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Sam Harris and Daniel P Brown on Pattern recognition - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.08.24

Quote: And let your visual field appear as a totality, just as an expanse of colour and shadow.

Sam Harris

And let your visual field appear as a totality, just as an expanse of colour and shadow

This is a "deconstructionist" pointing out instruction. It directs the listener to stop perceiving individual objects and their attributes within the visual field. Instead, he guides the listener to perceive the visual field as an undifferentiated expanse of sensory impressions "without names". Sam Harris proposes color and shadow as the more elementary building blocks of perception. He could also have used lines, edges, curves.

In other meditations, Sam Harris uses the kinesthetic or body-feeling sense. In such meditations, he instructs the listener to let the body dissolve into a field of energy, of pressure, temperature, etc.

In both types of meditations, the goal is that the meditator does no longer perceive individual visual objects, or individual body parts.

Instead, the instructions guide towards perceiving sense-perceptions at a lower level of the bottom-up hierarchy through which the brain constructs our impression of the world.

Daniel P Brown - Partialising and the bias of Information Processing

The process of isolating individual objects within the sphere of sense impressions is called "to partialise". The term "to partialise" is not used by Sam Harris; it is a term used often by Daniel P Brown.

Daniel P Brown has equated "particularising" to the fundamental act of the brains bias for "information processing" as the "last cloud". In his book "Pointing out the Great Way - the Stages of Mahamudra Meditation" he describes it like this.

The habitual tendency of the mind is to construct rudimentary sensory information into patterns with particular attributes, which take shape in the inner mind as well as in the outer world (Brown 2006, p 315)

This process of pattern-creation interferes with the perception of the "unbounded wholeness":

  • Unbounded wholeness can’t be perceived by partializing:

  • – Thought partializes by delineating

  • – Directed attention partializes

  • – Particularizing partializes

  • The tendency of the mind toward something the outcome of which is something particular

  • Particularizing as prestimulus-perception"

He places the overcoming of particularisation into the last state of meditation, when he describes the stages of emptiness in which the student is trained:

– "Ordinary

• Self

• Phenomena (thought; emotion; perception)

• Time

– Extraordinary

• Duality

• Limiting schemas

• Information-processing bias"

( both quotes Daniel P Brown 2020)

Dudjom Lingpa

There are many sources in Tibetan Dzogchen, one of them is Dudjom Lingpa (1964). In this translation by Barron, the term is "reification" (making something into a thing).

The subtle reifying function of consciousness based on conceptual mind (yid kyi nam-shey) labels these forms, invests them with meaning, and regards them as having substance.

Pattern recognition in reverse

In his dissertation, Dan Brown describes therefore the learning of meditation as a process of pattern recognition in reverse (Brown 1981).

For more detail and references, see my post on pattern recognition in reverse through art, meditation and psychedelics.


Brown, D. P. (1981). Mahamudra Meditation-Stages and Contemporary Cognitive Psychology (Dissertation).

This dissertation is a free download. It is a massive, highly technical volume that nevertheless gives an unparalleled insight into the education of a yogi. It draws on the knowledge of cognitive science as of the late 1970s, so it is not the newest in this regard. As compensation, Daniel P Brown gives some insight into the experiments with tachiscopy. to which he still referred in his retreats in 2021. The University of Chicago library entry:

Brown, D. P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated ed.). Wisdom Publications.

Lingpa, D. (1965). Buddhahood Without Meditation: A Visionary Account Known As Refining Apparent Phenomena (Nang-jang): Dudjom Lingpa, Richard Barron: 9781881847076: Books.

Gebel, T. (2022g, August 1). The view is the meditation. Till Gebel.

Wilber, K., Brown, D. P., & Engler, J. (1986). Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (New Science Library) (1st ed.). Shambhala.


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