The less is more aesthetic of Zen gardens has fascinated the Western and Eastern traveler, alike, but deeper research into Kyoto’s Ryoanji Temple, famous for one of its rock gardens consisting of a mere 15 rocks spread across a rectangular pit of shallow gravel, offers a compelling new reason to visit it.
Interested in understanding why so many tourists were compelled to visit the rock garden, researchers began to measure the site from a mathematical perspective.
What they uncovered is mind-boggling considering that the placement of the rocks in the garden harkens to the 15th century, well before the Mandelbrot set and fractal geometry was likely understood by the occupants of any imperial palace – with the exception of those who practiced deep meditation, for example, and understood Divine Intelligence in ways that mathematicians are just now sorting out.
The researchers used a technique defined as medial-axis transformation to discover that the rock clusters were formed into a fractal pattern – thought to be the secret to divine geometry, and the underlying foundation of all creation.
The axes of symmetry between the rock clusters formed the fractal contour of a tree – which is also based on divine geometry. (Leonardo Da Vinci’s explanation of the fractal tree design also describes why they don’t splinter, even as a tree sprouts new branches. A tree almost always grows so that the total thickness of the branches at a particular height is equal to the thickness of the trunk.)
When the rocks were rearranged in computer simulations, that tree-like structure and its meditative effect were lost. “The people who built the temple didn’t know about fractals,” says Esther Sternberg, “But they understood at some unconscious level that placing the rocks in that way made people feel calm.”
The reason the rock rearrangement caused it to lose its meditative effect, can also reasonably explain why most man-made objects add to our stress, instead of reassure peace. Most design is not centered on divine geometry or medial-axis transformation, unless you look at the highly elevated building and archeological design of ancient temples of advanced civilizations – many of which are just starting to reveal their secrets of consciousness-transformation to modern scientists.