Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture

Book cover experiment by the author. Image is “An Incantation” by John British Dixon, 1773.

In 1992, when I began my journey into the world of dark ambient music with Lustmord’s Heresy, I hadn’t a clue that this musical style  – originally called “industrial ambient” – would alter my life so completely that I would one day consider dark ambient music indispensable to my spiritual practice.

Dark ambient music, I discovered, could be an effective facilitator of paths of sacred endarkenment in spiritual practice – a theta-inducing enabler of hypnagogic states and inner journeys through the terrain of the Jungian shadow self and the void.  Since I was raised in a New Age family, I’d already had more than my fill of anything with a heavy emphasis on white light and transcendence; dark ambient became my perfect antidote.

I also learned, after some time immersed in the obscure subculture surrounding dark ambient, that there was an intriguing undercurrent of serious esoteric practice associated with this musical scene – yet very few “Satanic” practitioners to be found, despite the pervasive stereotypes.

Links to mystical and esoteric pursuits appear not only in the musical themes, art, and symbolism of many dark ambient releases (e.g., solitude, introspection, abandoned places, subterranean lands, autumn and winter, grief and mourning, underworld mythology, Heathen deities, ossuaries, runes, sigils), but also in more obvious ways, such as

• the frequent mention of the influence of entheogens
• performances and recordings taking place in focused ritual magic contexts
• many artists and fans wearing the Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) or other Pagan symbols
• musicians openly discussing their occult affiliations and placing emphasis on the importance of ritual and the sacred in their music rather than entertainment.

Dark ambient music is now making inroads into yoga studios, meditation retreats, and other unexpected realms far outside the shadowy industrial music scene of its origins – a sure sign that its potential as a facilitator of spiritual practice is becoming more widely known.  The dark ambient scene is well-poised to thrive, despite its limited size.

As the first book-length study of the dark ambient genre, Endarkenment provides in-depth insights into these intertwined threads of mysticism and the esoteric.  It features quotes from interviews with respected musicians, long-time fans, and others who appreciate the spiritual side of this dark subculture, and explores some of the ways dark ambient music can be combined synergistically with art and ritual to foster a deeper esoteric and Earth-centered appreciation of the sacred dark.

Illustrations and cover design for the book will be done by the Swedish musician and artist Pär Boström, best known for his respected project Kammarheit.

The book’s official Facebook page will be deleted in 2019, and all updates about the book will be delivered through the newsletter thereafter.

For a taste of what the finished book will be like, you can read:

* Interview quotes from the book
* Brief review comments about my favorite dark ambient albums on my Bandcamp fan profile
* Uneasy Listening: Dark Ambient Music Appreciation for Pagans (originally published at the Pagan Bloggers portal, 2017)

Chapter titles:

Chapter 1: The Endarkening
A Short History and Cultural Overview of Dark Ambient Music

Chapter 2: The Wisdom and Gifts of Endarkenment
Dark Ambient as Catalyst in Alchemy and Witchcraft

Chapter 3: A Sonic Gnosis
Esoteric Symbolism and Ritual Magic in Dark Ambient Music and Culture

Chapter 4: Mirror of the Soul
Dark Ambient as Shadow Music for Earth Mystics

Chapter 5: The Inward Eye Reaches Out
The Synergy of Dark Ambient Music in the Visual and Performing Arts

As of 2019 there is no expected publication date for the book. I recently completed the interviewing stage. I’m now in talks with a publisher who has expressed interest, but the book is not yet under contract.

In the meantime, as a “prelude” to the book, you can subscribe to my email newsletter Endarkenment: Contemplative Writing on Dark Ambient Music Appreciation at Substack to read full interviews, long-read annual issues, themed playlists with liner notes, and much more. Half of net subscription proceeds support the musicians you read about!

My early published writings on dark ambient music include:

The I Die You Die Dozen: 12 Underrated Dark Ambient Albums, Vol. 3 (2017)
The I Die You Die Dozen: 12 Underrated Dark Ambient Albums, Vol. 2 (2015)
The I Die You Die Dozen: 12 Underrated Dark Ambient Albums, Vol. 1 (2013)
Twilight Magick: An Interview with Abby Helasdottir of Gydja (2014)

Books at the Hermitage library

A few of the books in the Hermitage library that I’ve been reading as I work on the Endarkenment manuscript.