THE MEDIUMS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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Chapter XXIII
ON OBSESSION
Simple Obsession. — Fascination. — Subjugation. — Causes of Obsession. — Means of combating it.

237. Of the number of dangers which the practice of Spiritism presents, in the front rank must be placed Obsession; that is, the dominion some spirits know how to take over certain persons. It is never done except by inferior spirits, who seek to govern ; with good spirits we experience no restraint ; they advise, combat the influence of the bad, and if they are not listened to, withdraw. The bad, on the contrary, attach themselves to those whom they find exposed ; if they gain dominion over any one, they identify themselves with his own spirit, and lead him like a veritable child.

Obsession presents various characteristics, which it is very necessary to distinguish, and which result from the degree of restraint, and the nature of the effects it produces. The word obsession is, in some sort, a generic term, by which we designate this kind of phenomenon, whose principal varieties are, simple obsession, fascination, and subjugation.


Simple Obsession
238. Simple obsession is when a malicious spirit im poses himself on a medium, intermeddles, in spite of him, in the communications he receives, prevents him from communicating with other spirits, and substitutes himself for those invoked.
It is not obsession to be deceived by a lying spirit : the best medium is exposed to that, especially in the beginning, when he still lacks the necessary experience ; the same as, with us, the most honest people may be duped by rascals. One can be deceived with out being obsessed ; obsession is in the tenacity of the spirit, of whom you cannot get rid.
In simple obsession the medium knows very well that it is a deceiving spirit, and the spirit does not conceal himself : he disguises none of his bad inten tions and his desire to thwart. The medium easily recognizes the imposture, and as he is on his guard, is rarely deceived. This kind of obsession is simply dis agreeable, and has no other inconvenience than to oppose an obstacle to the communications that might be desired with serious spirits, or with those whom we love.
Physical Obsession may be ranked in this class ; those which consist in noisy and obstinate manifesta tions of certain spirits, who rap and make other noises spontaneously.

Fascination
239. Fascination has much graver consequences. It is an illusion produced by direct action of the spirit on the medium's thought, and which in some measure paralyzes his judgment in regard to communications. The fascinated medium does not believe himself to be deceived ; the spirit has the art to inspire him with a blind confidence, which prevents him from seeing the treachery, and from understanding " the absurdity of what he writes, even when it is patent to everybody's eyes : the illusion may even go so far as to make him see sublimity in the most ridiculous language. It would be an error to suppose that this kind of obses sion could come to only simple, ignorant persons, and those without judgment ; men the most acute, the most learned, the most intelligent in other relations, are not exempt, which proves that this aberration m is the effect of a foreign cause, to whose influence they are subjected. We have said that the results of fascination are much more grave ; for, by means of the illusion, the spirit leads the one he masters as he would lead a blind man, can make him accept the most absurd doctrines, the falsest theories, as being the sole expression of truth ; still more, he can incite him to the most ridiculous, compromising, and even dangerous proceedings.
One can easily comprehend the great difference existing between simple obsession and fascination ; as also that the spirits who produce these two effects must differ in character. In the first, the spirit is a being troublesome only by his tenacity, and of whom one is impatient to be rid. In the second, it is quite another thing: to gain such ends needs an adroit, subtle, and profoundly hypocritical spirit, for he can create the delusion, and make himself accepted only by means of the mask he wears and of a semblance of virtue ; the grand words, charity, humility, and love of God, are as letters of credence ; but through all he shows signs of inferiority, which one must be fascinated not to perceive. He also dreads all people who see too clearly ; his tactics, therefore, are, almost always, to inspire his interpreter to withdraw from every one who could open his eyes : by this means, avoiding all contradiction, he is sure of being always right.

Subjugation
240. Subjugation is a bond that paralyzes the will of him who is subjected to it, and makes him act in spite of himself. In a word, it is a real yoke.
Subjugation may be moral or corporeal. In the first case, the subjugated is instigated to do things often absurd and compromising; which he is deluded into believing sensible : it is a kind of fascination. In the second case, the spirit acts on the material organs, and provokes involuntary movements. It shows itself in the writing medium by an incessant desire to write, even at the most inopportune moments. We have seen those who, in default of pen or pencil, would write with the finger, wherever they might be, even in the streets, on the doors and walls.
Corporeal subjugation sometimes goes further ; it may urge to the most ridiculous acts. We knew a man, neither young nor handsome, under the domin ion of an obsession of this nature, constrained by an irresistible force to kneel to a young girl whom he had never before seen, and ask her in marriage. At other times, he felt on his back and loins a violent pressure, which forced him, in spite of his opposing will, to kneel and kiss the ground in public and crowded places. This man passed for crazy among his friends, but we were convinced he was not at all so ; for he was per fectly Conscious of the ridicule of which he was unwill ingly the cause, and suffered horribly from it.
241. Formerly the name of possession was given to this dominion exercised by evil spirits, when their influence extended to the aberration of the faculties. Possession, for us, would be synonymous with subju- > gation. We have two reasons for not adopting this term ; the first, that it implies beings created for, and perpetually devoted to, evil, while really there are only beings, more or less imperfect, who can all be made better ; the second, that it also implies the idea of taking possession of the body by a foreign spirit — a sort of cohabitation ; while really there is only con straint. The word subjugation perfectly renders the thought. Thus, for us, there are no possessed, in the ordinary sense of the word ; there are only obsessed, subjugated, and fascinated.

Causes of Obsession
242. Obsession, as we have said, is one of the great est dangers of mediumship ; it is also one of the most frequent : so we cannot take too much pains to com bat it ; for, over and above the personal inconveniences that may result, it is an absolute obstacle to the good ness and truth of communications. Obsession, to whatever degree it may be carried, being always the effect of a restraint, and this restraint never being exercised by a good spirit, the result is, that every communication given by an obsessed medium is of a suspicious origin, and merits no confidence. If some times good is found in them, take the good, but reject all that is even doubtful.
243. Obsession may be known by the following characteristics : First. Persistence of a spirit in communicating, bon gre, mal gr6, by writing, hearing, typtology, &c, and in opposing whatever other spirits may do.
Second. Illusion, which, notwithstanding the intelligence of the medium, prevents him from seeing the falsity and absurdity of the communications he receives.
Third. Belief in the infallibility and absolute iden tity of the spirits who communicate, and who, under respected and venerated names, say false or absurd things.
Fourth. Confidence of the medium in the eulogiurns the spirits who communicate with him bestow upon him.
Fifth. A disposition to withdraw from persons who may give him useful advice.
Sixth. Taking in ill part all criticisms on the sub ject of the communications he receives.
Seventh. An incessant and inopportune desire to write.
Eighth. Any physical restraint whatever against the will, and being forced to act or speak in spite of one's self.
Ninth. Persistent noises and disturbances about one, and of which one is the cause, or object.
244. In the face of this danger of obsession it may be asked if it is not a pity to be a medium ; is it not this faculty that induces it, and is it not a proof of the inexpediency of spirit communications ? Our an swer is easy, and we beg it may be carefully con sidered. .
Neither mediums nor spiritists created the spirits, but the spirits have been the cause of there being spiritists and mediums : spirits being only the souls of men, there have been spirits as long as there have been men ; and, consequently, they have, in all time, exercised their salutary or pernicious influence on humanity. The medianimic faculty is for them only a means of manifesting themselves ; in default of this faculty, they do it in a thousand other ways, more or less occult. It would be an error to believe that spir its exercise their influence only by written or verbal communications ; their influence is incessant, and those who do not concern themselves about spirits, or who do not even believe in them, are as exposed to it as others, and more than others, because they have no counterpoise. Mediumship is for the spirit a means of making himself known ; if he is bad he always betrays himself, however hypocritical he may be ; thus it may be said that mediumship allows one to see his enemy face to face, if it may be so expressed, and to fight him with his own weapons ; without this faculty he acts in the dark, and, under cover of his invisibility, can do, and does, much harm. To how many actions have not people been urged, to their misfortune, and which they might have avoided had they possessed the means of being enlightened ! The incredulous know not how truly they speak, when they say of a man who obstinately goes astray, " It is his evil genius urging him on to his destruction." Thus the knowledge of Spiritism, far from giving dominion to bad spirits, must, sooner or later, when it shall be widely spread, result in the destruction of that domination by giving to every one the means of being on his guard against their suggestions, and then he who yields will have no one to blame but himself.
General rule : whoever has bad spirit communica tions, written or verbal, is under an evil influence ; this influence is exercised on him, whether he writes or whether he does not write ; that is; whether he be a medium or not ; whether he believe or disbelieve. Writing gives a person the means of knowing the nature of the spirits who act on him, and of fighting against them if they are evil, which can be done with much greater success when the motive which makes them act is known. If he is too much blinded to understand it, others can open his eyes. To recapitulate : the danger is not so much in Spir itism itself, since it can, on the contrary, serve as a rontrolling influence, and save from him who incessantly pursues us against our will ; it is in the haughty propensity of some mediums to believe too easily that they are the exclusive instruments of superior spirits, and in the kind of fascination that prevents them from understanding the foolish things of which they are the interpreters. Those, even, who are not mediums, may be exposed to it. Let us make a comparison. A man has a secret enemy, who disseminates all kinds of calumnious reports that the blackest wickedness can invent ; he sees his fortune lost, his friends alienated, his internal happiness destroyed ; not being able to discover the hand that strikes him, he cannot defend himself, and yields ; but one day this secret enemy writes to him, and, in spite of his strategy, betrays himself. Now he faces the discovered foe, can put him to confusion, and recover himself. Such is the r6le of the evil spirits, whom Spiritism makes it possi ble to know and unmask.
245. The motives of the obsession vary according to the nature of the spirit ; sometimes it is a vengeance he exercises on an individual, against whom he has cause of complaint, either during his life or in another existence ; often, also, he has no other reason than the desire of doing evil ; as he suffers, he wishes to make others suffer ; he finds a kind of joy in tormenting and vexing them ; also the impatience they exhibit excites him, because such is his object, while, by being patient, we weary him ; in becoming irritated, and showing vexation, we do exactly what he wishes. These spirits sometimes act from hatred and jealousy of good ; this is why they cast their malicious eyes on the best people. One of them sticks like a leech to an honorable family of our acquaintance, whom he has not even the satisfaction of deceiving ; interrogated as to his motive for attacking good people, instead of evil men like himself, he answered, " They give me no cause for envy!' Others are guided by a sentiment of cow ardice, which leads them to profit by the moral weak ness of those who they know are incapable of resist ing them. One of these, who subjugated a young man of very limited intellect, interrogated as to the motives of his choice, answered, " I have a very great need of tormenting some one: a sensible person would repulse me. I attach myself to an idiot, who has no means of opposing me"
246. There are obsessing spirits without malice, who even have some good, but who have the pride of false knowledge ; they have their own ideas, their systems of- the sciences, social economy, morality, religion, philosophy ; they want their opinion to prevail, and, for that purpose, seek mediums credulous enough to accept them .wkh closed eyes, and whom they fascinate to prevent them from discerning the true from the false. They are the more dangerous because sophisms cost them nothing, and they can gain credit for the most ridiculous extravagances : as they know the pres tige of great names, they do not scruple to borrow the most respected, not even recoiling before the sacrilege of calling themselves Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, or a venerated saint. They seek to dazzle by pompous language, more pretentious than profound, bristling with technical terms, and adorned with the grand words of charity and morality ; they are careful not to give bad advice, because they know they will be re jected : so those whose confidence they abuse defend them against every one, saying, " You can see they say nothing wrong." But morality is to them but a passport ; it is the least of their care ; what they want is to govern, and to impose on others their ideas, how ever unreasonable they may be.
247. Spirits who have a system to advance are gen erally writers : this is why they look for mediums who write with facility, and of whom they try to make docile instruments, fascinating them that they may be enthusiasts. They are almost always verbose, very prolix, endeavoring to make up in quantity what they lack in quality. They please themselves by dictating^ to their interpreters voluminous writings, crude and often nearly unintelligible, which, happily, it is almost impossible for the masses to read. The really superior spirits are sober of speech ; they say much in few words: so this prodigious fecundity should always be suspected.
One cannot be too circumspect when the question arises of publishing such writings : the Utopianisms and eccentricities in which they abound produce a lamentable impression on novices, by giving them a false idea of Spiritism, without counting the fact that they are arms furnished to its enemies to turn it into ridicule. Among these publications are those which, without being evil, and without evincing obsession, may yet be regarded as imprudent, unseasonable, or maladroit.
248. It frequently happens that a medium can com municate only with one single spirit, who attaches himself to him, and answers for those who are called by his mediation. This is not always an obsession, for it may pertain to a certain want of flexibility in the medium, and to a special affinity on his part for such or such a spirit. There is no obsession, properly called, except when a spirit imposes himself on a medium, and forces away others by his will ; this is never the case with a good spirit. Usually the spirit who makes himself master of a medium with the view of governing him, does not suffer the critical examina tion of his communications ; when he sees they are not accepted, and that they are discussed, he does not retire, but he inspires the medium with the thought of isolating himself ; often he even commands him to do so. Every medium who is wounded by the criticism of the communications he obtains, is the echo of the spirit who governs him, and this spirit cannot be good if he inspires an illogical thought — that of refus ing examination. The isolation of the medium is always a lamentable thing for him, because then he has no critic for his communications. Not only should he gain insight by the advice of others, but it is ne cessary for him to study all kinds of communications in order to compare them ; in shutting himself up in those he himself obtains, however good they may appear to him, he is exposed to delusion as to their value, without reckoning that he cannot know every thing, and that they nearly always run in the same groove. (No. 192, Exclusive Mediums)

Means of combating it
249. The means of combating obsession vary accord ing to the character it takes. The danger does not really exist for any thoroughly convinced medium to be brought into relations with a lying spirit, as in simple obsession ; it is only a disagreeable thing for him.
But precisely because it is disagreeable to him, is a reason the more for the spirit to follow him persis tently to vex him. There are two essential things to do in such case : to prove to the spirit that one is not his dupe, and that it is impossible to deceive us ; secondly tire his patience by showing ourself more patient than he ; if he is thoroughly convinced that he will lose his time, he will end by retiring, as importunate persons . do when we do not listen to them. But that does not always suffice, and it may be long, for some of them are very tenacious, and months and years are but little to them. The medium should make a fervent appeal to his good angel, also to the good spirits who are sympathetic to him, and beg them to assist him. As for the obsessing spirit, however bad he may be, he should be treated with firmness, but with kindness, vanquishing him by good in praying for him. If he is really perverse, he will at first mock at it ; but in perseveringly moralizing with him, he will end by amending ; it is a conversion to under take, a task often painful, ungrateful, even discoura ging, but whose merit is in the difficulty, and which, if well accomplished, always gives the satisfaction of having fulfilled a duty of charity, and often that of having led a lost soul into the good road.
It is equally expedient to break off all written com munication as soon as it is known to come from a bad spirit, who will not listen to reason, in order not to give him the pleasure of being listened to. In some cases, even, it might be necessary to cease writing for a time ; it must be regulated according to circum stances. But if the writing medium can avoid these discourses by abstaining from writing, it is not the same with the hearing medium, whom the obsessing spirit sometimes pursues every instant with his gross and obscene remarks, and who has not even the resource of closing his ears. There are persons who are amused by the frivolous language of these spirits, whom they encourage and urge by laughing at their follies, instead of imposing silence on them, and trying to teach them better. Our advice does not apply to those who will drown themselves.
250. There is, then, only disgust, and not danger, for any medium who will not allow himself to be abused, because he cannot be deceived ; it is entirely other wise with fascination, for then the dominion the spirit assumes over him whom he invades has no bounds. The only thing to do with him is to try to convince him he is deceived, and to lead his obsession to a case of simple obsession ; but it is not always easy, if it is not even sometimes impossible. The ascendency of the spirit may be such that he makes the one fascinat ed deaf to every kind of reasoning, and, when the spirit commits some gross scientific heresy, makes him go so far as to doubt if science itself is not wrong. As we have said, he generally takes advice in very ill part ; criticism annoys, irritates him, and makes him dislike those who do not partake his admiration. To suspect his' spirit is almost a profanation in his eyes, and that is all the spirit asks, for what he wants is, that we should bend before his word. One of them exercised on a person of our acquaintance a most extraordinary fascination ; we invoked him, and after some romancing, seeing that he could not delude us as to his identity, he ended by confessing that he was not the one whose name he had taken. Having asked why he so deceived this person, he answered in these words, which very clearly expresses the character of spirits of this kind : " I lookedfor a man I could lead ; I havefound him, and here I stay'.' " But if we should make him see clearly, he will drive you away." " We'll see about that ! " As there is none more blind than he who will not see, when we find the uselessness of every attempt to open the eyes of the fascinated, the best thing to do is, to leave him to his delusions. A patient cannot be cured who persists in keeping his disease, and even delights in it.
251. Corporeal subjugation often takes from the obsessed the energy necessary to rule the bad spirit ; for this reason the intervention of a thjrd person is needed, acting either by magnetism or by his strength of will. In default of any assistance from the ob sessed, this person should take the ascendency over the spirit ', but as this ascendency can only be moral, it is given only to a being morally superior'to the spirit to exercise it, and his power will be as much greater as his moral superiority is greater, for he commands the spirit who is forced to bend before him ; this is why Jesus had such great power to drive out what were then called demons, that is, bad obsessing spirits.
We can give here only general advice, for there is no material process, no formula, nor any sacramental word that has the power to drive away obsessing spirits. Sometimes the obsessed lacks fluidic force ; in such case the magnetic action of a good magnetizer might be a very useful help. Then it is always well to take, by a sure medium, the advice of a superior spirit, or of his guardian angel.
252. The moral imperfections of the obsessed are often an obstacle to his deliverance. Here is a re markable example, which may serve as instruction to every one : —
Several sisters were, for a number of years, victims of very disagreeable depredations. Their clothing was constantly thrown about in every corner of the house, and even upon the roof, cut, torn, and riddled with holes, whatever care they might take to lock it up. These ladies, brought up in a small provincial locality, had never heard of Spiritism. Their first thought, naturally, was, that they were the butt of some joker's tricks ; but the persistence and their precau tions destroyed that idea. It was not until a long time after, that, on some indications, they thought they ought to address us to know the cause of the trouble, and the means to remedy it, if possible. The cause was not doubtful ; the remedy was more difficult. The spirit who manifested himself by these acts was evidently malicious. He showed himself, in the invo cation, of great perversity, and inaccessible to every good sentiment. Prayer seemed, nevertheless, to exer cise a salutary influence ; but after a short respite, the depredations recommenced. The advice of a superior spirit on this subject is here given.
" What these ladies had better do is, to pray their spirit protectors not to abandon them ; and I have no better advice to give them than to look into their con sciences, and confess to themselves, and examine if they have always practiced the love of the neighbor and charity ; I do not mean the charity that gives and distributes, but the charity of the tongue ; for unhappily they know not how to control theirs, and do not justify, by their pious acts, their desire of being delivered from him who torments them. They like too well to slander their neighbor, and the spirit who obsesses them is taking his revenge, for he was their drudge during his life. They have only to search their memory, and they will soon see with whom they have to do.
"At the same time, if they become better, their guardian angels will return to them, and their pres ence will suffice to drive away the bad spirit, who could not have troubled one of them, but that her guardian angel had withdrawn to a distance from her on account of some reprehensible acts or bad thoughts. What they must do is, to pray fervently for those who suffer, and to practice the virtues enjoined by God to each one according to his condition.
" On our observing that these words seemed to us a little severe, and that they ought to be somewhat softened before transmitting them, the spirit added, —
" I ought to say what I have said, and as I have said it, because the persons in question have the habit of believing they do no harm with the tongue, while they do a great deal. We must, therefore, strike their minds in such a way that it will be a serious warning."
From this may be drawn instruction of great signi fication —that moral imperfections give a footing to obsessing spirits, and that the surest means of ridding one's self of them is to attract the good by well doing. The good spirits have, without doubt, more power than the bad, and their will is sufficient to remove these last ; but they assist only those who second them by the efforts they make to become better; otherwise they withdraw, and leave the field free to the bad spirits, who thus become, in some cases, instru ments of punishment, for the good leave them to act for this purpose.
253. Yet we should beware of attributing to the direct action of the spirits all the annoyances that may arise : these annoyances are often the consequence of negligence or improvidence. A planter wrote to us, that for twelve years all sorts of misfortunes had befallen his animals. Sometimes his cows died, or would give no milk ; sometimes the trouble was with the horses ; again his sheep or his pigs. He hired new people, but without remedying the evil, no more than the masses he had said, or the exorcisms he had made. Then, according to country prejudice, he was per suaded some one had cast an evil eye on his animals Believing, no doubt, that we were endowed with greater power than the priest of his village, he sent to ask our advice. We obtained the following answer : —
" The mortality or the sickness of this man's beasts is, because his stables are infected, and that he does not have them repaired because it costs."
254. We close this chapter with the answers given by the spirits to some questions supporting what we have said.
1. " Why cannot certain mediums rid themselves of bad spirits who are with them, and how is it that the good spirits they call are not powerful enough to remove the bad spirits, and communicate directly ? "
" It is not power that is wanting to the good spirits, it is often the medium who is not strong enough to second them ; his nature adapts itself better to certain relations, or rather his fluid identifies itself sooner with one spirit than with another ; this ig what gives such great sway to those who wish to take advantage of it."
2. " Nevertheless, it seems to us that there are very many meritorious persons, of irreproachable morality, who yet are prevented from communicating with good spirits."
" It is a trial ; and, besides, who can tell if the heart is not stained with an evil thought ? if pride does not a little govern the appearance of goodness ? These trials, by showing to the obsessed his weakness, should turn him to humility.
" Is there any one on the earth who can say he is perfect ? and he who has all the appearances of virtue may still have hidden defects, an old leaven of imper fection. Thus, for instance, you say of him who does no wrong, who is loyal in his social relations, This is a true and worthy man : but do you know if his good qualities are not tarnished by pride ; if there is not within him a fund of egotism ; if he is not avaricious, jealous, spiteful, slanderous, and a hundred other things you do not perceive, because your relations with him have not developed them ? The most powerful means of striving against the influence of bad spirits is to make yourself as much as possible like the good."
3. " Is the obsession which prevents a medium's obtaining the communications he desires always a sign of unworthiness on his part ? "
" I did not say it was a sign of unworthiness, but that an obstacle might be there to oppose certain com munications ; it is to remove the obstacle within him that all attention should be given ; without that all his prayers, his supplications, will be of no avail. It is not enough for a sick person to say to his doctor, Give me health ; I want to be well : the doctor can do nothing if the patient does not do what is necessary."
4. " Would the privation, then, be a kind of pun ishment ? "
" In some cases, this may be a real punishment, as the possibility of communicating with them is a recom pense you should endeavor to deserve." (See Loss and Suspension of Mediumship, No. 220.)
5. " Cannot the influence of bad spirits be also over come by giving them moral instruction ? "
" Yes ; this is what no one does, but it is what should not be neglected ; for it is often a task given to you, and one that you should accomplish charitably and religiously. By wise counsel they may be incited to repentance, and their advancement hastened."
" How can a man have more influence in this respect than the spirits themselves ? "
"The perverse spirits are allied rather to men whom they seek to torment, than to spirits from whom they withdraw as far as possible. In this' approach to man, when they find one who talks to them trying to im prove their morals, they do not listen at first ; they laugh at it ; then, if you know how to take them, they will eventually allow themselves to be affected. The elevated spirits can speak to them only in the name of God, and that frightens them. Man, certainly, has not more power than the superior spirits, but his language is better identified with their nature, and in seeing the ascendency he can exercise over the inferior spirits, he comprehends better the solidarity existing between the heavens and the earth.
"Then, too, the ascendency that man can exercise over the spirits is by reason of his moral superiority. He cannot master the superior spirits, nor even those who, without being superior, are good and benevolent, but he can master the spirits who are morally inferior to him."
6. " Can corporeal subjugation carried to a certain length induce insanity ? "
" Yes ; a kind of insanity whose cause is unknown to the world, but which has no relation to ordinary insanity. Among those treated as insane, there are many who are only subjugated ; a moral treatment is necessary for them, while they make them really insane by their corporeal treatments. When doctors understand Spiritism, they will know how to make a distinction, and will cure more patients than they are now curing with their shower-baths." (221.)
7. "What may be thought of those who, seeing danger in Spiritism, think to prevent it by interdicting spirit communications ? "
" If they can prevent some persons from communi cating with spirits, they cannot prevent the sponta neous manifestations made to these same persons, for they cannot suppress the spirits, nor hinder their secret influence. It is like children shutting their eyes and thinking no one can see them. It would be folly to suppress a thing that offers great advantages because some imprudent persons might abuse it ; the way to prevent these abuses is, on the contrary, to search the thing to the bottom."

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