Theosophy on Christian Science, Mind Cure, and Mental Healing

Nowadays the “Christian Science” movement founded officially in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) is in major decline,

H. P. Blavatsky and Mary Baker Eddy.

numerically, influentially, and financially. Some of its core ideas proceeded to find expression in subsequent movements and philosophies, which have been more enduring and popular, such as “New Thought” and the “Law of Attraction.” These have been discussed previously on this site, in articles such as A Comparison between New Thought and Theosophy, The Existence of Evil, It’s All Illusion – But How?, and The Whitewashing of Black Magic.

Christian Science is still around though and an article published in the British newspaper “The Guardian” in August 2019 titled “Dying The Christian Science Way: The Horror of my Father’s Last Days” (click here to read) led us to put online this compilation of the main things said by the main founders of the Theosophical Movement about Christian Science and its ideas and practices.

The modern Theosophical Movement was founded in 1875, principally by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and was thus contemporaneous with Christian Science. There is a huge difference, however, between the two systems and they are not really compatible nor related, other than both agreeing that all human beings are inherently ONE with the Universal Divine Essence.

Numerous historians have written that Mary Baker Eddy seemed to view H. P. Blavatsky and Theosophy as a major “competition” to her own work and indeed in her main book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” she wrote: “No analogy exists between the vague hypotheses of agnosticism, pantheism, theosophy, spiritualism, or millenarianism and the demonstrable truths of Christian Science.”

Is Theosophy really just a collection of vague hypotheses? Serious students of Theosophy would say it is just the opposite and that Christian Science is the one which is vague and built on very weak foundations.  Although not a Christian in the traditional orthodox sense by any means, Eddy seems to have developed as a result of her admittedly Christian-esque worldview a serious and very mistaken misunderstanding of what Theosophy is:

“Theosophy is a corruption of Judaism. This corruption had a renewal in the Neoplatonic philosophy; but it sprang from the Oriental philosophy of Brahmanism, and blends with its magic and enchantments. Theosophy is no more allied to Christian Science than the odor of the upas-tree is to the sweet breath of springtide, or the brilliant corruscations of the northern sky are to solar heat and light.” (“No and Yes”)

But the purpose of this article is not to argue or fight, nor to try to persuade Christian Scientists that they are “in the wrong,” although we think most spiritually minded people would agree that a religion or philosophy which revolves almost entirely around the physical body and its state of health must have something wrong with it somewhere. The aim here is just to make clear exactly what Theosophy has to say about it. Everyone must make up their own minds and do their own research and their own thinking.

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“As the preparation for the new cycle proceeds, as the forerunners of the new sub-race make their appearance on the American continent, the latent psychic and occult powers in man are beginning to germinate and grow. Hence the rapid growth of such movements as Christian Science, Mind Cure, Metaphysical Healing, Spiritual Healing, and so forth. All these movements represent nothing but different phases of the exercise of these growing powers, – as yet not understood and therefore but too often ignorantly misused. Understand once and for all that there is nothing “spiritual” or “divine” in any of these manifestations. The cures effected by them are due simply to the unconscious exercise of occult power on the lower planes of nature – usually of prana or life-currents. The conflicting theories of all these schools are based on misunderstood and mis-applied metaphysics, often on grotesquely absurd logical fallacies. But the one feature common to most of them, a feature which presents the most danger in the near future is this. In nearly every case the tenor of the teachings of these schools is such as to lead people to regard the healing process as being applied to the mind of the patient. Here lies the danger, for any such process – however cunningly disguised in words and hidden by false noses – is simply to psychologise the patient. In other words, whenever the healer interferes – consciously or unconsciously – with the free mental action of the person he treats, it is – Black Magic. Already these so-called sciences of “Healing” are being used to gain a livelihood. Soon some sharp person will find out that by the same process the minds of others can be influenced in many directions, and the selfish motive of personal gain and money getting having been once allowed to creep in, the one-time “healer” may be insensibly led on to use his power to acquire wealth or some other object of his desire.

“This is one of the dangers of the new cycle, aggravated enormously by the pressure of competition and the struggle for existence. Happily new tendencies are also springing up, working to change the basis of men’s daily lives from selfishness to altruism. . . . What I said last year remains true today, that is, that the Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man – the reincarnating Ego. We are outwardly creatures of but a day; within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practise, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “Five Messages from H. P. Blavatsky to the American Theosophists” p. 25-26)

Christian Scientist. A newly-coined term for denoting the practitioners of an art of healing by will. The name is a misnomer, since Buddhist or Jew, Hindu or Materialist, can practise this new form of Western Yoga, with like success, if he can only guide and control his will with sufficient firmness. The “Mental Scientists” are another rival school. These work by a universal denial of every disease and evil imaginable, and claim syllogistically that since Universal Spirit cannot he subject to the ailings of flesh, and since every atom is Spirit and in Spirit, and since finally, they – the healers and the healed – are all absorbed in this Spirit or Deity, there is not, nor can there be, such a thing as disease. This prevents in no wise both Christian and Mental Scientists from succumbing to disease, and nursing chronic diseases in their own bodies just like ordinary mortals.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 84-85)

Theosophy also teaches that we are the One Pure Eternal Spirit in the highermost part of our being and asserts that the Universe is pervaded by this Divine Essence. But it nonetheless accepts the existence of duality and relativity within the manifested Universe, on all its seven planes. There is no ultimate duality . . . but we do not live in a world of ultimate Absoluteness; we are engaged in a cycle of incarnations on this physical world, and physical life and the physical world are full of imperfections of many kinds, sickness and poverty included.

These are inevitabilities at our present point of material evolution, particularly because the law of cause and effect or action and reaction – known as Karma – means that if we set some negative causes in motion we will have to experience a corresponding negative effect in either this or a subsequent physical life, this being the way that the Universe maintains its harmony, balance, and equilibrium.

The Theosophist does not seek to close his eyes to imperfections and sufferings or deny their existence or desperately run away from them in horror and disgust; he seeks instead to learn all that he can from them, to discover their real causes, to relieve them with proven means to the fullest extent possible, and to help all his fellow human souls to grow and evolve.

The Esoteric Philosophy or Science which we call “Theosophy” is “objective Idealism” (see “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 631, 615) in contrast with the “subjective Idealism” found in Christian Science, New Thought, “A Course in Miracles,” and much older systems such as the Ajativada (“no objective existence”) form of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism.

The following is an article by H. P. Blavatsky simply titled “Christian Science” and which was published in the July 1888 issue of her magazine “Lucifer.” If you are not familiar with the real esoteric meaning and significance of the term “Lucifer” please click here to read an explanatory article about that.

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The object of this work, which is published in the form of twelve pamphlets, each averaging about twenty pages in length, [Note: this is referring to “Statements of Christian Science” by Ursula N. Gestefeld, which HPB was reviewing] is to prepare the reader for becoming a student of the Science of Healing by means of the Spirit, for this title (though somewhat lengthy) more accurately describes the so-called Science than the cognomen “Christian.” “Prepare the reader,” is also said advisedly; for the first ten of these pamphlets are chiefly occupied with the thesis that man’s beliefs with regard to the existence of matter being erroneous, he is thereby subject to certain illusions with regard to it, the chief of these being ill-health and disease.

This is pure Berkeleyan philosophy, if not Platonism itself; Theosophists indeed, may claim for it a far older origin, for do not the early Brahmanic and Buddhist philosophies teach that all outward appearances, all phenomena, are illusion – Maya? However this may be, the application of the principle to the treatment of disease, if not actually new, is here presented to us in a novel form, and with a view to rendering its practice popular.

It is philosophy reduced to its simplest expression. It is the physician’s highest art made common property. It is another claim to a “secret unveiled,” the secret of man’s being. And if, as the writer states, the present treatment of disease is the result of man’s belief in the reality of matter, it is doubtless necessary to begin by a somewhat lengthy chain of reasoning in order to convince him of his error, for man cannot understand what he really is so long as he pronounces upon himself as he sees only.

“Not until he brings his higher powers into action, his discernment and perception, will he begin to perceive the truth about himself, which stands opposed to his own belief of himself. And never till he so perceives and understands will he reverse his decision upon himself. And never till he reverses it, will he grow into the consciousness of what he really is.” He will remain, as the author puts it, in the Adam-state, subject to the law of matter, making to himself “graven images,” and falling down and worshipping them. And as “Adam is the model of man as we see and know him to-day, Jesus is the model of what he is to become – consciously, as he is in reality – through his own work of regeneration and redemption.” . . . . “It was this consciousness which was perfect realization, which gave him (Jesus) the power he manifested over sin, sickness and death, by which he healed the halt, the sick and the blind; by which he cast out devils and raised the dead.”

This consciousness is the chief point insisted upon in this stage of the work, for until this is realized, there is no possibility of the exercise of the healer’s power, except perhaps in a weak or partial manner. It is not therefore till we arrive at Section X that the treatment of disease is actually touched upon. In this section we are told that “what man in his ignorance calls health is as much a belief as what he calls sickness,” and that “putting medicine into a stomach never yet changed a man’s conception of himself; but he has changed one conception or belief of his for another in consequence of his belief in the power of the medicine.”

Conditions of ill-health are said to be nothing “but mental pictures which man creates for himself and believes in religiously.” We must therefore learn to dominate all those conditions to which we believe our bodies to be subject. Denial of the false, affirmation of the true, constantly in thought if not in word, is to be the first process for bringing about a change in man’s own body first, subsequently in that of others.

If we deny sickness and suffering and all kinds of evil as no-things, nonexistent, not proceeding from the Infinite Mind, both as regards ourselves and all surrounding us, for all are parts of one Universal Whole (which is another purely Vedanto-Buddhistic tenet), we shall, by this transformation of the inward gradually act upon and cause a transformation of the outward, and overcome all discordant conditions, be they called sin, or suffering, or sickness. And as man is the creator of every form of sin and suffering, so is he also the transmitter of these through “Thought Transference”; diseases are communicated by this means “instead of through physical germs.”

The healer by means of “Christian Science” must attack the root of all disease, man’s belief about himself and others; he must treat the sufferer for his faults and for sin, of which his diseases are but the extreme expression, one disease being the same as another to a scientific healer. In treating little children, it is mainly the parents who have to be dealt with, their beliefs about the child, their fear and their anxiety.

The last section closes with some instructions as to the attitude and deportment of the healer towards his patient, but the whole treatment is to be spiritual, above and beyond the plane of material being.

Such is an imperfect digest of the teaching contained in Mrs. Gestefeld’s twelve pamphlets.

A candidate for “Christian Science” would have to study them in all their details; for it is only by dwelling and meditating on the principles therein set forth that one can arrive at the state of mind necessary for realizing the results to be attained. The Science of Being can be summed up in few words, but it cannot be so easily imparted, and many difficulties naturally occur to the student which require to be separately answered. A few of these must be stated at the outset.

To begin with, why premise by giving to a Science a qualification which does not belong to it? Why start with a misnomer? Why call it “Christian” rather than “Sufic,” “Buddhist,” or better than all, the “Yoga Science,” the aim of which is preeminently to attain union with the Universal Spirit? We are told by the author, as also by several other professors of this new school, that it was through this Science that Jesus healed, and that it was this Science which he taught. We demur to the statement. There is nothing whatever in the New Testament to lead to such an idea or even suspicion; and there are no other documents known more authoritative to the Christians than the Gospels.

The Sermon on the Mount, which is the very embodiment of Christ’s teachings – Christianity in a nut-shell, so to say – is a code of preeminently practical as also impracticable rules of life, of daily observances, yet all on the plane of matter-of-fact earth-life. When you are told to turn your left cheek to him who smites you on the right, you are not commanded to deny the blow, but on the contrary to assert it by meekly bearing the offence; and in order not to resist evil, to turn (whether metaphorically or otherwise) your other cheek – i.e., to invite your offender to repeat the action.

Again, when your “Son,” or brother, or neighbour, asks of you bread, you are not invited to deny the hunger of him who asks, but to give him food; as otherwise you would indeed give him instead of fish “a serpent.” Finally, sins, wickedness, diseases, etc., are not denied by Jesus, nor are their opposites, virtue, goodness and health, anywhere affirmed. Otherwise, where would be the raison dêtre for his alleged coming to save the world from the original sin?

We know that “Christian Scientists” deny every theological dogma, from Eden downwards, as much as we do. Yet they affirm that which Jesus ever practically denied; and affirming (is it for the sake, and in view of the Christian majority in their audiences?), they are not in union with the Universal Spirit, which is – TRUTH.

Again, is it safe to entrust this occult power (for such it surely is) to the hands of the multitude? Did not Jesus, whom we are expressly told to take as our model, himself say: – “To you (who are disciples, initiates) it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven; but to others in parables”? Is there no danger that one who acquires this power of controlling the will and thoughts of others, and the conditions surrounding them, should fall from this high estate, and use his influence for bad purposes – in other words, that the white magic should become black? The very fact that Mrs. Gestefeld warns the healer never to give a treatment for any purpose but to make the Truth of Being manifest, “never for any personal gain,” points to this possibility; she also warns, or I may say threatens, that if this should be attempted, the would-be healer will “descend at once to the plane of mortal mind.”

Perhaps this implies that the power will depart from him, but that this salutary consequence will accrue is scarcely made clear to the reader. She says, indeed, “You will be no Christian Scientist, but a mesmerist.” But to certain people this would be no objection. Where then is the guarantee, the hall-mark, of the true Christian Scientist, by which he can be known to the unwary? If this, like other spiritual things, can only be “spiritually discerned,” the patient must be equal to the healer, and will have no need of him.

Again, is it true that all our diseases are the result of wrong beliefs? The child, who has no belief, no knowledge or conception, true or false, on the subject of disease, catches scarlet fever through the transference of germs, not through that of thought.

One is tempted to ask, like those of old, did the child sin or his parents? Will the answer of the Great Healer fit the case, i.e., “Neither did this child sin nor his parents, but that the glory of God might be made manifest”? The “glory of the new Christian Science,” then? – the “new” wine in very, very old bottles? And are there not among the renowned teachers of the new science, who are themselves afflicted by disease, often incurable, by pain and suffering? Will Mrs. Gestefeld, or some one nearer home, explain?

Then further, in the case of widespread epidemics, such as cholera, we know that to a certain extent these are the consequence of man’s sin, his neglect of hygienic laws, of cleanliness and good drainage, and, in proportion as these laws are obeyed, to a certain extent preventable. But there are also climatic conditions, as in the last visitation of cholera in 1884, when the epidemic seemed confined to certain areas, following some law of atmospheric currents, or other undetected, but not undiscoverable, physical cause. Can these be overcome by Christian Science? How is it they do not yield to a whole nation’s fervent prayers? – for prayer, when in earnest, is surely, at least, when accompanied by virtuous living, a mode of Christian Science, of intense WILL?

And do we not see the holiest and the best, and those, too, not living in ignorance or in defiance of law, spiritual, moral, mental, or hygienic, fall victims to disease, and only able to preserve life at all with the utmost, almost abnormal, care and precaution?

But “Christian Science” goes further than that. At a lecture, in London, it was distinctly asserted that every physical disease arises from, and is the direct effect of, a mental disease or vice: e.g., “Bright’s disease of the kidneys is always produced in persons who are untruthful, and who practise deception.” Query, Would not, in this case, the whole black fraternity of Loyola, every diplomat, advocate and lawyer, as the majority of tradesmen and merchants, be incurably afflicted with this terrible evil? Shall we be next told that cancer on the tongue or in the throat is produced by those who backbite and slander their fellow men? It would be well-deserved Karma, were it so. Unfortunately, some recent cases of this dreadful disease, carrying off two of the best, most noble-hearted and truthful men living, would give a glaring denial to such an assertion.

“Christian” (or mental) Scientists assert, furthermore, that the healer can work on a patient (even one whom he has never seen) as easily thousands of miles away, as a few yards off. Were this so, and the practice to become universal, it would hardly be a pleasant thing to know that wherever one might be, occult currents are directed towards one from unknown well-wishers at a distance, whether one wants them or not. If, on the one hand, it is rather agreeable, and even useful, in this age of slander to have other people denying your faults and vices, and thus saving you from telling lies yourself; on the other hand, it would cut from under one’s feet every possibility of amending one’s nature through personal exertion, and would deprive one at the same time of every personal merit in the matter. Karma would hardly be satisfied with such an easy arrangement.

This world would witness strange sights and the next one (a reincarnationist would say “the next rebirth”) terrible disappointments. Whether viewed from the standpoint of theists, Christians, or the followers of Eastern philosophy, such an arrangement would satisfy very few minds. Disease, mental characteristics and shortcomings, are always effects produced by causes: the natural effect of Karma, the unerring Law of Retribution, as we would say; and one gets into a curious jumble when trying to work along certain given lines of this “Christian Science” theory. Will its teachers give us more definite statements as to the general workings of their theories?

In conclusion, were these theories to prove true, their practice would only be our old friend magnetism, or hypnotism rather, with all its undeniable dangers, only on a gigantic universal scale; hence a thousand times more dangerous for the human family at large, than is the former. For no magnetizer can work upon a person whom he has never seen or come in contact with – and this is one blessing, at any rate.

And this is not the case with mental or “Christian” Science, since we are distinctly told that we can work on perfect strangers, those we have never met, and who are thousands of miles away from us. In such case, and as a first benefit, our civilized centres would do well to have their clergy and Christian communities learn the “Science.” This would save millions of pounds sterling now scraped off the bones of the starving multitudes and sunk into the insatiable digestive organs of missionary funds. Missionaries, in fact, would become useless – and this would become blessing number two. For henceforth they would have but to meet in small groups and send currents of Will beyond the “black waters” to obtain all they are striving for. Let them deny that the heathens are not Christians, and affirm that they are baptized, even without contact. Thus the whole world would be saved, and private capital likewise.

Of course it may so happen that our “heathen” brethren who have had the now called “Christian” science at their finger ends ever since the days of Kapila and Patanjali, may take it into their heads to reverse the current and set it in motion in an opposite direction. They may deny in their turn that their Christian persecutors have one iota of Christianity in them. They may affirm that the whole of Christendom is eaten through to the backbone with diseases resulting from the seven capital sins; that millions drink themselves to death and other millions (governments included) force them to do so by building two public houses to every church, a fact which even a Christian Scientist could hardly make away with if he denied it till the next pralaya. Thus the heathen would have an advantage over the Christian Scientist in his denials and affirmations, inasmuch as he would only be telling the truth; while, by denying disease and evil, his Western colleague is simply flying into the face of fact and encouraging the unwary mystic to ignore instead of killing his sinful nature.

The present criticism may be a mistaken one, and we may have misunderstood the “Science” under analysis, in which, however, we recognise a very old acquaintance, namely, Dhyana, “abstract meditation.” But so much the greater the necessity for a definite explanation. For these are questions we would fain have answered, precisely in the interest of that old Science reborn under a new mask, and because it must be the desire of every true follower of Eastern Theosophy to see the doctrine of self-oblivion and altruism, as against selfishness and personality, more widely understood and practised than at present.

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“Buddha and Jesus – two great teachers – performed cures. Not by assertion and denial but by scientific use of power. To the wicked whom they cured they said “sin no more.” Both taught that the cause of sorrow was evil thought leading to evil act, but neither said that that existed not which was plain before one’s eyes. They recognized the existence of fact, of law, of reason. In some cases they could not cure. Why? Because the causes working on the sufferer were too strong for them. Mere optimism which says all is good is of a kind that grows out of sentiment unsupportable by reason. We ought to do all the good we can, but that does not mean we should blind our minds to the relativity which is necessary for cognition.” (“Forum Answers” p. 38-39)

“It is quite true, as has been often said by the metaphysical healer, that the disease comes from thought, but the error is in supposing it to be present thought had in this body. The thoughts are those of a past life, and have passed altogether from the mind plane into the realm of causes for dynamic disturbance, or of the tendency, that are quite beyond the reach of the present imagining power, but sure to result in the course of time in visible difficulty suddenly appearing, or resulting from our going into situations that bring to us the germs of disease. For Karma acts on us not only in inherited troubles but also in accord with the tendencies we have set up in ourselves in a previous life. Those latter impel us to go to places or to mix with such people as that the inevitable result will be to cause effects on our mind or body that otherwise would not be felt. As in the case of one who set up in a previous life a tendency to consort with good and cultured people; this will come out and lead to a similar line of action with very different results from the case of one whose tendencies were in the opposite direction.

“These causes for disease then being in the mind plane from the last life, and having become mechanical causes in this, are now on their way out of the system in the proper channel, and that channel is a physical, mechanical one. They are leaving us by the way of the body, are on the way down, and should not be stopped and sent back to the mind plane again. They should be treated by the ordinary methods of hygiene, of medicine, of surgery, of food. Hygiene and food furnish the right conditions for adjustment, and make no new present cause for trouble; medicine helps nature in her mechanical acts of purging and alteration; and surgery replaces dislocations, removes dead tissues, or puts bones that are broken into position for proper joining. No one would be so foolish as to say that thinking will remove from the brain the pressure of a fractured bone that is making the patient mad, or that imagination will set a dislocated shoulder.” (“Forum Answers” p. 36-37)

“The inner anatomical structure should also be known. The ethereal body has its own currents – nerves, for want of a better word, changes and method of growth and action, just as the gross body has. It is, in fact, the real body, . . . The inner currents emanate from their own centers and are constantly in motion. They are affected by thoughts and the reflection of the body in its physiological changes. They each act upon the other incessantly. Every center of the inner body has its appropriate correspondent in the physical one, which it affects and through which it is in turn acted upon. . . . The seeds of disease being located primarily in the mind, they begin to exhaust themselves through the agency of the inner currents that carry the appropriate vibrations down upon the physical plane. If left to themselves – aside from palliations and aids in throwing off – they pass out into the great crucible of nature and one is free from them forever. Therefore pain is said to be a kind friend who relieves the real man of a load of sin.

“Now the moment the practises of the mind-curer are begun, what happens is that the hidden inner currents are violently grasped, and, if concentration is persisted in, the downward vibrations are thrown up and altered so as to carry back the cause to the mind, where it is replanted with the addition of the purely selfish desires that led to the practice. It is impossible to destroy the cause; it must be allowed to transform itself. And when it is replaced in the mind [i.e. returned to it], it waits there until an opportunity occurs either in this life or in the next rebirth. . . . The high tone of thought enjoined by some schools of healers has the effect of making the cause of trouble sink deeper into hiding . . . The world could get along with what disease there is, if it only turned attention to high ethics and altruistic endeavor. For after a few centuries of right living the nations would have purged themselves and built up a right moral building well founded on the rocks of true philosophy, charity, and love.” (“Replanting Diseases for Future Use” article; please see Mysteries of the Astral Body for more about this ethereal body spoken of.)

“Philosophy as well as religion has always taught that the soul is purified and strengthened by suffering, and it is sometimes well to suffer. If we could know the action and operation of Karma we would see that by suffering pain in sickness bad Karma is worked off . . . Those who know and recognize this fact are cured thereby of the mental distress which is so large a part of the evil of bodily suffering, and this is for them a “mind cure” on a higher plane than the physical, for then they can bear their sufferings with calmness and resignation.” (Letter to I. B. Rumford)

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In closing, it should however be borne in mind that although not supporting in any way the specific methods and practices enjoined in Christian Science, Theosophy does readily admit that a lot of physical ailments and illnesses are produced by the sufferer’s imagination and fears. This doesn’t mean the illness doesn’t physically exist but rather means that it was brought into being unintentionally by the power of a misdirected and negative imagination. By mastering one’s imagination and overcoming the roots of one’s fears, one’s health can significantly improve. Even standard medical science recognises this to a large extent nowadays.

At the end of her article “Hypnotism, and Its Relations to Other Modes of Fascination” H. P. Blavatsky states:

“Half, if not two-thirds of our ailings and diseases are the fruit of our imagination and fears. Destroy the latter and give another bent to the former, and nature will do the rest.”

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