Self-proclaimed 'hacker', gamer, and Destiny 2 lore guru.

Unveiled: Darkness & Light in Destiny 2

First of all, happy new year!

This blog post is a timeline of understandings of the concepts of Darkness and Light in Destiny 2, coalesced and shaped from lore like the Unveiling lore book. I’ve kind of mentally collected it over the years and am just now writing it down.

Pre-Unveiling: The Taken King

Way back in the Taken King, Rasputin asked the Exo Stranger:

You’re not one of THEM

[long dead, alive again, their bodies grafted to powers they and I do not understand]

and not one of IT

[the flower eater, the queen of final shapes, that which also inhabits its petitioners]

From context, “long dead, alive again, … bodies grafted to powers …” is probably describing the Risen, the Guardians. Which brings us to “the flower eater, the queen of final shapes, that which also inhabits its petitioners”. Indeed, the Taken seem to return as a transformation of their original self, but with no will of their own – needing to be directed by a higher authority. In this way, each Taken is an appendage of a greater Darkness, or at least of a greater will within the Darkness; the Taken are many become ultimately one.

By contrast, the Traveler created Ghosts, and each Ghost has their own personality, their own mind. When a Ghost grants life to a Risen, that Risen also has their own mind and their own personality, completely separate from who they were before they were Risen. Some might have hints on their person that hint at who they were before (Ana Bray), and later on one Guardian (Crow) gets his memories re-downloaded into him via Savathûn trickery (as a beta test for Savathûn herself who gets the same treatment), but otherwise, for all intents and purposes, the Risen are a “from one, many” situation.

These are themes that repeat themselves throughout the entire history of the Light and the Darkness, the Sky and the Deep, even as new understandings change the overall picture. The Light is the essence of proliferation and creation, of a diversity of life with expectations beyond mere base survival. The Darkness is the essence of selection and reduction, of the cutting of redundancies and introducing simplicity in the form of only what is strictly necessary may be present.

Pre-Unveiling: Forsaken and Logic

Sometime before the full Collapse, the Yang Liwei – also known as the Exodus Green – left Earth to seek habitable planets that might be colonized for the future of humanity. On their way out, they (likely) encountered a pyramid ship, emanating Darkness resonance that messed with gravitational forces and threatened to tear the ship apart. Mara was essentially out on a spacewalk to be the first to encounter whatever was going on as the Traveler, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to save its wayward people, shot a tight beam of light at the encounter, and the collision of those paracausal energies formed a pocket universe with Mara being the first to reach its epicenter – which somehow conferred upon her the privilege of defining that universe from its first principles and initializing it. It’s not known entirely what she did here, except that it involved making ship captain Alice Li believe she would be the one to define this world and set parameters for its inhabitants, and somehow successfully nudge things into place such that she could negotiate everyone back to the place they had come from after rebuilding stronger in this pocket universe.

What makes this diversion relevant is that it introduces Mara’s Bomb “Logic” as an answer to the “Logic” of the Sword, both of which are simplistic philosophical frames of the powers they actually ultimately relate to. The Sword Logic is brutal and ironically blunt: simply put, one proves one’s strength (and therefore, right to exist) by testing it against the strength of everyone and everything else, and shall also grow stronger in doing so. It rests on one prime aspect, the Sword, and no others; the irreducible simplicity in form is a crucial part of this logic. By contrast, the Bomb Logic is elegant, complex, and somewhat manifold: 1. that the combination of and interactions between multiple components can yield a result that is greater than the sum of its parts and(/or) 2. that while a game’s rules may not be changed within, one can create subgames with their own rules that may confer an advantage in the greater game.

This hints that the true strength of the Light ultimately lies in cooperation, where the Dark is concerned mainly with survival, advantage, and death.

Forsaken also establishes the Awoken more concretely as beings of both Light and Dark, and their following belief in the balance of both being necessary, although Mara has also clarified this belief in Unveiling.

Pre-Unveiling: Season of the Drifter

The Drifter was shown a vision by the Nine in Season of the Drifter; a “world of Pure Light from every angle. Nowhere to hide. Everyone begging to die”. The world of pure Light is a world without selection: everything is born, lives, and never dies, so everyone starves and yet persists when resources potentially become infinitely scarce. He was also shown a world of pure Darkness: an empty world, because survival tends to be a temporary state if unassisted, and nothing can live forever. Both sides of the same coin come to the same end with ultimately superficial differences: a world of stagnation.


Which brings us to the star of the show: Unveiling. Unveiling tells the story of a gardener and a winnower (metaphorical representations of physical laws) playing a game of shapes in a garden (where both game and garden are the metaphorical representations of existence and the rules governing it). In nearly every iteration of the game, the outcome converges on a single, self-replicating “flower” pattern that reinforces and replenishes itself whenever part of it is lost. The gardener is frustrated by this because of the lack of variation: after all, what’s the point of playing a game if the outcome is always going to be the same? The winnower, whose belief that the only rightful claim to existence is survival at all costs, doesn’t see this as a bad thing: the pattern survives despite rules that are actively harmful to it, and thrives because of those rules. Their disagreement – their opposition – eventually leads to a “physical” altercation (more likely some interaction of physical laws, but I am not a physicist) and the wake of their struggle became not just the universe, but the multiverse. Multiple timelines, multiple spaces, and all the voids and gaps that may ever be in between.

The winnower cautions that in the end, the gardener always sues for peace, and the winnower always takes that moment to strike and win – but by that time, the multiverse has already been created and must take its time to end. This admission is basically a revelation that the universe itself may actually be running on Bomb Logic, and there’s a strong possibility that Unveiling is written like a Book of Revelations, in that the purported author is revealing their own victory that “must” occur but actually has not. Which means Guardians are playing in the sub-game and their actions may confer advantage to the gardener in the garden.


The Winnower asks:

Is p53 an agent of the Darkness, or of the Light?

The idea is that there is a protein called p53 which basically acts in cells as an agent to delay growth, sterilize, and terminate the cell in various situations (such as the cell growing old or becoming too independent). It’s a surprisingly layered question and answer because on the one hand, strictly speaking, this agent is supposed to destroy that which should no longer exist because it has no right to continued existence. However, in doing so, the result is that it benefits the collective – in this case, the collective of the rest of the cells in a body, which otherwise might not get enough energy from being starved from cells that continue existing long past their contributions. p53 is a limit. When the Awoken speak of balance, this is what they mean: reduction to reduce overall harm at the cost of a specific unit.

Resurrection (the Wager)

The winnower indicated that the gardener resurrected Risen without memory so that they could choose freely; that “given power over physics and the trust of absolute freedom, people will choose to build and protect a gentle kingdom ringed in spears. And not fall to temptation. And not surrender to division. And never yield to the cynicism that says, everyone else is so good that I can afford to be a little evil.” The Risen are being trusted to uphold the philosophy of the Sky – the problem, as in The Matrix, is choice. The winnower’s entire objective is the agreement of the Risen to its philosophy.


In Arrivals, the Nine attempted to communicate the answers to our questions of what the Light and the Darkness are via visions, flashes of insight, directly conveying experiences into our minds and the mind of the Drifter, and showing us the battle to come in the form of a Prophecy.

Titans, according to the lore for their armor for the season, saw visions of a world of total Darkness. Head, Arms, Chest, Legs, Class (Mark). They (1) saw nothing; (2) smelled a rotting stench; (3) heard roaring wind; (4) touched nothing; and (5) felt a weariness of the soul. Because nothing is eternal; nothing survives eternally; if endless survival is the only criteria that determines whether life should exist, then life ceases to exist when it ceases being able to, and that is a certain end for all life. No existence could be simpler than a perfectly empty one, after all.

Hunters, the same way, were shown the contrast: a world of total Light. Head, Arms, Chest, Legs, Class (Cloak). They (1) saw nothing (due to being blinded by the Light); (2) smelled an ancient, rotting, powerful scent (also a rotting stench); (3) heard roaring wind and the begging for death of some powerful, eternal entity; (4) were shaken violently by this powerful, eternal entity that was begging for death (and the clinging for dear life a Ghost was doing with their cloak); and (5) felt a weariness of the soul. This is us being shown the same vision the Drifter had in Season of the Drifter.

Warlocks were shown a universe without either. Head, Arms, Chest, Legs, Class (Bond). Rather than the direct sensory inputs experienced by the other two classes, the Nine talked somewhat more directly, and showed a world between Light and Dark. Two incidental clues are given to us here: one, that we’re apparently driving both the Darkness and the Light, and two, that we’re acknowledged to buck natural order just as we did before the Light and the Dark, and we are possibly destined to do the same even after.

These visions of universes of pure Light or Dark are reifications and re-establishments (to an extreme degree) of the concepts described in the previous section: in a universe of proliferation with no selection, everything starves and yet persists in a doomed world of suffering without end. In a universe of selection unmatched by proliferation, nothing will be left standing in an empty universe.

The Singular Exegete

The Singular Exegete seemingly confirms the Traveler’s wager from Unveiling and the Great Game: that Guardians, in choosing a philosophy, will also decide the fate of existence. This is how the Nine (and the Ahamkara) believe the natural order can be bucked.

Beyond Light: Clovis Bray

In the supplemental book with Beyond Light, Clovis Bray discovers a substance he dubs “Clarity” that seems to drastically “simplify” whatever it comes into contact with. He proceeds to use this substance as something of a randomization seed that randomly knocks out memories to prevent a Exo psychological side effect called “Billboarding”. This incidentally makes Exos a special blend of Vex and Darkness. Anyway, this substance is another avatar of the Darkness’s reduction/simplification. While under an operation, he’s visited by a vision of a “true Alpha” (likely the Traveler) who laments that someone always takes more than their share to the detriment of all else, and reinforces that the choice always remains with the people granted the power – a reinforcement of the role of Risen and choice in existence. The Traveler can rarely speak so directly, because its voice will coerce where choice is necessary.

Witch Queen: The Witness

The Witch Queen expansion finally gave the Darkness a purported face/voice/avatar: The Witness. The visual cues fit all the previous Darkness theming around “one from many”, and its/their origin cutscene from Season of the Deep confirmed this.

Witch Queen: The Hidden Dossier

Ikora wrote more about the role of memory in choice – and game theory, which has also been an undercurrent through this part of the lore – to try and understand why identity is lost in resurrection with the Traveler’s wager in mind. Interestingly, this introduces a new paradox: the Darkness remembers, the Light forgets – in order to provide grace and break stagnant patterns of endless retaliation. This also seemingly contradicts Bray’s usage of Clarity to sporadically purge memories from Exos, except that is a physical mechanism to prevent “overgrowth” by trimming redundancy. Ikora also recognizes that remembering is also necessary to prevent future exploitation and harms like cancers that would otherwise endlessly grow at the expense of the collective; and this is another necessary harmony(/conflict) between Light and Darkness.

Lightfall: The Big Retcon

Osiris then discovered, somehow, that the Light is based in physical phenomena, where Darkness is more metaphysical – that is, “Darkness” is something of a higher-order force that is influenced by cognitive and emotional processes. Stasis borne of control, Strand borne of “flow”. Further, the Darkness carries the imprints of consciousnesses that have passed on, which the Neomuni call the “River of Souls”, and the Veil has been said to be the memory of the universe. Which is additionally paradoxical, because it sounds like a different form of existence afforded to those who failed the challenge of the Sword.

Lightfall seasons (specifically Season of the Deep) also revealed the Veil as the Traveler’s true counterpart: the actual Darkness to its Light, turning the Witness into a mere corrupting influence. The basic idea going forward seems to be that the Witness was responsible for Unveiling, as its form of creation myth, and the new explanation by Osiris is supposed to be closer to the truth. The Witness’s former people apparently drove the Traveler away when they tried to force it to combine with the Veil so they could try to reshape reality to give it purpose, combining into the same being and chasing it across the universe when they failed.

It could then be said that where the Light represents the “outer” world, the Darkness represents the “inner” world. Which also makes the Witness’s portal make sense: an “inner part” of the Traveler opening a door to the physical inside of the Traveler, which is being defined by the mind of the observer as it is being observed! This is also likely why Crow needs Mara as an anchor after going through the portal.


The Light is all about physics and potential, and the Darkness is all about entropy, history, and the imprints of consciousnesses of those that crossed over from life to death. Risen (Guardians) likely have power over both because they’re effectively bridges between the two, as opposed to the Awoken, who are acutely aware of the division within themselves.


  • The Red Queen’s Race mentioned in the Hidden Dossier comes from Alice in Wonderland; it means to “run as fast as one can just to stay in one place.” Ikora was using it to describe the arms race between cheats and honest actors.
  • The “game of shapes” played in the garden is likely akin to Conway’s Game of Life, expanded to a third dimension.
  • Clovis Bray also uncovered (and I believe) that the Vex are not a hivemind so much as “fractally self-similar” which matches their “flower” in the Unveiling “garden” – they’re basically Gliders. They’re kind of a singular component that will always automatically procreate and cooperate with other instances of itself through literally any possible (and even improbable) means. The Vex are basically just one. A puzzle piece that expands infinitely and always fits itself in every configuration, even going forward and backward in time.
  • The Qugu in The Art of Symbiosis are the same Qugu Oryx wiped out in the Books of Sorrow. It seems they also revered the (true?) Darkness.
  • The way the Witness is formed by thousands of beings merging into one seems reminiscent of the Emperor of Mankind in Warhammer 40K.