Science and religion often seem poles apart–and in many ways they are. But I believe the two can, and will eventually, be united, and their meeting point will be human consciousness.
That we are conscious beings is the most obvious fact of our existence. Indeed, all we ever know are the thoughts, images, and feelings arising in our consciousness. Yet as far as Western science is concerned, there is nothing more difficult to explain. Why should the complex processing of information in the brain lead to an inner personal experience? Why doesn’t it all go on in the dark, without any awareness? Why do we have any inner life at all?
This paradox–the undeniable existence of human consciousness, set against the absence of any satisfactory scientific account for it–suggests that there may be something amiss with the current scientific worldview. Most scientists assume that consciousness emerges in some way or other from insentient matter. But if this assumption is getting us nowhere, perhaps we should consider an alternative worldview–one found in many metaphysical and spiritual traditions. There, consciousness is held to be an essential component of the cosmos, as fundamental as space, time and matter.
Interestingly, expanding the scientific model to include consciousness in this way does not threaten any of the conclusions of modern science. Mathematics remains the same, as do physics, biology, chemistry, and all our other discoveries about the material world. What changes is our understanding of ourselves. If consciousness is indeed fundamental, then the teachings of the great sages and mystics begin to make new sense.