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castle of wonders

spatial influences on the human

body, mind, and spirit

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The Grail Castle in the midst of a forest.
Cover of King Ludwig's Diary.

Table of Contents

Personal Antecedents
Historical Overview
Literature Review
Authors Note




The following is an exploration of the effects of spatial influences on the human body, mind and spirit. Spatial influences include natural and man-made environmental structures and fields. The question asked is whether spatial realities have a psychological, biological and transpersonal impact. The quest to answer this question will include reflections on the author's personal perceptions that led to the asking of the question, a historical overview of the subject and an in depth review of six primary source research articles. The purpose of this approach is to view the subject through three lenses of perception. First, an inner directed focus is used, in the personal antecedents section, to reveal the relationship between the subject and myself, the observer. In the historical overview, an outer directed wide-angle lens is used to view the subject from a more global and systems perspective. Finally, the literature review section seeks a more sharply focused and depth oriented view of the subject.


In the classic poem Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (trans. 1980), the quest for the Holy Grail leads seekers to the Castle of Wonders. The Castle of Wonders is a place of power that Wolfram describes as a place of magic and beauty that is itself a living entity (p. 285). The castle is there to test those seeking the Grail and to help them find their true heart and voice in preparation for receiving the Grail.

All through the Grail legend there are objects and places that are imbued with power to affect the minds, hearts and spirits of those seeking the ultimate object of power, the Holy Grail (Waite, 1961). Yet these places and objects, including the Grail, are not an end in themselves. They are merely there to help us get closer to our true nature and the great mystery. These spatial structures hold ". . . the very fruit of bliss, a cornucopia of the sweets of this world and such that [they] scarcely [fall] short of what they tell us of the Heavenly Kingdom" (Wolfram, p. 126). All of this, of course, is the stuff of legend and myth . . . or is it?

Personal Antecedents

It was a windy fall in Chicago. I was five years old. The first day of kindergarten was a nightmare. The kids all laughed at my stuttering. On the second day of school I left my home, walked around the corner and found a place to hide. I sat behind some bushes and watched the other kids going to school. A deep sadness weighed heavy behind my moist eyes. After a while the streets were quiet again. I crept back to my house through the alley. I quietly got my bicycle from the garage and rode away. As I roamed around the neighborhood I started to feel better.

Suddenly, I stopped at the mouth of an alley. The wind was blowing the leaves across the cracked pavement. The leaves whooshed in gentle circles, skipping, colliding and floating between the ground and each other. In the deep blue sky above, white billowy clouds swiftly rolled by. An electrical hum resonated from the power lines along the alley. Somehow, for a brief moment, everything was good. I felt a part of everything around me yet I fully felt who I was. All the sorrows of the past and fears of the future dissolved.

Like the wind blowing through my hair; the humming of the power lines; the whispers of leaves caressing my ears; and the swirling motions playing within my field of vision . . . I felt alive and flowing. I could feel the powerful energies of humanity and nature dancing with each other. The dance was around me and inside me. I entered a wordless indescribable state.

This alley became my Castle of Wonders. From time to time I would return to it and the memory of that first experience would reawaken to soothe my spirit, clear my mind and relax my whole being. Now, years later, the memory is still vivid in my mind. Somehow that simple moment in the alley feels like a pivotal experience in my life. Perhaps it was the start of my quest.

The next powerful spatial awareness I can remember was at the age of ten. My parents and I were driving through Gary, Indiana on our way to our summer home in Michigan. Both my Mother and I got sick to our stomachs as we drove through the sea of billowing smokestacks of the United States Steel Company. I was struck with horror at the sight of the hundreds of giant stacks shooting out fiery red flames and jet-black smoke. The sky was gray and black. The air smelled like rotten eggs. I had pain in my head and stomach. I became depressed and listless. After we passed the area, I looked back at the giant wall of black air behind us. Tears streamed down my face as the reality of pollution invaded my awareness.

It seems that from an early age I was sensitive to spatial realities. Besides these two experiences I believe there are other factors, including genetic, psychological and spiritual family patterns, that led to this sensitivity and ultimately to the question I am asking at present.

My Father is a contractor with degrees in engineering and architecture. His father was a carpenter and cabinetmaker. I am told that we are descendants of the Jewish Levite tribe. The Levites were the builders and keepers of the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon (Kenton, 1980).

I remember being on construction sites from a very young age. I would draw elegant houses, tall buildings and vast cities and show them to my Father. His face would light up with pride. In my teens I worked in my Father's office, drafting floor plans and elevations for his construction projects. The gift of architectural vision I received from my Father and a longing of my inner child to still seek that look of pride in my Father's eyes have been contributing factors to my interest in this area of study.

My Mother was very sensitive to things unseen. She was very intuitive and often knew and felt things that were not apparent to most of us. Noises, chemicals and changes in light, temperature and air quality would affect her mood and health. Towards the end of her life, as her brain deteriorated, I could not help wondering how much of her illness was from being environmentally sensitive during a time when environmental sensitivity was an unknown phenomenon. Today I find myself with a growing awareness that I have inherited some of my Mother's sensitivity to subtle environmental factors.

For many years I was unconscious of these connections between my self and spatial influences. The re-emergence of this awareness began several years ago when I had a vision of a structure that incorporated numerous mystical symbols. As I began to research these symbols and learn more about them, I received more visions.

Ark of Consciousness

The Ark of Consciousness

The visions grew into a design for a Transpersonal University and Community that incorporated the symbols of all the world's spiritual traditions. The structure of this design was a mandala of ecological, psychological, and spiritual elements working together in harmony. During this process I became more aware of my relationship with the environment, reawakening my sensitivities to and awareness of spatial realities.

My quest has brought me to this moment in space and time. I am approaching this question through the influence of personal experience, family patterns and possibly genetic and morphogenetic1 tendencies. It is obvious that I am asking this question from a deeply personal perspective and in many ways have already answered it for myself. My conclusions are purely subjective. The next part of the question becomes: Am I a voice alone in the wilderness of illusion or have others had similar experiences and perceptions?

Historical Overview

Looking back through time I see two great streams of spatial realities. One stream is of the spatial realm of the natural world, the other stream is the spatial atmospheres and structures created by humanity. These two streams are deeply intertwined, at times converging into a harmonious balance, and at other times, colliding in harsh opposition or separating in cold isolation and subtle disharmony. The flow of these two streams feeds off each other. Built environments are a response to the natural environment and a creative and functional use of natural resources. Through these built environments we seek protection from harsh natural elements while creating vessels to aid us in our endeavors. The natural world is either enhanced or depleted by our efforts (Pearson, 1994).

A third stream flows within and between these two streams. This is the stream of the influence these spatial realities have on the human body, mind and spirit. Throughout human history Shamanic, Eastern and Folk medical systems viewed the human body, mind and spirit as a whole organism that was deeply connected to and affected by the forces of nature and the cosmos (Weil, 1983). These healing systems viewed spatial elements as having both curative and destructive powers, using them as part of their diagnoses and treatment. Hypocrites, the father of Western medicine, believed that our surroundings deeply affected our well being (Gallagher, 1993; Hypocrites, trans., 1923).

The world's spiritual traditions speak of the many Sages and Saints who attained profound states of consciousness and levels of enlightenment amidst natures' varied landscapes (Smith, 1991): Moses received the word of God on Mount Sinai; Jesus was purified in the desert; Mohammed heard his calling in the cave of Mount Hira; the Buddha attained Buddhahood beneath the Bodhi tree; Hindu Yogis and Saints found transformation in the mountains of the Himalayas and cleansing in the flowing waters of the Ganges river; and Taoist sage, Lao Tsu found all of nature filled with divine spirit.

Celtic (Mathews & Mathews, 1994), Goddess (Conway, 1994), Aboriginal and Indigenous (Rothenberg, 1968) spiritual and cultural systems were all deeply rooted in the natural world. Throughout recorded history, poets, philosophers, artists, architects, scientists, and mathematicians have been deeply moved and inspired by the power, mystery and beauty of nature (de Chardin, 1965; da Vinci, 1945; Thoreau, 1937; Bamford, 1995; Hodges, 1994; Alcorn, 1977). From these perceptions and experiences of the natural world grew systems of thought and design to capture and enhance the power, mystery and beauty of nature, humanity and the cosmos through built environments (Mann, 1993).

Stonehenge, 3100 BC

Ancient peoples believed that certain places in nature held sacred powers (Swan, 1991; Mitchell, 1975). They built alters, mounds and megalithic stone circles to connect them with the God's of the natural world, developing systems of earth harmony, design and divination called Geomancy (Daniel, 1972; Lip, 1992; Mackie, 1977; Mitchell, 1975; Niel, 1975; Rossbach, 1983; Watkins, 1925; Watkins, 1983). The structural designs and measurements of the great pyramids of Egypt, Central America and South America still hold mysteries beyond our comprehension (Lewis, 1936; Rutherford, 1970; Schwaller, 1977; Tompkins, 1971; Tompkins, 1976).

Great Pyramids at Giza, 2575 BC

Most of the worlds spiritual traditions, including Judaism (Kenton, 1980; Reznick, 1990), Christianity (Charpentier, 1972; Simson, 1988), Islam (Critchlow, 1976; Hoag, 1977), Buddhism (Fukuyama, 1976; Cohen, 1973), and Hinduism (Kramrisch, 1976), have sacred architectures that attempt to harness subtle unseen forces to create structures that support the spiritual path (Mann, 1993). Freemasonry, an esoteric architectural system that is said to have originated in the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, was reportedly utilized in the creation of the Temple of Solomon and the great Churches of Europe, influencing the Judaic-Christian sacred architectural systems (Horne, 1972; Newton, 1916).

Several of the sacred architectural traditions also extended their influence into secular life. The Hindu sacred architectural system of Vastu Shastra (Shukla, 1993) and Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese form of Geomancy with roots in Shamanism, Buddhism and Taoism (Lip, 1992; Rossbach, 1983), both have extensive design systems to be used in creating secular and spiritual environments.

Pythagoras developed a sacred mathematics by studying the patterns of nature and some of these ancient mystical systems (Bamford, 1994). The early Greek architects used these sacred geometries2 to build the ancient theaters of Greece (Fletcher, 1991; Mann, 1993).

Ancient Greek Theater

While the impact of these early ventures was profound, many of these sacred design systems disappeared from Western secular architecture only to reemerge in this century (Mann, 1993; Pearson, 1994): Frank Lloyd Wright developed an Organic Architecture that sought harmony and balance between nature, the individual and society (Wright, 1970; Zevi, 1950);

Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Waters, Kaufmann House, 1936

Rudolph Steiner, believing that spatial structures affected the human body, mind and spirit, developed Anthroposophic Architecture to capture an organic form in both structure and purpose (McDermott, 1984; Mann, 1993);

Rudolf Steiner's Goetheanum Hall, 1919

and Buckminster Fuller recaptured sacred geometry in his Geodesic architectural designs that sought to symbolically and mathematically represent and harness the unifying forces of nature and consciousness (Fuller, 1979).

Buckminister Fuller and his Geodesic Dome

The Ecology movement has spawned a 'Green' architectural movement that is growing around the world (Vale & Vale, 1991; Van Der Ryn & Cowan, 1996). Green architects seek to create environments that are self sustaining and non-harming of the Earth's ecosystem (Van Der Ryn & Calthorpe, 1986; Wann, 1996). This new generation of architects are also combining ecological and green design with elements of Organic, Anthroposophic and Geodesic Architectures while rediscovering the world's sacred architectural traditions (Mann, 1993; Pearson, 1989; Pearson, 1994). Within this movement there is a growing awareness and effort for using built environments for healing ourselves and the planet (Day, 1990; Venolia, 1988).

Solar House - Styria County Exhibition, 2001

Western healing systems took a similar route to secular architecture, forsaking many of the ancient systems for more modern, scientific approaches (Weil, 1983). Analogous to the growth of modern architecture, modern healing science is experiencing a resurgence of interest in ancient systems that is inspiring a synthesis of both old and new approaches (Sobel, 1979; Weil, 1983). Within the modern healing community there are now many therapeutic systems, ancient and modern, that deal with and utilize spatial elements. Some of these healing systems include the use of built environments, overlapping with many of the above architectural systems.

These spatial healing systems can be organized into three categories: Spatial, sensory and subtle-energetic therapies. Spatial therapies include: Architectural structure and design interventions (Venolia, 1988; Canter & Canter, 1979); Western Geomancy (Anderson, 1991); Vastu Shastra (Shukla, 1993); Feng Shui (Lip, 1992; Rossbach, 1983); Baubiologie, a German science that seeks to detect and correct environmental and atmospheric toxins (Maes, 1990); and Buddhist Spatial Therapy, a system developed by Trungpa Rinpoche that uses room shape, size, light and color to aid in mental and spiritual healing (Naropa Institute, n.d.).

Sensory therapies use environmental and sensory input to directly affect healing of body, mind and spirit. These systems include: Light or Chromatherapy (Shafii & Shaffii, 1990), Color Therapy (Anderson, 1987; Babbitt, 1967), Sound Therapy (Halpern, 1979), Music Therapy (Beaulieu, 1987; Campbell, 1991), and Aromatherapy (Fischer-Rizzi, 1990). The third category deals with the spatial realm of subtle energy. Subtle energies are unseen fields and forces that are believed to be at work within and around all living systems (Davidson, 1987).

Modern science has discovered numerous subtle energy fields and forces, including magnetic, electromagnetic, gravitational, geothermal, and geomagnetic (Pagels, 1984; Swan, 1991). Many ancient mystical healing systems believe in and utilize a primary energy or force that moves through the human organism and through all of nature. The Chinese call this force Chi (Liau, 1990); the Japanese use the term Ki (Teeguarden, 1978); while the Yogic system defines this force as Prana (Hari Dass, 1981). The therapies in the subtle-energy category include: Chinese Acupuncture (Chang, 1976), Acupressure (Teeguarden, 1978), Therapeutic Touch (Krieger, 1979), Human Energy Field Healing (Brennan, 1987) and Bioenergetics (Lowen, 1975).

Subtle energies and sensory stimulation are also vital components of many of the sacred and modern architectural and geomantic systems. All of these spatial systems, to a varying degree, use the common spatial elements of: Light, color, sound, air quality, air flow, temperature, smell, shape, form, texture, materials, ecological connection, environmental non-harm, directionality, numeric patterns, and subtle energy flow.

These elements are used by these spatial healing and design systems to enhance, enliven and stimulate the human organism while seeking inner and outer harmony and balance. Now the question becomes: Are these perceived affects and connections between these spatial elements and human beings verifiable?

Literature Review

In the mid 1800's Baron von Reichenbach, a renowned chemist, technologist, metallurgist and the discoverer of kerosene, spent two decades researching a mysterious force he called Od (Reichenbach, 1974). This force seemed to permeate the whole of nature and was seemingly detectable by certain sensitive people. Even though he used rigorous scientific methods, the scientists of his time dismissed his work without even trying to validate or disprove it (Reichenbach, 1968). Was this Odic force the Chi of the Chinese, the Ki of the Japanese and the Prana of the Yogi's of India?

It has been over a century since Reichenbach's work and there now is a growing body of research by doctors, scientists and psychologists (Behavioral, Environmental, Humanistic and Transpersonal) that is revealing deep connections between spatial realities and human health, behavior and consciousness (Gallagher, 1994). This body of research includes significant findings on the relationship between physiological, psychological and emotional influences and the spatial elements of: Light (Ott, 1973; Lewy, Sack & Miller, 1987), temperature (Bell & Greene, 1982; Sommers & Moos, 1976), altitude (Shukitt & Banderet, 1988; Aldasheva et al., 1992), sound (Cohen, Glass & Singer, 1973; Green & McGown, 1984), allergens (Bell, 1992), air ions (Krueger, 1969; Baron, Russel & Arms, 1985), aesthetics (Maslow & Mintz, 1956; Mintz, 1956) and architectural structures (Gutkowski, Ginath & Guttmann, 1992; Weinstein, 1977).

In the realm of subtle energy, researchers have shown significant relationships between human biofields, external electromagnetic fields, the Earths’ geomagnetic field, and human behavior and physiology (Becker & Seldon, 1985; Reiter, 1994; Persinger, 1995). There has also been significant research findings on the correlation between geomagnetic field activity and the reports of transpersonal phenomena such as apparitions (Derr & Persinger, 1989), haunts and poltergeists (Persinger, 1985), UFO sightings (Persinger, 1983) and telepathic, clairvoyant and precognitive experiences (Persinger, 1993; Persinger & Schaut, 1988).

The following primary research articles have been chosen to represent this growing body of research. These six articles explore the relationship between the physical, mental, emotional and transpersonal dimensions of the human organism, and esthetic (Maslow & Mintz, 1956; Mintz, 1956), structural (Sommer & Olsen, 1980; Baum & Davis, 1980; Baldwin, 1985), and energetic (Braud & Dennis, 1989) qualities of environment.

In the study, "Effects of Esthetic Surroundings : I. Initial Effects of Three Esthetic Conditions Upon Perceiving 'Energy' and 'Well-Being' in Faces," Maslow and Mintz (1956) describe an initial experiment studying the effects of beauty and ugliness upon people as it relates to the esthetics of external physical environments and visual perception. Their methodology consisted of a double-blind study using three rooms: a "beautiful" room (BR), an "ugly" room (UR), and an "average" room (AR). Subjects were twenty-six male and sixteen female undergraduates, who were tested by one male and one female examiner. Testing consisted of the viewing and rating (interval scale) of negative-print photographs for perceptions of "energy" and "well-being" as the subjects sat within the environments of the three different rooms.

The results of an analysis of variance on the differences in the rating scores obtained in the three rooms showed that the average ratings for "energy" and "well-being" in the BR were significantly higher (beyond the .001 level) than ratings in the UR. The ratings in the BR were also significantly higher (beyond the .05 level) than ratings in the AR. The researchers took great measures to reduce the effects of other variables such as testing anxiety and task orientation. The testing procedures and statistical analyses are clearly defined and presented. The sample was random while being relatively small in comparison with the total population (not clearly defined).

There are some variables that might be a cause for concern. The size and contextual functions of the three rooms varied greatly. The BR and AR environments were faculty offices, while the UR space was a janitorial room. Also the UR was smaller than the other two rooms. These two variables, along with the influence of the examiners on the subjects, were not addressed by this study.

In a follow up report, Mintz (1956) extended the previous study by using material obtained from the examiners. This material pertained to the question of prolonged and repeated experiential effects of esthetic surroundings on people.

During the previous study, examiners were given the same tests as were administered to the subjects. One test was given to them before the study, and the examiners also administered the rating scale to themselves at the end of each subject testing session. In addition to these measures, observational notes taken by the lead researcher helped form the basis of this study. By using rating scale total scores tracked over time, the study reveals an increase in difference between long-term exposure to the BR as opposed to the UR. An analysis of variance for two subjects with repeated measures was computed to test the differences between prolonged sessions. The over-all F test for the difference between sessions was significant well beyond the .01 level of confidence. Scores were significantly higher in the BR for each session over a prolonged period.

The observational notes reveal the most convincing information. Extreme emotional and physical responses were observed in the examiners' behavior in relation to their time spent in each room. The UR produced irritability, aggression, depression, anxiety, tiredness and headaches in the examiners, while the BR produced high levels of enthusiasm and excitement.

The use of tables, statistics and observational notes was very solid, clear and strong. This study addresses a variable not addressed in the previous study, that is the prolonged exposure element. The variations in room size and context of space are still not addressed. The author does discuss the influence between subjects and examiners on each other, using the observational notes to show the probability of " . . . a complex relationship whereby the esthetic conditions affected the subjects and the examiners, and the subjects and examiners in turn affected each other" (Mintz, 1956, p. 557).

In the domain of structural intervention, "The Soft Classroom" by Sommer and Olsen (1980), represents an attempt at designing and implementing an alternative classroom environment, designed to improve classroom participation. The creation of a "soft classroom" consisted of a circular seating arrangement, more sunlight, soft furniture, carpeting, and colorful and aesthetically pleasing design elements. Before remodeling the classroom, the researchers reviewed previous studies and took a campus wide survey of the present perceptions of classroom environments. Once the classroom was created and classes started to meet in the room, the research methodology consisted of written and observational survey methods.

Using the data from both the written and observational surveys, the researchers compiled the responses in terms of averages and percentiles. No other statistical testing is reported (t-tests, ANOVA's, etc.). The excellence rating of the room went from seven percent (before renovations) to between fifty-eight and eighty-five percent. In the "soft classroom," class participation rates (both teacher/student and student/student) increased two to three times from that of other classrooms. Observational notes revealed a dramatic shift in freedom of movement within the space (students moving between seats and floor, coming closer in, etc.). The statistical data of averages and percentages are very telling, yet the lack of other statistical analyses makes the results seem less than conclusive. The researchers also revealed a strong political agenda in relation to the school administration, which could have affected their work.

Baum and Davis, in "Reducing the Stress of High-Density Living: An Architectural Intervention" (1980), describe the use and testing of an architectural intervention to reduce stress and alter group formation patterns in a high-density residential environment. The architectural intervention used was a design modification bisecting a long corridor dormitory floor and adding a three-room lounge area with unlocked doors, creating a central communal area. This floor was compared with a normal long corridor floor and a short corridor floor. The room assignments were random and the research methodology consisted of survey, observational and laboratory findings.

The laboratory part of the experiment tested subjects at another location to ascertain if the individual behavioral effects of the architectural intervention extended outside the established test environments. The survey data showed high stress levels, fragmented small group formation and control-related problems (privacy, etc.) among residents of the unaltered long corridor floor. Residents of the altered long corridor floor showed an increase in small group formation and reduced levels of stress, isolation, alienation, and control-related issues. The observational findings showed that the altered long corridor floors' social behavior patterns (hallway activity and open doors) were similar to that of the short corridor floor. The unaltered long corridor floors' findings showed significantly lower percentages of these social behavior patterns.

Both the survey and observational findings were represented by strong F and p values (p <.01 and .001). The researchers ran multivariate analyses of variance and charted mean ratings for the three environments over three time periods. The laboratory findings revealed that the sense of stress and isolation extended beyond the testing environment to other areas of the subjects' lives. The intervention and research methodology of this study are strong in both concept and execution. The results are impressive and show statistical significance, though the laboratory findings are less strong than the survey and observational findings (p <.05 as compared to p <.001 to .01). While the sample size is large enough and randomly selected, it is limited to collage women.

Another problem is that the observational data was gathered by a man observing within an all female residential environment. This could have a strong impact on the response of the subjects and add an element not considered by the researchers.

In an article in Hospital and Community Psychiatry (1985), Steve Baldwin describes his study on the effects of furniture rearrangement on the social behavior of psychiatric patients in a maximum-security hospital. The study intervention involved the rearranging of the physical environment of ward day rooms and making existing leisure-time resources more visible and accessible. Statistical tests using ANOVA's were used to evaluate change as a result of the intervention. The study measured medication rates, seclusion rates, casualty incidents, incentive points earned (existing system), perception of the ward by staff and residents (using the CIES testing instrument), and nursing reports.

While there were changes in seclusion rates, incentive points earned and the nursing reports, the study generally shows uneven and modest results. The modest results of this study reflect the limited and modest approach of the intervention. The rearrangement of furniture was simple, not well thought out and not supported by other changes in environmental design. While the sample size was large enough and random, there was a size discrepancy between the control and experimental wards. The author does recognize and acknowledge the limitations of the study.

Exploring the transpersonal dimensions of environment, Braud and Dennis (1989) studied the connection between paranormal activity and shifts in the earth's geomagnetic field (GMF). This study is a reanalysis of previous collected data from laboratory Extrasensory Perception (ESP) and Psychokinesis (PK) tests comparing them with data showing local geomagnetic field activity during the testing period. The ESP and PK test data included electrodermal activity and hemolysis rate compared with the paranormal activities being tested. Independent sample one-tailed t-tests were used with significance levels set at p <.05.

The study found significant correlations between geomagnetic field activity and ESP/PK activity. It seemed that high GMF activity correlated with PK activity and low GMF activity correlated to ESP activity. Causal factors were speculated on but not tested. As part of these findings, researchers also found correlations between GMF activity and electrodermal/ hemolysis activities. These findings may indicate that GMF activity may have greater effect on the human organism beyond the activities tested (ESP and PK). The study produces more questions than answers, opening the door for many other studies. While the results are significant, the significance levels are not as strong as they could be (p <.05). Another weakness in the study is that it is a post-experiment study, looking back on other studies and correlating them with newly acquired data. While this approach is still valid, it would be interesting to see a study done with all test conditions being observed simultaneously.

In summation, all the researchers in these six studies showed consistent interpretations of their results and realistic perceptions of the limitations of their studies. The articles by Maslow and Mintz (1956), Mintz (1956), Baum and Davis (1980), and Braud and Dennis (1989) displayed clear and concise statistical analyses and data representations. The reports by Baldwin (1985) and Sommer and Olsen (1980) had more limited representations of their statistical analyses. While the sample sizes of these studies are not large enough to make strong generalizations for the entire population, their results (except Baldwin, 1985) show significant indications that esthetic, structural and subtle energetic qualities of our environment can have physiological, emotional, behavioral and transpersonal effects. When taken in the context of the growing body of research of these and other spatial elements, there appears to be some level of external verification that we are indeed profoundly affected by both the natural and built environments around us.

Fruitful future directions in this field of research might include a re-evaluation and testing of Reichenbach's research. An interesting question would be to see if some people are more or less sensitive to these environmental forces than others. There are also many questions being raised by the emerging field of Ecopsychology (Roszak, Gomes & Kanner, 1995) that could shed new light on much of the previous research while also offering new research directions. One of these new directions might be to see if there is a detectable impact from environments that do not harm the Earth on the human body, mind and spirit. Another research direction might be to study the influence of thought upon spatial realities. Many of the sacred healing and architectural systems include the use of ritual, prayer and meditation to either transform a space or invoke the spirit of an existing spatial reality.

Do centuries of prayer in ancient monasteries, churches, temples and sacred sites create some kind of lasting spiritual atmosphere? What is happening when the Feng Shui Master seals his or her spatial intervention with a prayer (Rossbach, 1987)? Is there a spirit or energy coming from the medicinal plants of the Shaman (Harner, 1980)? Did the sacred trees of the Celtic people actually hold the memories of all events that took place in front of them (Mathews & Mathews, 1994)? Is the whole of nature one large living intelligent organism of which we are merely a part (Lovelock, 1992)? Some of these questions are being asked and some are yet to be addressed.


This subject is vast in scope. Its' landscape is made up of a complex web of seemingly separate spatial forms, theoretical systems and experiential phenomena. The three streams of spatial realities (natural environments, built environments and their affect on the human internal environment) have a myriad of tributaries branching out and twisting within. Many people have explored the different elements or pieces of this landscape, yet the landscape cannot truly be known unless it is seen in its entirety.

. . . The process of division is a way of thinking about things that is convenient and useful mainly in the domain of practical, technical and functional activities . . . However, when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to [our] notion of [ourselves] and the whole world in which [we] live, then [we] cease to regard the resulting divisions as merely useful or convenient and begin to see and experience [ourselves] and [our] world as actually constituted of separately existent fragments. (Bohm, 1980)

In the ecological movement and in the field of Ecopsychology this notion of fragmentation is believed to be at the core of our environmental problems (Roszak, Gomes & Kanner, 1995). This fragmentation is " . . . the ecological disastrous split - the pathological alienation - between human consciousness and the rest of the biosphere." (Metzner, 1995).

The three modes of perception used in this overview represent an attempt at capturing both some of the fragments and a sense of the whole of the relationship between ourselves and the spatial realities that surround us. These three ways of understanding constitute a field of perception in which there is the observer, the pieces of reality observed and the greater system that contains both the observed and the observer. It is a journey that encompasses the Grail Knight seeking the Grail within the landscape of the Castle of Wonders.

In keeping with this 'wholeness' orientation, I have also attempted to explore this topic through an integrated transpersonal approach in which "learning and development proceed, concurrently, along six fronts or dimensions of intellect, body, emotion, spirit, community and creative expression" (Braud, 1994).

The historical overview and literature review represent the intellectual dimension of my quest. The personal antecedents section reflects the emotional explorations that were unearthed along the way. The visioning of the design for a Transpersonal University and Community that precipitated this research was strongly rooted in the creative process. Concurrent with these intellectual, emotional and creative inquiries, I also worked with the areas of body, spirit and community.

My spiritual work has included meditational practices that use the spatial elements of light, sound, aroma, and subtle energy. I also extended my practice to include meditative nature walks and gardening. I explored the use of ritual space as well as group field and subtle energy awareness (Heider, 1985) in my community work with groups.

In the realm of the body, I have personally attempted to experience many of these spatial healing and design systems. Over the past several years I have practiced and/or experienced Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Shiatsu Acupressure, Acupuncture, Music Therapy, Sound Therapy, Aromatherapy, and various modalities of subtle energy healing. I have also studied Feng Shui and Baubiologie and used these spatial design systems to alter my home environment. Additionally, I have slowly changed my diet and general consumption patterns to be in greater harmony with the earths’ ecosystem. This change included a vegan diet of organic regionally grown foods and the consumption of organic, natural, and recycled products and services.

Experientially, this integrated approach has produced significant physiological, emotional, mental and transpersonal results: Physically, I have lost thirty pounds and feel stronger and healthier; I have more energy and my mind is sharper and clearer; emotionally, I am better able to handle stress and my moods seem to be more stable; psychologically, I feel empowered by the belief that my individual choices have an effect on the earths’ ecosystem; my meditation practice has become richer and more grounded; my home environment feels more nourishing and peaceful; I feel closer to nature and am often deeply moved by the earths’ beauty.

This journey has brought me closer to the Castle of Wonders I experienced as a child. It has made me more aware of the way I walk upon natures’ ground. The Castle gates have opened. The wind is blowing through the leaves. In the core of my being there is a growing sense of the intimate connection between the spatial realities within and around me, and slowly I seem to be remembering . . .


I am a wind on the sea,

I am a wave of the ocean,

I am the roar of the sea,

I am an ox of seven exiles,

I am a hawk on a cliff,

I am a tear of the sun,

I am a turning in a maze,

I am a boar in valour,

I am a salmon in a pool,

I am a lake on a plain,

I am a dispensing power,

I am a spirit of skillful gift,

I am a grass-blade giving decay to the earth,

I am a creative God giving inspiration.

(From the Celtic Lebor Gabala Erenn, Mathews & Mathews, 1994)





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Authors Note

I dedicate this paper to my father, Harold Kaplan, who has given me the eyes of an architect and to my mother, Libby Kaplan, in loving memory, who gave me the sensitivity for things unseen.

I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the work of A. T. Mann, James A. Swan, David Pearson, Winifred Gallagher and Carol Venolia who blazed this trail before me. Their efforts where valuable sources of information and inspiration.


 A Scholarly Paper for 
the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology


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