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Whether you have free will or not depends on how you define it. You can define it any way you want to prove whatever you want. No one has yet discovered free will in nature so it is just an idea in the minds of people. When we understand consciousness the way we understand matter and energy then we can look and see if there is something like free will. Until then, it is what ever you want it to be.

Of course there's free will in nature; it's called quantum uncertainty. Is it in some way related to human free will? I don't know, but it's interesting that on a basic level the universe is not deterministic.

As to human free will, since, as Michael said, many of our actions and beliefs are determined by past experiences we are obviously a mixture of what was and what we intend to be. In computer terminology I believe that's called a "kludge".

It's a logical contradiction to say we have no free will at all, inasmuch as all of our beliefs would then be predetermined, including our belief that we have no free will.

Our belief in free will, or not, may well be determined. Belief doesn't automatically indicate free will, inasmuch as a calculator in some sense might be said to "believe" that 5 is the sum of 2 and 3. Given the way it is built, it has to "believe" that. It could be the same for each of us.

And if our beliefs are predetermined (and therefore arbitrary)

A calculator is predetermined to add up to 5 when 2 and 3 are summed. It could be predetermined to give some other number if it was designed to be faulty. So it's answer could be designed to be truth-getting, or not. If it was predetermined to be truth-getting, it would not be arbitrary, it would be accurate. Whether it is truth-getting has something to do with whether its answers match up with something external to itself, or not. Truth-getting, then, has nothing to do with choice. It has to do with whether your beliefs match up with something else or not. And that would seem to be determined, unless the universe molds itself to our individual perceptions.

we have no reason to take them seriously.

That assumes there is nothing external to your beliefs to judge the accuracy of them. There is, else this computer would not work.

So by the very act of asserting that we have no free will, we are implicitly assuming that we do have at least enough free will to make up our own minds about it.

Sorry, but no. Beliefs are about reality, and guide our actions. When the expected results of our actions don't pan out, we adjust our beliefs. Trial and error is one way to make our beliefs truth-getting. It isn't "free choice", it trying and failing until you don't fail anymore. I would like to be able to fly by flapping my arms by I cannot choose to do so. I can't choose to believe that 2+3=8 either.

There are certain facts about free will. How do you define it? Does that definition fit in with reality, or not? Your answers to these questions determine whether or not free will is coherent or existent. You might reason correctly, or incorrectly, or not have enough facts to decide. But your answer is determined by how you reason about the facts, and what facts are available to you. Otherwise anything goes and there is no reason to believe A instead of not-A, and it's all relative.

Have you ever done the right thing when the wrong thing was much easier, and you stopped yourself from taking the path of least resistance to do something harder, and maybe which you didn't really want to do, but which you knew was right?

That, I think, is freedom in action. The moment when you decide that you are not, in that instance at least, going to be an automaton running a routine, that you are going to resist the impulse to be that, even though automatic behavior is so much easier.

Instead of asking "are we free?" I think a better question would be "CAN we be free?"

Because evidence abounds of human beings' herd-like behavior, and politicians and other scoundrels count on manipulation, which you know they are doing and yet which you play along with anyway in a kind of suspension of disbelief, to be successful in their goals of being elected, of selling you a lemon, of getting you to invest in their Ponzi scheme.

People rise to power, yes, even in our society, by controlling the absence of freedom and doing all the right things that make people behave automatically.

Want water to go a certain place? Dig a trench so that when it rains the water flows according to your plan.

Ironically, the fraudulent are themselves unfree, always controlled by the crooked behaviors that come to them most easily, and they make a living from the absence of freedom in others.

Further, it occurs to me that the question of whether we are free probably only occurs to us when we are doing things wrong or are unhappy. If at some point we evolve in our behavior that we never do things for which we deserve to feel guilt, we would also probably not think much about whether we are free.

“I don't doubt that I have some degree of free will.”

If we only have some degree of free will then what prevents us from having absolute free will?

We are the expression of that that is and we do not have the freedom not to express ourselves and with that expression we have the will to choose. If we did not have the will to choose there would be no expression. But that will to choose has limitations and the origin of all limitations is unawareness. But without that unawareness there is no us to choose.

As the soul develops in love and divine intelligence those limitations become less and less restrictive.

From my point of view anyone that believes we have free will as it is taught in the world could never show anyone including himself or herself compassion. Maybe sympathy, maybe even empathy, but not compassion. It appears that we have free will but appearances are deceiving.


By making these statements I do not claim any superior level of compassion. I have experienced compassion once in a dream state that taught me compassion is a rare phenomenon in this world where guilt and shame are considered ideals of mental health.


“If at some point we evolve in our behavior that we never do things for which we deserve to feel guilt, we would also probably not think much about whether we are free.”

Do we deserve to feel guilt? What if guilt is of the ego and not of the spirit? There is no such thing as healthy guilt. The more one feels guilty the less chance that that person will make valid choices based in love in the future. What would religion be without guilt and free will?

Our prisons are based on the idea of punishment and guilt and how well has that worked out? 70% return rate and a few years ago prisons was the fastest growing industry in America. The solution: longer prison terms, more punishment and guilt. The result build more prisons even privatized prisons to make profits from those longer prison terms and more punishment.

It is much easier for the ego to admit to guilt than to admit to its ignorance. The ego despises the idea that it has acted out of ignorance. With this recognition of ignorance in others and ourselves there can be no compassion, maybe sympathy or empathy but not compassion. At the very heart of compassion is understanding. What is understanding but the recognition that all mistakes, errors, sins, indeed all evil is due to some degree of ignorance of our true reality which is spirit.

We must first recognize our mistakes, which is difficult, then regret those mistakes due to our ignorance (very difficult), and then reorient ourselves to the best of our ability to not make the same mistakes again.

Only when we see that guilt is of the ego’s need to self confirm itself and not of spirit will this three-step process make sense. Call me anything you want but don’t call me ignorant is the common battle cry of we humans.

Of course there's free will in nature; it's called quantum uncertainty. - mark

Just because we don't know what makes a certain atom decay and another not doesn't mean there's free will; all there is lack of information. Perhaps if we had enough information we could predict which atom would decay?

I am deeply suspicious of free will and lean heavily towards fate and predestination. The education of the soul is way too important to leave it up to chance.

It's like a workbook in school. The teacher knows what's in the workbook and knows the answers but the students don't. As they work through the book they search and learn the information but the teacher was guiding the students towards a certain predestined path all along.

I believe the soul's lessons are embedded in our everyday lives and it is holistically imprinted with what it's supposed to learn whether we want it to be or not. And by the way, losing money is just another way of experiencing separation.

Everyone becomes instantly connected and enlightened upon entering the light and has access to "all knowledge" upon entering the Light. Oneness, connectedness, love, all knowledge, are all properties that one might expect of a holographic universe.

Beverly Brodsky - near-death experiences
"I was given more than just the answers to my questions; all knowledge unfolded to me, like the instant blossoming of an infinite number of flowers all at"
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/judaism02.html

I remember being impressed by this argument on Paranormalia:

If there's no free will, then how can we have confidence in our ideas or beliefs? Our beliefs would be, after all, only the result of blind mechanistic processes. This would include all our beliefs about science and philosophy, including the belief that we have no free will.

It is, of course, true that we know we have free will. We know it by direct introspection, which means we know it more surely than we know that there's an external world. We know it more surely than we know that we can trust our physical senses.

It is intellectually incoherent to maintain that free will is illusory. [To say instead that your sense of self-understanding is entirely determined by millions of years of evolution is of no value because] your whole belief that there have been millions of years of evolution, or that you have a physical body, or any belief of any kind whatsoever, would be nothing but the result of automatic processes, and therefore could not be relied on.
Free will is axiomatic; you must tacitly accept it in the very act of denying it. i.e., you must assume that your thought processes are reliable, that your judgment is not entirely conditioned by instinct and reflex; otherwise you could have no confidence in any conclusion you reach, including conclusions about free will.

Of course, this came before War and Peace and before the Credit crunch...as you say, we live and learn.

I remember being impressed by this argument on Paranormalia

Quoting my own words back at me - not fair!

But I still think the argument you cite is valid; in fact, I tried to repeat it (in briefer form) in the above post. We must have some degree of free will or we could never trust any of our conclusions about anything (including the issue of free will).

That doesn't mean, however, that our freedom is unlimited. It may operate within relatively narrow parameters - the parameters of personal experience, personal belief, and temperament. These serve as constraints on volition; they don't nullify it, but they do restrict its range of operation.

Or so it seems to me.

"...else this computer would not work."

Tom Campbell said that during his peregrinations he visited a PMR where there is no electricity, and science is progressing without it. Electricity is not part of its PMR rule-set (physics).

The education of the soul is too important to leave it up to chance. - Art

"I was not "told" anything in the light, as much as, I just knew everything there was to know. I knew why there was bad in the world, I knew why there was good, I knew that every little thing that will ever occur here, is exactly planned out, in order to bring about something else. Everything we have ever done or known or will know, is perfectly planned out and perfectly in tune." - excerpt from Jame's NDE, http://nderf.org/james_e_nde.htm

William, the word usually applied to people incapable of feeling guilt when they have done wicked things is "psychopath."

Yes, it is a good thing that you feel bad for having done bad things. Not to wallow in the emotions so that you are incapacitated, but to respect the power of the feelings enough that they teach you not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

It shows you have a conscience.

And you have to distinguish between guilt which you deserve because you did do something wrong——those people should feel ashamed who saw that man in Connecticut get hit by a car, laying in the street dying of his injuries, and who just watched without getting involved; and guilt which some people try to make you feel when you didn't do anything wrong——writing a book critical of the Bush administration when you were once a part of it, while its defenders attack you from all directions for having parted ways with the policies you once endorsed.

You deserve the first, not the second.

I used a very similar monthly chart system to move in and out the stock market and did very well. The only catch is I got divorced and ended up with less than I would have had with a buy and hold strategy. It seems that fate cannot be so easily manipulated.

Just because we don't know what makes a certain atom decay and another not doesn't mean there's free will; all there is lack of information. Perhaps if we had enough information we could predict which atom would decay?

Art, the uncertainty of quantum phenomena is not epistemological, but ontological. It's not what we don't know yet why it is like that (I mean, due to lack of information), but that we CAN'T know it, because the uncertainty is intrinsic with that phenomena, i.e, it's intrinsically not determined.

See The Quantum Enigma by Bruce Rozemblum for a discussion of it, and what experiments prove it.

However, you conclusion "Just because we don't know what makes a certain atom decay and another not doesn't mean there's free will" may be right, because quantum uncertainty in the atomic level doens't necessarily implies that we have free will.

However, quantum mechanics offers room for free-will according to some interpretations (see Henry Stapp's book "Mindful Universe"), or this paper:

http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/Philosophy.pdf

If consciousness is not physical, then the uncertainty of quantum phenomena (that are physical phenomena!) doesn't implies uncertainty in consciousness. The laws of consciousness may be totally different to the laws of the physical universe, and we should be careful to arbitrarily extrapolate one to the other.

If consciousness is physical, then we could expect that some basic physical laws applies to it; and in that case, we would have to examine if the the uncertainty principle of QM is relevant.

But it's an open and controversial topic yet,and conclusive answers don't seem easy to find.

In almost every moment, we have the ability to choose. This is not exactly the same as having free will.

There are moments when there is no time to make a conscious choice, in which case we respond instinctively, intuitively, or in accordance with our habits, our "programming."

There are those who believe habitual or automatic behavior predominates at nearly all moments, including those moments when we are confronted with two or more options and must choose.

They teach the practice of "self observation" and practitioners insist this validates the idea that we are as automatons, stumbling around in a state akin to sleep walking compared to what is possible.

Per these teachings, true conscious choice can only be with a heightened awareness, and this must be deliberately cultivated.

This may be correct but I'm not 100% certain.

I suspect there are degrees of freedom from habitual behavior, that under certain circumstances -- not necessarily those prescribed by these folks -- we do make conscious choices that may not be quite so "automatic."

I would suggest that when choosing, say, which college to attend after being accepted at two, we are exercising choice and at least a degree of "free will."

Stranger is another set of teachings, from another source, that suggests at the moment of choice two realities diverge. In one, the self chooses to attend College A; in the other, another probable version of self chooses to attend College B. (There are other realities, too, as for example choosing to not attend either school.)

Like the first teachings, exercises are given to validate this other set of teachings.

In this case, there's 2. Preliminary Probable Self Exercise, found at http://www.realitytest.com/doors.htm , something I've mentioned several times here.

Engaging in either "self observation" or the above exercise can generate some truly unusual experiences.

Even so, this may not necessarily provide a firm and final answer to the question of whether or not we have "free will."

I lean towards an affirmative answer but this is subject to revision based on additional experience and knowledge.

Bill I.


“William, the word usually applied to people incapable of feeling guilt when they have done wicked things is "psychopath."”

The word that needs to be applied to psychopath behavior when they have done wicked things is the inability to feel or have regret. World of difference between regret and guilt. Guilt is self-confirmatory to the ego. Feeling guilty or not feeling guilty is of the ego but feeling and admitting regret owns up to our ignorance and that is a very rare occurrence. Tell a person that they are guilty is not nearly as bad as telling a person that they are ignorant.

I know what I am writing is 180 degrees from what society teaches but often what society teaches is 180 degrees from reality. I recommend the book “beyond the dream” for more information about the relationship of guilt and regret.

A quote from dr hora the author of beyond the dream.

“…….if we understand the workings of self confirmatory ideation we can see to not feel guilty or to feel guilty is really the same. In either case the ego is being asserted and gratified.”

It appears that Jesus understood the ignorance of humankind when he stated forgive them father they know no that they do.

“That doesn't mean, however, that our freedom is unlimited. It may operate within relatively narrow parameters - the parameters of personal experience, personal belief, and temperament”

I would add another parameter to this list. Soul development. I suspect there are many parameters such as environment, etc. but I suspect that two to four parameters have the major influence on our choices we make in life.

The fact "that many of the actions we take are dictated more by habit and routine, or by circumstances, than by conscious choice."
does not negate the possibility of unlimited free will.
The 'free will' is not always exercised- but wouldn't that be a power of someone who did have free will?

There are a couple meanings to the word "guilt" as when the jury comes back with a verdict of "guilty," or simply when you feel bad about something you have done, which is pretty much synonymous with regret.

The justification for buy-and-hold is somewhat seductive and plausible, especially to non-calculating personalities who don't want to get onto a slippery slope of market timing, at the bottom of which they fear they’ll find themselves moiling for gold along with Scrooge McDuck. (I'd like to post a rebuttal of buy-and-hold one day, after I've read more and acquired more ammo. It's a more complicated subject than it appears.)

The tangents from this topic that I think would be more interesting to explore than free are "attachment" and "paradigms." As I'm not really up to speed on those topics either, I'll let others weigh in on them. But as far as loosening the grip of inappropriate investment paradigms (like buy-and-hold) goes, I have a couple of suggestions.

1. Fool around with play-money bets on http://www.hubdub.com . I.e., place them, then cash them in. Learning to reverse ones commitments and take timely losses is valuable practice. One becomes less ego-invested in ones positions. (However, it may take six months or more of losing bets to learn that detachment is the best policy.)

2. Just to see what it feels like, close out all (or most, or some) of ones stock positions for a day (or, better, a week). Do you secretly feel relieved? If so, why not extend the period and/or sell more of ones holdings, or at least reinstitute only a portion of ones original stake?

This is a subtle way of playing "judo" so that one can get outside of oneself and get truly a more balanced view of the situation. Jesse Livermore, the legendary speculator of yore, used a similar roundabout technique before buying or shorting a stock. He would deliberately make a few small (for him) bets on the opposite position from the one he intended to take. If he didn't feel uncomfortable after he'd done so, he wouldn't proceed to the next step.

Given that commissions are low nowadays (which removes one of the former justifications for buy-and-hold), it would not penalize one to employ this sort of in-and-out-for-the-hell-of-it tactic.

Incidentally, I believe you made a wise move in taking your loss at this point. The world’s economy is tightrope-walking across an abyss—on stilts. Maybe it’ll get to the other side—but that’s not the way to bet.

“There are a couple meanings to the word "guilt" as when the jury comes back with a verdict of "guilty," or simply when you feel bad about something you have done, which is pretty much synonymous with regret.”

Actually there is a universal eagerness to feel guilty. The Christian religion is based on humankind’s guilt due to their sinfulness. Why is this? The human ego uses guilt to self confirm itself. Its greatest fear is oblivion and guilt self confirms the ego’s existence.

Our prisons are full of people that feel guilty but refuse to recognize their misdeeds or even more important regret their ignorance. Only when they recognize their errors and regret their ignorance are they ready to reorient their lives to be a more beneficial presence in the world.

Feeling guilty or not feeling guilty when we have committed misdeeds are both of the ego. A psychopath is controlled by their ego even to the point of not feeling the guilt that society demands of us. Regret or remorse requires a recognition of our misdeeds (it is not them it is me) and more important our admitting to our ignorance. Admitting to our ignorance is no easy task as blaming, judging, and guilt are much more prevalent in any society. Why is this? The human ego again participating in a self-confirmatory mode of being in the world.

I used to think guilt was a good thing it showed spiritual awareness and maturity it took quite a while to see that guilt was of the ego and not of spirit. We must be very careful what society and religion and political ideologies teach us as being beneficial to the soul.

"Our prisons are full of people that feel guilty but refuse to recognize their misdeeds or even more important regret their ignorance."

Yeah, for whatever reason, I think you're hesitant to use the word guilt, but regret is actually not even as precise, since it seems to be used more to mean sadness over bad things that have happened that were NOT the result of your bad behavior.

And that's not how language works anyway. No one gets to decide what THE meaning of a word is and then enforce his standard. You go with how words are currently understood, and one of the meanings of guilt is to feel bad about the wrong things you have done.

Yes, you should feel bad for having done bad things, but that's not the ONLY thing you have to do. That's just a step in the right direction. So being in prison and JUST feeling bad is not enough. You also have to believe you can do better than that. You need to feel both things. Just feeling guilty all the time would actually make you a worse person.

I don't know what you intend to mean by "ego," but I probably would disagree with that too. It's actually the superego that's responsible for conscience, not the ego.

From Oxford: Ego: "The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity."

If you mean to say that the ego is a bad thing or something we should try to get rid of, then 1. It's best you be speaking from personal experience so that you've "been there, done that" and at least sound like you know what you're talking about and 2. Lead by example.

“If you mean to say that the ego is a bad thing or something we should try to get rid of, then 1”

The more you try to get rid of the ego the more it is in control. Maybe the best we can do is lose interest in it. The whole journey of the soul appears to be about slowly replacing the selfish ego that believes it is separate to a greater and greater recognition that we are part of the universal all.


As far as my refusal to use the word guilt please note you have avoided the word ignorance. This may give you some interesting insights into my point about how the ego hates the word ignorance and even worst being called ignorant when in reality we are all ignorant if we were not we would not exist as perceived separate entities.


Strong Ego identification is a phase all souls go through to reach higher and higher levels of consciousness from my point of view so the words good and bad may not have a meaning here.

The concept of self-confirmatory ideation is a difficult concept to accept. One has to understand how fragile the ego is and it is constantly trying to confirm its existence and feelings of guilt are one way to confirm its existence.

The ego would much rather admit to its feelings of guilt than its ignorance. One only has to look at politics and religion to see this phenomenon in action.

free will v. predetermination...i find the episode (which coincidentally was on last night) of fraiser titled "sliding fraisers" (based i guess on the movie "sliding doors" which i have not seen) seems to infer there is both free will and predetermination...we may make certain choices but outcomes may be predetermined...in other words, i may get to choose the route, but the destination is the same...

“i may get to choose the route, but the destination is the same”

What is the final destination?

It appears some choose a more difficult route than others. But we really don’t know what a person has accomplished in a past life or even if they had a past life.

Maybe we choose our fate and our choices determine our destiny. Of course everyone’s destiny ultimately is the same I suspect.

>And if our beliefs are predetermined (and therefore arbitrary), we have no reason to take them seriously. So by the very act of asserting that we have no free will, we are implicitly assuming that we do have at least enough free will to make up our own minds about it.

This is a fallacy, if we say our beliefs are predetermined, that is by no means a judgment on their quality or truth, only a judgment on their origin. For example, baby-geese have a predetermined belief that the first creature they see is their mother. Though this belief is predetermined, it says nothing about the truth of this belief. The baby-geese may actually see their mother, or they may not, their belief has nothing to with that. Does that mean the belief should not be taken serious? Surely, to the baby-geese it is very important who they believe is their mother. In conclusion, there is no logical contradiction that originates from believing that there is no such thing as free will. However, I do agree with you that someone who believes that he has no free will must still experience free will. That is, if free will is an illusion, it is impossible to see past that illusion.

>Whatever it is, we may not be as free as we like to think. And this possibility has both positive and negative implications. The negative implication is that we are not nearly as much in control of our lives as we try to believe. The positive implication is that we need not beat ourselves up for our past mistakes, under the illusion that we could have done things differently. If we had no choice in the matter, then there is nothing to feel sorry about.

I must disagree with the above conclusion. Though you do not define circumstances, I get the impression that you regard them very broadly. If free will is limited by circumstances in the sense you describe, moral responsibility is impossible. If circumstances are determinants for your actions, people cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. Surely you don't think we should let bygones be bygones for murderers, con artists and pedophiles?

One might argue that this is where free will comes into play, i.e. people do have the free will to formulate principles that keep them away from moral depravity. Essentially, this is saying that free will exists under some circumstances, but not under others. The problem is that there is nothing inherently different about the circumstances that lead you to not selling your stocks, in comparison with the circumstances that lead someone to a criminal act. Of course the circumstances are not identical, but they are both circumstances nevertheless. If we say that free will exists under certain circumstances, but not under others, this inevitably leads to the rejection of moral responsibility. If we are to take your argument seriously, you should specify your definition of circumstances.

>Free will is axiomatic; you must tacitly accept it in the very act of denying it. i.e., you must assume that your thought processes are reliable, that your judgment is not entirely conditioned by instinct and reflex; otherwise you could have no confidence in any conclusion you reach, including conclusions about free will.

Posted by: Shelagh | March 11, 2009 at 12:59 PM

My argument above is similar to the argument on Paranormalia, with one crucial difference. The assumption that automatic processes cannot be relied upon leads the author to conclude that free will must be accepted in denying it. However, this conclusion is false. The theory that free will does not exist is completely compatible with the thought process that lead you to that that theory, the only thing was that the thought process was not out of free will. The person who believes that free will does not exist must also believe that it was predetermined that he came to that conclusion. But this is not in itself a logical impossibility. It is perfectly possible to believe that there is no such thing as free will, but, as I have argued above, is is impossible to act consistently with that believe, i.e. we cannot stop experiencing free will.

baby-geese have a predetermined belief that the first creature they see is their mother.

It seems to me that this example supports my point. The baby geese may bond with their mother, or they may bond with a huamn being, a dog, or even a robot. Thus thier "belief" (usng the term loosely), being predetermined, is arbitrary and untrustworthy. The fact that in some cases they bond with their actual mother does not mean that they know what they are doing; it's pure luck. If our beliefs are no better grounded than the baby geese's "belief," then we have no basis for trusting any particular belief we may have. We may assume that some of our beliefs are valid and some are aren't, but we would have no way of determining which is which.

My point is not that a being without free will could never come to a correct conclusion. My point is that such a being would have no means of knowing when his conclusions are correct and when they aren't. He could not trust any particular conclusion - inclding the conclusion that he doesn't have free will.

I think the stuff that the soul comes here to learn has nothing to do with free will. Stuff like what an olive tastes like, what it feels like to make love, what time and space look and feel like, what it feels like to ride a bike, or drive a car, or fly in an airplane. And most importantly, what it feels like and what it means to be separate, because the feelings of oneness and connectedness in heaven are so overwhelming that it may be impossible to develop a sense of "self" in heaven. That feeling of being a separate, unique, individual. Has to be done here because it can't be done there due those overwhelming feelings of oneness.

Poster "Unknown Soldier" is correct in his argument.

I do strongly believe "free will" to be sort of like an illusion. WHY?

Because ALL of the facts, etc, etc, etc, etc....have been GIVEN to me (whatever I am).

EVERYTHING is connected (however odd those connections may be) and DOES NOT act alone and by one's "free will."

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Albert Einstein, (attributed)

This WOULD NOT necessarily mean, by the way, this "place" has a purpose and by "place" I mean YOU (whatever you are) as well...since there isn't any difference. Think about it. Don't think about it. Actually disobey me, and do as you please. It is "your" "free will" after all.

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