hygienic dark retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

formerly darkroomretreat.com


2023 January 19

If we are to find a panacea, we must change our way of thinking about it.

We think of a panacea as one solution to all problems. But everyone knows there is no such thing. What good is education or prayer when what you really need is a bicycle? So we conclude a panacea is impossible.

But suppose we think of a panacea as a solution to our essential problem: the problem that causes all other problems. Then a panacea is the solution that makes solutions to all other problems possible. This gives us a healthy field of contenders. Practically every crackpot in the world has one! So let’s narrow it down.

A panacea ought to work for everyone everywhere. It ought to be simple, quick, cheap, rational, natural, easy, pleasant. It must use normal conditions of life, not something weird or contrived. It must be exceedingly effective, and rapidly lead to similar solutions to all other problems. This rules out discipline (like spiritual practice), therapy, sedation or psychedelics. Education, poltics, activism, and technology are obvious failures, as well.

The essential problem would involve primary systems. In man, the primary organic system is the psyche, the faculty of knowing. Why? The psyche is the system that coordinates all the others, largely unconsciously. It is our basic means of survival. If anything is wrong with the psyche, its dysfunction severely affects everything else.

Thousands of years ago, we suffered major psychic trauma due to a global cataclysm. Many elders died. The children did not recover. They took comfort in each others’ arms. They passed their trauma on to their descendants through neglect and abuse, down to the present day, 400-500 generations later.

Our society is a catastrophe. It unconsciously institutionalizes the ancient cataclysm. Its cycle of long development toward disastrous climax will persist until the psychotic people who fuel it—you and I—recover. Meanwhile, we will continue confronting each other with the psychotic symptoms of stupidity, hysteria, and self-destructiveness.

We have not had the chance to recover from this mass major trauma. We have lacked the hygiene: knowledge of our self-preserving power and of the normal conditions of life. Which we need for both health and healing. Organisms are inherently self-preserving—self-generating, self-maintaining, and self-healing—and at every scale: in the cells, organs, and systems. Self-preservation is a largely autonomic process. It is omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible. Once respected and provided for, health is certain.

The pysche is an organic system, so it is self-healing. The primary condition of healing is rest. Unbelievably deep psychic rest occurs in hygienic dark retreat. This is an extended period of rest in absolute physical darkness in a regular home. Therefore hygienic dark retreating leads to self-healing of the psyche. Health means wholeness. Integrity.

People with high degrees of psychic integrity can have enormous power, presence, and influence. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr are recent examples. Gandhi said non-violence held much greater potential than he had demonstrated. Our laughably fragile system can only withstand one such person every decade. If someone ten times more powerful appeared every month, the whole pitiful game would be over inside a year.

This would free everyone else to disengage from their roles in our systemic disaster and recover personally. This includes the system’s controllers. Most only persist in their folly for lack of something better. Many of us peasants fantasize that the controls are unnecessary. Few of us have any idea of the dire factors involved.

All the materials, knowledge, and personnel necessary for solving global problems already exist. The resources spent on war can solve hunger, epidemics, poverty, crime and most ecological destruction overnight. But only when the participants—and their constituents—are no longer psychotic.

Hygienic dark retreating is therefore plausible as the panacea: a solution to mass psychosis, mankind’s essential problem. If you try a retreat, you can see this plausibility for yourself. You can learn enough about it and become naturally motivated to try it from my book.