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Mystic Initiation Origin of Christianity


Mystianity article is unusually clear and cogent 1

Christianity began as esoteric mystery initiation. 2

The Essenes as Merely Typical 3

Mythic-experiential allegory, origins of Christianity. 4

Luke Johnson: religious experiencing caused Christianity. 8

"Esoteric initiation" proposal of Christian origins. 8


Mystianity article is unusually clear and cogent

I'm amazed at the excellent quality of this summary by a student. This "report", a graduate thesis, is about Christianity and the Mystery Religions.


You might need to "join" to view it.


This article strangely lacks a cover sheet and author name and title.

It's a clearer, better summary and introduction than I've seen in any book.  It was written by a student with nothing to lose, not a professor with a salaried income to protect.

Top recommendation.  Read this first.  Hits the nail on the head many times.  He uses many expressions and constructs that I've recently favored, such as "official Christianity" versus "esoteric Christianity".  This article is the clearest confirmation and affirmation I've seen of several things I've started to suspect, several hunches I've developed.  It has decent emphasis of entheogens, and strong emphasis on allegory of mystic-state *experience*, and a bit of mentions of Fate.

I recommend that the author:

o  Provide a cover with title and author name.

o  Edit to eliminate square brackets.

o  Provide more material on Fate, heimarmene, cosmic determinism, and the project of somehow transcending cosmic determinism.

o  Combine into a single file.

o  Provide in HTML format first, and possibly either .doc or .pdf.

o  Upload HTML version to the Web.

jef358 is evidently the author, but there's no indication to establish this.

What's the title of the article (graduate thesis)?

Maybe I'll take another look at Angus' book.

>From: jef358

>Sent: Monday, July 08, 2002 4:28 PM

>To: JesusMysteriesdiscussion~at~yahoogroups.com

>Subject: [JesusMysteriesdiscussion] Book recommendation for Michael




>I recommend you consult a classic work on the subject by Samuel Angus, "Christianity and the Mystery Religions".  I used it for my graduate thesis in college and found it very useful.  Most of what I have read since is just repeating the information.

>I'm amazed at the excellent quality of this summary by a student. This "report", a graduate thesis, is about Christianity and the Mystery Religions.



>You might need to "join" to view it.



>This article strangely lacks a cover sheet and author name and title.


>It's a clearer, better summary and introduction than I've seen in any book. It was written by a student with nothing to lose, not a professor with a salaried income to protect.

The title of the thesis is "Early Christianity as a Mystery-Religion".

The author is James Faubel.

The thesis will be available as a Web page.

Christianity began as esoteric mystery initiation

My Subconscious Self wrote:

>>If there was no historical Jesus, from where did the teachings and sayings come from that are attributed to the mythical Jesus? ... There seems to have been some sort of intentional or unintentional collusion between the writers ... Were they all members of some sort of secret group ...

Steve wrote (excerpts):

>There were vibrant Jesus communities in all the principal locations of Jewish settlement long years before in expectation of a Messiah figure and evolved an apocalyptic myth of fulfillment. Remains of the faith of these communities are preserved in the fragmented scriptures of various sects and in the earliest writings of the New Testament. 

>These writings are esoteric in content and they are uninterested in the nitty-gritty of history, matters of time, place, and person.  Their content is the New Testament mystery tradition and by all reckonings they constitute the oldest surviving stratum of the New Testament. 

>These books actually consist of initiatory rites, hymns, ritual catechisms, and ceremonials similar to other texts found throughout the ancient near east.  They are replete with references to heavenly mysteries hidden for long ages, mysteries concerning a dying and rising redeemer who is God's Son. 

>With the "conversion" of Constantine in the fourth century, the various Christian sects (still a minority religion existing in the form of numerous competing sects, some literalist and some Gnostic) were amalgamated with a number of other Greco-Roman religions, brought under imperial control, purged of all esoteric elements, and crafted into the orthodox Christian church from which have come all the denominations we know today.

Steve's full posting is recommended reading.

Re: Origination of Jesus' teachings

Nov. 7, 2002


Like Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle), Steve assumes Paul existed as an individual historical person.  Similar to Doherty, Steve characterizes original Christianity with terms including: esoteric, Gnostic, initiation, initiatory rites, ritual, philosophy, myth, Greco-Roman religions, the mysteries, inner mysteries, mystery teachings, Platonic mystery tradition, the New Testament mystery tradition, rabbinical tales and midrash based on the Old Testament and Greek myth.

Like Doherty, Steve doesn't here concern himself with explaining the workings of such esoteric initiation.  It is right to differentiate this explanation of revisionist history from a theory of what mystery initiation was really about -- but it is also necessary to integrate such a revisionist history with a detailed explanation of mystery initiation, so that people know exactly what's being asserted when we assert that Christianity was actually begun as an instance and version of "esoteric mystery initiation". 

To draw up the most compelling alternative to the official history of Christian beginnings, we must draw up that alternative with full inner detail, and also gain a more accurate idea of the isomorphic equivalence of Jewish esoteric initiation, the Greek symposium, and the sacred meals of the Hellenistic mystery religions, where "Hellenistic" is used in a broad sense spanning many centuries such as 1200 BCE to 500 CE, and a wide region to the extremities of Europe and the Mediterranean and beyond.

Neither does Steve mention the degree to which Christianity remained, unofficially, a framework for esoteric mystery initiation, now heavily encoded.  The unofficial divinization of Mary, together with the allegorically encoded mystic-state myth of purgatory, are key areas to study as evidence of the continued existence of the original, esoteric form of Christianity.

Too many scholars get stuck at the stage of insisting that "Earliest Christianity was *not* Literalist (but rather, esoteric mystery initiation)."  We need to go beyond that and overshoot the point to make the point, by definitively entering into the realm of explaining what esoteric mystery initiation was really about, and by tracing the later equivalents in Christianity, shamanism, and world mysticism.

The Essenes as Merely Typical

>Anyone have any thoughts on the Essenes?


>They seem to be 'the Borg' of theology.



That site says "The ... practice of fasting is observed for the purposes of purification, for heightening states of awareness."

Scholars tend to elect a few small isolated groups as mystics, but it's nonsense: there were countless groups all over the Hellenistic world getting together, praying for safety, and embarking on visionary-plant ascensions.  It's like doing away with the entheogen theory of mysticism by electing just 3 "safe" representatives: Charles Tart, Stanislaus Grof, and Aldous Huxley -- after you "treat" these, you then say you've "covered" the theory (more like, covered it over). 

A better approach would be, how do the Essenes exemplify the countless mysticism-on-tap get-togethers that everyone was doing in the great Hellenistic Age of Initiation?  How was it that all these groups were able to have intense mystic states on tap, so intense that protective prayer was seemingly invented just for this purpose?  Their natural mystic experiences were as strong as Henbane or mushrooms, datura or eaten hashish on an empty stomach, so how did they achieve it, given that they only used wine, watered down fourfold?

Picture the Essenes as utterly typical of thousands of get-togethers that were founded on mystic experiencing that was routinely on tap, and that's closer to the picture that provides understanding.

Qumran: a mass-production assembly-line enlightenment factory and spiritual resort.

The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision

Andrew Welburn


Reprinting-due 01/01/2004

Gnosis: The Mysteries and Christianity: An Anthology of Essene, Gnostic and Christian Writing

Andrew Welburn


Mythic-experiential allegory, origins of Christianity

Peter posed the following questions.  The following are essentially the answers provided by the Jesus Mysteries Thesis.


1. What is "mythic-experiencing allegory"?

Religious myth serves to metaphorically describe, convey, and make tangible the characteristic phenomena, experiences, and insights encountered during the intense mystic state.  The term "mystic" is too associated with later Catholic esotericism, whereas the term "mythic" helps to keep our conceptual framework fully relevant to late antiquity.  My term "mythic-experiencing" describes intense mystic experiencing, but in a specific context of late antiquity. 

For example, "walking on water" or "seeing walls of water on the left and right during the exodus" is an allegorical metaphor for perceptual distortion during intense mystic experiencing.  As another example, "casting out multitudes of demons from a man" or "casting out the demon that was possessing a man" is an allegorical metaphor for fully and formally rejecting in principle the lower way of thinking. 

The lower way of thinking assumes ego, free will, and separate self to be simply real -- more generally and vaguely, it means rejecting the lower way of thinking and embracing a new, higher way of thinking (the no-free-will/no-separate-self framework of thinking). 

Freke & Gandy discuss the details of this conceptualization of lower and higher thinking in the books The Jesus Mysteries and Jesus and the Lost Goddess.

Freke & Gandy discuss the no-free-will doctrine in Lost Goddess -- that's a classic universal doctrine for mystics.  The devastating encounter with fatedness and some sort of transcendence of it is allegorized as movement from slavery, captivity, prison, fetters, or chains, to freedom. 

In mythic experiencing, one moves from freedom to slavery to freedom: from 1) ignorant lower assumption of metaphysical freedom to 2) the realization of metaphysical unfreedom during initiation and metanoia (awakening to the hidden fact of imprisonment in the deterministic cosmos), to 3) recovering practical sense of freedom and feeling lifted out from helpless embededness in the deterministic cosmos by the work of the hidden author of all thoughts. 

Luther Martin in Hellenistic Religions proposes that there are many mystery-cults but only one mystery-religion, and *the main theme* of mystery religion, expressed in various metaphorical allegories, is some sort of transcendence of Fate and Necessity. 

David Ulansey proposes that Mithraism used astrotheology and the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes -- "the stars are *not* fixed! we who know that secret are free!" to metaphorically allegorize such transcendence of cosmic necessity.

Freke & Gandy discuss the Dionysian sacramental use of wine in such mythic experiencing in Jesus Mysteries; in the section "Bread and Wine" on page 48-50.  All theologians and denominations, all mystery-religions, and the Passover tradition consider the sacred meal an unassailable traditional part of their practice.  The Mystery-Religions allegorize such a meal as eating the savior's flesh. 

The Jews allegorize their sacred meal as a celebration of (or to their mystics a reinstantiation of) the passing over of death of their firstborn children through the death of their lamb, to escape slavery in Egypt and regain their freedom. 

Freke & Gandy discuss no-separate-self in both books, especially in Lost Goddess.


2. What indications do we have that ancient Christianity contained elements of mythic-experiencing allegory?

Gnostic Christian writings reflect use of sacred meals and are dominated by allegory.  Gnostic Christians claimed that they experienced Christ personally and in a vivid way whereas non-Gnostics only have doctrines, not experience of the doctrines.  No scholar doubts that ancient Christianity included the use of allegory. 

The question that needs addressing is whether such allegorism specifically served to express, report, and convey mythic-experiencing.  By definition, allegory expresses *something*. 

Literalists say early Christian allegory expresses a promise of literal bodily resurrection after literal bodily death, and they say early Christian allegory about the Eucharist as flesh of the savior expresses our uniting with the savior in his transcendence of bodily death and our escape from the literal spirit-creature, the Devil. 

So Literalists maintain that Christian allegory does *not* mainly serve to express mythic experiencing, but rather, serves to represent our salvation from moral evil and from eternal torment in Hell. 

Moderate Literalist Christians say that Christian allegory serves to express socio-political principles, and mystic principles of enlightenment, but are not overwhelmingly about expressing mythic/mystic experiencing. 

Gnostic Christians maintain that Christian allegory serves to describe and report and convey a kind of metanoia and transformation of thinking that one experiences directly. 

All three of these basic types of Christian agree, unproblematically, that early Christianity included allegory.  The dispute was, and the present question is: whether, or to what extent, the allegorism is about mythic/mystic experiencing.  Even supernaturalist Literalists agree that Christian allegory is *partly* about mythic/mystic experiencing. 

Textual and other evidence indicates that Literalists say Christian allegory is a little bit about mythic experiencing, and Gnostics, at the other extreme, say Christian allegory is essentially entirely about mythic experiencing (intertwined with socio-political allegory as in Matthew and Revelation).


3. What are the facts that need to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity?

Mystics and Gnostics report an experience and vision of Christ, and experience unity with him, even if they haven't met him or met someone who met them.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.  After being told about Christ or reading about him, and often in conjunction with a sacred meal and the practice of prayer, people report encounters with and experiences of Christ or an equivalent mythic savior godman or deity figure.

The origin of Christianity can be fully explained without the hypothesis that there was a (single, distinct) HJ.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

Some Gnostic writings are Christian yet don't postulate an HJ.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

All scholars agree that sacred meals were central and essential in early Christianity, as well as in Pagan mystery-cults, and that the Jews had a sacred Passover meal that is central to the Exodus from Captivity story.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

The Hellenistic philosophers of the early Christian era were very concerned with Fate, necessity, heimarmene, and destiny, and looked to religion to shed light on the matter and provide some way of rising above these.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

The scriptures inside and outside the canon disagree about everything and every canonical book was considered heretical by various groups during early Christianity.  There is abundant evidence that all the scriptures were involved in a redactive battle and tug-of-war between various groups. 

The history of early Christianity is heavily dominated by obviously political power-struggles overlaid with a transparently thin veneer of "theological dispute".  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

The figure of Dionysus was co-opted and counter-co-opted by rulers and ruled.  Similarly, the Dionysus-like figure of Jesus was co-opted and counter-co-opted by rulers and ruled.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

The figure of Paul is credited with contradictory doctrines in the canonical scriptures, forming an impossible mixture of Gnostic thinking and Literalist thinking.  That fact needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.

There were many different camps of Judaism, many different mystery-cults, and many different schools of Christianity.  The forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Paganism often overlapped.  Yet the official history reported by the Literalists over the millennia portrays Judaism, Christianity, and Paganism as three basically different, opposing religions. 

That fact of rich overlapping multiplicity and interpenetrating influence -- interpenetrating practice and doctrine -- needs to be explained in an explanation of the origin of Christianity.


4. What is the origin of Christianity?

There were many schools of Judaism and Paganism and Christianity during the era of 200 BCE to 200 CE.  These schools all fully interpenetrated.  Out of this mix came various Gnostic Christian schools and various Literalist schools, forming two streams existing continuously to this day, cross-influencing each other and contending against each other. 

Gnostic Christians were dominant in driving the formation of Christianity and in shaping its development over the millennia.  Literalism did its best to coerce Christians into Literalism.  Literalism was driven strategically by unbelieving elite power-mongers manipulating gullible masses.  Gnostic Christianity was more of a middle ground driven by those who neither wielded such political clout nor were gullible. 

Gnostics were vastly more influential not only in creating but also continuing to shape Christianity, than the authoritarian Literalist leaders who write the history books admit.

Christianity was not started by an HJ, and did not depend on the existence of a single, distinctive HJ.  It did depend on the existence of a great enough number of partially Jesus-like men to establish a familiar *type* of man.  Christianity was based on the existence of Jesus-type men, but not a single, distinctive HJ. 

The Jesus figure is very loosely based on various actual men and various mythic figures, especially figures that allegorically represent experiential encounters with fatedness and some kind of transcendence of it.  It was useful to focus ideas and ideals and experiential allegory upon a single figure who personified the set of experiences and insights. 

Christianity was socio-political and centrally used socio-political allegory in the Gospel storyline, but was even more driven by experiential allegory representing the mystic-state experiences that were consistently associated with the sacred meals.  Wherever you find sacred meals, you'll find experiential mythic allegory and concerns with freedom and transcendence. 

Experiential allegory heavily used the metaphors of kingdom, kingship and sovereignty, representing the discovery that ego is a false and illusory separate controller-self -- at the same time as expressing socio-political resistance to the honor-based, honor-hyperinflating system of Caesar and Ruler Cult.  Experiential allegory also used metaphors of death and resurrection. 

In general, all religion was mainly created and shaped by mystics and merely borrowed by Literalists.  All religion uses metaphors of kingship and death to express the conceptual and experiential transcendence of the ego delusion.  Christianity began as a standard religion. 

It was created especially by mystic Gnostics in Alexandria, but was eventually (to a lesser degree that the history books say) co-opted by power-mongers, especially power-mongers operating from Rome. 

Freke & Gandy assume a historical Paul, but I don't.  With several scholars, including Max Rieser and Acharya S, I maintain that Paul was a fictional mouthpiece created by the Gnostics, later largely co-opted by the Literalist authoritarian power-mongers. 

Similarly, I maintain that the 12 Disciples were fictional figures that may have been created by Gnostic Christians but were quickly (rather than slowly like Paul) co-opted and made to say what the Literalists wanted them to say, rather than what their Gnostic creators wanted them to say. 

Per Michael Conley, Ignatius is instructive because he is a third step in a progression from the fictional 12 disciples to the fictional travelling apostle Paul -- Ignatius is a fictional bishop-type character and was originally set up to simply reject and oppose Paul, where Paul was considered entirely to represent the Gnostics. 

The writings of Ignatius were not admitted into the canon, because they too explicitly revealed the actual power struggles and fictional character of these figures.

The distinctive aspect of Christianity is that it used the Jewish approach to mythic-experiential allegory, which had an unusually high degree of realism in its socio-political allegorism.  Some of the Jews were intent on using that political allegorism seriously to resist Roman occupation. 

The pseudo-history aspect of religious-experiential allegory is common in religions, but the Jews strategically used such pseudo-historical Literalism to an uncommon degree (even while the ever-important mystic Jews likely understood the stories as only mystic-experiential allegory).  Dionysus contended against a king against a vaguely historical backdrop, but it was clear that the king was mostly just a symbol of the initiate. 

To the extent Christianity was based on Jewish strategic historical Literalism, it contained the possibility of being officially framed as Literalist and historical. 

The Jewish religion was unusual because the political domain of allegory was as prominent as the mystic domain of allegory.  If conventional readings are worth anything, in the Jewish religion, political allegory outshined mystic allegory, even though both were, in fact, present when the varieties of Judaism are considered. 

Paganism had a strong mystic domain of allegory but a weak political domain of allegory. 

Earliest Christianity was an effective combination of a strong mystic domain of allegory with a strong political domain of allegory.  Officially, the political allegory domain became strongly dominant over the mystic allegory domain, mainly because Literalism restricted varieties of Christianity. 

Why didn't the authoritarian power-mongering rulers, who wanted to form a single, uniting religion, create one particular *authentic* experiential version of Christianity, instead of creating one particular *inauthentic* and lower version of Christianity?  Authentic religion is inherently exclusive and elitist and divisive: only the mystics are full members and participants of the religion, and they tend to multiply their versions of the religion. 

Moving toward authentic, experiential religion is a move toward multiplicity of religious metaphor and expression and is a move away from the masses.  The authoritarians needed to move instead toward a single religious metaphor and move toward the masses, to round up everyone. 

It was easier to force the mystics to conform to the masses or abandon them, than to elevate the masses to the mystic level and enforce a single mystic system of religion.  Literalism was more effective for collecting money and concentrating power.

Luke Johnson: religious experiencing caused Christianity


At page


you could link to the following by Luke Johnson, which propose that the cause of the spread of Christianity was the experience of Jesus' resurrection during religious experiencing.

This mystical theory, when taken along with sociopolitical theories, explains the start of Christianity better than the author may intend; there is a risk of Jesus as a historical individual becoming irrelevant and superfluous.

Johnson's book Religious Experience isn't prominent at Amazon.  It doesn't say that Christianity began because of people's experience of Jesus, but rather, because of their mystical experience of the resurrection of Jesus.  Thus it inadvertently helps support the Jesus Mysteries thesis.  The book criticizes the exclusive emphasis on *historical* studies of early Christianity and endorses considering religious experience, including the experience of the resurrection of Jesus, as a cause at the start of Christianity.

Your list may divide authors into historical investigators versus mystics (Freke & Gandy), but this work of Johnson's may profitably complicate such a distinction.

Johnson warns of the danger that socio-political explanations of the origins of Christianity may reductionistically omit religious experiencing, eliminating the specifically religious dimension from the Christian religion.

If you omit Johnson's work on religious experiencing as cause of Christianity, your portrayal of his stance about the historical Jesus may omit something relevant and important to Johnson.  Given the flood of history-oriented studies that explain the origins of Christianity in a socio-political framework, a survey of theories should be balanced by studies that include a strong (if not total, like Freke & Gandy) emphasis on religious experiencing.

Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity: A Missing Dimension in New Testament Study


Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine


Lecture course

Also of note:

Bart Ehrman's lecture course on New Testament:


Bart Ehrman's lecture course on the Historical Jesus:


"Esoteric initiation" proposal of Christian origins

Havrylak Kern wrote (excerpts):

>initiation rites

>the "Hero-Journey" stages described by Joseph Campbell

>psychological breakup and reconfiguration healing schemes

>shamanic traditions of many cultures

>"visionary journeys" whose sequential commonality of some perceived "god-man" experience

>the "Dying/Resurrecting Savior" tradition

>varied religious menu of psychological metamorphoses made available to mass devotees

>the quasi-scientific precepts and allegorical techniques of medieval alchemy

>Mystery Religion rites circulating around the Mediterranean

>Mystery Religion's initiation rites

>variation of some archaic religious initiation ceremonies

>guide people through universal biological and psychological phases

>tribal shamans from Siberia, India, Australia, and America

>all humans go through during the course of a natural life-cycle

>a logos-bearer like Jesus as some a kind of human "step-down transformer"

>"sunlight" is made available by the "transformed initiate" who has developed

>ability to Duracell "download" or Fresnel "lens" the Logos and then shine it upon everyone

>"living water" baptism of the Holy Ghost

>spiritual "sunlight" has an ultimate source: the "sun"

>"Logos": "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

Joseph Campbell too often tells his popular audience that myth is relevant to everyone because it represents what all people go through. 

On the contrary, myth is, first of all, metaphor conveying the pattern of a life that includes a mystic-state turning point, such as, for example, a *series of several* intense mystic experiences of cognitive loosening within the ages 18-22.  It is a terrible reduction of myth that misses the essential function of it, when myth is held to describe mere mundane lifecycle. 

In Christian Gnostic allegorical terms, we could say that myth is not for describing the life of the lost, but the life of those who are saved.  Its purpose is to describe the pneumatic's lifecycle, not the sarcik/hylik person's lifecycle. 

In Greek terms, myth's purpose is to describe the lifecycle of the civilized, who by definition are initiated at some point, rather than the barbarians who don't have initiation and thus don't have civilization.

The concepts of 'sun' and 'logos' in Hellenistic-era thinking need full study.  These terms can have a vast array of meanings.

We need studies that sweep across the mystery-initiation aspect of all esoteric religion, centered first around Hellenistic mystery religion, then including esoteric Jewish initiation such as the Therapeutae and earliest Christian agape feasts and the Greek symposium and Gnostic sacred meals, then moving out to find equivalent initiations in shamanism and mysticism. 

These subjects are artificially put asunder into separated categories, preventing from seeing that seder, agape feast, symposium, and sacred meals of the mystery religions are functionally and ritually the same thing.  This study would include Isis and Zoroastrian religions and all godmen. 

Such a study would cover and related all religious systems for which we have evidence of the pattern:

o  Uninitiated thinking

o  Sacred drinking/eating

o  Drastic mental transformation

o  Prayer and divine rescue

o  Initiated thinking.

The above pattern is the given; the question is, how do the following concepts integrate into that given bedrock scheme?

o  Godman

o  Logos

o  The esoteric visionary conception of Jesus

o  The Literalist conception of the Historical Jesus, with supernatural & magical motifs

o  The Literalist conception of the Historical Jesus, without supernatural or magical motifs

We need such a History of Esoteric Initiation.  This would help provide a more detailed description of the proposed Mythicist scenario in the Historical Jesus debate.  Even with Freke and Gandy's book Jesus and the Goddess, there is too little recognition of commonality of the initiations across religions of antiquity. 

Some say the term 'Mystery Religions' really should be 'Mystery Cults' where 'cult' means 'version', 'variation', 'variant', or 'instance' -- what I think of as a "brand" of *the* Hellenistic Mysteries (Luther Martin's book Hellenistic Religion).  By that criterion, so should the Greek symposium, Jewish seder, and Christian agape love-feast or communion meal be considered as simply cults or brands of *the* Hellenistic Religion.


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