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The Rosicrucian Order is a legendary esoteric Order with its roots in the Western mystery tradition. This hermetic Order is viewed among earlier and many modern Rosicrucianists as a "College of Invisibles" from the inner worlds, composed of great Adepts, aiming to give assistance in humanity's spiritual development.
The "Brethren of the Rose Cross" is perceived by students of metaphysics as an important part or even the source of the hermetic-Christian tradition of the Western alchemy treatises period subsequent to the publication of Dante's The Divine Comedy in the early 14th century.
However, researchers of history and the society in general through the last centuries have assumed its origin in a group of German Protestants between 1607 and 1616 (early 17th century), when three anonymous documents were elaborated and published in Europe: Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, Confessio Fraternitatis, and Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz anno 1459. The influence of these documents, presenting the "most laudable Order" and promoting a "Universal Reformation of Mankind", was so huge that the historian Frances Yates refers to this period of the 17th century as the Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Members of subsequent organized groups which call themselves Rosicrucian, however, date the beginning of the Order to much more ancient times.
Additional recommended knowledge
In the 17th century, three Rosicrucian manifestos were anonymously published: Fama Fraternitatis in 1614, Confessio Fraternitatis in 1615, and the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in 1616. Together, they presented the legend of a German pilgrim named "C.R.C." (later introduced in the third manifesto as Christian Rosenkreuz). The legend tells that this pilgrim studied in the Middle East under various occult masters and founded the Rosicrucian Order, which aimed to bring about a "universal reformation of mankind." During Rosenkreuz's lifetime, the Order was said to consist of no more than eight members, and when he died, the Order disappeared, only to be "reborn" in the early 17th century at the time of the publication of the manifestos.
The manifestos were filled with symbolism and have been interpreted in many ways over the centuries. They do not directly state Rosenkreuz's years of birth and death, but in the Confessio Fraternitatis, the year 1378 is presented as being the birth year of "our Christian Father," and it is stated that they could describe the 106 years of his life, which would imply the year 1484 for his death. The foundation of the Order can be similarly deduced to have occurred in 1407. However, these dates are not taken literally by many students of occultism and are considered as allegorical statements for the understanding of the initiated. The reasoning arises from the manifestos themselves: on one hand, the Rosicrucians clearly adopted the Pythagorean tradition of envisioning objects and ideas in terms of their numeric aspects, and, on the other hand, they directly state: "We speak unto you by parables, but would willingly bring you to the right, simple, easy, and ingenuous exposition, understanding, declaration, and knowledge of all secrets," but that a fundamental requisite to achieve this knowledge is "that we be earnest to attain to the understanding and knowledge of philosophy."
Some interpretations about the origins
According to a lesser-known legend of the 18th century Rosicrucian group called the Golden and Rosy Cross, the Rosicrucian Order was created in the year 46 when an Alexandrian Gnostic sage named Ormus and his six followers were converted by one of Jesus' disciples, Mark. From this conversion, Rosicrucianism was supposedly born, fusing early Christianity with Egyptian mysteries.
According to Émile Dantinne (1884–1969), the origins of the Rosicrucians may have an Islamic connection. As described in Fama Fraternitatis in 1614, Rosenkreuz started his pilgrimage at the age of sixteen. This led him to Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco, where he came into contact with sages of the East who revealed to him the "universal harmonic science." After learning Arabic philosophy in Jerusalem, he was led to Damcar. This place remains a mystery—it did not become Damascus but is somewhere not too far from Jerusalem. Then he stopped briefly in Egypt. Soon afterwards, he embarked to Fes, a center of philosophical and occult studies, such as the alchemy of Abu-Abdallah, Gabir ben Hayan, and Imam Jafar al Sadiq, the astrology and magic of Ali-ash-Shabramallishi, and the esoteric science of Abdarrahman ben Abdallah al Iskari. However, Dantinne states that Rosenkreuz may have found his secrets amongst the Brethren of Purity, a society of philosophers that had formed in Basra (Iraq) sometime during the 900s. Their doctrine had its source in the study of the ancient Greek philosophers, but it became more neo-Pythagorean. They adopted the Pythagorean tradition of envisioning objects and ideas in terms of their numeric aspects. Their theurgy and esoteric knowledge is expounded in an epistolary style in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity.
The Brethren of Purity and the Sufis were united in many points of doctrine. They both were mystical orders deriving from Qur'anic theology but supplanting dogma with a faith in the Divine Reality. There were many similarities between the Rosicrucian way as expressed in the manifestos and the way of life of the Brethren of Purity. Neither group wore special clothing, both practiced abstinence, they healed the sick, and they offered their teachings free of charge. Similarities also were evident in the doctrinal elements of their theurgy and the story of creation in terms of emanationism.
According to Maurice Magre (1877–1941) in his book Magicians, Seers, and Mystics, Rosenkreutz was the last descendant of the Germelschausen, a German family from the 13th century. Their castle stood in the Thuringian Forest on the border of Hesse, and they embraced Albigense's doctrines, combining pagan and Christian beliefs. The whole family was put to death by Landgrave Conrad of Thuringia, except for the youngest son, then five years old. He was carried away secretly by a monk, an Albigensian adept from Languedoc and placed in a monastery under the influence of the Albigenses, where he was educated and met the four Brothers later to be associated with him in the founding of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Magre's account supposedly derives from oral tradition.
Thanks to the complexity and subjectivity of the ideas expressed in the manifestos, there are many different perspectives about them among contemporary Rosicrucianists: some accept the legend as literal truth, others see it as a set of parables with deeper meanings, and yet others believe Rosenkreuz to be a pseudonym for a more famous historical figure, usually Francis Bacon.
Several modern societies have been formed for the study of Rosicrucianism and allied subjects. However, many researchers on the history of Rosicrucianism argue that modern Rosicrucianists are in no sense directly derived from those of the 17th century. Instead, they are considered to be keen followers. Moreover, some have viewed the 17th century Order as a literary hoax or prank, rather than an operative society. Others contend that history shows them to be the genesis of later operative and functional societies.
The curious legend in which the fabulous origin of the society was established was so improbable that the genesis of the Rosicrucians was generally overlooked or ignored in the writings of the time. Christian Rosenkreuz had discovered and learned the Secret Wisdom on a pilgrimage to the East in the 15th century. The metaphorical quality of these legends lends to the nebulous nature of the origins of Rosicrucianism. For example, the opening of Rosenkreuz's tomb is thought to be only a way of referring to the cycles in nature and to cosmic events, and Rosenkreuz's pilgrimage seems to refer to transmutation steps of the Great Work.
It is on the foundation of these teachings that Rosenkreuz conceived the plan for simultaneous and universal religious, philosophic, scientific, political, and artistic reform. To implement his plan, he united with several disciples (seven at first, according to Fama Fraternitatis) to whom he gave the name of Rose-Croix.
What was known in the early 17th century as the "Fraternity of the Rose Cross"—approximately a century prior to Adam Weishaupt's Enlightenment secret society, the Illuminati—seems to scholars to have been a number of isolated individuals who held certain views in common, which apparently was their only bond of union. These views were regarding hermetic knowledge, related to the higher nature of man, and also with common philosophical concepts of the foundation of a more perfected human society. There is no trace of a formal brotherhood or secret society which held meetings or had officers or leaders, and for this reason, it has been deduced that the writers who posed as Rosicrucians were moral and religious reformers and utilized the techniques of chemistry (alchemy) and the sciences generally as media through which to publicize their opinions and beliefs. Their writings included a hint of mysticism or occultism, promoting inquiry and suggesting hidden meanings discernible or discoverable only by Adepts.
The publications of Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, Confessio Fraternitatis (1615), and Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz caused immense excitement throughout Europe. These works declared the existence of a secret brotherhood of alchemists and sages who were preparing to transform the arts, sciences, religion, and political and intellectual landscape of Europe while wars of politics and religion ravaged the continent. Not only were these works re-issued several times, but they were followed by numerous pamphlets, favourable and otherwise, whose authors generally knew little of the real aims of the original author and often amused themselves at the public's expense. It is probable that the first work was circulated in manuscript form about 1610, even though there was no mention of the order before that decade. In his autobiography, Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) claimed the anonymously published Chymische Hochzeit (Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz) as one of his works, although he subsequently described it as a Ludibrium. However, in his later works, alchemy is the object of ridicule and is placed with music, art, theatre and astrology in the category of less serious sciences. His role in the origin of the Rosicrucian legend is controversial.
The authors of the Rosicrucian works generally favoured Lutheranism. However, the relationship between Lutheranism and the Rosicrucians is ambiguous, but some have suggested a connection: Rosicrucian documents denounce the hypocrisy in the Catholic Church of those times; the symbol of Martin Luther is a cross inside an open rose; and, from May 1521 until March 1522, Luther stayed at the Wartburg Castle southwest of the Thuringian forest, where Rosenkreuz is said to have been born.
Around 1530, more than eighty years before the publication of the first manifesto, the association of cross and rose already existed in Portugal in the Convent of the Order of Christ, home of the Knights Templar, later renamed Order of Christ. Three bocetes were, and still are, on the abóboda of the initiation room. The rose can clearly be seen at the center of the cross. At the same time, a minor writing by Paracelsus called Prognosticatio Eximii Doctoris Paracelsi (1530) contained a reference to, and image of, a double cross over an open rose. The occultist Stanislas de Guaita, in "Au seuil du Mystère" (1886), used Paracelsus' writing and other examples to prove the "Fraternity of the Rose Cross" existed far earlier than 1614.
It is evident that the first Rosicrucian manifesto, Fama Fraternitatis, was influenced by the work of the respected hermetic philosopher Heinrich Khunrath, of Hamburg, author of the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (1609). He was in turn strongly influenced by the work of the mysterious philosopher and alchemist John Dee, author of the Monas Hieroglyphica (1564). In fact, the invitation to the royal wedding opens with the Monas Heiroglyphica symbol.
The legend and ideas presented in the first two manifestos and in the "Chymical Wedding" inspired a variety of works. Among these, are the works of Michael Maier (1568–1622) of Germany, Robert Fludd (1574–1637) and Elias Ashmole (1617–1692) of England and many others, such as Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, Gotthardus Arthusius, Julius Sperber, Henricus Madathanus, Gabriel Naudé, Thomas Vaughan (Sédir, Les Rose-Croix, Paris 1972, p. 59 to 68). Elias Ashmole published the Theatrum Chimicum britannicum in 1650 and in the preface to this work he defends the Rosicrucians. Some later works with an impact on Rosicrucianism were the Opus magocabalisticum et theosophicum by George von Welling (1719), of alchemical and paracelsian inspiration, and the Aureum Vellus oder Goldenes Vliess by Hermann Fictuld in 1749.
Michael Maier was ennobled with the title Pfalzgraf (Count Palatine) by Rudolph II, Emperor and King of Hungary and King of Bohemia. He also was one of the most prominent defenders of the Rosicrucians, clearly transmitting details about the "Brothers of the Rose Cross" in his writings. Maier made the firm statement that the Brothers of R.C. exist to advance inspired arts and sciences, including Alchemy. Researchers of Maier's writings point out that he never claimed to have produced gold, nor did Heinrich Khunrath nor any of the other Rosicrucianists. Their writings point toward a symbolic and spiritual Alchemy, rather than an operative one. In both direct and veiled styles, these writings conveyed the nine stages of the involutive-evolutive transmutation of the threefold body of the human being, the threefold soul and the threefold spirit, among other esoteric knowledge related to the "Path of Initiation".
In his 1618 manifesto, Pia et Utilissima Admonitio de Fratribus Rosae Crucis, Henrichus Neuhusius stated that the Rosicrucians left for the East due to the instability in Europe at the time (the forthcoming Thirty Years' War). Samuel Ritcher in 1710, and later René Guénon, 1886–1951, also presented this idea in some of their works. However, another eminent author on the Rosicrucians, Arthur Edward Waite, contradicts this idea. It was in this fertile field of discourse that many "Rosicrucian" societies arose. They were based on the occult tradition and inspired by the mystery of this "College of Invisibles."
Alleged influence on Freemasonry
According to Jean Pierre Bayard, two Rosicrucian-inspired Masonic rites emerged from the end of 18th century. One was the Rectified Scottish Rite, which was widespread in Central Europe where there was a strong presence of the "Golden and Rosy Cross". The other was the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, first practiced in France, in which the 18th degree is called Knight of the Rose Croix.
Although many attempts have been made to learn about the change from "operative" to "speculative" Masonry, no definitive answer has yet been found, other than that it occurred between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. Two of the earliest speculative Masons for which a record of their initiation exists were Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole.
There is no evidence for Chistopher McIntosh's speculation that Robert Fludd may have been a Mason, nor to support Waite's speculation that Fludd may have introduced a Rosicrucian influence into Freemasonry. However, Robert Vanloo states that earlier 17th century Rosicrucianism had a considerable influence on Anglo-Saxon Masonry. Hans Schick sees in the Rosicrucian works of Comenius (1592-1670) the ideal of the newly born English Masonry before the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1717. Comenius was in England during 1641.
Gold und Rosenkreuzer
The Christian group “Gold und Rosenkreuzer” (Golden and Rosy Cross) was founded by the alchemist Samuel Richter (Sincerus Renatus) in Prague in the early 18th century, not as free brotherhood as envisaged by the original Rosicrucian Manifestos, but as a deeply hierarchical secret society, composed of internal circles, recognition signs and based upon alchemy treatises. This group, under the leadership of Hermann Fictuld, reformed itself extensively in 1767 and again in 1777 because of an edict of the ruler in 1764 and another in 1766. Its members claimed that the leaders of the Rosicrucian Order had invented Freemasonry and only they knew the secret meaning of Masonic symbols. According to this group's legend, the Rosicrucian Order was founded by Egyptian “Ormusse” or “Licht-Weise” who emigrated to Scotland with the name “Builders from the East”. Then the original Order disappeared and was supposed to have been resurrected by Oliver Cromwell as “Freemasonry”. In 1785 and 1788 the Golden and Rosy Cross group published the Geheime Figuren or “The Secret Symbols of the 16th and 17th century Rosicrucians”.
Led by Johann Christoph von Wöllner and General Johann Rudolf von Bischoffwerder, the Masonic lodge (later: Grand Lodge) Zu den drei Weltkugeln was infiltrated and came under the influence of the Golden and Rosy Cross. Many Freemasons became Rosicrucianists and Rosicrucianism was established in many lodges. In 1782 at the Convent of Wilhelmsbad the Alte schottische Loge Friedrich zum goldenen Löwen in Berlin strongly requested Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and all other Freemasons to submit to the Golden and Rosy Cross, without success.
Alchemy, divine science, and the stars
Alchemy (the ancestor of modern chemistry), is often thought to mean the science of creating gold from base metals. The true alchemists, or philosophers of the fire, often disparagingly refer to people attempting such a feat as blowers, meaning all those who were simply interested in the creation of gold and the purely material aspects of alchemy.
In his laboratory, the alchemist works on the materia prima and uses, among other tools, a furnace called an athanor. In Spiritual Alchemy , the materia prima is the human soul, and the athanor is the physical body and the subtle bodies. The latter maintain the life of the most dense one and assure the connection with the soul. The laboratory is human existence during which the soul can learn to perfect itself, achieving the transmutation of vices and defects (the vile metal) into virtues and qualities.
The first Rosicrucians practiced alchemy in the laboratory, which was in vogue at that epoch, of interest even to popes and kings. The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz is a major written work which clearly makes reference to this work. Current-day Rosicrucianists (like modern Freemasons, who do not construct cathedrals anymore) direct their concentration toward the work of spiritual alchemy. According to the early Manifestoes, the Rosicrucians were a "secret" Order. Their members believed or could demonstrate healing powers that were seen as a gift from God: Spiritual Healing. In the outer orders these powers were explained by Egyptian mysteries and again, differently in the hermetic Order. Members were admitted on this basis alone and the "membership" was very selective. The writers, philosophers and people of the time became curious and infuriated because they were excluded. Most of the writings of the time are biased or speculative for this reason. Many modern Rosicrucian organizations hold the belief that these God-given powers may be used to help others.
Some interpretations are described as being Rosicrucian. They are used as an idea or icon by persons or groups either Gnostic Christian or syncretists who use a great deal of Christian elements. An example would be a cult that centers on the Virgin Mary yet openly or secretly identifies her to the Virgo constellation of the Zodiac.
A large majority of modern Rosicrucians believe in the study of Spiritual Astrology as a key to the Spirit, to aid spiritual development and self-knowledge, as well as an aid to healing through Astro-Diagnosis. 
A way through which the alchemical work on the "Path of Initiation" has been expressed to the world, according to occultists such as Corinne Heline (1882-1975), is through classical music. To wit, the nine symphonies of Beethoven (1770-1827) were divided into two groups. The first, the third, the fifth, and the seventh are vigorous, powerful and of command, representing the intellect. The second, the fourth, the sixth and the eighth are elegant, ternurent, gracious and beautiful, representing the heart (intuition). They culminate in the symphony with human voices, the ninth symphony, in which the equilibrium between mind and heart or the "Chymical Wedding" ritual, where the Christ Within – the Adept – is born ("consumatun est"). Johan Herde speaks of Beethoven as "... God acts on earth through evolved men..." and Beethoven speaks of himself as "... I do not have friends, that is why I must live alone, but I know from the deepest of my heart, that God is closer to me than to others. I come close to Him without fear, because I have always known Him...".
Rebirth versus transmigration
Some interpretations by practitioners of eastern religions state that the reincarnation process in mankind could happen in an interchangeable way with the animal, vegetable and even mineral kingdoms; this theory is called transmigration or metempsychosis. However, according to the Rosicrucians, as stated in the Western Wisdom Teachings, the eastern sacred teachings do not support an inferred belief in transmigration; meaning, each life wave has an independent evolution process and each one is at a different stage in the evolutionary path. For example, according to the Rosicrucians, mineral life is the first and lowest level of spiritual evolution on earth. Then comes plants, with actual life, then cold-blooded animals, then warm-blooded, and finally humans. This is also told in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. In practice, the beings belonging to each life wave either evolve through the work of the individual Spirit or are yet evolving under a group spirit , have a different state of consciousness , and have acquired more or less subtle bodies , according to the development stage of each life wave.
The eastern sacred text Kathopanishad refers in Chapter 5, Verse 9, that some of the souls, according to their deeds, return to the womb to be reborn, but others go into "the motionless" (Sanskrit word "STHANU", meaning "pillar"); allegedly the same concept is claimed to be found in the Bible (Book of Revelation) that mentions: "Him that overcometh, I will make a pillar in the house of my God, thence he shall no more go out." However, orthodox Christian biblical theologians dispute that application and reject any connection between the symbology of the Bible and occult teachings in any form. Rosicrucians interpret both references with the meaning that when humanity has reached perfection, there will come a time when they will not be tied to the wheel of births and deaths, but will remain in the invisible worlds to work thence for the upliftment of other beings. This too is another concept taught by occultists, but one which orthodox Christian biblical theologians regard as explicitly representing the "spirit of antichrist" from the epistles of the apostle John (1 and 2 John); yet it is emphasized that men and women having a pure mind and a noble heart may regard this same teachings as coming from the "Spirit of truth" mentioned in John 16:12-15.
Last, if one takes into account the existence of earlier epochs in the development of human beings - as described also by the Theosophy and interpreted also as being mentioned in a veiled form in sacred eastern and western religious writings and by earlier philosophers (e.g Plato) - then, only at the current Aryan Epoch, the fifth one, it has started the event 'death' as we are conscious of it (not the death process of the physical-biological body itself, but the full awareness of the physical death event, with man having simultaneously lost the awaken awareness, or the inner contact, of the spiritual worlds). This conception, together with other related factors theorises that the entire rebirth process (i.e. during the activity period between two physical lifes), which works through the individual accountability for his own deeds, is a recent process when seen from the perspective of the whole human evolutionary scheme till now (including the long involutionary period and the "recently" started evolutionary one).
The philosophical interpretation of Sacred verses may vary widely since such texts are directed to the higher or inner consciousness of the individual along his path of spiritual unfoldment. As such, quotations as this one may not even be a direct reference to transmigration, or to rebirth, but a reference to the process of transference to a subtle body occurring at the event death - described not only in esoteric teachings, but also in near-death experiences - and the consequent change in one' state of perception (not to be confounded with a literal change to a higher state of consciousness or awareness).
Preservation period after death
The Rosicrucian method for caring of the dead requires a "post-mortem interval", or preservation period, of the body (3 1/2 days - 84 hours), for life review purpose (in a pacific death; not in a sudden impact such as: shock, accident, catastrophe, heart attack or suicide), before cremation or any other way of body disposal .
If one abstracts from the symbolic associations of the rose and the cross, which have been visioned by many since ancient epochs, it is known that three treatises or manifestos which gave rise to this movement were published in the German language between 1614 and 1616:
Between 1614 and 1620, about 400 manuscripts and books were published which discussed the Rose-Croix documents.
The peak of the so-called "Rosicrucianism furor" was reached when two mysterious posters appeared in the walls of Paris in 1622 within few days from each other. The first one started with the saying "We, the Deputies of the Higher College of the Rose-Croix, do make our stay, visibly and invisibly, in this city (...)" and the second one ended with the words "The thoughts attached to the real desire of the seeker will lead us to him and him to us".
The following lines can be found in The Muses' Threnodie by H. Adamson (Perth, 1638): "For what we do presage is riot in grosse, for we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse; We have the Mason Word and second sight, Things for to come we can foretell aright."
The Rosicrucians took the union of the rose and the cross for their symbol because this union embodies the meaning of their effort and emphasizes the fact that that effort must be made by all men, as the aim of humanity on earth is to attain divine wisdom. Only two ways lead to this divine wisdom: knowledge and love. By the rose blooming in the middle of the cross, the whole meaning of the universe is explained: in order to realize its possibilities and become perfect, mankind must develop the capacity for love to the point of loving all creatures and all forms perceptible to the senses; it must enlarge the capacity for knowledge and understanding to the point of comprehending the laws that govern the worlds, and of being able to proceed, through intuition and the loving intelligence of the heart, from every effect to every cause .
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, various groups styled themselves Rosicrucian. Some of these groups claimed to be the authentic legendary Rosicrucian Order, a few others spoke of an historical lineage to the Rosicrucian Tradition, and a few of them of a spiritual filiation with the hermetic Order.
The diverse groups who link themselves to a "Rosicrucian Tradition" can be divided into two categories: Esoteric Christian groups, which profess Christ, and para-Masonic groups. There are a few connections between these including Martinism which studies Christian mysticism and quite a few other para-Masonic organizations that practice Esoteric Christianity in reverence, study, and ritual as well as claim descent from Masonic origin or unity with a secret Freemasonry. A genuine Esoteric Christian Freemasonic Rosicrucian organization is Societas Rosicruciana.
Esoteric Christian tradition
The Rosicrucian Fellowship's teachings are Christian and claim to present the mysteries (esoteric knowledge) which the Christ spoke of in Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10; it seeks to prepare the individual through harmonious development of the mind (occultist) and the heart (mystic) in a spirit of unselfish service to mankind and an all-embracing altruism. According to this Fellowship, the Rosicrucian Order was founded in the year 1313  and is composed by twelve exalted Beings gathered around a thirteenth, Christian Rosenkreuz; these great Adepts are presented as belonging to the human evolution but have already advanced far beyond the cycle of rebirth; their mission is explained as aiming to prepare the whole wide world for a new phase in religion—which includes awareness of the inner worlds and the subtle bodies, and to provide safe guidance in the gradual awakening of man's latent spiritual faculties during the next six centuries toward the coming Age of Aquarius .
The para-Masonic groups may be defined as being late heirs of the alchemy and hermetic knowledge created in the 15th or 17th century and generally speak of a lineal descent from earlier branches of the ancient Rosicrucian Order in England, France, Egypt, or other countries. The inner structure of these groups is based upon Masonic lines, such as grades, initiations and titles.
References and further reading
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