From Victims of Iconalatry to Masters of Iconography

by Jerry Kvasnicka

iconsAn iconoclast is defined as “one who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration; one who attacks settled beliefs or institutions.” With respect to the fulfillment of my spiritual work on earth I have felt it necessary to be something of an iconoclast, though I have not engaged in the more extreme behavior this word suggests, such as physically destroying religious images and attacking religious institutions. However, if there is to be anything approaching a genuine spirituality on earth, i.e. a return to our innate, intuitive knowing of the truth of love, the icons that human beings have substituted for this spirituality need to be seriously examined.

Icons such as religious figures, holy books, sacred spaces, the Eucharist and assorted rites and rituals can be useful insofar as they point to or symbolize the Divine Reality. The problem is that human beings almost invariably turn these things into idols and worship them instead of the spiritual reality that they are intended to represent. A given religion’s icons are generally considered to be an indispensable means of connecting with God and are elevated to the status of divinity in and of themselves.

As such they are invested with what are imagined to be supernatural and magical powers. For example, in strict interpretation the bread and the wine of the Eucharist are considered to be the actual body and blood of Jesus and are thought to spiritually empower those who ingest them. Another Christian icon is the crucifix, depicting Jesus hanging on the cross. This repugnant symbol is frequently used in exorcisms, imagining that it has the power to repel and subdue demons.

The power is in us, not the icon

I submit that all of this is simply human imagination and superstition. The crucifix has no power in and of itself. If changes are observed in the presence of a crucifix or other symbol, it is because the icon has triggered the release of the innate creative power in an individual or group. The icon didn’t do it; it was simply a catalyst for either a divine or demonic discharge, recognizing that all demonic power is simply a distortion of the power of love.

The principal icon of Christianity is the figure of Jesus. It is imagined that when he was on earth Jesus somehow transacted with God to sacrifice himself in payment for the sins of humanity. It is further thought that confessing Jesus as personal savior will allow individuals to avail themselves of this supposed benefit. In other words, the historical figure of Jesus has been made into an icon. It is thought that merely speaking his name or otherwise evoking his presence can bring comfort, healing and, of course, salvation.

Once again I submit that all of this is merely human imagination and fantasy that was crystallized into a salvation formula and theological system by the Apostle Paul and other early church leaders. Christians throughout history and even today have prayed to Jesus, and some have imagined they could channel Jesus. They are, in effect, praying to and seeking to commune with an icon and an idol of their own making, an icon that has no actual power or reality except what it borrows from the creative power of the believer. This iconolatry has its counterpart in other religions such as Islam and has not only kept much of the world in a state of illusion but has spawned untold conflict between competing religious icons.

Worship God, not an icon

“The kingdom of God is within you.” This is the truth of the matter. The Reality and the power of creation are within me and every individual, and while an icon such as Jesus or the Bible may be useful in reminding me of this fact, only I have the choice to activate this power. David Karchere, spiritual director of Sunrise Ranch, puts it this way: “I defy you to find any place in the four Gospels where Jesus Christ said, ‘Pray to me.’ He told us to pray to the Creator, who he spoke of as the Father—the creative power within you and within me. He taught us to access that, be that, and let the will of that be done in this earth.”

I also applaud the perspective of Steven Dinan, CEO of the Shift Network: “The way in which Christianity has focused on deifying and worshipping Jesus and enshrining that in belief systems just doesn’t feel accurate or real to me. Instead of seeing Christ as a singular object of worship and obedience, I see Christing as the journey we are all on to marry soul and flesh, Spirit and substance. As we open more to the higher octave of our nature, we then become more permeable to the God-force that is at the core of our being. My sense is that Christianity as a whole has gotten a bit stuck in putting one truly remarkable, blessed and amazing man on too high of a pedestal for too long—forgetting perhaps that he said we would do what he did and more. We are all sparks of God that have forgotten our true identity.”

In true identity, no icons are required to know the Divine

Identity is indeed the key. The world has long been in a state of collective amnesia. Identity has centered in an unreal self manufactured by the human mind perceiving itself as separate from the truth of being. All kinds of icons and idols have been used by this isolated self to approach the Divine, but identity remains in a state of separation. Once there has been an awakening to oneness, knowing ourselves as “sparks of God,” we no longer require icons to connect with Source; we activate the direct connection that is built in to the very fabric of our being, our unity with the very nature of God.

This does not mean that we necessarily dispense with all icons. In a state of transcendent identity with the Creator we can honor and venerate symbols and icons without turning them into idols and mistaking them for the Reality. Symbols can be useful in pointing to the divine and reminding us of our sacred connection to the Most High. In other words, in recovering our primal spirituality, we become masters of iconography, able to use icons at will with no danger of slipping into idolatry and thereby slipping out of direct relationship to Source.

Icons on Sunrise Ranch

Here on Sunrise Ranch there is a building called The Little Chapel, standing at the highest point in Eden Valley. It is considered to be a sacred space where community members often go to chant or hold other ceremonies. We also have an altar with a golden bowl on top of it in our main chapel. We have another building, The Sanctuary, where our attunement ministry is conducted. And we make ample use of The Bible and some other spiritual literature.

These are all icons. Do we worship these things? Do we attribute magic and supernatural power to these symbols? Do we slip into bibliolatry when using the Bible? Of course the answer is no to these questions. A sacred space or other icon may bring to conscious awareness our already existing connection with the divine but only we have the power to activate that connection.

And finally when it comes to that supreme icon, Jesus, we can deeply honor and even adore the magnificent spiritual being he represented on earth. The beautiful example of his life and the profound teaching that he offered point compellingly to the Divine Reality with which he was so obviously connected.

Beholding this, we may be inspired to manifest our own Father within. For the plain fact is that Jesus is no longer here, either to pray to or to otherwise save us. The ball is in our hands. We are each our own savior and the world for which we are responsible depends on us for salvation. Yes, this could be described as an immense responsibility. But we are divinely endowed with the very power of creation, and as Jesus himself said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do.”

jerry-k-2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-seven years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

What Bee in a Name?

by Larry Pearlman

beesIf you are an American (North or South), what comes to mind for you when you hear the phrase, “Africanized Killer Bees”? I’m sure there has been a B-Movie (pardon the pun) made capitalizing on the fear that fills the body when hearing this term. Visualizations of hundreds of bees swarming on tiny poodles, children in playgrounds and adults helplessly falling to the ground thrashing violently before finally succumbing to the inevitable.

Meanwhile, here in South Africa, I sit quietly on the veranda listening to the soothing hum of bees flitting from flower to flower collecting their nectar and adding to the peace of the morning. Interestingly, these are the same bees that engender such fear in America.

That’s right. What we have been trained to fear as deadly “Africanized Killer Bees” are simply known as “bees” here in northern South Africa. There are two types of bees in South Africa. The Cape Bee comes from the southern part of the country and is a less aggressive bee, more like what we are used to in North America. At least we were used to them until they started dying off and leaving us practically bee-less. The bees in the northern part of the country, up around Johannesburg, are the more aggressive variety that we have been taught to fear.

But here in their natural habitat they simply go about their bees-ness. They pollinate flowers, make honey and are even kept by bee-keepers commercially and personally. Yes, they are aggressive and yes, they can kill animals and people but it is not an everyday occurrence and people here don’t give it a second thought other than giving them due respect and being aware of their presence, much like people in America might treat Dobermans or Rottweilers that they see on the street.

When I was living in Mesa, Arizona, I had a hive of bees that had taken residence in/on the portico of my home. I called a beekeeper to come and relocate the hive. He identified the bees as the African variety and concluded that the only solution was to destroy them all. That conclusion was formed from the North American perception that these bees were too dangerous to leave alive. Yet here in South Africa, beekeepers relocate hives of the identical bees all the time – frequently domesticating them in the sense of moving them to hives from which they harvest honey.

I began to ponder how this might bee an example of something larger. What are the things that I fear due to lack of familiarity and understanding? Hmmm…….sounds a lot like where wars come from, even those “small” wars between cultures, neighbors, siblings and even friends and lovers.

The first thing that pops to mind for me is the flame of Muslim-phobia that is currently being excitedly fanned by some of our politicians. (I don’t want to trump the intent of this article by naming names) Why is there such fear in the hearts of many Americans about their Muslim neighbors? Well, we can point to the obvious terrorism that has been perpetrated by Muslim terrorists, but broadening that to all Muslims is like saying we should destroy all African bees because some of them have killed people or destroy all powerful dogs because some of them have killed people or, for that matter, destroy all Christians because look what happened during the Crusades and Inquisition.

People, like bees and dogs, can be dangerous. If that is our emphasis, then we will build walls and other defenses to protect us from them. In that case, fear has won us over and controls us. Another approach is to foster understanding of that which was feared. I lived in a Muslim village in northern Ghana for two years and found them to be wonderful, friendly, kind-hearted, people. As I strove to understand their culture more deeply and they asked me questions to understand my culture better, we developed a closeness that transcended the differences. We learned to respect the ways in which we were different rather than trying to eliminate them. They learned from me and I learned from them. Fear receded and love won out and had control.

Think of the last dispute you had with a neighbor, child, parent, lover or co-worker. How much time and energy did you put into understanding their point of view? How much time and energy did you put into trying to hammer home your own, not understanding how they could be so stubborn and unreasonable as to not see how you were right? The latter is driven by fear—fear that you might actually NOT be right, fear that you might lose face if you had to back down, fear that you might lose control over the situation. These are usually hidden fears that we don’t see and find it hard to acknowledge, yet they control our actions. When we become aware of these fears, we can change our approach to any dispute or misunderstanding.

It doesn’t mean that we simply accept what anyone else says or that we ever have to come to the point of agreeing with them. It simply means that we open our minds and our hearts to receive and understand the other person more. This is like the scene in Avatar where the giant blue lady with the cool tail looks at the small white tailless human and says, “I see you.” This is what it means when the old Indian Sikh bows with hands pressed together and says to the young American Christian, “Namaste.” We are no longer interested in that which divides us but more interested in what makes us One. At that point we will have a different perspective of whatever the dispute is and it will get resolved.

What if an American beekeeper had spent time in South Africa and realized that African bees are not to be feared, merely respected and treated appropriately? Instead of killing hundreds of bees, s/he might rather have known that they could be moved to a fitting location, away from a concentration of people, and there produced wonderful honey and pollinated many flowers. The bees would have served their function in their own way and people would have benefitted from the results.

Hmmmm……..how many ways can I incorporate that thinking into my life?

Larry retouched by Don ReilyLarry Pearlman is the author of Journaling the Journey: 25 Spiritual Insights to Light The Way. Larry is a personification of the evolution in consciousness that recognizes that spirituality and the material world are not mutually exclusive. While working 32 years in corporate America he has taught courses in “The Art of Creative Living” and served as a faculty member for “The Opening,” an 8 day experiential class in discovering your full potential. He served in the Peace Corps in Ghana 2007-2009 and then lived for three years at Sunrise Ranch, a spiritual community in Colorado, where he hosted a radio show, “Evolution in Consciousness.” For more information, see his website.

Reconnecting Humanity: Moving Beyond Treating Symptoms to Working at Cause

by Jerry Kvasnicka

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack along the way human beings, for whatever reason, disconnected from the truth of themselves and from the creative process that governs all life in the universe. Some would describe this as a separation from God, and in traditional religion it is sometimes referred to as “The Fall.” The opening chapters of the Bible portray the disconnection in the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel.

In any case this initial disconnection has been replayed through millennia of human history and in this day the planet itself is reeling under its impact. So many current examples could be cited, such as the mass shooting in June at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. And on a larger scale there is global warming, desertification, the death of the oceans, species extinction, the threat of nuclear annihilation, wars in the Middle East and Africa, and the list goes on and on.

There are many well-intentioned people who are addressing these things horizontally. That is they are seeking fixes to these issues and problems at a material or physical level. Environmentalists, humanitarians and of course politicians are all laboring zealously to in essence patch up the earth and the body of humanity residing on it.

The human condition requires more than pain relief

Though I suppose this is commendable in one sense because it is intended to relieve human suffering and improve the human condition and the condition of the planet, it is nevertheless only treating the symptoms of the fundamental disconnection and not getting at the root cause. As we know from personal experience with sickness, when only symptomatic relief is given, the sickness may become more entrenched in the body, not to mention the unpleasant side-effects of the symptom relief drugs or other palliative measures.

So if I am to do spiritual work I would surely want that work to address the root cause of the human condition rather than merely providing symptomatic relief. And that root cause is to be found in human consciousness and the dysfunctional patterns present there, simply because the material conditions on earth are merely a reflection of what is present in human consciousness. This is true even of the weather and the phenomenon known as “global warming.”

William Isaacs, founder and president of Dialogos, a leadership consulting and strategy development firm based in Cambridge, MA, clearly recognizes this in an article called “Making Sacred Space.”

What does it take to allow the destructive patterns of interaction that have appeared on the planet to change? The necessary action clearly is not in trying to rearrange the patterns, but to do something about what is causing them. The fundamental required change is in consciousness.

While there are many seductive forces in the world that could lead into a battle with what is out there, what is required is something very different. Put simply, the core responsibility involves becoming identified with Cause, with Undimensional Being, with recalling and reclaiming that experience.

Making the vertical connection

To “rearrange the patterns” is what I have referred to as treating symptoms, addressing issues and problems on a horizontal level, i.e. rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Identifying with Cause brings in the vertical component of human consciousness, the very power of creation with which all human beings are endowed by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God. Until we consciously make this vertical connection anything done on the horizontal plane will only serve in the long run to maintain or even increase planetary disconnection.

David Karchere, spiritual director of Sunrise Ranch, describes what is needed as The Big Reconnection.

As humanity, we are ready for a big reconnection with the planet itself, with each other, and with the heartbeat of Creation that’s within us.

A trip to the Rocky Mountains, where he witnessed the devastation of beetle-killed pine trees, helped to convince him of the imperative need for this reconnection, noting that the planet itself is “re-correcting.”

With global warming, it’s not getting cold enough for the pine beetles to be killed off, and so there are dead pine trees, and then there are forest fires. All of that is planetary re-correction. The planet has a way of taking care of things. But somewhere along the way, we see that self-correction is going to involve us. We might be self-corrected by the planet. And then we get worried. I love the bumper sticker with a picture of a whale on it that says, “Save the Humans.”

Project Earth in Jeopardy!

Yes it has come down to this. The big disconnection now threatens the very existence of humanity, setting in motion a planetary re-correction that is increasingly impacting all of us. Working on the horizontal level to somehow hold off and mitigate this re-correction will only make the final outcome more destructive. Obviously the only intelligent approach is to make the vertical reconnection, thereby addressing the root cause of the human predicament.

The Sunrise Ranch spiritual community is dedicated to making and demonstrating this reconnection. This is why I signed on here back in 1971. I could read then the signs of the times and feel the world’s pain, and I wanted to give my life to the ultimate solution rather than merely trying to relieve symptoms of the problem. The Sunrise community is modeling the solution by consciously connecting to Source in all that we do individually and collectively, steadily advancing our stated purpose: “The spiritual regeneration of humanity.”

I am heartened to see that people and communities all over the world are awakening to this necessity. The Shift Network, Humanity’s Team, The Foundation for Conscious Evolution, The Association for Global New Thought and the National Peace Academy are a few of the organizations that I’m in contact with that share this objective. Perhaps the time is nearing when the fabled “critical mass” will be reached and humanity’s reconnection will smoothly correlate with the planet’s re-correction. In the meantime perhaps we can continue to inculcate the wisdom of this bumper sticker: “Don’t blow it; good planets are hard to find.”

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community west of Loveland for twenty-seven years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

A typical day in an enchanted land



Good morning, sheep!

Good morning, cows!

Good morning, ducks!


Roshana here, a Full Self Emergence intern at Sunrise Ranch, bringing you my monthly glance at life here on the Ranch.

This time, I thought I’d tell you about what a typical day looks like, but these past few weeks have been anything but typical. More about that later.

Most mornings, as I walk my dog, Booda, we say hello to the cows and sheep and ducks that hang out just beyond the house where I live, called the Garden House because the deck overlooks the ranch’s gardens.

After our morning walk, Booda and I eat breakfast in the Garden House. Most of our groceries are provided by the professional kitchen here. We put in an order once a week for yogurt, half-and-half, coffee, cereal, bread, nuts and fruit, etc. Most lunches and dinners are prepared by our amazing chefs. But when those meals aren’t being served, we can pick up leftovers that are dated and kept in coolers in the kitchen. This certainly makes life easy.

After breakfast, I walk about a block to my office in the Pavilion to work on video editing; creating Facebook “memes” for the Creative Field Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CreativeFieldProject), one of several sites that Sunrise Ranch maintains; and other work related to writing or editing content.

During the week, I might attend a yoga class or help out with special projects (we had a Community Project Day recently, during which residents formed teams that cleaned, repaired and beautified various areas of our village, trails and camping grounds). And once a week I host an hour-long dance session, my favorite hour of the week—the only goal being to let go and move.

Of course, everyone’s perception of daily life here is different; it all depends on whether you work in the gardens or pastures or in an office, whether you’re an intern or a community elder, whether you came to this place because of an advertised job or specifically to live in a spiritual community.

One thing is consistent: creativity is a preoccupation with people here. There’s a willingness to accept your own and others’ proclivities, talents, skills and weaknesses and work with what’s in front of you in the most creative way you can. We celebrate creativity and innovation.

As all of us have chosen to be here, we can assume that everyone is ready to work in an environment where we strive to “honor Universal Being.” We try to remember to ask ourselves, “What does that look like in this moment?” And that mindset makes for a unique living experience.

As I said, this past month was not typical: We hosted the annual ARISE Music Festival here at the beginning of August, with 8,000 people, give or take a few hundred, camping out on our front lawn. As environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill said during our Sunday service that weekend, “You all are bold!”  Indeed.

During the festival, I spent time in the Sunrise Ranch booth, answering questions from festival attendees and engaging in general people-watching at this colorful, exotic, high-tech, energetic love fest. I bought some clothing from the booth next to ours, enjoyed amazing music and heard interesting talks. The main thing I observed all over the festival grounds was that people were genuinely warm and generous toward one another. I’m grateful for my good fortune to be living here, and that was especially true during ARISE.

People talk about this place being magical. As a level-headed skeptic, I’m reluctant to use that word to describe any place. … Still, I have to say I have had that experience in this scenic valley—a feeling that I’m walking in an enchanted land.

It’s a perfect afternoon as I write this—beautiful and warm with a light, refreshing breeze. Even though it’s still August, and worldwide climate change has not abated at all, we’ve had some cool days lately, enough to feel as though autumn is creeping up on us too fast. I’m assured by residents who have lived here a long time that the temperatures will fluctuate from summery to shivery over the next several weeks before the cold really settles in.

Most evenings, Booda and I go for another walk, sometimes down to the nearby reservoir to soak up the sights and sounds of twilight—the glistening water under the painted, dusky sky, the crickets chirping, the wind singing. I’ve never lived in a more peaceful place.

As we walk back toward home under the stars, we wish our fellow creatures well.

Goodnight, wild turkeys.

Goodnight, rabbits.

Goodnight, kitty-cats.

Hope to see you all tomorrow.


Roshana Ariel portrait ROSHANA ARIEL is a former longtime editor at a daily newspaper in Kansas, now editing materials for Sunrise Ranch and going through the Ranch’s Full Self Emergence internship. She has one son, Kris, who lives in China, and she lives with her dog, Booda, at the Ranch. She welcomes your comments at rariel@emnet.org.

Here, Now

by Larry Pearlman

Aspen-PopulusTremuloides-2001-09-27There was a time, in the Colorado Rockies, when I stood and was transfixed by the sight of the Aspens, the glorious Aspens, shimmering in the wind. There is that time of year when the leaves are just the right color when “shimmering” is just the right word for the magical display that happens in the breeze.

Here, now, in the veldt of South Africa, I watch the leaves of a tree blowing in the wind. It is not an Aspen tree. I don’t even know the name that people have given to this tree. Does it really matter? No – it’s not the same shimmering that I recall from the Rockies but this tree with this breeze creates it’s own magic and it is a gift to me now.

There was a time, in Costa Rica, I watched two dogs, Barley and Luna, play together with boundless energy. I have known these dogs a while and they are special to me. It brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

Here, now, in the veldt of South Africa, I watch two dogs play together with boundless energy. I have known these dogs but a short time. They are not Barley and Luna. They are known as Maggie and Dozie. Do these names that people have given them really matter? It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

There was a time, in Australia, when I watched a man named Andrew approach me with a radiant smile and it made me feel good about myself and the world.

Here, now, in the veldt of South Africa, I watch a woman approach me with a radiant smile. The name that has been given her is Daleen. Does the name really matter? Her smile makes me feel good about myself and the world.

There are many memories from many times and many places. They are all wondrous in their way and I am thankful for them. But there is really only one thing that matters………

Here, now.

Larry retouched by Don ReilyLarry Pearlman is the author of Journaling the Journey: 25 Spiritual Insights to Light The Way. Larry is a personification of the evolution in consciousness that recognizes that spirituality and the material world are not mutually exclusive. While working 32 years in corporate America he has taught courses in “The Art of Creative Living” and served as a faculty member for “The Opening,” an 8 day experiential class in discovering your full potential. He served in the Peace Corps in Ghana 2007-2009 and then lived for three years at Sunrise Ranch, a spiritual community in Colorado, where he hosted a radio show, “Evolution in Consciousness.” For more information, see his website.

Generic Is Beautiful

by Jerry Kvasnicka

Generic_Cola_Cans_1980sNo matter the product, I always opt for generic if it is available. Why should I pay more to have my oatmeal subjected to more processing and put into a fancy container? When I want oatmeal just plain oatmeal will do, thank you, and the box it comes in will end up in the recycling bin no matter how aesthetically appealing it is.

I’m reminded of the time a few years ago when I went into a supermarket and purchased a 32 oz. bottle of catsup for $1.23. Similar bottles of brand-name catsup were priced from $1.50 to $2.48. Generic catsup is good. I think it tastes better and is better for you than the national brands. The latter contain an assortment of additives, preservatives and flavorings, while generic has little more than tomatoes, vinegar salt garlic and onion powder.

It has always amazed me that people are willing to pay more for something that has been glamorized, processed and otherwise tampered with. I once offered a friend of mine some delicious organic carrots from my garden and he turned away saying he didn’t trust anything that didn’t come off a supermarket shelf. I’ll admit to increasingly moving in the opposite direction, distrusting anything that does come out of a supermarket!

A thriving “generic” intentional community

Back in the 1970s the spiritual community of Sunrise Ranch maintained a policy where everyone, no matter what their job or job performance, received only room and board and a small monthly stipend of $40. In other words, you could say it was generic. Did this result in uniformity, mediocrity, lethargy and freeloading? Just the opposite in fact. I rarely observed anything but excellence and maximum creative output. And relieved of the need to struggle for the dollar or organizational position, people lived harmoniously and happily together. This demonstration project is still going strong, ample proof to me that competition and monetary incentives are not required to ensure high output and quality performance.

Unless held in check by government, competitive capitalism tends to widen the gap between rich and poor and fosters worker and consumer exploitation. The have-nots strive to get what is held by the haves, creating a culture of crime and violence. Lawyers and a massive judicial system are necessary to defend these criminals and settle the inevitable corporate disputes. With several companies trying to sell the same or similar products there is massive duplication of physical plant and equipment as well as marketing and distribution systems. Consumers are subjected to dehumanizing marketing techniques and deceptive sales pitches to get them to buy. And there is little hesitancy to rape the environment to save jobs and preserve corporate profits.

Faced with all of this, I’ll take generic. I don’t need a dozen varieties of catsup to choose from, ranging all over the map in price and packaging but containing essentially the same thing. Yes there can be variety within the product line—some catsup a little more spicy, some with barbecue flavor, etc. But don’t try to convince me that catsup in a squeeze bottle is better than catsup in a glass bottle or that a red and green label ensures higher quality catsup than a red and white label. Or that Hine’s tomatoes have it all over Del Monte’s. I don’t want hype. I want catsup! Just think of the resources having one quality brand of catsup would free up. And it would probably cost half as much.

Relief from the gimmickry and manipulation associated with product competition

The same argument can be made for having one airline, one phone company, one computer maker, one manufacturer of electric mixers, one school system, one car maker. What an enormous savings this would mean in terms of the duplication of plant and equipment, managerial functions and distribution facilities. And all advertising and marketing schemes could be eliminated. What a joy to read a newspaper or an online news site free of ads or watch a network TV program free of insulting sales pitches. Also legal staffs and fast-talking salesmen would gradually become a thing of the past. What a blessed relief to be free of all the gimmickry and manipulation associated with product competition. No longer relentlessly driven by the struggle to compete human beings could begin to recover their sanity.

Does this mean socialism or communism? Is that what is being advocated here? Certainly not! These ideologies, products of conditioned human thought, are totally antagonistic to natural law and the way life actually operates. Ideological systems represent an attempt to artificially induce and control a creative impulse innate to human beings. Using ideological artifice to compel what is already natural is absurd! And destructive!

What is needed is for all such contrivances to get out of the way so that life can operate without interference. Under capitalism competition compels people to produce. Under communism the state compels people to produce. But these coercive and dehumanizing devices and all mixtures thereof can be dispensed with when people honor the incentive to achieve and reveal the excellence inherent in their own nature.

Is someone going to tell me that human beings are incapable of innovation, competence, efficiency and creativity unless stimulated by competition and monetary enticements? This is absolute nonsense. Rewards are really only necessary for those who have yet to grow out of greed or sloth. Isn’t it about time we all abandoned our childish ways and started to behave like the mature men and women we inherently are?

Virtue is its own reward

Virtue, indeed excellence in any form, is its own reward. Yes, I realize we all need to earn enough to make a living. But if the emphasis is on “earning,” sooner or later we die of consumption—consumed by the struggle and the supposed rewards of the struggle. But if emphasis is on the expression of excellence from moment to moment, I’ve found that life unfailingly provides exactly what is necessary for the continuous experience of abundance.

Injecting competition into the public school system through school choice and teacher “pay for performance” programs is being increasingly advanced as a way to improve educational standards nationwide. But, I ask, what are the long-range consequences of having teachers and schools teach for dollars and other material rewards rather than for sheer love of teaching? What effect will this have on our national values?

There has even been talk of abolishing the (generic) public school system altogether in favor of all private schools, which presumably would compete with each other for dollars. Again, I ask, what would happen to equality of educational opportunity, a value our country once honored? Are we more interested in producing an intellectual elite than in raising the educational level of all citizens?

When I was working as a custodian for the local school district my work supervisor came up to me one day and warned me that from that point forward he would be coming by without prior notice to inspect and evaluate my performance, in part to determine my eligibility for a pay increase. As if knowing that he would be coming by would cause me to really “shape up” and work harder.

Excellence: my only level of performance

Well, guess what? It didn’t affect my performance at all! I only have one level of performance whether I’m supervised or not: excellence. I’m delivering excellence now and I’ll deliver it tomorrow and the next day and the next. My performance is generic. It won’t improve one iota if, instead of being given $10 to do a job, I’m given $10,000.

I only know how to do things one way—the best of which I am capable. It’s basic to my nature (and to yours as well). Who needs a monetary crutch? And if we let our performance consistently reflect the excellence of our nature, maybe we could dispense with supervisors!

“Generic” derives from root meanings that denote “original” or “universal.” The original state of creation, the paradisiacal garden state of the earth and human consciousness, was the generic state. This pristine condition was lost when human beings allowed themselves to be enticed by claims of the serpent-mind (representing self-will) that an already perfect state could nevertheless be made better through what amounted to scientific research and development.

So with this in mind Eve consumed what instantly became the “forbidden fruit” and the human race started down the long road from magnificent golden apples free for the picking to the pathetic, pesticide-laden and scandalously priced counterfeits I’ve often seen on supermarket shelves today.

The universe is evidence of a magnificently coordinated generic system

Notwithstanding this earth aberration, the universe itself is a beautiful generic system. It contains amazing diversity, yet everything moves naturally and easily together in a harmoniously functioning whole. When I look up at Mars and Jupiter on a clear night I have no sense that they are competing with each other for light or orbital space. I sense that they orbit the Sun not out of coercion but out of love, and from their mutual love for the Sun springs a love for each other.

Similarly with suns orbiting their focus points in each galaxy and galaxies orbiting a central Sun of Suns. Love, harmony, order…this is the resplendent theme of the universe. And its generic product is light, an infinity of shades and intensities, but basically just light, light that doesn’t compete with the darkness but simply shines. Surely we would be wise enough to let this be our model rather than some “new and improved” product of human thought!

Authentic spirituality is generic. It is “primal spirituality,” the innate, intuitive knowing of the truth of love that resides at the core of every human being. Primal spirituality recognizes that despite all their surface differences human beings are essentially one. Life is differentiated in an infinity of human and other forms, but they all spring from one generic core of love.

So of what value are the religions of the world? Yes they represent some measure of spiritual differentiation, but I feel this is overridden by the division and conflict they have created in the body of humanity. Surely it is time to return to our generic core of love, the primal bond that links all of us together as a human family. Generic is beautiful!

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-seven years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

Layers are Falling

The clothes are falling off as summer is in full swing here at Sunrise Ranch.

Layers are falling

Hi, this is Roshana, a Full Self Emergence intern at Sunrise Ranch, bringing you another look at life in this unique community as I enter my third month in the FSE program.

I should make clear that nobody’s running around naked in the village, but with the hot weather, almost everyone is wearing sandals or flip-flops, shorts or miniskirts, and tank tops or spaghetti straps. The shedding of multiple layers prompted Sunrise Ranch’s Spiritual Director, David Karchere, to put out a memo regarding proper attire for those of us who work with the public.

“Sunrise Ranch is not a convent or a Zen monastery. So we won’t be asking you to wear a nun’s habit or a saffron robe,” he wrote, asking us to contemplate what is appropriate for our particular job and our level of contact with the public. The idea is that we don’t draw attention to ourselves but rather focus on the service we bring to those in our world. I haven’t seen much change in attire since the email went out; perhaps everyone thought the memo applied to someone else’s minimized garb.

I’m becoming more enamored with this little bit of heaven in this seemingly magical valley in the foothills of Colorado. I’m enjoying the work I’m doing—editing text and audio and video; creating memes for the Creative Field Facebook page; going through Sunrise Ranch’s soon-to-be-launched website, and working on an events kiosk for residents and guests here. Busy, busy, busy.

In addition to my duties, of course, I’m attending classes and doing homework for the FSE program. So, what are we learning? Many of the readings in class were written by Lloyd Arthur Meeker (also known as Uranda), the founder of Sunrise Ranch and Emissaries of Divine Light; and Martin Cecil, who assumed leadership of EDL and the Ranch after Meeker died in a plane crash in 1954.

Here are some of the readings we’ve looked at:

  • The Liberating Truth (The “One Law,” cause and effect, or, in terms of magnets or electrical wiring, positive and negative poles.)
  • Sowing and Reaping (An interesting concept about not reusing seed for sowing, but rather using fresh, “divine” seed.)
  • Meditation and Thinking (“We see a world frantically trying to distract itself from its state of emptiness,” Cecil wrote in 1963. He talks about our minds being filled with “fears of parents for their children, fear of losing one’s job, fear of going broke, fear of losing what the individual thinks to possess. However,” he writes, “coming under the control of the dominion of God, the vision changes, we begin to see things in a different light, and tentatively, at least, it may be recognized that thinking could be a rather pleasurable process.”)
  • Welcome Pressure (“Human beings very often think of themselves as rather weak characters,” Cecil wrote in 1964. “They don’t want too much pressure because they know they are going to fail. Well, as long as there is identity with that sort of a character, as long as one maintains such an attitude … there isn’t much hope.” He goes on to explain that pressure actually pushes us toward service, and if we try to dissipate that pressure through escapism (maybe drinking wine and binge-watching “Downton Abbey”) that pressure can’t build to a useful prodding. “Without this attitude toward pressure patterns, we can’t serve, because the service comes through the pressure.”)
  • Letting Truth Make You Free (Uranda, in 1953, wrote about current circumstances that might trigger you because of something that happened in the past: “The point is,” he writes, “when you find yourself being subject to some immaturity pattern from out of the past with respect to a circumstance in the present, instead of letting yourself take an immature attitude toward the present, re-evaluate the present circumstance. … We have to let childish things pass away.”)

In a recent Monday morning class, we considered the idea of a “fire in the belly,” based on a reading by David Karchere. “Fire” relates to “the cosmic force that burns in the spiritual aspect of your human capacity,” he wrote. “The belly is synonymous with the physical aspect of your human capacity that embodies the cosmic force symbolized by the earth.”

“Fire in the belly comes when the clouds clear in consciousness, and thought and feeling fill with our highest love, and our love is so overwhelming to us that we cannot help but live our lives in service to it. For real. On earth. Through our words and deeds.”

Also on Mondays, we meet for women’s (or men’s) group; have some kind of body-centered practice (yoga, dance, Attunement, chant or what’s called “The Form”); and participate in our Transformation circle, during which we FSE interns take time to talk about what’s on our spiritual “edge.”

We may be shedding apparel on these hot summer days, but our hearts and minds are being clothed with a wealth of material. Next time, I’ll tell you more about daily life here at Sunrise Ranch. Until then, I send you warm wishes.


Roshana Ariel portrait

ROSHANA ARIEL is a former longtime editor at a daily newspaper in Kansas, now editing materials for Sunrise Ranch and going through the Ranch’s Full Self Emergence internship. She has one son, Kris, who lives in China, and she lives with her dog, Booda, at the Ranch. She welcomes your comments at rariel@emnet.org.


I have spent a number of hours of my life being upset with myself for the way I was feeling. If I were to add it up it would equal days, weeks, even months of time. I used to pray for the ability to stop feeling. That may sound ridiculous, but I have had such deep feelings of love and grief and anger that I thought they could destroy me. I also feared that someone would find out what I was feeling and judge me as being a bad person. After all “good” people don’t feel that way!

I have questioned the design of my being wondering what this emotional capacity was designed for. It seemed it was causing me a lot of distress and I thought my life would be simpler, more logical, more under control if this capacity didn’t exist.

Now the logical part of me knows this is silly. I am a chiropractor who knows the design of a human being is magnificent. The systems, the abilities, the control factors are beyond amazing. I became a chiropractor partly because I have deep respect for this reality. When something is not working right in the body, I am all about finding what is interfering and assisting in removing that interference so that homeostasis and vibrant health can return. So my premise that life would be better without this annoying emotional capacity promotes the same premise that we have body parts we don’t need. I had my tonsils taken out at age three because my older sister was having hers out and it was convenient to do two girls at once! Somehow someone decided I didn’t need them. I don’t know if this law still exists but in some states, it was a requirement to remove the patient’s appendix if the abdomen was opened for a surgical procedure as it was deemed a useless appendage that may cause trouble later. I don’t buy that kind of logic so why would I believe there was any part of me that isn’t part of that magnificent design?

But then my emotions are not logical are they, and neither are yours, so therein lies a dilemma. It is difficult to see the magnificence in something that seems out of control. What I have come to realize is my emotional state is not out of control but at times my feelings about it and my judgment of it can be. Why would I have such judgment about a beautiful part of my design?

My thoughts on this day are that this capacity, this gift has not been acknowledged for its beautiful powerful contribution to my magnificent life. It has not been loved and honored or even thanked. I have experienced deep thankfulness for my body’s abilities to heal, to digest, to breathe, to stay warm and to keep my heart beating. Can I honestly say I am thankful for the fact that in this moment I am angry? Even saying I am angry makes me feel vulnerable to potential judgement. Do I need to make up a story about why I am angry or can I just be angry? Can I be angry and not have the anger determine what I say and do? Noticing I am hungry is not this complicated!

Feelings can show up and surprise us. Sometimes it is not a surprise, it is obvious and logical. I just won the jackpot. Yay, I am filled with joy! I just heard someone I love is ill. I am sad—that’s also a logical and linear response. I am feeling agitated, restless, frustrated or depressed. Where did that come from? I’m not ill, nothing dramatic just happened—not so logical or obvious.

It is a habit to search for a reason, a story, a person or something to name as the source. Then you can be in the feeling in a “justified” way. I say we can approach this differently. “I don’t know why I am feeling this way, but it is very real. Perhaps I can take a moment to be sure what it is I am feeling.” Sometimes we think we are angry but really we are sad. Sometimes we think we are sad or afraid when really we are angry. Here is an opportunity for ownership and thankfulness. “I am feeling…(fill in the blank). This is my feeling and it is powerful. I am thankful for this powerful energy. I am powerful and will use that power to create beauty and blessing.”

In this moment you are not only acknowledging this magnificent part of yourself, you are also thankful for it. Let your heart open to the wonder of your magnificent design.  Take a moment to realize all of you is a blessing, not just the logical, dissectible parts. You can study and discover how your organs and systems work and give thanks that you are so wondrously made. Your emotional realm is not logical or dissectible. In fact, how your emotional capacity works is connected to how you were made to feel about the feelings you shared. Sounds complicated doesn’t it!  Did you ever express anger as a child and told to stop it?  Did you ever feel sad and cry and told, “I’ll give you something to really to cry about”?  You can’t do that with your emotional realm. Your emotional realm is a magical, powerful capacity longing to be loved and used for creation. I believe your emotional capacity needs to be loved and appreciated so that it might find its place and play its part. Let us begin the healing process of this powerful capacity and welcome it as a beloved friend.

-Jane Anetrini


Jane AnetriniJANE ANETRINI is a coach and teacher of Primal Spirituality. She assists people to find their own inner wisdom, strength and vitality. Jane is a Doctor of Chiropractic who has been practicing for 36 years.


Keys to Emotional Intelligence

by Jerry Kvasnicka

heart-1301898_960_720“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This statement made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount may very well describe the work of the emerging spiritual body on earth. We are interested in seeing God in ourselves and in others, but as long as the heart (which refers to the emotions or feeling realm) is clogged with accusation, blame, criticism and judgment of all kinds, we cannot see clearly or live creatively.

Purification of the heart brings “emotional intelligence,” a term that has emerged in recent years to describe a condition of clarity and power in emotional expression that contributes to success in business, education, government or any area of living. It is also a vital element of any authentic spirituality and the release of our creative potential as human beings.

David Karchere, spiritual director of Emissaries of Divine Light, wrote this in a piece entitled “Emotional Intelligence”: A truly pure heart is an emotionally fluent heart. It’s a heart that’s emotionally intelligent. And what is emotional intelligence? Is it not being connected deeply to the power of Creation and to the Creator Himself and Herself? Isn’t it knowing that power within oneself in one’s own creatorship?”

While we require emotional intelligence for effective spiritual function, the emotions don’t become intelligent all by themselves. Left to their own devices the emotions may go in all kinds of directions, some of which may be destructive and produce what David calls “emotional disfluency.”

I am governed by who I am, not what I feel

To operate properly and become intelligent the emotions need the guidance of the conscious mind. If the conscious mind is one-pointedly centered in what Jesus called “the Father within,” then the emotions will come under control and gain intelligence. Control is obviously the key factor in generating emotional intelligence. My emotions will come under the control of the truth of who I am (“the power of Creation”) if I make the conscious choice to be under that control.

So choice is another key factor in generating emotional intelligence. I can choose to be controlled by my emotions and potentially express something destructive or I can choose to be faithful to the truth of who I am and express the qualities of divine character regardless of what I am feeling. I have the power of choice.

Just because I feel deeply and passionately about something or someone doesn’t mean I am obliged to express that emotion. If I am governed by the Father within, I can choose to express it, not to express it or to express some modification of it depending on the nature of the circumstance. Because I am centered in the truth of who I am in reality my emotions serve me, they do not rule me.

“Getting it out” just gets it in

Assume I am feeling tremendous anger toward someone I’m with as a result of something they’ve done. Do I have to express that anger? No, I can choose not to, with no harm to my mental state. I’m aware that there is a widely-accepted psychological theory that advises venting the anger in order to supposedly “get it out of your system.” I strongly disagree with this approach. It doesn’t get it out of my system, it just more firmly entrenches it in my system.

There is a creative principle that comes into play here: “You know what you express.” If you express anger in some kind of uncontrollable rage, that is what you know. In other words, it becomes embedded in your system and can become a habit. Also of what possible value is it to in effect vomit this destructive emotion all over people and things in your environment? It destroys them and yourself.

Even anger can be transmuted

Am I suggesting that negative emotions such as anger be suppressed? Not at all. I agree that suppressing emotions can damage the personality. But I am suggesting that the emotional energy represented by anger or any other negative emotion can be transmuted. Being securely centered in the truth of myself and availing myself of the power of Creation, I can consciously choose to transmute any emotion no matter how repugnant. Even vigorous anger can be transmuted and released as a blessing. The same with fear. As Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

There was a somewhat amusing incident in an elementary school classroom. The teacher addressed young Johnny: “Now, Johnny, we know that when George Washington was just a little boy he cut down his father’s cherry tree and even admitted it to his father. Why didn’t his father punish him?” And Johnny replies: “Because George still had the ax in his hand.” We know of course that the real reason is that George’s father in effect transmuted that anger in the moment that he heard George’s honest admission and changed his anger into love.

There may be instances when a controlled expression of anger may be just what is needed to constructively handle a given situation. The classic example of this of course is Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. The temple was a sacred space and the violation of that space occasioned a wave of anger in Jesus. But while he forcibly confronted the money changers he was by no means controlled by anger. He simply used it as a tactic while remaining fully under the control of the Father within.

I have to behave this way; I’m in a bad mood

Emotional intelligence could allow us to reduce or even eliminate another feeling malady that many seem to suffer from. I’m referring to moods. Being in a “bad mood” seems to provide a handy excuse for all kinds of unpleasant behavior. I run the post office at the Sunrise Ranch community. If someone comes to the counter of the mail room needing service, it doesn’t matter how bad I’m feeling physically or emotionally, I will always greet them warmly with a smile. Once again this has to do with control by the truth of who I am rather than by how I feel.

The emotions are a faculty of perception. Just as I see with my eyes and hear with my ears, I feel what is present in myself and in my world with my emotions. Though I may see some awful things and hear some awful things, I am not controlled by what I see and hear. Neither am I controlled by the world and the state of consciousness that I feel. I am answerable only to the truth of who I am and behave accordingly, no matter what my emotions tell me. And by the way, their accuracy as a faculty of perception, their emotional intelligence, depends on my fidelity to this inner control.

But the emotions are not merely a sensory faculty, they are also an energizer. They invest my thoughts and actions with the power of creation. They can be used to enliven my expression and fill it with passion. As indicated above, this can be an outburst of anger or an exalted expression of love. Once again whether the result of this energy is creative or destructive depends on whether I am controlled by an emotional state of reaction to something external or by my steadfast loyalty to the Father within.

The essential role of character

The final key to emotional intelligence that I would mention has to do with character. Identified with the Father within I channel my emotional energy into the expression of the qualities of true character: integrity, nobility, dignity, generosity, serenity, stability, to name a few. The consistent expression of these qualities of character in living clears the emotional realm of negative qualities and brings the emotions under the control of the truth of who I am, the Father within. There is no better way to build emotional intelligence.

The keys to emotional intelligence are C –words: my Choice to Connect with the Father within and express true Character that in turn creates Clarity in the emotional realm and brings it under Control, releasing the power of Creation in my living. It is a very simple process actually, but how vital emotional intelligence is for generating the spiritual intelligence that is capable of transforming human consciousness.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Blessed are the emotionally intelligent, for they shall see God and give God access to the earth through the power and clarity of emotional realm, steadily accomplishing the spiritual regeneration of humanity.

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-seven years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org

Have I fully emerged?

Nope, not even close.

Hi, I’m Roshana, a Full Self Emergence intern at Sunrise Ranch. I’m beginning my third month here at the Ranch, having arrived in mid-April.

The days are getting hot, the grass is growing high, the birds are singing and the flowers blooming. The pool and hot tub are open, the food is always incredibly delicious, and life is good here at Sunrise.

P 15 - PHOTO - SR - spring at Sunrise

Last month I promised to tell you about what I’m learning in the Full Self Emergence (FSE) program with my other classmates. (The class has dwindled a little, a natural occurrence. We started with 17 and are down to 14 now, if my fingers are calculating correctly.) We range in age from 19 to about … ahem … 61 (that would be me).

Each week, we have a full morning of classes on Mondays and an hour-long class on Fridays. We have weekly assignments—nothing too onerous. We attend Wednesday night and Sunday morning services and Expansion, a time when we’re free to offer our thoughts on the topics expressed during the service. We also go to Attunements twice a week and meet with a coach to discuss any challenges.

And there have been challenges.

In late May, we attended an eight-day intensive called The Art of Living. It included many lectures and a few trust exercises and other group-bonding activities. We had times of silence, did a lot of journaling and managed a few public speaking assignments.

Our first task as part of the FSE class was to write about our experiences related to this beautiful poem, called “She Let Go,” by the Rev. Safire Rose. Here’s an excerpt from that poem.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the “right” reasons.


Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go. …


No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore …


So, what about those challenges? Well, letting go hasn’t been easy. Unlike the poem above, I can’t say, “There was no effort. There was no struggle.” And I certainly did ask friends and family for advice about this move to Sunrise Ranch. But every week, I’m finding things to let go of while I grapple with the attitudes and long-held beliefs accumulated over my life.

But this isn’t about acquiring new beliefs and principles willy-nilly. Over and over again, we’ve been invited to take what makes sense to us, what serves us well, and leave the rest.

If you read my last column in this space, you’ll remember that I’ve had a rocky relationship with religion and spirituality, so I’m easily triggered by new spiritual ideas that I can’t immediately research or confirm.

And I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to think that some of the ideas presented here sound strange. But I’ve been encouraged by many here to keep an open mind and an open heart—that was certainly my intention before I arrived—and avail myself of new ideas that might benefit me.

As it turns out, I’ve got a fair amount of work to do in my own inner realm. And this seems to be a fine place to do it. After all, I’m totally on board with the idea that a creative spark resides in me by virtue of the fact that I’m alive—my heart beats, my lungs breathe, my food turns into energy, all without me doing a thing. That’s what I want to learn more about, what I want to nurture and experience regularly in my life. And that’s what this community supports in a lovely, safe container.

Next time, I’ll get more into the nitty-gritty of our FSE classes. Until then, I wish you well.

-Roshana Ariel


Roshana Ariel portraitROSHANA ARIEL is a former longtime editor at a daily newspaper in Kansas, now editing materials for Sunrise Ranch and going through the Ranch’s Full Self Emergence program. She has one son, Kris, who lives in China, and misses her dog, Booda, who is staying in Kansas for the time being. She welcomes your comments at rariel@emnet.org.

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