How transcendent feelings arise from the forces of Darwinian natural selection

Alan Lightman in Nautilus:

One morning in Maine, soon after dawn, I stood by the ocean just as a light fog began moving in. The rising sun became a gauzy fire. Suddenly, the air started to glow. Fog scattered the sunlight, bounced it around and back and forth until each cupful of air shone with its own source of light. In all directions, the air beamed and shimmered and glowed, and the gulls stopped their squawking and the ospreys became quiet. For some time, I stood there spellbound by the silence and the glowing air. I felt as if inside a cathedral of sunlight and air. Then the fog burned away and the glow disappeared.

Hinduism has a concept called darshan, which is the opportunity to experience the sacred. One is advised to be open to such experiences.

I’m a scientist and have always had a scientific view of the world—by which I mean that the universe is made of material stuff, and only material stuff, and that stuff is governed by a small number of fundamental laws. Every phenomenon has a cause, which originates in the physical universe. I’m a materialist. Not in the sense of seeking happiness in cars and nice clothes, but in the literal sense of the word: the belief that everything is made out of atoms and molecules, and nothing more. Yet, I have transcendent experiences. I witnessed the air shining that morning in Maine. I’ve communed with wild ospreys. I have feelings of being part of things larger than myself. I have a sense of connection to other people and to the world of living things, even to the stars. I have a sense of beauty. I have experiences of awe. And I’ve had transporting creative moments. Of course, all of us have had similar feelings and moments. While these experiences are not exactly the same, they have sufficient similarity that I’ll gather them together under the heading of “spirituality.” I will call myself a spiritual materialist.

More here. (Note: For Abbasi. See comment)