hygienic dark retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

formerly darkroomretreat.com

3   psychology


Hygiene’s primary structure is sound. It deals in universal facts of biology. It is objective. It constrains its analysis and recommendations to the abilities of a reasonable man living an ordinary life nearly anywhere in the world.

But hygiene has had secondary flaws. It has lacked a psychology. Its general pathology has avoided trauma, the first cause of disease. We must correct these.

Hygiene has not been hygienic enough. Some of its secondary ideas and practices contradict its fundamental principles. So we can use hygiene’s own principles and methods to correct it. This self-correcting quality is a hallmark of great systems.

Darkness exposes flaws in hygiene’s secondary structure. Hygiene can accommodate darkness and its implications. In this chapter, we will pop the hood of hygiene and get our hands dirty. We will analyze its flaws and make necessary modifications. The result will be a system that works better by orders of magnitude.


Lacking a psychology, hygiene could not penetrate the depths of human experience. It could not deal with the grave issue of trauma. Hygiene has focused on daily choices. Trauma doesn’t happen every day. It lies beyond one’s control. Changes of habit affect it little. Trauma strikes, incapacitating whole systems. It distorts their character and behavior beyond recognition.

Besides rest, trauma is the most influential force in our lives. Lacking the greatest means of profound rest, hygiene was helpless with trauma. It deferred to doctors (and priests). This subordinated hygiene to medicine and religion for nearly two centuries.

Hygiene’s helplessness disappears with four reforms:

  • organization and completion of its laws
  • locating trauma at the root of illness
  • recognizing darkness as the essential means nature provides us to heal from trauma
  • including a psychology based on these facts

With these, hygienism becomes a complete system of health. It is capable of addressing every illness that people face, physical and psychical. No one need suffer further the absurdities of medicine and other pseudo-scientific systems. To various degrees, they are all rooted in the mystical doctrine of original sin and practice of exorcism.

The acid test of any science is its ability to predict events. Then it can cause or prevent them as desired. By healing from trauma, we not only end dysfunction and suffering, we prevent retraumatization. I mean we cease to unconsciously arrange traumas like car crashes, familial breakdown, psychosomatic illness, and its medical treatment.

By contrast, medicine can only deal with trauma after the fact. Its tricks for treating it impress us. We respect doctors’ willingness to try. But if medicine were science, it could explain, predict, and prevent further trauma. The attention it puts on treatment diverts attention from its inherent incompetence. Crippled by false premises, it cannot understand or reverse the cause of trauma.

We are all moments from relief, days from restedness and healing, and months from total recovery from 13 millennia of abysmal suffering, problems, and failure. The cause of joy—an organism restored to wholeness—is at hand.

Safe in the submarine of this insight, we will plumb the depths of the hygienic use of darkness. We will begin by reviewing and critiquing hygiene’s existing framework for understanding illness: its incisive pathology. Then we will go beyond it in frank discussions of trauma, psychosis and their natural and social causes in cataclysm. We will finish with an outline of a new and hygienic psychology, which promises to unleash hygiene’s power and lift mankind from its debilitated state.


Pathology is the study of disease: its nature, causes, and symptoms. Pathology guides our response to disease.

Every school of health has a pathology, a theory of disease. Many schools are named for them. They are primarily orientated to disease and their artful responses to it. Examples are homeopathy (homeo: same), naturopathy (natur: of nature), osteopathy (osteo: bone), allopathy/medicine (allo: other).

By contrast, hygiene is primarily concerned with the cause and conditions of health. Hygiene’s pathology is merely a branch called orthopathy (ortho: correct).

My formulation of hygiene’s generic pathology is simple. It describes the three ways an organism falls ill: by trauma, exhaustion, or poisoning. It describes the three corresponding ways it heals: repair, elimination, and re-energization.

  1. causes of disease
    1. trauma: injury or damage to living tissue, whether psychical or psychical, subtle or gross. The younger the individual is, the greater his susceptibility to trauma, the subtler its form, and the wider its variety (eg, not sleeping with parents or not being nursed); yet the more rapid his recovery can be. If unhealed, trauma leads to exhaustion and poisoning, thus every illness over time.
    2. exhaustion: a greatly lowered energy state, sudden or prolonged. It results from overwork, distress, intense emotion, or extreme environmental factors: danger, temperature, atmospheric pressure, noise, frequencies, vibration, etc (equivalent to enervation, below).
    3. poisoning: intake of a toxic substance, emotion, impression, or idea (similar to toxemia, below). The organism expends tremendous energy in neutralizing and expelling it. Chronic or exceeding intake leads to every known disease.
  2. processes of healing
    1. repair: the renewal and replacement of tissue after normal use; the regeneration and knitting of tissue back together following trauma
    2. elimination: removal of waste and toxins, both endogenous and exogenous, from cells through the lymph, blood, and organs of elimination
    3. re-energization: recharging of exhausted nerves and refueling of cells

The above hygienic pathology is new. It is my simplification and radicalization of the old one. The old pathology helps explain disease once it has begun. But it does not satisfactorily explain the inception of disease, nor the corresponding means of its reversal. We will review and critique the old pathology now.


In the 1930s, hygienist, Dr John Tilden formulated the seven stages of all chronic disease. He based this on a century of hygienic observation of vital energy in the organism. Each stage describes what happens as vital energy declines and poisoning (toxemia) increases. Note that a sick person can move down the steps and become sicker, or up them and become well. It is cause and effect.

Hygiene proves in theory and repeatedly demonstrates in practice the reversibility of the trend. This pathology has aided millions of people in understanding and reversing the sicknesses that medicine gave up on helping them with.

Victoria Bidwell is a longtime, tireless hygienist. We have her to thank for this cogent summary. It is from her work, The Health Seekers Yearbook. It is based on Dr Tilden’s analysis of disease from his book, Toxemia.

  1. Enervation: Nerve energy is so reduced or exhausted that all normal bodily functions are greatly impaired, especially the elimination of endogenous and exogenous poisons. Stage one thus begins the progressive and chronic process of “toxemia toleration” that continues through all of the following stages. The toxic sufferer does not feel his “normal self.” He feels either stimulated or depressed by the poisonous overload.
  2. Toxemia: Nerve energy is too low to eliminate metabolic wastes and ingested poisons. These toxic substances begin to saturate first the bloodstream and lymphatic fluids and then the cells themselves. The toxic sufferer feels inordinately tired, run-down, and “out of it.”
  3. Irritation: Toxic build-up within the blood and lymph and tissues continues. The cells/tissues where build-up occurs are irritated by the toxic nature of the waste, resulting in a low-grade inflammation. The toxic sufferer can feel exhausted, queasy, irritable, itchy, even irrational and hostile. During these first 3 stages, if the toxic sufferer does consult a medical doctor about the reason for his low energy and irritability, the doctor tells him: “There is nothing wrong with you. These symptoms are ‘all in your head.’ You are perfectly healthy!”
  4. Inflammation: The low-grade, chronic inflammation from stage three is leading to the death of cells. An area or organ where toxicants have amassed next becomes fully inflamed. The toxic sufferer experiences actual pain, along with pathological symptoms at this point. With the appearance of these symptoms, the medical doctor can finally give the sufferer’s complaint a name. Traditionally, medical scientists have named many of the 20,000 distinctly different diseases after the site where the toxins have accumulated and precipitated their symptoms. Once the set of symptoms is conveniently named, the doctor can mechanically prescribe the “antidote” from his Physician’s Desk Reference or from his memorized medical/ pharmaceutical repertoire. Standard medical doctors thus commence drugging and treating at this stage.
  5. Ulceration: Tissues are destroyed. The body ulcerates, forming an outlet for the poisonous build-up. The toxic sufferer experiences a multiplication and worsening of symptoms while the pain intensifies. Standard medical doctors typically continue drugging and often commence with surgery and other forms of more radical and questionable treatment at this stage.
  6. Induration: Induration is the result of long-standing, chronic inflammation with bouts of acute inflammation interspersed. The chronic inflammation causes an impairment or sluggishness of circulation: and because some cells succumb, they are replaced with scar tissue. This is the way we lose good, normal-functioning cells — by chronic inflammation and death of cells. Toxins may or may not be encapsulated in a tumor, sac, wen, or polyp. The toxic sufferer endures even more physical pain, which is intensified by the emotional distress of realizing that he is only getting worse, regardless of his earnest, obedient, even heroic attempts to get well. Standard medical doctors continue with both drugging and surgery and all other kinds of modalities deemed appropriate, both conventional and experimental. (“Induration” means “hardening” or “scarring” of tissues.)
  7. Fungation (cancer): Cellular integrity is destroyed through their disorganization and/or cancerous proliferation. Tissues, organs, and whole systems lose their ability to function normally. Biochemical and morphological changes from the depositing of endogenous and exogenous toxins bring about degeneration and death at the cellular level. The toxic sufferer is “a pathological mess”: he is on his deathbed. Standard medical doctors declare at this stage: “There is no hope left. You have just so much longer to live. You need to make preparations accordingly.” Failure of vital organs eventually results in death.


Tilden’s analysis shows the close relationship between exhaustion and poisoning as two of the most obvious causes of all illness. Indeed, they play a huge part in ongoing symptomology. It shows where a sick person really is in the course of illness. It subtly informs one’s response. It explains hygiene’s countless unpublicized successes for two centuries with people allopathy had pronounced hopeless.

Usually, hygienists put people to bed with plenty of water and fresh air and cease to poison them with drugs. If clients can improve their lifestyles enough afterward, then they will not relapse. Common advice is to quit the ultra-toxins of coffee, tea, and tobacco; eliminate overwork and reduce stress; increase daily rest; increase fresh food in the diet; take up exercise; fast sometimes; and move away from polluted areas.

But for many of us, that is a big if. If we could do it, we wouldn’t have our problems in the first place. If we do not do it, then hygiene has been unable to help us further. Most of us drift back to medicine. A few get lucky with alternatives in reducing their worst symptoms. The rest find ways to cope… or perish quietly.

We note the pathology’s emphasis on toxemia: chronic internal uncleanliness. This reveals not only Tilden’s focus but Natural Hygiene’s Puritanical character. It is how medicine trapped hygienism by reducing it to cleanliness. It is why the word, hygiene, makes everyone think of cleanliness despite what the dictionary says.

The missing link in orthopathy is trauma. Its absence has undermined hygiene’s success and status. Early hygienists viewed chronic illness as important. They did not grasp the primacy of trauma: its causal relation to chronic illness. They saw trauma as a mechanical issue best left to surgeons.

For their part, the surgeons relished the challenge. Their willingness to deal with trauma is the source of medicine’s dominance today. By surrendering the imperative of trauma, hygienists lent allopathy mythic power.

Most early hygienic physicians started as allopaths. It seems they never shook their fascination with surgery. Surgery makes doctors seem powerful on nature’s scale. It affirms civilization’s fear of the body and nature. It reinforces the feeling of helplessness following trauma.

Engaging the dragon of trauma with their little swords, doctors acquire the status of gods and heroes. On some level, everyone knows trauma is the cause of all suffering, disease, and incapacity. Everyone recognizes it the moment it is stated, either by a bowed head, widened eyes, or nodding—or haughty denial (which I’ve seen a thousand times.) Unhealed trauma has destroyed most of our precious personal power. Anyone who can bring back even a little of it must be divine. Trauma makes for great drama.

Fortunately, rationality prevails in hygiene. It is, after all, a science. Both etymology and biology help us correct hygiene’s over-emphasis on cleanliness. In the three phases of healing, repair is fundamental to elimination. The organism cleans itself only as it repairs itself. Repair causes a mess. It must be cleaned up as it proceeds. Damaged tissue is unprotected and dysfunctional. It collects debris. The body awaits a chance to repair itself. Meanwhile, it conserves energy by only cleaning what it must.

This explains endless detoxification when switching to a clean diet. Improved diet cannot fix trauma. At best, it exposes it.

Likewise, the organism re-energizes tissue only as it repairs and cleans itself. Tissue is fully charged only when its integrity is completely restored. Therefore, trauma comes before exhaustion and poisoning in the pathology. Remaining stages become subordinate to these primary three. Thus the revised pathology.

Disease can begin with any of these three. But chronic disease originates in unhealed trauma. In healthy organisms, self-correcting instincts are strong. They immediately prompt an individual to restore normal conditions if exhaustion and poisoning occur in daily life. Only trauma can wreck these instincts or make acting on them impossible. Exhaustion and poisoning follow on its heels.

We seem caught in a strange dream, half-waking and prolonged. We have tried to force ourselves awake with treatment, substances, and discipline. Hygienic dark retreating lets us sleep it off. Hygiene is like physiological judo. It does not resist disease, but lets disease bring its own resolution.

Hygiene is calm, understanding, effective. Rather than wait for trauma to replay its disastrous drama in our lives, we can finally prevent it by healing from it. We simply take hygiene’s peaceful, reassured approach to resolving it once and for all.


Hygieia is the daughter of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine. Similarly, hygiene is partly a reaction to allopathy. We are heavily subjected to allopathy. So next we will examine its pathology.

Critics of medicine first called it allopathy. Medicine uses poisons to cause symptoms of another disease. The idea is that, in the body’s forced struggle against the other disease, it will overcome the first one. Then the poisonous medicine is removed. The patient quickly recovers from the artificial disease and is left in health.

When sick, take poison. Hurt yourself to be well.

War is peace. Love is hate. Freedom is slavery.

The doctrine of original sin underlies allopathy. This doctrine says life is inherently corrupt and impotent. Suffering and disease are natural and unavoidable. They are our fate. We are not naturally well. We must be forced to be well, just as we must be forced to be good. Nevermind that:

  • life is self-healing
  • intact organisms are healthy
  • survival requires health (we would not have made it this far without it)
  • health is the identity of life
  • most organisms in nature exhibit perfect health

Allopathy sidesteps these facts by invoking civilization’s mystical axiom of human exceptionalism. That is, natural laws do not apply to us. We are inherently sinful and sick because we are men. Why? Because our priests say so.

Allopathy pretends to be rational and scientific. Yet it views health as a stroke of luck. “You must have a good constitution,” they say before changing the subject. When people get sick, nothing is wrong. It’s just how life is. Medicine itself is not an abject failure.

This is why doctors gloss over causes. They speak in tautologies, substituting diagnosis for explanation. For example, “Your bowels aren’t working because you have Crohn’s disease.” The name is an irreducible primary. It is supposed to satisfy you.

For doctors, there is no mystery. Life is just expressing its weak, morbid nature. They might peer into the causation of illness another level or two to salve their customers’ worries. But investigation goes against their premises and interests. They go straight to treating symptoms, syringe, scalpel, and the germ theory of disease in hand.

The germ theory says microscopic invaders cause disease: bacteria and viruses. We are victims of infection. The organism is helpless against them. Fortunately, the doctor is capable. He fights, overcomes, and roots out the germs with drugs, treatment, and surgery.

Once upon a time, people believed evil spirits caused disease. They prayed for relief and performed strange ceremonies.

Medicine is really a modern form of this demonism. It is a pseudo-scientific disguise of Dark Ages superstition. A doctor is an exorcist in a lab coat.

Funny thing is, the presence of germs doesn’t always result in the disease associated with them. They aren’t always present in it. Getting rid of them doesn’t always get rid of the disease. And getting over the disease doesn’t always get rid of the germs that supposedly caused it. (See Koch’s Postulates). So much for the germ theory.

Likewise, the function claimed for drugs is inherent in life. As organisms, we are self-healing. So we have no need of drugs. Nor can the organism use medicine for anything, only reject it. It is poison, not a condition of health. They force health neither in nor out of life. They just tax it. So much for drugs.

Acutely ill people show distinct patterns in their history, lifestyle, and vital factors. Well people show different patterns. The differences reveals the ordinary and predictable character of the causes of disease—except to those who are trying not to see.

In response to these fatal criticisms, medicine moves the goalposts. It invents new diagnoses to cover for the insanity of its pathology. It is a holy war, exempt from logic.

Fortunately, some people tire of medicine in time. They just want to be well so they can get on with their lives. They quit the doctors and apply their own research. Medicine is so harmful, this proves remarkably successful1.

By contrast, a hygienist’s rational and benevolent view of disease keeps him cool as a cucumber. He does not react to symptoms out of context. He immediately provides good conditions. He observes and studies, adjusting conditions as necessary.

Disease is a normal function of an organism under poor conditions. It is not an enemy but a messenger. One does not fight against it, but listens. It is not a foreign entity to attack and expel. It is the voice of life, speaking plainly.

In hygiene, the hygienist is the patient. He waits on life. He listens. With careful etiology—the study of causes—he corrects allopathy’s drunken imbalances.

This approach reveals the poor conditions behind disease and the ordinary ways to correct them. Indeed, a client of a hygienist is really a student. He soon learns to take care of himself. He introduce it to his family and neighbors by example. It’s open source health care. Viral, so to speak.

For further study of hygienic pathology, see Herbert Shelton’s two volumes on orthopathy from the seven-volume Hygienic System. Volume VI is on general pathology. Volume VII is on specific symptoms and their care.

Now we turn to the real cause of all disease: trauma.


In the course of days alone in a darkroom, psychic trouble from one’s past inevitably comes to the surface. Buried thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories of trauma sometimes become conscious as the psyche repairs itself. This is not the torment of endlessly reliving the past, but part of finally recovering from it.

Why are these things so deeply buried?

Trauma calls for triage: a sudden, massive redirection of resources to deal with the damage. Normal functions like memory get a low or negative priority. If healing is incomplete, not everything returns to normal.

Besides injury and shock, trauma instantly causes the first four stages of disease that Tilden described: enervation, toxemia, irritation, inflammation. The organism surges into action with the shock. There is a sudden demand for energy, nutrients, circulation, and hormones to manage pain and awareness. Reserves are drawn on. Normal flows are redirected. Incapacity and malfunction snowball.

Consciousness contracts to the point of unconsciousness. The psyche withdraws from the world on a sensory and feeling level. It restricts higher functions like reflection and reason, diverting their energy rations to stabilize critical functions. Awareness of the painful event itself is unnecessary. It even disrupts healing. Trauma make dullness a virtue, leading to amnesia, denial, stupidity, callousness, and clumsiness: the inabilities to remember, to admit, to know, to feel, to move.

Consider movies with an amnesiac premise. The hero is injured, cannot remember his old life, and has a new adventure. Few of us have known anyone like this. Yet such movies continue to draw crowds. We unconsciously recognize ourselves in them.

Our amnesia begins with what is called infant or childhood amnesia. Who remembers his birth or first years? Who would want to? “Scientists” generally believe that memory does not reach back that far. But indigenous people and less traumatized civilized people demonstrate something else. They casually recount details of leaving the womb, meeting their parents outside, and encountering the world around them for the first time.

This means denial is not moral failure. It is psychobiological success. Devastating trauma usually befalls civilized infants. Damage, deprivation, and pain overload the fragile structure of their psyches. Denial locks basic functions into odd routines and restricts higher, creative ones. This prevents trauma from shattering psychic integrity. It also turns people into robots.

If trauma is too great, it overwhelms the psyche’s defense mechanisms. The psychic system fails and death results, as with SIDS—Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Or one escapes with autism or blindness, for example. It beats dying. Denial persists until the psyche heals enough to bear witness to the horror of the event it denied.

Meanwhile, we suffer from three other epidemics: stupidity, callousness, clumsiness. Psychic damage causes decreases in thinking, feeling, and moving intelligence. The normal brilliance, joy, and grace of most children give way before they have a chance to establish themselves. We look aghast at the pitiful results, in ourselves and in others.

In darkness, damage begins to heal. Denial begins to lift. Traumatic events are remembered or acknowledged. As the capacity for feeling is restored, frozen feelings resurface. Insight comes. Stupidity and uncoordination lift. The energy to recover strength flows back in. The process is sometimes intense. The organism paces it with great care, never going too fast or doing too much. The fact that it is happening means one has the capacity to handle it.

Gaining confidence in this capacity takes time. Meanwhile, there are ways to ease the discomfort of intense memory and feeling in darkness. Soon, one gets the hang of it and lets go. The autonomic self rushes in to catch one’s fall. In a series of reports, I have recorded my experiences in darkness of beginning to heal from major trauma.

What trauma? I mean the routine brutality of our lifeway. It touches virtually everyone from before birth. I mean not just the bad things we condemn (like child abuse), but bad things we praise. I mean our many offenses to nature. It already worked out every detail of a happy existence from the beginning of time. In our pathological lifeway, we transgress them continually.

I’m going to list common examples of the plague of polite violence I refer to. One of my editors, a wise and loving man, warned me I would lose readers by doing so. But I see no way around it. The affronts and crimes must be named.

  • unintentional conception and ambivalent pregnancy
  • birth intruders (doctor, midwife, priest)
  • post-partum attachment failure (through physical separation, exhaustion, and emotional unavailability)
  • vaccination, circumcision
  • formula-milk, pacifiers, illegal public nursing
  • being unheld, unslept with, unnursed, and diapered
  • absent, smothering, pushover, domineering, abusive, or negligent parents
  • nannies and day care
  • cribs, playpens, strollers (the worst designs of all time, which crystallize alienation in the nervous systems of billions.)
  • television and computers (screen technology causes not mere atrophy, but lifelong damage to the imaginative faculty if used at critical phases of development.2)
  • factory food (starting with genetic modification, chemical farming, unripe harvesting, irradiation)
  • insincerity, negative emotion, and irrationality from others
  • and finally, the last nail so big it splinters the coffin: school

The violence of job, military, hospital, the street, and prison go without saying. These things are even worse when they happen to infants, who have a millionth the capacity to endure them.

You may already have some idea of exactly what brutalized you. I invite you to find out for sure in darkness. There you have a real chance to recover from it once and for all. Between retreats, the depth psychologists mentioned below can help provide words for what you are going through.

Let’s finally get it through our numb skulls: no adult can get brutalized day in and day out for years without being affected. How much worse is it for an infant? We are not indestructible. We are vulnerable to injury. This is not a flaw. It is the conditional nature of organic existence. It defines life and makes our spectacular adaptability and joy possible.

Personal failure originates in psychophysical malfunction from deep damage. We cover up this unpleasant fact by moralizing about weakness, cowardice, inability. Or we shrug it off mystically as bad luck. Chronic failure is not our fault but the result of disaster. We are not weak or bad. We are hurt. We don’t need to work harder. We need time to rest so we can heal. We need to recover the capacity to succeed. I suggest we take a mass leave of absence from our absurd existence and find comfortable places to collapse. We’ll do it in shifts.

Damage from major psychic trauma is real. It is deep. It persists through generations until it heals.3 Meanwhile, it disrupts everything else in our lives: memory, reliability, conscientiousness, poise, digestion, sleep, circulation, coordination, humor, desire, clarity, etc. Everything. The mounting disaster motivates us to take it seriously. We can heal from it. We just need basic, decent conditions in which to do so.

Lastly, unconscious psychic trauma often expresses itself somatically: as physical illness. If you are physically ill, you will certainly find psychic wounds underneath your condition, wounds of surprising intensity. These wounds are doors. On the other side of them lie unexpected paths back to physical health and personal power, the power to live.

Until now, hygienists have regarded the primary causes of disease as enervation and toxemia. Enervation is an excessive lowering of vitality. Toxemia is a general poisoning, mostly from internal waste, but also dietary and environmental poisons. These, hygienists have asserted, come from poor habits.

But, as William Arthur Evans would ask, whence came poor habits? Healthy animals have irresistable self-correcting instincts. How could they persist in unhealthy behavior out of the blue? It makes no sense. Something must have happened to knock us so far off course. Causation by poor habit fails in theory and practice. The awesome influence of trauma explains everything and reveals the solution.

Much of this is standard psychology. Freud himself said all our suffering comes from trauma. Ironically, he said trauma is necessary for civilization, which keeps us out of savagery. In other words, we must hurt people to prevent them from getting hurt. Another psychoanalyst, Immanuel Velikovsky, drew the opposite conclusion. Trauma comes from ancient cataclysm. We must heal from it to avoid repeating it unconsciously with nuclear war.

Wilhelm Reich, Jean Liedloff, Frederick Leboyer, Arthur Janov, Alice Miller, Alexander Lowen, Joseph Chilton Pearce also took heroic stands for mankind in describing the routine brutality of civilized life. And they found various ways to deal with the worst of it. Only, they did not imagine the psyche could repair itself without therapy or discipline.

Obviously, I am not a scientific materialist (scientisist). That quaint philosophy holds that:

  • man is so special that nature has exempted him from its laws
  • technology, and for that matter, anything else generated by civilization, are inherently good until proven otherwise
  • only scientists with their special instruments and quantum computers can know what reality is. The rest of us must believe these priests in lab coats.

Examples of the absurdity of this idea abound. Find excellent elaborations of its humor in Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Running on Emptiness by John Zerzan, and Rupert Sheldrake’s critique of scientism.

The human organism is resilient in some ways and delicate in others. Darkness allows our autonomic selves to put both these qualities to use fully. In blackness, in jetty refuge, in the soft keeps of bedrooms and cabins, we will right unfathomable wrongs.


Trauma is not just a memory. It is damage with tangible, ongoing consequences. As you would expect, psychic trauma causes psychic illness: psychosis.

Every day, we call things crazy. Under our breath or aloud, we get exasperated with people and situations. “It’s madness!” What if our colloquialisms were clinically accurate? What if we really are psychotic? What if we have been right about our basic problem the whole time?

Sages throughout history have observed in us civilized people a pattern of functional mass psychosis. Functional means able to survive long enough to reproduce. Mass means universal. Psychosis means psychic illness. It has two senses.

Broadly, psychosis means psychic illness. It originates in trauma. Which leads to exhaustion and intoxification. These lead to the abject acceptance of poisonous ideas, attitudes, emotions, and behavior. These compound in further dysfunctions of thinking, feeling, and moving intelligences. Dysfunction leads to failure and pain, both physical, emotional, and intellectual. Sickness, unhappiness, and confusion (or dogmatism) characterize civilized people. Comprehensive chronic dysfunction marks our psychosis.

Narrowly, psychosis means the inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Our particular fantasy is that the sliver of reality we do know about makes up the whole of reality. Any idea that doesn’t fit into our postage stamp-sized worldview gets unnoticed, ignored, rejected, or crushed. We can’t help it. It is the inevitable pathology of mass major psychic trauma.

The sliver we know about consists of the gross part of reality. Scientists call it spacetime: three maneuverable dimensions of space, with one dimension of time, the present, locked in forward motion. Being grossly sensible, spacetime is especially amenable to intellection and mechanical manipulation.

This gives rise to our hyper-mental, industrial lifeway. We emphasize thinking at the expense of feeling and, to a lesser extent, action. We exalt the useless activity of athletics and make machines do the rest for us. Obsessive control of this sliver enables enough of us to survive in style to imagine we are doing better than anyone ever did.

However, some of us find this common state to be… sheer insanity, if you don’t mind. We have experienced grace, joy, and flashes of harmony with reality. We cannot help but see glaring proofs of mass psychosis in:

  • righteous wars against the innocent
  • controls in the name of freedom
  • degrading poverty amidst staggering wealth
  • useless work and wearisome recreation
  • stupefying education
  • confusing philosophy and soulless religion
  • alienation among crowds—civilization’s calling card
  • mass depression, anxiety, schizophrenia
  • sickening health care
  • lifestyle diseases (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and digestive diseases)
  • overfeeding and undernourishment
  • A lifeway of mass slow suicide

I could go on. No doubt, you could extend the list yourself. Perhaps you have also wept over the world’s desperate madness. Perhaps you have wept over your own.

Calling something crazy usually halts further consideration and conversation. After all, “you can’t fix crazy.” So what good does it do to think about it? Is it even craziness? Or is it just human nature? Is it what we have been pleased to call the human condition? That is what most religions and philosophies say. Nothing overcomes nature. So they render themselves helpless by their own pronouncements. Also, they excuse themselves.

Conventional psychology has failed to fix our craziness. And psychological reformers have proven ineffective. They consign their tough cases to psychiatry, surrendering to its cult of drug worship. It is the medical application to the soul of our culture’s mythos of original sin. In other words, debilitation, incompetence, failure, and suffering are human nature.

We refuse further examination of causes. Mass psychosis is the biggest elephant in our room.

I submit, we are actually crazy.

But we weren’t always. Something went terribly wrong and here we are. Happily, we are alive. Therefore we are self-healing. So somehow we can recover.

What would we recover? For starters: common sense, memory, and honesty. Joy and empathy. Vigor and grace. Much more awaits us. When thinking, feeling, and moving centers of intelligence function again—and in harmony with each other—life improves to a degree known only in legend.4

Harmonious function will come from re-engagement with the other basic plane of reality: timespace. Some cutting edge scientists call it this because it mirrors spacetime. Timespace has three choosable dimensions of time—past, present, future—and one, unchoosable dimension of space. That is, one location per moment in time.5 Australian Aboriginals call it dreamtime.

They access it at will for daily living. It is how they could track someone 100 miles through the desert a year later with only a scrap of his clothing. Or go out to meet a scarce deer in the middle of nowhere and bring it back for food.

Kogi Indians call it the aluna. It is how they talk to people on the other side of the world without telephones. It is how spiritual adepts famously know things they have no common way of knowing. And how mothers know things about their children at great distances.

Dreamtime is engaged primarily through the feeling center of intelligence, not the senses. This is intuition. With psychic integrity, it can be just as precise and accessible as the eyes aided by microscope or telescope, or a camera on a drone.

The feeling center, being more fragile than the sensorium and less aggressive than intellect, rarely works well among us civilized people. So, to scientific materialists, dreamtime doesn’t exist. They dismiss it out of hand despite millennia of evidence. Which even most civilized people have some of.

Knowing someone specific is about to call is common. Such strange experiences stick in one’s mind, unexplained for decades like personal X-files. Talk about this stuff in conventional settings, and others will call you crazy. Rest in darkness long enough, and access to it reopens and promises to return permanently.

I will not dwell on something that is so unusual that you must see it for yourself, as you will in darkness. But this vast and rich side of life that we largely miss must cease going unremarked in psychology and hygiene. Doing so is stupid and embarrassing. The academy ignores the two other (greater) bodies of human knowledge: the spiritual and the indigenous. We will not.

By my rough estimation, we are currently functioning at 2% of capacity. In other words, things with us are as bad as they can get while still allowing us to raise children to reproductive age. To embellish the idea: at 1%, you’re insane; at 0%, dead. In the opposite direction, at 3%, you’re a local hero; 4%, famous; 5%, an international star; 10%, a genius; 20%, a saint; and 30-40%, a messiah.

The greatest people in our history had to lower their level of functioning from a normal 90-100% just so we could bear their presence. But what did each of them say, one way or another? All this and more ye shall do. This is our task. The first person to raise from the dead is oneself.

The hygienic view of health and sanity is the brain of this approach. Dark retreating is the gut—the action. The testimony of mass functional psychosis is its broken heart. My essay online, psychosis, written in the heat of insight, conveys it purely and forcefully.


Psychopaths, narcissists, and Machiavellians—those in the Dark Triad—embody the ultimate psychological problem: evil. No psychology is complete without an explanation and solution for it.

First, I’ll address consequences. Only the restful use of darkness has helped me begin recovering from my encounters with psychopaths. I have no doubt it will help others similarly injured, whether by bullies, coworkers, or torturers. Be assured: the torment and nightmares can end.

I believe psychopaths could find decisive help in darkness, too. They weren’t all abused as children. The brainscans of primary psychopaths show a consistent, marked difference from those of normal people. They inherited damaged genes. But the underlying pattern of health remains. They could heal.

Some grasp their situation and express a wish to reverse it. Their best chance of success lies in the hygienic use of darkness. They and their helpers must approach it with care and thoroughness, as with the severely psychotic.

Others I have met have been the most aggressive in resisting it. They know the process would expose their wicked strategies. They are terrified. They feel they are in too deep to turn back. They will only be moved by the radiant, living power of fully restored people. Until then, they remain dangerous (see security).

Evil is the acid test of any solution. When our presence becomes compelling enough to draw members of the Dark Triad back into the fold of man, our victory will be complete.


Pathology is the study of illness, especially its etiology: the chain of cause and effect that leads to symptoms.

Hygiene is radical because it deals in first causes. It begins by observing that radiant, euphoric health is the normal state of organisms under normal conditions. Life itself started out in integrity and health. Nature cannot generate a diseased species. Disease only occurs when something goes wrong with conditions. It means harmful conditions are present and beneficial ones are absent or in disproportion.

This gives hygiene a rational standard for evaluating conditions proposed as beneficial for handling disease. Hygiene asks, what normal relationship to life does this condition have? Is it part of the natural, instinctive course of things? Did its absence cause the disease in the first place? If not, then its presence won’t correct matters and we can dismiss the proposal.

In the case of using darkness to heal from psychic illness, well, once upon a time, we did lack the shelter we instinctively sought in order to heal from whatever traumatized us. We got hurt but got no chance to heal. Resting in a darkroom finally addresses this little-noticed intermediate cause of ongoing suffering and illness.

Why were we deprived? One way or another, our parents, our source of shelter, were also the source of our trauma. Busy inflicting the one, they could not very well provide the other.

It is the absolute worst, most taboo, most terrible truth we all know and spend most of our lives avoiding. But in hygiene, we don’t care about taboos. We only care about the truth. “Though the heavens fall, let us have the truth,” said Shelton.

Of course, our parents suffered similar trauma at the hands of their parents. It rendered them incapable of providing us such shelter. It compelled their antipathy toward us. They denied us rest just as they denied their own need for rest, just as their parents conditioned them to, just as their parents were equally traumatized, denied, and conditioned, going back 400 generations.

On this level, everyone is innocent.

However, everyone exists on many levels, not just such abstract and eternal ones. On a concrete and immediate level, all parents remain 100% responsible for what they did and did not do to children in their care. Only by viewing parents as responsible can we become responsible parents ourselves. Otherwise the double burden is too much. Those who shield their parents from justice, even in secret, will unload the injustice they suffered upon their own children. It is an iron law of parenting.

Major trauma injures, shocks, and disorients everyone concerned. One gets lost in the slow-motion nightmare of its infliction. Who deals the wound and who sustains it? Who was helpless and who was at fault? Of course grown-ups start it with kids. But kids feel it is their fault. Lines blur and before they know it, kids have become their parents and the cycle begins again.

How did the snowball of trauma begin?

People reproduce to continue themselves. Thus sane people do not hurt their children. Man had to have started off alright. The self-correcting instinct of healthy animals is too strong to violate by will or persist in by accident. Life pulls us back onto the right track no less than other animals—when we’re healthy. Which means psychophysically intact.

The trauma had to have originated externally. It had to be huge to knock so many of us so far off course and hurt us so badly that we could not get back or even believe we could.

Major trauma to an individual or one group would not be enough to do this. Others would help them—or finish them off—or at least carry on. We must think bigger.

The psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky turned his eye to archeology and comparative mythology. He found the mindboggling scale of our emergency. A global cataclysm in geologically recent time started it. It wrecked everything in one stroke for entire continents of peoples.

The Bible mentions a flood. Much evidence points to one about 12,900 years ago6. Or perhaps multiple super-volcanoes resulted from a seismic shift from celestial influences. Or a pole-shift made earthquakes and tsunamis sweep across continents. Or a comet struck. Or gods made war in the sky. Or aliens invaded. Whatever happened, the result was cataclysmic trauma.

Cataclysmic trauma is comprehensive. It kills many people and most elders, who would best manage things. It injures all the rest. Neighbors cannot help. Everyone everywhere is suddenly in the same dire straits.

Infrastructure is lost: shelter, food, water, habitat. The landscape shifts and becomes dangerous. Climate changes. A lifeway’s entire basis is wiped out, including the means of day-to-day survival.

Going into caves to rest and heal is common among undomesticated people and animals. But even if survivors know to do it and a cave remains accessible, too many people need it for longer than it is comfortable. All the supportive systems outside it are gone. People have no chance to heal. They only have what is left inside them.

The young tend to survive. They had less psychic stability to begin with and less wisdom to temper the damage with. Life, which had been abundant, pleasant, and easy, becomes a permanent, grim battle to survive.

Such a disaster causes psychic trauma and malfunction in nearly everyone. Mass psychosis begins.

In this barren hell, where can people find comfort? In each others’ arms, of course. Willed birth control, common among indigenous people, is lost with many other subtle capacities. Babies start arriving randomly. Cataclysmic trauma starts its terrible transmission through the generations.

Trauma changes form but keeps its intensity. Society rearranges itself into civilization to absorb the cosmic blow. In some ways, it becomes (psycho)pathocratic. In others, it finds less harmful ways to distribute the shock. Complex trauma results. As horrible as it is, it is still better than would otherwise be the case. When pressure builds up, we make a war or other artificial disaster.

Technology compensates for lost capacity. Quietly, life keeps generating seekers to find out the truth of what is happening. Clue by clue, understanding is assembled over hundreds of generations. At last, the truth dawns.

What if we are the butt of a bad cosmic joke? If so, then our wars, big and small, are pointless. No one started the root conflict. No one need be punished. Everyone is essentially innocent. Everyone is free to walk away and heal.

Trauma from such a large-scale event is unavoidable. It is natural. Trying to prevent it is futile. Hope lies in having a way to recover from it.78

hygienic psychology

In light of the essence of hygiene, conditional self-preservation; the restful use of darkness; and the cataclysmic origin of disease, a hygienic psychology can now be outlined:

  1. As organisms, we start out in health: in joy, power, and genius.
  2. Early major psychic trauma from civilization’s routine brutality (originating in ancient cataclysm) leaves us damaged, malfunctioning, and suffering.
  3. The psyche, as an organic system, is self-healing, provided the proper conditions.
  4. The primary condition of healing is profound rest.
  5. Rest that is profound enough for healing from major trauma occurs in total darkness.
  6. By hygienic dark retreating, we gain relief, rest, and recovery of health and its attributes.

Hygiene upholds basic findings of psychology from several traditions. Hygiene merely declines psychology’s conscious over-involvement in the unconscious. Only the unconscious is competent to direct self-healing. It only needs support of the conscious.

The conscious is helpless to fix the damage. We are correct in believing we have a problem and need to do something about it. We have been disastrously incorrect about which part of the self has to do it.9


Focusing on profound psychic rest in absolute darkness is new in hygiene. Due to its naive pathology, it has focused on the profound physiological rest of fasting. Fasting has been hygiene’s ultimate means of dealing with serious illness.

At most, hygienists have recommended keeping curtains and eyes closed during fasts. This reduces the significant work of sensory processing of vision10.

A dark retreat embodies this principle fully. It provides the energy and, frankly, the psychic security of food. Then the underlying psychic system necessary for comfortable long fasts can repair itself.

In other words, the psychic system is more fundamental than the digestive and eliminative systems. Dark retreating is thus more urgently needed than fasting in most cases.

Furthermore, dark retreating is safer to begin with than fasting. In darkness, awareness of internal sensations and their meanings becomes clear and fine-grained. Motivation to learn hygiene grows.

Fasting requires psychic integrity, self-knowledge, and a thorough grasp of hygiene in general and fasting in particular. Thus hygienic dark retreating will open the door to unsupervised long fasts on a wide scale.

Professional hygienic fasting supervisors attempt to substitute themselves for these prerequisites of fasting. Or they teach them in the usual slow, incomplete way. Consequently, only hundreds of people fast per year in a good way, not the billions who need to. Only a few decent fasting retreat centers exist.

Hygienic dark retreating recontexualizes fasting. Supervisors become supporters, trainers, and remote consultants. Retreating in darkness themselves, they will regain the capacity to operate at a global scale, not just with the lucky few.


Dark retreating is like fasting. The process is quiet and gradual. Usually, one knows that something is happening, but not what. It’s like the subterranean rumbling of a subway.

Sometimes, one must participate consciously in the process. One finds out why his life has gone wrong. One sees what part of his thinking and behavior must change.

In any case, one always knows the result: restoration of function. It is the recovery of a lost part of self. Confidence, contentedness, presence, and euphoria naturally accompany it. Hygienic dark retreating reveals the marvelous self-healing power of the organism under proper conditions.

For those who have suffered for years and failed with other approaches, the process is nothing less than miraculous. It is typical with hygiene. Time in darkness shows that if one wants a miracle, one need only provide its conditions.

And then? Healed from trauma, one will no longer be compelled to repeat it. One will absorb and redeem its history and consequences. One heals retroactively. One not only feels good now. All the years of agony somehow turn to joy. It is strange to write this to you, probably stranger for you to read it without the experience. But there you have it. That is what happens.

The organism in darkness becomes like a time machine for returning to the present. Or a space ship for traveling to Earth. Or, as in ancient legends, the:

  • Fountain of Youth, for restoring supreme health
  • Garden of Eden, where one feels at home
  • Golden Fleece, by which one regains natural personal power
  • Holy Grail, source of joy and wisdom
  • Panacea11, genius for solving all problems
  • Philosopher’s Stone, key to the infinite wealth of nature

Typical of hygiene, the bad news of hygienic psychology is far worse than anyone imagined, and its good news, far better.


In this book, we have seen four significant developments in hygiene:

  1. the maturation of hygiene’s laws
  2. the emergence of a hygienic psychology
  3. the radicalization of hygienic pathology by the identification of trauma as the root of all illness
  4. the greater importance of dark retreats than fasting for resting and healing

These have massive implications for hygiene’s destiny, and mankind’s as well.

Hygiene has said illness originates with enervation (exhaustion) and toxemia (poisoning). Its new pathology explains how these conditions themselves originate in trauma. In gaining the ability to deal with trauma, hygiene can finally obsolete allopathy (medicine) in its stronghold.

I discuss these implications further in hygiene notes. I am only saying enough here to give you a solid basis for beginning with hygienic dark retreating. If it makes sense to you and you like what happens, further study is natural. For a thorough introduction to hygiene’s principles, practices, and intriguing history, read Shelton’s Science and Fine Art of Natural Hygiene*.


  1. Sometimes, doctors go on strike. Life expectancy increases overnight by 9 years. It falls again the day the strike ends. See Dr Robert S Mendelsohn, Confessions of a Medical Heretic for this and other amusing facts about medicine. See also Medical Myths 

  2. Joseph Chilton Pearce, Evolution’s End 

  3. This explains the unconscious motivation behind the macabre fascination with genetics. This negligible and corrupt quasi-science is shot through with self-hatred, disgust for life, and mechanistic control-freakishness. Fortunately, there is a way to heal from the traumatic origins of these pathological states. Then we could go back to leaving genetics to genes and the normal attraction to beauty and strength. 

  4. Joseph Chilton Pearce in Magical Child Matures, George Gurdjieff in In Search of the Miraculous, and Da Free John in The Eating Gorilla Comes in Peace discuss the triune nature of man’s intelligence. Also see the glossary for my overview of the psyche’s nature, qualities, and functioning. 

  5. “Enigma 2012”, a lecture on video by David Wilcock 

  6. Ancient Apocalypse, Graham Hancock. Search YouTube for his riveting presentations. 

  7. This echoes one of Gurdjieff’s main points: that a proper psychology and method of living will enable people to deal with life’s inevitable shocks. See In Search of the Miraculous*. 

  8. See my longer essay, catastrophe

  9. Psychologists Michael Meade and James Hillman say it all with the title of their 1993 book, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy—And the World’s Getting Worse

  10. Bernarr Zovluck, Alternative Healing: What Nobody Understands. Frederic Patenaude met this Los Angeles hygienist and mentioned him and his advice to me. His comment would help me connect darkness with hygiene a decade later. 

  11. Panacea is, in Greek legend, the sister of Hygieia. 

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