In reflecting on this, I realized that part of the great impact of this kind of experience comes in its power to dispel one of the most ridiculous-but-influential ideas of our time—that we are only matter.
For centuries philosophers have wrestled with the relationship between the mind and the body, or in other words the boundaries between the spiritual and the material. But today there are shocking numbers of people who believe, or at least try to believe (it’s never consistent), that the whole idea of a spiritual reality is a myth, and that all aspects of a human being—our appreciation of beauty, our moral convictions, emotions, desires, loves and hatreds—are ultimately nothing more than the results of complex chemical relationships which have randomly come to be, and which will eventually dissipate the way a tissue left on the ground dissipates in the weather.
But the reality shown in the picture makes those who hold to this view look a lot like a scout leader chastising his troop for being scared by bear myths as he unknowingly stands in the shadow of an upright grizzly.
We can talk all day about how rainbows and cloud formations are actually just odd mixtures of light and water particles in the atmosphere, but the thing that’s obvious as lightning is that it takes something much more than a mixture of particles to be astonished by a mixture of particles.
Beauty is a supernatural mystery. It is to our body chemistry what electricity is to a power line. It comes to it and through it, not from it. And if it’s allowed, it works on the minds of those muddled by the foggy sophistication of materialism (the matter only view) like smelling salts in the face of a punch-drunk boxer. It sobers and clarifies, and makes us more aware of what's truly real.
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:63-64)