‘When you go into the dark and this becomes total, the darkness soon turns into light.’ – from The Tao“[Many] spiritual traditions have used darkness techniques in the pursuit of enlightenment. In Europe, the dark room often appeared in underground form as a network of tunnels, in Egypt as the Pyramids, in Rome as the catacombs, and by the Essenes, near the Dead Sea in Israel, as caves. In the Taoist tradition caves have been used throughout the ages for higher level practices. In the Tao, the cave, the Immortal Mountain, the Wu San, represents the Perfect Inner Alchemy Chamber. Meditating and fasting in the cave is the final journey of spiritual work. The caves are the Earth Mother and its energy lines. Like the hollowing bones, caves contain the earliest information of life stored inside the Earth. Caves contain the vital essence of the Earth Power.
In the Darkness, our mind and soul begin to wander freely in the vast realms of psychic and spiritual experience. When you enter this primordial state you are reunited with the true Self and Divinity within. You literally ‘conduct’ the universal energy. You may see into the past and future, understand the true meaning of existence, and begin to understand the order of things. You return to the womb, the cocoon of our material structure and Nature’s original Darkness. […]
Eventually, we awaken within ourselves the awareness of the Source, the spirit, the soul. We descend into the void, into the darkness of deep, inner space.” From: Chia, M., Darkness Technology In India, the retreats in darkness are usually called Kaya Kalpa Retreats. The term kalpa means “ageless” or “immortal” while kaya means “body”. Thus Kaya Kalpa is an ayurvedic treatments for rejuvenating the body calling for seclusion in darkness, meditation, along with the application of various herbal concoctions. It is even seen as a form of Yoga and ayurvedic medicine that was developed in southern India at about the same time Hatha Yoga was born. Kaya Kalpa has the following main objectives:
- Revealing the Supreme Self / Ultimate Reality
- Slowing down the aging process
- Maintaining excellent physical health and youthful vitality
- Delaying physical death until one achieves jivamukta (spiritual liberation from the effects of karma)
In India and China, as in the book of Genesis, the first work of Creation was the separation of light and darkness which were interfused in the beginning. A “return to the beginning of things” might therefore find expression in the resolution of this duality and the recreation of primordial unity where the rational mind dissolves.
Retreating into darkness was also practiced in the Dzogchen lineage of Tibetan Buddhism which recommended a period of 49 days.
There are historians who suggest that ancient Egyptians and Mayans practiced a form of the Dark Retreat as well, traditionally lasting ten days. Holy men would enter into the center of their respective pyramids, completely removed from light and sound.