After starting Emacs from a Terminal window, the following message is displayed:

An error has occurred while loading '/Users/EvanAad/.emacs':
Symbol's function definition is void: package-initialize
To ensure normal operation, you should investigate and remove the
cause of the error in your initialization file.  Start Emacs with the
'--debug-init' option to view a complete error backtrace.

Restarting Emacs with the --debug-init option displays the following in Emacs' Debugger buffer:

Debugger entered--Lisp error: (void-function package-initialize)
(package-initialize)   eval-buffer(#<buffer  *load*> nil
"/Users/evanaad/.emacs" nil t)  ; Reading$
"/Users/evanaad/.emacs"$   load("~/.emacs" t t)   #[nil
"^H\205\276^@   \306=\203^Q^@\307^H\310Q\202A^@
\311=\2033^@\312\307\31$   command-line()   normal-top-level()

P.S. The reason why I want to start emacs from the command line is as an attempt to resolve this issue (see step #5 in the 'Attempted steps' section).

Operating system: macOS Sierra, Version 10.12.4
Emacs version: 25.1.1

  • 1
    Running emacs --version from the shell will undoubtedly tell you a different version number to 25.1.1
    – phils
    Apr 3, 2017 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


This is an ancient version of emacs that came preinstalled with macOS. To find out where the version of emacs that you installed is, start it by clicking on the icon and then evaluate (expand-file-name invocation-name invocation-directory).

Then post that into a shell.

  • Scoffed at this answer at first, only to realize it was the correct one about 15 minutes of fruitless hacking later. Basically, package-initialize must have been added at some point later so the ancient one can't find that function. For some reason (probably CopyLeft restrictions), MacOS High Sierra (released 2017) ships with GNU Emacs 22.1.1 Copyright (C) 2007
    – ijoseph
    Dec 5, 2018 at 21:08

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