Karl`s PC Help Forums

Nature of meaning and truth in Ancient Native American Prophecy
scholar - 14-12-2007 at 04:59

Redwolf, I'm wondering about the nature of the meaning of the Ancient Native American Prophecy. I opened another thread to discuss it out of respect for the power of the piece. As you know, anyone might say anything in a discussion (arguing, sarcasm, jokes, thread drift), and I thought it would be more considerate to try to avoid anything like that getting attached to your thread.

Some people say that ancient religious documents were written by people who thought in mythological terms, without using the same categories of thought as have been used for factual statements since the time of modern science. According to this viewpoint, the truths taught by the story are the intended sense by which one would say they are true, and no other standard was really intended. To use an example familiar to many, this viewpoint would say that the first chapters of Genesis could be considered true in this sense, without regard to whether the events happened in the manner described.

Another position considers what now might be considered ordinary standards of truth to apply, unless rules of interpretation of a particular literary category indicate otherwise (such as parables which ordinarily start "There was a certain man . . ." which introduce an illustrative story, not affirming it to have happened. Like our "Once upon a time. . ."). This position would hold that Genesis affirms Adam and Eve as actual individual human beings, who said and did what is described of them.

Redwolf, would you understand the Ancient Native American Prophecy to be of the nature described in the first viewpoint, or the second?

At this point, I'll give you an opportunity to respond. (Or others, for that matter.)

The prophecy is here

Redwolf5150 - 14-12-2007 at 05:05

One culture's religion is another's myth.

How about the Greek, Roman or Norse Gods, for example? What was once held sacred by a people is now discounted as just stories now.

I understand the Prophecy to be just that. It is religious in nature and coached in terms that is in keeping with the beliefs of the primary intended audience. But it recounts what was handed down "by the Great Spirit."

That's Native American for "God" and to them carries the same weight as it does in the Christian, Jewish, Buddist or Muslem faiths.

If you take all the religions in the world and lay them out side-by-side, you'd be surprised at how much they are alike in many ways.

For example, look at the reference to "Two Stone Tablets" in the Prophecy. That ring a bell?

I feel it stands on its own merits as a religious piece.


Redwolf5150 - 14-12-2007 at 05:10

Please note I edited my reply with some additional comments.


scholar - 14-12-2007 at 05:24

Of the two viewpoints I mentioned, would you say one or the other of them is more suitable?

There are elements that would accord well with the second viewpoint. For example, the prophecy of the bug fulfilled in the automobile and airplanes sound as if the prophecies are factual (they speak of events, in poetic language, with a corresponding fulfillment). It sounds as if it is affirming real individual people went to the League of Nations and the U.N.

The first viewpoint would allow for the document to be true in its intended sense, even if those events did not happen as described, but were only supporting elements in the account.

Would you favor one, or the other? [edit adds--I don't mean to unwillingly push you toward an evaluation you don't care to make (Not that I could). But, if you do have an opinion you'd care to share, I'd like to hear it.]

Redwolf5150 - 14-12-2007 at 05:45

If you put a gun to my head and made me put the square peg (the Prophecy) in a round hole (your two viewpoints), I'd have to say the second.

But why can't it be a third?

Maybe it was passed down through the generations as both a religious piece and a warning to the believers?

Sometimes religious writing does not fit in any hole, but instead must be taken on "faith." You take from it what you believe to be "truth."


janet - 14-12-2007 at 09:51

I'd agree with Redwolf here - rather than saying that religious ideas must fit either the literalist view or the view (proposed by Armstrong, she might as well be credited) that mythos and logos fulfilled different functions in pre-modern societies - can it not be both?

One of the major contributions of feminism to both theology and sociology as a whole is the idea that dichotomies are often of much less use than one might think - Radford Reuther in particular made a point of this some 30+ years ago.

LSemmens - 14-12-2007 at 14:27

As asked in the original thread. How much credence do we give this particular "prophecy" until we know the context in which it was given? i.e. is it a "modern" claim with appropriate imagery to make it appear old, or is it really a older prophecy that has now come to the surface and, to all intents and purposes, appears quite accurate thus far?
You, of all people, Scholar, should be well aware of the numerous "interpretations" of the imagery in the book of Revelation to understand my POV.

scholar - 14-12-2007 at 23:50

I subscribe to the idea that a meaningful, true religious statement is either true or false; if it says something is true, that excludes the non-true alternative.

If there is absolutely no set of facts, conditions, or circumstance that would contradict a statement or prove it false, it does not really convey any meaning at all.

On the face of it, this prophecy appears to be making affirmations of the second type of viewpoint I mentioned earlier. Matching predictions to specific, known events seems to say, "Here is what was predicted to happen, and here is happened in agreement with the predictions. . ." The events described seem to be such as an ordinary person could observe. The people who approached the League of Nations or the U.N. could be photographed. The fulfillments of the prophecies could be checked off a list.

I am interested in a specific classification, because religious language does not really carry meaning if there are no standards by which to measure its truth. If something is a fictional parable, its truth is measured by whether the meaning it is meant to convey is true. If, on the other hand, events are described as happening to named people at a named place in definite historic circumstances, then it either truly happened that way or not.

But, whichever it is, the standards need to be discernible.

LSemmens - 15-12-2007 at 13:21

I have read your previous answer here several times Scholar and I still cannot decide what information you are trying to convey. Can you please spell it out so a grade 5 could understand it, then some of us might stand a chance of saying "this is utter baloney!" or "what a brilliant piece of thinking!". At the moment all I can say is confused2confused2confused2

scholar - 15-12-2007 at 13:59

I read about the experiences of a family who suffers with respect to food, shelter, and clothing because of poverty, and only gets one disappointment after another as they try to get help from charities and government agencies.

I get angry at the ineffectiveness of agencies supported by money from the giving public or from taxes, and the grief the families suffer, and resolve that I will vote out the present government officials and write letters of complaint to the charities. Finally, I attempt to get in touch with the family to help them with their problems.

THEN I find out it was a FICTION PIECE, designed to pull at your heart and sell magazines. There was no such family, the named charities actually treat people much better than they are portrayed, the problems the non-existant family experienced could not have possibly happened because the government programs actually have safe-guards against those particular problems happening.

You need to know the nature of the document you are reading, to assign it appropriate value.

I hold that most of the Bible presents itself as relating events that happened as they are said to have happened, explaining them with accurate meanings, and includes predictions of things that eventually happened in agreement with the intended meaning of the predictions. Jesus Himself referred to recorded Old Testament events as things that happened. E.g. He bases His teaching on marriage on how Adam and Eve were joined by the Lord in marriage.

On the face of it, the Native American Prophecy seems to me to be presented as having the same nature.

LSemmens - 15-12-2007 at 14:54

So, you are asking a question! In what context was this document (story) presented? Based on that information, you can then decide whether it is a good piece of prophesy or just a modern piece contrived to trick the gullible.

scholar - 15-12-2007 at 18:18

Hmmmm. I'm not sure if I've communicated well, or not, Leigh.

I DON'T mean to say, "The only possibilities are that this document reflects real prophecies, some of which have come to pass, or it's a hoax (a fraud)."

Just as, in my magazine example, those were not the only two choices. In the magazine, the intention of the author was to grip the heart of the reader, and he did not mean to deceive anyone. He was not committing fraud by using the names of real charities and agencies in the story. If the author was O. Henry, I would have known what to expect.

If, among keepers of Native American knowledge, there is an understanding that one may add events that didn't happen for effect, then to do so wouldn't be fraud. But, the reader would need to know that is the nature of the type of document to understand it properly.:)

LSemmens - 16-12-2007 at 11:02

So my interpretation of your question stands

In what context was this document (story) presented?
maybe I should add another word there and make it "In what context was this document (story) originally presented?"