Họp Thông Thiên Học chiều 6 tháng 8 năm 2011



The Origin of Magic

(Page 36) THINGS of late have changed, true enough. The field of investigation has widened; old religions are a little better understood; and since that miserable day when the Committee of the French Academy, headed by Benjamin Franklin, investigated Mesmer’s phenomena only to proclaim them charlatanry and clever knavery, both heathen Philosophy and Mesmerism have acquired certain rights and privileges, and are now viewed from quite a different standpoint. Is full justice rendered them, however, and are they any better appreciated? We are afraid not. Human nature is the same now, as when Pope said of the force of prejudice that:

The difference is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own,
Or some discolour’d through our passions shown,
Or fancy’s beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.

Thus in the first decades of our century Hermetic Philosophy was regarded by both Churchmen and men of Science from two quite opposite points of view. The former called it sinful and devilish; the latter denied point-blank its authenticity, notwithstanding the evidence brought forward by the most erudite men of every age, including our own. The learned Father Kircher, for instance, was not even noticed; and his assertion that all the fragments known under titles of works by Mercury Trismegistus, Berosus, Pherecydes of Syros, etc., were rolls that had escaped the fire which devoured 100,000 volumes of the great Alexandrian Library - was simply laughed at. Nevertheless the educated classes of Europe knew then, as they do now, that the famous Alexandrian Library, the “marvel of the ages,” was founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus; that numbers of its MSS, had been carefully copied from hieratic texts and the oldest parchments, Chaldaean, Phoenician, Persian, etc; and that these transliterations and copies amounted, in their turn, to another 100,000 rolls, as Josephus and Strabo assert.

The Books of Hermes - (Page 37) There is also the additional evidence of Clemens Alexandrinus, that ought to be credited to some extent.[ The forty-two Sacred Books of the Egyptians mentioned by Clement of Alexandria as having existed in his time, were but a portion of the Books of Hermes. Iamblichus, on the authority of the Egyptian priest Abammon, attributes 1,200 of such books to Hermes, and Manetho 36.000. But the testimony of Iamblichus as a Neoplatonist and Theurgist is of course rejected by modern critics. Manetho, who is held by Bunsen in the highest consideration as a “purelyhistorical personage,” with whom “none of the later native historians can be compared” (see Egypte, i. 97) suddenly becomes a Pseudo-Manetho, as soon as the ideas propounded by him clash with the scientific prejudices against Magic and the Occult knowledge claimed by the ancient priests. However, none of the Archaeologists doubt for a moment the almost incredible antiquity of the Hermetic books. Champollion shows the greatest regard for their authenticity and truthfulness, corroborated as it is by many of the oldest monuments. And Bunsen brings irrefutable proofs of their age. From his researches, for instance, we learn that there was a line of sixty-one kings before the days of Moses, who preceded the Mosaic period by a clearly-traceable civilization of several thousand years. Thus we are warranted in believing that the works of Hermes Trismegistus were extant many ages before the birth of the Jewish law-giver. “Styli and inkstands were found on monuments of the fourth Dynasty, the oldest in the world,” says Bunsen. If the eminent Egyptologist rejects the period of 48.863 years before Alexander, to which Diogenes Laertius carries back the records of the priests, he is evidently more embarrassed with the ten thousand of astronomical observations, and remarks that “if they were actual observations, they must have extended over 10.000 years” (p.44). “We learn, however,” he adds, “from one of their own old chronological works . . . that the genuine Egyptian traditions concerning the mythological period treated of myriads of years.” (Egypte, i, 15: Isis Unveiled, i. 33)] Clemens testified to the existence of an additional 30,000 volumes of the Books of Thoth, placed in the library of the Tomb of Osymandias, over the entrance of which were inscribed the words, “A Cure for the Soul.”

Since then, as all know, entire texts of the “apocryphal” works of the “false” Pymander, and the no less “false” Asclepias, have been found by Champollion in the most ancient monuments of Egypt. [ These details are taken from Pneumatologie, iii, pp, 204, 205 ] As said in Isis Unveiled:

After having devoted their whole lives to the study of the records of the old Egyptian wisdom, both Champollion-Figeac and Champollion Junior publicly declared, notwithstanding many biased judgments hazarded by certain hasty and unwise critics, that the Books of Hermes “truly contain a mass of Egyptian traditions which are constantly corroborated by the most authentic records and monuments of Egypt of the hoariest antiquity.” [ Egypte, p.143 Isis Unveiled, i. 625.]

The merit of Champollion as an Egyptologist none will question, and if he declare that everything demonstrates the accuracy of the writings of the mysterious Hermes Trismegistus, and if the assertion that their antiquity runs back into the night of time be corroborated by him in (Page 38)minutest details, then indeed criticism ought to be fully satisfied. Says Champollion:

These inscriptions are only the faithful echo and expression of the most ancient verities. Since these words were written, some of the “apocryphal” verses by the “mythical” Orpheus have also been found copied word for word, in hieroglyphics, in certain inscriptions of the Fourth Dynasty, addressed to various Deities. Finally, Creuzer discovered and immediately pointed out the very significant fact that numerous passages found in Homer and Hesiod were undeniably borrowed by the two great poets from the Orphic Hymns, thus proving the latter to be far older than the Iliad or the Odyssey.

And so gradually the ancient claims come to be vindicated, and modern criticism has to submit to evidence. Many are now the writers who confess that such a type of literature as the Hermetic works of Egypt can never be dated too far back into the prehistoric ages. The texts of many of these ancient works, that of Enoch included, so loudly proclaimed “apocryphal” at the beginning of this century, are now discovered and recognised in the most secret and sacred sanctuaries of Chaldaea, India, Phoenicia, Egypt and Central Asia. But even such proofs have failed to convince the bulk of our Materialists. The reason for this is very simple and evident. All these texts - held in universal veneration in Antiquity, found in the secret libraries of all the great temples, studied (if not always mastered) by the greatest statesmen, classical writers, philosophers, kings and laymen, as much as by renowned Sages - what were they? Treatises on Magic and Occultism, pure and simple; the now derided and tabooed Theosophy - hence the ostracism.

Were people, then, so simple and credulous in the days of Pythagoras and Plato? Were the millions of Babylonia and Egypt, of India and Greece, with their great Sages to lead them, all fools, that during those periods of great learning and civilization which preceded the year one of our era - the latter giving birth but to the intellectual darkness of mediaeval fanaticism - so many otherwise great men should have devoted their lives to a mere illusion, a superstition called Magic? It would seem so, had one to remain content with the word and conclusions of modern Philosophy.

Every Art and Science, however, whatever its intrinsic merit, has had its discoverer and practitioner, and subsequently its proficients to teach it.

What is the Origin of Magic? - (Page 39) What is the origin of the Occult Sciences, or Magic? Who were its professors, and what is known of them, whether in history or legend? Clemens Alexandrinus, one of the most intelligent and learned of the early Christian Fathers, answers this question in his Stromateis. That ex-pupil of the Neoplatonic School argues:

If there is instruction, you must seek for the master. [ Strom., VI, vii. The following paragraph from the same chapter.]

And so he shows Cleanthes taught by Zeno, Theophrastus by Aristotle, Metrodorus by Epicurus, Plato by Socrates, etc. And he adds that when he had looked further back to Pythagoras, Pherecydes, and Thales, he had still to search for their masters. The same for the Egyptians, the Indians, the Babylonians, and the Magi themselves. He would not cease questioning, he says, to learn who it was they all had for their masters. And when he (Clemens) had traced down the enquiry to the very cradle of mankind, to the first generation of men, he would reiterate once more his questioning, and ask, “Who is their teacher?” Surely, he argues, their master could be “no one of men.” And even when we should have reached as high as the Angels, the same query would have to be offered to them: “Who were their (meaning the ‘divine’ and the ‘fallen’ Angels) masters?’

The aim of the good father’s long argument is of course to discover two distinct masters, one the preceptor of biblical patriarchs, the other the teacher of the Gentiles. But the students of the Secret Doctrine need go to no such trouble. Their professors are well aware who were the Masters of their predecessors in Occult Sciences and Wisdom.

The two professors are finally traced out by Clemens, and are, as was to be expected, God, and his eternal and everlasting enemy and opponent, the Devil; the subject of Clemens’ enquiry relating to the dual aspect of Hermetic Philosophy, as cause and effect. Admitting the moral beauty of the virtues preached in every Occult work with which he was acquainted, Clemens desires to know the cause of the apparent contradiction between the doctrine and the practice, good and evil Magic, and he comes to the conclusion that Magic has two origins - divine and diabolical. He perceives its bifurcation into two channels, hence his deduction and inference.

We perceive it too, without, however, necessarily designating such bifurcation diabolical, for we judge the “left-hand path” as it (Page 40) issued from the hands of its founder. Otherwise, judging also by the effects of Clemens’ own religion and walk in life of certain of its professors, since the death of their Master, the Occultists would have a right to come to somewhat the same conclusion as Clemens. They would have a right to say that while Christ, the Master of all true Christians, was in every way godly, those who resorted to the horrors of the Inquisition, to the extermination and torture of heretics, Jews and Alchemists, the Protestant Calvin who burnt Servetus , and his persecuting Protestant successors, down to the whippers and burners of witches in America, must have had for their Master, the Devil. But Occultists, not believing in the Devil, are precluded from retaliating in this way.

Clemens’ testimony, however, is valuable in so far as it shows (1) the enormous number of works on Occult Sciences in his day; and (2) the extraordinary powers acquired through those Sciences by certain men.

He devotes, for instance, the whole of the sixth book of his Stromateis to this research for the first two “Masters” or the true and the false Philosophy respectively, both preserved, as he says, in the Egyptian sanctuaries. Very pertinently too, he apostrophises the Greeks, asking them why they should not accept the “miracles” of Moses as such, since they claim the very same privileges for their own Philosophers, and he gives a number of instances. It is, as he says, Aeachus obtaining through his Occult powers a marvellous rain; it is Aristaeus causing the winds to blow; Empedocles quieting the gale, and forcing it to cease etc.[ See Pneumatologie, iii.207 Therefore Empedocles is called κωλυθαυεμοςthe “dominator of the wind.” Strom., VI. iii.]

The books of Mercurius Trismegistus most attracted his attention. [ Ibid. iv.] He is also warm in his praise of Hystaspes (or Gushtasp), of the Sibylline books, and even of the right Astrology.

There have been in all ages use and abuse of Magic, as there are use and abuse of Mesmerism or Hypnotism in our own. The ancient world had its Apollonii and its Pherecydae, and intellectual people could discriminate then, as they can now. While no classical or pagan writer has ever found one word of blame for Apollonius of Tyana, for instance, it is not so with regard to Pherecydes. Hesychius of Miletia, Philo of Byblos and Eusthathius charges the latter unstintingly with having built his Philosophy and Science on demoniacal traditions - i.e., on Sorcery.

Pherecydes of Syros - (Page 41) Cicero declares that Pherecydes is, potius divinus quam medicus, rather a soothsayer than a physician,” and Diogenes Laertius gives a vast number of stories relating to his predictions. One day Pherecydes prophesies the shipwreck of a vessel hundreds of miles away from him; another time he predicts the capture of Lacedaemonians by the Arcadians; finally, he foresees his own wretched end. [ Summarised from Pneumatologie, iii.209.]

Bearing in mind the objections that will be made to the teachings of the Esoteric Doctrine as herein propounded, the writer is forced to meet some of them beforehand.

Such imputations as those brought by Clemens against the “heathen” Adepts, only prove the presence of clairvoyant powers and prevision in every age, but are no evidence in favour of a Devil. They are, therefore, of no value except to the Christians, for whom Satan is one of the chief pillars of the faith. Baronius and De Mirville, for instance, find an unanswerable proof of Demonology in the belief in the co- eternity of Matter with Spirit!

De Mirville writes that Pherecydes

Postulates in principle the primordiality of Zeus or Ether, and then, on the same plane, a principle, coeternal and coactive, which he calls the fifth element, or Ogenos. [ Loc. cit.] He then points out that the meaning of Ogenos is given as that which shuts up, which holds captive, and that is Hades, “or in a word, hell.”

The synonyms are known to every schoolboy without the Marquis going to the trouble of explaining them to the Academy; as to the deduction, every Occultist will of course deny it and only smile at its folly. And now we come to the theological conclusion.

The resumé of the views of the Latin Church - as given by authors of the same characters as the Marquis de Mirville - amounts to this: that the Hermetic Books, their wisdom - fully admitted in Rome - notwithstanding, are “the heirloom left by Cain, the accursed, to mankind.” It is “generally admitted,” says that modern memorialist of Satan in History:

That immediately after the Flood Cham and his descendants had propagated anew the ancient teachings of the Cainites and of the surmerged Race.[Op. cit., iii 208 ] (Page 42) This proves, at any rate, that Magic, or Sorcery as he calls it, is an antediluvian Art, and thus one point is gained. For, as he says:-

The evidence of Berosius makes Ham identical with the first Zoroaster, founder of Bactria, the first author of all the magic arts of Babylonia, the Chemesenua or Cham, [The English speaking people who spell the name of Noah's disrespectful son “Ham” have to be reminded that the right spelling is “Kham” or “Cham”] the infamous [ Black Magic, or Sorcery, is the evil result obtained in any shape or way through the practice of Occult Arts: hence it has to be judged only by its effects. The name of neither Ham nor Cain, when pronounced, has ever killed any one; whereas, if we have to believe that same Clemens Alexandrinus who traces the teacher of every Occultist, outside of Christianity, to the Devil, the name of Jehovah (pronounced Jevo and in a peculiar way) had the effect of killing a man at a distance. The mysterious Schemham-phorasch was not always used for holy purposes by the Kabalists, especially since the Sabbath or Saturday, sacred to Saturn or the evil Shani, became - with the Jews - sacred to “Jehovah.”] of the faithful Noachians, finally the object of adoration for Egypt, which having received its name χημεια, whence chemistry, built in his honour a town called Choemnis, or the “city of fire.” [ Khoemnis, the pre-historic city, may or may not have been built by Noah's son, but it was not his name that was given to the town, but that of the Mystery Goddess Khoemnu or Khoemnis (Greek form); the deity that was created by the ardent fancy of the neophyte, who was thus tantalised during his “twelve labours” of probation before his final initiation. Her male counterpart is Khem. The city of Choemnis or Khemmis (today Akhmem) was the chief seat of the God Khem. The Greeks identifying Khem with Pan, called this city “Panopolis.”] Ham adored it, it is said, whence the name Chammaim given to the pyramids; which in their turn have been vulgarised into our modern noun “chimney.” [ Pneumatologie, iii, 210. This looks more like pious vengeance than philology. The picture, however, seems incomplete, as the author ought to have added to the “chimney” a witch flying out of it on a broomstick.]

This statement is entirely wrong. Egypt was the cradle of Chemistry and its birth-place - this is pretty well known by this time. Only Kenrick and others show the root of the word to be chemi or chem, which is not Chem or Ham, but Khem, the Egyptian phallic God of the Mysteries.

But this is not all. De Mirville is bent upon finding a satanic origin even for the now innocent Tarot. He goes on to say:

As to the means for the propagation of this evil Magic, tradition points it out, in certain runic characters traced on metallic plates [or leaves, des lames] which have escaped destruction by the Deluge [ How could they escape from the Deluge unless God so willed it? This is scarcely logical.] This might have been regarded as legendary, had not subsequent discoveries shown it far from being so. Plates were found covered with curious and utterly undecipherable characters, characters of undeniable antiquity, to which the Chamites [Sorcerers, with the author] attribute the origin to their marvellous and terrible powers. [ Loc. cit., p.210 ] The pious author may, meanwhile, be left to his own orthodox beliefs.

Cain, Mathematical and Anthropomorphic - (Page 43) He, at any rate, seems quite sincere in his views. Nevertheless, his able arguments will have to be sapped at their very foundation, for it must be shown on mathematical grounds who, or rather what, Cain and Ham really were. De Mirville is only the faithful son of his Church, interested in keeping Cain in his anthropomorphic character and in his present place in “Holy Writ.” The student of Occultism, on the other hand, is solely interested in the truth. But the age has to follow the natural course of evolution.

[8/6/2011 6:10:04 PM] Thuan Thi Do:
281. Con nên biết, hỡi kẻ chinh phục tội lỗi, mỗi khi một người Sowani đă đi qua con đường thứ bảy, toàn thể vạn vật run sợ một cách vui sướng và phục tùng. Ngôi sao bạc lấp lánh thông báo tin lành cho những đoá hoa nở đêm, suối tuôn chảy thông báo cho sỏi đá; những ngọn hải triều đen ng̣m gầm thét thông báo cho những tảng đá to đầy đá ngầm bao bọc; ngọn gió nồng đượm mùi hương đang ca hát, thông báo cho các thung lũng và những cây thông oai vệ th́ thầm một cách bí mật: “Một Đức Thầy đă tiến lên, một Đức Thầy của thời đại ngày nay.”

C.W.L.- Một Đức Thầy của thời đại ngày nay là Đấng được an toàn trong suốt chu kỳ hiện tại; vậy đây cũng là vấn đề được đề cập đến thí sinh đă được Điểm Đạo lần thứ nhứt và những vị đă đạt đến bờ bên kia. Toàn thể vạn vật đều vui mừng trước biến cố ấy như một sự kiện được diễn tả một cách tuyệt đẹp và thi vị ở đây. Lúc đó nhiều người cảm thấy hân hoan không thể tả và đôi khi tinh thần rung chuyển lạ thường. Trong các Giống Dân văn minh như chúng ta, đa số người cảm nhận được chút ít đối với biến cố ấy, nhưng những người nhạy cảm có thể tự nhủ rằng: “Lạ thật, sao hôm nay tôi cảm thấy sung sướng như thế nầy. Điềm lành nào có thể đă xảy ra đây?” Trong Thiên Nhiên cũng thế, cảm giác được nhận thấy vẫn là cảm giác phúc lạc chung.

Phần nhiều người ta chỉ lo mở mang Cái Trí, do đó họ đă bị mất nhiều cảm giác; cảm giác ít lệ thuộc vào sự phát triển Cái Trí bằng sự mở mang t́nh cảm và cảm xúc. Những người cổ sơ thuộc hạng tiến bộ rất nhạy cảm, nhưng họ thường có cảm giác một cách mơ hồ và bất định và không thể làm chủ được cảm giác của họ. Họ nhận được nhiều ấn tượng và thường có thể tiên đoán được vài biến cố một cách tổng quát. Tất cả điều nầy sẽ trở lại với chúng ta một cách rơ ràng và chính xác ở một tŕnh độ cao hơn, khi h́nh xoắn khu ốc xoay trở lại trên chính nó, những cảm xúc cao thượng của chúng ta sẽ phát triển. Chừng đó chẳng những chúng ta cảm nhận được một cảm thức khoan khoái và phúc lạc trong những trường hợp quan trọng nầy, mà c̣n biết lư do của chúng nữa; chúng ta cũng biết từ trung tâm nào phát sinh khúc hoan ca vĩ đại đó. Phần c̣n lại trong Thiên Nhiên mà chúng ta đă trải qua, đến nay chúng ta không c̣n quyến luyến những đối tượng vật chất đó như nhiều người khác. Ngoại trừ sự ham muốn thoả măn đói khát hoặc một nhu cầu vật chất nào khác, trong một mức độ nào đó, con thú cũng cảm thấy vui mừng như thế.

Mục tiêu quan trọng của Hội Thông Thiên Học ít quan tâm đến sự phát triển Thể Trí mà chỉ lo giúp đỡ con người có đủ khả năng đáp ứng với những ảnh hưởng thuộc Cơi Bồ Đề, đánh thức sự mẫn cảm trên cao điểm h́nh xoắn ốc của Hội Viên; sau cùng chuẩn bị cho Nhân Loại bước qua Giống Dân mới. Chẳng phải Hội không biết mở mang Cái Trí – nó c̣n biết nhiều hơn nữa – nhưng nó chỉ lo chuẩn bị cho con người một tŕnh độ cao hơn, khi t́nh thương từ trực giác phát sinh sự điều hoà và T́nh Huynh Đệ, th́ một ngày kia nó sẽ dùng Cái Trí đă phát triển để tạo một nền văn minh mới xây dựng trên cái ư niệm đó. Hội chúng ta đặc biệt chú ư đến các Cơi cao và rất mẫn cảm với những sức mạnh tự do nhờ sự giáng sinh của một “Đức Chúa Con” mới. Triều lưu mănh liệt tiếp xúc với Hội lần đầu đă tạo cho nó một đà tiến mới; nó đang gia tăng và bành trướng các hoạt động của ḿnh; số Hội Viên nhiều thêm và T́nh Huynh Đệ cũng phát triển.

Tuy nhiên, đôi khi sự khích động đời sống đó gây ra sự bất hoà, v́ thiếu sự tương xứng. Khi một tư tưởng hay nảy ra trong trí một Hội Viên th́ ư tưởng đó được tăng thêm sức mạnh; vậy không có ǵ hay hơn nếu Y là một người trầm tĩnh làm theo ư kiến riêng của ḿnh mà không chỉ trích ư kiến của kẻ khác. Nhưng ở đâu có sự hẹp ḥi và thiếu thăng bằng th́ sự bất đồng ư kiến có thể gia tăng. Trong Hội Thông Thiên Học, mỗi người đều làm theo đường lối sinh hoạt riêng của ḿnh, nhưng sự tai hại bắt đầu manh nha khi có người nghĩ rằng đường lối riêng của Y phải được toàn thể Hội Viên noi theo và ca ngợi. Cũng có nhiều người khác sửa đổi ư kiến của họ lại cho hoàn hảo hơn, v́ họ cho rằng ư kiến đó không đem lại kết quả đúng mức cho Hội, nên họ không nhận được một sự giúp đỡ nào. Dĩ nhiên trong những trường hợp như thế, đôi khi ḷng nhiệt thành cũng gây nên bất hoà, lúc bấy giờ T́nh Huynh Đệ và tính khoan dung thực sự đi lệch sang hàng thứ yếu.

Bà Hội Trưởng của chúng ta nói rằng Bà thường hợp tác với “ư kiến bực nh́ hay bực ba” của người khác. Vẫn biết rằng ư kiến nào là hay hơn cả, song Bà vẫn b́nh tĩnh ưng thuận, trước hết để cho sự điều hoà không bị xáo trộn, sau đó để cho những người đưa ra ư kiến đó có thể thu thập kinh nghiệm bằng cách thực hiện ư hướng của họ. Có người đến tŕnh cho Bà, với tất cả tấm ḷng nhiệt thành, một chương tŕnh thường không được hoàn hảo, nhưng Bà không làm cho Y nản ḷng. Bà nói: “Được lắm, hăy tiến lên! Hăy cố gắng rồi sẽ thành công.” Rồi Y nỗ lực, có thể trong một năm hoặc hai năm, nhận thấy chương tŕnh của ḿnh bị sai lạc; chừng đó Y sửa đổi lại. Nhưng đôi khi cũng đạt được kết quả tốt.

Để cho con người làm theo ư kiến riêng của Y hầu như luôn luôn là thái độ khôn ngoan, nhưng bao giờ cũng là điều đáng buồn, nếu chúng ta thấy Y bắt buộc kẻ khác làm theo ư kiến của Y. Kinh nghiệm lúc nào cũng xác nhận rằng không có ǵ quan trọng hơn sự điều hoà giữa các Hội Viên trong Hội. Người ta có thể nói rằng chính sự điều hoà giữa những người làm việc với nhau c̣n quan trọng hơn sự thành công trong một công việc. Vậy phải để cho mỗi người được tự do làm theo cảm hứng tốt đẹp nhất của Y; nhưng mỗi người phải dành cho ư kiến riêng của kẻ khác tất cả thiện cảm của ḿnh. Nếu không có ǵ nguy hại khi sự điều hoà đó làm cho Hội trở thành con kinh hoàn hảo đối với thần lực cao siêu và cánh cửa luôn luôn mở rộng đối với ảnh hưởng của các Đấng cao cả, để chúng ta dấn thân vào một hoạt động hăng say, th́ không c̣n ǵ hay hơn nữa, nếu không được như thế, chúng ta không nên làm khác hơn.

Ngôi sao bạc được đề cập trong bản văn cũng có thể có nghĩa là ngôi sao của Lễ Điểm Đạo. Đó là biểu hiệu của tư tưởng và sự hiện diện của Đấng Chủ Tể. Trong Cuộc Lễ Điểm Đạo, Vị được thay thế chỗ của Đấng Duy Nhất cầm quyền Điểm Đạo, cầu xin Ngài chuẩn y những ǵ đă được hoàn thành và để đáp lại lời cầu xin đó, ngôi sao bạc hiện ra và chiếu sáng rực.

[8/6/2011 6:10:26 PM] *** Call ended, duration 03:36 ***