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Date:2015-06-03 14:50
Subject:Noted in 2012

Our timid new world of climate-change denial, entitlement liquidation, broken oceans, torture braggadocio, drone bombers, smarter phones and stupider humans is just being gamed out in the informational digestive tract of a godlike alien intelligence.

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Date:2015-05-10 19:59
Subject:Right and Wrong Sponsorship

The NGMG Sabazius has recently had occasion to issue a memorandum regarding sponsorship, in response to certain recent situations where there seems to have been a tendency to impose "standards" on seekers of Third Triad Degrees, requiring them to undertake particular studies and tasks not dictated by Grand Lodge. Hopefully everyone is clear about the procedural consequences. Local bodies and their officers cannot add further requirements for degree advancement beyond those dictated by USGL, and sponsors should not have their own "set tasks" to challenge applicants.

For my own part, I'd like to emphasize some of the reasoning behind this (long-standing) position of the government of the Order. Sponsors should not be empowered to create extrinsic ordeals for the Degrees, which phrase in other contexts might be glossed simply as "hazing." Even if such is done with noble intentions and to the educational benefit of the applicants, the sponsorship requirement is not intended to give sponsors the authority of gurus or preceptors! Most importantly, sponsorship itself should be viewed as the responsibility of the sponsor to be acquainted with the candidate, not for the candidate to "prove himself" to the sponsor.

Keep in mind that these degrees are not seals on attainment, but opportunities for attainment.

No one is obliged to sponsor anyone. It's totally okay to say, "I'd be more comfortable sponsoring you if you showed more interest in our basic ritual practices. Would you be willing to demonstrate X for me?" It is most certainly okay to say, "I won't consider sponsoring you until you pay me back the money I loaned you." Likewise, it's fine to say, "I can't sponsor you at this time, and if you want to advance now, you should ask someone else."

It's actually not okay -- even for an individual, rather than a local body -- to say, "Anyone who wants my sponsorship has to do X" when X isn't a USGL requirement for advancement. Of course, we can't, and don't particularly want to, keep people from privately considering certain accomplishments as bellwethers of worthiness. But these shouldn't be noised about as quasi-criteria for advancement, nor to distinguish the "more rigorous" sponsorship of Stan from the "laxer" sponsorship of Ollie.

It's also important to note that administrative officers of a local body tend to be sponsors of "first resort" for newcomers, and their individual approaches to these matters serve as models to the other members for sponsorship.

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Date:2015-02-10 13:42
Subject:Boney and the Drones

Today is the Greater Feast of J.F.C. Fuller (1878-1966). As the inventor of "artificial moonlight" and a pioneering proponent of mechanized warfare, Fuller is reported to have been acknowledged by Hitler at the latter's 50th birthday parade,

as "for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer." Afterwards Hitler asked, "I hope you were pleased with your children?" Fuller replied, "Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them." (Wikipedia, citing Max Boot, War Made New)
And what indeed would he have made of these?

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Date:2014-12-10 08:49
Subject:I can't breathe.

The US seems to have entered a phase--however brief--in which the mass-mediated punctuation of time (so-called "news") has shifted from stochastic mass shootings to the wantonly unpunished murder of unarmed black men by authorities (first poseur, then official). The most recent of these apparent blessings of police violence is the one for the killing of Eric Garner, whose last words have risen into motto status: "I can't breathe."

The agents of contempt and cruelty who have chosen to identify with killer cops (on the basis of race, property, authoritarian reflex, or whatever) have drawn extra attention to the three-word sentence by disputing it. Still, as honest viewers of the murder video can attest, Garner's words weigh against the innocence of the police who killed him, rather than excusing their assumption that he was fit to endure their unprovoked violence.

I recently read an article on the Great Orange Satan regarding the actual mechanisms of speaking while being unable to breathe. And it occurred to me as I read that there is substantial metaphoric depth to people around our country taking up the slogan "I can't breathe." It's as if the civic being of the US (in the rapacious, polluting stranglehold of the money power) can't manage to inhale the oxygen it needs to survive, only to use the remaining impoverished air in its lungs to cry out its distress.

Murdering unarmed "suspects," profiting from fraudulent foreclosures, stripping people of expectations of privacy, poisoning rivers and aquifers, liquidating productive industry, establishing programs of torture and rape, none of these things merit punishment or even a court case to determine guilt when they are conducted under the aegis of government or corporate authority. Meanwhile our country's penal systems imprison a greater percentage of our population than has been done for any society in known history.

I can't breathe.

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Date:2014-11-28 08:56
Subject:One of these Things is not like the others

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Date:2014-11-24 15:13
Subject:The Shrine - Paraphrase

There is a very old teaching story identified with the Bektashi Dervish order, about a young man whose father tended a famous shrine, where people would come from all the surrounding lands to pay their respects to the holy person who was interred there. In the normal course of events, the son could have anticipated gradually taking over the management of the shrine, and deriving a comfortable and honored life from its maintenance.

However, as he came to maturity, this fellow was taken with an irrepressible thirst for knowledge and wisdom, and he set off in quest thereof. He saddled a donkey and took few possessions on his journey. The years of his travels saw him sojourn through Egypt, Arabia, Persia, and India. Having entered the formidable mountains beyond India, his long-suffering mount fell ill and died. This donkey had been the man's only companion during long stretches of his wanderings, and he was devastated by the loss. He buried the noble animal there in the mountain wilderness, and remained, wordless and disconsolate, at the crude grave.

Other travelers on the mountain trail could not fail to notice the mysterious mourner, and supposed that he must have been the disciple of a sainted teacher to whose grave he was now attached. Word traveled, and soon visitors began to arrive expressly to visit this nameless saint's resting place. A wealthy visitor even exercised his benevolence by having a shrine raised on the site.

It came to pass that this mountain shrine became so famous that its reputation carried all the way back to the father of the mourner. This man, craving some adventure in his declining years, made the long trip to the east and discovered his son at the site. "My son! You must tell me of what has passed! How did you come to set down here?" The son told the story, and the father replied in amazement, "I can now tell you that the shrine where you were brought up as a boy was founded through a similar circumstance, when my own donkey died many years ago."

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Date:2014-10-16 14:11
Subject:The Feast of Ida Craddock

"Judge McKean so far forgot his oath of office (to administer justice impartially) as to hotly denounce my book as "blasphemous" (presumably because I am teaching the duty and the joy of communion with God in the marriage relation so as to render it sacramental)."

--Ida Craddock, October 16, 1902

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Date:2014-07-31 12:22
Subject:How I Bishop

In response to my claim to be "religious, not spiritual," an interlocutor recently said that what he liked least about his own religion (American Episcopalianism) was the church hierarchy, particularly that "The idea that a church or a bishop has any say over my beliefs or actions is against my belief." I observed to him that that's not my role as a bishop, for several reasons.

First: Our clergy don't "have any say over beliefs" of anyone. Our church does have a creed, but its function is primarily liturgical, and it serves to enumerate those things that our members are drawn to think about, rather than to tell them what to think. Even less do we presume (as clergy) to judge the actions of our members in their lives outside of worship.

Second: As a bishop, I primarily serve and instruct the clergy rather than the laity. My episcopal role is to provide a sort of ceremonial quality control, and to help clergy understand the (quite narrow!) limits of their magisterial authority, while leading them to a more profound and differentiated understanding of our mysteries.

Third: The episcopacy of the Episcopal Church, like that of Rome and the various Christian Orthodoxies, is founded in the notion of apostolic succession, transmitting the organizing authority of (supposedly) Jesus himself through a historical chain of supervisory relationships. My own episcopal authority is granted instead by gnostic extension, transmitting the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a contemporary connection with the Sovereign Sanctuary dedicated to our highest sacrament.

Fourth: There is no mechanism by which any of our clergy occupy a position of mediation between the congregant and his or her god. Instead, we offer ceremonies to illustrate by symbol and metaphor the process by which congregants may come to their own direct knowledge of the divine. Nor do we audit the consciences of our members; we encourage every individual to "test the spirits" for themselves.

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

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Date:2014-03-02 17:45
Subject:The Feast of Philip K. Dick

Remember: He's not dead; you are.

[Exegesis 48:934] Sin isn't an issue. The interbreeding of the Holy Wisdom with the human race is the issue.

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Date:2013-12-18 12:46
Subject:Book Review: Doctor Mirabilis by James Blish

Although first issued and mostly reprinted under science fiction imprints, Blish's Doctor Mirabilis is a quite conscientiously historical piece of fiction set in the thirteenth century. Although it's written in modern English, there are enough Middle Englishisms in it that it might seem like a chore to those who have no prior familiarity with the language of the period, and there are a few short passages of untranslated Latin. The book stands as part of an alleged "trilogy" (with one of the three parts most often published as two volumes) joined only by theme, rather than plot, character, or even style. This one is probably the strongest, though least-read, element of the set.

Blish's picture of his central character Roger Bacon is decidedly that of a scientist--not an inventor/technologist, but a researcher trying to understand the world, and to empirically verify or disprove the ideas about it that have been supplied to him in the hard-to-obtain "commmon" knowledge of his medieval university world. Even without the mass of clinical notions developed since the writing of this book in the 1960s, Blish also effectively presents Roger as a very high-functioning inhabitant of the "autism spectrum." He's passionate about knowledge, good with words and numbers, and terrible with people. The upshot of this condition is something nobler than an idot-savant: a tragic hero.

My previous reading on Roger Bacon had never suggested any connection to the Spiritual Franciscans and Joachimism, but Blish is certainly within his rights to imagine one, inasmuch as the conflict in within the Ordo Fratrum Minorum could not have been invisible to someone like Roger. The attraction of apocalyptic thinking for pioneering English men of science is well attested in such other cases as John Dee and Isaac Newton, and Blish doesn't go so far as to make Roger into a Fraticello, but simply one who staunchly credits the possible validity of Joachimist prophecy.

Another feature of Blish's Roger Bacon is his lifelong dialog with his personal genius, or "demonic self." This aspect, along with the attention to historical context and the emphasis on the spiritual value of knowledge about the world, makes the book an admirable piece of creative hagiography, especially for adherents of the Gnostic Catholic Church whose canon of saints includes the Doctor Mirabilis.

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Date:2013-10-16 10:32
Subject:Mysteries of Khem

two book reviews under this cutCollapse )

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Date:2013-10-16 10:08
Subject:better pics



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Date:2013-10-15 13:18
Subject:new household members

Merlin and Ida

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Date:2013-07-14 08:00
Subject:The Geometry of Art and Life

Today is the 48th anniversary of the death of Prince Matila Ghyka, a polymath writer and Romanian diplomat. I recently reviewed his one book that is probably most available to 21st-century readers of English.

The Geometry of Art and Life is a genuine math book, not a mere popularization of mathematical ideas. Despite the fact that the Dover reprint I read has only 174 pages, of which 80 are dedicated to illustrative plates, full appreciation requires a slow "read" of formulas, equations, and tables -- especially in the first half of the book, which treats the mathematical features of key proportions and the features of regular plane and solid figures. I was especially fascinated by the extensive discussion of Archimedean solids, which were new to me. The later chapters address the prevalence of such mathematical patterns in biological and artistic phenomena.

With respect to the "geometry of life" (which is treated before art in the book, contrary to the sequence in the title), this book shows its mid-20th-century age by being ignorant of fractal dimension and non-linear self-similarity. The mathematics of natural forms was revolutionized just one generation later than this book's issuance. The later discoveries of Benoit Mandelbrot and others were greatly facilitated by automated computing. Still, Ghyka's chapter on the topic is a concise summation of the earlier state of knowledge, and these concepts were not invalidated by fractal geometry.

The most significant portion of the "geometry of art" addresses the use of proportional canons in classical and gothic architecture, as rediscovered by modern scholars. Ghyka endorses a theory of the "transmission of geometrical symbols and plans" which implicates the ancient mysteries and asserts a continuity through medieval stonemasons to modern secret societies. There is no mention, however, of the further participation of isopsephy in the classical schemes. (For that, see David Fideler's Jesus Christ, Sun of God.) The final chapter discusses conscious and unconscious applications of "symphonic symmetry" in modern art.

I enjoyed this little volume hugely, and I recommend it to anyone who shares my interests in mathematics, morphogenesis, and mysticism.

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Date:2013-06-22 15:42
Subject:Religion Without Revelation

Today is the anniversary of the 1887 birth of Julian Huxley, whose book Religion Without Revelation I just finished reading this week.

Most of that volume is committed to elaborating a theory of religion that, while refreshingly sound in its definition of religion, was already rather dated in much of its details when biologist Huxley composed it in the 1950s. In particular, he is greatly beholden to J.G. Frazer and that scholar's evolutionary systematization of magic-religion-science (e.g. 53-60, 96). He has a rather naïve view of historical religions as being each "the creation of a single personality" (82), and he does not impress with his facile dismissal of historical accounts of demonic possession as being uniformly attributable to "mental disorders" (94).

Still, there is much to like in this book. Huxley apologizes for an autobiographical chapter that demonstrates appropriate scholarly "reflexivity" far ahead of its academic time. And his ultimate solution to the conflict between traditional religion and modern science is to call for the formulation of a new scientific religion, of the sort invoked by Aleister Crowley's illuminist agenda. The comparison might seem strange, given Huxley's derision for the world-view of ancient and historical magic, but that world-view is not shared by Crowley's non-supernaturalist Magick, which instead emphasizes exactly the sort of criteria that Huxley advances for "Evolutionary Humanism." The Nietzschean "transvaluation of values" (201) for which Huxley calls is to understand that "Man's most sacred duty, and at the same time his most glorious fulfillment ... includes the fullest realization of his own inherent possibilities" (194).

The mention of "sacred" in the previous quote points up the fact that Huxley is indeed calling for a new religion, a sacred humanism, not merely granting a franchise of quasi-religious prerogative to secular humanism. There must be ritual, symbol, and narrative to appeal to the perennial human appetite for sanctity, and an intellectual apparatus to connect these with the ordering of society and personal discipline. Being trained in the methods of natural research rather than those of sacerdotal art, Huxley admits to not being able to formulate all of this from the principles that he hopes will ground it.

The point on which Huxley and Crowley are at odds in their visions of scientific religion is evident in Huxley's title. Crowley insists on the revelation that Huxley says we should do without. Huxley sees the institutional certification of "revelation" as grounding "the unfortunate tendency of ... religion to become an unduly conservative force, [which] has often led to religious thought and practice being below the general level of its times" (179). Crowley, by contrast, calls for revelation to become both epidemic and idiosyncratic: each man and woman should strive for his or her own life-governing message. And even when Crowley asserts the universal jurisdiction of the Thelemic revelation communicated to him (in Liber AL vel Legis), he cautions that each adherent should be at full intellectual liberty in the interpretation of that oracle. While Huxley rejects "the so-called revelation of Scripture" (88), Crowley's own new scripture instructs that "All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little."

In connection with Huxley's categorical dismissal of divine revelation, he also claims that "The beliefs of theistic religions thus tend inevitably to be authoritarian, and also to be rigid and resistant to change" (185). There have been in fact many non-theistic authoritarians (e.g. Stalinists) as well as theistic antinomians (e.g. Ranters and Muggletonians). As I've remarked elsewhere, authoritarian religionists will naturally insist that antinomians be disqualified as irreligious, but there's no reason to let the authoritarians own the category. If Huxley was willing to contest their ownership of religion, I don't see why he shouldn't have joined me and Crowley in doing so for revelation as well.

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Date:2013-03-30 14:31
Subject:The Feast of Arthur Machen

Nice that it falls on "Holy Saturday" this year.

His soul went forth in the albed procession in its white and solemn order, the mystic dance that signifies rapture and a joy above all joys, and when he beheld Love slain and rise again victorious he knew that he witnessed, in a figure, the consummation of all things, the Bridal of all Bridals, the mystery that is beyond all mysteries, accomplished from the foundation of the world.

(from "A Fragment of Life")

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Date:2013-03-29 11:15
Subject:poparome stuff

Francis is pope just in time to get people upset about his implementation of a customary Maundy Thursday ceremony.

The obvious reason there's never been a Jesuit pope before is because of fear that the white pope might answer to the black. I think they're probably just pals now, and serious disagreement between them is unlikely. But ... Que es mas macho?

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Date:2013-03-19 21:31
Subject:Book Review: Inside the Occult

Inside the Occult is a 1975 reprint of the first of six volumes from Henry Steel Olcott's Old Diary Leaves, in which he provides a memoir of the Theosophical Society, for which he was a founder and the first president. Although Daniel Grotta-Kurska (better known as a Tolkein biographer) provides a new introduction for this reprint, Olcott's original foreword is omitted. This volume covers the period of 1874-1879, and might have been titled "H.P.B. and Me: Origins of the Theosophical Society."

Old Diary Leaves was written after the death of H.P. Blavatsky, the famous sybil who had been Olcott's chief collaborator in the creation of the Theosophical Society, as well as their most conspicuous link to the Masters, Adepts, or to use the later-standard Theosophical jargon, Mahatmas. Olcott and Blavatsky had had some disagreements in the period between the events described in this volume and her later death, but his memories of her here are highly complimentary. She is presented as noble in intention, if flawed in character, and certainly in possession of supernatural powers, although these are employed in strange mixtures with trickery for purposes that are inscrutable often even to herself. Olcott suggests that he and Blavatsky's other close associates at the time may have had their perceptions routinely altered by post-hypnotic suggestions of her devising.

Olcott discusses the manner in which H.P.B. served as a vehicle for a variety of adepts who were understood to have guided the creation of the Theosophical Society and the authoring of Isis Unveiled, that erratic compendium of lore that was such a touchstone for the occultism of its era. It is important to note that Blavatsky did not profess herself, nor was she viewed by Olcott as, a passive trance medium for spirits of the dead after the fashion of the Spiritualism of the time. Spiritualism had provided the setting for these two to encounter each other initially, but their own later Theosophical occultist reading of Spiritualist phenomena held such operations to be misunderstood and misrepresented by their advocates. The "spirit controls" were actually "elemental and elementary" spirits being given undeserved free rein among human dupes. Blavatsky's possession by her Masters was in contrast a conscious collaboration with still-living humans of supernatural puissance.

In a somewhat tentative passage, that is still one of the most striking in the book, Olcott goes so far as to hypothesize that the woman Helena Blavatsky may have actually died a violent death in Europe before he met her, and that during the entire period of their association, she was animated by the combined efforts of a group of adepts who were using her as their worldly instrument.

Not all of the book is about H.P.B., however. The essential narrative is that of the creation of the Theosophical Society, from its initial combinations of Spiritualist and occultist milieux and eventual addition of Eastern (i.e. south Asian) philosophies, up until the establishment of the British branch of the Society and the departure of Olcott and H.P.B. from New York to found the new headquarters in India. A full chapter gives an accounting of the "first cremation in America," as engineered by the founding Theosophists. And there is a great deal of anecdote and description regarding the New York apartment "Lamasery" where H.P.B. wrote Isis Unveiled, and where Olcott presided over their "little Bohemia" of Victorian esotericism. Also, Olcott discusses his own experiences of astral projection, encounters with adepts, and other phenomena from which he exempts H.P.B. as an actor.

There is just no getting around the Theosophical Society in the history of modern esoteric movements, and this firsthand account of its origins is both entertaining and revealing.

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Date:2013-02-26 08:39

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Date:2013-01-11 20:04
Subject:Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1)
(Part 2)

In Ronald Hutton's book The Triumph of the Moon (2000) he provided in one chapter what was at that time the most fair and thorough study of Crowley's influence on the origins of modern religious witchcraft. His chapter here does not merely rehash that material, but updates it with new findings and perspectives. Unlike Introvigne, Hutton does perceive the properly religious character of Crowley's 1904 revelation and consequent activities. However, he wants to dismiss the religious dimension of Thelema on the (somewhat justifiable) basis of the magical-rather-than-religious orientation of many latter-day Thelemites. It is an understandable position for him, in defense of his slogan touting Wicca as "the only fully formed religion that England has ever given the world." (In light of the patently and confessedly religious nature of O.T.O., I would suggest a different gambit to Hutton: The revelation in Cairo to the globe-trotting adventurer Crowley, the German roots of O.T.O., and the subsequent formation of the first durable Thelemic communities outside of Britain indicates that Thelema isn't so much a product of "England" as it is an inherently intercultural, cosmopolitan synthesis.) As in The Triumph of the Moon, Hutton is here focused on English witchcraft, especially as formulated by Gerald Gardner. He consequently gives no attention to the witchcrafts of American Jack Parsons and Australian Rosaleen Norton, both strongly influenced by Crowley themselves, and not via Gardner's work.

The case of Norton is taken up in a study by Keith Richmond, who does her full justice. Adding nothing substantial to the reader's knowledge of Crowley himself, Richmond instead illuminates Norton's regard for and understanding of Crowley. She seems to have been friendlier to Crowley's work in private than in public, which is understandable, in that she had no need to borrow notoriety!

Hugh Urban's chapter treats Crowley's possible influence on L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. Urban does some contextual violence to various Crowley quotes from Magick in Theory and Practice, but his readings may be consistent with the way Hubbard approached the material, so for immediate purposes there's not much point in arguing about them. The chapter's thesis is the conclusion that any dispassionate observer should reach: Hubbard was influenced by Crowley, but Scientology incorporates so many other elements -- some others of which have come to predominate while the ones rooted in magick have faded -- that it would be false to simply view it as some sort of crypto-Thelema.

The final chapter, contributed by Asbjorn Dyrendal, is an assessment of Crowley's influence on two of the seminal organizers of contemporary Satanism: Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino, of the Church of Satan and Temple of Set respectively. Although there is a little confusion of the distinct notions of "black magic" and the "Black Brotherhood" in Crowley's work, this examination is conducted with great care and accuracy on the whole, pointing out both debts to Crowley and explicit rejections by Satanists of some of his teachings. It is interesting to contrast the Satanists' criticisms of Crowley with Urban's appraisals of him, since they come to such different conclusions. (While I differ with their ultimate valuations, I think the Satanists are more accurate here.) Although Dyrendal touches briefly on LaVey's successor Peter Gilmore, he keeps the discussion very focused on the two Satanist founder figures, and it would have been interesting to bring in some of Don Webb's outspoken opinions on Crowley, for example (he wrote a short monograph called Aleister Crowley: The Fire and the Force), thus demonstrating Crowley's direct effects on the enduring Satanist milieu.

With a few minor exceptions, the level of scholarship in this volume is considerable. More than that, the papers tend to be lively and challenging reading. As Wouter Hanegraaff points out in his foreword, the caricature of Crowley as a quasi-medieval Doctor Faustus conceals a figure who is quintessentially modern, and to give the Beast his third dimension places him in the same space that the reader inhabits.

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