Emperor of Mankind
The Emperor of Mankind is the sovereign of the Imperium of Man, and Father, Guardian, and God of his race. He has sat immobile within the Golden Throne of Terra for ten thousand years. Although once a living man, his shattered body can no longer support life, and remains intact only by a combination of ancient technology and the sheer force of his will, itself sustained by the soul-sacrifice of countless millions of psykers.2
His will is omnipotent, extending across the million worlds that comprise his Imperium. For ten thousand years the Master of Mankind has served mankind, simultaneously carrying out a multitude of tasks vital to its survival and to the survival of the Imperium. All at once he guides his race through the Emperor's Tarot, soul-binds psykers, holds audiences with his most important servants and beams the Astronomican beacon. His immense psychic powers constantly keep the Chaotic powers of the Warp at bay, preventing their intrusion into the material universe and protecting his people throughout the galaxy.1
The Emperor's role as guardian of mankind seems to have been predestined for him. Without the Emperor there would be no Imperium, little space travel, and no protection from the multitude of threats facing mankind. The Emperor knows that to protect his race he must survive as long as necessary for the emerging race of psychic humans to evolve sufficiently.2
In the millennia since his ascension to the Golden Throne, the Emperor has become a god to his people, the worship of him uniting humanity throughout his Imperium, superstition and dogma replacing his doctrine of Imperial Truth.1
Daemonkind refers to the Emperor as The Anathema.9
Little is known about the majority of the Emperor's life; of who he was and what he did before he emerged as the great Emperor of Mankind, only the Emperor himself remembers.2 A few pieces of information have come to light, from various different sources, and present some small parts of a coherent whole; however, their reliability is often disputed, especially as the Emperor's tale changes somewhat with each retelling.
The oldest information given on the Emperor's origin relates that he was born to mortal parents in the 8th Millennium BC3-p174 manifesting his powers as a youth. One account of the Emperor's origin goes so far as to say that he had mortal brothers and sisters and details the time and location of his birthplace - eight thousand years before the first millenium, in the region of Terra then known as Central Anatolia. This account also claims that the Emperor's birth, while a natural process, was actually the result of a scheme created by the wisest and most powerful of living humans at that time; the conclave of shamans. These men, termed 'shamans' by their society, were powerful psykers with great experience of the Warp. Finding their souls - and those of humanity - endangered by the growing perils of the Warp-gods, these psykers decided to pool their power into one human, a being they called 'the New Man'. Already having gained the power to reincarnate themselves (upon death, the shamans' souls would transfer to the Warp, accumulating power enough to reincarnate as human) the shamans entered a suicide-pact. Thousands of them poisoned themselves and sped their souls to the warp at the same time. Presumably pooling their soul-energy and using their reincarnation ability, they brought about the birth of their New Man - the Emperor - one year later. This New Man, once he had learned of his special nature, proceeded to haunt the history of humanity as a ghost; watching, waiting and occasionally influencing.3
Living secretly amongst mankind, he developed his abilities until his psychic might allowed him to gain knowledge of not only his own world, but of the dangers beyond it. Aware then of the vast predations awaiting humanity, the being that would become known as the Emperor resolved to guide and protect humanity. Eventually, over ten thousand years before his current circumstances, he took his struggle out into the open, primarily because of the ever-increasing number of psykers, whose very existence endangered their species.2
Rise of the Emperor
The man who would later become known as the Emperor first appears in Imperial records as one of the many warlords struggling for control of Terra during the later part of the Age of Strife. The Emperor undertook a series of campaigns against all the other warlords on the planet that would later become termed as the Unification Wars. During these wars the Emperor employed several military formations - such as the Geno Five-Two Chiliad - that consisted of genetically altered/engineered warriors, who played a significant role in his eventual victory. With this victory, the planet and population of Terra were at last unified under one rule; that of the Emperor. With this achievement behind him, the Emperor then set in motion his plans to take his purpose of uniting and guarding mankind out into the stars, to unify with the bastions of humanity scattered across the galaxy. This undertaking would become known as the Great Crusade.4
The Emperor prepared extensively for the Great Crusade; he created the special astrotelepath corps to link his eventual dominion together, and caused the creation of the Astronomican, a supremely powerful signal device powered by the Emperor's own psychic might that would allow simplified and safer travel through the Warp. Chief amongst his designs, however, were the creation of superhuman warriors, the logical extension of the gene-troopers already under his command. He had first undertaken the Primarch Project, the creation of twenty infants from his own genetic code, designed to mature into powerful generals for his armies. However, this plan went awry with the intervention of the Chaos Powers. While accounts vary as to exactly what happened, the end of the tale is always the same; the Primarchs were cast into the Warp and thought lost.4
In the aftermath of these events, the Emperor evolved a new plan. Using genetic material which had been derived from the Primarchs, he created a caste of warriors which would possess some of the qualities of the Primarchs. These successors to the genetically-altered warriors of the Unification Era were the Legiones Astartes, the Space Marines of the First Founding.3
The Emperor led the Space Marines into the reconquest of the Solar System, driving alien enslavers from the moons of Saturn and Jupiter and most importantly, achieving peace and eventual integration with the Mechanicum of Mars. This alliance provided the Emperor with much of the means and materiel to extend his crusade into the stars.
With the final abatement of the Warp storms began the Great Crusade. The Emperor's forces rediscovered human worlds, cast out alien oppressors, and claimed new territory aplenty. Perhaps most importantly, the Emperor, leading his crusade, rediscovered his lost sons, the Primarchs. Scattered throughout space, the infants were found one-by-one, over a period of many decades, and reunited with their father and their kin. All were placed in command of the Astartes Legions created from their respective gene-seed and played their part in forging their father's Imperium.3,5
First amongst the Primarchs was Horus, first discovered and first honoured. Some great length of time into the Great Crusade, the Emperor decided to return to Terra and placed Horus in charge of the military advancement of his Imperium in his stead. Granting him the title of Warmaster, the Emperor declared that the time had come for his sons to show him what great leaders they were. Turning his back on direct military interventions, the Emperor then created the Council of Terra, the Imperial Tithe and expanded the civil governing bodies of the Imperium, before retiring in seclusion beneath the Imperial Palace to begin work upon the Golden Throne.5
The Horus Heresy
This turn of events did not please all of the Emperor's subjects, several of his sons in particular. In the final stages of the Great Crusade, the Emperor's most trusted son Horus succumbed to Chaos temptation. Horus was told that the reason the Emperor had left the Great Crusade was so the he could attempt to reach godhood, abandon all his sons and betray one of the central tenants of the Great Crusade (to enlighten humanity and free it from the bonds of false gods). Horus saw it as his duty to save the Imperium and turned on his father. Having corrupted fully half of the Space Marine Legions, Horus led them against the Emperor and plunged the fledgeling galactic empire into a colossal civil war. This became the most terrible conflict in human history, and billions perished as the Traitor Legions tore apart the empire they had helped to forge.5
The last act of this terrible treachery was played out above Terra, as the Emperor led a desperate assault against Horus' flagship. Though the Emperor was a being of unfathomable psychic and physical might, Horus had become mighty indeed, bloated with the powers of all four Chaos Gods. After a tragic battle, and though heartbroken at the loss of his favoured son, the Emperor finally slew Horus, though the struggle left him close to death. In this state he was found by Rogal Dorn. The dying Emperor dictated plans for the arcane life-support machine that would sustain his remaining cells for over ten thousand years, and he was subsequently interred in this altered version of the Golden Throne.5
Enthroned within the life-sustaining Golden Throne, the Emperor's will has transcended his maimed body. The Emperor is now divorced from the day to day running of the Imperium; this is left to the Adeptus Terra who govern in his name.
Now, his will is interpreted and executed by the High Lords of Terra, his worship is regulated by the Ecclesiarchy, his law enforced by the Adeptus Arbites, his form guarded by the Adeptus Custodes, and his people protected from the horrors of the galaxy and from even themselves by the Inquisition. The Emperor is confined within the Golden Throne, vast biomechanical machinery forming the great Sanctum Imperialis, located deep within the continent-spanning complex on Terra known as the Imperial Palace. There the Emperor's physical form is sustained by carefully maintained machinery. Physically, the enthroned Emperor of Mankind is a ravaged corpse. The last surviving cells in his shattered body are sustained by the Golden Throne, providing an anchor for the Emperor's spirit, which extends across the entire Imperium. While his body is sustained, his will endures. His existence is said to be an unending torment, with his every thought enslaved to the task of ruling, guiding and protecting his race. Ultimately it is only his will to endure that allows him to survive, as he knows his death would lead to the destruction of the Imperium and leave mankind without the guidance it needs to survive.2
Only through his power can the Astronomican beam its guiding light, allowing Imperial ships to navigate the Warp in relative safety. The Emperor is not just a beacon for space travel, however, but is said to continue to guide humanity through his Tarot, and through dreams and visions given to selected individuals. It is also popularly believed that he created the warp storm known as the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath during the Age of Apostasy, and that the Emperor's will holds Chaos at bay. Were it not for his unceasing struggle, the Chaos of the Warp would flood the material realm with madness and horror, causing untold destruction.1
In addition to these already profound powers, the Emperor is capable of stopping time for undetermined lengths and guiding his servants through manipulation of his Tarot and sheer influence.8
Two theories have been put forward concerning the possible rebirth of the Emperor. Note that at worst these theories could be considered complete fabrication brought about by Tzeentchian Cultists and the lies of Chaos, as the Inquisition has decreed.6
The Star Child
A controversial belief amongst Imperial scholars, the Star Child Theory has two aspects: the first is that the Emperor's soul is currently forming as a new entity (the Star Child) in the Warp and that he will be reborn - a theory not dissimilar to the belief surrounding the potential Eldar god Ynnead- and the second is that the Emperor had children.3
After the defeat of Horus, most of the Emperor's soul is said to have dispersed from his body, merging into the warp in much the same way as that of the shamans, so many millenia before. It is believed that the Emperor - while apparently designed and empowered by the shamans to live forever - also possesses their ability to reincarnate, and that this would be his eventual goal. Avoiding discovery by the Chaos powers, it is believed that the Emperor was able to plant the seed of his reincarnation, a potential new soul awaiting birth: The Star Child. However, it is also believed that this new soul cannot be born while the Emperor is still tied to the Golden Throne, no matter how tenuously.3
Along with this, the Emperor is said to have had children. Although a man of unparalleled, god-like powers, the Emperor was still a man, and throughout the many millennia of his life on Terra had fathered many children. A few of their descendants had inherited some of the Emperor's power, including agelessness, and survive into the Age of the Imperium. They are known as Sensei. Sensei have a unique nature and relationship with the Warp which makes them invisible to psychic senses - even to those of the Emperor. The ultimate goal of the Sensei is to attain Apotheosis with the Star Child.3
There is a another possibility given for the Emperor's resurrection/rebirth. A hidden group that call themselves the Illuminati have learned from the Eldar's Black Library many truths of Chaos, as well as about the Sensei and the Fall of the Eldar. They realise the Emperor cannot survive in his current state forever, and eventually he will fail, and without the Emperor, Mankind will fall to Chaos like the Eldar. Such an event would create a fifth God of Chaos and create another Eye of Terror, one which would span the entire Imperium. They seek to prevent this by bringing about the rebirth of the Emperor.
This involves gathering together the Sensei, protecting them from the Inquisition, preparing them for what they claim is "the final war with Chaos." In truth they ultimately plan to sacrifice the Sensei to the Emperor, in the same way so many psykers have been consumed by the Emperor. The Emperor will be renewed, reborn as the Sensei-Emperor to again lead his race in person.3
A cryptic account of the Emperor's origins (appearing in the 3rd Edition Rulebook) was written by Cripias, the final "Keeper of the Library Sanctus of Terra". This account was later deemed "heretical" and kept from being published. The account was passed down to each Keeper, starting from the First Keeper, Solomon.
In the beginning, the "First Age of Man", the Emperor was hidden. It was the Golden Age and the Emperor prepares Earth for mankind. The people that existed with the Emperor before Mankind were called the "Golden Race". The second group were called the "Stone Race". The Stone Race then built ships that took both races across the galaxy. The Golden Age ends in the 21st Millennium.
Until the 26th Millennium, also called the Dark Age of Technology, the Stone Men were busy creating many things, such as the "Iron Men", or robots. Soon after, the Stone Men and Iron Men fight amongst themselves. The Stone Men eventually defeat all of the Iron Men.
After this "victory" against the Iron Men, the Age of Strife comes and the Stone Men fight amongst themselves. After five thousand years of conflict, the Emperor finally emerges. He conquers and combines the race of men together, leading them. After creating the Space Marines, the Emperor crusades across the galaxy and reclaims Man's former glory. Soon after, the Horus Heresy occurs and the Emperor ascends.
- 1:Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition Rulebook
- 2:Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
- 3:Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned, Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness
- 4:Legion by Dan Abnett
- 5:Horus Heresy
- 6:Warhammer 40,000 Compendium
- 7:Warhammer 40,000 3rd Edition Rulebook
- 8:The Inquisition War by Ian Watson, pp.224-228
- 9:The First Heretic p.292
- 10: Inquisitor: The Thorian Sourcebook pg.4