hygienic darkroom retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham



1 - Where can I go for a hygienic darkroom retreat?

I offer retreats in America. My collaborators, Marion Abbott of Australia and Simen Kirkerød of Norway are preparing to.

None of the other 130 dark retreat providers support hygienic retreats. None can. Hygiene is a total commitment. It doesn’t mix with other ideas. It is exclusive. Pure truth belies everything else. By the time someone opens a darkroom, he already has a philosophy, program, and business model. His investments in them have become too big to change.

This is why I wrote the last five chapters of this book. Use them to make darkness in your own home for sleeping, then for a 5-day retreat, and so on, up the ladder. The hygienic darkrooms of the future will come from us.

2 - I suffer from X. Will this help me?

Yes. Chronic suffering, whether psychic or physical, results from psychic trauma. The psyche heals itself of trauma in darkness. Therefore, symptoms of X will heal in darkness. Your suffering will decrease and eventually disappear. You will become better able to deal with causes that still need attention after retreating.

In your first retreats, you get a taste of these things. You realize them fully in later retreats. Meanwhile you get relief, a little healing, a new vision, and hope. The distress of hopelessness aggravates many problems.

3 - Do you eat in a darkroom retreat?

Yes. Food and water are always available. I recommend fresh fruit and tender leafy green vegetables. This accords with the frugivorous nature of human anatomy and physiology.

Fasting is part of hygiene, too. It is compatible with darkness. But wait on it till psychic issues are handled in darkness.

4 - How many people retreat at once?

One. The point of this retreat is to rest, heal, and recover oneself. Nothing is more stimulating than other people.

5 - How do you do things in darkness?

Slowly and smoothly. First, become familiar with the room in light. Make memorable places for your belongings. Practice doing everything blindfolded before turning out the lights. Then do them in darkness. Always hold your arms in a circle in front of yourself when standing or sitting. This protects you from hitting your head.

6 - Could you just retreat with a mask?

No. No mask stays in place, so light leaks in. No mask is comfortable in extended use. The skin has enough light receptors to awaken one from sleep.

Then one still needs a properly ventilated room, minimally furnished to eliminate dangers, distractions, and associations. Ventilation is harder to arrange than darkness. My double blind and door seal make darkening a room easy. Every reason to darken the room exists.

Sleeping masks are good for travel, naps, and sleeping until your bedroom can be darkened. Also, for walking through a semi-lit space between a darkroom and a bathroom in dwellings where this is necessary.

7 - Is it like meditation?

In essence, no. Superficially, yes, they are is similar. Each involves less physical activity. Attention turns from the world to oneself. But what goes on inside oneself radically differs.

Meditation is active, ie, the will drives the process. Will is primary to meditation. The instant it relaxes, the process stops. The purpose of meditation is to make the unconscious conscious, or to compel the conscious to submit to a higher consciousness. It is a quiet, internal war.

Hygienic retreating is passive, ie, the unconscious drives the process. Autonomic activity is primary. Willed activity is secondary. The will is a servant of life. The purpose of retreating is to rest so the being can restore itself to wholeness naturally. It is peaceful.

These subtly different drivers and purposes have massive effects on one’s experience and results. As extraordinary as the process and results of meditation and spiritual practice seem to be, they pale before the power of the autonomic self.


1 - Is total extended darkness safe?

Yes, if you do it correctly. This is uncomplicated. Dangers are easily avoided if you know what they are. I have identified a handful of them. See my warning.

2 - I feel afraid of this.

Fear of darkness comes from assuming the conscious self leads a retreat, like it does so many other things. But you are not conscious of what awaits you in darkness or how to handle it.

Your unconscious self, on the other hand, was born in the dark. It knows everything there. It can handle everything. As you learn that it leads a retreat, and you see how to support and follow it consciously, your fear will dissipate.

Your unconscious is your champion. It will protect you from everything. It will only show you what you need to know and only when you able to know it.

Sometimes this may feel bad—as bad as what you face in daily life. But it may be the last time you have to face it. Your unconscious will have resolved the core of it before revealing the part concerning your conscious.

I am sure you would like to be free of such repetitive troubles.

Overemphasizing the conscious is the essence of our lifeway. It’s the air we breathe. So we even try to consciously direct unconscious activities. This is what exposes us to danger. Living in fear results.

Consciously supporting unconscious activities with normal conditions is the safe and sane approach. Hygiene embodies it. It banishes fear.

I make this distinction in various ways throughout this book. Reading it helps you find the place of your conscious in the process and leave fear behind.

See also objection #1, below.

3 - Wouldn’t you go crazy staying in darkness that long?

No, you would only go crazy in darkness from being forced to be there, as in prison. A retreat is a choice based on reason. You and your supporter each have a key to the door.

You don’t go crazy in darkness. You are already crazy. You heal from it in darkness. Craziness becomes more apparent in darkness as the organism heals from it.

This can be uncomfortable, painful, even alarming, like the traumatic causes of craziness. But simply having feelings is not dangerous. The room is safe and comfortable. Supporters are at hand. There is nothing to fear. See concern #2 about fear.

4 - Do you get bored?

Yes. It is a very good sign.

Part of the being is so damaged, painful, and draining that all feeling to it has been shut off. It is like an internal black hole. Boredom means the unconscious is approaching it to resuscitate it. Recovery of a lost part of yourself is imminent.

5 - Five days is a long time to do nothing.

You’re talking about idleness. That is an activity, not rest. Darkness is different.

We’ve been told being idle is bad. Being productive all the time is offered as the virtuous alternative. This tends to discourage rest and encourage overwork and over-consumption. Enough, already.

Moreover, we’ve all spent more than five days doing destructive things. Doing nothing would have been a big improvement. The secret benefits of profound rest would have been much better still.

Civilization teaches that the will is the only useful driver of activity in the being. We are bad if we are not busy. Only doing things by willful effort is respectable.

In fact, one would be poisoned to death by his own internal waste in seconds without autonomic activity. The will is helpless to restore psychic integrity, every animal’s greatest value. Tissue knits itself back together involuntarily. The autonomic self is infinitely intelligent, capable, and graceful.

It also makes you interesting. You rediscover this in darkness. You have lots of time to get to know yourself.

Everyone is nervous about this at first. It is like meeting someone special again. Gratification soon comes from doing the right thing. After days of delicious sleep and time to themselves, most wish they could stay longer.

Maybe you mean it sounds pointless or dreadful. In fact, a retreat often begins with a sense of relief. Discomfort usually comes after resting, when you are prepared. You make contact with your autonomic self again to draw on its resources. This is extremely meaningful, enjoyable, and fruitful.


1 - I could never do a darkroom retreat.

At the moment, your doing a retreat is out of the question. You cannot do it if you don’t want to, you cannot want to if you don’t believe in it; and you cannot believe in it if you don’t know enough about it for it to make sense to you. So forget about doing it. The only thing that matters is, does it interest you enough to learn more about it? If so, then I can recommend a good book about it.

2 - Why must I read a whole book just to retreat or even talk to you?

You read it:

  1. to prepare. You must know how to retreat hygienically to succeed. This is the book on it.

    It only takes 5 minutes to learn the essence of it. But it takes 4 hours of reading to counter your conditioning to sabotage it.

  2. to qualify as a suitable client. It shows you will use what I have already given before seeking more.

    Reading gives you credibility with me. It shows your diligence and sincerity. It makes our conversation vastly more profitable for both of us.

    My time must be paid for, both in understanding, sincerity, and money.

  3. to assist me. Someday, I may be able to set things up to support retreats for people who have not read my book. In the meantime, some of the structure necessary for a successful retreat must exist in the being of the retreater. Reading the book builds that structure.

    Getting in on the ground floor of anything takes vision and guts. Fellow innovators and early adopters of hygienic darkroom retreating will rise to the challenge. Everyone else will wait.

3 - Isn’t total darkness unnatural? Shouldn’t we be exposed to stars and moon at night?

No. First, our natural habitat is tropical forest. Its dense canopy makes the forest floor perfectly dark at night. Even when sleeping in the open, the amount of light from stars and moon is surprisingly little compared to artificial light. Which now bombards us nearly everywhere.

Second, covering our eyes, seeking solitude, and taking cover when traumatized is a reflex. Taking extended shelter in darkness merely supports this reflex when the trauma is great. The sheltering instinct intensifies with trauma. The only way to condition us out of it is by force.

Large uncovered windows came to popular architecture very recently. Traditional shelter, civilized and indigenous, is dark or easily darkenable. Traditional people spend more time outside in the bright sun.

Our obsession with building—the principle activity of civilization for 13,000 years—indicates a people in search of extreme sanctuary to self-heal from cataclysmic trauma. When we get especially frustrated, we even have wars, destroy countries full of buildings, then build new ones. Nothing could be more natural to us in our damaged state than extended total darkness.

4 - This sounds Satanic.

Some Christians who have encountered this idea have attempted to equate physical darkness with the spiritual darkness the Bible speaks against, and is thus Satanic.

This would mean that physical light is spiritual light. This amounts to sun worship… which is itself Satanism.

Taking metaphors literally is precisely the abysmal stupidity that rational people rightly mock fundamentalists for. Real Biblical expositors like John MacArthur and Walter Veith warn against it. The Bible is rich with symbols. Their meanings have all been worked out for those who will bother to study.

Satan lies about everything. The defining lie of Satanism is that salvation comes by work. Jesus said that salvation comes only by grace, not works. The idea of hygienic darkroom retreating is that healing (a kind of salvation) comes by rest. Rest is the opposite of work and a corollary of grace.

If a single Biblical passage speaks against extended rest in physical darkness, I’d like to know it. The Bible does tell of several extremely good things that happened during or immediately after people had extended stays in darkness. I demand explanations for them. For example, Elijah in the cave, Jonah in the whale, Lazarus and Jesus in their tombs—not to mention the creation of the world and prayer in closets.

Myself, I began to sense Christ in physical darkness. If darkness were evil, it should have driven me further away from that sense. The psychopaths I have met, including some Christians, hate and fear darkness. I think the One they serve fears it, too.

The God of Psalm 139:13 fears nothing. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there… Even the darkness is not dark to you.” David was capable of using two different senses of the same word in the same sentence. Like most of his readers, you probably can, too.

5 - Extended darkness could be good for some people, but there are many ways people can heal their suffering. Nothing works for everyone.

There are many ways to gain temporary relief. Some can help one cope with the worst part of his suffering. That is good. It enables him to catch his breath and survive. With lowered stress, the organism does heal a little.

But no significant recovery occurs. It is merely acceptable or maybe impressive by our lifeway’s low standards.

For full recovery, as with all living functions, nature provides single universal conditions and specific combinations thereof. We’re not talking about which color to paint a house. Physiology doesn’t provide options to suit one’s tastes.

To breathe, one must have air. To heal from major trauma, one must have darkness and associated conditions of profound rest. These solutions are available everywhere and work for everyone, even other animals. They have no substitutes. Physiology is what it is. Post-modernist dogma doesn’t alter it one whit.

We can look at it in the negative as well. If this tired statement were true,

  • the “many other ways to heal” would make sense and work
  • those who did them well them would now be ok
  • everyone would have every reason to do them asap
  • all the problems we face today would already be solved
  • the deep healing necessary in cases of cataclysmic trauma could occur without profound rest
  • profound rest can occur in semi-darkness and other compromised conditions
  • or psychic trauma is not the primary cause of metaphysical suffering
  • or life has no specific needs for recovering from such pain. It is all random. And this is true despite
    • its specific and universal need of rest for recovery in all other cases.
    • its specific needs of water for quenching thirst, air for breathing, etc
    • suffering’s being an indication in all other cases that something is wrong and needs attention

Evidence shows all these are false. Again, relativism makes fashionable philosophy but poor biology. Repeating it changes nothing.

Reality is not what they told you it was in college. They defrauded you of a lot of time and money. But it’s not too late for you. See my bibliography and here for a rehabilitative course of study. Cutting your losses will be easier when you have a replacement for all that nonsense.

6 - If hygienic darkroom retreating is so great for healing, why are you still sick?

Complete healing through profound rest in darkness requires full application of this method. This, in turn, requires a team, a proper facility, and a complete method.

I had none of these. First, the idea had to be developed into a practical solution. Meanwhile, I was using up my reserves. I made damaging errors.

By resting in darkness, I was saved from suicide twice. I am very healthy compared to a corpse.

This book is the result of what I have seen, induced, and deduced, not just what I have done. It is up to you to reason it through and decide for yourself whether you will try it or not. I do not replace your own judgment.

It is natural to be curious about my circumstances. It is a mistake to dismiss my thesis because of them. Ad hominem is especially popular these days. But refuting my thesis requires addressing it point by point on its own terms. So far, no one has succeeded.

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