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Lecture XX CONCLUSIONS
The material of our study of human nature is now spread before us; and in this parting hour, setfree from the duty of description, we can draw our theoretical and practical conclusions. In my firstlecture, defending the empirical method, I foretold that whatever conclusions we might come tocould be reached by spiritual judgments only, appreciations of the significance for life of religion,taken "on the whole." Our conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic conclusions would be, but Iwill formulate them, when the time comes, as sharply as I can.

Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we havefound them, it includes the following beliefs:-1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chiefsignificance;2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof--be that spirit "God" or "law"--is aprocess wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects,psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.

Religion includes also the following psychological characteristics:-4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical enchantmentor of appeal to earnestness and heroism.

5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance ofloving affections.

In illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have been literally bathed in sentiment. Inre-reading my manuscript, I am almost appalled at the amount of emotionality which I find in it.

After so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less sympathetic in the rest of the work thatlies before us.

The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of the fact that I sought themamong the extravagances of the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used tobrand as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to me now, you have probably felt myselection to have been sometimes almost perverse, and have wished I might have stuck to sobererexamples. I reply that I took these extremer examples as yielding the profounder information. Tolearn the secrets of any science, we go to expert specialists, even though they may be eccentricpersons, and not to commonplace pupils. We combine what they tell us with the rest of ourwisdom, and form our final judgment independently. Even so with religion. We who have pursuedsuch radical expressions of it may now be sure that we know its secrets as authentically as anyonecan know them who learns them from another; and we have next to answer, each of us for himself,the practical question: what are the dangers in this element of life? and in what proportion may itneed to be restrained by other elements, to give the proper balance?

But this question suggests another one which I will answer immediately and get it out of the way,for it has more than once already vexed us.[330] Ought it to be assumed that in all men the mixtureof religion with other elements should be identical? Ought it, indeed, to be assumed that the livesof all men should show identical religious elements? In other words, is the existence of so manyreligious types and sects and creeds regrettable?

[330] For example, on pages 135, 160, 326 above.

To these questions I answer "No" emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it ispossible that creatures in such different positions and with such different powers as humanindividuals are, should have exactly the same functions and the same duties. No two of us haveidentical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions. Each, from hispeculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each must dealwith in a unique manner. One of us must soften himself, another must harden himself; one mustyield a point, another must stand firm--in order the better to defend the position assigned him. If anEmerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody forced to be a Whitman, the total humanconsciousness of the divine would suffer. The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean agroup of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find worthymissions. Each attitude being a syllable in human nature's total message, it takes the whole of us tospell the meaning out completely. So a "god of battles" must be allowed to be the god for one kindof person, a god of peace and heaven and home, the god for another. We must frankly recognizethe fact that we live in partial systems, and that parts are not interchangeable in the spiritual life. Ifwe are peevish and jealous, destruction of the self must be an element of our religion; why need itbe one if we are good and sympathetic from the outset? If we are sick souls, we require a religionof deliverance; but why think so much of deliverance, if we are healthy-minded?[331]

Unquestionably, some men have the completer experience and the higher vocation, here just as inthe social world; but for each man to stay in his own experience, whate'er it be, and for others totolerate him there, is surely best.

[331] From this point of view, the contrasts between the healthy and the morbid mind, andbetween the once-born and the twice-born types, of which I spoke in earlier lectures (see pp. 159164),cease to be the radical antagonisms which many think them. The twice-born look down uponthe rectilinear consciousness of life of the once-born as being "mere morality," and not properlyreligion. "Dr. Channing," an orthodox minister is reported to have said, "is excluded from thehighest form of religious life by the extraordinary rectitude of his character." It is indeed true thatthe outlook upon life of the twice-born--holding as it does more of the element of evil in solution-isthe wider and completer. The "heroic" or "solemn" way in which life comes to them is a "highersynthesis" into which healthy-mindedness and morbidness both enter and combine. Evil is notevaded, but sublated in the higher religious cheer of these persons (see pp. 47-52, 354-357). Butthe final consciousness which each type reaches of union with the divine has the same practicalsignificance for the individual; and individuals may well be allowed to get to it by the channelswhich lie most open to their several temperaments. In the cases which were quoted in Lecture IV,of the mind-cure form of healthy-mindedness, we found abundant examples of regenerativeprocess. The severity of the crisis in this process is a matter of degree. How long one shallcontinue to drink the consciousness of evil, and when one shall begin to short-circuit and get rid ofit, are also matters of amount and degree, so that in many instances it is quite arbitrary whether weclass the individual as a once-born or a twice-born subject.

But, you may now ask, would not this one-sidedness be cured if we should all espouse thescience of religions as our own religion? In answering this question I must open again the generalrelations of the theoretic to the active life.

Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself. You remember what Al-Ghazzali told us in theLecture on Mysticism--that to understand the causes of drunkenness, as a physician understandsthem, is not to be drunk. A science might come to understand everything about the causes andelements of religion, and might even decide which elements were qualified, by their generalharmony with other branches of knowledge, to be considered true; and yet the best man at thisscience might be the man who found it hardest to be personally devout. Tout savoir c'est toutpardonner. The name of Renan would doubtless occur to many persons as an example of the wayin which breadth of knowledge may make one only a dilettante in possibilities, and blunt theacuteness of one's living faith.[332] If religion be a function by which either God's cause or man'scause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servantthan he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effectiveoccupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.

[332] Compare, e.g., the quotation from Renan on p. 37, above.

For this reason, the science of religions may not be an equivalent for living religion; and if weturn to the inner difficulties of such a science, we see that a point comes when she must drop thepurely theoretic attitude, and either let her knots remain uncut, or have them cut by active faith. Tosee this, suppose that we have our science of religions constituted as a matter of fact. Suppose thatshe has assimilated all the necessary historical material and distilled out of it as its essence thesame conclusions which I myself a few moments ago pronounced. Suppose that she agrees thatreligion, wherever it is an active thing, involves a belief in ideal presences, and a belief that in ourprayerful communion with them,[333] work is done, and something real comes to pass. She hasnow to exert her critical activity, and to decide how far, in the light of other sciences and in that ofgeneral philosophy, such beliefs can be considered TRUE.

[333] "Prayerful" taken in the broader sense explained above on pp. 453 ff.

Dogmatically to decide this is an impossible task. Not only are the other sciences and thephilosophy still far from being completed, but in their present state we find them full of conflicts.

The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual presences, and on the whole hold no practicalcommerce whatever with the idealistic conceptions towards which general philosophy inclines.

The scientist, so-called, is, during his scientific hours at least, so materialistic that one may wellsay that on the whole the influence of science goes against the notion that religion should berecognized at all. And this antipathy to religion finds an echo within the very science of religionsitself. The cultivator of this science has to become acquainted with so many groveling and horriblesuperstitions that a presumption easily arises in his mind that any belief that is religious probably isfalse. In the "prayerful communion" of savages with such mumbo-jumbos of deities as theyacknowledge, it is hard for us to see what genuine spiritual work--even though it were workrelative only to their dark savage obligations-- can possibly be done.

The consequence is that the conclusions of the science of religions are as likely to be adverse asthey are to be favorable to the claim that the essence of religion is true. There is a notion in the airabout us that religion is probably only an anachronism, a case of "survival," an atavistic relapseinto a mode of thought which humanity in its more enlightened examples has outgrown; and thisnotion our religious anthropologists at present do little to counteract.

This view is so widespread at the present day that I must consider it with some explicitnessbefore I pass to my own conclusions. Let me call it the "Survival theory," for brevity's sake.

The pivot round which the religious life, as we have traced it, revolves, is the interest of theindividual in his private personal destiny. Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in the historyof human egotism. The gods believed in--whether by crude savages or by men disciplinedintellectually--agree with each other in recognizing personal calls. Religious thought is carried onin terms of personality, this being, in the world of religion, the one fundamental fact. To-day, quiteas much as at any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on thebasis of his personal concerns.

Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view. Shecatalogues her elements and records her laws indifferent as to what purpose may be shown forth bythem, and constructs her theories quite careless of their bearing on human anxieties and fates.

Though the scientist may individually nourish a religion, and be a theist in his irresponsible hours,the days are over when it could be said that for Science herself the heavens declare the glory ofGod and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Our solar system, with its harmonies, is seen nowas but one passing case of a certain sort of moving equilibrium in the heavens, realized by a localaccident in an appalling wilderness of worlds where no life can exist. In a span of time which as acosmic interval will count but as an hour, it will have ceased to be. The Darwinian notion ofchance production, and subsequent destruction, speedy or deferred, applies to the largest as well asto the smallest facts. It is impossible, in the present temper of the scientific imagination, to find inthe driftings of the cosmic atoms, whether they work on the universal or on the particular scale,anything but a kind of aimless weather, doing and undoing, achieving no proper history, andleaving no result. Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible tofeel a sympathy. In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the scientific mind now follows them, sheappears to cancel herself. The books of natural theology which satisfied the intellects of ourgrandfathers seem to us quite grotesque,[334] representing, as they did, a God who conformed thelargest things of nature to the paltriest of our private wants. The God whom science recognizesmust be a God of universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. Hecannot accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals. The bubbles on the foamwhich coats a stormy sea are floating episodes, made and unmade by the forces of the wind andwater. Our private selves are like those bubbles--epiphenomena, as Clifford, I believe, ingeniouslycalled them; their destinies weigh nothing and determine nothing in the world's irremediablecurrents of events.

[334] How was it ever conceivable, we ask, that a man like Christian Wolff, in whose dry-asdusthead all the learning of the early eighteenth century was concentrated, should have preservedsuch a baby-like faith in the personal and human character of Nature as to expound her operationsas he did in his work on the uses of natural things? This, for example, is the account he gives of thesun and its utility:-"We see that God has created the sun to keep the changeable conditions on the earth in such anorder that living creatures, men and beasts, may inhabit its surface. Since men are the mostreasonable of creatures, and able to infer God's invisible being from the contemplation of theworld, the sun in so far forth contributes to the primary purpose of creation: without it the race ofman could not be preserved or continued. . . . The sun makes daylight, not only on our earth, butalso on the other planets; and daylight is of the utmost utility to us, for by its means we cancommodiously carry on those occupations which in the night-time would either be quiteimpossible. Or at any rate impossible without our going to the expense of artificial light. Thebeasts of the field can find food by day which they would not be able to find at night. Moreover weowe it to the sunlight that we are able to see everything that is on the earth's surface, not only nearby, but also at a distance, and to recognize both near and far things according to their species,which again is of manifold use to us not only in the business necessary to human life, and when weare traveling, but also for the scientific knowledge of Nature, which knowledge for the most partdepends on observations made with the help of sight, and without the sunshine, would have beenimpossible. If any one would rightly impress on his mind the great advantages which he derivesfrom the sun, let him imagine himself living through only one month, and see how it would bewith all his undertakings, if it were not day but night. He would then be sufficiently convinced outof his own experience, especially if he had much work to carry on in the street or in the fields. . . .

From the sun we learn to recognize when it is midday, and by knowing this point of time exactly,we can set our clocks right, on which account astronomy owes much to the sun. . . . By help of thesun one can find the meridian. . . . But the meridian is the basis of our sun-dials, and generallyspeaking, should have sun-dials if had no sun." Vernunftige Gedanken von denAbsichter der (we) naturlichen Dinge(no) , 1782. pp.74-84.(we)Or read the account of God's beneficence in the institution of "the great variety throughout theworld of men's faces, voices, and hand-writing," given in Derham's Physico-theology, a book thathad much vogue in the eighteenth century. "Had Man's body," says Dr. Derham, "been madeaccording to any of the Atheistical Schemes, or any other Method than that of the infinite Lord ofthe World, this wise Variety would never have been: but Men's Faces would have been cast in thesame, or not a very different Mould, their Organs of Speech would have sounded the same or notso great a Variety of Notes, and the same Structure of Muscles and Nerves would have given theHand the same Direction in Writing. And in this Case what Confusion, what Disturbance, whatMischiefs would the world eternally have lain under! No Security could have been to our persons;no Certainty, no Enjoyment of our Possessions; no Justice between Man and Man, no Distinctionbetween Good and Bad, between Friends and Foes, between Father and Child, Husband and Wife,Male or Female; but all would have been turned topsy-turvy, by being exposed to the Malice of theEnvious and ill-Natured, to the Fraud and Violence of Knaves and Robbers, to the Forgeries of thecrafty Cheat, to the Lusts of the Effeminate and Debauched, and what not! Our Courts of Justicecan abundantly testify the dire Effects of Mistaking Men's Faces, of counterfeiting their Hands,and forging Writings.

But now as the infinitely wise Creator and Ruler hath ordered the Matter, every man's Face candistinguish him in the Light, and his Voice in the Dark, his Hand-writing can speak for him thoughabsent, and be his Witness, and secure his Contracts in future Generations. A manifest as well asadmirable Indication of the divine Superintendence and Management."A God so careful as to make provision even for the unmistakable signing of bank checks anddeeds was a deity truly after the heart of eighteenth century Anglicanism.

I subjoin, omitting the capitals, Derham's "Vindication of God by the Institution of Hills andValleys," and Wolff's altogether culinary account of the institution of Water:-"The uses," says Wolff, "which water serves in human life are plain to see and need not bedescribed at length. Water is a universal drink of man and beasts. Even though men have madethemselves drinks that are artificial, they could not do this without water. Beer is brewed of waterand malt, and it is the water in it which quenches thirst. Wine is prepared from grapes, which couldnever have grown without the help of water; and the same is true of those drinks which in Englandand other places they produce from fruit. . . . Therefore since God so planned the world that menand beasts should live upon it and find there everything required for their necessity andconvenience, he also made water as one means whereby to make the earth into so excellent adwelling. And this is all the more manifest when we consider the advantages which we obtain fromthis same water for the cleaning of our household utensils, of our clothing, and of othermatters. . . . When one goes into a grinding-mill one sees that the grindstone must always be keptwet and then one will get a still greater idea of the use of water."Of the hills and valleys, Derham, after praising their beauty, discourses as follows: "Someconstitutions are indeed of so happy a strength, and so confirmed an health, as to be indifferent toalmost any place or temperature of the air. But then others are so weakly and feeble, as not to beable to bear one, but can live comfortably in another place. With some the more subtle and finer airof the hills doth best agree, who are languishing and dying in the feculent and grosser air of greattowns, or even the warmer and vaporous air of the valleys and waters. But contrariwise, otherslanguish on the hills, and grow lusty and strong in the warmer air of the valleys.

"So that this opportunity of shifting our abode from the hills to the vales, is an admirableeasement, refreshment, and great benefit to the valetudinarian, feeble part of mankind; affordingthose an easy and comfortable life, who would otherwise live miserably, languish, and pine away.

"To this salutary conformation of the earth we may add another great convenience of the hills,and that is affording commodious places for habitation, serving (as an eminent author wordeth it)as screens to keep off the cold and nipping blasts of the northern and easterly winds, and reflectingthe benign and cherishing sunbeams and so rendering our habitations both more comfortable andmore cheerly in winter.

"Lastly, it is to the hills that the fountains owe their rise and the rivers their conveyance, andconsequently those vast masses and lofty piles are not, as they are charged such rude and uselessexcrescences of our ill-formed globe; but the admirable tools of nature, contrived and ordered bythe infinite Creator, to do one of its most useful works. For, was the surface of the earth even andlevel, and the middle parts of its islands and continents not mountainous and high as now it is, it ismost certain there could be no descent for the rivers, no conveyance for the waters; but, instead ofgliding along those gentle declivities which the higher lands now afford them quite down to thesea, they would stagnate and perhaps stink, and also drown large tracts of land.

"[Thus] the hills and vales, though to a peevish and weary traveler they may seem incommodiousand troublesome, yet are a noble work of the great Creator, and wisely appointed by him for thegood of our sublunary world."You see how natural it is, from this point of view, to treat religion as a mere survival, for religiondoes in fact perpetuate the traditions of the most primeval thought. To coerce the spiritual powers,or to square them and get them on our side, was, during enormous tracts of time, the one greatobject in our dealings with the natural world. For our ancestors, dreams, hallucinations,revelations, and cock-and-bull stories were inextricably mixed with facts. Up to a comparativelyrecent date such distinctions as those between what has been verified and what is only conjectured,between the impersonal and the personal aspects of existence, were hardly suspected or conceived.

Whatever you imagined in a lively manner, whatever you thought fit to be true, you affirmedconfidently; and whatever you affirmed, your comrades believed. Truth was what had not yet beencontradicted, most things were taken into the mind from the point of view of their humansuggestiveness, and the attention confined itself exclusively to the aesthetic and dramatic aspectsof events.[335]

[335] Until the seventeenth century this mode of thought prevailed. One need only recall thedramatic treatment even of mechanical questions by Aristotle, as, for example, his explanation ofthe power of the lever to make a small weight raise a larger one. This is due, according toAristotle, to the generally miraculous character of the circle and of all circular movement. Thecircle is both convex and concave; it is made by a fixed point and a moving line, which contradicteach other; and whatever moves in a circle moves in opposite directions. Nevertheless, movementin a circle is the most "natural" movement; and the long arm of the lever, moving, as it does, in thelarger circle, has the greater amount of this natural motion, and consequently requires the lesserforce. Or recall the explanation by Herodotus of the position of the sun in winter: It moves to thesouth because of the cold which drives it into the warm parts of the heavens over Libya. Or listento Saint Augustine's speculations: "Who gave to chaff such power to freeze that it preserves snowburied under it, and such power to warm that it ripens green fruit? Who can explain the strangeproperties of fire itself, which blackens all that it burns, though itself bright, and which, though ofthe most beautiful colors, discolors almost all that it touches and feeds upon, and turns blazing fuelinto grimy cinders? . . . Then what wonderful properties do we find in charcoal, which is so brittlethat a light tap breaks it, and a slight pressure pulverizes it, and yet is so strong that no moisturerots it, nor any time causes it to decay." City of God, book xxi, ch. iv.

Such aspects of things as these, their naturalness and unnaturalness the sympathies andantipathies of their superficial qualities, their eccentricities, their brightness and strength anddestructiveness, were inevitably the ways in which they originally fastened our attention.

If you open early medical books, you will find sympathetic magic invoked on every page. Take,for example, the famous vulnerary ointment attributed to Paracelsus. For this there were a varietyof receipts, including usually human fat, the fat of either a bull, a wild boar, or a bear, powderedearthworms, the usnia, or mossy growth on the weathered skull of a hanged criminal, and othermaterials equally unpleasant--the whole prepared under the planet Venus if possible, but neverunder Mars or Saturn. Then, if a splinter of wood, dipped in the patient's blood, or the bloodstainedweapon that wounded him, be immersed in this ointment, the wound itself being tightly bound up,the latter infallibly gets well--I quote now Van Helmont's account--for the blood on the weapon orsplinter, containing in it the spirit of the wounded man, is roused to active excitement by thecontact of the ointment, whence there results to it a full commission or power to cure its cousingermanthe blood in the patient's body. This it does by sucking out the dolorous and exoticimpression from the wounded part. But to do this it has to implore the aid of the bull's fat, andother portions of the unguent. The reason why bull's fat is so powerful is that the bull at the time ofslaughter is full of secret reluctancy and vindictive murmurs, and therefore dies with a higherflame of revenge about him than any other animal. And thus we have made it out, says this author,that the admirable efficacy of the ointment ought to be imputed, not to any auxiliary concurrenceof Satan, but simply to the energy of the posthumous character of Revenge remaining firmlyimpressed upon the blood and concreted fat in the unguent. J. B. Van Helmont: A Ternary ofParadoxes, translated by Walter Charleton, London, 1650.--I much abridge the original in mycitations.

The author goes on to prove by the analogy of many other natural facts that this sympatheticaction between things at a distance is the true rationale of the case. "If," he says, "the heart of ahorse slain by a witch, taken out of the yet reeking carcase, be impaled upon an arrow and roasted,immediately the whole witch becomes tormented with the insufferable pains and cruelty of the fire,which could by no means happen unless there preceded a conjunction of the spirit of the witchwith the spirit of the horse. In the reeking and yet panting heart, the spirit of the witch is keptcaptive, and the retreat of it prevented by the arrow transfixed. Similarly hath not many a murderedcarcase at the coroner's inquest suffered a fresh haemorrhage or cruentation at the presence of theassassin?--the blood being, as in a furious fit of anger, enraged and agitated by the impress ofrevenge conceived against the murderer, at the instant of the soul's compulsive exile from thebody. So, if you have dropsy, gout, or jaundice, by including some of your warm blood in the shelland white of an egg, which, exposed to a gentle heat, and mixed with a bait of flesh, you shall giveto a hungry dog or hog, the disease shall instantly pass from you into the animal, and leave youentirely. And similarly again, if you burn some of the milk either of a cow or of a woman, thegland from which it issued will dry up. A gentleman at Brussels had his nose mowed off in acombat, but the celebrated surgeon Tagliacozzus digged a new nose for him out of the skin of thearm of a porter at Bologna. About thirteen months after his return to his own country, the engraftednose grew cold, putrefied, and in a few days dropped off, and it was then discovered that the porterhad expired, near about the same punctilio of time. There are still at Brussels eye-witnesses of thisoccurrence," says Van Helmont; and adds, "I pray what is there in this of superstition or of exaltedimagination?"Modern mind-cure literature--the works of Prentice Mulford, for example--is full of sympatheticmagic.

How indeed could it be otherwise? The extraordinary value, for explanation and prevision, ofthose mathematical and mechanical modes of conception which science uses, was a result thatcould not possibly have been expected in advance. Weight, movement, velocity, direction,position, what thin, pallid, uninteresting ideas! How could the richer animistic aspects of Nature,the peculiarities and oddities that make phenomena picturesquely striking or expressive, fail tohave been first singled out and followed by philosophy as the more promising avenue to theknowledge of Nature's life? Well, it is still in these richer animistic and dramatic aspects thatreligion delights to dwell. It is the terror and beauty of phenomena, the "promise" of the dawn andof the rainbow, the "voice" of the thunder, the "gentleness" of the summer rain, the "sublimity" ofthe stars, and not the physical laws which these things follow, by which the religious mind stillcontinues to be most impressed; and just as of yore, the devout man tells you that in the solitude ofhis room or of the fields he still feels the divine presence, that inflowings of help come in reply tohis prayers, and that sacrifices to this unseen reality fill him with security and peace.

Pure anachronism! says the survival-theory;--anachronism for which deanthropomorphization ofthe imagination is the remedy required. The less we mix the private with the cosmic, the more wedwell in universal and impersonal terms, the truer heirs of Science we become.

In spite of the appeal which this impersonality of the scientific attitude makes to a certainmagnanimity of temper, I believe it to be shallow, and I can now state my reason in comparativelyfew words. That reason is that, so long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal onlywith the symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such,we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term. I think I can easily make clear what Imean by these words.

The world of our experience consists at all times of two parts, an objective and a subjective part,of which the former may be incalculably more extensive than the latter, and yet the latter can neverbe omitted or suppressed. The objective part is the sum total of whatsoever at any given time wemay be thinking of, the subjective part is the inner "state" in which the thinking comes to pass.

What we think of may be enormous--the cosmic times and spaces, for example-- whereas the innerstate may be the most fugitive and paltry activity of mind. Yet the cosmic objects, so far as theexperience yields them, are but ideal pictures of something whose existence we do not inwardlypossess but only point at outwardly, while the inner state is our very exper............
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