Black Metal Theology

According to the Jewish kabbalist, Issac Luria, it was through a constriction of the godhead that a space was opened up for the creation of the cosmos. This exile of the godhead within itself is referred to as the tzim tzum. It was in the vacuum opened up by this constriction that a series of descending worlds were brought into existence through an emanation of divine light. For the kabbalists, God was understood in terms of infinity, ineffability, inexpressibility, namelessness, and non-existence. As the fourteenth century kabbalist David ben Abraham ha-Lavan puts it, “Ayin (nothingness) is more existent than all the yesh (being) of the world.”[1] All exists within the nothingness of God, and the nothingness of God transcends all.

Two events of central importance to the Lurianic understanding of 1) the creation of the world, and 2) the origin of evil, are the creation and destruction of the primordial worlds and the “breaking of the vessels.” Luria referred to the first post-tzimtzum world as Adam-Kadmon. This realm was too lofty for the creation of our universe to take place; therefore, light is said to have emitted from Adam-Kadmon as ten independent points of light contained within a single vessel. This world was referred to as that of Akudim. The subsequent world which emanated from Akudim was referred to as Nikudim. In Nikudim, each of the ten points of light were contained in individual vessels. Now according to Luria, these powerful points of light were situated one above the other, without the sort of harmonious structure that the emanations of divine light would come to take in the world of Tikun. As Luria explains:

“The existence of vessels begins only in the world of Akudim – in which there is but one general vessel for all the ten lights – and below. Subsequently, the world of Nikudim was emanated, in which ten vessels were formed for the ten lights. /…/ [These sefirot] are referred to as ten “nekudot”, meaning individual “points” of light, rather than as ten complete sefirot. /…/ Now these ten sefirot were emanated in such a way that they were situated one above the other.”[2]

This primordial world of Nikudim, unstable and violent, is also called Tohu. Lacking any sort of harmonious structure, the lower seven vessels are said to have shattered. The shells of these broken vessels, known as the qliphoth, fell down into the abyss.

With the destruction of Tohu came the ordering of a new creation referred to as the world of Tikun. This is translates as the world of restoration.  As Moshe Miller explains, it is this world, of restoration, after Tohu, that Gensis 1:31 is said to refer to when it says: “And God looked over everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”[3] And it is the old world, of Tohu that is said to be referred to in Genesis 36, when it speaks of the kings who once reigned in the land of Edom, before Israel. Like the old kings, who ruled lawlessly in the land of Edom, the world of Tohu was without the harmonious structure of the ten Sephirot in Tikun.

The Jewish kabbalist and mystic, Nathan of Gaza, notorious for the role he played in the seventeenth century mystical messianic movement behind the figure of Sabbatai Sevi, conceived of the infinite godhead, Ein Sof, as containing two lights— a thoughtful light, with a desire to create, and a thoughtless light, without such desire. He also believed that the vacuum (which he called tehiru), created through the tzim tzum, was divided into an upper and a lower hemisphere. Nathan theorized that when the light of Ein Sof entered tehiru in order that the worlds be created, remnants of the thoughtless aspect remained. These remnants are the shells, or qliphoth, of the disharmonious light.

So inherent to creation, and the godhead itself, according to Nathan, is a dialectic between opposites— on the one hand, we have that aspect of the divine light that desires to create (as seen in the harmonious structure of Tikkun, and the sephirotic tree of life), while on the other, there is that which despises, or works against order. The shells that contain the residue of the anti-cosmic light, according to Nathan, reside in the lower hemisphere of tehiru— this is the realm of demons and anti-worlds, described metaphorically as the realm of dragons.

Nathan did not think that the tikkun ha olam, or restoration of the world, performed by the Jewish people through the observation of the commandments, or mitzvot, involved the redemption of these qilphoth. Rather, he believed that such tikkun could only come about through a certain kind of messianic redemption—namely, the messiah’s (who was, for him, Shabbatai) descent into the depths of the Abyss.

Satan too can be viewed within a qliphotic framework, as the opposer, or anti-thesis of this world. What is important, though, is that this dialectic takes place internal to Ein. This involves telling a certain story of Satan, made possible, in large part, thanks to the framework of Rabbi Isaac ha-Kohen, as set out in the Treatise on the Left Emanation.

For Isaac ha-Kohen, the potential for evil originates within the divine economy itself.

“Nature Itself,” says Andrew Chumbley, “desires the breaking of its own laws and possibilities, and thus even its own Iconoclasm.” And “[t]he Perfected Sorcerer”, he tells us, “must ally himself to this Design and by Magick he must walk beyond it.”[4] Chumbley was a member of the closed order, Cultus Sabbati.

The “Arcanum of the Opposer”, Chumbley explains, concerns the “Powers of Self-overcoming”. The sorcerous path is a crooked one; for it is transgressive. It is a path of becoming. Stagnation is enslavement; the “Arcanum of the Opposer”, freedom. The “crooked path”, is a means of opening one’s self up to that which is wholly other, the unmanifest, beyond the veil.  In Qutub, Andrew Chumbley defines the purpose of magical practice as follows:

“to refine, develop, and eventually to transmute the Entire Being of the Magician; this process being in accordance with his Will, Desire and Belief. It is to recreate oneself in a form aligned unto one’s True Nature (the Ipseity of Otherness), and thus to become a perfect vehicle for the expression of that nature (36).”

Elsewhere he says the Adept:

“facilitates communication with the Powers and Intelligences which are masked by Name, Number, Image and Symbol. Passing through such Gates he participates within the Reality veiled by Myth and Rite, he partakes wholly of Otherness Ineffable.”

Various black metal bands, such as Dissection, Ofermod, and Mortuus, magical orders such as the Misanthropic Luciferian Order and the Temple of the Black Light, and publishers such as Ixaxar, have articulated an anti-cosmic philosophy, challenging not just the hegemonic structures of modernity, reason, capitalist consumerism, and organized religion, but even ontology.[5]

There are differences, of course, between the orders of Dragon Rouge, Cultus Sabbati, and TOTBL. But there are also similarities, as it relates to themes of transgression and becoming. My intention is not to discuss the history and philosophy of these orders per se, but to highlight some of the ways in which their ideas have influenced the theological thrust of black metal. As I see it, this is a bid farewell (adieu) to god as “big other”, or idol/demiurge, in order to move towards God (à dieu) as wholly Other, or No-thing. I’m weaving a story, drawing on several sources. And what they share in common is the theme of exit—through the cracks in Malkuth, beyond form, towards that which is No-thing, infinite.

“No time can hold the power that grows

from black earth caves and trees that die

From fierce breath and tail that whips

Black magic metal to rule again”

So sings Tommie Eriksson, of the Swedish act, Saturnalia Temple. The song, “Black Magic Metal”, taken from their first full length, Aion of Drakon, speaks of dark, occulted forces, brooding deep within the earth, extending beyond it. To come into contact with these forces, that both predate and exceed the cosmos is to be unhinged, to say the least.

“Do not come near if you are not strong

prepare to fall… and be born anew

Inner fire, only few can stand”

It’s helpful to understand the occult philosophy with which Saturnalia Temple is working. The guitarist/singer, Tommie Eriksson, is a friend of Thomas Karlsson, founder of Dragon Rouge and author of Qabalah, Qliphoth, and Goetic Magic. Eriksson is himself a member of Dragon Rouge and has contributed on more than one occasion to the order’s journal, Dracontias.[6] Other Swedish bands associated with Dragon Rouge are Ofermod and Serpent Noir. In Dragon Rouge, the Qabalah is an important pillar, especially as it relates to the spiritual ordeal that is the ascent of the tree of knowledge— described in terms of ten anti-poles, corresponding to each sephira on the tree of life. These anti-worlds, or qliphoth, are sources of power and becoming, populated by demons. From Nahemo (the antipole of Malkuth, ruled by Nahema) to Thaumiel (the antipole of Kether, ruled by Satan and Moloch), the adept must ascend the tree of knowledge in order to attain Godhood. This spiritual ordeal, this exit— out of the cosmos, through Lilith’s womb— is carried out in order that the sorcerer may enter into the fullness of his or her own existence. This is none other than the path to Godhood. It is a fiery path— like Lucifer, the adept must fall in order to be born anew. “Do not come near if you are not strong… only few can stand,” as Eriksson sings.

Members of other Swedish bands, such as Ofermod and Serpent Noir, are also fraters in Dragon Rouge. Then there’s the now defunct, but also Swedish, Dissection, whose front man, Jon Nödtveidt, was a member the Misanthropic Luciferian Order (later renamed the Temple of the Black Light). Dissection’s third full length, Reinkaos, is full of occult symbolism related to the MLO, with lyrical content gleaned from the order’s grimoire, Liber Azerate. Lyrics are cited as being penned not only by Nödtveidt himself, but also Frater Nemidial who was the Magister Templi of the MLO.[7] Like Dragon Rouge, the TOTBL has developed a magical system based on the qliphoth.

TOTBL’s occult philosophy is meontotheological, in the way Conor Cunningham describes, insofar as “the hegemony of the nothing sucks all in, allowing (only) nothingness to escape.”[8] With “meontotheology” (coming from meontology where the One is held to be beyond being), the logic of the ultimate nothing reigns supreme.[9] Beyond the veil, beyond conscious grasp— beyond what Tehôm of Mortuus calls the “excrements of history”, the “simplicity of hunger, sleep and pro-creation”— lies the void, the unmanifest nothingness:

“In blindness you deemed Satan comprehensible –

Still you cannot even see the smallest grain of sand,

In this desert of otherworldly misgrowth

Where we erase our names from the book of life

And let our voices fade into nothingness

For what could ever be more beautiful

Than the abandonment of it all –

In a self-chosen bestial madness?”[10]

The demiurge emerged, stupidly, out of the divine Nothing, and the divine Nothing shall one day swallow up his cosmos. Satan is the antithesis of the thoughtful light, the opposer of the demiurge, who will usher in this return to Nothingness. “The vastness of hell is expanding in every direction,” as Tehôm sings.

We see can find similarities in contemporary continental realisms, as well as Chumbley and Daniel Schulke’s (another Cultus Sabbati member) occult philosophies of nature. As Graham Harman explains, with regard to the vitalism of the philosopher Iain Hamilton Grant, for example, “the dynamism in the world comes from a formless “productivity” rather than from individual objects.”[11] Now in Schulke’s Lux Haeresis, the Unknown’s becoming manifest is spoken of in terms of a “refraction of singularity.”[12] Indeed, the Void is described as “being monad”.[13] A similar sort of conception of unmanifest reality is to be found in Chumbley’s opus magnum, Azoëtia, the arch-grimoire of the Cultus Sabbati. Thus, it turns out that the otherness of being mentioned above, which, for Chumbley, alignment with is the goal of sorcerous practice, is none other than a quintessence conceived of as “the indivisible Monas of Magick Itself, the seed of primordial gnosis which is inherent to the entity of the Mage.”[14] “The Arcanum of the Magickal Quintessence may be understood,” says Chumbley, “as the direct comprehension of the source which informs, supports and vitalises all elements of the Manifest.”[15] It is “a subtle means,” as he goes on to tell us, “to behold manifest form and character as the modalities of the single power.”[16]

This isn’t a reductive monism, however. Like Emmanuel Levinas, Chumbley and Schulke speak of transcendence. Levinas was weary of monism insofar as it reduces the otherness of beings under the unity of the same. But Chumbley and Schulke aren’t at all denying the category of the “absolutely other”. Rather, the two seem to have more in common with Levinas’ own position. For Levinas, like them, held that 1) reality exceeds conscious grasp, and 2) beyond form there is the anonymous rumbling of the il y a—a formlessness which itself extends into the absolutely other. Indeed, Chumbley and Schulke are certainly not denying the possibility of that which can shock, of those moments in our lives which defy all comprehension. Indeed, such moments are an important component of magical practice. That Harman accuses Levinas of “[undercutting] the presence of all phenomena with a single mighty stroke of divine Infinity,”[17] bears witness to the similarity between Levinas and the Cultus Sabbati writers.

It’s not that the Kabbalists, Levinas, Chumbley and Schulke, or even the Gnostic Satanist, are reducing the world to a formless reality in the sense of the world being an illusion. The world has substance, apart from the Nothing. The world isn’t an illusion. The Kabbalists aren’t espousing the same sort of monism as an Advaita Vedantist, for example. The world is contained in the Nothingness of God; yet God, at the same time, transcends the world. This is the key point. The world isn’t an illusion, it is contingent. It emerges out of, is sustained by, and (for the Satanist, at least) will be swallowed up by that which transcends it. In Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim: Early Masters, Rabbi Levi Yitzkhak is said to have sung the following song:

“Where I wander—You./ Where I ponder—You./ Only You, You again, always You./ You! You! You!/ When I’m gladdened—You./ When I am saddened—You./ Only You, You again, always You./ You! You! You!/ Sky is You. Earth is You./ You above. You below./ In every trend, at every end/ Only You, You again, always You./ You! You! You!”

Thus, the monism, as espoused by the Kabbalists, has to do with the unity of all things in God, “the All”. Yet, God is, at the same time referred to as “No-thing”, that which transcends form. There is not a second in which the universe is not sustained by the divine force of God. God is “the All” insofar as everything exists in and through God; yet God is “No-thing”, transcending the bounded world. The bounded world of things exists in and through the boundlessness of God. As Rabbi Yitzkhak comments in on Genesis 1:1, in the Kedushat Levi:

“Everything (ha-klal) – that the Creator, the Blessed One, created all (ha-khol), and is all (ha-khol), and His influence/emanation, it never ceases from the universe, because in every moment His emanation flows to creation, and all the [material] worlds, and to all the celestial precincts, and to all the angels, and to all the holy beasts. Thus we read: Forming (yotzer) light and creating darkness, – [but] not, He formed (yatzar) light and created darkness. [We] only [find] yozter, in the present tense, because in every moment He is forming, that in every moment He is flowing life-force to all life. And everything from Him is blessed, it is complete, and it is comprised (k’lul) from The All (ha-khol). And thereby when a person comes to No-Thing (Ain), then he knows that he [himself] is not anything (aino klum), [there is] only the Creator, the Blessed One, placing strength/existence in him. Only then can he call to the Creator, the Blessed One, by the aspect yatzar [the past tense], namely, that He has already created him.”[18]

Of course, for the Gnostic Satanist, yesh is, as Nebiros of Ofermod sings “[m]isgrown diversity”, and “[v]ain existance where existance is Naught.”[19] What distinguishes the Gnostic Satanist from Levinas, or the Jewish Kabbalists is their view of creation, of the emergence of something out of nothing. The Gnostic Satanist, drawing on Nathan of Gaza, sees this as a mistake— the result of a thoughtful light, of the demiurge’s foolish desire to create. Whereas the kabbalist believes in the reconstitution of cosmic harmony through tikkun, the Gnostic Satanist desires no such balance. The Satanist instead wills the swallowing up of this world: “Pralaya Divine/Withdrawal to Ain,” as is sung in Ofermod’s “Pralayic Withdrawal”.

Like the kabbalists, and Levinas, the theological movement of black metal is monotheistic. Everything is born and dies in the No-thingness of God. The difference between the philosophy of Levinas and back metal lies in their view of the thoughtful light—according to which the Godhead, rather than rest in thought of itself, constricted itself so as to create an “atheist” space, or vacuum, wherein the outpouring of worlds became possible. As expressed in the art of Ofermod or Mortuus, the creative principle is a retardation of the No-thing, of the “rest of perfect Darkness”, when “the Vast Darkness was in Itself”, before “the outpouring of transient worlds”.[20] This is no vulgar Satanism. This is a theologically refined Satanism. No longer are we talking about the naïve evil vs. good of earlier bands such as Mayhem or Burzum. Like the kabbalists, the potential for evil, the anti-thesis of the creative principle, can be traced back to the same source as the good, as the will to create. All exists in the No-thing. However, while the kabbalists espouse the idea of tikkun, of balance, of the severity of Gevurah being kept in check, the theological impetus of black metal is to see this “unplugging” of the power of the left emanation from the harmony of the ten sefirot, and its growth, as fed by the evil inclination of man, as inevitable.

Satan is worshiped as the face of Gevurah. “[T]he vastness of hell is expanding in every direction,”[21] as Tehôm of Mortuus sings. This is the inevitable overcoming of god. The demiurge, or creative principle, and the cosmos it gave rise to, are but the child of No-thing, delivered only to be swallowed up again. The cosmos is, as Nebiros of Ofermod sings, “[l]ife taken from Death”. It is No-thingness “[d]isturbed in its holy peace.”[22]

In the “Evocation of Amezarak”, Dødsengel recounts the prophecy issued by the opposer:  “[g]eburah, the dagger, will sever the ties between the cosmos [and] [a]ll shall embrace the utter spiritual void…”[23] “[E]verything becomes Thee,” sings Tehôm— for everything dies in Ein, returns to No-thingness. As Ofermod sing, in “Chôshekh Ên Sôf”:

‘Negating the emanations of the “father of all”

inverting the process that once gave me Life

Destroying the world of the speaker

bathing in the well of life beyond life’[24]

The theological impetus of black metal is Gnostic insofar as it looks beyond the creative principle/demiurge, beyond being, towards a G-d who inexists— in short, a G-d who is no god. Whereas Levinas and the kabbalists look favorably on creation, the Gnostic Satanist sees it as “a second”, a “fleeting state”[25]— a mere fluctuation, to be subsumed once again in the perfect black. “The pendulum is set in motion,” as Tehôm sings in “Disobedience”; “[i]n a heart beat day has turned into night.”[26]

As Tehôm sings, in the hymn, “Supplication for the Demise of All: Withdrawal into the Lifeless Sanctum”:

Oh, God of the perfect black, how could I possibly describe in words,

the awe and worship I feel for Thee?

Yea, above all thing Thou art!

And everything becomes Thee,

yes, everything dies in Thee!

For Thou art the channel of Thyself.

There lies the redemption of Death fulfilled

There is the salvation and final release.

Of course, Harman has a problem with what he sees as “the single De Profundis[27] of Levinas—and would no doubt say the same of Chumbley, Schulke, or Tehôm. That is not to say, however, that Harman’s own philosophy doesn’t give expression to a sort of De Profundis, but that it’s not a single, monotheistic God. For Harman, Levinas’ mistake is that in “downplaying the notion of manifold individual surpluses lying in various individual things, he tends to regard Infinity as a single Holy Other.”[28] For Harman, “things have exteriority— an aspect that lies beyond their position in the world as we know it”[29] Yet, for Harman, this exteriority isn’t thought of in terms of formlessness or transcendence. For Harman, it’s forms, or objects, all the way down.

Harman argues that there isn’t much reason, apart from speculation, to think exteriority in terms of “a formless elemental realm preceding any condensation into definite shapes.”[30] Yet, Harman is himself speculating. For if reality is, as he concedes, far stranger than we could ever imagine, then on what grounds are we to dismiss Levinas, or Chumbley and Schulke? Ironically, Harman bases his dismissal on the world as it appears to him—namely, as made up of objects. Indeed, I’d say the Jewish mystic, or Chumbley and Schulke, have the upper hand insofar as their exploration extends beyond ordinary states.

Tehȏm of Mortuus expresses his devotion towards the wholly Other God, or De Profundis, as follows:

The spirit can not die in anything but in Thee

Therefore I implore Thee in prayer

for everything must be destroyed so that You can live,

…so that I can live

Oh, God of the perfect black, how could I possibly describe in words,

the awe and worship I feel for Thee?[31]

And Naas Alcameth of Nightbringer proclaims the apocalyptic euaggellion of the absolutely other:

“And in the eyes of their dying children, they shall see

In the shallow breath of the sick and starving, they shall hear

In the husks of their failing mortality, they shall feel

The great Truth shall be known and all will despair

The Nothing lurks just beyond the horizon

Flesh and blood is all that binds

Ever-failing as life’s light grows dim

The end is coming

And all shall be cast to the void”[32]

If the distinguishing feature of narrative is “a linear organization of events”[33], then the narrative underlying this black metal can be said to hinge on the notion of a primordial beginning and an apocalyptic end, or return to the primordiality of Edom. The devotee forsakes the flesh, as well as the world, undergoing a hermetic death or alchemical solve of self in order to progress along the path of theurgy or coagula, towards union with the divine Other, moving beyond all cosmic structure:

“Death is thy name, yet I name thee God, for there is no other. To thee I give my body like fodder to the grave and offer breath that hath become as the Serpent’s hiss. I exhale from my mouth the flame of an inner fire, the greater “I” becoming, and let my husk be filled with the wine of the abyss.[34]


“I would draw the gaze of my daemon self upon myself that I may murder myself and become my daemon, and move ever closer towards the incalculable totality of the Great Darkness that is the Supreme.”[35]

“Death in the highest sense”, according to Ophis of Nightbringer, “is literally transformation, transcendence beyond formal limitation.”[36] Fellow band member Naas Alcameth clarifies further, in another interview, the concept of spiritual Death:

“Death as a gate of immanence to be known and embraced that would lead away from the law of severity which governs conditioned existence. The ascent proceeds to realms which are progressively un-ruled and unrestricted by the laws of multiplicity and “form,” representing the passage from becoming to Being in the traditional initiatic conception.”[37]

“However”, says Ophis, “even this is not the pinnacle, for beyond Being is the Absolute, the Divine Darkness.”[38]  Just as Partridge traces much of Western demonology back to an exegesis of the Genesis story of the Sons of God and the Nephilim[39], many bands’ conceptions of the wholly Other, the outer Darkness, Nothingness or the Void can be traced back to an interpretation of the Genesis creation myth which sought to reconcile the infinity of God with the emanation of a finite cosmos, or, in other words, provide a theologically coherent account of the transition from ayin (nothingness) to yesh (something). Tehȏm of Mortuus recounts how:

“Before the outpouring of transient worlds

the Vast Darkness was in Itself

He was not, and I in Him

in a rest of perfect Darkness

. . .

Still-born existence, rejoicing in a pitch-black womb[40]

As I’ve pointed out, for the Kabbalists, the creation of something (yesh) out of Nothing (ayin) came to be explained through the notion of a divine self-contraction, or tzimtzum. The infinite light (ohr ayn sof) of God was drawn aside so as to create a space for the creation (or better yet, emanation) of the world. As Gershom Scholem explains, God made room for the world through “abandoning a region within Himself, a kind of mystical primordial space from which He withdrew in order to return to it in the act of creation and revelation.”[41]

Nathan of Gaza (referenced in the publications of both Dragon Rouge and the Temple of the Black Light) conceived of the infinite godhead, Ein Sof, as containing two lights: a thoughtful light (ohr she-yesh bo mahshavah) and a thoughtless light (ohr she-ein bo mahshavah). As Scholem explains, the nature of this latter light was “to rest in itself and to emanate unto itself, without leaving the realm of Ein Sof[42] Nathan also believed that tehiru, as he referred to the vacuum created through tzimtzum, was divided into an upper and a lower hemisphere. The shells containing residue of the thoughtless light reside, according to Nathan, in the lower hemisphere of tehiru. This is crucial to understanding the TOTBL’s occult philosophy, and its 218 current.

These are the “very destructive, demonic forces” which Mika Hakola of Ofermod says the band channels “in an occult way”. He continues:

“I am myself approaching these forces in this way in my personal spiritual life, forces that for me become constructive instead of destructive, because through these forces I am in search of Luciferian Gnosis and illumination, which in the end results in godhood attained, according to the promise of Lord Lucifer in the shape of the serpent in the book of Berashith/Genesis when he offered mankind the potentiality to become gods themselves by tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, that is the shadow side of the Tree of Life. It is this northern shadow side that I explore to achieve Self-Deification. A long and demanding process, but each treasure of the underworld is worth the effort required by him or her who have chosen this path.”[43]

Within occult black metal, the Devil is “the Idol of opposition, the Opposer or Adversary”[44], the great (anti-)emanation of the thoughtless light, the Christos of tehiru’s draconian depths that beckons the return to the Nothingness that is the womb of All:

“Behold the Great Opposer, thou who art as Death! Oh that I may become at one with mine otherness of being. I seek the smagdarine crown jewel of the victorious conqueror of Eden, Lucifer Trismegistus, Janus-faced daimon. Thou who gazeth upon the Dark Abyss of Silence, Vast Depth of Nothingness, Great Void of Light beyond Light. Oh Highest One, Great Devourer, Universal Solvent, may I become at one with Thee! Bring forth the Flame that cracks the clay and tears the soul to unite the deathless spirit with Death itself. Illuminate me with a scourge of burning cinders that strikes me with the causeless liberty of Thine unfathomable fantasy. The draconian perfection born from thy boundless rebellion.”[45]


See Eschaton’s molested cunt unfold

Icons vomit seas of curdled blood

And Christ descends in feverish rapture

Mantis-faced and reeking of insane love

His tongue crushes the horizon line

Fingers distort their sidereal march

Gaping mouths filled with burning seed

A Wisdom too swift for Reason’s claws

O Messiah that lurks between each heartbeat . . .

The Kingdom shall come as a thief at night

To rob us off formation’s sleep

With a Light that no eyelid was made to block

Like eardrums that burst a great lengths ‘neath the sea

Come! Come!

The cracked bells of Ratio have all rung

Come! Come!

Savior of a Secret Sun

Come! Come!

Exclaim the Truth that we all shun

Come! Come!

Christi vel Abaddon…[46]

Binaries such as cosmos/anti-cosmos, order/chaos, life/death, day/night, light/darkness, God/Devil run through black metal. Given that black metal is, like any form of popular music, a historically and culturally situated text,[47] these binaries are to be understood in relation to the context in which the genre emerged. For within Western socio-cultural contexts, symbols of life, light, and fertility are given prominence over those of death, darkness, and decay. The latter, being anomalous to the symbolic taxonomy of the West, have been dealt with in various ways— whether temporarily controlled through bio-medical technologies, or religiously elevated into “the greater scheme of things”. The movement of black metal, however, assimilates these anomalies, giving to them a metaphysical significance, as the poison of the Devil, the acosmic forces which beckon a return to the Void. As Anthony Sciscione notes, “[b]lack metal’s discourse of renewal is grounded upon its harnessing of polar energies in collusion with its antagonistic posturing against standard, non-intense social and ontological states.”[48] Black metal musicians, in their performance, mark the socio-symbolic and ontological boundary between yesh and ayin upon their bodies, expressing their identity as an identity-in-contrast, and acting as conduits to the spirits of the Nightside, giving voice to the Voiceless, to the thoughtless Light (ohr she-ein bo mahshavah) beyond light. As Kæffel of Hetroertzen declares:

Peace is the Absolute Darkness

Which came before this Light

But the True Light lies far beyond the Dying Sun

There is no Form, no Matter, no Time, no Pain, no Death.

The Endless Hole of Nothingness

Devours all False Light shining in Space.[49]

Or as one of the conduits of Irkallian Oracle explains:

“When performing live we want to do nothing else than to invite those present to the apocalyptic and mystical oration of the Abyss itself. So the use of hoods, incense, skulls and so on are mainly meant to set up the useful atmosphere for such an event, but they obviously carry symbolic virtues in themselves as well. For instance, the veiling of our faces signifies our role as the Oracle, being bereft of our individual human features and speaking the voices from beyond the fabric of illusion.”[50]

For the anti-cosmic Satanist, “Sitra Ahra ruled solitary before creation”, as one Saturnalia Temple track is titled; and Lucifer is the torchbearer who will usher in the return to the primordial womb of chaos. All those of the blood of Cain will turn their back on the demiurge, and like Cain, murder the Adam that is their human self. The sorcerer sets out on the path, as paved by the first murderer and illuminated by Satan, through the womb of Lilith, towards Nothingness— “the madness into which all things flow”, as one Thantifaxath track is titled. The sorcerer seeks a jouissance fulfilled, whatever the cost. When posed with the question, “your money or your life”, the Satanist opts for the latter. That one will lose one’s money either way doesn’t necessarily make it a forced choice, as Lacan thought. Remember, Death is the gateway to the Other Side. One may lose one’s money, as well as one’s life, but one gains something which cannot be gained in any other way. As Naas Alcameth recounts, “the destruction of the ego is only immediately accessible via physical death.”

Not only does the adept of the 218 current form part of a subculture existing in the shadows of the mainstream— they give metaphysical significance to the very shadows they lurk within. Socially repudiated images of death, darkness, night, shadows, and decay become appropriated as symbols in relation to which the identity of the practitioner is constituted. The linearity so central to the structure of narrative[51] is in this case expressed in relation to the two events of: 1) a primordial beginning conceived of as an utter darkness which preceded the light (or in Kabbalistic terms, Ein Sof’s state of resting within itself before the tzim tzum or self-contraction necessary for the emanation of the cosmos), and 2) an apocalyptic withdrawal of all cosmic emanation to this womb of Nothingness. The practitioner makes use of these images in order to deal with a present state of existence that is deemed hostile, to be escaped from. As the somewhat anonymous author , N.A-A. 218, associated with Ixaxar publishing and magister of the Cult of Falxifer, states, regarding 182 current of the Qayinite cult (related to the 218 current of TOTBL) that:

“Qayin was much more than just a murderer, He was the first Awakened One of Spirit . . . the First Killer of Man, the First Gravedigger, the First Necromancer, the First Exiled, the First Luciferian/Satanist (consciously siding with the Adversary of the Demiurge), the First Conqueror of Fate . . . the First King/Sovereign ruling outside of the “grace” of the Demiurge and the First Mighty Dead who. . . transcended the limitations of the Dayside and took throne in Sitra Ahra.”

The pseudonymous Noxifer, on behalf of the once Swedish Misantropiska Lucifer Orden (perhaps most well known for its association with the Swedish Black Metal band Dissection, particularly its front man Jon Nödtveidt who himself committed ritual suicide.[52]) once stated that:

“Misanthropy and contempt for society are also essential parts of the true Satanism. Because if a sufficient will shall be able to exist to attain the spiritual evolution and bring forth the endless dark aeon, which is the highest goal for the Anti-cosmic Satanist, there must also exist a burning hate against the prevalent order and the human sheep who gladly submit to the tyranny of the demiurge and the light, pro-cosmic religions.”[53]

The dissolving energy that black metal channels is necessarily followed by a coagula, a reconstitution in the form of an ascended Self. This Self can be said to be “hyper-excarnate”. It is certainly the opposite of hyper-carnate in so far as the flesh is, in typically Gnostic fashion, deemed a prison. However, excarnate is not enough. The Satanic repudiation of the cosmos— coupled always with the theme of transcendence— represents a form of extreme excarnation.

Yet, this excarnation occurs from the locus of incarnation. This is where we find the theme of the anti-logos. The anti-logos is the very “hideous gnosis”[54] of black metal; or as Nightbringer have referred to it, the “The Gnosis of Inhumation”[55] or “death to the profane self”[56].

A good example of this theme, of the incarnation of the anti-logos/Word of Satan, is the 2012 album by Verbum Verus entitled, Melkiresha. We can translate the name of the band itself as “true word”, and the name of the album is none other than that of Satan, as taken from the 4Q’Amram dead sea scroll fragment. The figure Melki-resha, is the antagonist of Melchizidek, he is the anti-messiah, or prince of darkness. The album itself perfectly represents this theme.

Satan’s horns cast a shadow in this world— one can look around and discern his mystery, his dominion. Here we have a rich theological inversion of the Christian theme of incarnation. It is through the incarnation of the anti-logos, of the holy word of Satan, that transformation takes place. The inner body is dissolved in order that the coagulation of the excarnate body can take place. As Alcameth sings, “until my heart is not but flame”. The theme of the body as a vessel for the Lord is inverted within Melkiresha. The mouth, the eyes, the heart, all become transformed in Satan.

Is this not the perfect inversion of the doctrine of the incarnation, as expressed by Athanasius, for example, according to which the logos became incarnate so that the flesh could be transformed? In Melkiresha the transformation of the body of the servant of the Lord Satan in turn transforms that with which it comes into contact with. “May what I touch become cancerous” he sings, and “may my gaze pierce the heart of the righteous”.

This theme of transformation then comes to climax with the theme of the apocalypse as taken from the Book of Revelation. What Satan begins through sowing his seed within the world— a seed spread by his faithful disciples (you see the inversion? Compare to the Christian theme of spreading the Word of God)— is brought to completion with the coming of the beast. We find throughout Melkiresha a theme which, true to the name of the album, comes straight from the dead sea scrolls; namely, an antagonistic struggle between the Christ and anti-Christ. Indeed, the theme of inversion expressed throughout the album is none other than the channelling of the spirit of the anti-Christ as an inversion of the Christ. Redemption belongs to those chosen (and this chosenness is emphasized throughout the album) few, Satan’s elect; it takes the form of a rapturous hyper-excarnate transcendence of the flesh, having been transformed by the Word of the Lord Satan. Indeed, even the New Testament theme of every knee bowing before the Lord is taken up by the band, and inverted. It is Satan before whom every knee shall bow. The earth belongs to him. His cancerous seed has been planted within the soil of the earth—an earth which, like the selves of his servants, will be dissolved.

However, though the self is in a process of dissolution, and the earth one of degradation, the eschaton will result in liberation, transcendence, redemption. This narrative event, of the apocalypse, is an important one; however, Melkiresha highlights the full force of it. It is in relation to this event, when all shall bow before the ten horns of the beast, that the process of alchemical dissolution initiated by the internalization of the anti-logos finds its coagula. Here we see the theological significance of the Cain/Abel dichotomy. Cain’s transcendence—his exit, out of Eden, and into the wilderness (which can here be read theologically as a kind of anti-Eden, the primordial Nothingness before the Tzim Tzum)— is closely related to the slaying of Abel’s flesh.

Redemption is, as I have already pointed out, hyper-excarnate. One must die in order to live. Here, once again, we find an inversion of Christian theology. As is the case in baptism, one dies to the world in order to be reborn apart from it. In order to move beyond the confines of conditioned existence, one must dissolve the house of clay.


[1] As quoted in Daniel C. Matt, “Ayin: The Concept of Nothingness in Jewish Mysticism”, pg. 43

[2] Isaac Luria, Shaar HaHakdamot, Derush 1 b’Olam HaNikudim, quoted in Moshe Miller, “Shattered Vessels”, Kabbalah Online, web,

[3] Moshe Miller, “Shattered Vessels”, Kabbalah Online, web,

[4] Andrew Chumbley, Azoetia,

[5] I can only refer you to search out a 2010 publication of the Temple of the Black Light which is no longer available online via their website due to them closing it in order to safeguard the closed nature of their organization, which they perceived as becoming too publicized at one point. I myself have a PDF version of this publication which includes explanations of their doctrines as well as rituals for the practitioner to work through; however, as they explicitly warn in relation to their copyright, this information cannot be “altered, reproduced, posted, published, or otherwise displayed without the express written consent of Temple of The Black Light”.

[6] See, for example, Tommie Eriksson, “Tantra and the Left Hand Path. Part 2: Amrita”, Dracontias, Vol. 2, 2009, pp. 4-7; also, Tommie Eriksson, “The Triangular Temple of Draconian Initiation, Magical Tradition, and the Penurious.” Dracontias, 2008, pp. 6-8

[7] Dissection, Reinkaos, Black Horizon, 2006

[8] Conor Cuningham, Genealogies of Nihilism, p.250

[9] Ibid. p. xiii

[10] Mortuus, “Nemesis”

[11] Graham Harman, The Quadruple Object, pg. 138

[12] Daniel A. Schulke, Lux Haeresis, Cheshire: XOANON Limited, 2011, pp. 19-20

[13] ibid

[14] Andrew Chumbley, Azoëtia, Cheshire: XOANON Limited, 2002, p. v

[15] Ibid. pp. v-vi

[16] Ibid. p. vi

[17] Harman, G. Guerrilla Metaphysics, 2005, Chicago: Open Court, p. 14

[18] As quoted and translated by Rabbi Geoff Dennis over at Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. See the blog post “Ain and Yesh: Being and Nothingness in Judaism”, web,, 2008

[19] Ofermod, “Death Cantata”

[20]Mortuus, “Rebirth in the Sterile Triad of Six”

[21] Mortuus, “Nemesis”

[22] Ofermod, “Death Cantata”

[23] Dødsengel, “Evocation of Amezarak”

[24] Ofermod, ”Chôshekh Ên Sôf”

[25] Mortuus, “Tzel Maveth”

[26] Mortuus, “Disobedience”

[27] Harman, G. Guerrilla Metaphysics, 2005, Chicago: Open Court, p. 14

[28] Ibid. p. 13

[29] Harman, G. “Levinas and the Triple Critique of Heidegger”, Philosophy Today, winter, 2009, p. 410

[30] ibid

[31] Mortuus, “Supplication for the Demise of All: Withdrawal into the Lifeless Sanctum”, De contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie laboribus ac Adorationis, The Ajna Offensive, 2007, CD

[32] Nightbringer, “The Void”, Rex Ex Ordine Throni, Full Moon Productions, 2005, CD

[33] Cohan and Shires, quoted Franzosi , R., “Narrative Analysis-Or Why (And How) Sociologists Should be Interested in Narrative”, Annual Review of Sociology , Vol. 24, 1998, p. 519

[34] Nightbringer, “Eater of the Black Lead” Hierophany of the Open Grave, 2011, Season of Mist, CD

[35] Nightbringer, “Dreaming Above the Sepulcher” Hierophany of the Open Grave, 2011, Season of Mist, CD

[36] Matt, “Nightbringer”, Metal Psalter, 2010, web,

[37] Dalihrob, “Interview with Nightbringer”, Mortem Zine, September 2011, web,

[38] Matt, “Nightbringer”, Metal Psalter, 2010, web,

[39] Partridge, C., The Re-Enchantment of the West, Vol 2, London: T&T Clark, 2005, p. 211

[40] Mortuus, “Birth in the Sterile Triad of Six”, De contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie laboribus ac Adorationis, The Ajna Offensive, 2007, CD

[41] Gershom Scholem quoted in Aschheim, S. E., “The Metaphysical Psychologist: On the Life and Letters of Gershom Scholem”, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2004, p. 906

[42] Scholem, G., On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, New York: Schocken Books, 1997, pp. 84-85

[43] “Ofermod Interview”, Absolute Zero Media Magazine, 2008, web,

[44] Naas Alcameth quoted in J.B. Bauer, “Interview with Alcameth of Nightbringer”, Full Moon Productions, December 2005, web,

[45] Nightbringer, “Lucifer Trismegestus”, Hierophany of the Open Grave, 2011, Season of Mist, CD

[46] Irkallian Oracle, “Iconoclasm”, Grave Ekstasis, Bolvärk, 2013, CD

[47] Santana, R. & G. Erickson, Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2008, pg. 69

[48] Sciscione, A., “Goatsteps Behind My Steps . . .’: Black Metal and Ritual Renewal” Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium I, Ed. Masciandaro, N., p. 171

[49] Hetroertzen, “Light Beyond the Obscure” Exaltation of Wisdom, Lamech Records, 2010, CD

[50] Ankit, “Cthonic Revelations: An Interview with Irkallian Oracle”, Heathen Harvest, 2013, web,

[51] Cohan and Shires, quoted Franzosi , R., “Narrative Analysis-Or Why (And How) Sociologists Should be Interested in Narrative”, Annual Review of Sociology , Vol. 24, 1998, p. 519

[52] See Granholm’s recent article, “Ritual Black Metal: Popular Music as Occult Mediation and Practice”, in Correspondences, 1.1, 2013, 5–33, for a brief walk through of the black metal- occult connection in which he makes mention of both the MLO and TOTBL.

[53] “MLO: Misantropiska Lucifer Orden”, Slayer Magazine, no date given, web,

[54] I am here making reference to the Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium I edited by Nicola Masciandaro

[55] Nightbringer, “The Gnosis of Inhumation” Hierophany of the Open Grave, 2011, Season of Mist, CD

[56] Kristensen, R., “Nightbringer 1/2- …death to the profane self…”, Imhotep, web,


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