Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we this way and not some other? What does it mean to be human? Are we capable, if need be, of fundamental change, or do the dead hands of forgotten ancestors impel us in some direction, indiscriminately for good or ill, and beyond our control? Can we alter our character? Can we improve our societies? Can we leave our children a world better than the one that was left to us? Can we free them from the demons that torment us and haunt our civilization? In the long run, are we wise enough to know what changes to make? Can we be trusted with our future?
Many thoughtful people fear that our problems have become too big for us, that we are for reasons at the heart of human nature unable to deal with them, that we have lost our way, that the dominant political and religious ideologies are unable to halt an ominous, longterm drift in human affairs – indeed, that they have helped cause that drift through rigidity, incompetence, and the inevitable corruption of power. Is this true, and if it is, can we do anything about it?
In attempting to understand who we are, every human culture has invented a corpus of myth. The contradictions within us are ascribed to a struggle between eontending but equally matched deities; or to an imperfect Creator; or, paradoxically, to a rebellious angel and the Almighty; or to the even more unequal struggle between an omnipotent being and disobedient humans.
There have also been those who hold that the gods have nothing to do with it. One of them, Nanrei Kobori, late Abbot of the Temple of the Shining Dragon, a Buddhist sanctuary in Kyoto, said to us
God is an invention of Man. So the nature of God is only a shallow mystery.
The deep mystery is the nature of Man.