Many eastern cultures see the inter-connectedness of man and nature as truth, that is, as the way it is. From Hindu and Buddhist thought to the Taoist perception of the world, all speak of the universe as being dynamic and interconnected, with consciousness, not matter as the ground of our existence. Matter being the manifestation of consciousness.
The sacred is the realm we hold as untouchable by conventional reality, hidden and ineffable, transcending the mundane. In the search for the sacred we are not looking for a particular quality in anything, place, building or object, but it is in the realization that it is our relationship to the object that makes it sacred to us.
Art attempts to reveal the sacred through symbolic means, means that are only successful if the symbols themselves are manifestations of the spiritual and have common agreement as to their meaning. A symbol has no inherent meaning, beyond the accrued meanings that have developed throughout time and are embedded in our human collective consciousness, but a symbol can approach a level of meaning and expressive force that language cannot.
The primary function of these forms is the manifestation of the spiritual in the physical realm. The form itself also has no inherent meaning so these forms are indeed telling expressions of our spiritual and cultural consciousness projected into the world.
The forms built to house the spiritual endeavor, of course, vary widely throughout this earth and reflect the various approaches of religions, cultural attitudes and environmental influences, and in many cases the efforts of politics and kingship. Although at the fundamental, esoteric level of the worlds' spiritual understanding there is relative consensus, the forms and attitudes created around the “idea of God” are multiple, and also inconsistent.
The notion of the spiritual landscape apart from the formal expression of our spiritual understanding is a pointing to nature itself. The nature that western man has so long fought to conquer and control is no more than an illusion in his mind, an idea about the world that seems to terrify him. He has separated himself from that world and created a distinction that in fact does not exist, except in his mind. Western man has typically seen nature as “out there,” as being more demonic than spiritual, something that will overwhelm him if not under his control. However other cultures do not hold the same world view.