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Bengston's Energy Healing - Too Good to be True?

William Bengston's The Energy Cure came out at the end of last year, but I only just got around to it. I have an excuse I suppose, as my own book was coming out at the same time. But it's so extraordinary, I can't understand how I could have missed it.

This is how Bengston begins:

Over the past thirty-five years I have successfully treated many types of cancer - bone, pancreatic, breast, brain, rectal, lymphatic, stomach, leukemia - as well as other diseases, all using a hands-on technique that is painless, non-invasive, and has no unpleasant side effects. To my knowledge, no person I have healed ever experienced a recurrence.

Excuse me, what? In our disease-ridden world, this is about as large a claim as it would be possible to make. A high success rate for the nastiest diseases, for which the existing cures have horrible side effects and often don't work? Psychics and healers have been pilloried for claiming far less.

Yet Bengston's story is soberly told, not remotely New Agey, and includes impressive scientific evidence to back it up. So I'm surprised that the book has not made a bigger splash. I found plenty of references to it, but they are rather low key, and certainly not on the scale I'd expect. In particular, there's seems to have been little scientific discussion, and sceptics appear hardly even to have noticed it - usually a sign that no one else has either.

For anyone who's not familiar with the story, here's a brief summary. Bengston is a sociology professor at St Joseph's College in New York. After leaving college aged 21 he met 48-year old Bennett Mayrick, who had himself recently discovered an aptitude for psychic readings. Bengston had previously had an interest in the paranormal and was fascinated to observe Mayrick's abilities, particularly with psychometric readings. Mayrick then started doing informal energy healings in his own home, placing his hand over the patient's affected area for thirty minutes to an hour at a time. The healings worked and Bengston describes some remarkable cures. Word spread, and soon Mayrick's living room was full of sick people seeking help.

However this was just the start. Bengston wanted Mayrick investigated by scientists, and managed to set up a healing experiment at the biology department of Queens College in New York. However Mayrick, a contrary soul, backed out, and Bengston found himself substituting in his place.

The experiment was simple: five laboratory mice were injected with cancer cells, which were expected to kill them within 24 days (none had ever survived beyond 27 days and most died within 20). Another set of mice were injected at the same time and kept elsewhere as a control. Bengston treated the cage containing all the mice, using Mayrick's method; this involved imagining an energy flowing down his left arm through the cage and into the mice, then out the other side into his right hand and up the arm. He also applied a mental imaging technique that the two of them had designed together.

The first session established the pattern for those that followed. Usually my left hand would heat up for the duration. If it cooled after about twenty minutes, I still kept my palms against the cage for the entire hour. The more confident I felt, the more detached I became. My hands seemed to be working automatically while I observed.

Along with the desired detachment came intense boredom. Sometimes I would prop open a book or bring a radio, though I never lost my awareness of the mice. I could now empathize with what Ben must have gone through during his years of healing. At least with people there could be dialogue. Ironically, Ben probably would have preferred the mice.

On rare occasions, an indescribable feeling overcame me. I would be watching the mice or reading, when suddenly my whole body felt bathed in a warm glow. The detachment I felt from my hands, then my entire body, coalesced into a sense of oneness with the mice. All my doubts about the healings seemed trivial, and I was pervaded with peace and well-being. My mind emptied of thought. I simply was.

These sensations probably lasted about one to two minutes, leaving me relaxed and happy. I was never consciously able to create the experience. It happened or it didn't - a gift of grace.

After a week the mice started developing visible tumours, and Bengston was so disappointed he was ready to quit. But it was pointed out to him that the mice were otherwise acting normally, while the control mice, he learned, had started to die. He went to visit them and found them in a pitiful condition. By comparison, his own mice didn't look so bad: the tumours were ghastly but didn't seem to be affecting their behaviour. By day 28, they were still alive. During the following week the tumours started shrinking and eventually they disappeared. 'My patients now looked the same as when we had begun - little brown creatures of normal shape and size.'

A second experiment was carried out, in which Bengston trained four volunteers in his healing technique. Two were students, chosen for their strong scepticism (he wanted to eliminate faith as a factor). Another was the chair of the biology department. The outcome was the same: all the mice grew tumours but completely recovered. Two further experiments also succeeded, although in the case of sceptical trainees some mice treated on campus died while those they bonded with at home survived.

To confuse matters most of the control mice also survived, apparently because the protocol was broken and they received visits from the healers. However in the later experiments control mice that were sent to another city all died, while controls that received some visits on campus survived.

Bengston comments:

By any fair-minded assessment, our four experiments had proven that 87.9% of our cancer-injected mice had far more likely been cured by hands-on healing than through natural remission. This result was achieved despite the fact that Carol [the experiment supervisor], unbeknownst to me, had double dosed some of the mice going into the last experiment. Even more promising: the histology tests, showing cancer cells at all preliminary stages, were a recognizable sign that the key to cure was immunological response. Previously I had assumed we had been killing cancer cells. Now I strongly suspected we had been stimulating the mice's own immune systems to fight the disease.

This theory was greatly strengthened when I learned that Carol, once against unbeknownst to me, had reinjected a couple of the cured mice from the third experiment, only to discover that the cancer hadn't taken. The treated mice, it appeared, had developed an immunity!

A sceptic cliché holds that if parapsychologists ever managed to find incontrovertible evidence for psi they would be elbowed aside in the stampede to the laboratory. I've always thought that was nonsense, and the rest of Bengston's book eloquently demonstrates why: it fails to factor in the power of emotional resistance.

Even scientists who had been involved in the experiments - and could plainly see the results - didn't want to carry on with them. It just didn't fit into their career plans and objectives. At one point Bengston was offered an opportunity to carry on his research at a university. But he gradually realised he was being frozen out by the department where he had been offered facilities, who hated the idea of what he was doing and subtly obstructed him until he was forced to give up.

His experiences also provide rich insights into patients' paradoxical behaviour. At an early stage he is astonished to find that even patients who have initially benefited from the healing don't return for further treatment: indeed they may even settle down as perpetual invalids, as though this is what they somehow want. A young African professional was spooked when Mayrick banished his acute leg pain in a single session, regarding it as witchcraft, and strived to restore normality by getting the pain back. Gratitude could also be a problem: a woman who he had cured of breast cancer didn't want him to treat her husband, hospitalised for chest pains while jogging, because 'then both of us would owe you our lives!"

There are some tragic stories. Bengston treats two women in his sociology class who are both diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at the same time. One is keen for Bengston to treat her and eventually remits, by which time both she and him have attended the other woman's funeral. In another case, he quickly cures a woman of an aggressive cancer, but her bewildered doctor, suddenly unable to find any sign of it, decides she should go ahead with radiation and chemotherapy just to be on the safe side - and the treatment rapidly kills her.

One might dismiss a lot of the anecdotal claims as exaggerations and half-truths, but the addition of some seemingly sound scientific data reinforces the feeling that this is real (Bengston has published some results in the Journal of Scientific Exploration and Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine). How could it be explained away? The rational mind says, well, hell, the mice would have got better anyway: the remission was a 'natural' process. That might seem to be supported by the fact that the control mice also survived. But if it's true, as Bengston claims the biology lab staff insist, that the strain of cancer that the mice were injected with is invariably fatal, then this approach won't work.

As Bengston readily concedes, one is left with all sorts of questions unanswered. For myself, I felt unsure whether this is a process that really can successfully be taught to anyone, even sceptics, as Bengston implies. Might it not be a special talent, one that he happens to possess in abundance and which he can psychically pass on to other people - as perhaps Ben Mayrick passed it on to him?

Naturally I hope that's not the case. But Bengston himself focuses on the emotional connection between healers, which he believes is indicated by the tendency of control mice to remit, and which he calls 'resonant bonding'. If it connects all the healers into 'a single shared consciousness, combining empathy and intention, the treatment of any mouse by any healer would have been a treatment for the bonded mice - including the control mice.'

That's the sort of question one can only start to answer with a serious programme of research. I confess I know very little about psi-healing, and need to get to grips with the literature. But my impression is this has not been much of a priority, at least compared with approaches such as remote viewing, ganzfeld, presentiment, etc. But Bengston's book left me wondering why.

Apart from the conventional objections - such as the lack of a plausible mechanism - it may just seem too good to be true. A more practical reason might be the need for the kind of medical and biology facilities that parapsychologists don't have access to, and which might require special funding, as well as buy-in from other departments.

But the sceptic complaint that psi has no practical benefit is dramatically refuted here. A person who can't see the point of remote viewing must surely understand the value of being able to stop an aggressive cancer in its tracks. It seems to me that this is just the kind of thing that parapsychology should be deeply involved in, fertile ground for some wealthy entrepreneur to step forward with the funding for an aggressive and imaginative research programme - or indeed several such, all competing with each other and publishing papers in mainstream peer-reviewed medical journals.

Reading about Bengston's experiences have left me once again with that feeling of strangeness - of living in a world where extraordinary opportunities and solutions present themselves, but which we nonchalantly pass up, because they don't fit with our existing ideas and preconceptions.

Comments

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And yet this is hardly counter-intuitive to anyone whose mind is sufficiently open to relate this apparant phenomenon to the mundane aspects of human interaction.

Surely we all come into contact with people whose mere physical presence uplifts our spirits (boosts our immune system?) while the presenceof others feels distinclty toxic in effect? And, of course, there are all the gradations in between. Also, isn't it widely accepted by Christians that people would clamour to touch Christ's garments in order to experience a healing effect? All very fascinating stuff - well at least to me.

Robert writes:

"this is just the kind of thing that parapsychology should be deeply involved in, fertile ground for some wealthy entrepreneur to step forward with the funding for an aggressive and imaginative research programme - or indeed several such, all competing with each other and publishing papers in mainstream peer-reviewed medical journals."

Now wouldn't that indeed be a worthy project for a wealthy philanthropist! Considerably more valuable than wasting one's resources on arguing ad-infinitum with scientific fundamentalists. 8)

Thanks for another great blog, Robert!

Interesting post-smacks of too good to be true though! If the experiments proved successful then why did't the scientists carry on with them or others follow them up?
If it worked we would have a reliable cure for cancer! Who wouldn't want to be one of the people involved in testing and coming across this cure? I just don't get it!

Curiously, the method that is ascribed to Bengston was mentioned in The Whole Earth catalog back in 1969. I believe it was in a sidebar called 'Magic Headache Cure.'

One hand was placed on the forehead and the other at the back of the head -- the healer was to imagine one hand as the north pole of a magnet and the other the south pole. Then the healer was to imagine pathways lining up like iron filings between magnetic poles.

My experience with this technique 'fixed' more headaches than not. I would always preface the parlor trick by saying "This works by imagination. . ." because people would inevitably ask why it worked.

Hell if I know.

Robert: Have you read Dr. Eric Pearl's book. "The Reconnection"? A friend (having just read your blog) recommended it to me - so I went to Amazon and bought it! ;)

Ps. Then I later cancelled the order! (Having read wider reviews it bagan to remind me of the kind of business integrity that lies behind NLP.)

That aside, I have heard of Bengston's work before. But, I assume, like may other people, the fact that it has largely been ignored puts it to the back of one's mind.

Julie, I haven't read the Pearle book, and like you was a bit uncertain about it after reading some of the reviews. But it's definitely worth looking at, so thanks for that.

Robert, here is a very similar situation:
Transpersonal psychologist Arthur Hastings tells a story of a similar “curious incident.” A group of researchers in consciousness was informally discussing the likelihood of consciousness after physical death, when one of them presented the case of a near-death experience that was an instance of consciousness in the medically validated absence of brain function. Here was clinical evidence of enormous importance to those professionals; yet their reaction was—not a word. Hastings later wrote, “There was the sense…of a feeling of avoidance. I was struck by the idea that there may also be the will not to believe, or perhaps the resistance to belief…even though one of the principles avowed in scientific theory is to be neutral and let the evidence speak for itself.”

His account appeared as “The resistance to belief,” Journal of Near-Death Studies, 2002, 21(2), 77-98.

I strongly suspect this is common wherever one's sense of security (whether of career or of understanding the nature of things) is at stake.

Isn't there a similar account of a junior doctor witnessing an astounding feat of hypnosis, and simply walking away in disgust because it threatened his entire scientific world view?

Not this Paul. Another one :)

There seem to be quie a few examples of scientific interest in psi phenomena which produce seemingly profound results and then ... Nothing.
Puzzling.

Paul there's nothing too puzzling about it, it - psi - goes against the scientific materialism that is the reigning paradigm in the sciences and academia. People are their beliefs remember, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link..

These experiments on the paranormal healing of mice, reminded me so much of Bernard Grad's studies at McGill. In particular the healing work of Oskar Estabany.

Mice were deliberately wounded via surgery (small skin wounds), and randomly divided into three groups. One group of mice was treated by the healer Estebany. A second group of mice was treated (in the same way) by skeptical medical students, and a third control remained untreated. Later (after a specified time period), the recovery or improvement rate of all the mice's wounds in all three groups were compared. The mice treated by Estebany had healed far better than the other two groups. In fact the group subjected to ‘healing’ by the medical students fared worse than the third control - the untreated group!

This is a well-known study actually. Also Grad had Estabany do other healing studies at his lab including work with enzymes in vitro.

Thanks for this stuff re Bengston, had no idea! It's par for the course though that the really amazing stuff in science is ignored and marginilized. There are sooo many incredible things going on (not only in or limited to psi) that Big Science and "intellectual" society just ignores when not explaining it all away. There is a tragic comedy aspect to it.

Or as the great Richard Pryor put it, "comedy is tragedy".

Which do you think is the best book on the subject, Lawrence? (I'd like to learn the technique and try to heal my old horse's arthritic knee - he's twenty-five-years-old this April but, still, it's worth a go.) 8)

You're asking me Julie!

There are a lot of good ones, but I actually knew this topic a lot better a decade ago than I do now, and I don't still have many of those books I had on my shelves (moved a lot).

There is also a big difference between books that document this kind of paranormal healing (real and/or alleged) and those that give techniques or practical advice on this kind of thing. I am far more familiar with the former - Stan Krippner, Guy Playfair, Larry Dossey and Lynne McTaggart have all written on this. McTaggart is a must-read and perhaps the most recent (check out the Intention Experiment work she has been involved in). Sooo many others.

A lot of interesting stuff is to be found in the literature on shamanism and anthropology/ethnology of 'primitive' cultures, relating to healing rites and ceremonies. Also a lot has been written on Oriental non-ordinary healing. That's certainly worth checking out. One of the contemporary tragedies in the East is how they are dumping traditional healing practices (not all were good of course) for modern Western Big Pharma reductionist medicine. There has been something of a lack of discrimination in the Orient when it comes to taking on board Western science. Yes it's fine taking on and improving on the West's inventions and technology, re engineering, computers, electronics etc. However there has been a lack of healthy skepticism to Western medicine. But that's a whole other thing!

Just a correction to something I wrote in my first post: I wrote of the experimental 'third control' re the mice, when I meant to write second control of course.

Energy healing works. I've been doing it for over 10 years. Unlike the 'hands on', I usually hover above w/ my hand, which receives actual physical sensations, and is quite often painful. Simply stated, an effected area's 'energy' will 'feel' different when I pass over it. I did it for $ just a few times, and my 1st 'patient' felt wrong all over her body. I suggested an MD check her out. Turned out she had advanced diabetes. I could tell you lots of true stories about it. I WISH I could take part in a scientific study. I would like to prove, scientifically, just what is happening when I do this. Nobody I've called seems to be interested. Go figure...
Stopping pain is easy. Locating physical problems and even old wounds like healed bone breaks or internal stitches after an operation is pretty easy too. Sometimes I even get a mental picture of things. I've ID'd cysts, both their number and form (fibrous cysts appear as 'shredded wheat cereal). How or why I can do this is unknown. I just can. I've even ID'd physical problems over the phone, 6 states away. THAT blows my mind, honestly.
I like science. I can't stand 'hoo-doo voodoo'. I'd like to prove, scientifically, that this is real. Anybody who knows of any studies going on, please let me know. Contact me at bs1174@yahoo.com.

I found Dr. Bengston's mice studies on the internet in 2007 by Googling "Oscar Estebany and cancer". I found his results very promising and persuaded him to teach some workshops on his method. The experiences we had with the method are detailed in the early entries in my blog on bioenergy healing and cancer. In a nutshell we found that we could affect cancers but not cure them once they were documented and diagnosed. I don't know whether the reason is that mice are easier to heal than humans or that the Mozart analogy (i.e., that there will be a small number of geniuses and many others of lesser ability) applies. I wish Dr. Bengston would turn his attention and his research to how effectively the method can be taught -- or rather how it can be taught effectively enough to cure human cancers in a statistically significant number of cases. The experiments in which the skeptical students cured the mice were not conclusive proof that teaching had taken place -- Dr. Bengston himself has said this on numerous occasions. Dr. Bengston's theory of resonant bonding has the implication that if the mice are resonantly bonded, their healers are resonantly bonded, and Dr. Bengston is part of the equation -- as he is by virtue of having taught the students -- he could have indeed healed all the mice himself, as he suggests in his book by asking the question whether he perhaps did indeed to that.

@Lawrence: Thanks for the information. I went to good old Amazon UK and decided upon: "Quantum Touch: The Power to Heal"
Richard Gordon. Should arrive by tomorrow!

@Julie This is a great video about energy healing: http://www.healingbioenergy.com/flashtest.htm

The reason this isn't taken seriously by conventional scientists/doctors is because we have a "sickness industry" not a "wellness industry". Big pharma and the medical education system have lots to lose if Bengston's experiences were "real."

I also have been doing energy healing for about ten years and have been teaching it for about six years. I have discovered some of how it works, but clearly, our perception and understanding is too narrow to discover/become aware of the full mechanisms.

The attitude of the patient is a huge factor. As outlined in the blog, some folks say they want to be better, but don't really. They identify with the disease or use it as an attention getter, etc and resist healing.

It all comes down to energy. The physical body is really a matrix held in place by several energy fields. We can learn to see or feel when there are blockages or distortions in these fields. As suspected above, Intention and unconditional love will boost the natural healing systems of the body and healing will follow. There are a few exceptions and reasons for it, but not enough space to go into that.

I teach people to "intuit" what is appropriate and which techniques to use. Don't be afraid to read Pearl's book, or any other . . . just be discerning as to what may apply to you and what doesn't.

Great piece and thanks for sharing, well done.

Or Richard Bartlett's Matrix Energetics: The Art and Science of Tranformation. Way out in left field, but fun! What is called energy healing in fact consists not only of energy but also of information, and Bartlett and Matrix Energetics are on the information end of the scale. It can lead to strange instantaneous healing events. I've seen a newly broken nose straighten out from one instant to the next -- as if it had never been broken. The person said "gee, I can breathe again" and went back to what he was doing that injured his nose in the first place -- I believe karate sparring.

It's worth adding biologist Bruce Lipton's writings here, his 'Biology of Belief' is highly recommended. Also how could I forget the scientist Robert Becker, and his several books. He goes into nitty-gritty details on the incredible connections between health, healing and electro-magnetism. He is a stand-out figure here (and his mistreatment at the hands of the US NIH is worth reading).

Ross that's so true, modern medicine is a sickness industry. This is why the recent and ongoing debates in America about ObamaCare (for and against) miss the point by light years. I support universal healthcare but the problem in our countries (wherever you are in the West) is it's not healthcare. It's PharmaCare.

So people in these kind of debates are basically arguing about who should pay to subsidize Big Pharma and the mistreatment of serious illnesses and worse, namely iatrogenic ailments. (ie illnesses and even deaths caused by prescribed medications) And they all call it (it's almost Orwellian, actually nothing almost about it) healthcare, which means they are all missing the point, whether they would prefer it if the individual, the employer or the state (or a varied combination of the three) foots the medical bills.

Thanks everybody, I've got *loads* to go on now. (That lot should keep me out of trouble for a few days at least!) 8)

@ lawrence - it was kind of a rhetorical comment really lol. I get the materialist conspiracy thing. It just surprises me that in such a wide scientific community there seem to be so few with enough principle and bottle to do some open minded analysis.

I look at Energy Healing as a variation of the Placebo Effect. Of course, comparing the two doesn't explain anything, but I suspect they're a variation of the same thing.
Christian Scientists (the religion), faith healers of different faiths, shamans and individuals taking off on their own have had positive results. Even charlatans have had positive results.

The lack of, and fear of research says a lot about the ingrained mentality of our sickness / wellness industries. I don't think the underlying motive is consciously sinister - it's an embedded worldview. But the selfish, profit-driven suppression of real science and healing is the same.

Paul sorry! It's just that in internet communication, nuance and irony can be lost (no face to face contact does that).

One of the reasons that so few scientists are open to these kind of things (broadly speaking let us just call it CAM - complementary & alternative medicine, and yes a lot of it is quackery too) is that it is not in their professional interest. They can lose their jobs in private industry, universities, research institutes, govt beauracracies. They can face demotion, don't get their papers published and lose prestige in a 'publish or perish' environment.

By the time a bright young researcher is starting to make a name for himself and get his career going, he or she is usually in his late twenties (the background study of course take years), maybe just married with kids on the way or looking to settle down. So now he or she figures that things are not quite what the profs were teaching, that the whole industry is corrupted, that censorship rules, that the journals are marketing arms of Big Pharma, that only lip service is being paid to ethics, well what do you do? You blow the whistle, well you risk your job, or at best your career will go nowhere. So you bite your lip, buckle down, don't make waves and rationalise what you are doing. After a few years, you've forgotten there was anything to compromise in the first place, you're just trying to make a living like everybody else, and you are now the man, so to speak.

Also remember that the indoctrination into a scientific materialist paradigm (which is so embracing it's not always consciously recognized) and a Big Pharma-knows-best approach is very efficiently drummed in at the seminar.. uh universities (what is begun in high school really).

It's worth adding that society itself is to blame, no good just scapegoating doctors and Big Pharma. Patients want a pill to solve their depression, indigestion, hypertension. Having to acknowledge the underlying factors (social, psychological and environmental) in many diseases rather than treating and mistreating the symptoms is something people don't want to know about.. And if a doctor actually points these kind of things out, many a patient will simply desert him or her for a doctor that will give the magic pills.

Spiritualists have been doing healing for over a century. Look up Harry Edwards, Mathew Manning, Ted Fricker, George Chapman to name but a few!

@lawrence - I hear ya :) my own experience of alternative or perhaps complimentary medicine is through osteopathy and acupuncture and I have to say it is positive.

@roy - the George Chapman story is very interesting indeed and a real 'head scratcher' :)

@ rabbit - the placebo effects very interesting. If my understanding is correct, every cell in the body has a blueprint for the entire body - am I correct? If I am, then perhaps all that is required is a mechanism to read the blueprint and martial resources to build or repair whatever is needed. I wonder if there is any connection with Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields?

@roy Just looked up George Chapman -- mind blowing stuff. In the same category we also have Lew Smith, a Florida interior decorator who developed a similar, although somewhat more chaotic, relationship with spirits. His son Philip wrote a book called "Walking through Walls". And there is also Gene Egidio, who wrote "Whose Hands Are These?" Like George Chapman both Lew Smith and Gene Egidio have now passed on. Too bad. It would have been nice to have had the opportunity to ask them some questions.

@rabbit -- I wouldn't be surprised if there were a connection with Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields.

@judith
There are a couple of good biographies about George Chapman, and a video of him which can be purchased (it's not online). The one by J Bernard Hutton is the best IMHO.

Strangely enough I recently read an article by someone who was a student ophthalmic surgeon under under Mr Lang and it seemed eerily accurate when compared to the person claimed to be Lang, who operated through George. I also know someone who was treated by him.

Well I have posted my opening comments about Dr Woerlee and I posted the link to the amazon discussions he has had on the Reynolds case. Let's see if we can get a few hawks after this silly pigeon .

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/gerald_woerlee_and_susan_blackmore_near-death_experiences_and_consciousness/

When I read that Dr. Bengston had trained a couple of skeptics I thought about trying to cure my daughter's headaches;but then the bit about the tumors in the mice continuing to grow and then later shrinking made me pause.
At what point does one ( in the case of tumors) decide to give up on the "healing" and go to the "pharma" treatment.
I would feel completely responsible if my "patient" died.(as occurred with one of the students:"

I mentor several people in my field, and regarded as a pretty clear-headed, clear thinker in general, but whenever I mention anything paranormal to people who trust me for other advice, the response is invariably "OK, fine; let's move on." People really don't want any logic applied to their prejudices about this stuff.

Could a healer do self-healing, or do they require the assistance of another healer?

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