Ages and Stages of Man and Movement – Part 2

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Ages and Stages of Man and Movement

by Kailasa Candra dasa

Second of a Three-Part Series

“Jnana entails receiving knowledge from the scriptures through the spiritual master by disciplic succession. In the modern age, there is a tendency to do research by mental speculation and concoction.”

Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.17, purport

“The history of the West–beginning from the time of the Greeks and the Romans down to the modern age of atomic war—is a continuous chain of sense gratificatory materialism . . .”

Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 8-4-58

“Sabbatarian legislation, claiming they exceed the power of civil government, representing an illegitimate interference with the rightful liberty of the individual . . . (and constituting) the notion that it is one’s duty that another should be religious, (is) the foundation of all the religious persecutions ever perpetrated.”

J. S. Mill, The Utility of Religion

During the Gothic Age, European warriors in Western culture served the Papacy via a weltanschauung that originated in their own nation-state; they were especially amped up with religious fervor and fanaticism.  Primarily, they were Crusaders to the Holy Land.  That aggressive spirit then morphed into a peculiar form of heroism, brutality, and cruelty.  It turned inward, and, during the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants fought one another repeatedly.  The motivations of these warring religious factions entrenched in due course. They became obsessed in enmity toward one another, and so they did not bother much to persecute men who were establishing a new age, the Age of Enlightenment.

During the Enlightenment, its leading thinkers declared that the fabric of human civilization would be better and stronger served if rationality replaced religion in it.  The reasoning of science accordingly presaged abandoning the sentimentality and fanaticism of religion, especially replacing it in the areas of morality and humane dealing.
All emphases added for your edification and realization.

At the conclusion of Part One, we tendered a brief description of the Enlightenment.  Let us remind the reader that this treatise has not been written, and is not meant to be read (at least not primarily so), for the purpose of historical knowledge (dravya-jnana).  We are attempting here to communicate and establish a correlation between Western culture in general and the Western manifestation of the Krishna consciousness movement, beginning September, 1965.  In order to establish the existence of this correlation, evidence must be presented.  That evidence consists of a description of the dashas or stages in Western culture governed by a specific planet within the sidereal pantheon.

We no longer live in the Age of Enlightenment; we live in a modern age.  There are many differences between them.  Nevertheless, as could only be expected, some of the influences of the Enlightenment are still with us.  It behooves us, therefore, to understand what it was–but only a bit.  It behooves us more to understand our own age, as the host culture is now modern (actually, post-modern).  We must not mix apples and oranges in making our attempt to understand modernism.  In delineating the correlation in Part Three, we shall establish which correlative age corresponds, at this time, to the evolution (using that term loosely here) of the Krishna Consciousness movement in the West—which is obviously operating and functioning in the modern age of its host Western culture.

The correlation is meant to be both assimilated and applied; that is the chief purpose of this treatise. That does not mean, however (in terms of the correlation), that the Krishna movement is itself in the modern age in its own particular succession of dashas, for it is not.  Nevertheless, how can we understand where it is at–where we are at or where the world is at–if we do not also have some knowledge of this modern age?

A Couple of Controversies

“Lord Caitanya predicted that in the modern age this movement would be spread to every town and village of the world. So, by the sincere help of you American and European boys and girls, it is actually happening. It is not bogus, like Communism, Socialism and so many ‘isms’ going on in the world today.”

Letter to Kirtiraj, 12-2-75

Concerning the first potential controversy, there may be some squabbling about the dates that we have assigned to the beginning of each of the ages and stages.  We consider what we have laid out (for these transition points) to be historically grounded, reasonable, and verifiable–at least to a significant extent.  We have provided dates in terms of years from the Christian calendar.  If the actual range of the transition is a little off—in one direction or the other—that does not invalidate the correlation or its application in any meaningful way.

In Part Three, we are going to present the interrelated ratios between and amongst the ages of Western culture (although we cannot do so for the modern age, because it is concurrent).  We are then going to look at the transitions in Prabhupada’s movement—his Krishna consciousness mission in the West—and see if there is some correlation.

We shall conclude that there is.  At the same time, we are not going to insist upon any exact date of correlation–simply ranges.  Or, to put it differently, we are not going to apply an exacting mathematical formula, fashioning an up-to-the-minute time, place, and date where any given Krishna momentum ended one dasha and transitioned to the next.  Instead, we are going to remind the readers of some historical facts of the movement and some important events that took place in it.  We are going to assign each major transition to a month and a year, the month being approximate.

Then, we are going to look at the correlation.  In doing so, we may not find it exact, but it will be very close. That is all that is actually required in order to take advantage of this analysis.  After all, we could be a bit off in our assignments of starting points and ending points, either in Western culture or in the movement.  It may very well be that the correspondence is actually exact, but that does not mean we are able to perfectly locate those exact points.  This inability does not invalidate either the realization or the underlying or utilitarian feature of the theory.

It will instead lead us to understand the approximate timing of the next scheduled transition to a completely new stage. Both individually and cumulatively, such knowledge may indeed prove useful to the devotee or reader, especially in terms of mapping out his future.

The second potential controversy is really nothing more than an imposition, but if some faultfinder elects to drag it up, then we are obliged to pre-empt it.  The question is: When is the start of the modern age?

“He is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by learned scholars and saints like Vyasadeva, Narada, Asita and Devala in the past and by Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, as also by the acharyas like Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, and Lord Sri Caitanya in the modern age.”

Srimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.24, purport

“All the important acharyas of the modern age—namely Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vishnu Svami and Nimbarka—advented themselves in these Dravida provinces. Lord Caitanya, however, appeared in Bengal . . . “

Krishna Book, Chapter 79

“In the modern age of democracy, there are so many government representatives voting for legislation. Every day they bring out a new law. But because these laws are only mental concoctions manufactured by inexperienced conditioned souls, they cannot give relief to human society. Formerly, although the kings were autocrats, they strictly followed the principles laid down by great sages and saintly persons.”

Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.20.15, purport

“The racial strife, civil wars, violent revolutions, and world wars so common in the modern age are all caused by the whimsical and selfish nature of impious men.”

Renunciation through Wisdom

Some think that the Magna Carta was democratic, but it was little more than nobles (little kings) manipulating a weak King John of England in order to increase their own wealth and power.  Modern democracy (very different from what was experimented with by the Greeks) actually made its appearance at the tail end of the Enlightenment; as per common lexicon, democracy is really a phenomenon of the modern age.  There were no engineers or electricians in ages previous to this one, and Prabhupada has mentioned that these occupations are particular to the modern age.  Similarly, there were still many autocrats during the time of Lord Chaitanya, what to speak of Shankara, which was simultaneous to the Dark Ages in Europe, a very long time ago.

As such, in these abovementioned quotes, there is what appears to be an apparent contradiction.  How can it be reconciled?  Actually, the reconciliation is not at all difficult: He is speaking of two concepts, two distinct definitions of modern age.  One is obviously the age we are now in and experiencing (“The history of the West–beginning from the time of the Greeks and the Romans down to the modern age of atomic war . . .”), and the other is more comprehensive.

We postulate in this treatise that the modern age, as we commonly know it—full of racial strife, civil wars, violent revolutions, and world wars–commenced in 1840.  The other definition Prabhupada talks about appears to be connected to Lord Caitanya’s Golden Age. From a high and transcendental perspective, that can also be considered modern—certainly in relation to the Vedic epochs that preceded it.  We propose that this meaningless controversy is nothing more than an apples and oranges issue:  Both are fruits, so they can be spoken of as being of the same basic genre.  Yet both of them are different, also.

We have thus far described six ages of Western culture, but there are seven major planets in sidereal astrology.  As such, there is only one planet left to consider as the lord of the final age.  We are now in a new epoch, the seventh in the series.  With the exception of Pericles, the previous ages have had their transition points defined by an event (often a major battle), a decree, or a new outlook.  What initiated the modern age?

We are going to propose an answer to this question. Combined with its relation to Krishna consciousness, the knowledge of how modernism started and what makes up its mentality, structure, and processes constitutes the whole of the text of Part Two.

The Modern Era: 1840 to present

“This path of acceptance is called avaroha-pantha The word avaroha is related to the word avatara, which means “that which descends.” The materialist wants to understand everything by the aroha-pantha—by argument and reason—but transcendental matters cannot be understood in this way. Rather, one must follow the avaroha-pantha, the process of descending knowledge. Therefore, one must accept the parampara system. And the best parampara is that which extends from Krishna (evam parampara-praptam). What Krishna says, we should accept (imam rajarsayo viduh). This is called the avaroha-pantha.”

Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.13.57, purport

“Whoever thinks out a subject with his own mind, not accepting the phrases of his predecessors instead of facts, is original.”

John Stuart Mill, On Genius

“Relative to a free society, there cannot be a good despot, no matter how benevolent his intentions.”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Representative government was not an invention of the modern age; it came about at the end of the Enlightenment, specifically in the United States.  The founders of this country were not modern men, and it is highly likely that they would be shocked if transported here from that era.  These were men of the Enlightenment, steeped in Masonic Deism, although at least a couple of them showed some tell-tale signs of atheism.  As such, the modern epoch did not begin when representative government was first introduced to the world (in what could be called either a republican or semi-democratic form).  The founder of what we now know as modernism—and, yes, this age was initiated, we believe, by one particularly influential Englishman—was a very strong advocate of representative government.  Indeed, one of his many books had that title.  However, during his time of prominence, he initiated, sponsored, and established much more.

His name was John Stuart Mill.

Mill believed in government by law and not by man, a modern concept.  He was an advocate of republican institutions, concerned for safeguarding representative government from the tyranny of special interests, plutocrats, and the mob rule of majority opinion.  He was a radical progressive—not what we would call either of them now, of course—but a radical progressive for his time.  His idea of progress was foreign to the Enlightenment, as its adherents were thinkers who considered all major events as being entirely predestined.  Mill’s introduction (of his own variety) of progressivism into the bloodstream of Western culture, in due course affected and colored all of its philosophy, chief tenets, and processes.

John Stuart Mill was born in 1806, in London during the time of Jefferson’s Presidency in the United States.  Mill was a made man, in the sense that his father, James Mill, a Scotsman and an esteemed philosopher of his day, was a severe taskmaster with the lad.  By the time he was twelve, the young boy had an education that was encyclopedic: He had mastered Greek, Helvetius, Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism, algebra, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, the theories of Euclidian math, Latin poetry, and the history of Roman government.  The opinions of James Mill and Bentham, who was both the elder Mill’s sponsor and close friend, were stamped onto the boy’s personality and intelligence.  His father kept a close relationship to him at all times, but it was almost entirely an intellectual one.

One day after his seventeenth year, John Stuart Mill was employed by the East India Company as a clerk; his father was the Chief Examiner of that wealthy and influential monopoly.  Due to his diligent and industrious work ethic, John Stuart was soon promoted to Assistant Examiner.  At the age of twenty, however, he experienced a major crisis.  He had been a fully devoted follower of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism,[1] but now he came to doubt the very core of its basic premises.  Although J. S. Mill is considered, in many philosophy books, to be the father of Western utilitarianism, this must be considered in context.  What is commonly considered existentialism was not what John Stuart Mill either represented or promoted, although he did pen two books, Utilitarianism and Utility of Religion, which showed that he was into it.

After his father died in 1836, Mill was promoted to the lucrative post of Chief Examiner of the East India Company.  As such, his financial position was secure, and this allowed him to explore many different philosophical, political, and social interests.  During his day, he was considered to be an intellectual radical; back then, he wanted the Whig Party to take up his particular version of legislative reform.  Mill was alert to expose what he considered unsound principles and practices in Parliament and the Courts.  The Westminster Review[2] was his publishing organ in the beginning, and he was also active in a prominent debating society.

He made many enemies, of course, but he also made some noteworthy friends.  One of them was Alexis de Tocqueville. In 1840, Mill wrote and published a well-read treatise praising the conclusions espoused in de Tocqueville’s then famous Democracy in America.  This favorable review demonstrated Mill’s wide intellectual range, aversion to mob rule in democracy, and belief that an intellectual elite is required to guide a progressive and liberal culture.  He also pushed a strong sense of nationalism, individualism, and morality in education.  These represented big changes from the Enlightenment mindset.  The aforementioned review was a seminal event in the publishing world and profoundly influenced a major change in the winds, already brewing to some extent since Queen Victoria had secured the throne in 1837.

Mill then went on a tear, as far as publishing was concerned.  He wrote a six-volume treatise on logic that is, to this day, considered the most in-depth study of the topic in the English language.  He wrote a very critical review of one of Bentham’s main texts on utilitarianism, and he penned a number of important essays and books on political economy.

During the 1840’s, Mill courted another man’s wife, and this was considered scandalous in Victorian England.  Because he was held in such high esteem, however, the relationship was tolerated by the upper echelon.  Harriet Taylor, probably either an agnostic or atheist (a very beautiful one), became his wife in 1851.  She and Mill’s father were his chief influences.  Mill became a humanist and a proponent of the logic of experience, in no small measure due to the intellectual, cultural, and emotional influence of his wife.  She died just before he published, in 1859, On Liberty, his most famous treatise.  He attributed her association for his evolved understanding of his many previously proposed abstractions.[3]

Mill devoted most of his life to publishing and political activity.  He was the father of the feminist movement, as he clamored for women’s suffrage at a time when it was unheard of for any man to do so.  He sided exclusively with the North in the Civil War in America, as he deplored slavery to its very core.  He was eventually elected (for one term only) to Parliament, as part of the radical wing of the Liberal Party.  He supported many unpopular measures, and the form of democracy that he championed was always wary of the tyranny of majority opinion.  He lived half of the time in England and the other half in France, where he died in 1873.

We should remember that, in the Nineteenth Century, the United States was not one of the major players on the world stage.  That was reserved for great European states, and England was still the greatest of them all (despite its loss of the American colonies).  The modern era would sprout in Great Britain, and John Stuart Mill would be its originating seed.

Mill was a pragmatic radical who believed that everything could constantly be improved.  The reform agenda of these modern thinkers, sometimes called radical utilitarians, was egalitarianism in both personal and economic spheres, laissez-faire in trade policies (code for free trade), and hardcore in the psychological belief underpinning it, viz., that everyone is formed only by his experiences.  This was the logic of experience theory. Universal human suffrage (especially for women) was a major component, also.  Mill espoused a working philosophy and lifestyle that was opposed to the influence of the clergy, and he favored birth control.[4]

Humanism is one of the most distinct and prominent characteristics of the modern age; it was a cardinal point in Mill’s philosophy and politics.  Internal cultivation was considered by him to be the foremost responsibility and activity of a really civilized man.  He believed that the British culture in particular, and Western culture in general, required an overt and distinct element of humanism in all of its laws, processes, and dealings.  Mill was a lover of mankind, and he believed that all humans should be given full facility to individually elevate their own personal characters.

Symptoms of the Modern Age

“In 1935, one of my Godbrothers went to London and met the Marquis of Zetland, a man from Scotland. He was very interested in Indian philosophy. He had previously been the governor of Bengal, and in my youth I had met him; he had come to my college. So, the marquis inquired from my Godbrother, Goswami Bannerjee: ‘Bannerjee, can you make me a brahmana?’ Bannerjee said, ‘Why not? Yes, we can make you a brahmana, but you have to follow four rules. You must give up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Then you can become a brahmana.’

‘Oh, that is impossible! . . . it is impossible. This is our life!’”

Quest for Enlightenment and Lecture in Ahmedabad, 12-9-72

During the previous age, its leading thinkers declared that the fabric of human civilization would be better and stronger served if reason replaced religion in it.  Modernism rejects the certainty of the Enlightenment, and deeply doubts the existence of an omnipotent Creator.  It believes that everything in every sphere can be made new, and it is an age of mobilization, industrialization, secularization, and invention.  The modern age rejects what it considers the false rationality of the previous age in particular; it also questions both the coherence and harmony that the Enlightenment insisted upon in universal affairs.

Modern thinkers say that intellectuals of previous ages, especially during the Enlightenment, did not actually comprehend the complexity of the world and the universe—and especially the men in it.  Modern man is also antagonistic to any final authorities, especially the authority of a Supreme Controller and/or the preeminence of reason.  Modernism advocates an intense and usually critical scrutiny of all such conceptions.

The Realist political ideology–which is also, in no small measure, enamored with the esthetic—was intrinsic to the Victorian Era, and John Stuart Mill was its firebrand.  It was rooted in the concept that reality overcomes subjective impressions.  It was also fixed in the idea that all intelligence and logic ultimately is a product of sensation (or sensational experiences).  The ideas of certainty in destiny, civilization, history, and reason were abandoned at the start of the modern age, replaced by a tentative progressivism that was fully dependent upon the initiative of man.  John Stuart Mill advocated a higher utilitarianism, which included the pleasures of philosophy, the arts, poetry, and the opera.  In his later work, Utilitarianism, he succinctly stated this principle.[5]

Mill believed that happiness could only be attained by developing virtues, and, wherever applicable, overcoming desires.  He set the stage for many different modern variants of his utilitarian principle.  He believed that utilitarianism was only useful when enacted by practical reformers, representing different political views.  He said that it was meant to serve the liberty principle, i.e., power of one human over another (against his will) can only be rightfully and morally exercised in civilized society when it prevents harm to others.  Utilitarianism was pushed later in the modern age by Ludwig von Mises, when he advocated his specific form of libertarianism. Marx dovetailed the principle–in his own way, of course–into the service of Communist ideology.  Nevertheless, it was John Stuart Mill who actually set the stage for all of this to transpire.

We are now in the post-modern phase of the modern era, but this should not be considered a different epoch.  In post-modernism, traditional thought is entirely abandoned; decadence, hedonism, and nihilism replace it more or less completely.  Transcendence is the target of considerable criticism or neglect, especially those spiritual concepts crafted within a personal rubric.  All philosophers and theologians who represent human responsibility to higher authority are suspect.  Classical antecedents are rejected, even more than they were during the Age of Enlightenment.  The modern age is a dangerous one for true occultists and devotees, and Mill was never at any time a transcendentalist.

A Silver Lining

“They’re not changing their consciousness. They’re not changing themselves inside. They’re just changing their ‘ism’ from communism to capitalism and from capitalism back to something else ‘ism.’ We’re asking people to try to get a little bit beyond that superficial political system and find out what actually motivates each and every one of us. That is God consciousness, or love of God. That love of God is much more powerful than any temporary political system.”

Lecture at La Trobe University, 7-1-74

John Stuart Mill set virtually all the modern philosophies and processes into motion.  Mill was both an egalitarian and an optimist, and he believed that modernization would blossom into a new, liberal age.  As aforementioned, a groundswell of modernism was already underpinning the Victorian Age; Mill became its intellectual promulgator and conscience.  It was, and remains (to some degree) an age of creative change, based on invention and the concept of continual material progress.

As long as it was part of a collective purpose, the pursuit of material self-interest had been turned into a virtue by 1840. The belief was that economic growth of the nation-state would eventually result in prosperity for all of its citizens.  As we know in Western culture, privatization, gross disparity, and a fixation with making money have instead become paramount.  The modern age is obsessed with industrialization, productivity, constant innovation and change, invention for the purpose of consumption, and manipulating material energy to make man the lord of all he surveys.

Mill, however, did not foresee this devolution in his initiatives.  Paradoxically, he believed in public ownership; indeed, unfettered capitalism did not really come about until 1848.  The East India Company had a trade monopoly with India, and this conglomerate was the first powerful manifestation of state capitalism.[6] China today represents that form of commerce.  Mill’s liberality included public parks run by the government, and he also believed in communal agriculture.

Beginning in 1840, iron output doubled in the decade. Newly-introduced newspapers and magazines earned widespread circulation and a rapid diffusion of knowledge commenced.  The Harrison candidacy in America is considered to be the initial modern campaign, as image was featured for the first time in it.  This was in 1840, a year that was marked by a significant step for women’s suffrage, as well. The ever-expanding railways, an unprecedented increase in locomotion, created great economic and social opportunities; their incremental expansion began in 1840, especially in Britain and the United States.  Stepped-up industrialization increased amenities of all varieties in that year. In our estimation, 1840 marked the beginning of the Modern Age.

Opportunity and personal initiative were now stressed for the first time in Western culture.  Mill pushed for immediate, radical changes, such as women’s suffrage, individual freedom of speech, welfare, and free trade between countries and individuals.

“So, if you actually feel for your country, for your community, for your people, just spread this Krishna consciousness. They’re dying. You spread this Krishna consciousness. They’ll come again to life, and everything will be actually beautiful. That is my request. I came to your country with this mission, that ‘The American people, they are feeling frustration. If they take to Krishna consciousness, they’ll be happy, and others will be follow their example.’”

Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.14-15

As could have only been expected, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada was mixed in his review of Mill:

Disciple: Mill felt that virtues like courage, cleanliness, and self-control are not instinctive in man but have to be cultivated. In Nature he writes, “The truth is that there is hardly a single point of excellence belonging to human character which is not decidedly repugnant to the untutored feelings of human nature . . . “
Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore there are educational systems in human society.

Dialectical Spiritualism, Critique of John Stuart Mill

We should remember that, despite its many evils, the modern age in Western culture is really the only one in which Prabhupada’s mission and message could have prospered.  He probably would have been attacked (like Socrates was) during the Greek Epoch.  The Romans would have only allowed him to operate in a small sector, and he could not have preached anything about the government.  For obvious reasons, the three Christian epochs would have all been entirely unfavorable, especially the Gothic Era.  The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on mundane buddhi (reason) as the only sound vehicle to comprehend the Absolute Truth, would not have taken kindly to Prabhupada disputing its core premise.

The silver lining is that His Divine Grace took advantage of the amenities and facilitations that were available to him in the modern age–first in America and then in Europe.  The new epoch introduced by John Stuart Mill had, at its roots, convictions that were and remain completely antagonistic to Krishna consciousness.  Under the influence of not only his wife, but all of his other close association as well, Mill rejected monotheism. He felt that there is no intrinsic or utilitarian value in thinking that a spirit soul exists, is immortal, and can attain to an eternal world.  In Utility of Religion, he expounded upon this: “Those who believe in the immortality of the soul generally quit life with fully as much, if not more, reluctance as those who have no such expectation.”

This age has been, and remains, characterized by mobilization, industrialization, secularization, great communication devices, mind-boggling technology, all kinds of invention, continuous commerce, mundane knowledge, massive transportation facilities, and business dealings of all varieties.  These are clearly all in the portfolio of Mercury, and he is the ruler of the age.  The host culture is governed by Mercury.

He is generically a neutral planet, but, as lord of negative houses or in the association of a malefic, he becomes a malefic.  However, the movement that Prabhupada started—what has become of it, that is–is not itself in a stage governed by Mercury; it is in a darker one, as will soon be brought forth in the correlation, to be delineated and elucidated in Part Three.

To Be Continued

Return to Part One

Go to Part Three

[1] “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters: Pleasure and pain.  It is for them alone to determine what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.”  Jeremy Bentham.  This is the foundation of classic utilitarianism, considered the rational science of its day.

[2] Later, The London and Westminster Review.  Originally, Mill was its editor and chief writer and depended upon a wealthy owner of the newspaper.  However, due to Mill’s radicalism, that owner, although he remained friendly, soon sold the enterprise to Mill on special terms.

[3] “Her memory to me is a religion.  Her approbation is the standard by which, summing up as it does all worthiness, I endeavor to regulate my life.”

[4] He was jailed for a couple of days, after he distributed tracts advocating the legalization of birth control.

[5] “It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

[6] State capitalism is a monopoly system by which the nation-state is the dominant economic actor, utilizing foreign markets for both pecuniary and political gain.  It is different from what is generally considered capitalism. State capitalism was introduced at the beginning of the modern age.  It consists of management techniques meant to insure that powerful corporations, mercantile empires, remain in ascendancy in their own nation-states.  State capitalism has eventually led to accelerated globalization; ultimately, it is a liberal international system led by Washington.



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