THE FIFTH ENNEAD - FIFTH TRACTATE
THAT THE INTELLECTUAL BEINGS ARE NOT OUTSIDE THE INTELLECTUALPRINCIPLE: AND ON THE NATURE OF THE GOOD.
1. The IntellectualPrinciple, the veritably and essentially intellective, can this be conceived as ever falling into error, ever failing to think reality?
Assuredly no: it would no longer be intelligent and therefore no longer IntellectualPrinciple: it must know unceasingly and never forget; and its knowledge can be no guesswork, no hesitating assent, no acceptance of an alien report. Nor can it call on demonstration or, we are told it may at times act by this or, I method, at least there must be something patent to it in virtue of its own nature. In actual fact reason tells us that all its knowledge is thus inherent to it, for there is no means by which to distinguish between the spontaneous knowledge and the other. But, in any case, some knowledge, it is conceded, is inherent to it. Whence are we to understand the certainty of this knowledge to come to it or how do its objects carry the conviction of their reality?
Consider senseknowledge: its objects seem most patently certified, yet the doubt returns whether the apparent reality may not lie in the states of the percipient rather than in the material before him; the decision demands intelligence or reasoning. Besides, even granting that what the senses grasp is really contained in the objects, none the less what is thus known by the senses is an image: sense can never grasp the thing itself; this remains for ever outside.
Now, if the IntellectualPrinciple in its act that is in knowing the intellectual is to know these its objects as alien, we have to explain how it makes contact with them: obviously it might never come upon them, and so might never know them; or it might know them only upon the meeting: its knowing, at that, would not be an enduring condition. If we are told that the IntellectualPrinciple and the Intellectual Objects are linked in a standing unity, we demand the description of this unity.
Next, the intellections would be impressions, that is to say not native act but violence from without: now how is such impressing possible and what shape could the impressions bear?
Intellection, again, becomes at this a mere handling of the external, exactly like senseperception. What then distinguishes it unless that it deals with objects of less extension? And what certitude can it have that its knowledge is true? Or what enables it to pronounce that the object is good, beautiful, or just, when each of these ideas is to stand apart from itself? The very principles of judgement, by which it must be guided, would be [as Ideas] excluded: with objects and canons alike outside it, so is truth.
Again; either the objects of the IntellectualPrinciple are senseless and devoid of life and intellect or they are in possession of Intellect.
Now, if they are in possession of Intellect, that realm is a union of both and is Truth. This combined Intellectual realm will be the Primal Intellect: we have only then to examine how this reality, conjoint of IntellectualPrinciple and its object, is to be understood, whether as combining selfunited identity with yet duality and difference, or what other relation holds between them.
If on the contrary the objects of IntellectualPrinciple are without intelligence and life, what are they? They cannot be premises, axioms or predicates: as predicates they would not have real existence; they would be affirmations linking separate entities, as when we affirm that justice is good though justice and good are distinct realities.
If we are told that they are selfstanding entities the distinct beings Justice and Good then [supposing them to be outside] the Intellectual Realm will not be a unity nor be included in any unity: all is sundered individuality. Where, then, are they and what spatial distinction keeps them apart? How does the IntellectualPrinciple come to meet with them as it travels round; what keeps each true to its character; what gives them enduring identity; what conceivable shape or character can they have? They are being presented to us as some collection of figures, in gold or some other material substance, the work of some unknown sculptor or graver: but at once the IntellectualPrinciple which contemplates them becomes senseperception; and there still remains the question how one of them comes to be Justice and another something else.
But the great argument is that if we are to allow that these objects of Intellection are in the strict sense outside the IntellectualPrinciple, which, therefore, must see them as external, then inevitably it cannot possess the truth of them.
In all it looks upon, it sees falsely; for those objects must be the authentic things; yet it looks upon them without containing them and in such knowledge holds only their images; that is to say, not containing the authentic, adopting phantasms of the true, it holds the false; it never possesses reality. If it knows that it possesses the false, it must confess itself excluded from the truth; if it fails of this knowledge also, imagining itself to possess the truth which has eluded it, then the doubled falsity puts it the deeper into error.
It is thus, I suppose, that in senseperception we have belief instead of truth; belief is our lief; we satisfy ourselves with something very different from the original which is the occasion of perception.
In fine, there would be on the hypothesis no truth in the IntellectualPrinciple. But such an IntellectualPrinciple would not be truth, nor truly an IntellectualPrinciple. There would be no IntellectualPrinciple at all [no Divine Mind]: yet elsewhere truth cannot be.
2. Thus we may not look for the Intellectual objects [the Ideas] outside of the IntellectualPrinciple, treating them as impressions of reality upon it: we cannot strip it of truth and so make its objects unknowable and nonexistent and in the end annul the IntellectualPrinciple itself. We must provide for knowledge and for truth; we must secure reality; being must become knowable essentially and not merely in that knowledge of quality which could give us a mere image or vestige of the reality in lieu of possession, intimate association, absorption.
The only way to this is to leave nothing out side of the veritable IntellectualPrinciple which thus has knowledge in the true knowing [that of identification with the object], cannot forget, need not go wandering in search. At once truth is there, this is the seat of the authentic Existents, it becomes living and intellective: these are the essentials of that most lofty Principle; and, failing them, where is its worth, its grandeur?
Only thus [by this inherence of the Ideas] is it dispensed from demonstration and from acts of faith in the truth of its knowledge: it is its entire self, selfperspicuous: it knows a prior by recognising its own source; it knows a sequent to that prior by its selfidentity; of the reality of this sequent, of the fact that it is present and has authentic existence, no outer entity can bring it surer conviction.
Thus veritable truth is not accordance with an external; it is selfaccordance; it affirms and is nothing other than itself and is nothing other; it is at once existence and selfaffirmation. What external, then, can call it to the question, and from what source of truth could the refutation be brought? Any counter affirmation [of truth] must fall into identity with the truth which first uttered itself; brought forward as new, it has to appear before the Principle which made the earlier statement and to show itself identical with that: for there is no finding anything truer than the true.
3. Thus we have here one identical Principle, the Intellect, which is the universe of authentic beings, the Truth: as such it is a great god or, better, not a god among gods but the Godhead entire. It is a god, a secondary god manifesting before there is any vision of that other, the Supreme which rests over all, enthroned in transcendence upon that splendid pediment, the Nature following close upon it.
The Supreme in its progress could never be borne forward upon some soulless vehicle nor even directly upon the soul: it will be heralded by some ineffable beauty: before the great King in his progress there comes first the minor train, then rank by rank the greater and more exalted, closer to the King the kinglier; next his own honoured company until, last among all these grandeurs, suddenly appears the Supreme Monarch himself, and all unless indeed for those who have contented themselves with the spectacle before his coming and gone away prostrate themselves and hail him.
In that royal progress the King is of another order from those that go before him, but the King in the Supreme is no ruler over externs; he holds that most just of governances, rooted in nature, the veritable kingship, for he is King of Truth, holding sway by all reason over a dense offspring his own, a host that shares his divinity, King over a king and over kings and even more justly called father of Gods.
[Interpolation: Zeus (Universal Soul) is in this a symbol of him, Zeus who is not content with the contemplation of his father (Kronos, divine Intellect) but looks to that fathers father (to Ouranos, the Transcendent) as what may be called the divine energy working to the establishment of a real being.]
4. We have said that all must be brought back to a unity: this must be an authentic unity, not belonging to the order in which multiplicity is unified by participation in what is truly a One; we need a unity independent of participation, not a combination in which multiplicity holds an equal place: we have exhibited, also, the Intellectual Realm and the IntellectualPrinciple as more closely a unity than the rest of things, so that there is nothing closer to The One. Yet even this is not The purely One.
This purely One, essentially a unity untouched by the multiple, this we now desire to penetrate if in any way we may.
Only by a leap can we reach to this One which is to be pure of all else, halting sharp in fear of slipping ever so little aside and impinging on the dual: for if we fail of the centre, we are in a duality which does not even include The authentic One but belongs on both sides, to the later order. The One does not bear to be numbered in with anything else, with a one or a two or any such quantity; it refuses to take number because it is measure and not the measured; it is no peer of other entities to be found among them; for thus, it and they alike would be included in some container and this would be its prior, the prior it cannot have. Not even essential [ideal or abstract] number can belong to The One and certainly not the still later number applying to quantities; for essential number first appears as providing duration to the divine Intellection, while quantitative number is that [still later and lower] which furnishes the Quantity found in conjunction with other things or which provides for Quantity independent of things, if this is to be thought of as number at all. The Principle which in objects having quantitative number looks to the unity from which they spring is a copy [or lower phase] of the Principle which in the earlier order of number [in essential or ideal number] looks to the veritable One; and it attains its existence without in the least degree dissipating or shattering that prior unity: the dyad has come into being, but the precedent monad still stands; and this monad is quite distinct within the dyad from either of the two constituent unities, since there is nothing to make it one rather than the other: being neither, but simply that thing apart, it is present without being inherent.
But how are the two unities distinct and how is the dyad a unity, and is this unity the same as the unity by which each of the constituents is one thing?
Our answer must be that the unity is that of a participation in the primal unity with the participants remaining distinct from that in which they partake; the dyad, in so far as it is one thing, has this participation, but in a certain degree only; the unity of an army is not that of a single building; the dyad, as a thing of extension, is not strictly a unit either quantitatively or in manner of being.
Are we then to take it that the monads in the pentad and decad differ while the unity in the pentad is the same as that in the decad?
Yes, in the sense in which, big and little, ship is one with ship, army with army, city with city; otherwise, no. But certain difficulties in this matter will be dealt with later.
5. We return to our statement that The First remains intact even when other entities spring from it.
In the case of numbers, the unit remains intact while something else produces, and thus number arises in dependence on the unit: much more then does the unit, The One, remain intact in the principle which is before all beings; especially since the entities produced in its likeness, while it thus remains intact, owe their existence to no other, but to its own allsufficient power.
And just as there is, primarily or secondarily, some form or idea from the monad in each of the successive numbers the later still participating, though unequally, in the unit so the series of Beings following upon The First bear, each, some form or idea derived from that source. In Number the participation establishes Quantity; in the realm of Being, the trace of The One establishes reality: existence is a trace of The One our word for entity may probably be connected with that for unity.
What we know as Being, the first sequent upon The One, advanced a little outward, so to speak, then chose to go no further, turned inward again and comes to rest and is now the reality and hearth [ousia and hestia] of the universe. Pressing [with the rough breathing] on the word for Being [on] we have the word hen [one], an indication that in our very form of speech we tell, as far as may be, that Being [the weaker] is that which proceeds from [the stronger] The One. Thus both the thing that comes to be and Being itself are carriers of a copy, since they are outflows from the power of The primal One: this power sees and in its emotion tries to represent what it sees and breaks into speech On; einai; ousia, hestia [Existent: Existence: Essence: Hestia or Hearth], sounds which labour to express the essential nature of the universe produced by the travail of the utterer and so to represent, as far as sounds may, the origin of reality.
6. All this, however, we may leave to individual judgement: to proceed:
This produced reality is an Ideal form for certainly nothing springing from the Supreme can be less and it is not a particular form but the form of all, beside which there is no other; it follows that The First must be without form, and, if without form, then it is no Being; Being must have some definition and therefore be limited; but the First cannot be thought of as having definition and limit, for thus it would be not the Source but the particular item indicated by the definition assigned to it. If all things belong to the produced, which of them can be thought of as the Supreme? Not included among them, this can be described only as transcending them: but they are Being and the Beings; it therefore transcends Being.
Note that the phrase transcending Being assigns no character, makes no assertion, allots no name, carries only the denial of particular being; and in this there is no attempt to circumscribe it: to seek to throw a line about that illimitable Nature would be folly, and anyone thinking to do so cuts himself off from any slightest and most momentary approach to its least vestige.
As one wishing to contemplate the Intellectual Nature will lay aside all the representations of sense and so may see what transcends the senserealm, in the same way one wishing to contemplate what transcends the Intellectual attains by putting away all that is of the intellect, taught by the intellect, no doubt, that the Transcendent exists but never seeking to define it.
Its definition, in fact, could be only the indefinable: what is not a thing is not some definite thing. We are in agony for a true expression; we are talking of the untellable; we name, only to indicate for our own use as best we may. And this name, The One, contains really no more than the negation of plurality: under the same pressure the Pythagoreans found their indication in the symbol Apollo [a= not; pollon= of many] with its repudiation of the multiple. If we are led to think positively of The One, name and thing, there would be more truth in silence: the designation, a mere aid to enquiry, was never intended for more than a preliminary affirmation of absolute simplicity to be followed by the rejection of even that statement: it was the best that offered, but remains inadequate to express the Nature indicated. For this is a principle not to be conveyed by any sound; it cannot be known on any hearing but, if at all, by vision; and to hope in that vision to see a form is to fail of even that.
7. Consider the act of ocular vision:
There are two elements here; there is the form perceptible to the sense and there is the medium by which the eye sees that form. This medium is itself perceptible to the eye, distinct from the form to be seen, but the cause of the seeing; it is perceived at the one stroke in that form and on it and, hence, is not distinguished from it, the eye being held entirely by the illuminated object. When on the contrary this medium presents itself alone it is seen directly though even then actual sight demands some solid base; there must be something besides the medium which, unless embracing some object, eludes perception; thus the light inherent to the sun would not be perceived but for the solidity of the mass. If it is objected that the sun is light entire, this would only be a proof of our assertion: no other visible form will contain light which must, then, have no other property than that of visibility, and in fact all other visible objects are something more than light alone.
So it is with the act of vision in the Intellectual Principle.
This vision sees, by another light, the objects illuminated by the First Principle: setting itself among them, it sees veritably; declining towards the lower Nature, that upon which the light from above rests, it has less of that vision. Passing over the visible and looking to the medium by which it sees, then it holds the Light and the source of Light.
But since the IntellectualPrinciple is not to see this light as something external we return to our analogy; the eye is not wholly dependent upon an outside and alien light; there is an earlier light within itself, a more brilliant, which it sees sometimes in a momentary flash. At night in the darkness a gleam leaps from within the eye: or again we make no effort to see anything; the eyelids close; yet a light flashes before us; or we rub the eye and it sees the light it contains. This is sight without the act, but it is the truest seeing, for it sees light whereas its other objects were the lit not the light.
It is certainly thus that the IntellectualPrinciple, hiding itself from all the outer, withdrawing to the inmost, seeing nothing, must have its vision not of some other light in some other thing but of the light within itself, unmingled, pure, suddenly gleaming before it;
8. So that we are left wondering whence it came, from within or without; and when it has gone, we say, It was here. Yet no; it was beyond! But we ought not to question whence; there is no whence, no coming or going in place; now it is seen and now not seen. We must not run after it, but fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for its appearance, as the eye waits on the rising of the sun, which in its own time appears above the horizon out of the ocean, as the poets say and gives itself to our sight.
This Principle, of which the sun is an image, where has it its dawning, what horizon does it surmount to appear?
It stands immediately above the contemplating Intellect which has held itself at rest towards the vision, looking to nothing else than the good and beautiful, setting its entire being to that in a perfect surrender, and now tranquilly filled with power and taking a new beauty to itself, gleaming in the light of that presence.
This advent, still, is not by expectation: it is a coming without approach; the vision is not of something that must enter but of something present before all else, before the Intellect itself made any movement. Yet it is the Intellect that must move, to come and to go going because it has not known where it should stay and where that presence stays, the nowhere contained.
And if the Intellect, too, could hold itself in that nowhere not that it is ever in place; it too is uncontained, utterly unplaced it would remain for ever in the vision of its prior, or, indeed, not in vision but in identity, all duality annulled. But it is Intellect [having a sphere of its own] and, when it is to see, it must see by that in it which is not Intellect [by its divinest power].
No doubt it is wonderful that The First should thus be present without any coming, and that, while it is nowhere, nowhere is it not; but wonderful though this be in itself, the contrary would be more wonderful to those who know. Of course neither this contrary nor the wonder at it can be entertained. But we must explain:
9. Everything brought into being under some principle not itself is contained either within its maker or, if there is any intermediate, within that: having a prior essential to its being, it needs that prior always, otherwise it would not be contained at all. It is the order of nature: The last in the immediately preceding lasts, things of the order of the Firsts within their priorfirsts, and so thing within thing up to the very pinnacle of source.
That Source, having no prior, cannot be contained: uncontained by any of those other forms of being, each held within the series of priors, it is orbed round all, but so as not to be pointed off to hold them part for part; it possesses but is not possessed. Holding all though itself nowhere held it is omnipresent, for where its presence failed something would elude its hold. At the same time, in the sense that it is nowhere held, it is not present: thus it is both present and not present; not present as not being circumscribed by anything; yet, as being utterly unattached, not inhibited from presence at any point. That inhibition would mean that the First was determined by some other being; the later series, then, would be without part in the Supreme; God has His limit and is no longer selfgoverned but mastered by inferiors.
While the contained must be where its container is, what is uncontained by place is not debarred from any: for, imagine a place where it is not and evidently some other place retains it; at once it is contained and there is an end of its placelessness.
But if the nowhere is to stand and the ascription of a where, implying station in the extern, is to fall, then nothing can be left void; and at once nothing void, yet no point containing God is sovereignly present through all. We cannot think of something of God here and something else there, nor of all God gathered at some one spot: there is an instantaneous presence everywhere, nothing containing and nothing left void, everything therefore fully held by the divine.
Consider our universe. There is none before it and therefore it is not, itself, in a universe or in any place what place was there before the universe came to be? its linked members form and occupy the whole. But Soul is not in the universe, on the contrary the universe is in the Soul; bodily substance is not a place to the Soul; Soul is contained in IntellectualPrinciple and is the container of body. The IntellectualPrinciple in turn is contained in something else; but that prior principle has nothing in which to be: the First is therefore in nothing, and, therefore, nowhere. But all the rest must be somewhere; and where but in the First?
This can mean only that the First is neither remote from things nor directly within them; there is nothing containing it; it contains all. It is The Good to the universe if only in this way, that towards it all things have their being, all dependent upon it, each in its mode, so that thing rises above thing in goodness according to its fuller possession of authentic being.
10. Still, do not, I urge you, look for The Good through any of these other things; if you do, you will see not itself but its trace: you must form the idea of that which is to be grasped cleanly standing to itself not in any combination, the unheld in which all have hold: for no other is such, yet one such there must be.
Now it is clear that we cannot possess ourselves of the power of this principle in its concentrated fulness: so to do one must be identical with it: but some partial attainment is within our reach.
You who make the venture will throw forward all your being but you will never tell it entire for that, you must yourself be the divine Intellect in Act and at your utmost success it will still pass from you or, rather, you from it. In ordinary vision you may think to see the object entire: in this intellective act, all, less or more, that you can take to mind you may set down as The Good.
It is The Good since, being a power [being effective outwardly], it is the cause of the intelligent and intellective life as of life and intellect: for these grow from it as from the source of essence and of existence, the Source as being One, simplex and first because before it was nothing. All derives from this: it is the origin of the primal movement which it does not possess and of the repose which is but its absence of need; for neither rest nor movement can belong to that which has no place in which either could occur; centre, object, ground, all are alike unknown to it, for it is before all. Yet its Being is not limited; what is there to set bounds to it? Nor, on the other hand, is it infinite in the sense of magnitude; what place can there be to which it must extend, or why should there be movement where there is no lacking? All its infinitude resides in its power: it does not change and will not fail; and in it all that is unfailing finds duration.
11. It is infinite also by right of being a pure unity with nothing towards which to direct any partial content. Absolutely One, it has never known measure and stands outside of number, and so is under no limit either in regard to any extern or within itself; for any such determination would bring something of the dual into it. And having no constituent parts it accepts no pattern, forms no shape.
Reason recognising it as such a nature, you may not hope to see it with mortal eyes, nor in any way that would be imagined by those who make sense the test of reality and so annul the supremely real. For what passes for the most truly existent is most truly nonexistent the thing of extension least real of all while this unseen First is the source and principle of Being and sovereign over Reality.
You must turn appearances about or you will be left void of God. You will be like those at the festivals who in their gluttony cram themselves with things which none going to the gods may touch; they hold these goods to be more real than the vision of the God who is to be honoured and they go away having had no share in the sanctities of the shrine.
In these celebrations of which we speak, the unseen god leaves those in doubt of his existence who think nothing patent but what may be known to the flesh: it happens as if a man slept a life through and took the dream world in perfect trust; wake him, and he would refuse belief to the report of his open eyes and settle down to sleep again.
12. Knowing demands the organ fitted to the object; eyes for one kind, ears for another: similarly some things, we must believe, are to be known by the IntellectualPrinciple in us. We must not confuse intellection with hearing or seeing; this would be trying to look with the ears or denying sound because it is not seen. Certain people, we must keep in mind, have forgotten that to which, from the beginning onwards, their longing and effort are pointed: for all that exists desires and aspires towards the Supreme by a compulsion of nature, as if all had received the oracle that without it they cannot be.
The perception of Beauty and the awe and the stirring of passion towards it are for those already in some degree knowing and awakened: but the Good, as possessed long since and setting up a natural tendency, is inherently present to even those asleep and brings them no wonder when some day they see it, since it is no occasional reminiscence but is always with them though in their drowse they are not aware of it: the love of Beauty on the contrary sets up pain when it appears, for those that have seen it must pursue. This love of Beauty then is later than the love of Good and comes with a more sophisticated understanding; hence we know that Beauty is a secondary: the more primal appetition, not patent to sense, our movement towards our good, gives witness that The Good is the earlier, the prior.
Again; all that have possessed themselves of The Good feel it sufficient: they have attained the end: but Beauty not all have known and those that have judge it to exist for itself and not for them, as in the charm of this world the beauty belongs only to its possessor.
Then, too, it is thought enough to appear loveable whether one is so or not: but no one wants his Good in semblance only. All are seeking The First as something ranking before aught else, but they struggle venomously for beauty as something secondary like themselves: thus some minor personage may perhaps challenge equal honour with the Kings righthand man on pretext of similar dependence, forgetting that, while both owe their standing to the monarch, the other holds the higher rank.
The source of the error is that while both The Good and The Beautiful participate in the common source, The One precedes both; and that, in the Supreme also, The Good has no need of The Beautiful, while the Beautiful does need The Good.
The Good is gentle and friendly and tender, and we have it present when we but will. Beauty is all violence and stupefaction; its pleasure is spoiled with pain, and it even draws the thoughtless away from The Good as some attraction will lure the child from the fathers side: these things tell of youth. The Good is the older not in time but by degree of reality and it has the higher and earlier power, all power in fact, for the sequent holds only a power subordinate and delegated of which the prior remains sovereign.
Not that God has any need of His derivatives: He ignores all that produced realm, never necessary to Him, and remains identically what He was before He brought it into being. So too, had the secondary never existed, He would have been unconcerned, exactly as He would not have grudged existence to any other universe that might spring into being from Him, were any such possible; of course no other such could be since there is nothing that has not existence once the All exists.
But God never was the All; that would make Him dependent upon the universe: transcending all, He was able at once to make all things and to leave them to their own being, He above.
13. The Supreme, as the Absolute Good and not merely a good being or thing, can contain nothing, since there is nothing that could be its good.
Anything it could contain must be either good to it or not good; but in the supremely and primally Good there can be nothing not good; nor can the Absolute Good be a container to the Good: containing, then, neither the good nor the not good it contains nothing and, containing nothing, it is alone: it is void of all but itself.
If the rest of being either is good without being the absolute good or is not good, while on the other hand the Supreme contains neither what is good nor what is not good, then, containing nothing, it is The Good by that very absence of content.
Thus we rob it of its very being as The Absolute Good if we ascribe anything to it, existence or intellect or goodness. The only way is to make every denial and no assertion, to feign no quality or content there but to permit only the It is in which we pretend to no affirmation of nonexistent attribute: there is an ignorant praise which, missing the true description, drags in qualities beneath the real worth and so abases; philosophy must guard against attaching to the Supreme what is later and lower: moving above all that order, it is the cause and source of all these, and is none of them.
For, once more, the nature of the Good is not such as to make it all things or a thing among all: that would range it under the same classification with them all and it would differ, thus, only by its individual quality, some specialty, some addition. At once it becomes not a unity but a duality; there is one common element not good and another element that is good; but a combination so made up of good and not good cannot be the purely good, the primarily good; the primarily good must be that principle in which the better element has more effectively participated and so attained its goodness. Any good thing has become so by communion; but that in which it has communion is not a thing among the things of the all; therefore the Good is not a thing of the All.
Since there is this Good in any good thing the specific difference by which the combination becomes good it must enter from elsewhere than the world of things: that source must be a Good absolute and isolated.
Thus is revealed to us the Primarily existent, the Good, above all that has being, good unalloyed, containing nothing in itself, utterly unmingling, alltranscending, cause of all.
Certainly neither Being nor Beauty springs from evil or from the neutral; the maker, as the more consummate, must surpass the made.
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