July 25, 2023 | Memo
The Order of Nine Angles
Its Worldview and Connection to Violent Extremism
July 25, 2023 | Memo
The Order of Nine Angles
Its Worldview and Connection to Violent Extremism
This memo is based on a peer-reviewed journal article, “The Order of Nine Angles: Cosmology, Practice & Movement,” by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Emelie Chace-Donahue, which was published in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.1
In March 2023, authorities sentenced former U.S. Army private Ethan Melzer to 45 years in prison for plotting a terrorist attack against his own unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, during its upcoming deployment to Turkey. Melzer had leaked sensitive information about the deployment to co-conspirators — one of whom was an undercover FBI source whom Melzer believed was a member of al-Qaeda. The prospect that the attack might kill Melzer himself did not faze him. He wrote, “The after effects of a convoy getting attacked would cover it … I would’ve died successfully … Cause if another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”2 In other words, he hoped his planned attack would provoke the United States into another costly war.
Though Melzer consumed Islamic State propaganda and believed he was conspiring with a member of al-Qaeda, he was no jihadist.3 Rather, Melzer subscribed to ideas associated with the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), which U.S. authorities have described as an “occult-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist group” with “violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs.”4 Similarly, news outlets and advocacy groups have referred to the O9A as a “Nazi Satanist organization,” a “neo-Nazi Satanist cult,” and “the most dangerous far-right terror movement.”5
Melzer was a member of the neo-Nazi Telegram channel Rapewaffen Division, which court records indicate is affiliated with the O9A.6 Indeed, Melzer viewed his decision to join the U.S. Army as an “insight role,” a concept associated with O9A that refers to life choices that promote radical personal and social change.7
Since Melzer’s plot, O9A has become a growing topic of concern among analysts and law enforcement.8 Characterizations of O9A as a white supremacist and far-right organization are widespread but fail to capture O9A’s core structure, beliefs, and relationship to violent extremism. Assessing O9A’s impact on violent extremists requires an objective understanding of the movement’s philosophy and core beliefs. Failure to master these details may result in missed investigative leads, tactical overreactions (something that extremists often attempt to provoke), or a failure to recognize when violent extremists may be ready to deradicalize or disengage.
O9A should be seen as a Satanist movement and philosophy that is influenced by elements of fascism. As a movement, O9A is an international and clandestine collective of individuals and groups (known in O9A parlance as “nexions”) devoted to principles and practices originating with the writings of pseudonymous author Anton Long. At the heart of the O9A’s outlook is a self-proclaimed mission to aid individual and societal evolution toward enlightenment by balancing human and supernatural forces. To progress toward this enlightenment, O9A holds that Western civilization must unlock its true pagan ethos, which has been corrupted by Judeo-Christian values. To this end, O9A encourages individuals to commit “sinister” and “heretical” acts conducive to liberation from artificial societal norms, thus breaking down the current social system.
O9A’s core outlook thus meshes well with violent extremist doctrines that span the ideological spectrum — or with violent extremists who by and large eschew ideology — so long as they challenge the prevailing social and political order. Nonetheless, the goals of O9A make it particularly appealing to white supremacists who endorse the doctrine of “accelerationism,” which advocates for speeding up what they regard as the inevitable destruction of society to bring about a new, more desirable one.9
This memo is designed to provide an objective, primary source-driven analysis of O9A’s philosophy and core beliefs through a close analysis of the movement’s foundational texts and the concepts that O9A promotes.
The Nature of O9A Texts
There are limits to what analysts can expect to understand about O9A. The movement possesses an evolving philosophy embedded in tens of thousands of digital and physical pages written by multiple — and often pseudonymous — authors with distinct outlooks. This body of work is distributed, modified, and re-interpreted on self-proclaimed O9A webpages through a disorderly process that O9A calls “copyleft,” the natural opposite of copyright.10 Further, while some parts of O9A’s philosophy are deliberately misleading, with the purpose of confusing onlookers (as described shortly), Anton Long and other O9A intellectual leaders denounce other materials purported to represent O9A ideas as misrepresentations produced by “charlatans” and “pretenders.”11 This makes the task of discerning the “true” ideas of O9A especially challenging.
O9A texts acknowledge this complexity: “to access the inner core,” an adherent writes, “an individual has to work their way through the outer layers which, together, form a labyrinth.”12 For O9A, this so-called “Labyrinthos Mythologicus” is intentional. It serves to “intrigue, select, test, confuse, annoy, mislead, or dissuade” individuals interested in studying the group.13 O9A texts put forth contradictory claims, for example, that O9A is and is not Satanist and that it is and is not an organization.14 Even founder Anton Long wrote that “what I teach is not ‘sacred’—hopefully, it will be surpassed, refined, changed. … I claim no authority, and my creations, profuse as they are, will in the end be accepted or rejected on the basis of whether they work (Satan forbid they should ever become dogma or a matter of faith).”15 This purported lack of central authority creates confusion about O9A’s core beliefs and who truly represents O9A.
The research undergirding this memo included a survey of thousands of pages of primary sources written between the 1970s and the present, including books, essays, and blog posts by self-proclaimed O9A adherents as well as data the authors collected on O9A nexions and affiliated individuals. Research for this memo included cross-referencing numerous textual perspectives for each conclusion but giving Long’s texts more weight than others. Using this method, this memo endeavors to accurately outline the belief system that O9A’s materials intentionally (or unintentionally) lead outsiders to deduce.16 Still, much remains unknown about O9A and its relationship with violent extremism.
The Origin of O9A
O9A seemingly emerged in the 1970s from the writings of pseudonymous author Anton Long.17 Long has traced his inspiration to “a lady” whom he credited for representing “a primal type of Satanism,” which O9A regards as rightly divorced from contemporary Satanist strands rooted in Judeo-Christian values. Long’s writings have formed the primary basis of the philosophy.18
Though there is much speculation about Long’s identity, many commentators and O9A adherents suggest that Long is the pen name of British extremist David Myatt, a former neo-Nazi-turned-jihadist who later renounced these beliefs for his own philosophy called the Way of Pathei-Mathos.19 Myatt denies he is Long, but Long’s writings display thematic and linguistic similarities to those of Myatt.
O9A appears to have originated in Shropshire, England — a town scholars call “Nexion Zero.” Since then, O9A has spread internationally, seemingly through the proliferation of O9A texts and their adoption by local nexions that now form a loose transnational network.
O9A’s Cosmology and Philosophy
O9A’s cosmology, or conception of how the world is ordered, places the movement’s mission within a broad sweep of history. According to O9A texts, human history is divided into aeons — periods of roughly 2,000 years — that correspond to major civilizations, such as ancient Sumerian and Hellenic civilizations. O9A believes each aeon is the product of a supernatural (or acausal) universe that drives developments in the natural (or causal) universe, such as matter, science, and logic. Humans bridge these two universes. O9A believes humans must use their position as a bridge to channel supernatural energy in each aeon. If successful, civilization will “evolve toward the acausal.”20 Following this logic, each aeon “represents a stage of evolution, a step forward in the process of evolution itself” with its own “unique, separate identity: its own ethos.”21
However, O9A’s cosmology holds that Western civilization has been diverted from its true pagan ethos rooted in Greco-Roman traditions of individualism, tribalism, and rationalism.22 O9A texts claim this distortion comes from Judeo-Christian principles, which O9A refers to as “Jewish/Nazarene or Magian.”23 Those who adhere to the Magian ethos — even non-practicing Christians or Jews — are called “mundanes” who “lack insight about themselves.”24 Until the pagan ethos is restored in the Western aeon, O9A believes that civilization cannot evolve.25
How does O9A plan to reintroduce the pagan ethos? One O9A text explains that “Only through a crucible of Darkness, will the ‘Light’, the positive upward trend of evolution, flow forth.”26 In other words, enlightened O9A adherents are tasked with dismantling the status quo through self-awareness and intentional practices of heresy. To this end, O9A turns to “Traditional Satanism” as a guiding framework, which encompasses the teachings of the “sinister dialectic” and “the left hand path.”27 These teachings instruct humans how to use “black magic” — a set of practices that unlock energy from entities known as “Satan” and “Dark Gods” — to fuel “strife, chaos, revolution, heresy, and culling.”28
For O9A, the eventual breakdown of the Judeo-Christian societal order — projected to take at least another hundred years — will culminate in an apocalypse in which O9A cosmology holds that a Satanic entity called “Vindex” will emerge in the West to lead a new pagan empire dubbed the “Dark Imperium.”29 Long has stated that, once established, the Dark Imperium will finally fulfill the pagan ethos of the West and thereafter collapse, making way for a new aeon and hence a new civilization.30
The predicted collapse of the Dark Imperium highlights an important part of O9A philosophy: the Dark Imperium is not O9A’s ideal end-state, nor is Satanism its ideal guiding principle. Rather, O9A finds them both to be the appropriate tools to bring about the change its adherents seek. But in O9A’s view, another aeon in the scope of human evolution may possess a different ethos.
With humans at the crossroads between the natural and supernatural, O9A texts advocate for them to undertake black magic practices to bring society toward the Western pagan ethos.31 These “practical deeds” are designed to be amoral, heretical, and even dangerous in order to test adherents’ faith and thwart societal norms — sometimes in overt and extreme ways.32 These actions comprise the “Dreccian Way” and the “Rounwytha Way,” which center on living in a decentralized tribal manner, and the “Seven-Fold Way,” which details practices that an adherent can take to engage with the supernatural world and break down the adherent’s reliance on artificially constructed notions of morality and ethics created by the Nazarene order.
The Seven-Fold Way is seemingly the most popular practice among adherents. Through it, adherents strive to achieve “the discovery, by the individual, of … wisdom, which implies not only the standard dictionary definition of wisdom … but also the ancient sense of (a) having certain knowledge of a pagan, Occult, kind.”33 The actions this practice promotes fit into three categories: rituals, physical challenges, and “insight roles.”34
Rituals in the Seven-Fold Way are called “magick” or “sorcery.” One of O9A’s foundational texts instructs readers to bathe in a river with arms raised to the sky to visualize the flow of energy from the moon into their bodies.35 Other rituals include chanting, tarot, performance of the “Star Game” (a board game), and “culling” (human sacrifice).36 Culling has a non-literal meaning in some O9A texts, but others actually advocate for ritual murder. Long writes that “some humans, by nature, by character, are rotten—worthless—and, when this rotten character is revealed by their deeds, it is beneficial to remove them, to cull them.”37 To cull, adherents can target “rotten” individuals or aim more broadly to provoke “combat, insurrection, revolution,” at which point they do not “target specific, named, individuals, but rather ‘the sworn enemy’ any of whom are deemed acceptable targets.”38
Physical challenges test the resolve of adherents and allow for self-reflection. Suggested challenges include living alone in the wilderness for three months or “walking (unaided by others or any form of transportation) – and carrying all that is necessary in terms of food, water and shelter – a distance of 80 miles (males) or 56 miles (females).”39
Insight roles are lifestyles that adherents adopt that contradict their natural predispositions. For example, someone who considers themselves honest might turn to a life of crime.40 Insight roles have many potential outlets: joining an “insurrectionary political organization,” assassinating those who support the current societal system, “undertaking Jihad,” or joining or forming an anarchist or neo-Nazi group.41 Through this instruction, O9A believes its adherents can enact change on a societal level to the point where Western civilization collapses.
The Makeup of the O9A Movement
To achieve the goal of disrupting society to usher in the next stage of human evolution, O9A adherents have built a loose network, or movement. This network appears to be an international collective of groups (nexions) and individuals.42 But there is little reliable information about its structure; O9A adherents describe the movement as secretive and intentionally deceptive.43
From some perspectives, O9A may appear to be leaderless. Some O9A texts state it “is not an organization or a group or even a traditional hierarchical Order and thus does not have conventional members.”44 However, a survey of O9A texts suggests there may be a structure led by an “Old Guard” or “Inner Circle” (identified by pseudonyms like DarkLogos, Sinister Moon, and Beesty Boy), that represents the “original” and “genuine” philosophy and movement.45
Though such a hierarchy would be in tension with the claim in some O9A texts that the movement is rooted in individual interpretation and lack of authority, the existence of an inner circle would be consistent with the desire in other texts to maintain purity within the philosophy and movement. O9A texts suggest the movement is made up of 1) Grand Masters, Grand Mistresses, and Grand Lady Masters who have attained the sixth degree of individual achievement within the Seven-Fold Way;46 2) Masters or Lady Masters who have progressed within the Seven-Fold Way and have connections to the original U.K.-based adherents; 3) Nexion Members; 4) unaffiliated members who practice on their own (i.e., without attachment to a nexion) under the guidance of a Master or Lady Master; and 5) associates who are self-guided and practice the philosophy but who are not guided by a Master or Lady Master.47
Nexions are seemingly small, locally based groups that practice O9A’s philosophy under the guidance of a Master or Lady Master.48 Some appear to be “official” nexions, with a connection (direct or indirect) to members of the original U.K.-based groups that formed the movement, while some appear to be “unofficial” nexions rooted in some way in O9A’s philosophy. Some appear to have more influence on the movement than do others, such as nexions that publish books and texts (both digital and analog) that become part of the public O9A corpus. Research for this memo identified 50 purported nexions based on an examination of O9A blogs, websites, and social media pages. O9A adherents and nexions appear to be concentrated in Europe and the United States. However, nexions claim to be or are reported to exist on all continents but Antarctica.49
According to a European security official cited by The Washington Post, “membership estimates for O9A range from a few dozen to about 2,000.”50 Based on the number of nexions identified, the movement appears larger than the lower-end estimate of a few dozen.
O9A’s Nexus with Violent Extremism
O9A’s philosophy has meaningful connections to violent extremism, but violent extremist attacks attributable to O9A are harder to discern. O9A’s insistence on breaking down the societal order and encouragement of culling (human sacrifice) and insight roles seem to situate violence as a part of the movement’s core mission. According to Long, “no restrictions are placed on the individual, so that they are free (and often encouraged) to transgress norms … and should they so desire, to use violence, to go to extremes, to learn certain anti-social, baleful, skills … this is wicked of us, a diabolical thing to do, which is exactly the heretical point.”51
Numerous themes in the O9A corpus also intersect with core beliefs of other ideologies of violence. First, O9A’s philosophy exhibits a dualistic, zero-sum outlook that characterizes many violent extremist worldviews.52 Further, O9A philosophy holds that malign forces have compelled Western society to deviate from its natural state. This view resembles conspiracy theories promoted by a panoply of violent extremist movements. Indeed, some O9A beliefs overlap with the worldviews and conspiracy theories of white supremacist extremists, accelerationists, and anti-government extremists. O9A’s belief in the need to break down the current societal order gives it much common ground with white supremacists influenced by James Mason’s book Siege and with accelerationists more broadly. Some O9A texts also position the Magian ethos alongside white supremacist and anti-government conspiracy theories, including those alleging that a New World Order or Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG) is a hidden hand behind major world governments and events.53 Moreover, some O9A texts use terminology and references directly linked to white supremacism and neo-Nazism. One such reference comes from Long himself, who stated, “I designed and created the O9A to produce others of our ‘against time’ kind.”54 His reference to “our ‘against time’ kind” evokes Savitri Devi’s The Lightning and the Sun, a foundational esoteric Nazi text, which depicts Adolf Hitler as a “man against time” who used ruthless methods to create a societal golden age.55
But O9A’s core belief system does not demand that adherents subscribe to any particular ideology. As one adherent noted in an interview, “ONA is not neo-Nazi, it just uses that neo-Nazi ideology, terminology, iconography to provoke certain things within society, within the consciousness of an initiate … who has to put himself in opposition to the system. And there is no greater heresy in the system today than National Socialism and radical Islam. So those are two forms that ONA uses.”56
In practice, it is difficult to determine whether a violent extremist group or individual came to hold extremist beliefs through exposure to O9A or was conversely exposed to O9A through previously held violent extremist beliefs. However, some O9A nexions have interpreted O9A philosophy in especially violent ways. For example, Misanthropic Nexion’s blog has a heading that reads “Terror Beyond Limits,” and features Mein Kampf, military manuals, and instructions on how to construct “deadly weapons on a budget.”57 Tempel ov Blood Nexion has achieved notoriety for embracing violence in the texts it publishes through Martinet Press, including Iron Gates, a work of fiction that portrays murder and sexual violence against children.58 One researcher’s analysis of Tempel ov Blood texts and social media pages notes that they have depicted members “inflicting various forms of violence, including waterboarding, on each other in a ritualized setting,” and “explicitly encourage terrorism and assassination.”59
Media reports and some expert analyses have also speculatively linked several murders to O9A, which, if true, could be examples of culling.60 However, it is difficult to prove that specific illegal activities, including those connected to violence, bear a definitive connection to O9A. O9A’s organizational design makes it unclear if any individual is an associate, member, or unaffiliated. Further, it can be difficult to discern what bearing individuals’ consumption of O9A texts has on their actions.
To date, Ethan Melzer’s case entails the only publicly known violent extremist plot in which O9A seemed to serve as a core inspiration. (Jarrett William Smith, another O9A adherent, was convicted of distributing instructions for making explosives, though it is not clear if these activities should be considered a “plot.”)61 However, a variety of violent extremist individuals and groups have embraced elements of O9A philosophy after they were already active as violent extremists. Examples include some members of the neo-Nazi accelerationist group Atomwaffen. Beginning in 2016, some Atomwaffen leaders and members posted images of O9A texts and logos to their social media accounts, and a website linked to Atomwaffen recommended that its followers read texts published by O9A and Tempel ov Blood.62 A Tempel ov Blood leader was also reportedly in contact with Atomwaffen members.63 Though Atomwaffen went largely dormant after U.S. law enforcement arrested prominent members in 2020, some members rebranded in early 2022 as the National Socialist Order (NSO), then rebranded again that September as the National Socialist Order of Nine Angles (NSO9A). They announced, “From this day forward we unleash our trident of sinister direct action the three prongs of which are: Accelerationism, National Socialism and a virulent and dangerous form of Satanism.”64 Members of other neo-Nazi groups also may have embraced O9A at one point, including U.K.-based National Action and its splinter System Resistance Network.
O9A may also have an influence on neo-fascist networks more broadly. Individual neo-Nazis and participants in online forums have discussed and seemingly embraced O9A. The neo-Nazi Telegram channel Rapewaffen Division, of which Ethan Melzer was a member, reportedly posted O9A texts and claimed to be affiliated with O9A. In 2019, a user of the neo-Nazi forum Fascist Forge claimed to be affiliated with O9A and said that others were as well.65 The same year, other Fascist Forge users approvingly discussed Tempel ov Blood books and O9A’s suggestion of using insight roles to infiltrate “The System.”66
Although neo-Nazi groups have embraced O9A the most overtly, extremist groups and individuals who have seemingly been influenced by O9A span the ideological spectrum. A purported leader of the transnational militant group Individuals Tending Toward the Wild (ITS) — a group whose literature features anarchist and eco-fascist themes — claimed in an interview posted on the anarchist website Maldición Eco-Extremista that the group has “taken some organizational experiences” from O9A and Tempel ov Blood.67 Incel forums have also discussed O9A. And lone individuals in the United States and U.K. who are not tied to specific extremist groups or movements have exhibited potential signs of being influenced by O9A texts. One example is a British student convicted of murdering two women in June 2020, who had participated in an online forum associated with a practitioner of black magic who claimed to be part of Tempel ov Blood.68 In a November 2021 case, U.S. authorities arrested a New York teen on charges of illegal firearms possession and reportedly found materials associated with O9A and Tempel ov Blood in his possession, alongside social media activity exhibiting interests in necrophilia and pedophilia.69
To forestall potential threats associated with the Order of Nine Angles, law enforcement, scholars, and the broader counter-extremism community should be able to accurately understand and contextualize its beliefs and ideas.
O9A’s philosophy has several intrinsic connections to violent extremism while also embracing facets of other extremist ideologies and conspiracy theories. Indeed, O9A adherents have been implicated in at least one violent extremist plot (the Melzer case), and extremist individuals and groups distinct from O9A have been drawn to core aspects of the group’s philosophy and worldview. However, there is currently scant data available either to inform assessments of O9A’s strength as a radicalizing force or to map out resultant patterns of radicalization.
One area of particular uncertainty is whether extremist groups’ embrace of O9A strengthens or weakens these groups. There is certainly evidence to support the latter conclusion, with some neo-Nazis vocally rejecting Satanism. For example, Atomwaffen’s initial adoption of O9A beliefs in 2016 spurred significant division within the group, with some members abandoning Atomwaffen.70 Following the neo-nazi National Socialist Order’s rebranding as NSO9A in 2022, similar divisions emerged.71 To put it mildly, O9A has not functioned as a point of unity within the neo-Nazi movement.
To date, the O9A movement’s impact appears to be limited. Though its philosophy and practice overlap with other forms of extremism, O9A as a movement has neither attracted a substantial body of members nor carried out clearly identifiable acts of violent extremism. If one exaggerates O9A’s influence, there is a risk of allowing the movement to write its own narrative or propagate a fictional story for effect. This is not meant to downplay the threat posed by O9A but rather to highlight the importance of tracking whether the movement will evolve and grow to a point where it more effectively acts on its intentions.