by     Reginald O. Kapp


Terms of Reference
WHEN I recall the names of those eminent men who have given these lectures during the past half-century I approach my present task with considerable diffidence. I do so all the more because I have been asked to place before you my views regarding the relation between religion and contemporary development of thought with particular emphasis on and reference to the bearing of such developments of the ethics and tenets of Christianity. How am I, a layman, to meet this requirement? Those of my distinguished predecessors on this platform who were theologians were well qualified to do so. They could advise with authority how church teaching should best take account of any new development in contemporary thought. But it would be little less than impertinent for me to attempt such a task. You have not invited me here, I feel sure, so that I may instruct you in what a Christian ought to believe, nor in what form he ought, in these days of scientific achievement, to present his belief to others. And you will not expect me, an engineer, to enter the domain of ethics; you will not expect anything in the nature of a sermon, any restatement of accepted faith, least of all any rhetorical disquisition on the wonders of science and the grandeur of the world around us. Instead you will expect from me, I realize with some apprehension, a sober assessment of some aspect of reality, the sort of assessment that is arrived at on a basis of plain, concrete facts and cold, relentless logic.

It is a chastening thought. For the nature of reality provides a vast field of study. It has been the preoccupation of some of the best intellects in the Western nations for well over a score of centuries. Any one person cannot hope to explore more than some small corner of it. One aspect to which I have given thought for a great many years and that I have for this reason chosen as my theme is the question whether reality in its entirety consists only of the material universe, as is claimed by those philosophers who are called 'monists', or whether it consists of two interacting parts, of which one comprises the material universe and the other non-material influences, as is claimed by those philosophers who are called 'dualists'.

If it be the bargain between us that I am to lead an expedition into this difficult region of thought, I shall do my best to keep my part of it. But we have to recognize that the bargain makes severe demands on both sides. For it lays down that we adopt an intellectual approach to a theme more often pursued along less austere paths. Those who would tread the rough road along which I think you are wanting me to lead you must be ever ready to accept the evidence of hard facts, even though the evidence refutes cherished convictions, even though it reverses conclusions that have the sanction of long established tradition. Facts are hard taskmasters. They have to be met with courage, particularly the unwelcome ones, those that threaten our complacency. And it is so much easier to dodge them than to face them. Logic is a still harder taskmaster. It demands that we interpret the facts according to its strict rules and not according to our inclinations.

The scientific, the austerely intellectual approach to the nature of reality must inevitably lead occasionally to a conflict between facts and faith. It is sometimes, most oddly, said that this is the same thing as a conflict between science and religion. It is taken for granted that the theologian ignores the evidence of facts and bases his view of reality on faith alone while his materialist opponent has achieved a philosophy that has no element of faith in it but is in complete logical conformity with all the facts that science has succeeded in discovering. No reading of the situation could be farther from the truth. It is perfectly correct that disciplined thinking does occasionally lead to a contradiction between faith and facts and that when this happens, we do not like it. But it is not true that fact dodging is practised more assiduously by idealists than by materialists, more by dualists than by monists. Indeed it can be shown that every one of the sundry 'isms' that are or have been fashionable depends for its plausibility on ignoring some obvious facts. Quite a lot of simple faith goes to the making of all the 'isms', be they idealistic or materialistic.

Materialism is, for instance, as the name implies, a theory about the nature of matter. It asserts that it is in the nature of matter to accomplish everything that can be observed or experienced. The materialist denies that there are any influences other than those exercised by uncontrolled material systems on each other. When we think, when we feel, when we plan for the future, it is solely, according to him, the result of the interaction of material systems. He sees in such systems a capacity for creating order. The laws of physics, he tells us, suffice to explain all those things that the theologian attributes to the laws of God. He says that we consist of nothing but our material bodies and that to think otherwise is a mere delusion. In saying this he implies that matter, among its many accomplishments, has a capacity for entertaining delusions. But we must realize that the materialist's belief in the power of uncontrolled material systems to create order, to plan for the future, to think and feel, to entertain delusions, is really based on pure faith just as much as is the theologian's belief in the omnipotence of his God. The properties that the materialist ascribes to matter are not listed in textbooks on physics; the materialist's simple faith is not supported by facts. The difference between the theologian and the materialist philosopher is certainly not that the former relies wholly on faith and the latter wholly on facts. The true difference is that the theologian consciously and deliberately recognizes faith as one of the supports of his doctrine while the materialist's lack of self-criticism allows him to ignore the prop of faith on which he leans so heavily.

Honesty requires that everyone should recognize what a large part faith plays in the composition of his view of reality. We could not do our jobs if we applied an elaborate test to every belief that provided the basis of our conduct. In our simplest activities we are often guided by assumptions that we could not prove. We should not accomplish much if we spent all the time that would be necessary to justify every detail of our faith. Indeed faith unsupported by facts is a practical necessity of everyday life; it is not peculiar to theology. It is only when he finds that his faith is contradicted by facts that an intellectually honest man must surrender it. In a conflict between faith and facts the facts must win.

I propose to show in these lectures that there is a contradiction between a number of scientific facts and the materialist's faith in the powers and accomplishments of matter. The contradiction is so complete that every form of monistic philosophy must be discarded. And I shall show that there does not seem to be a similar unavoidable contradiction between any known facts and a dualistic view of reality. What I hope to convince you of is this: It is arguable that dualism cannot be proved right; it is certain that monism can be proved wrong.

There are dangers in announcing beforehand, as I have just done, the conclusion to which an investigation will lead. One of the dangers is that it may arouse an expectation of special pleading. In the dispute between monists and dualists convictions are too often held with passionate intensity on both sides. When this happens unwelcome facts and arguments are not heeded. A disputant does not even try to refute his opponent; he takes the easier course of trying to discredit him. And a charge of bias, of special pleading, of having set out to prove a case supported for other reasons, is one of the commonest methods of discrediting. In a discussion of dualism versus monism, which is of some interest in the world of religion, this method stands a good chance of succeeding; a charge of religious bias sounds plausible and often diverts attention from the facts and logic used by the person one is seeking to discredit. There are occasions when the epithet 'devout Christian' may be used with libellous intent. It has happened before and may happen again. So it will help you to follow what I have to say if I explain at the outset that my objections to monism were formed after and not before I had subjected all the relevant facts to scrutiny. What has led me to try to make such contribution to this field of study as is within my power is not any personal preference for one doctrine over any other.

My reasons were as follows. When many years ago I sought an answer to the question whether non-material influences can exert an influence on material events, I began to read those books on the subject that had been recommended to me. I expected to find that each new contribution to the subject would have taken some aspect out of the region of uncertainty and dispute and into the region of accepted knowledge. But I was greatly disappointed. What I found was that the same alignments persisted, some scientists supporting a monistic, others a dualistic philosophy. Changes in thought there were. We have had since the beginning of the century a succession of monistic doctrines: mechanism, emergent vitalism, holism, logical positivism, cybernetics. The supporters of each have claimed that their predecessors were wrong and that at last the problem was near solution. But none of these 'isms' has been incorporated into the body of scientific thought. The decades have not brought progress, only changes of fashion. But here I must forestall a possible misunderstanding. I am not saying that philosophy can show no progress in any field; only that it can show none in this particular field.

The supporters of these 'isms' do not say that the problem cannot be solved. They say that they are in process of solving it. The conclusion to which I have been led is that most regrettably undisciplined thinking has been brought to this field in the past. Thus it will continue if those who enter the field do so in the hope of proving something. The task before us is to find the right path by which to approach a very difficult problem, and we must never allow ourselves to be influenced by fear of the direction in which that path may take us. It is true that the path indicated by disciplined thinking seems to lead in the direction of dualism. But to announce that at the beginning of the journey is not to say that I have chosen the path because it would lead us there. When I set out as a solitary explorer I did not know where the path would take me.

Another danger in announcing one's conclusion beforehand is that it may lead to a false expectation of the path that is going to be followed. A person who expects a certain line of reasoning is more troubled and confused when led along unfamiliar paths than he would be if he had started with no preconceived idea of the path on which he would be taken. When the theme is the question whether non-material influences have a real existence or not this danger is particularly evident. The expectation is only too likely to be that everything said will rebut what every materialist thinks and will confirm everything that the idealist has been saying all his life. And such an expectation is going to be disappointed many times in the course of these lectures. I have undertaken to discuss a subject that has been mightily confused in the past. Often arguments are used by both sides that, when carefully examined, are seen to support their opponents' case and to refute their own. So traditional reasoning in this field will have to be severely criticized at times. We shall have to be prepared to reverse some conclusions that have seemed to be axiomatic. We shall then be tempted to dodge or deny facts and arguments. But it is a part of the bargain between us that we shall resist the temptation. In our hard quest for a true understanding of the nature of reality we must be on our guard against complacency, bias, self-indulgent thinking, intellectual dishonesty, evasiveness, intolerance of disquieting conclusions. A conclusion based on the criterion of attractiveness must always yield to one based on the criterion of truth. We must always be prepared to accept the evidence of facts, even when they lead to a conclusion that is the direct opposite of what we have come to take for granted, even though it means the surrender for evermore of what seems easy to believe, or nice to believe, or consoling to believe, or good policy to believe, or what common sense causes us to believe. Common sense, be it remembered, has been proved in science again and again to be a most fallible instrument.

We shall, I fear, sometimes fail in our high purpose of seeking truth regardless of the consequence. You as well as I. For the theme of these lectures demands the highest standards of sincerity and integrity; and these virtues are among the most elusive. They dwell on steeper summits than many of those virtues that are more often on men's lips. Yet it is only from those rugged heights that a clear view of truth can be achieved.

Monism and Dualism
Let us distinguish as precisely as we can between those two opposed views of the nature of reality that are called respectively monism and dualism. According to monism, matter constitutes the whole of reality.1 Everything that happens, though it appear to be in the realm of thought, is interpreted as being entirely the result of the interaction of material systems. A living, a thinking being is declared to consist of its material body and of nothing else. What we speak of as mind is said to be nothing but a property of the material brain, an inevitable consequence of the chemical and physical structure of that organ.

Monistic religions exist. In some of them deities are identified with objects to be found in nature, with mountains, rivers, thunderstorms, the sun, the moon. In other monistic religions deities are identified with carved images. A religion in which the diety is believed to be non-material is a dualistic one. But dualists usually postulate other non-material influences in addition to a deity. Among these they mention mind, the soul, entelechy, elan vitale. There is an advantage in having a collective word for the various non-material influences that can have a place in a dualistic philosophy; and such a word should preferably be non-evocative. For this and other reasons I have elsewhere used the word 'diathete'.2 I propose to use it here. Dualism is the belief that the whole of reality is composed of two parts, one named matter and the other diathetes. Some events are held to happen because these two component parts act on each other.

To say that diathetes sometimes act on matter is, of course, not to deny that matter also acts on matter. We all know that it does. The physical sciences are the study of the way matter acts on matter. It happens when a stone falls to the ground, when the moon causes tides, when the wind disturbs the surface of a sheet of water, when we digest our food, when our eyes respond to light waves. Whenever we react to our material surroundings matter is acting on matter. That is agreed in all schools. What is in dispute is whether it is the only kind of action to shape the course of events. According to monism it is; according to dualism there are occasions when a material system, a living body for instance, is subjected simultaneously to two kinds of action on it, to the action of other material systems and also to the action of a diathete. The behaviour of our bodies is claimed by dualists to depend partly on material things, on what we see and hear and touch; but partly also on what, to use my terminology, a diathete, the mind, thinks, in the Descartian sense of the word, about the material stimuli that we receive. This is believed by dualists to control some of our behaviour. Applied to the human body the distinction between the monistic and the dualistic interpretation of its behaviour can be expressed thus: The monist says that the behaviour is controlled by the chemical and physical system that constitutes the body in response to the material environment and by nothing else; the dualist agrees about the part played by the material environment but denies that the material body alone determines the behaviour. He sees material circumstances and the diathete as combining in producing the resultant behaviour.

This leads us to one of many occasions when a rather prevalent misconception has to be corrected. Dualism is too often represented as identical with belief in indeterminacy. But it is really almost the opposite. Dualism includes the belief that, far from being indeterminate, some events are doubly determinate, determined in part by the action of matter on matter and in part by the action of diathetes on matter. It can be called the belief in the aided action of matter on matter. By contrast monism is belief in the unaided action of matter on matter. But it is not of course inherent in dualism to believe that diathetes act continuously and on every material system. A dualist is free to say that interaction between the two components of reality occurs sometimes and does not occur at other times.

Is Religion Necessarily Dualistic?
Many primitive religions are, as I have just pointed out, monistic. But is it necessary for the religions of our Western civilization to be dualistic? One's first impulse is to say 'Yes, most certainly.' But second thoughts may arouse doubts. The answer depends on the meaning given to the word matter. In a basic distinction between matter and non-material influences one must not define matter in a narrow sense. Only a very unsophisticated person would say that the distinction between matter and non-material influences was the same as the distinction between solids and gases, that the body was solid and the soul a gas. And as a person's philosophical education progressed he would widen his definition of matter by successive stages. For the purpose of distinguishing between monism and dualism he would find it necessary to include not only all gases within his definition of matter but also even more tenuous substances. He would find that the line he drew between what he called matter and what he called non-material had to be repeatedly redrawn. At one stage of his education he might place electricity on the non-material side of the line. It does happen that persons who believe life to be non-material also expound the theory that it is electricity. The criterion by which they judge what is non-material is mysteriousness, incomprehensibility. But to ask in what units life should then be measured, whether in volts, or amperes, or watts, would help them to understand that electricity too belongs to the physicist's world, is a part of the material universe. If it is to mean anything when one distinguishes between matter and non-material influences one must define matter so as to include everything that is composed of molecules, atoms, electrons, protons, as well as light and other forms of radiation, as well as magnetic fields, as well as everything else, indeed, that belongs to the physicist's universe of discourse. The criterion by which to decide what is non-material cannot be tenuousness; it cannot be mysteriousness.
In my book Mind, Life and Body I have shown why it is necessary to define matter so widely as to include everything that has location; that as a consequence a non-material influence, a diathete, does not have location; that if it lacks location it cannot be seen, heard, touched, or detected by any other physical means; and lastly that one cannot escape from the disturbing consequences of this conclusion by using 'everywhere' as a synonym for 'nowhere'.

Those are positive statements about matter and negative ones about diathetes. Positive statements about diathetes and negative ones about matter can also be made.

Diathetes, according to those who believe in their existence, are active realities. To say what they can do is to make a positive statement about them. They can act on certain material systems and in doing so produce specific results; the effect is to create order. When the diathete is a mind, for instance, and the material system acted upon is a human body, the result is the person's controlled behaviour. Similarly, to say what matter cannot do is to make the negative statement about matter. According to dualism matter is not capable of exercising control or of creating specified order; in the absence of a diathete its behaviour is random. But monists do not accept this negative statement; according to them matter is capable of doing these things; where we observe order it is always, they say, the result of the unaided action of matter on matter. The distinction between the two opposed doctrines can be put simply thus: according to monism order results from what matter does; according to dualism order results from what is done to matter by a diathete. A decision between these opposed theories depends, as I have said already, not on our knowledge of the nature of God, or of the soul, or of mind, but on our knowledge of the nature of matter. If matter is capable of doing all the things that monists claim for it, monism is justified.

The positive statement made above about diathetes is not likely to cause offence to any religious person, but the negative statement may do so. It is better to face this than to dodge it; so be it recognized that it is discomforting to have to say that a diathete lacks location and still more discomforting when one replaces words with classical roots by words with Anglo-Saxon ones and says that God, the thinker, the soul are nowhere. A person who believes firmly in spiritual influences and is convinced that the physical sciences cannot cover the whole of reality may yet, I fear, dislike that word 'nowhere'. Let this be illustrated by the answers that a philosophically educated person would have to give to questions about, say, the soul:

'What is the colour of the soul?'
‘It has no colour.'
'How many ounces does it weigh?'
'It has no weight.'
'Of how many atoms is it composed?'
'Of no atoms.'
'What is its shape?'
It has no shape.'
'How large is it?'
'It has no size.'
'Where is it?'
'Does it exist?'
It does.'

'But how do you know that it exists if the soul has no physical attributes by means of which it can be detected?' is the obvious further question. It is not known by what it is but by what it does', is one answer. 'It can be proved with the help of our knowledge of physics that the course of certain observed material events would be different if the body were not controlled by some non-material influence. You may, if you choose, call that influence a soul, or life, or just a diathete.' Another answer is that some diathetes, mind for instance, if not the soul, are observable. The observation is not conducted, it is true, by physical means; it is not achieved by any objective process, but by a subjective process, by self-knowledge. While the existence of a mind can only be known to others by what it does, it is known to itself by what it is. Translated into philosophical language this answer means that subjective experience is real experience and must have a place in a complete view of the nature of reality. The fact that it has no place in the physicist's world does not prove, as is sometimes wrongly asserted, that subjective experience is not real. It proves that the physicist's world does not comprise the whole of reality.

But it takes some effort of logical thinking to understand that a thing can be real, active, and yet nowhere. Does religion, one has to ask in all seriousness, require this degree of sophistication ? Does the theologian need to tell his congregation that heaven is nowhere ? He may himself be convinced that no other view is tenable. But need he say so? Is it contrary to religious thought to allow a congregation to believe that the soul literally gets out of the body and undertakes a journey to some place situated at a finite, if unknown, distance from the earth, where its latitude and longitude could be entered on charts of the sky once it had been seen in a telescope? Is it necessary to disturb the simple faith of those who picture their God as having human form and clothed in flowing garments? May it not be perfectly compatible with Christianity to believe that the human mind is no more than a manifestation of the chemical and physical structure of the brain and that every mode of human behaviour could be reproduced by a mechanical model?

It is not for me to pronounce on such questions. But I venture to think that it is not necessary, would not even be right, for the theologian to insist pedantically on a scientific and philosophical distinction between monism and dualism. I doubt whether Christianity would lose much if it asserted that God, the mind, the soul have properties that bring them within a definition of matter. The question whether those things that the theologian regards as of the spirit have location or not must seem to him rather a trivial one. While he must always deprecate a moral materialism he must also tolerate any extreme of intellectual materialism. I doubt in- deed whether monism is bad religion. But I am sure that it is bad science.

The theologian can afford to ignore the conclusion, sound though it be, that any influences capable of creating order are necessarily nowhere. For that conclusion does not affect his conception of the nature of those influences. But the scientist cannot afford to ignore it. For the conclusion does affect his conception of the nature of space. According to the judgement of common sense, long accepted uncritically in science, space is the container of all reality. Other views of the nature of space held by common sense have had to go during the last half-century. If dualism is true, this one will have to go too. And it has come to be realized that a proper understanding of the nature of space is important for the progress of physics.

This is one of the occasions when I have to ask you to reverse an opinion that has become traditional. It is generally taken for granted that a decision between dualism and monism is very important in theology and that the question has no interest for scientists. It may therefore appear to you that I am talking in paradoxes when I say that the theme of these lectures matters greatly to scientists and hardly at all to theologians. In thus asking you to reverse what may have become an ingrained notion I may, I fear, leave you wondering whether I really mean it. And the best way of relieving you of any such uncertainty is simply to say that I do. Let me dwell a little more on the reason why the theme is important in science.

Monists assume, as I have just said, that matter is capable of creating order. I have quoted many assertions to that effect by adherents of monistic schools in my book Science versus Materialism and I showed there that properties inevitably attributed by monists to matter have not been reconciled with what one may read about matter in textbooks on physics. Dualism, on the other hand, implies not only some revision of our notions about space, but also, as I have pointed out in my previous books, sundry other conclusions that belong wholly to science. In physics it implies what I have called a Principle of Incomplete Determinateness. In biology it implies that living substance contains what I have called 'eudiathetous mechanisms'. These are devices analogous to the controls of a machine and serve as the instruments that enable a diathete to influence the course of material events. The implications of both doctrines may be unwelcome to scientists, those of monism just as much as those of dualism. But sooner or later one of these two doctrines will have to be accepted and its disquieting consequences faced. If acceptance of monism, with its unorthodox views about the nature of matter, would cause our scientific textbooks to be rewritten so would acceptance of dualism. A decision, whichever way it goes, must disturb scientific complacency. But the disturbance would advance science by a great bound. On the other hand, I do not think that it will upset any established religious faith much, even if the decision eventually favours monism. That is why I say that the discussion concerns science more than theology.

How to Decide between Monism and 'Dualism
An assessment of the rival claims of monism and dualism can be made after treading a variety of paths. I have only the time to follow one of them. You may, however, be expecting me to follow a different one and when an expectation is not fulfilled the result may be confusing, as I have already mentioned. So it may help if I briefly tell you first what I do not intend to do.

A theme sometimes chosen as a starting-point for our study is the properties of mind. The reality of thought and feeling, of all subjective experience is used as proof that the objective world, as revealed by a study of matter, does not encompass the whole of reality. I have mentioned this argument a little while ago and do not wish to underestimate its importance. But I do not propose to develop it here. My reason is that it tends to lead to an incomplete picture of reality. Let me take a few moments to explain how this comes about.

Subjective experience can only be discussed in terms of conscious experience. And it is associated in most people's minds with the exercise of free will. For these two reasons its discussion leads to the conclusion that the only diathetes are those that can be observed in consciousness, and that only when we exercise free will are our actions controlled by a diathete. Reasoned behaviour is represented by this line of argument as demonstrating the control of matter by a non-material influence and instinctive behaviour as resulting from the unaided action of matter on matter. The conclusion is at least implied that mind is the only diathete. The distinction between conscious behaviour and vegetative processes is treated as basic and the distinction between the organic and the inorganic world as superficial. Of all substances the brain of man alone appears then as capable of being controlled by a diathete, as being equipped with what I have called 'eudiathetous mechanisms'.

Such a view I must regard as logically and scientifically untenable. My reason for saying so will appear during the following lectures. I propose to show that if dualism is right, if one can make a distinction between systems that are controllable by a diathete and systems that are not, the dividing line cannot leave the human brain on one side of it and all other substance, living and lifeless, on the other. The true dividing line, we shall find, separates all living from all lifeless substance. A diathete can exercise direct control over any living substance and either only indirect control or none over all lifeless substance.

This is why I shall follow the other path briefly mentioned already, the one that pursues an investigation into the properties and limitations of matter and seeks to discover whether matter is capable of the achievements with which it is credited by monists. But here again you may be expecting a somewhat different approach from the one that I shall adopt.

Those who, for religious or ethical reasons, wish to combat materialism often give examples of things that matter cannot do. But they nearly always limit their choice to examples of what they regard as 'higher things'. 'An assembly of chemical substances', they say, 'cannot produce the plays of Shakespeare or the symphonies of Beethoven.' True perhaps. But the implication is that it can produce less exalted achievements. The emphasis is on values, and a search for scientific truth is not helped when it is coupled with moral or aesthetic judgements. Any arguments based on the beauties of the world around us and the wonders of science would suffer from the same misplaced emphasis. It would be appropriate in a sermon but not in the kind of sober pursuit of understanding that I believe you are wanting from me.

Another misconception that should be mentioned only so as to be dismissed is that the reality of non-material influences can best be confirmed or refuted by a study of some recent, unusual and startling discoveries. Those made in psychical research are quoted so frequently as leading to a better understanding of the nature of reality in its widest aspects that I fear you will expect me to base my reasoning on these or similar recondite observations. Or perhaps you will expect me to talk about cybernetics and feed-back and electronic devices and experiments in precognition. For these have recently come to the notice of people other than engineers and figure largely in the now fashionable philosophies. But I do not intend to use any unfamiliar observations at all. I do not think that they are relevant. The most relevant facts, I have become convinced, are the very familiar ones. They are so familiar to us all that we tend to overlook their significance. That should really be obvious. If the whole of reality consists of two parts, matter and diathetes, this dualism must be evident in many places; everyday occurrences, such as may seem trivial, must pro vide the material for a decision between monism and dualism if a decision can be reached at all. If a line of reasoning conveys the impression that non-material influences reserve their activities for the production of only the best music and literature and for the sequence in which playing cards appear, it cannot be a sound line.

The line of reasoning that I do propose to put before you has been hinted at already. Some things display a property that receives the name ‘order’. The word distinguishes them from things that do not display the same property and are said to display lack of order. When the lack is complete one says that they display chaos. Events that lead to an ordered result are called ordered events and those that do not are called random events. The monist claims that all ordered as well as all random events occur as a result of the unaided action of matter upon matter. The operative word is ‘all’. If it were found that but one example of order refuted the monist’s claim, his doctrine would have to go. And we shall find, when I put before you in the succeeding lectures the relevant evidence that not only one, but a whole wide range of phenomena refute the claims of the monist.

1   The word monism can also be applied to a philosophy in which the reality of matter is denied and only non-material influences are recognized. But this alternative meaning of the word is not relevant to what I have to say here.
2   Science versus Materialism, Methuen, 1940; Mind, Life and Body, Constable, 1951.

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