hygienic darkroom retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham


2023 January 19

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

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

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

A panacea ought to work for everyone everywhere. It ought to be simple, quick, cheap, rational, natural, easy, pleasant. It must use normal conditions of life, not something weird or contrived. It must be exceedingly effective, and rapidly lead to similar solutions to all other problems. This rules out any kind of discipline, therapy, sedation or psychedelic trip, or social or technological change.

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

Thousands of years ago, many people suffered major trauma to the psyche due to some kind of global cataclysm. Clearly, many did not recover, probably the children. In their resulting psychosis, they passed this trauma on to their descendants through neglect and abuse, down to the present day.

The constant institutionalized cataclysm of our society is an unconscious repetition of that original global cataclysm. It will persist until another disastrous climax or until the people who drive it—you and I—recover from our mass psychosis. In the meantime, we will continue exhibiting the psychotic symptoms of stupidity, craziness, and self-destructiveness with which we confront each other daily.

We have not recovered from this trauma because we haven’t had the chance. We have lacked the hygiene: the normal conditions of life necessary for both health and healing. Organisms are inherently self-preserving—self-generating, self-maintaining, and self-healing—and at every scale: in the cells, organs, and systems. Furthermore, self-preservation is a largely autonomic process: omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible. Given hygiene, health is certain.

The pysche is an organic system, so it is self-healing. The primary condition of healing is rest. Unbelievably deep psychic rest is available in darkroom retreat: an extended period of solitude in absolute physical darkness in a regular home. Therefore darkroom retreating leads to self-healing of the psyche, to the restoration of psychic integrity.

People with high degrees of psychic integrity can have enormous influence. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr are recent examples. Gandhi said non-violence held much greater potential than he had demonstrated. Yet our laughably fragile system can only withstand one such person every decade. If someone ten times more powerful appeared every month, the whole sorry game would be over in months. This would free the rest of humanity to disengage from their roles in our systemic disaster and recover personally.

All the materials, knowledge, and personnel necessary for solving global problems already exist. The resources spent on war can solve hunger, epidemics, poverty, crime and most ecological destruction overnight… if the participants and their constituents stop being psychotic.

Darkroom retreating is therefore a potential panacea: a solution to mass psychosis, the essential problem of humanity. If you try a retreat, you can see this potential for yourself. You can learn enough about it to become naturally motivated to try it from my book.


written in 2015, published here only now

< politics: distributed and centralized