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November 04, 2018


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Light can be considered as single unit or individual photons. Similarly, divine light and sound is one energy when it expresses in human body illusion of separate self is created.
Ref : Swami Kadmanand speaking at Spircon 2010 , inter faith event on light and sound meditation by Radha Swami Sect Dayal Bagh Agra

Quote Brian: " You're the space in which everything appears. Everything is already happening. All you are is consciousness and its contents. ---- These three sentences are pretty much the gist of Harding's book. "

You're right, that pretty much sums up all of his message. And that message is both heart-stoppingly profound; and at the same time, once you've internalized that message, once you've internalized the idea of no-self, "perfectly obvious" (as you say) and pedestrian.

Douglas Harding is an old favorite of mine. I suppose one of those few people (perhaps the only one!) whom I've read way before you, Brian! :-)

They've got a nifty website going, called "The Headless Way" (at www.headless.org), that describes a good many DIY "experiments", as well as some nice discussions and essays.

One time I was watching this video and I noticed that video camera was nowhere to be found in the video. Where the video camera should have been was just a vast emptiness. It was a breathtaking revelation and I'll never be the same.

Harding: "All you are is consciousness and its contents."
Brian: "his insight also can be framed as a realization that there is no self..."

If I am consciousness, then consciousness certainly seems like a good candidate for the self. Proclaiming no-self would be tantamount to proclaim no-consciousness, or no-conscious-being.

Hi Brian
You wrote
"In the updated part of his book, Harding does speak about some neuroscientific truths: there is no evidence for an independent "self" within the brain/mind, nor does it appear that we humans possess free will, which seemingly would require the aforementioned self that doesn't exist. "

These two points at not quite as you present.

After decades of investigation, researchers have failed to locate the center of conscious thought in any part of the physical brain.

It may not be in the brain! It can't be located.

There are theories that apriori assume all thinking must take place in the brain, and they conjecture that the complex network of interaction must in totality be the center of thought. That is a conceptual model not a discovery yet.

And as pointed out, the brain not only receives emf signals, it generates them. And these signals actually have been found to regulate some brain activity.

The possibility of something extra-brain, or some other connection via emf to this world could very much be part of our center of thought. It is premature to claim either way.

Secondly, the notion of an independent self could very easily be explained as simply another level of self - awareness. Just as a wakeful person might view their sleeping state with a degree of independence and objectivity, so a persion in a heightened state (ex, Advanced meditation) might view their normal waking state from a completely different and more objective perspective. They have a higher degree of freedom because they are seeing themselves and the world around them from a larger, different view and, just like the waking state, have much greater control and freedom of action.

Spence, you're spouting religious dogma. There's no evidence for anything supernatural, yet you say the self may not be in the brain. Sure, it could be on the moon. It could be in a black hole. It could be under our sofa.

"Could be" is a word much loved by religious believers such as yourself. You fail to recognize the fact that I repeat over and over, citing philosophers and practitioners of science: the burden of proof is on someone making a claim to show the evidence for it.

I've read many neuroscientific books that say there is no place in the brain where an enduring "self" is located. I've read zero neuroscientific books that say the "self" could be outside the brain.

Regarding your last point, hopefully you realize that Buddhists are some of the most experienced meditators in the world, and Buddhism denies that the "self" exists. So that casts a lot of cold water on your argument. You look at the world through a Sant Mat perspective. There are much wider windows to view through, and I choose to look through them.

I'm calling the bluff of atheists again, these atheists are playing diversion tactics to divert the attention of innocent laymen. I dare these so called atheists to answer this question. Electrons have been revolving in atom since billions of years, Are these atheists putting any energy within the atom for the same ?????? Atheists, cunning atheists, their fate is sealed and their days are numbered.

BTW Brian, I've downloaded and am reading Return To The One. It's excellent. I don't agree with every point but the expression is stunning. It's a masterwork.

You wrote there
"A person splits themselves into two when he professes beliefs that are decidedly at odds with his behavior ; that is, when his philosophy differs significantly from his life. To become while, he had to find a way to make his philosophical thoughts and his worldly experience consonant. "

" Materialists obviously find this easier to do than people who progress spiritual beliefs. Everyday experience of the physical world confirms the reality of material existence, so a materialistic philosophy is appealingly honesty : I experience matter and I believe in matter. There is no conflict here between inner belief and outer reality. "

" A spiritually-inclined person, in the other hand, has thoughts rubbing through his head that are at cross - purpose to the sights, sounds, and other impressions entering his consiousness through the senses. "

But Brian, what about the one whose sensory perceptual input continues to include the spirit?

For that person this reality is just an extension and part of that one, like a visit to an aquarium. All the fish are under water. This person looks at the fish. The fish see them. And they might have a conversation.

The only conflict is that the person watching the fish knows they aren't a fish. Though they also know they are just another person, like the fish.

Vinny, keep it up. Every comment you write makes me more proud to be an atheist.

You do realize that the universe started with an immense store of energy at the moment of the big bang, right? And that this energy continues to power the cosmos, right? Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So like the cosmos itself, it appears to be eternal.

Mind-blowing, right? Yet this is how science views reality. There's no need for religion or mysticism to be blown away by the astounding fact of existence, and the related fact that our immense universe exists.

Consciousness:- the last bastion of those who want to believe that we are something more than just body and brain. Brain study scientists are not under the illusion of looking for a centre of consciousness, there studies are to understand how the brain generates the conscious experience. As we discussed on recent blogs resulting from 'The Great Illusion' by Paul Singh, there is only the conscious organism no separate thing called conscious'ness'.

From neurologist Kevin Nelson – 'The God Impulse'. “No brainstem, no consciousness. You may not be dead, but if not, you will be in an irreversible coma.”.

And, Dick Swaab neuroscientist – We Are Our Brains.“Consciousness can be seen as an emergent characteristic generated by the joint functioning of the enormous network of nerve cells”.

Once we see through this myth and it is seen that there is no separate entity dwelling in our brain/bodies nor outside of us magically influencing us, then the other myths of a separate 'self' and 'mind' can drop away – along with other dualistic beliefs.

As well as being intellectual satisfied that there is 'no-self', there is the possibility that the temporarily loss of this sense can be experienced. Nothing supernatural about it, but the brain can register this – a similar experience that Harding had when in the Himalayas. He also mentioned the vast emptiness which is akin to the Zen Buddhist's no-self i.e. no thing having an inherent separate existence – only what we invest 'things' with.

There is a strong fear with us that experiencing (or even believing) that there is no self must take away everything that we are, but where Harding talks of being free from 'me' and Brian notes that “his revelation was of the perfectly obvious”, indicates that such freeing opens one up to the obvious and sublime nature of everything we are and experience. Where we try to make the spiritual something other than the physical (and vice versa) we loose touch with the 'what is' of this life and thought then has the problem of inventing theory's and beliefs to explain the perfectly obvious.

Turan, great comment. You understand this whole "no self" thing well, and you've done some good reading in neuroscience. I wish other commenters on this blog were as nicely scientifically informed.

Like you said, the experience of no-self isn't anything special. It is simply the reality that is veiled from us by the way the brain has evolved to operate. All species strive to survive (anybody who tries to swat a fly will realize this). But likely we humans are alone in not only having that striving, but also a mind that can anticipate our own death before a threat actually appears.

So our feeling that we have a "self" may have survival value. Or it might simply be an artifact of our evolved neo-cortex, which not only can think, but can also think about our thinking. Plus have feelings about our feelings, etc. As I've noted before, like Russian dolls, we appear to be "strange loops" of consciousness.

There's nothing mystical or supernatural about this. It is just reality. And at times -- such as in Harding's case -- the illusion of self falls away and we realize there is nobody having an experience. There is just experience, which usually includes an experience of being, or having, a self.

Turan: "And, Dick Swaab neuroscientist – We Are Our Brains.“Consciousness can be seen as an emergent characteristic generated by the joint functioning of the enormous network of nerve cells”.

The idea that the brain generates consciousness actually creates a separate category for it as being something in addition to the brain, even if still entirely dependent on it. So, it actually contravenes the thesis that "we are our brains."

I don't think that function of being conscious is produced by the brain. When the conditions are right, it IS the brain. Nothing is generated. It may seem a subtle distinction, but it isn't.

Turan: "that such freeing opens one up to the obvious and sublime nature of everything we are and experience.."

There is absolutely nothing sublime about it. Nothing at all.

Turan: "Consciousness:- the last bastion of those who want to believe that we are something more than just body and brain."

True, but answer me this. Why would a robot want to believe that? Why would the robot care? Why does the robot want to feel free? I admit, this is strange to me.

It's a strange thing that ithe robot dreamed up something that has no correspondence to reality and then went on to desire it.

Normally imagination involves a reworking of already existing things (the jackalope is imaginary but both the jack rabbit and antelope antlers do exist, just not together.) An illusion is the false appearance of something that exists (the mirage looks like a pool of water but is not, but pools of water exist which is why we got fooled.)

Freedom doesn't belong to either category. It has absolutely no correspondence to reality.
Usually something is known, and defined, by its opposite. We talk about being not-free, yet compared to what? Freedom? It doesn't even exist.

"Our brain is not a “stand alone” information processing organ: it acts as a central part of our integral nervous system with recurrent information exchange with the entire organism and the cosmos."

This is from the Neuroquantology quarterly.

" NeuroQuantology© is an interdisciplinary journal that crosses the boundaries of neuroscience and physics. The rapidly accumulating empirical data in the neuroscience, cognitive science and technical domains will be made available to theorists in order to stimulate a synthesis or provoke new models. NeuroQuantology is published quarterly. "

"Neuropsychological research on the neural basis of behaviour generally posits that brain mechanisms
will ultimately suffice to explain all psychologically described phenomena. This assumption stems
from the idea that the brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal
mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of
these elements. Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g. ‘feeling’,
‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors. This theoretical restriction is
motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally
incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century.


Fun the national institute of Health / national cents for biotechnology information.

"Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g. ‘feeling’,
‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors. This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century."

Interesting. I have argued at length about experience being influential and that the function of being-conscious is causal by virtue of its very occurence.

Your thinking supports the quantum theories of brain functioning.

In this article the three big problems within classic neuroscience are presented along with a quantum solution that links us in an ever more subtle way to the creation.

The brain is not hard wired as an independent functioning entity.

The article notes that the brain doesn't actually work quickly enough biochemically for us to have conscious control over our actions. Therefore quantum merchanics might be at work where events can move backwards in time. This would place conscious thought at the subatomic level, or influenced by that level.

"Conscious “free will” is problematic because (1) brain mechanisms causing consciousness are unknown, (2) measurable brain activity correlating with conscious perception apparently occurs too late for real-time conscious response, consciousness thus being considered “epiphenomenal illusion,” and (3) determinism, i.e., our actions and the world around us seem algorithmic and inevitable. "


The Journal of Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience


'Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in “Microtubules” Inside Brain Neurons Corroborates Controversial 20-Year-Old Theory of Consciousness'


Brian: "there is nobody having an experience. There is just experience, which usually includes an experience of being, or having, a self."

Rather than no-body having an experience, I would argue that there is a body having an experience.

More precisely, I would argue that the conscious brain is having the experience. That also seems obvious and rational.

I'll leave everyone with one last thought before I bow out.

We are conscious.

If being conscious has no causal or effectual relation, under certain circumstances, to such things speech and movements, why wouldn't this be felt? I think it could be felt.

Furthermore, if this is the actual way of things, wouldn't one who experiences life in this way be more in tune with reality; more in tune with the actuality of things?

Well, people do feel this and it is called depersonalization. The Mayo Clinic describes it as "Feeling like a robot or that you're not in control of your speech or movements." It is described as "very disturbing."

It's like being stricken with locked-in syndrome and then duct-taped to Asimo, the Honda humanoid robot.

These are people that are experiencing the way things are. They have discovered the secret of life...and it is very disturbing.

The typical "no-self" proselytizes aren't actually experiencing no-self but only their concepts of no-self.

Cunning atheist, you cannot have energy for free. Energy is being used up in activities, you cannot say energy is constant. It is like saying I used up the battery of energy and it will be filled up from nowhere . Atheists' days are numbered and their fate is already sealed.

Self VS no self isn't really an issue. Depends upon point of view.
Is an ant an individual viewing the colony?

We are part of this creation. And what we think we are is very limited. We hardly know what is in our subconscious.

But to say nothing is there seems a stretch. Something is there.

To say we have no control... Again it depends upon perspective.

As for science, it's wonderful. But to use science to make conclusive statements b about things science doesn't actually measure isn't rational.

Things that seem obvious are rarely.

"“There is no self” is the granddaddy of fake Buddhist quotes. It has survived so long because of its superficial resemblance to the teaching on anatta, or not-self, which was one of the Buddha’s tools for putting an end to clinging. Even though he neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a self, he did talk of the process by which the mind creates many senses of self—what he called “I-making” and “my-making”—as it pursues its desires."


@ Spencer ‘But to use science to make conclusive statements b about things science doesn't actually measure isn't rational.’

I reckon this hits the nail on the head and I agree something is there.

Mind you sometime in the future as all the brains’s functions/governing areas are mapped out and every neuron/synapse interaction etc is reproduced, tracked and monitored (i.e. the brain is recreated) what will we have? I guess this is the only way neuroscientists will be able to actually see and measure the how and why of possible consciousness arising (or not).

This brain could then say to itself ‘I am’ and then think well f..k me - how did I get here? - an actual Talking Head :-)

In regard to the subconscious (in my view such things as repressed memory, childhood issues, birth trauma, not feeling good enough etc) this stuff can be accessed and brought into present awareness through techniques such as conscious connected breathing (also known as rebirthing). Useful.

And regarding Anatta an informative modern interpretation can be found in Rodney Smith’s book - Stepping out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self - a good read in my view.

@No Self?

When we will accept we are "JUST" HimSelf -always were- . . ; Problem solved

Like in a marriage°° We only have to say : YES


Some technics exist to speed up awareness, . . . first is a little bit of true Love°°
To help with little Love Saints exists


Hi Tim!
You wrote:

"Mind you sometime in the future as all the brains’s functions/governing areas are mapped out and every neuron/synapse interaction etc is reproduced, tracked and monitored (i.e. the brain is recreated) what will we have? I guess this is the only way neuroscientists will be able to actually see and measure the how and why of possible consciousness arising (or not)."

Yes, it will be interesting to see how this works out. I think science will demonstrate the deeper quantum / holonomic connections between the brain and both local and remote energy fields, such that the brain is more intimately affected by the environment as an integral part of both the social and physical surroundings.

If that bears out, then possibly many other brains that depend upon a structure of neurons, dendrites and emf signals will all have a similar signature of "conscious activity".

Consciousness may be nothing more than a configuration and a wave form pattern detectable in local brain EMF signals. Yet, if it is part of the brain, and the brain is simply a part of the physical environment, there is a connection there to the broader whole. Perhaps some people can sharpen their awareness of that.

More interesting than consciousness to me, is the development of other sensory input, such as the events witnessed in deep meditation. Sensory input that moves from unaware to highly developed. I think there is physical sensory awareness, internal sensory awareness, involved. It will be nice to see how that gets mapped. The mapping of sensation, and thought.

You wrote:
"And regarding Anatta an informative modern interpretation can be found in Rodney Smith’s book - Stepping out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self - a good read in my view."

I'll Kindle it. Sounds interesting.

I do believe that the development of artificial intelligence, a true self-aware machine, as Jen has written about, will be a great contribution to understanding our own capacity to be aware, to know, and to make decisions.

The thing that seems to be missed is Harding's "No head" doesn't even work as a metaphor. The whole thing is just really inane.

I'm quite sure Douglas would tilt his "vast emptiness" when he walked through a low doorway. Obviously Harding knew that he had a head. What we have is simply the distinction between what can be directly experience ("feeling as though") and what is indirectly experienced (knowledge).

So in the end, all Harding demonstrated was that feeling or thinking that one is headless, doesn't in any mean that one actually has no head. One can feel like they have no head...even when they have a head...and know that they have a head.

So his metaphor actually works against itself. Shame he didn't realize that...or anyone else for that matter. It's disappointing to see someone with an intellect like Sam Harris falls for something so transparently fallacious and downright silly.

And furthermore, to cap off the ultimate irony (drum roll please);

One absolutely needs a head to experience the illusion that they have no head. Now, that's the undeniable truth.

Without a head, there would be no illusory "headless" experience. There would also be no wondering about whether there is a head, whether there is no-head, wanting there to be no-head, dreaming of there to be no-head, desiring no-head, etc.

In the spirit of Harding's experiments, here is one everyone can try at home.

1.) Without using a mirror (using only yourself), I want you to look directly into your own eyes.

2.) Based only what you directly see, I want you to observe and describe your eyes.

3.) Give me the ontological status of your eyes, granting that the designation of existence can be made exclusively on the basis of whether or not something can be directly observed.

4.) Realize that you must have no eyes and proceed to tell everyone that they are eye-less. Tell others to look for their eyes and they find that they can't be found. It's all so obvious.

5.) Hope that others are credulous and non-analytical. It works better that way.

@ Brian - read Dr. Joe Dizpensa books and the case studies. Where independent measurements were taken...

Read it ... oh boy you are going to get a shock when you leave your mortal coil many decades to come! And please don’t reply to me with this being religious brain washing - read his books!!!

JB, loved your comment about having no eyes. Great critique of Harding's simplistic "spiritual" experience.

Arjuna, whenever someone tells me about a book that sounds too good to be true, I head to Amazon and read the one-star reviews. Here's the first review that popped up. Read the truth about Joe Dizpensa:
I purchased this book and participated in a workshop with Joe Dispenza. It seems that his team Encephelon cleans up the Internet with impeccable detail! (no Wiki page, or anything less than flattering anywhere) So what "Joe" dispenses in his new age message is done with a typical motivational marketing team that should be off-putting to the average person with a grain of discernment and a meditation practice.

In general, in his last book his newer line of thinking sells the idea that the human mind can change the manifestation of reality and change his fate; all this can be done by a certain personal discipline including meditation. Until now it sits well with the newer current of ideas. I like the idea of meditating and love the idea of manifesting too! About the science facts, I'm not sure, but it sounds interesting and I'm willing to suspend disbelief and try it out.

What pains me though, is the method of delivery of this so called Workshop ...where there never was a schedule handed out, we were left at the mercy of JD. In particular, he proceeds to claim to have witnessed spontaneous remissions of serious illnesses in his workshops, and I noticed several participants in wheelchairs or on crutches ... not counting all the participants with undetectable disease in the hall ... these people are especially vulnerable to false hopes that healing is instantaneous and about to happen! At no point does he show any real testimonies of miraculous healings ... his anecdotes should suffice to make us believe in a better tomorrow.

His workshop was fairly expensive, and it is said that this cost is justified since it included videos (about 5 hours) of a previous workshop that no longer exists but which must be watched before you attend the progressive workshop ... the majority of the workshop I attended (progressive) was the verbatim repetition of that video!!! ... is it brainwashing? or lack of imagination or information? I would say that this is the recycling of old stock.

They also strongly encourage us to read his latest book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, which again a rehash of the same thing? (Enough already!) Even his anecdotes are the same! He seems to have learned his text very well. But don't expect him to interact directly with the participants; he can't go off script. He allows no questions from the audience.

In addition, the meditations (which I find interesting) of the 2.5-day workshop are the same as those he sells online ... but it appropriates some ancient techniques of meditation (among others Kundalini) claiming that enlightenment is imminent and easy to obtain if you follow to the letter his instructions ... ex. you have to push the energy of the first chakra to the seventh with forced breath holding - a bit like self-asphyxiation -which can cause particular sensations ... pffft!

However, I appreciate the fact that he encourages his "disciples" to install a daily meditation practice. But to judge as wrong or right the personal practice of a meditation, and to expect some kind of magical effect is not right. Meditation takes many forms and is individual...and is not a result oriented practice...it should be a journey. Pushing for results is not the way!

I especially hated the obvious marketing in the workshop where he plugs advertisements for the upcoming workshops, publications, at all times; and where the electoral campaign/pep rally style is used by encouraging the participants to dance and clap after the breaks to lively music for no apparent reason except to make promotional videos (looks like you're having fun here -! artificial enthusiasm for a meeting where calm should be nurtured...)

I also noticed that JD does not care entirely about our questions on site (you could ask questions at his paying webinars I guess), or our learning (no leader came to guide us, there were no group activities) ... he seems to be more interested in our wallet.

He also seems to use a type of communication with his technical team by pretending to make us interact (ex. – “poke your neighbor” and “discuss what you understand”) that are not often logical since he did not give enough info for discussion and he obviously seeks a break for some reason ... perhaps he needs to blow off some time during these pauses ....or hear his next line in his earbuds.

He also makes an unnecessary use of Youtube videos to so-called "spark our enthusiasm and inspire the imagination of our emotions" ... I think even here he gets a small break on stage ... all these videos were "déjà vu" for any subscriber to FB!

Finally, I come out disillusioned and annoyed to have spent to attend a workshop with such manipulation techniques and lack of concern for the participants! I love some of his ideas, and I come out a little more aware of the dangers of this kind of workshop. I have compassion for some of his "fanatical groupies" and even some exalted shouters during the meditations.

I hope my reflections and questions will spur discussion or at least "enlighten" a few ... I wish I had read this kind of criticism before spending ... but I think his team is efficient at digital scrubbing.

With Sam Harris' statement "All you are is consciousness and its contents", the question naturally becomes, "what is consciousness".

I really enjoyed this short essay from Galen Strawson on Richard Dawkins' website:
Consciousness Isn't a Mystery. It's Matter.

I really love the exposition of what it is to be conscious in terms of its intrinsically self-evident nature. I've written on this subject as well.

Strawson writes, "We know what conscious experience is because the having is the knowing: Having conscious experience is knowing what it is. You don’t have to think about it (it’s really much better not to). You just have to have it. It’s true that people can make all sorts of mistakes about what is going on when they have experience, but none of them threaten the fundamental sense in which we know exactly what experience is just in having it."

About different states of consciousness.

I am currently re-reading Jurgen Ziewe's book "Multi-Dimensional Man".

In the following video he is talking about his meditation experiences and higher states of consciousness, lucid dreaming and how he focuses his awareness and attention into a state which disrupts the dream narrative and then finds himself in an out-of-body state and in a completely new environment, an alternative universe, a different dimension.

Jurgen Ziewe on his Out of Body Experience December 2017 (34 mins)


Hi Jen
You brought up a great point, and that is different states of consciousness.

From dream state to drowsy, to wakeful, to heightened and beyond. It isn't one single state.

Our level of awareness can change substantially.

Making conclusive claims as if consciousness were a fixed process when much remains to be investigated seems unscientific to me.

if all perceptions are constructed in the brain (including the percept "brain") and are the result of an unknown stimulus, what is the scientific evidence regarding the ultimate nature of that stimulus?

"if all perceptions are constructed in the brain (including the percept "brain") and are the result of an unknown stimulus, what is the scientific evidence regarding the ultimate nature of that stimulus?" (Posted by: don salmon | September 21, 2021 at 06:43 AM)

..........That's an interesting, but ultimately meaningless question.

We perceive perceptions. Our rough-and-ready model of the world is best explained, and explained most simply, by positing an external reality that corresponds with these perceptions.

Is there an "ultimate reality" beyond that rough-and-ready model? There might be, sure. But while that makes for fascinating speculation, and if properly formulated might indeed make for interesting research, but it makes no sense to actually conclude, even tentatively, that there might be, in the absence of clinching evidence.

That's old man Aquinas again. For that matter, older man Plato again. If you're going to posit some arbitrary ultimate reality that is beyond this "mundane" reality, then why stop there? Why not another "more ultimate" reality beyond that reality? Why mightn't the world outside our cave itself be a cave within an even larger reality? And so on, ad infinitum?

Just go with the evidence. What you see is what you got. Hear hooves, think horses. Until such time as you've actually seen the zebra stripes. (By all means keep looking for the zebra stripes, though, if you're so inclined.)

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