Blog excerpts from: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/09/10/347422469/science-and-spirituality-could-it-be
Discussion on NPR 13.7: Cosmos and Culture
Nature provides entheogenic phytochemicals that can provide a window into advanced states of consciousness--to the extent that natures is saying, "there is an ultimate state of consciousness that can be conflated into".
Consider psilocybin (produced by certain mushrooms). Psilocybin binds diffusely to the neuronal dendrite tree and causes random depolarization wavelets that propagate to the neuron's axon hillock (which instantaneously sums all incoming dendritic depolarizations--random plus normal signal flow wavelets). The effect is to raise the average signal level at the axon hillock towards the firing threshold. This reduces the neuron's effective resistance to signal flow, which increases the brain's internal feedback signaling. At the higher limits of feedback the brain's signaling pathways that are normally feedback heavy become standing-wave like. This is similar to the ultimate stages of concentrative meditative practices such as Raja yoga (e.g., focusing on a mantra until one's thought train becomes standing-wave like). This is when many individuals report direct cognition of (i.e., near conflation with) an ultimate "cosmic consciousness".
Everyone (hopefully) agrees that there is such a thing as consciousness and most agree that it is difficult to classify as a physical phenomenon even if it arises from physical activity. But the relationship between consciousness and "spirituality" is much less clear. The idea of spirituality arises in the context of the belief in an ultimate aim for life (and consciousness). This aim relates consciousness in some final way to an ultimate state of being, call it God.
There are two major aims for consciousness aside from the no-aim of atheism. One is to "ascend" into heaven after death. The other is to fuse into the God itself (which is taken to be in some sense a highest state of consciousness) while alive. The revealed religions posit the former, while religions such as Advaita Vedanta posit the later.
There is no uniting science and the spirituality of the revealed religions because Heaven and the physical realm with its mathematical structure are (forever) unrelated and discontiguous. In the case where consciousness can reach a final state of fusion into "the absolute" no such overt discontiguity exists. The "metaphysical realm" possesses an architecture that can understood as possessing the possibility of hosting advanced consciousness, which can evolve according to architectural rules (laws of metaphysical nature). This view of the metaphysical realm is consistent with the possibility of uniting "spirituality" with science, while the revealed religion's view is not.
DMT binds diffusely to the neuronal dendrite tree and causes random depolarization wavelets that propagate to the axon hillock, which instantaneously sums all incoming dendritic depolarizations (random plus normal signal flow wavelets). The effect is to raise the average signal level at the axon hillock towards the firing threshold. This reduces the neuron's effective resistance to signal flow, which increases the brain's internal feedback signaling. At the higher limits of feedback (i.e. DMT activity) the brain's signaling pathways that are normally feedback heavy become standing-wave like. This is similar to the ultimate stages of concentrative meditative practices such as Raja yoga (e.g., focusing on a mantra until ones thought train becomes standing wave like). This is when overtly mystical experiences occur.
By emergent I mean that science cannot predict that consciousness will arise from the architecture of the brain from its components (e.g., neurons and neuronal tracts). However, it is clear that strong emergence has occurred (or we would not be conversing). The question is: can we anticipate the fundamental themes of the building blocks of the biological structure that supports consciousness are transduced across the "emergence" boundary? By observation I say we can (e.g., the sexual polarization of consciousness), which indicates a lot about the structure of the "emergent" domain.
The divide between science and religion arises because consciousness is an emergent phenomenon and seems impossible to explain as a denizen of the physical realm. But the crossing of the themes of the architecture of physical reality into the realm of consciousness is the clue to the connectedness between the two realms. When this is fully understood religion significantly aligns with science.
If there is a metaphysical realm, one might expect it to exhibit some form of continuity with the fundamental themes of physical reality, which are symmetry and quantization.Consciousness is usually thought of as an emergent phenomenon--effectively residing in a metaphysical (i.e., beyond physics) realm. Do the basal themes of physicality map into the architecture of consciousness? Apparently yes. Consciousness is polarized into male and female and consciousness is quantized.
If consciousness is fundamentally polarized, as is, say, the electric charge, is the only reason for the attraction between the sexual poles to pull life forward by reproductive continuation? Maybe, but I suspect there is much more to it. I think the attraction between male and female becomes ever stronger as the magnitude of consciousness increases. The ultimate end of this attraction is interleaving and annihilating union of the two polarities of form-wise consciousness. When this final union occurs and form enters formlessness, a conduit for an ultimate "hidden" consciousness resolves allowing it to be momentarily self-aware. Apparently, this end is required (and continuously as conflating quantized instance of consciousness) for the stability of the "cosmic consciousness". In this way a transphysical ultimate thoughtless consciousness is able to achieve self-awareness. This is the ultimate aim of nature (i.e. natural causal law), which separates existence from non-existence.