Spatialism is the view that ideas exist as spatial relationships before they are translated into symbols and words. Born into environmental space, we feel the close and far of things around us. The meaningful qualities inherent in a scene are universally understood because they rest on the collective experience of living and moving in space. Everyday of our lives we evolve our conception of our material surroundings which we use later to describe the feelings of our life experience. We understand down and up and general concepts: to be down means inactivity whether caused by sickness or sadness. Even before the family shapes social structures with its own systems of causality, there is gravity and all of the implications of above and below that derive from it. The universal biological priority, homoeostasis, our striving toward balance, whether as an infant learning to stand or a middle aged adult setting satisfying goals, is the same structural motion. Alfred Adler said we are always moving from a minus to a plus situation, driven by inadequacies to accomplishments. We strive to stay up. Motivation areas are associated with dissatisfaction, goals directing action to re-satisfy. From the beginning of life the challenges of balance and changing surroundings have created isomorphic structure in the brain that sees spatial patterns unfolding and anticipates needs of movement. No matter what the culture, this set of concepts is universally understood, because as the same species we use the same strategies to navigate the world. This is why visual art is so easily understood across cultures. Visual art creates relationships in space that are understood without verbalization. Art is the sophisticated expression of these visual relationships and speaks to the core understanding of meaning.
This spatial quality pervades thinking. If you want to remember something you go back to the place in your mind. We have vast rooms of information available through our spatial organization. Not much attention has been paid to this because moving in space is just beneath conscious awareness, mapped in the hippocampus and imprinted in the cerebellum so we can use the cortex for learning more about useful patterns in the world. Completing patterns is how we predict what may be required. The understanding of the features of a spatial world structures whatever we think about.
When Jung wrote, “Image is psyche” he was pointing out this correspondence. Our relations with others are characterized as “close” or “distant” and interpersonal power structures are coded directly into the amygdala so we feel our status as part of recognizing another person and that status shifts with every relationship.
Philosophies based on laws and absolutes can’t adapt to a changing world. The visual instinct doesn’t need to have seen a situation before to know how to adapt to the structure it presents and find balance. Nothing stays fixed in a world that evolves and grows so the best strategy is to develop intelligent perception of the spatial qualities. Strengthening our ability to predict from unfolding patterns and recognizing the implications of situations we may not have seen before depends on understanding spatial relationships not the identity of things. The education of visual intelligence is as simple and pleasurable as looking at art. Seeking it out, noting preferences, following them to other previously unknown art builds a personal connection to deeper structures. The preferences show something true about the feeling of life for you. Visual consciousness finds the truth in the whole. This is best shown.