in the above scenario, many people expect a saint to be flawless and without sin. This too is misguided.
In addition, the psychologically injured or, perhaps, spiritually deceived among us might claim to be saints when they’re not. And then, if that’s not enough, there’s the reality of outright charlatans and hoaxers. Taken together, these pseudo and potential saints complicate the picture as to just what a saint is. At least, they do in the eyes of humanity.
At a Catholic Mass the following was written in the church bulletin. No mention is made of intercession, which arguably is crucial to the contemplative life. But this brief passage probably represents the average Catholic’s understanding of the idea of contemplation:
In contemplative prayer, we learn to create silence to allow God to transform us; to strive to create a peace which surpasses all understanding; and to heal the wounds of a lifetime.²
¹ Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism: A little book for normal people (London, Dent: 1914), p. 46.
² From “Contemplative Prayer Workshop” in Bulletin (September 5, 2010), St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, Canada.
- Krishna, Buddha and Christ: The same or different? (Part 5) (epages.wordpress.com)
- How to find a good spiritual director… (rcspiritualdirection.com)
- Meditation in the Church (pilgrimpassing.com)
- Most Buddhists don’t Meditate??? (responsiveuniverse.wordpress.com)
- A Jar of Ointment, the Marines, and Seeds………… (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
- Introduction to Christian Mysticism through Evening at Emory (anamchara.com)
- “Old-Fashioned” Sisters, “Newfangled” Nuns, Numbers and Habits – UPDATED (patheos.com)
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Dyophysitism is the religious doctrine, defined in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, declaring that Christ possesses a dual nature, one entirely Divine and the other entirely human.
The term has also been applied to Nestorian beliefs, although theologians continue to debate whether or not this is justified.
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Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was a Scottish Franciscan theologian, likely born in Duns Berwickshire.
Scotus challenged St. Thomas Aquinas on the relation between faith and reason. Aquinas argued that if one first believed, knowledge of God would follow. That is, reason (a form of conceptual knowledge) followed and supported faith (a set of specific beliefs). Therefore for Aquinas faith and reason were closely related.
Scotus, on the other hand, divorced faith from reason, arguing the two were irreconcilable. His quick mind earned him the title of Doctor Subtilis (the subtle doctor). Along these lines, he advocated the theological idea of something halfway between a mere concept and a reality, an idea of interest to contemporary sociologists (especially non-reductive postmoderns) and philosophers.
Like other realist philosophers of the period (such as Aquinas and Henry of Ghent) Scotus recognised the need for an intermediate distinction that was not merely conceptual, but not fully real or mind-dependent either. Scotus argued for an formal distinction (distinctio formalis a parte rei), which holds between entities which are inseparable and indistinct in reality, but whose definitions are not identical. For example, the personal properties of the Trinity are formally distinct from the Divine essence. Similarly, the distinction between the ‘thisness’ or haecceity of a thing is intermediate between a real and a conceptual distinction. There is also a formal distinction between the divine attributes and the powers of the soul.†
Scotus’ defense of the Papacy was ridiculed by Protestant reformers in the 16th century, contributing to the pun “dunce.”
- Blessed Duns Scotus: Defender of the Immaculate Conception (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Blessed Duns Scotus, faithful disciple of Saint Francis (insightscoop.typepad.com)
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Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500 CE) was a Syrian believed to be the author of a series of works synthesizing Christian and Platonic thought. Also called Pseudo Dionysus,¹ he’s best known for his Celestial Hierarchies, which classifies angels into three hierarchies, each consisting of three thrones.
According to this schema, the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones are closest to God. The next set of beings, not quite as close to God, are the Dominations, Virtues and Powers. The third set are furthest from God. They are the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The highest beings are entirely rapt in God’s glory, continually singing His praises, while the lower two levels interact with mankind.
Dionysius is also known for his distinction between the “affirmative” (kataphatic) and “negative” (apophatic) approaches to theology. The negative approach argues that God is above and beyond worldly, conceptual attempts to affirm or deny the existence of the divine.
Adherents of negative theology believe that God exists in God’s own light and may be approached only through “pure and spotless spirit and prayer.”² This entails getting rid of the worldly dross and hollow intellectualism that apparently obstructs true union between self and the divine.
Because negative theology depends on personal experience to subjectively know God, it can only conceptually say what God is not. Positive theology, however, claims that definite statements can be made about what God is.
Related Posts » Mysticism
¹ He’s sometimes confused with Dionysius the Areopagite, the New Testament figure converted by St. Paul and who later became the second bishop of Athens. The confusion arises over a series of works on mysticism, Corpus Areopagiticum, apparently signed by the author as “Dionysius.”
² Everett Feruson, ed. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. 1990, p. 633.
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