hygienic dark retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

formerly darkroomretreat.com


This is the original list. Victoria Bidwell compiled them from Shelton, Tilden, et al. My criticisms follow. My version is in my book.

  1. Life’s Great Law: Every living cell of the organized body is endowed with an instinct of self-preservation, sustained by an inherent force in the organism called “vital force” or “life force.” The success of each living organism whether it be simple or complex is directly proportional to the amount of its life force and inversely proportional to the degree of its activity.
  2. Order: The living organism is completely self-constructing, self-maintaining, self-directing, self-repairing, self-defending, and self-healing.
  3. Action: Whenever action occurs in the living organism, as the result of extraneous influences, the action must be ascribed to the living thing, which has the power of action, and not to any lifeless thing, whose leading characteristic is inertia.
  4. Power: The power employed, and consequently expended, in any vital or medicinal action is vital power, that is, power from within and not from without.
  5. Distribution: Distribution of the body’s power is proportionate to the importance and needs of the various organs and tissues of the body.
  6. Conservation: Whenever nutritive abstinence is affected, the living organism’s reserves are conserved and economized: living structures are autolyzed in the inverse order of their usefulness, while toxic substances are being eliminated. This Law refers to fasting; it applies to starvation as well. Also called The Law of Autolysis.
  7. Limitation: Whenever and wherever the expenditure of vital power has advanced so far that a fatal exhaustion is imminent, a check is put upon the unnecessary expenditure of power; and the organism rebels against the further use of even an accustomed stimulant.
  8. Special Economy: An organism under favorable conditions stores excess vital energy and materials above the current expenditures as a reserve to be employed in time of special need.
  9. Vital Accommodation: The response of the vital organism to external stimuli is an instinctive one, based upon a self-preservative instinct which adapts or accommodates itself to whatever influence it cannot destroy or control.
  10. Dual Effect: The secondary effect upon a living organism of any act, habit, indulgence, or agent is opposite and equal to the primary effect.
  11. Compensation: Whenever action in the body has expended the substance and available energy of the body, rest is induced in order to replenish the body’s substance and energy. Also called The Law of Repose.
  12. Selective Elimination: Injurious substances which gain admittance into a living organism are counteracted, neutralized, and eliminated as fully as bodily nerve energy supply allows and by such means and through such channels as will produce the least amount of harm to living structure.
  13. Utilization: The normal elements and materials of life are all that the living organism is ever capable of constructively utilizing, whether it is well or sick. No substance or process that is not a normal-factor-element in physiology can be of any value in the structure of the living organism; and that which is unusable in a state of health, is equally unusable in a state of illness.
  14. Quality Selection: When the quality of nutriment being received by the living organism is higher than that of the present living tissue, the organism will discard lower-grade cells to make room for appropriating the superior materials into new and healthy tissue.
  15. the Minimum: The development of living organisms is regulated by the supply of that element or factor which is least abundantly provided or utilized. The element or factor in shortest supply determines the amount of development.
  16. Development: The development of all or any parts of the living organism is measured in direct proportion to the amount of vital forces and nutritive materials which are directed to it and brought to bear upon it.


It’s a gripping set of ideas. It’s essential to understanding hygiene and appreciating its gravitas.

But as a writer and thinker, I now find this form of the list arcane.

  • without grouping and hierarchy, it is 3-4 times too long to remember and use
  • order is nearly random
  • its numbers only highlight its length and distract from the titles
  • some titles are too long
  • the hundred-year old language is verbose everywhere
  • the laws emphasize action, food, and energy and barely treat being, consciousness, and structure, which are more fundamental

No wonder hygiene has been marginalized. In my version, I fixed these flaws. I have identified the laws as either primary or secondary, and organized the secondary ones into 4 groups: process, reserves, energy, substance.

This included:

  • simplifying Life’s Great Law by splitting it into the primary law of Force and the new secondary law of Proportion
  • expanding the law of Order
  • formulating two new primary laws, of Coordination and Capacity
  • combining the nearly identical secondary laws of Development and the Minimum

There is probably more to do, but at least the work is started. Perhaps there should be only 3-5 laws, and each would include the principles of the rest as elements or sub laws. Anyway, over time, further integration or reformulation will bring hygiene within reach of everyone’s understanding.