What is Meant by the Term Spiritual Garden?
John Stuart Leslie
I use the terms “Spiritual Garden”, “Garden Sanctuary” and “Sacred Garden”
interchangeably, for they are all so interrelated that it is only useful to differentiate when the term is
appropriate to the context in which it is being used.
Spirit is used as a
generalized term for God, Universal Truth, Consciousness, Higher Power or any other supernatural form or
creation that one chooses to align with their belief system.
With that said, a Garden Sanctuary is a space
thoughtfully designed to create not only an ambiance of peace and prosperity, but at a transcendent level,
where one connects with the Spirit of the Garden, facilitating a connection between Heaven and Earth, the
Divine and Human, the Self and Universal Spirit. It is a sacred outdoor space where you can retreat from the
mundane world, relax and reawaken your connection with Spirit.
Gardening as an activity that symbolizes and represents the miracle of life in the
form of a gardener growing something from a seed. There is something deep, a soulful connection to this miracle
that when we garden, we experience this on a certain level.
Simple acts such as witnessing the flowering of a plant or eating a tomato from
your own vine is spiritually nourishing. Spiritual gardens should not
only be aesthetic creations, but must in some way, trigger the “spiritual experience”- that personal revelation
connecting you to the larger whole. The feeling you get when gazing upon a flower, that its meaning mystically
unlocks a key to its sacred symbolism revealed through ancient wisdom.
These thoughtful realizations can be achieved
through profound awareness of the physical objects and their associated meanings. For example, let us say that we
are going to plant a special tree in the garden. We are going to call this tree the “Tree of Life” as we have read
about this concept.
In this context, the “Tree of Life” is used as a symbol and is obviously
associated with that of a secret message. The term “secret message” is interchangeable with the word symbol, but a
symbol generally has deeper meaning. A symbol is something that through its outward aspect or character represents
something more profound than itself.
The flames of a fire for instance, can symbolize the sun, which
itself has qualities of heat, illumination and creative or destructive powers. The sun is
associated with giving forth life and power as well as being associated with gods of mythology who
possess these same qualities.
In a garden setting, elements or objects such as a light fixture,
a luminary, fireplace or fire pit can be also related to the imagery of the sun.
A symbolic image therefore can be linked to many garden design
applications depending on its purpose and placement within the space.
As Jack Trasidder states in his book, Symbols and Their
“There is a connection between the power of symbols and their antiquity. There
are some symbols or types of symbols that are so universally potent, so close to the very stuff of life, that
there meanings tend to remain constant over time. We believe that on a personal level, that profound realities
dwell beyond our rational objective knowledge, and that these “truths” are sacred forms of knowledge of the
universe and of ourselves. Our connection, that we instinctively sense is behind the language of symbols,
suggests that such truths are eternal and we yearn to have access to them. That is why we are attracted to
various forms of symbolism, myth and legend.”
In order for someone to create and
design their own sacred or spiritual garden space, the foundation must be in place. Certain basic design
principles should be followed along with appropriate site planning principles that would apply to any
After the foundation is in place, the transcendental qualities are incorporated in
such a way so that the garden builder can customize it to their needs. This is how one personalizes the garden. The
elements chosen are not only imbued with their own inherent embodiments, but the garden builder adds their own
spiritual intention in such a manner that the elements now have special meaning. The garden meaning has now become
what the gardener associates with sacred.