Tuesday, July 31, 2007

6 Degrees to the waning of Ontological Density

Artist visualization of the 6 degrees of separation link

Excerpt from tape 3 The Gift of Self by Gil Bailie:

Lack of ontological density means a self that is insubstantial and it is seeking in self-defeating ways some way of substantiating itself. There are 2 ways of substantiating the self: 1) that way that perfectly parallels the cultural system that generates false transcendence; and 2) the experience of true transcendence. The false transcendence is generated out of the sacrificial scenario and true transcendence corresponds with prayer and the God revealed by Christ on the Cross – which can never be the false transcendence because it is the God of the victim and not the victimizers. The god of the victimizer is the false transcendence.

There is a psychological parallel to this: real ontological density is what the prophets experienced; it is what Jesus extremely experiences when he said, I do nothing but what the Father bids me to do and the Father and I are One. This is supreme ontological density. Prophets, mystics, saints, the humble faithful, etc, etc have partaken of that ontological density, to one degree or another, at the heart of it is real transcendence. The simulated form of ontological density is the desire of others – if I can get enough others to desire me or to admire me – even to hate me – I can feel that I exist. A simulation of ontological density is generated socially by somebody putting herself or himself in the eyes of others.

For tape 3 excerpts click here.

Tape 4 excerpts click here.

For me, Aramis, I have to admit, this point has become more and more obvious. I have become more aware of some people who are close to me who have little ontological density - basically they rely on being a 'character' seeking approval anywhere they can find it. Some have been diagnosed and take medications and some live on the edge - only a short fuse from blowing up. Logic and reason do not strengthen dialogue nor relationships with them and so I end most days down on my knees in prayer for them.


Athos said...

Er, Aramis, please explain the diagram for our viewing audience, and me!

David Nybakke said...


When I did a google search for 6 degree of separation this was there and the pretty colored balls attracted me to it. BUT, it also made me remember the video that was in my earlier post on obesity. Check out the video obesity is contagious. Don't you see how quickly we can be swept up into the swirling vortex of human contagiousness, be it obesity or a waning of ontological density, if we are not truly grounded in something transcendence.

The other thing is my personal experience with my son and his real ADD issues. I believe we are only now realizing how unstable our lives are and the ramifications this is having on our children.

Porthos said...

The "six degrees of separation" concept is that anyone in the world is connected to anyone else in the world by at most six degrees of separation; you don't know my cousin, but you know me, so you are two (?) degrees of separation from my cousin (you know somebody who knows my cousin). I don't know Pope Benedict, but I know a priest who has met his brother (3 degrees of separation?). Etc. etc. I'm possibly one off on the numbers . . .

I thought the graphic was a pretty good visualization of the concept!

Hang in there, Aramis. My family has teeted on the edge more times than I can count or remember, but God always salvages, somehow.

David Nybakke said...

What seems so easily swept aside is the crisis of our (and I mean "our" as in interdividual and not individual even though the restoration comes one person at a time) waning of ontological density. If MT is worth its salt, and I absolutely think it is, we need to be aware of how this overall waning is;

1) Very close to our 'self' and how we can easily rub up to the contagious 'desires' of this world; and
2) How we communicate, stand up to and with others who are as much or really more readily caught up in this waning of ontological density.

I believe #1 is a given and so we who are concerned about our relationship with The Creator strive to abide in the Transcendent Other through Prayer.

However, I do not believe we give credence to point #2. Many, MANY people and for many different ‘reasons’ (like my son) have been raised and brought to adulthood in the ‘slow burn’ of the cultural crisis and therefore have little, if at best a very thin layer of substantiality so as to be able to see or hear the warning sirens of the onset of crisis. IN FACT, this ultra thin substantiality is being eaten away daily on 2 levels:

1) As in this de Lubac quote: The fault lies not with them (the social sciences), but with ourselves, who know neither how to assign them their place nor how to judge them. We believe, without thinking, that the 'scientific' study of man can, at least by right, be universal and exhaustive. So it has the same deceptive - and deadly - result as the mania of introspection or the search for a static sincerity. The farther it goes, the more fearful it becomes. It eats into man, disintegrates and destroys him. And,
2) The lack of a sacrificial and blood-letting event to effectively drain away the cultural and psychological crisis (from tape 4 notes on The Gift of Self

As there are different people there are that many different degrees of separation we must recognize in this crisis and for those separated from the True Transcendence, even and maybe more in danger (in this degree of separation) are those having some religiousness about them as they have blindly assumed and assigned truth to these social sciences above the True Transcendent.

Maybe it is my draw to the Franciscan nature, but I see our need, more than ever, of dying to the ‘flesh’ so to be reborn - remade in Christ becoming his instruments here in this world, and in each and every moment. In the present crisis of culture (and the ‘self’) I feel many can easily fall into rivalry and double-binds as we over look or miscalculate the insubstantiality of culture and the ‘self’.

Eucharist, mass, Holy Scripture, the communion of saints, the rosary, icons, reconciliation, prayer, all these things I employee to “prop” me up as I admit that at times I find my ‘self’ slipping back into the desires of the world. A quote I heard the other day sums up ontological density: what difference does it make if the Blood and Bread turn into Jesus Christ if you don't? So a world full of people, Christian or other, not grounded in these things that give substantiation, we must offer them the only thing that can revive their ontological density and that is Christ.

In this time of confronting the heresies and untruths in our world today I feel that the most important thing is the re-presenting of the Living Word to foe and friend alike. Only Christ can restore whatever ontological density we have left in one another.

Athos said...

Aramis, thanks for the clarification in comment #2. Sorry I've been away, but 'tis the way 'tis due to limited internet access.

Secondly let me say, thanks! for the lengthy transcript from the Gift of Self tape 4 -- that's a LOT of stopping and starting and typing, mi amigo.

Lastly, it seems IMO that you describe the crisis of distinctions so very well in comment #4 -- it is truly worthy of a post for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Your dismay at loved ones who have great worldly wisdom, but absolutely no way to thematize themselves and their entanglement in the mimetic crisis is one I share too ... especially when we could help them, but they have no desire to learn anything from us. Sigh.

"Prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action," as T. S. Eliot said in 4 Quartets, is the proper flow chart for this SPIRITUAL WARFARE in which we are engaged. Cheers

David Nybakke said...


I too will be going on a break starting in a couple days...

The significance about the 6 degrees of separation OR in other words just how close we ourselves are to those who have virtually zero grounding - a goose egg for ontological density is amazing. We dismiss this notion by running around with a bag over our heads thinking we, as individuals, are substantial or somehow fool ourselves that those around us have some hearty levels of what the prophets, Jesus and Paul had – heck, it is only those few on the 'edge' that we don't have time for - those who are lacking that have the disease... We trivialize and minimize the problem and this is why I get apprehensive about frontal attacks when we are not fortifying the message with a huge dose of ontological density of Christ.