I'm following the tutorial here to implement my init.el file in org mode. I therefore cleaned out my init.el file and added this only:

(require 'org)
 (expand-file-name "emacs-init.org"

When I do I get the following error:

Debugger entered--Lisp error: (wrong-type-argument stringp nil)
  mapc(org-babel-load-file ("/home/tom/.emacs.d/emacs-init.org"))
  eval-buffer(#<buffer  *load*> nil "/home/tom/.emacs.d/init.el" nil t)  ; Reading at buffer position 1065
  load-with-code-conversion("/home/tom/.emacs.d/init.el" "/home/tom/.emacs.d/init.el" t t)
  load("/home/tom/.emacs.d/init" t t)

It seems that the expand-file-name function is working, but for some reason nil is being passed to the load-file function. Is that a proper reading of this stack trace? And if so, then why is that happening?


3 Answers 3


Load the source file that defines org-babel-load-file (*.el, not *.elc). Then M-x debug-on-entry org-babel-load-file. Use d to step through the execution, to see why, given the argument "/home/tom/.emacs.d/emacs-init.org", it ends up trying to load nil and not a file name. You can use c to skip through any steps you are not interested in digging into.

See the Elisp manual, node Function Debugging (and its parent node, Debugger).

  • This is really fantastic advice and I used this debugging process to solve the problem. Thanks again Drew! I didn't accept it as the answer though because there's a much more direct route to solving this issue.
    – Tom Purl
    Jan 12, 2017 at 14:09

Ok, after using Drew's debugging steps I learned that org-babel-load-file basically does the following:

  1. Load your emacs-init.org file in org-mode.
  2. Strip out all of the emacs-lisp code blocks that contain your emacs config.
  3. Put those emacs-lisp code blocks into a file called emacs-init.el.
  4. It then executes the code in that file.

My issue was that my emacs-init.org file didn't yet contain any emacs-lisp code blocks so it couldn't create the emacs-init.el file, which is why nil is being passed to load-file.

So here's what I'm doing instead that is working much better.

  1. I added the code snippet in my question to the top of my existing init.el file.
  2. I then created an emacs-init.org file in the .emacs.d dir.
  3. I then moved a couple lines of config from init.el to emacs-init.org.
  4. I then start a second emacs process to test everything.

My plan is to move everything in chunks like this.


You must tell your "emacs-init.org" which language is it.


Example for emacs-lisp

#+BEGIN_SRC emacs-lisp
(tool-bar-mode -1)
(menu-bar-mode -1)
(scroll-bar-mode -1)

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