hygienic darkroom retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

hygienic darkroom retreat

profound rest for the self-healing psyche
by Andrew Durham

–front matter & first 3 chapters


Have you sought an end to your suffering? Your search is over.

relief, recovery, healing

A hygienic darkroom retreat consists of extended rest in a totally dark room. One is alone, with supporters nearby. There is food. The room is quiet, comfortable, and well-ventilated.

Why do this? For:

  • relief from distress and overstimulation
  • recovery from exhaustion and depression
  • healing from trauma and disease

This is a complete manual, with theory, protocol, and design. It explains why retreating works and how to do it. It includes drawings and instructions for beginning at home.

toward a hygienic psychology

Neither spiritual, therapeutic, nor psychedelic, this is the first approach to darkness based on hygiene. Hygiene is the science of health, a branch of biology. It respects life’s self-preserving nature. It identifies life’s normal conditions: air, warmth, work, relationship, cleanliness, etc.

Hygiene started in 1832 and spread worldwide. The 19th century’s famous improvements in public health resulted. Its rudiments became common sense. Billions who never see doctors benefit from hygiene daily. But few know it formally—or its greatest benefits.

In darkness, hygiene finds its missing link: a psychology. Now hygiene can extend its superlative care of the physique to the organic system of the psyche. This proves to be the key to health. The result: reliable miracles.


This book is best read front to back, word upon word. It presents the idea immediately in brief, then in increasing detail. Each paragraph builds upon the last.

It is an integrated whole. Every word contributes to understanding, including the blurb, dedication, etc.

This book has links. On the web, they are colored. In the ebook and print, they look like this:

  • external links to other webpages
  • internal links to other parts of this book. Chapter and section indicated in print version.
  • books, downloadable

It is best read on paper or e-paper. The color, backlit, LCD screens of computers, tablets, and phones disrupt concentration. I recommend any of the 6” or 8” devices by established Western companies for reading. The Dasung 13.3” monitor seems best for typing.

get latest version


This book results from a long inquiry into the cause of joy.

At 15, from nowhere, great joy overcame me. It lasted three intoxicating months. It felt normal. So why did it disappear? The need to solve this mystery gripped me.

After 21 years of investigation, I did. Others had discovered the destroyer of joy: major trauma. I discovered the essential condition nature provides us to heal from it: darkness. More than a decade of testing, refinement, and documentation followed.

Briefly, joy is a function of being alive, not effort. Lack of joy indicates a damaged system, not moral failure. Given darkness and other conditions of profound rest, this damage heals by itself, and joy returns.

It’s that simple. For 13,000 years, we have been but weeks away from the return to happiness, health, and peace.

Effort is the smug panacea of our way of life. It gives false and fleeting results. With the will, one can do nothing directly to restore joy. One can only provide proper conditions. The organism does the rest autonomically.

We civilized people have been right that something is terribly wrong with ourselves. We have been right that we must do something about it. But we have been wrong about which part of ourselves must do it. At long last, this book puts the issue to rest.


When I first retreated in darkness, I just did it to rest. It worked. After 56 hours, I had caught up on all the sleep I had ever lost. For the first time in decades, I felt awake. I was stunned.

Two years later, the same thing happened. In addition, I felt assured. Calmed. Well in my soul.

This sense of psychic health stayed with me for months. But how, after a lifetime of depression, alienation, and anxiety?

From hygiene, I vaguely remembered two principles:

  • the self-healing nature of life
  • rest as the primary condition of healing

The onset of middle age daily exposed the organic nature of my psyche. One morning in a dream, these clues fused in a conception of the restful use of darkness in support of the self-healing psyche.

I began testing this idea in more darkroom retreats. As predicted, lethal psychic issues that had tortured me for a lifetime began resolving themselves spontaneously. In 11 years and 27 retreats, I have seen no sign of an end to this process—short of full recovery of psychophysical integrity.

Now I feel confident about what I have learned: what happens in darkness and why; how to retreat and what for. And I can only go further in this by sharing this approach. It needs more participation, resources, and velocity.

Hygienic darkroom retreating requires minimal effort and no faith. Darkness is not a void, but a sanctuary. It is not the absence of light, but the presence of the self. It is yours.


Europe, 2020


In civilization, we are:

  • over-stimulated and distressed. We need relief.
  • exhausted. We need rest.
  • hurt and sick. We need recovery.

How? By hygienic darkroom retreating: profound rest for the self-healing organism. It is a rational method of switching off the world, with its noise and demands. One takes refuge in the deep self, supporting it in healing itself by itself. This book is the complete manual for understanding and doing it.


how it works
  1. The psyche, as an organic system, is self-healing.
  2. The primary condition of healing is profound rest.
  3. The most profound psychic rest occurs in extended total darkness as a physiological response

Because the process of healing is automatic, it is foolproof. The psyche needs darkness for rest like lungs need air for breathing and eyes need light for seeing. It knows no substitute. Healing happens involuntarily—by itself—when we voluntarily provide ourselves sufficient conditions of rest. This is fully developed in hygiene > secret. It is contextualized in
psychology > hygienic psychology.

Through abstract theory and concrete practice, this book tells how to provide all the conditions of rest in perfect proportion. Most importantly, it introduces the passive, hygienic attitude toward healing. Merely knowing it opens the door to super-intensified healing, ie, miracles. When you are ready, you can walk through it.

The book reveals what healing requires in detail. It inspires you to heal and to support others in doing so. It includes designs for darkroom components. Their precision enables even amateur craftsmen to get them right.

1 - the science of health, a branch of biology
2 - caring for health by respecting life’s self-preserving nature and providing its normal conditions.
3 - hygienism; Natural Hygiene
Natural Hygiene
the two-century-old school of health that exemplifies and champions hygiene
what is biologically appropriate (not merely usual or average)
the faculty of consciousness, specifically of man, including:
  • forms of intelligence and associations
    • moving: sensation / physical / instinctive / gut / reptilian
    • feeling: perception / emotional / intuitive / heart / mammalian
    • thinking: conception / mental / intellectual / brain / rational
  • parts (used as both adjectives and nouns)
    • unconscious: coordinates processes fundamental to existence like metabolism, cell division, and blood oxygen levels. It cannot become conscious or directly controlled except, to an insignificant degree, through intense yogic practices, techniques like hypnosis or biofeedback, or psychoactive substances. Synonyms: autonomic, involuntary
    • subconscious: acquired automatized knowledge, which can be made conscious, like walking, emotional associations, cognizing words, and dreaming
    • conscious: ordinary waking awareness, as when reading this book or running an errand. Primarily used to direct attention. Synonyms: will or volition
  • scales
    • cells
    • tissue
    • organs
    • systems
    • the organism as a whole
of or relating to the psyche in general (not occult powers).
    For example, I refer to psychic illness rather than “mental” illness. Psychology is not just the study of the mind, but the psyche: the entire faculty of human consciousness. This includes emotional and physical aspects not reducible to the mental one.
a way of life; everything that happens with people in a given group in the course of living.
    I once used the word, culture, for this. Then John Zerzan explained to me that culture is recent: an aspect of civilization. I wanted a single word which would include all approaches to human existence. Lifeway is a compressed term for “way of life” common in anthropology.

I don’t use neologisms. I don’t use words in any special sense. Virtually any dictionary will clear up confusion you may have while reading. Read through the senses and the etymology as well.

My usage is sometimes unusual. I take pains to recover the original or essential meanings of words by digging into etymology and historical usage. Manipulation by elites and sloppy popular use constantly degrades the true senses of high-level abstractions. Words become corrupt or acquire unfortunate associations. Language is artificial and must be maintained.

I consider this half the job of intellectuals. The Oxford English Dictionary exemplifies this effort. Editions of American Heritage Dictionary and Webster’s from before 1970 are excellent. Beware of newer lexicology. It is both better and worse than ever due to extreme divergence of philosophical influences.


To retreat, one needs three things: knowledge, materials, and support.

  • knowledge:
    • of hygienic theory
    • of practice of hygienic darkroom retreating
    • of hygienic attitude
  • materials - darkroom - personal belongings - food - time
  • support
    • hygiene is the basis on which sick people can help each other without making things worse
    • our problem is social. It is solved with increasing degrees of cooperation as we become more capable of doing so

Meet these requirements by reading this book, preparing for a retreat, and retreating. Your first retreats are gratifying warm-ups. You will get relief, sleep, and healing like you never thought possible. And you will get better at it. This prepares you for the ultra-effective medium and long retreats.


A darkroom is a bedroom, suite, or house that is perfectly dark. Sealing a room like this often requires additional ventilation measures. A darkroom can be basic or deluxe. To summarize the practical point of this book, I advocate arranging basic darkness in your bedroom now, deluxe darkness in a remote location later.

Basic darkness means perfectly dark, well-ventilated, reasonably quiet, and comfortable. This provides: darkness for nightly sleep; a place to familiarize yourself with extended darkness at your own pace; and a place for your first short retreats.

Deluxe darkness adds extra features, comforts, and space. A dedicated darkroom is built in a small fully functional house in a quiet location. Like all houses should be but are not, it is perfectly and easily darkened. More in design.



Darkness is instinctive. We sleep in it at night and nap in shadows. We use our hands to cover our eyes when overwhelmed. When injured or sick, we take longer refuge in caves and shelters. We and many other animals always have.

Absolute darkness is natural. Our natural habitat is tropical forest. At night its floor is pitch black.


Spiritual traditions have used darkness for millennia. They tend to view it as the ultimate environment for self-discipline and gaining unusual knowledge. Egyptians and Maya have used it in pyramids; Christians in catacombs; Sufis and Taoists in caves; Tibetan Buddhists in cells of monasteries.

Indigenous traditions do likewise: Amazonian shamanism uses darkness in ayahuasca ceremony. Welsh shamans and Navajo, Maya, and Kogi Indians build special dark structures. They hold darkness in high regard as essential to self-discovery. They also use caves for healing.

Western science has studied sensory destimulation since the 1950s for astronautics, health, and mind-control. Ayurveda, India’s ancient healing tradition, uses extended periods of darkness for rejuvenation. By reports, a darkroom retreat is nothing less than the fountain of youth.

Unfortunately, the partially or completely active nature of these approaches to darkroom retreating compromises them. This means they depend on an active will, the faculty most in need of rest. Hygiene is passive, allowing the distressed will to finally rest and recover. Hygiene primarily depends on the autonomic self—omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible—to accomplish the work of healing. This removes structural conflict in the method, promising limitless results.

Hygiene completely secularizes the use of darkness for the specific purpose of healing. There is nothing mystical, disciplined, or complicated about this approach. It is rational, safe, and natural: a reliable miracle.


Medicine led us to believe hygiene is just cleanliness (see hygiene > history. In fact, hygiene deals with all aspects of health. Any good dictionary proves this. Hygiene is broad and deep.

We know the word today because of Natural Hygiene. This is a radical school of natural health originating in America in 1832. It led the global natural health movement of the 19th century. Hygiene respects the self-preserving nature of life. It observes that organisms both maintain and recover health under normal conditions of life. So it studies organic self-preservation and how to provide its conditions.

Normal conditions of life include fresh air, sunlight, natural food, work, friendship, and cleanliness by regular bathing. Hygiene taught the modern world the enormous benefits of these simple, free, natural, pleasant influences. This significantly raised health standards worldwide. Its motto is “Health through healthful living”. It has only lacked a psychology and an appreciation for trauma as the cause of all illness; this book corrects that.

Hygiene identifies disease as the process of healing. Disease is the normal organic activity of repair, elimination, and re-energizing, but distressed by abnormal conditions. Thus, disease is not an invading entity to be fought. It is a beneficial process to support by restoring healthy conditions and practices. It is a set of clues to precisely guide this caregiving. %%%% The fundamentals of hygiene help us reconnect with our own common sense about healing. They guide us past incorrect assumptions we likely have about it. First, learn these absolute basics. Then you can learn the concrete details of a darkroom retreat and approach it with confidence. Moreover, hygiene provides guidance in all aspects of healthful living.


My parents had taught me the importance of eating well through their interest in natural diet. When I was 9 years old, I got sick and realized it was from the junk food I had eaten the day before. Diet became my religion for 30 years.

Natural Hygiene came knocking three times. The first time was in 1989 through my dad’s second wife, Jennifer Justice, also a truthseeker. Among her fascinating books I found the ecstatic Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. Again in 1992 through a great friend, Sterling Voss. In the greatest letter anyone ever wrote me, he told me about Fasting Can Save Your Life by Herbert Shelton, hygiene’s systematizer. Finally, in 2001, through friend and colleague, Frederic Patenaude. He was the editor of Just Eat An Apple magazine and author of The Raw Secrets. These publications were about the raw vegan diet.


I worked and was housemates with Frederic Patenaude a total of three years off and on from 1998 till 2003. We worked at Nature’s First Law in California; Tree of Life in Arizona; and at his new office in Quebec. Frederic had started in hygiene not with the works of Herbert Shelton, but the old French hygienic master, Albert Mosseri. Frederic read all his 20+ books and was in contact with him till his death in 2012.

Slowly, I absorbed the essence of Natural Hygiene’s radical perspective through Frederic. By this, I mean he got it through my thick skull with his calm, relentless, crystalline arguments. I was challenging but sympathetic, so I kept asking and he kept answering. It took time because I started out quite lost. A mess of alternative dietary ideas floated around my head since childhood. Something finally clicked and I started studying hygiene on my own.

Frederic’s dedication and great knowledge made him immovable where I was merely stubborn. I can only hope to return the favor with the current work. It illuminates certain mysteries of diet that frustrated us. Like why some people can stick with eating healthy food and others can’t (see hygiene > capacity). And the greater mystery of metaphysical suffering that we, like so many others, failed to solve with diet.


I first heard about darkroom retreating in 2004 from my former guru, Purna Steinitz. An American Hindu, he had heard about its use in Ayurveda. He told me, “Apparently, after a few weeks of it, one comes out completely renewed.” I found the idea very strange. A budding hygienist and attracted to spirituality’s Apollonian upper world, I thought we needed light. But like a lot of earthy things Purna said, the idea of renewal in darkness stayed with me.

A year later, I moved to an ecovillage in Oregon. I met the village maintenance man. I’ll call him Harold. He actually had a darkroom.

He had inspired the village’s youth to try retreats. After listening to him about it that winter, I did, too.


But as Harold liked to say, I was just getting started. It would take two more years, the shock of leaving my guru, and another successful retreat for me to grasp the significance of retreating in darkness.


How did all this begin?

My parents were thinkers and somewhat unconventional. They taught me about philosophy, health, design, and music. I took all of it more seriously than they expected. They were distant. My intense older brother became as big a force in my life as they. For me, our house was more training camp than home. Other influences and people helped smooth it out.

I felt awed by life at 2, happy at 3. School started and a part of me died. About halfway through, I read The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. It impressed me. Later came Do You Really Need Eyeglasses?, which introduced me to palming. My father’s hero, Frank Lloyd Wright, showed me a future without school.

By age 15, I felt morose and alienated. But something from childhood was stirring in me. One day, I was slumped in front of the TV. One of the tiny people living inside it mentioned the importance of loving oneself and being happy. The timing was perfect. My mood was like the Death Star and this advice was Luke Skywalker’s photon torpedo.

In a moment, I was overcome by rapture: sublime joy in apprehending our perfect, beautiful universe. I had felt it at 3 and 4 years old. Now it was bigger. This perspective and feeling lasted three months. When they faded, so did my previous interests. More than anything, I wanted to understand the cause of joy. I wanted it back.

I finished high school. Barely. I started living out of a backpack. For 21 years, I independently investigated this mystery. I experimented with the elements of my legacy: philosophy, health, and design. Toward the end of this period, I did my first darkroom retreats. Soon after, in late 2008, the answer came:

A slight increase of vital energy from adolescence had caused a temporary, partial restoration of my damaged psychic integrity, revealing an enrapturing universe. So a massive increase from profound rest in darkness would cause permanent and complete restoration.

With this breakthrough, my search ended. Testing of my discovery began. I and 28 clients have tried it. Their results echoed my early ones.

Over the course of my 25 retreats of 2–7 days, noticeable restoration of my psychic integrity and function has occurred. My body’s scent has improved. I regained some access to my long-buried sexuality. From one retreat, I woke up feeling like an adult for the first time in 41 years; this feeling has not changed. Alongside my childish panic in the face of challenges, an adult now thinks through them. In retreat, symptoms of fibro-myalgia dissipate. Flexibility returns. I wake up just knowing things that have always mystified me and feeling resolved about issues that have frustrated me for decades. Insomnia, exhaustion, and suicidal thoughts and feelings evaporate. Clarity, energy, relaxedness, even joy return for weeks at a time. Basic functioning lasts two months. All these came to me after going years at a time without them.

Besides this supporting evidence, no data contradicting the basic idea has yet emerged. Interest in darkness is growing worldwide. I met an internationally recognized psychology professor with decades of experience as a flotation researcher. She unqualifiedly agrees with my theory and wants to do research with my exact method. Wherever I go, people are as struck as I am by the simple logic of this idea and want to try a retreat.



This book is for:

  • normal people: busy, functional, reasonable, positive people who know there is more to life than the Program, but only have evenings, weekends and vacations in which to explore it.
  • those who suffer in any way—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, ecologically—and need hope and a way out
  • self-experimenters and self-explorers who don’t suffer terribly but feel yearning, curiosity, wonder, or a wish to find their next steps.
  • those who wish to understand why humanity is in such rough shape and what to do about it
  • those who appreciate good arguments and reasonable tests thereof
  • those who sense hygiene’s unrealized potential

Darkroom retreating is for anyone to whom it makes sense and who feels moved to do it, whether to heal from acute illness or just see what it’s like. Physical illness is originates or is anchored in psychic trauma. It is amenable to self-healing in darkness.

However, darkness is no escape. Sometimes illness needs to be addressed in obvious and more pressing ways first. Hygiene will help with them. But learning about about hygiene through darkroom retreating reveals its scope like nothing else. It helps one understand the basic processes of health in a complete context of body and soul. It shows where one is in the process of healing. It offers encouragement and hope. It helps puts things in perspective. And acquaintance with hygienic principles is invaluable to healing from any illness.

how to use this book

Above all, this book presents an idea for consideration. For now, doing a retreat is not at issue. To do something like this, you must know how and you must want to. To want to, you must believe in it. To believe, you must know enough about it to find it true. So first, learn the idea. Natural motivation comes from rational belief. Invest your time in knowledge by reading every word of this book, cover to cover.

Once you are motivated, use the book as a manual for making basic darkness for yourself at your own place. Download the companion darkroom retreat zip file to get all the plans for components.

Help from others may or may not come. You are the one you have been waiting for. The need for self-reliance applies to darkness more than anything else I’ve ever been involved with. It has been hard for me to recover enough of a self to rely on, to ferret out remnants of it I didn’t know I had. But bit by bit, “a little here, a little there”, the task is being accomplished.

The full application of the idea of hygienic darkroom retreating consists of doing retreats of increasing length alternated with periods of making the radical changes in lifeway one becomes capable of in darkness. This includes studying and applying the rest of hygiene. Continue until your psychic integrity and physical health are completely restored. Live.


Chapters are mostly practical with a dose of theory to start with.

  1. hygiene: the general theory underlying the restful use of darkness
  2. darkroom retreat: the inner workings of profound rest
  3. psychology: the further radicalization of hygiene
  4. format: ways to use darkness in retreats and daily life
  5. protocol: what to do in a retreat
  6. prepare: orientation, menu, packing list
  7. design: darkroom specifications
  8. make: general descriptions, plans, and instructions for building darkrooms
  9. air: ventilating, silencing, and heating a darkroom
  10. darkness: refined darkening techniques
  11. water: simple kitchens and bathrooms for darkrooms


  • faq: frequently asked questions
  • bibliography and influences
  • acknowledgments, services, license, bio

Note: underlined words in paper book are clickable links in the e-book and online. When italicized, they are crosslinks to other chapters and sections of the book. Usually, the link text indicates the link target, like this:
chapter > section > sub-section.

This book is online at leanpub.com/darkroomretreat/read and my website, darkroomretreat.com. There, you can also read:


Thanks for reading. Please copy and give out this free book as much as you please. See license for more options.

If you have comments or corrections, email me or open an issue at github. This is free content and an open source project contained in a public code repository. If you know distributed version control, fork the project, and submit a pull request.

In addition to this book, I can assist you by email, skype, and in person. See services for details.

I continually update this book. Especially before building, download the latest version of the book and review relevant sections for new plans.


Now on to how darkness completes the life-restoring perspective of hygiene.

1 - hygiene

Hygiene is the science of health. It is also a practical system for daily life and healing. It is based on respect for the self-preserving nature of life and the normal conditions of life. More than mere cleanliness, hygiene is a 190 year-old, globally embedded health care system. We hardly discuss it. It’s just how things are done. Everyone knows its basics. Its depths strike newcomers as oddly familiar.

Hygiene contextualizes the restful use of darkness in support of the self-healing psyche. Hygiene enables us to understand what darkness is. It shows us how to relate to it for the purpose of health.

Which is the point. We are organisms, so our purpose is to live. To live fully, we need health.

What is health like according to hygiene?

“Health does not consist merely of the absence of symptoms of illness. It is a state of positive well-being that is evidenced by a constant state of euphoria. It is rarely, if ever, experienced by humans today.”
–Herbert Shelton, father of modern hygiene1

Euphoria is the sign of lost function that my adolescent rapture hinted at. Once tasted, nothing else will do. What conditions would make it possible? Identifying and providing conditions is hygiene’s forte. It accomplishes this by making observations of life in nature along certain lines.

So we will learn these lines—these principles—in this chapter. It relates the theory of hygiene. The next chapter, darkroom retreat, relates the application of hygiene to darkness. In chapter 3, we head into the uncharted depths of hygienic `psychology.

I aim to do much for hygiene in this book:

  • systematize its laws
  • reform its pathology
  • give it a psychology

and thus renew it by radicalizing and completing it. This will:

  • inspire a new movement for greater health and freedom
  • finally eliminate the great parasite, medicine.
  • end our strange suffering and restore joy and peace in the world, once and for all.


Hygiene has three senses in its dictionary definition:

  1. the science of health; a branch of biology.
  2. conditions and practices conducive to the preservation of health
  3. cleanliness

I would like you to see this for yourself. Take a moment and look up the word, hygiene, in 3-4 dictionaries.

In common usage, the third sense strangely dominates. Hygiene is reduced to vigilant cleanliness against germs and the use of safety equipment to protect against a hostile environment. Why? We will get to that.

Meanwhile, the dictionary shows that hygiene includes all healthy conditions and practices. It is fearless and relaxed. It respects life’s resilience.

  • air, warmth, water, food, light & darkness, shelter
  • rest, work, poise, exercise, cleanliness
  • family & friends, camaraderie, affection, sex, love
  • freedom, peace, prosperity, habitat

The extent and organization of this list are somewhat arbitrary. It simply helps ground our discussion in biology. Which includes psychobiology and sociobiology.


This book mainly deals with the condition of rest. It is half of life. In our action-obsessed lifeway, we disdain and resist it. We view it as laziness, indulgence, a waste of time.

But rest is an end in itself. It is another equal aspect of living. Moreover, nothing else is possible without it, neither action nor healing. As Shelton says, “Time spent at rest is never wasted.” If we wish to be healthy, we simply must correct ourselves in this matter.

Rest is of two kinds: ordinary and profound.

Ordinary rest includes nightly sleep, naps, and relaxation, alternated with daily activity in light. It is for maintenance of health.

Profound rest is extended and under perfected conditions. It lasts days, weeks, even months. It is for recovery of health: for healing from major trauma and sickness. It is gained in four ways (in order of increasing depth):

  • solitude
  • silence
  • fasting
  • darkness

The benefits of profound rest accumulate day by day. If interrupted, some healing processes must start over. To heal from major trauma, a good night’s sleep is not enough, even several in a row. We must bring hygienic retreats into our lives to get the profound rest we need.


Hygiene originated at the peak of the Enlightenment in America, a gift of its Revolutionaries’ children. Hygiene became a mass movement in 1832 with the lectures of Sylvester Graham, physiologist and namesake of Graham (whole wheat) flour. Two doctors, Isaac Jennings and Russell Trall, amplified Graham’s efforts. Each had independently abandoned drugging. They further developed hygienic theory and practice. They spread hygiene widely with publications, teaching, and organization.

Florence Nightingale, perhaps more than anyone else, spread hygiene through nursing, before nursing was co-opted by medicine. Ellen G White imbued the Seventh Day Adventist Church with hygienic teaching. Adventists still live 10 years longer than non-Adventists under the same circumstances.

John Tilden buoyed hygiene with his innovations after the untimely death of Dr Trall. Herbert Shelton revived and systematized hygiene for the 20th century. He rechristened it, “Natural Hygiene”. He did this to strike the imagination, but also to distinguish it from medicine’s corruption of the word to mean mere cleanliness.

Many other bold men and women alike gave their lives to hygiene, touching tens of thousands and affecting hundreds of millions. To name a few: William Alcott, Emmet Densmore, Helen Densmore, Edward Dewey, Susanna Dodds, O S Fowler, Felix Oswald, Mary Gove, James Jackson, Edmond Moras, Thomas Nichols, Chas Page, Hermann Reinheimer, Harriet Shaw, Joel Shew, George Taylor, Robert Walter.

While other approaches to health emerged, hygiene was the most rational and radical of all. Thus it became the vanguard of the natural health movement of the 19th century. That century’s famous improvements in public health resulted.

Medicine, funded through Rockefeller’s pharmaceutical interests, opposed this progress every step of the way. But in psychopathic manner, it took credit for the successes it failed to prevent. Medicine made especial war on hygiene’s teachings, exponents, and institutions. It used propaganda, lobbying, and prosecution. It nearly destroyed hygiene. It covered its tracks by using hygiene’s emphasis on toxemia to reduce hygiene to the idea of cleanliness. Thus few know the real story.

Nonetheless, hygiene remains the most effective and influential approach to health and healing in world history. It now benefits nearly every person on the planet several times a day, whether he knows the word, hygiene, or not. Virtually everyone knows that fresh air, pure water, regular bathing and exercise, and nutritious food are matters of course in a healthy life.

With the advent of a hygienic psychology and the astounding self-healing power of the organism in darkness, hygiene’s influence will regain its former ascendency and increase to permanent dominance. To mark this turnaround, I am leaving behind the special name, Natural Hygiene, to reclaim the ordinary word, hygiene, for our tradition.

laws of life

Shelton describes hygiene as “the employment of materials, agents, and influences that have a normal relationship to life, in the preservation and restoration of health according to well-defined laws and demonstrated principles of nature.”2 These laws of life are the absolute heart of hygiene and thus a great key to understanding it.

I have grouped laws by subject and importance. Four primary laws form the context for the rest. I formulated two of them, Coordination and Capacity. I suppose that has not happened since Shelton or earlier.

I substantially edited the original list. See it in
appendix: laws of life), along with my criticisms of it. Titles in parentheses below refer to it.

Here are all the laws of life, the strongest dose of hygienism you can get.

  • Force: A force inherent in an organism, called lifeforce, sustains its structure and the instinct of self-preservation in its every cell, organ, and system. (Life’s Great Law)
  • Order: Life’s defining characteristics are its self-preserving nature and conditional existence. The constant practical aim of self-preservation is health, life’s natural state. Self-preserving means it is completely self-generating, self-maintaining (self-ordering, directing, and defending), and self-healing (self-repairing, cleaning, and energizing). From the outside, it needs only its original conditions: air, warmth, water, light and darkness, food, company, etc.
  • Coordination: The instinct of self-preservation coordinates living processes. Instinct is a basic form of consciousness. The faculty of consciousness is the psyche. Thus the psyche is the coordinating system of animals. It works mostly unconsciously (involuntarily). The voluntary conscious mostly serves to maintain conditions.
  • Capacity: Capacity determines function. Capacity is the degree of an organism’s structural integrity. Function is its physical, emotional, and mental ability to live. Capacity increases with rest and decreases with trauma. How one is determines what one can do—and benefit from.
  • Action: Whenever action occurs in an organism in response to external influences, the action must be ascribed to the living thing. It has the power of action, not the external thing, whose main characteristic is inertia. Much related to the laws of Power and Capacity.
  • Dual Effect: Every action and substance has a primary effect followed by an opposite and equal secondary effect.
  • Vital Accommodation: The organism accommodates itself to external influences it cannot use, control, or destroy. It distributes the force of acute harm, lowering overall health.
  • Proportion: The success of each organism is directly proportional to the amount of its life force and inversely proportional to the degree of its activity. (Life’s Great Law.)
  • Economy: An organism under favorable conditions stores excess vital energy and materials above the current expenditures as a “reserve fund” to be employed in time of special need. (Special Economy)
  • Compensation: When activity has expended the substance and energy of the body, rest is induced in order to replenish them.
  • Development: The development of an organism is directly proportional to the amount of vital forces and nutritive materials which are available to it, and limited by the factor in shortest supply. (integrates the law of the Minimum)
  • Power: The power used in any vital or medicinal action is vital power, that is, power from within and not from without.
  • Distribution: Distribution of power is proportionate to the importance and needs of the various organs and tissues of the body.
  • Limitation: When 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; the organism rebels against the further use of an accustomed stimulant.
  • Utilization: The normal materials of life are all that an organism is ever capable of constructively utilizing, whether it is well or sick. No substance or process that is not a normal factor in physiology can be of any value in the structure of an organism. That which is unusable in a state of health, is equally unusable in a state of illness.
  • Selection: When the quality of nutriment being received by an 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. (Quality Selection)
  • Elimination: All injurious substances which, by any means, gain admittance into an 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. (Selective Elimination)
  • Conservation: Whenever nutritive abstinence occurs, an organism’s reserves are conserved and economized. Living structures are autolyzed in the inverse order of their usefulness, while toxic substances are eliminated. This law refers to fasting; it applies to starvation as well.

The perfect sense of these laws exposes common myths of health. The laws affirm our deep sense of life’s correctness. They intrigue and inspire. They give grounds for hope. Consider yourself initiated into hygiene.

Elder hygienists have written much about these laws, and I refer you to their work, beginning with Shelton. I will make a few comments here.

As we can see, hygiene is philosophical. It mirrors the axiomatic concepts found in realist metaphysics. Hygiene is based on the being, identity, consciousness, and causality of life. Life is. Life is what it is: alive, ie, self-preserving and conditional. Man is self-knowing and volitional. Life functions in accordance with its nature.

Life is assertive, intelligent, and active. It is not a helpless, stupid reaction. This regards the laws of Force and Coordination. Self-preserving means self-generating, self-maintaining, and self-healing. These obtain in every aspect of life and at every scale, from the cells to the organism as a whole. This is part of the Law of Order. It preserves itself as well as it can stand to, and this capacity varies. This is the Law of Capacity (more about this law later).

Other laws follow. The Law of Action states that only the organism performs vital action, including healing. So only the organism can heal the organism. Again, this is true at every scale. Even a cell must heal itself; another cannot. The Law of Power states that energy used to perform action resides only in the organism, not anything external to it. (This law might have treated the ability as well as the energy to act. The Law of Capacity now addresses ability along with other elements.)

Thus, no drug, herb, or food heals; neither any condition nor practice; nor treatment, person, or device. Thus there is no cure, no indication to medicate. Attempting to correct the organism from the outside further traumatizes, poisons, and exhausts its power to heal itself. Whatever benefit appears in the short term undermines vitality in the long term. Such attempts mask the body’s illness and delay its healing. This is an example of the intriguing Law of Dual Effect.

The other laws compliment and develop on these.


Whether well or ill, one’s conscious (volitional) role is to discover and provide the normal conditions of life in the proper proportion. The autonomic processes of the omniscient, omnipotent, infallible organism handle the rest. Hygiene systematically describes how this happens with these logically interrelated laws. All are derived from simple observations everyone can make. It is science for everyone, ripe for self-experimentation.

A drug, for example, is a poison by definition. This is why drugs are legally controlled. An organism does not relate with poison but rapidly neutralizes and expels it. It gets hurt in the process and we call it side effects. By contrast, an organism assimilates food into its own structure without harm or compromise.

Fasting when ill is an instinctive extension of time between meals. It is observable in many other animals and has long been a part of Natural Hygiene. In this pause in eating, the body can rest from most metabolic processes. It repairs tissues. It eliminates untended waste and toxins stored deeply in excess fat. It replenishes itself with unabsorbed nutrients and energy.

For example, anemia, supposedly caused by iron deficiency, disappears. Blood iron levels normalize during a fast. A similar case is barrenness. Women who could not conceive become pregnant after fasting. The capacity either to absorb iron or conceive is restored. Just as fasting enables profound physical rest, darkroom retreating enables profound psychic rest.

One of hygiene’s striking insights regards disease. In disease, symptoms do not afflict the body. They are how the body heals itself and how it signals for care. Disease is not hostile. It does not invade, as in the germ hypothesis. It is bodily activity. Trying to get rid of symptoms only makes war on the body that causes them. Such effort must stop.

Pain signifies repair of damaged tissues. Infection and inflammation after first aid signify neutralization and elimination of internal toxins. Unpleasant discharges—vomiting, diarrhea, extra sweating, rashes, bad breath, dark urine—are the elimination of gross accumulated toxins and waste through various organs. Fatigue indicates energy has been diverted to all this critical work.

These healthy processes must not be stopped but supported and waited out. Drugs or treatment require the body to neutralize or recover from them. Creating “another disease” does not aid healing but delays it. It adds to one’s damage, toxic load, and exhaustion. It guarantees worse symptoms later when one has less time and energy to deal with them.

With medicine, one goes from a cough to a cold to bronchitis to pneumonia to death. We can trace similar tracks in the pathologies of those with cancer, diabetes, stroke, digestive disorders, depression, AIDS, etc. More about pathology in psychology > pathology

Loss of appetite conserves energy from the immense effort of digestion. Pain, nausea, weakness, and exhaustion immobilize the organism, enabling all vital force to be used for healing. Every one of these is a biological virtue. None should be feared or suppressed. All should be viewed as vital victories to be trusted, observed, and supported, not fought. All occur in the most efficient possible way for the purpose of restoring health. Disease is not an enemy to battle, but our friend to tend to.

In the relationship between food and nerve energy lies another example of vital relations. Food does not actually give energy to the body directly. Eating and digesting food initially takes energy, both nerve, chemical, and muscular. Otherwise, we could eat to restore our vigor, even when sleepy. Food provides sugar, which refuels everything from large muscle movement to thinking to cell operation. Some of this refueling can occur within seconds of eating fruit, the most easily digested food. But even this takes material and energetic reserves to accomplish. The body only transforms sugar into reserve electrical potential of the nerves during sleep. It only repairs and eliminates toxins from tissue completely while they are unused. Eventually we run out of the power necessary to function and utilize food and must rest.

Again we see that no external force has the power to act for life, only life itself. Life is the doer. Hygiene helps us redirect to the autonomic self the vast attention paid in our lifeway to the volitional self. Volition plays a critical yet small part in the whole process of life. Hygiene puts these elements in their proper places. Hygiene can now offer darkness as a means of caring for the autonomic self in its primary system, the psyche.

The deep self will not solve all one’s problems in darkness. Some remain for the will. The deep self will restore the will’s capacity. One can then make the radical changes in lifeway necessary to handle one’s remaining problems. See
protocol > post-retreat.


I have mentioned capacity a few times. It is the idea that integrates this whole book. It is so important, I have formulated a new hygienic law about it. I’ll restate it then explain.

Law of Capacity: Capacity, the degree of an organism’s structural integrity, determines function, its physical, emotional, and mental ability to live. Capacity increases with rest and decreases with trauma. How one is determines what one can do—and benefit from.

This is the philosophical law of causality applied to health: a thing acts in accordance with its nature.

Everything has a structure, whether it is an idea, a building, a body, a galaxy. In organisms, structure is the psychophysical framework of life, holding it up, keeping it together. Like life, capacity is a union of being and consciousness. It is the vital pattern of an organism. It exists at every scale like a fractal or hologram. It is lifeforce in a particular form. Yet it cannot be reduced to consciousness, the nervous system, the skeleton or myofascia, or DNA. Any of these might serve to represent its status.

Capacity is synonymous with constitution, endowment, type, inheritance, stock, and potential. Like these, capacity is conventionally assumed to be static. In fact, it is dynamic, changing constantly. Capacity is experienced as a sense of ease in doing something.

It shows up in colloquialisms: “Do you have it in you? Do you have what it takes? The wherewithal? The right stuff? The touch? The X factor?” Or, “He’s a natural. He was born to do it. It’s in the blood.”

Two influences affect capacity significantly: profound rest (positively) and major trauma (negatively). Profound rest is both physical and psychical. Fasting provides primarily physical rest; darkroom retreating, primarily psychic rest. These can be used together or separately depending on capacity.

Contrary to common opinion, effort, will, and discipline affect capacity insignificantly. Lifestyle, the daily conditions one arranges for himself, merely help one realize one’s capacity. Whatever gains one makes by them beyond one’s capacity are minor, however impressive they may seem, and they are easily lost.

Likewise, heroic discipline or super-effort (doing something twice as much or twice as fast) have the notable but still insignificant effect of turning people into weird assholes. Common examples include religiosity about god, politics, work, and food. Fortunately, this condition abates with enough rest.

This law has a strange implication. The benefit one derives from anything cannot exceed one’s capacity for it. When structure is damaged (as with virtually all of us now), the unconscious self prevents further damage from the increased energy of normal levels of pleasure, joy, fulfillment, and success running through damaged circuits. We often call the results of this life-saving mechanism “self-sabotage” or “bad habits”. But we can best understand it as a symptom of disease. Thus, as hygienists, we seek to understand and support it, not fight it like the moralists. Which hygienists have unfortunately been when up against a person’s habits.

Same goes for more obvious means of self-protection like resistance and stubbornness.

Imagine a damaged electrical device. Simply running a regular amount of power through it won’t repair it, and may well cause further damage to circuitry. It is best to immediately stop it, turn it off, unplug it, and bring it to a mechanic for repair.

Likewise, one’s capacity for ordinary rest determines how much of it one will enjoy. A good night’s sleep begins a deep healing process that may take days or weeks to complete. A good night’s sleep entails stillness and leads to re-energization and clarity. These tend to irritate damaged capacity. It’s like rebreaking a badly set bone. The organism accepts it if the new energy will fuel complete repair. But if light and activity will interrupt the process in the morning, then, from the comprehensive perspective of capacity, it’s best to not start at all.

If, due to a lack of time, safety, or understanding we have not met all the conditions of healing, then unconsciously, we will be prevented from sleeping until we can really sleep. Insomnia typically results. As with the rest of functioning, only in profound rest does the organism restore its capacity for ordinary rest.

This analysis applies to everything we try that repeatedly fails and frustrates us.

Like staying on a good diet. One starts eating well. Congestion clears. Sleep becomes easy and delicious. Clarity, motivation, and joy return. Eventually, the energy level reaches a fever pitch and something snaps. With the indifference of an executioner, one inhales three pieces of stale cake that, just a few days before, was obviously horrifying.

The unbearable level of energy in real emotion has the same effect on many of us. Or in meeting a magnificent personality. Or in getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Choke artistry springs from nowhere. “Boy, it’s time for an all-night movie marathon! Where’s the ice cream?” To prevent further damage to capacity, the autonomic self does whatever it takes to curb one’s enthusiasm.

Thus, we can see how moralizing about choices, habits, commitment, etc, is ineffective because it is irrelevant. We are not creatures of habit. We are creatures of capacity. In any given moment, we do absolutely the best we possibly can. Whether willed or automatic, every thought, every feeling, every action is an utmost expression of one’s capacity. The instant capacity rises or falls, so does function. Life cannot do otherwise.

Genuine benefits gained by normal efforts simply realize one’s capacity. That’s why they feel fun. When emergencies or unusual opportunities call for extra effort, the body supplies adrenaline for it. But we err in continuing to exert extra effort over a prolonged time span for any purpose, let alone the mind-boggling task of restoring original human capacity. The will fails to achieve it. Only the involuntary power that gave us life in the first place can. This power cannot be manipulated, only provided for.

Like the Law of Force, the Law of Capacity integrates several existing hygienic Laws of Life. It casts them in a different light. It contains elements of the laws of Compensation, Distribution, Development, and others. It has many implications. If, like me, it takes over your perspective, you may realize some of your usual efforts are futile. You may feel your attention freed to focus on what you can actually accomplish.

This idea of capacity has its roots in the Ayn Rand’s character studies in Atlas Shrugged and in esoteric spiritual teaching such as Gurdjieff’s. I have simply resituated it in hygiene. Here it is in harmony with nature, universally accessible, and more useful by orders of magnitude.

false capacity

The world equips us, its creatures, with everything we need to live fully. This seems to be about 50 times more than we need to just survive. Which is good because we have lost so much of it. But even this huge margin is proving insufficient. In our permanent state of emergency and distress, a single major crisis can overwhelm most of us.

We compensate for damaged normal capacity by building false capacity. By constant effort, we attain substance and momentum as personalities, even some personal power. We gain knowledge, strength, skills, character. We beat competitors, achieve independence, win respect. We gain a modicum of stability, reserves, resilience. It’s hard work, but if you are a good person, you do it. If you are lazy and don’t struggle, you only get what you deserve. (Sound familiar?)

False capacity is not only hard to build, but hard to maintain. It is inefficient and gives partial results. So as the organism restores normal capacity in darkness, it removes false capacity as soon as possible, similar to the Law of Selectivity.

False capacity exists near the surface of the personality, where we use it. Normal capacity gets restored from the bottom up. This occurs rapidly in darkness, slowly in regular living. So we retreat long enough for it to reach the surface before too much false capacity is lost. Then it can replace false capacity in practical ways.

With false capacity go the survival tricks it sustained. The ego is concerned with survival. It constricts its attention and rules to a specific disaster. The organism is concerned with overall function and efficiency. False capacity is specialized. Normal capacity is generalized and adapts to a variety of situations. It is natural, but takes some getting used to after a lifetime of faking it.

This idea contradicts our perversely moralized perspective. How shocking to discover that years of hard work on oneself accomplish little compared to doing nearly nothing for a few weeks in darkness; that our efforts make us fake; that our pride in them keeps us stuck.

This is the hardest lesson I have learned about darkness. With every new breakthrough I had in darkness, I would experience a corresponding loss of function. It confused me for years and began to scare me. Abilities I counted upon, that I always had, suddenly disappeared. Retreating seemed like it was backfiring.

But, no. Doing far too many 3- and 4-day retreats caused the problem of overloss of false capacity. False capacity breaks down too much before the organism can restore normal capacity to the point of usefulness. The solution is simple: do no more than one or two 4-day retreats. Advance quickly to 8-day and medium-length retreats. I discuss this more in format.


This is the general theory of hygiene 3.0. Our main subject, the darkroom retreat, necessitated the new version. Now, in context, we can see our subject more precisely.


2 - darkroom retreat

Now we will apply the theory of hygiene to the practice of darkroom retreating. We will examine the elements of hygienic darkroom retreating. Distinctions between hygiene and other approaches further aid understanding. Some mechanics follow.


My observations about the psyche and darkness follow. I show how hygiene applies to them. I explain the secret of why it works.


Shelton reviewed hygienic ideas about the psyche. “Graham pointed out that the ‘vital instincts’ behaved as though directed by intelligence. Tilden held that physiology is ‘organized psychology.’”1

Shelton’s own unsentimental view is: “The conscious functions of the body serve primarily to protect and provide the needs of the subconscious functions.”2 This means consciousness is not an end in itself. It serves a biological function. Hygiene views consciousness as primarily autonomic (unconscious), secondarily volitional (conscious).

Furthermore, the psyche is the primary system in the human organism. “Consciousness—for those living organisms which possess it—is the basic means of survival,” said philosopher, Ayn Rand, in her meta-ethics3. Whatever affects the psyche hugely affects the rest of the organism, whether for good or ill.

The psyche coordinates all other systems. It does so consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously. The psyche is diffuse throughout the organism. It functions at every scale. It autonomically monitors and harmonizes all processes. How many at once? 70 trillion cells * 5 million processes per cell = 350 quintillion 350,000,000,000,000,000,000) organic processes per second.

That’s a lot of work to coordinate. Like any other organic system, the psyche needs a period of rest and recovery. Since its sensory apparatus is reflexive—the skin automatically feels what makes contact with it, the nose smells, the eyes see—sensory destimulation is necessary for psychic rest.

Think back to the times you got your best sleep. Besides feeling at ease, your shelter was probably especially dark, well-ventilated, and quiet. While the exact circumstances at the time cannot be replicated, these critical elements can be.


Human beings are diurnal creatures, naturally awake in daytime and asleep at night. This physiological cycle is critical to psychic function. Modern life replaces the natural extremes of sun and stars with the relentless grey of artificial light and sunglasses. It replaces natural sleeping patterns with graveyard shifts and afterparties. This greyness, along with a hundred other civilized offences, has pushed psychic illness to epidemic proportions. Simply put, our lifeway is brutal, damaging, and dysfunctional.

Modern distress (sensory overload, overwork, loneliness, malnourishment, etc) requires hundreds of millions of people to consume psychoactive drugs just to function. Most dislike this dependency, which causes further distress. Caught in a vicious circle, they wonder helplessly if things will ever change.

Many factors contribute to distress. Hygienic darkroom retreating provides a simple way to reverse all of them at once. First, halts them. Second, it gives you a chance to recover from them autonomically. No drugs, therapy, or experts. Self-healing unleashed.

Thus, contrary to fairy tales, religion, and light bulb advertisements, darkness is a good thing. Darkness, like light, is a natural condition of life. We need nature’s full provision of it—10 hours a day—in order to rest properly.

In crisis, we need an extended period of darkness to rest and recover. Darkroom retreating is to the psyche what fasting is to the body:

  • relief from sensory processing
  • time to fully recover from trauma, exhaustion, and poisoning
  • recognition of which part of who is performing the recovery

We have a basic need for darkness. Instinct in extreme circumstances gives us a graphic clue. When psychically overwhelmed, a child crouches down and covers his eyes, taking cover in solitude if possible. Depressed or shocked from disaster, his whole being cries out, “Gimme shelter!”.

A darkroom is that shelter. Darkness was long sought. It was right before our eyes. But we couldn’t see it. It was obscured by our Apollonian obsession with light, thought, and action. And by medieval fear. Now we can finally sink into darkness and rest. We can recover our lost selves.

hygiene revisited

In hygiene, we find a shelter for darkness itself. A context. Now we can better understand why darkroom retreating works.

Now we will go back to the beginning: to the word, hygiene. We will analyze one of senses in Webster’s definition:
conditions and practices conducive to the preservation of health.

  • hygiene derives from the name of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health. Hygiene is about health.
  • conditions and practices refer to the normal conditions and activities of life. These are the environmental and instinctive factors inherent in nature. They make life, including healing, possible.
  • conducive means:
    • making it easy, possible, or likely for something to happen or exist
    • tending to promote or assist
    • contributive to
  • preservation refers to an organism’s preservation of itself
  • health refers to the health of an organism

Thus, the organism preserves its own health with normal conditions of life. Hygiene is the science of conditional self-preservation. It aids reason in making this happen by choice, by will.

This whole meaning hides within the dictionary’s definition. Natural Hygiene, as the standard bearer of hygienic science, makes it explicit.

Now we can elaborate on self-preservation. It:

  • is the defining characteristic of all organisms
  • comprises self-generation, self-maintenance, and self-healing
  • occurs at every scale: microzymas, cells, tissues, organs, systems, and the organism as a whole


  • requires more work, time, and energy than self-maintenance, but less than self-generation
  • includes:
    • repair of damage
    • elimination of toxins, exogenous and endogenous
    • re-energization of tissue

Consciously, we provide ourselves the conditions of life. Unconsciously, we use them in life’s staggering number of processes of self-preservation.

The unconscious is:

  • the hidden part of consciousness. It is pervasive in the being, an integral aspect of the organism at every scale
  • the biggest part of consciousness, coordinating millions of actions per second in each one of our trillions of cells
  • omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible: all-knowing, all-powerful, and incapable of error
  • just waiting for a chance to fix what is broken

Hygienic darkroom retreating is that chance.


At last we are prepared to understand the secret of why hygienic darkroom retreating works. There are three reasons: physiology, attitude, and environment

  1. Physiology
    1. Circadian rhythms: Our 24-hour waking-sleep cycle is governed by the circadian system. This system is controlled by a tiny region of the brain. It is called the
      suprachiasmatic nucleus. It has an internal 24-hour clock and resets itself with light. It rests atop the optic chiasm, the intersection of the optic nerves coming from the backs of the eyes. It gets a direct signal of the presence or absence light. This is prior to the imagery in the signal decoded by the visual cortex of the brain.

      The suprachiasmatic nucleus, for example, instructs the pineal gland to secrete a famous hormone, melatonin into the bloodstream. This hormone causes us to sleep, dream, and lose appetite. In absolute extended darkness, the pineal gland floods the body with melatonin, intensifying these restful processes.

      Melatonin is but one of many hormones, nervous signals, and processes that facilitate the deep rest and sleep necessary to recover from and assimilate the benefits of waking life.

    2. Destimulation
      • Conservation: we conserve the energy consumed by sensory processing. It turns sensations into percepts, data into information. Almost half the brain is dedicated to sensory processing. Sight requires twice as much as all other senses combined. Darkness eliminates vision and minimizes other sensation.
      • Calm: without the abstract stimulation of visual data, the abstract mind slows down
        • fewer thoughts occur
        • thinking becomes harder
        • thinking becomes less interesting (!)
        • directing attention restfully becomes much easier. (See protocol > attention)
      • Balance: the remaining sensations feed the feeling and moving centers of intelligence. Outwardly undistracted, the internal sense of touch sharpens in its many aspects. Intuition and instinct, aspects of consciousness suppressed in civilization, reactivate. They balance the psychic workload, making it more efficient, saving energy and internal activity.
    3. Inactivity - Resting causes rapid recovery of homeostasis, the foundation of healing
      • It induces the stillness required for repair
      • It enables conservation of the extra vital energy the process of healing consumes.
  2. Attitude: hygiene’s passive attitude toward healing aligns the conscious and unconscious parts of the self. It enables the internal peace and cooperation necessary for super-intensified healing (miracles) to occur. At first, only knowledge of this attitude is necessary. Belief comes later.

    The hygienic attitude is the essential difference between hygienic retreats and others. This attitude rests on knowledge of physiology, the complimentary roles of the conscious and unconscious, and hygiene itself. The attitude leads to great care in providing a proper environment.

  3. Environment: a retreat provides all external conditions of profound rest:
    • safety, solitude, support, time
    • silence, darkness, warmth, electromagnetic neutrality
    • fresh air, pure water, natural food, exercise

In terms of experiencing profound rest and miraculous healing, a hygienic darkroom retreat is the perfect storm.


We are beginning to see how not all darkroom retreats are alike. For eons all over the world, people of every lifeway and spiritual and cultural tradition have retreated in darkness. But the differences in approach outlined above have profound effects. I will explain these differences and their importance in using darkness on your own.


Civilization has taught us well: in various ways, we have all come to believe that somehow, someday, we would finally do something about our quandary. Our culture worships the mind, so we assume this means willed, mental effort. We feel pumped up by the prospect of doing something consciously and directly. We eagerly sign up for workshops, submit to treatments, undertake disciplines, and experiment with exotic psychoactive substances. Meanwhile, the all-knowing autonomic self rots in an unemployment line.

No pleasant way exists to put it: this is pure egomania. It is an act. It is a pretense of enthusiasm and competence. It covers up painful psychic damage, self-loss, helplessness, and even the urge to total selflessness by suicide. Under regular circumstances, we won’t drop this act. We cannot. It would be too painful and frightening. We need an exceedingly safe place. Nature provides it in darkness.

Even if we were not utterly helpless in our post-traumatic amnesia and denial, hygiene shows that we cannot willfully heal injury anyway. This may seem discouraging. But it is fruitful, for it can elicit a strong enough response from conscience to halt our futile efforts, notice the all-powerful self-healing organism, and finally provide for it.

Pathologically disidentified from life, we are powerless. We stumble infirmly yet presume to control the grand order of life rather than serve it. It is time to face facts. We are not going to handle our quandary. As we imagine ourselves to be—just the conscious, volitional part of ourselves—we are not going to get it done or have anything to do with its getting done. We are not going to figure it out. We are fit to be tied.

The best we can do is fully admit our helplessness and surrender to the only force that could ever untie the knot. It is the Gordian Knot. But the knot must be untied, the precious rope put to use again. Alexander did not properly handle it by cutting it open with his sword, and neither will we with our scheming, effort, or skill. Only the silent, slow tendrils of the organism’s vast autonomic intelligence can ever untie such a tangle. But it needs our recognition, our commission to do the job. We must consciously support the unconscious. Integrity is the end, so integrity must be the means as well.

Hygiene’s passive emphasis on rest and healing is very important because it defines the appropriate attitude toward retreating. I learned in fasting that how one approaches a retreat has a great effect on what happens in it. The mind becomes extremely powerful when it is resting and purifying. If one’s attitude is really to passively support the omnipotent healing forces of the organism in doing everything, the effect of this internal unity will be much greater than if one has the conflicted doer-attitude of a practitioner.

I know no one who has explicitly gone into darkness with the hygienic perspective, with the sole purpose of simply providing the conditions of life to the self-healing organism. Since the organism is the only thing that heals the organism, this is far more powerful than any other approach can be. While stories of miraculous healing in darkness continue to find their way to me, I suspect they will pale in comparison to what the hygienic perspective will make possible. Attitude affects recovery.

The main effort involved is supportive: to maintain the conditions of healing. This ain’t a tall order. Stay in the darkroom. Lie down as much as possible. Eat. Exercise. Bathe. Eliminate. Lie back down. Think when necessary. Stare at the backs of your eyelids a moment. Then feel your breath and pulse. Let sleep come.

It will. Darkness ensures it. Being in darkness so long, eventually one is induced to sleep, and sleep deeply. In my retreats, I have often felt positively knocked out. It is delicious. Dreams are fewer or more vivid. In 48 hours it is possible to catch up on all the sleep one has ever lost. (See the first of my four darkness experiences). I am not speaking metaphorically. It is impossible to believe until it happens.

I find even the least bit of light too distracting, too stimulating. I am on guard. I can’t relax. I can’t “stay with” what I’m feeling. I can’t “just be with it”. I can’t “feel into myself”. I’ve tried and failed my whole life. I have found solace only in darkness. Those attitudes just distract from the rest I need.

To me, retreating feels like falling through a trapdoor. At the end of my second successful retreat, I felt five or six more such trapdoors awaited me, which would take a total of about two weeks of darkness to fall through. Then I would reach the other side of my personal struggle, my lifelong dilemma. I still await my chance.

There were times I felt I was crawling in my skin. So the whole thing was alternately very pleasant and very unpleasant. But it is no worse than what I go through anyway. It is just accelerated, concentrated, and without distraction. And there is a good chance of never reliving the horror again.


A very pleasant effect of this restful attitude becomes more apparent the longer a retreat goes on: a sense of fulfilment. It is as if all one’s futile efforts of the past are redeemed and their goal is finally realized. As lost parts of the self are recovered, the satisfaction of simply being alive returns.

When exhausted, just getting up to pee can feel like a chore. In darkness, this feeling of imposition can intensify at first. But then, imperceptibly, it turns to satisfaction again. For me, for example, to exercise became fun after three days. I felt how frustrated I had been in my inactivity.

Frustration is one of many effects of psychic damage. By definition, it incapacitates us. We can no longer do certain normal things. The organism generates fear of the activity to prevent us from trying, failing, and hurting ourselves even worse.

But we still desire these activities. Frustration is the conflict between desire, fear, and disability. The organism thus expends a tremendous amount of energy to keep us safe in our incapacity. Recapacitation removes the cause of fear, enables fulfilment of desire, and releases vital energy for other tasks. Self-recovery accelerates and deepens, and with it, satisfaction in living.


There are three things the hygienic use of darkness is not.

  1. It is not a spiritual discipline like meditation. Discipline is consistent exercise of the will. Will is the most delicate, energy-consuming, and, due to damage and atrophy, ineffective part of the psyche. The psyche is the system most in need of rest. But discipline sets it into motion. It takes energy from healing of the faculties it depends on while giving the least possible benefit for the time, energy, and effort expended. It produces impressive results only by our abysmal standards. It prevents accomplishment of the top priority: full recovery of the psyche from its catastrophic damage.

    Meditation, like all spiritual practice, entails super-effort to force access to subtle energy reserves to fuel artificial transformation. The hygienic approach entails exactly the opposite: profound rest to accumulate energy for autonomic self-restoration. At rest, the conscious self attempts nothing to ameliorate suffering. It only provides conditions of healing to the unconscious, whose job is to heal the organism.

    Discipline begins with accepting an artificial internal conflict as natural. I mean the idea of original sin. Then one struggles “against nature” (as Gurdjieff put it), fighting habits with practices to achieve an ideal. Jean Liedloff warned us about this adversarial approach to life. Jesus told Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Satan is the Adversary.

    Hygiene begins with an assumption of natural harmony, of non-contradiction. It gives a logical, non-adversarial explanation of illness. This naturally motivates one to easily fulfill the purpose of illness, which is to restore health.

    Lastly, discipline sets up artificial dangers and obstacles. It maintains willed control of the process. Which restrains the omnipotent unconscious from handling everything that is significant. Then it spreads fear of retreating without spiritual preparation. It is a racket based on a self-fulfilling delusion.

  2. It is not therapy. Therapy is done to a passive organism from the outside. The therapist, therapy, and therapeutic substances or machines are the principal actors in a therapeutic session, not the organism itself. While depending on the organism to react to treatment, therapy views the organism as incapable of initiating a movement toward health. It fails to see such movement in disease itself.

    Contemporary science has a similarly objectifying approach to darkroom retreating, though in reverse. It is called chamber REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique). As the name implies, and in accord with scientific materialism, it tends to reduce a retreat and its effects to destimulation: absence of usual sensory stimuli. The subject is then probed, monitored, and interrogated as to what is happening in this absence. But the organism does not experience darkness, for example, as the absence of light, as a negative; but rather, as a positive fact, the presence of something which the active organism takes hold of and uses. It is like night itself. It is a normal period of time in life. Science misses the enormous intelligence at work and continues stabbing in the dark.

    In a darkroom retreat, darkness does nothing. Like air or water, it merely presents an opportunity to the self-preserving organism to better pursue its ceaseless tendency toward wholeness. The principal actor is life, not its conditions nor any treatment.

  3. It is not a psychedelic trip: using abnormal conditions like sleep-deprivation or substances to consciously experience normally unconscious phenomena. Nor is it thrillseeking. Endogenous DMT highs do happen in any darkness retreat that is long enough. It is entertaining and even fulfilling. But having cool experiences is not the point. Recovering the capacity to have cool experiences at will is the point. Here at Hygiene 3.0 HQ, we are cutting through spiritual materialism.

These three approaches all share the vain attempt to end suffering by making the unconscious conscious. It is as if mere attention, analysis, or reconditioning could fix the unconscious. They try to willfully improve what they regard as an inert, even resistant unconscious, as if it were incapable or disinclined to. The attitude is ignorant and clumsy. It coerces the limited and injured conscious and discourages the omnipotent unconscious. It is internalized tyranny predictably accompanied by a strike by the forces capable of the work.

In contrast, hygienic use of darkness is passive as regards the will. The conscious self only plays a supportive role. The unconscious autonomic self is the principal actor. It is recognized and supported. Zero conflict. Maximum efficiency. Perfect result.



Attention to diet and nutrition have always been a big part of Natural Hygiene. Due to decreased activity, stress, and appetite, darkness presents a miraculous opportunity to:

  • eat well
  • interrupt the malnourishing, dissociative, toxifying relationship with food from which most of us suffer
  • clearly experience one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations

This is why I serve and recommend only fresh fruit and greens to retreatants. This is the frugivorous diet, common to all anthropoid primates like us. Being perfectly appropriate for human anatomy and physiology, these foods only nourish us. They don’t medicate us. They neither stimulate or intoxify the system, nor overtax digestion, nor suppress feeling or memory.

For more about frugivorous diet, I recommend The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr Douglas Graham. He is a professional hygienist, frugivore since 1978, former Olympic athlete and trainer to professional athletes.

Also, watch videos by Loren Lockman. He is another master hygienist and frugivore since 1991. Apparently he came from the future to show us how to eat.

The recommandations

If the prospect of eating just fruits and vegetables discourages you from retreating, then do one of two things. Either take some time to learn about it. Or plan to eat as simply and naturally as you know how. Use as many Feel free to write me with your limitations; I am happy to help you avoid toxins often regarded as healthy. Reversing illness and suffering is a process with its own logic. Darkness is a starting point. Then it’s one step at a time.

Please note that just because the frugivorous diet consists of all raw food does not make it the “raw food diet”. Frugivorism has a rich set of criteria about food: timing, quantity, proportion, combination, season, source, one’s feeling, etc. It is a biological description, not an ideology like fruitarianism or veganism. Raw foodism is an ideology. It only has one criterion: no high-heating of food. Otherwise, anything goes! It lacks depth and seriousness. It is reductive fanaticism, not a whole relationship with food. I strongly recommend against raw foodism and the quasi-cults that grow up around it.


Since one can do nothing directly in a retreat to cause healing, preparing for it consists of providing its simple conditions:

  • read the rest of this book
    • learn the idea of the hygienic (passive) attitude toward healing. No need to believe it before seeing its truth for yourself in darkness.
    • assimilate my discoveries and avoid my many errors
  • design and make a darkroom (1 month)
  • learn enough about eating frugivorously to feel satisfied (1 month to read and test Graham’s book)
  • arrange support. This is important for mechanical and psychical reasons. See protocol > support
  • schedule a retreat
  • obtain food
  • begin

Next we will discuss the psychological implications of hygienic darkroom retreating.


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 secondary flaws. It has lacked a psychology. Its general pathology avoids 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. It passed the buck to doctors and priests. This subordinated hygiene to medicine and religion for nearly two centuries.

Hygiene’s helplessness disappears with four changes:

  • 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 people face, physical and psychic. No one need suffer further the absurdities of medicine and other quasi-scientific systems, rooted as they are in the mystical doctrine of original sin and practice of exorcism.

The acid test of any science is its ability to predict events and thus cause or prevent them if desired. By healing from trauma, we not only end dysfunction and suffering. We prevent unconscious repetition of trauma through common disasters like car crashes, familial breakdown, and psychosomatic illness.

By contrast, medicine can only deal with trauma after the fact. Its tricks for treating it impress us, and we respect the willingness of doctors to try. If medicine were science, it could explain, predict, and prevent further trauma. The attention it puts on treatment diverts attention from its incapacity. It represents a declaration of failure to understand and of helplessness to eliminate the cause of our recurring disasters.

We are all moments from relief, days from restedness and healing, and months from total recovery from 13 millennia of abysmal problems, failure, and suffering. 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 deeper social and natural causes in cataclysm. We will finish with an outline of a new and hygienic psychology, which promises to unleash hygiene’s power and lift humanity 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 of it called orthopathy (ortho: correct).

Hygiene’s generic pathology could not be simpler. It describes the three ways an organism falls ill and the three corresponding ways it heals. An organism becomes unwell by trauma, exhaustion, or poisoning. It becomes well when it repairs, cleans, and recharges itself.

  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 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: sudden intake or chronic excess of substances—gases, liquids, food, solids—or emotions or ideas that are toxic or in too great a quantity (similar to toxemia, below).
  2. processes of healing
    1. repair: the renewal and replacement of tissue after normal use and the regeneration and stitching 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 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, below. 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 sickness medicine gave up helping them with.

Victoria Bidwell is a tireless contemporary 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 degenerations 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 would 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, doing all that is a big if. If they do not make such changes, then hygiene is unable to help them. Most drift back to medicine. A few get lucky with alternatives, reducing their worst symptoms. The rest find ways to cope with semi-recovery… or perish quietly.

We note the pathology’s emphasis on toxemia as 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 no matter 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. They missed its relation to chronic illness, which they viewed as more important. 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. 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. Everyone recognizes that trauma is the cause of all suffering, disease, and incapacity the moment it is stated, either by a quiet bowing of the head or widened eyes followed by nodding—or haughty denial. (I’ve seen it a thousand times. Try it and see.) Unhealed trauma has destroyed most of our precious personal power. Anyone who can bring back even a little of it must be divine.

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 prior to elimination. The organism cleans itself only as it repairs itself. At first, repair always causes a mess and must be cleaned up as it proceeds. Until then, damaged tissue is unprotected and attracts foreign matter. It is dysfunctional and cannot clean itself. Cleaning without repair is pointless. The body knows it and awaits a chance to repair itself. It doesn’t waste energy cleaning everything.

This explains endless detoxification when switching to a clean diet. Diet does not fix trauma. At best, it exposes it.

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

Disease can begin with any of these three. But chronic disease generally originates in past unhealed trauma. It set up the conditions for exhaustion and poisoning. Without trauma, self-corrective instincts remain intact. They immediately prompt an individual to restore normal conditions if exhaustion and poisoning occur in daily life.

We seem caught in a strange dream, half-waking and prolonged. But rather than force ourselves awake with treatment, substances, or discipline, hygienic darkroom retreating lets us sleep it off. Hygiene has always been a kind of physiological judo. It does not resist disease. Hygiene uses disease to 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. We simple take hygiene’s peaceful, reassured approach to resolving its cause once and for all.

Hygiene is partly a reaction to allopathy, which we are so exposed to. So next we will examine medical 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. Get sicker to get well.

War is peace. Hate is love. Slavery is freedom. You know the drill.

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. Nevermind that:

  • intact organisms are healthy
  • survival requires health
  • health is the identity of life
  • the rest of living nature exhibits near-universal health

Allopathy sidesteps these facts with the common mystical axiom of human exceptionalism. We are inherently sinful and sick because we are human.

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, there’s nothing 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.” It’s as if the name is an irreducible primary.

It leaves nothing to investigate. Life is just expressing its weak, morbid nature. Doctors might peer into an illness’s causation another level or two to explain it. But this goes against their premises. They usually skip right to symptomology and treatment—syringe, scalpel, and the germ theory of disease in hand.

The germ theory says microscopic invaders cause disease. We are victims of infection. The organism is helpless, the doctor is capable. He must fight, overcome, and root out the germs with drugs, treatment, and surgery. Medicine is really a modern, pseudo-scientific recasting of Dark Ages demonism. A doctors is a material exorcist.

Trouble is, introducing 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 rid of the disease doesn’t always get rid of the germs that supposedly caused it. (See Koch’s PostulatesSo much for the germ theory.

On the other hand, distinct patterns repeat among those who suffer. Those who don’t suffer exhibit another set patterns in their vital factors, history, and lifestyle. The differences reveal the ordinary and predictable character of the causes of disease.

In response, medicine continually moves the goalposts. It invents new diagnoses to cover for the insanity of its pathology. It is a holy war. Logic does not apply.

Fortunately, people tire of this hairsplitting. They just want to be well so they can get on with their lives. They quit the doctors, strike out on their own, and hope for the best. Medicine is so harmful, this proves remarkably successful1.

The hygienist’s rational and benevolent view of disease keeps him cool as a cucumber. He does not react. He immediately provides good conditions. He observes. He studies. He modifies the 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 cooperates with it. It is not a foreign entity to attack and expel. Hygiene makes the time necessary to correct allopathy’s drunken imbalances with careful etiology (study of causes).

This approach reveals the poor conditions 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, then his family and neighbors. It’s open source health care. Viral, so to speak.

For further study of hygienic pathology, see Herbert Shelton’s two volumes on orthopathy. One is on general pathology, one is on specific symptoms and responses. Now we will more closely examine the primary cause of 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 final recovery from it.

Why are these things so deeply buried?

Besides injury and shock, trauma immediately causes the first four stages of disease that Tilden describes: enervation, toxemia, irritation, inflammation. The organism surges into action with the shock and sudden demand for energy, nutrients, circulation, and hormones to manage pain and awareness. Meanwhile, incapacity and malfunction snowball.

Consciousness contracts with trauma. The psyche contracts from the world on a sensory 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 often disturbs the process. This is why trauma manifests as amnesia, denial, stupidity, callousness, and clumsiness: the inabilities to remember, to admit, to know, to feel, to move.

Many movies have an amnesiac premise. The protagonist is injured, cannot remember his old life, and has a new adventure. Few of us have known anyone like this. Why do 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 routinely 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.

By the same token, denial is not moral failure. It is unconscious biological success. Devastating trauma usually befalls civilized infants. Damage, deprivation, and pain overload the fragile structure of their psyches. Denial locks basic functions into 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 what was denied.

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

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 malcoordination lift. The energy to recover strength flows back in. The organism paces this sometimes intense process with great care. It never goes too fast or does too much. The fact that it is happening proves you have the capacity to handle it.

Gaining confidence in this capacity takes time. In
protocol > discomfort, I describe some ways I learned to moderate intense memory and feeling in darkness in the meantime. Then, at points, one is inspired to let 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, but common atrocities we mistakenly accept. 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, has warned me I will lose readers by doing so. I see no way around it. The crimes must be named.

  • unintentional conception and ambivalent pregnancy
  • birth intruders (doctor, midwife, priest, etc)
  • 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, pushover, smothering, abusive, and 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, computers, games (screen technology causes not mere atrophy, but lifelong damage to the imaginative faculty when much used at critical phases of development.2)
  • factory food (including unripe harvesting, chemical farming, genetic modification, irradiation)
  • insincerity, negative emotion, and irrational ideas 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.

Of exactly what brutalized you, you may already have some idea. 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 also 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 that 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, an excessive lowering of vitality; and toxemia, a general poisoning, mostly from internal waste but also food and environmental poisons. These, hygienists have asserted, come from poor habits.

But whence came poor habits? A healthy creature has strong self-correcting instincts. How could it persist in unhealthy behavior out of the blue? It makes no sense. Something must have happened to knock it far off course. Causation by poor habit fails in theory and practice. The awesome influence of trauma explains everything and reveals the solution.

Most of this is standard psychology. Freud himself said all our suffering comes from trauma. Ironically, he said it is necessary for civilization, which keeps us from savagery. 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 humanity 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.

Suffice it to say I’m no scientific materialist. That quaint philosophy holds that

  • a bludgeoned sensorium aided by computers is our only means of knowledge
  • humans are so special that nature has exempted us from its laws
  • that technology and anything else generated by civilization itself are inherently good until proven otherwise.

Find excellent elaborations of the humor in this idea 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 vulnerable in others. Darkness allows our autonomic selves to put both these qualities to use fully. In blackness, in jetty refuge, in the soft keep of bedroom or cabin, 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, under our breath or aloud in exasperation, we call people and situations crazy. But what if our colloquialism were clinically accurate? What if it were precisely what is wrong with us? What if we have been right about it the whole time?

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

Broadly, psychosis means psychic illness. This mostly results from trauma. This leads to exhaustion and toxification: the abject absorption of poisonous ideas, attitudes, emotions, and behavior. These compound in further dysfunctions in thinking, feeling, and moving intelligences. Dysfunction leads to failure and pain, both physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Sure enough, sickness, unhappiness, and confusion (or dogmatism) characterize civilized people. Such comprehensive chronic dysfunction is the principal sign of our psychosis.

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

The sliver consists of the grossest 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. Thus our hypermental, industrial lifeway. We emphasize thinking at the expense of feeling and, to a lesser extent, action. We exalt the useless activity of athletics and prefer to make machines do the rest for us. Obsessive control of this sliver enables enough of us to survive each generation to imagine we are doing as well as possible.

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

  • righteous wars against the innocent
  • controls in the name of freedom
  • poverty amidst mind-boggling wealth
  • useless work and wearisome recreation
  • undernourishment of the over-fed
  • confusing philosophy and soulless religion
  • alienation—civilization’s calling card
  • mass depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, slow or fast suicide
  • lifestyle diseases (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and digestive diseases)
  • stupifying education
  • sickening health care

I could go on. No doubt, you could extend the list yourself. Perhaps you have 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 human nature, as we have long assumed? That is what most religion and philosophy 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 worship of drugs. It is the further medical application of our culture’s mythos of original sin. In other words, debilitation, incompetence, failure, and suffering are human nature. We refuse further examination of symptoms and 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? Common sense, memory, and honesty. Joy and empathy. Vigor and grace. Just for starters. But much more awaits us. When the thinking, feeling, and moving centers of intelligence function again, and in harmony with each other, life will improve to a degree known only in legend.

I mean engagement with the other basic plane of reality. It mirrors spacetime, so some cutting edge scientists call it timespace: three dimensions of time—past, present, future—and one dimension of space, that is, one location.4 Australian Aboriginals call it dreamtime. Kogi Indians call it the aluna.

They access it at will for daily living. It is how they can track someone 100 miles through the desert a year later with only a scrap of his clothing. Or talk to people on the other side of the world without telephones. Or go out to meet a scarce deer in the middle of nowhere to bring back for food. It is how spiritual adepts famously know things they have no normal way of knowing.

Dreamtime is perceived primarily through the feeling center of intelligence, not the senses. It 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. If you talk about this stuff in conventional settings, others will call you crazy. But if you rest in darkness long enough, access to it reopens and promises to return permanently.

I will not dwell on something so unusual 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. It is stupid and embarrassing. The academy likes to ignore 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 institutionalized; 0%, dead. In the opposite direction, at 3%, you’re a local hero; 4%, famous; 5%, a national 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. Darkroom retreating is the gut—the action. The testimony of mass functional psychosis is its broken heart. My online essay, psychosis, conveys it purely and even more forcefully than I could here.


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 unflinchingly in first causes. It begins by observing that 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, when harmful ones are present and beneficial ones are absent or in disproportion.

This gives hygiene a rational standard for evaluating conditions proposed as beneficial. Hygiene asks, what normal relationship to life does this condition have? 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 were deprived 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 one, they could not provide the other very well. It is the absolute worst, most taboo, most terrible truth we all know and spend most of our lives avoiding. I am sorry.

Of course, they suffered similar trauma at the hands of their parents. It rendered most of them incapable of providing us such shelter. It compelled their inhumanity 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 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 privately, inevitably unload the injustice they suffered upon their own children.

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, people 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. Nature does not generate diseased species. Humanity had to have started off alright. The self-correcting instinct of healthy animals is too strong to violate merely by will or persist in by accident. Life pulls us back onto the right track no less than other animals—when we’re healthy. This 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 disable us so badly we couldn’t begin returning for so long. Major trauma to an individual or one group would not be enough to do this. Individuals would be helped back to health. In disaster trauma, groups are aided by neighbors or even foreigners. We must think bigger. The psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky, who turned his eye to archeology and comparative mythology, found the mindboggling scale of our emergency.

A global cataclysm in our distant past must have started it. It wrecked everything in one stroke for entire continents of people, so that there was no one left to help. It seems to have been the Biblical flood. Much evidence points to one 12,980 years ago. But perhaps it was multiple super-volcanoes due to seismic shift from celestial influences. A pole-shift that swept continents with earthquakes and tsunamis. A comet strike. A war between the gods or alien invasion. Whatever it was, the result was cataclysmic trauma.

Cataclysmic trauma is comprehensive. It kills many people and most elders, who would best manage things. It injures most of the rest. Neighbors cannot help. Everyone for thousands of kilometers is suddenly in the same dire straits. Infrastructure is lost: shelter, food, water, habitat. The landscape shifts, becomes dangerous. Climate itself changes. A lifeway’s entire basis is wiped out, including day to day survival.

Going into caves to rest and heal is common among undomesticated people and animals. But even if someone left knows to do it and a cave remains accessible, too many people need it for longer than it is comfortable. All the supportive systems are gone. People have no chance to heal. They only have what is left inside them. The young tend to survive, but they are less stable psychically, with less wisdom to temper the damage. Life, which had been abundant, pleasant, and easy, becomes a 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. Voluntary birth control, common among indigenous people, is lost with many other subtle capacities. Babies start arriving. 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. Apparently a pathocracy, it quietly finds slightly less harmful ways to distribute and pass on the shock. As horrible as things frequently get, still it is the best we can do. 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 it. No one need be punished. Everyone is essentially innocent. Everyone is free to walk away from the conflict and heal.

Trauma from such large-scale events is unavoidable. It is natural. Trying to prevent it is futile. Hope lies in having a way to recover from it.56

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. Profound rest is longer than daily rest and has perfected conditions.
  5. Rest that is profound enough for healing from major trauma occurs in total darkness.
  6. By hygienic darkroom 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.7


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, hygiene recommends keeping curtains and eyes closed during fasts. This reduces the significant work of sensory processing of vision8. A darkroom retreat embodies this principle fully. It provides the energy and, frankly, the psychic security of food, until the underlying psychic system necessary for comfortable fasting has repaired itself.

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

Furthermore, darkroom 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 darkroom 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 darkroom 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.


Darkness is like fasting. One hardly knows what the organism is doing at its deepest levels. Occasionally the chance to consciously participate in the process arises. One finds out why one’s life has gone wrong—if it is important to change thinking and behavior related to it. Usually, one just feels discomfort or a strange subterranean rumbling.

But one always knows the result: restoration of function—recovery of the lost self—usually accompanied by feelings of contentedness, presence, and euphoria. Hygienic darkroom retreating reveals the marvelous self-healing power of the organism under proper conditions.

For those who have suffered and failed for years with other approaches, the process is nothing less than miraculous. As with the rest of 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. As with the rest of hygiene, hygienic psychology’s bad news is much worse, and its good news far better than anyone imagined.


  1. The maturation of hygiene’s laws
  2. the emergence of a hygienic psychology
  3. the identification of trauma at the root of all illness
  4. the greater importance of darkness than fasting for resting and healing

These have massive implications for hygiene’s destiny, and humanity’s as well. Hygiene has said illness originates with enervation (exhaustion) and toxemia (poisoning). Trauma explains how these conditions themselves originate. In coming to terms with trauma, hygiene can finally meet and 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 to do hygienic darkroom retreats. If 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. Wherever doctors have gone on strike, life expectancy increases overnight by 9 years and falls again when the strike ends, and a hundred other amusing facts about medicine. See Dr Robert S Mendelsohn, Confessions of a Medical Heretic. See also Medical Myths  2 3

  2. Joseph Chilton Pearce, Evolution’s End  2 3

  3. This provides the unconscious motivation for the current over-fascination with genetics, a negligible and corrupt quasi-science shot through with distrust of life and mechanistic control-freakishness.  2

  4. David Wilcock, Enigma 2012 

  5. 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 Ouspensky’s incomparable spiritual text, In Search of the Miraculous

  6. See my longer essay about cataclysm, catastrophe 

  7. 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

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

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