In the Native American, religious community there is skepticism regarding the Land Bridge Theory , which hypothesizes that the native populace migrated into America via a land bridge in the Beringia region. Some of the skepticism, and rejection of the Land Bridge Theory, is a result of a strong claim that science has created a largely fictional scenario for Native Americans in prehistoric America. The Native Americans who reject the Land Bridge Theory have an alternative view of history as seen through the myths of their people. There are several Native American religious traditions whose myths of creation hold that they were born out of the earth in their traditional homeland. In this essay, it is my intention to assess this claim from the perspective of mythic symbolism as explained by Paul Tillich in Dynamics of Faith.
In Dynamics and Faith, Tillich describes three forms of mythic consciousness viz, the broken myth, and the naturally literal and reactively literal unbroken myth (Tillich 386-390). Tillich explains that the broken myth is “[a] myth which is understood as a myth, but not removed or replaced” (Tillich 388). Using this definition of a broken myth that Tillich provides, the argument is that the Native American understanding of being born out of the earth in their traditional homeland may be tacitly accepted as a myth however, it has not been substituted or eradicated from awareness. This is because broken myths are the symbolic “language of faith”, and science cannot substitute for faith (Tillich 388). As Tillich explains, when the myth is broken, so too is the feeling of certainty and security that comes with the belief in the myth. Introducing...
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...fic hypothesis is possible. In this sense, it would point more toward Tillich’s interpretation as the myth being understood as a broken myth in that it is understood as a myth, but still retained as an awareness of traditional concern for the “ultimate” that the myth points towards (Tillich 389).
In conclusion, it seems fair to characterize Tillich as presenting myths involving some aspects of the truth without fully embracing the falsity associated with the common interpretation of myth. The assessment of these claims from the perspective of mythic symbolism does point towards an agreement within the way that Native Americans view the Land Bridge Theory. In addition, Tillich’s explanations of how myths are broken or unbroken can be assessed to show their usability in explaining the problems of mythic symbolism from both a scientific, and a skeptical viewpoint.
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