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In the general context of CORBA objects and servants, incarnation is the act of associating a servant with a CORBA object so that it may service requests. In other words, incarnation provides a concrete servant form for the virtual CORBA object (and the idea thereof). Activation and deactivation refer only to CORBA objects, while the terms incarnation and etherealization refer to servants. However, the lifetimes of objects and servants are independent. You always incarnate a servant before calling activate_object(), but the reverse is also possible, create_reference() activates an object without incarnating a servant, and servant incarnation is later done on demand with a Servant Manager.