What follows is a lengthy set of thoughts about how Tenebrous Satanism can be “O9A adjacent” without in any way endorsing the Order of Nine Angles’ political ideology or associated crimes. I encourage anyone concerned about my ideological leanings to read it carefully…
About the Order of Nine Angles (ONA/O9A)
There’s no need for me to go on in this space about the atrocities of the Order of Nine Angles. The most minimal of google-searching yields ample details of terrorism, violent racism, sexual assault, human sacrifice, etc.
Suffice to say that yes, I do know about all of these things. I know about opfers, cullings, and everything to do with this case and similar ones. Having first heard of O9A through an academic book about esoteric Nazism, I am not one to plead ignorance about such things.
I condemn that entire side of O9A, as would any sane person with a functional moral compass. All of it plays into why I have never been a member, and want nothing to do with “traditional” Niners. Nor is it my intention to provide apologetics for atrocities committed by Niner individuals or groups. I have zero interest in defending or rehabilitating the O9A brand as such.
About being “O9A adjacent”
All that said, though, I assert that the visibly-dysfunctional aspects of O9A do not constitute the entire sum of O9A’s parts. There is, I argue, a potent esoteric facet of O9A that can be separated out from its political ideology. This facet is discoverable via expansive reading of O9A’s texts – which I have done. What I found there has spoken deeply to me, and drastically transformed my life for the better. Accordingly, I have written Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness to excavate this content from a tradition that many would judge to be otherwise deserving of oblivion.
To the emotionally-driven simpleton, whose belief in guilt-by-association cannot be shaken, it is impossible to defend this course. Nonetheless, this entry offers some talking points about being “O9A adjacent.” That is, why not say to oneself, “the political ideology corrupts the whole, so it’s best to stay away entirely”? And is it really “OK” to take what one wants and leave the rest? I feel it is best to be transparent about my thought process on matters such as these.
I will be curious to hear whether anything I say here speaks to other “O9A adjacent” folks. Ex-Niners who still venerate the Nekalah, for example, or anti-cosmic Satanists rooted in O9A, yet distinct from it. I suspect that at least some of the thought-processes of such folks will intersect with my own.
Talking points about O9A
A simple reason why I have engaged with the esoteric facet of O9A is “because that’s just the way my life worked out.” I will leave the personal story for elsewhere. Suffice to say in brief, though, that at a time of acute spiritual malaise, it was from the Nekalah that I received unsolicited support. And so, as I write in Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness:
It is futile to frame the situation as one in which one should have chosen one’s gods better, for the actual circumstances are such that the gods were the ones who did the choosing, and not the other way around.
That is not the kind of answer I wish to offer here, though, re: why try to save parts of O9A instead of just staying away from the whole mess. This entry’s focus is more intellectual than personal. It aims to provide some food for thought re: how people think about O9A, and how people talk about O9A.
The illusion of order amid chaos
The first thing I wish to address is a bit of incoherency that I perceive in much media coverage of O9A.
Religions are often said to have an authoritative scripture, official leaders, and so forth. For example, with Christianity, one can consult the Bible, seek comment from a given denomination’s head figure, etc.
Media talk about O9A seems to frame O9A as possessing this kind of cohesion, when in fact it does not. People write O9A texts under pseudonyms, and may or may not really be who they claim to be on social media. The notion of an “outer representative” who officially “speaks for” O9A is little more than a joke. Nexions (O9A “covens,” “gangs” or “cells”) are free to interpret the texts however they like. They are free, too, to produce their own “O9A” texts. Anyone can self-initiate as a Niner, using any of these texts, whose instructions often differ from one another.
Generalizing about decentralized anarchy
When I then see media making sweeping claims about O9A’s “position” (in what text?), O9A’s “hierarchy” (as designated by who?) or etc., this often comes across to me as i) falling mindlessly into the habit of talking about O9A the way one talks about other religions, without sufficient knowledge of O9A’s (lack of) structure, and ii) reporting what is easiest to grasp and most exciting, rather than what is most technically accurate.
I can’t really blame folks who do this, as if one is looking for “leaders,” and the loudest and most-passionate proponents of O9A are Nazi-terrorist-idiots, guess who becomes the face of O9A? At the same time though, how often, in the case of talking about a religious minority, is it considered socially-acceptable and intellectually-adequate to declare, “some of them are terrorists, therefore automatically all of them are terrorists”? Could there be a bit of an “it’s OK to generalize about devil worshippers, but not other religious people” double-standard here? And is such thinking not rendered even more incoherent in the case of a religion that has no central authority, open season on writing and interpreting its texts, etc.?
Beware of overextending a justified stereotype
As I said at the start, I am not in the business of O9A apologetics. I don’t deny that many O9A members have done a variety of heinous things. I would even go so far as to admit that O9A’s “terrorists per capita” stat is surely the worst of any religion’s! Nonetheless, given the way O9A is (not) structured, I just don’t think it makes sense to talk about it as a monolithic thing. Doing so ironically promotes the infamy-seeking-dickheads into a position of authority – a phenomena which I’ll say more about below.
My main point here, then, is that if generalizing about O9A itself comes with complications, then it makes even less sense to generalize about the “O9A adjacent.” There are actual Niners who don’t embrace everything that is in every O9A text. So why assume that folks who are merely “O9A adjacent” must automatically be Nazis etc.? Especially if they make very clear their reasons for not identifying as actual Niners?
People arrive at such a place via complex circumstances, and often amid much tribulation. They deserve better than to be written off as cartoon-like villains by those too lazy to engage with nuance.
In defense of religious innovation
On how religions evolve over time
The second thing I want to address is the question of how religions change over time, and eventually give rise to new religions.
One may observe here that most “new” religions take some parts from pre-existing ones. This is understandable, as older traditions will tend to have accumulated at least some worthwhile wisdom. One kind of religious critic will insist on maintaining what works, while throwing out what no longer does. Another kind focuses more on illuminating new interpretations and extensions of what was. When the former urge predominates, the critic emerges as a reformer. When the latter is more to the forefront, perhaps the critic will wind up founding a new religion.
Either way, to forbid this impulse is to give too much power to the stodgy dinosaurs of established authority. Doing so will also ultimately doom a religion to extinction, by stifling its ability to adapt to a changing world. Surely, then, religious reformation and/or innovation must be considered rights valid for individuals to exercise.
Committing to making things better
It is not unusual today for people to argue that Christianity is irredeemably problematic on various fronts.
Some Christians react by simply dismissing such claims. Others, however, see in them an urgent call to make their own religion better. Such people are not at all blind to the problems. Nonetheless, something in the religion still speaks to a core part of who they are. Therefore, they prefer to reform or innovate, instead of just giving up the religion completely.
Most people would sooner encourage such individuals to prevail, than yell at them for not leaving the religion entirely. After all, they are trying to do good. And acknowledgment of what is problematic, not evasion of it, is what drives them to pursue this good.
Furthermore, most people respect the notion that religion is a deeply-held part of a person’s identity. They therefore do not flippantly say things like “if you don’t like x, y and z, why don’t you just go join a different religion instead?” They are also able to make distinctions between the religion’s fundamentalists and its progressives, rather than lazily painting them all with the same brush.
Against double standards
If the Christian reformer/innovator can receive understanding and empathy in this fashion, then why not the Satanist? Personally, I think Christianity and O9A are more comparable here than many wish to admit. Given the scale of historical atrocities (e.g. in Christianity’s case, crusades, inquisitions, pedophile priests, residential schools, etc.), it’s fair to ask why anyone is still bothering with either of them! I also believe, however, that parts of either may yet speak positively to the hearts of some individuals. Such people should, therefore, be free to try to reshape these into something more constructive.
With these considerations in mind, I assert that it is both unfair and counterproductive to characterize the O9A reformer/innovator as “like someone who says they only embrace the good parts of Mein Kampf.” The fact of the matter is that there is more to O9A than Nazism, however much certain members have made it seem otherwise. Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness proves this by preserving the flavor of O9A (e.g. Dark Gods, sigils, sevenfold initiation, the power of the individual will, etc.) for over 110,000 words of discussion, without any “Aryan galactic empire” bullshit. Such an endeavor would not be possible if O9A were truly as one-dimensional as the ignorant presume.
Nor should one too hastily dismiss the potential good that may come of such an endeavor. Of which I have more to say below.
A sorcerer’s mission
An understandable fear
The third thing I wish to address is a kind of reasoning which those with utopian world-improving aspirations often embrace. It runs along these lines:
- Obviously, X is super bad
- It is thus urgent that we try to save the world by limiting peoples’ exposure to X
- We must therefore ban not only X itself, but also anything that could promote X unintentionally
I would not blame anyone for reasoning in such a way in connection with O9A. However, I would argue vehemently against any claim of my own project running afoul of the third point.
An optimist’s counterpoint
Is it possible that someone may find, in my work, a glamorization of O9A that leads them into its clutches? Hard though I have tried to avoid that, it is possible. Why, however, do we not also think about the opposite case? That being, what if someone who would have otherwise joined O9A becomes a Tenebrous Satanist instead?
What if I have the power to divert some from toxic ways of venerating the Nekalah? What if, through what I write, I could turn such people away from unproductive extremism and/or nihilism, toward something better both for themselves and for the world at large?
Some religions believe “God” puts each individual upon the Earth to achieve whatever measure of good that individual is uniquely capable of. I do not believe in any positive intention of that kind behind the universe. That Tenebrous Satanism constitutes the particular good that my personal expertise and passions allow me to offer the world, however, I do believe.
I would then hope it’s possible for others to respect what I am doing, even absent wholly understanding or agreeing.
A word to the dogmatic left
The final thing I wish to address pertains to a perspective on being “O9A adjacent” that I anticipate coming from the far-left of the political spectrum in particular.
Past experience suggests to me that so-called “social justice warriors” are especially prone to emotionally-driven “guilt by association” thinking. It’s thus from these folks that I most anticipate sloppy blanket condemnations of anything “O9A adjacent” (including me).
A couple tips for such people who may have only passing acquaintance with O9A:
A positive take on my project
When it comes to the political aspect of O9A: Yes, there are a bunch of stereotypically right-wing straight white dudes in it. Yes, a number of them are criminals, and Nazis, and generally terrible people. Neither you nor I wishes to live in the imperium that such people seek to bring into being.
However, when it comes to O9A esotericism, there are women, queer people, and people of non-white or mixed racial heritage who gravitate toward the Dark Gods. It may be happening far from any established O9A nexion, but it does happen. And it happens because O9A esotericism contains some powerfully-transformative beliefs and practices.
A goal of Tenebrous Satanism is to make these positive elements accessible to those who may benefit from them. This, notably, includes those outside the traditionally “white and macho” O9A target audience.
It seems to me that such a goal is more plausibly framed as “pro-diversity” than “anti-diversity.”
Counterproductive reactions to avoid
Now, it also so happens that I myself am female, bisexual, and of mixed-race.
And I do not take it well if someone who has not read one-tenth of what I have, or experienced one-tenth of what I’ve experienced, tries to “progressive-splain” to me about “what O9A really is.” Yes, I know about its atrocities. It’s not relevant to my thing, though. What I am doing is taking their esotericism and doing something else with it.
To deny that I am able to do this, based on “what O9A really is,” is itself tantamount to “centering whiteness” and “erasing women’s experiences.” This is what I meant above re: granting infamy-seeking trolls more prestige than they deserve.
Folks, don’t do that. You’re better than this. If you wind up vehemently disagreeing with my ideas on their own merits, that’s completely fair. But in that case, at least argue with me directly, instead of setting up an O9A strawman in my place.
Supporting quotations from Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness
I’ll close this entry with a few quotations from my work that are illustrative of key differences from O9A:
Against indiscriminately hating members of a group
From the Second Key’s introduction:
What must be emphasized at the outset is that in opposing dogma, it is pernicious beliefs and practices that Tenebrous Satanism sets itself against. Our quarrel is not with whatever initially constructive human impulses metastasized into dogma. Nor is it with human beings merely because they belong to a group that subscribes to a dogmatic ideology. When a person identifies themselves by a group’s label, this may indicate dogmatic commitment, but could also indicate just a desire for social belonging or an association of convenience. It might even indicate nothing more than an accident of birth. Therefore, harboring negative attitudes toward everyone in a single group — to assert, for instance, that the Moral Majority crusader, the hip gay pastor and the old lady who volunteers at the charity shop are all equally “destroyers of life” on account of being Christians — reveals an intellectual laziness that is beneath the Satanist.
Against criminal activity
From the Third Key’s take on what constitutes Satanic virtue vs. vice:
Crime, for instance, as a violation of the social contract, typically entails a failure of empathy toward victims, a lack of perseverance via opting for an “easy” way of obtaining something instead of the harder but more honorable way, and inadequate wisdom insofar as whatever plan one has to get away with it fails to keep one out of prison. Amid such preponderance of vice, one cannot argue convincingly that crime is a valid manifestation of zeal. The Satanist who attempts to rationalize crime, as if any and all forms of transgression were equally edifying, is nothing more than an irresponsible thrill-seeker. The short-sightedness of such individuals ultimately obstructs the very cause that they imagine themselves to be advancing.
From the Ninth Key’s recommendations on how to most effectively bring about aeonic change:
The violent action that is too easy to label “evil” is, on account of that very label, an action that many people will see as bereft of constructive intent. Consequently, they will either write it off as the petty delinquency of a juvenile personality or condemn it as an unconscionable act of terrorism. Both kinds of response severely limit violence’s capacity to achieve change. It is true that violence is prevalent within nature itself and that under certain circumstances (e.g., to overthrow an oppressive regime), it may be the most appropriate tool for the job. Nonetheless, human beings possessed of reason, creativity, and numerous other capacities ought not to underestimate the other, better tools that can be used to prod stagnancy into transformation. Changing the world is an inherently social endeavor, so one ought to think carefully about the limitations of trying to use anti-social methods to achieve such changes.
This post was edited on Jun 18/23 to update excerpts to post-final-edit wording in Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness. I also made a few other minor edits and added the link to the Rolling Stones article at that time, as that particular collection of O9A atrocities was something I only came across after I first wrote this post. A small handful of additional tweaks of a similar kind were made on Aug 13/23.