The Imperial Cult is the cult based on the worship of the Emperor of Mankind as Master, Defender and Father of Mankind, developed following his internment in the Golden Throne. In the 41st millennium the Imperial Cult has almost unrivalled power and influence within the Imperium. Heresy against it is punished severely. The religion is administered by the Ecclesiarchy.
The basic precepts of the Imperial Cult, called the Imperial Creed, include the belief that all of humanity must be brought into the Imperium, the abhorrence of Xenos, and the realisation that psykers and mutation among humanity is a dire threat which must be controlled. All of these precepts have their origins in what the Emperor himself preached during the Great Crusade.[1b]
The Imperial Creed is highly flexible and is tailored by Missionaries to fit the native culture, religion, and practices of whatever world it exists upon. As such, practices adhered to on one world may be held as abhorrent on another. The Ministorum tolerates this vast range of practices and beliefs, as it would be impossible to maintain a complete standardization of the faith across the Imperium.
However, the Ecclesiarchy does enforce basic key tenets:
- The Emperor once walked among men, but He is, and always has been, a god.
- The Emperor is the one true god, regardless of what past faiths any human may have worshipped.
- To purge the heretic, beware the psyker and mutant, and abhor the alien.
- Every human being has a place within the Emperor's divine order.
- To unquestionably obey the authority of the Imperial government and one's superiors.
Another recurring theme is the notion of the End Times, which gained momentum towards the end of the 41st Millennium. Often tied to the notion of the End Times is a belief that the Emperor will rise from the Golden Throne and complete the work He began ten thousand years ago, delivering the faithful from the evils of the galaxy. While most view these as a time of deliverance, it is also believed that the Emperor will sit in judgment of all mankind, casting those lacking in faith into damnation.
Aside from these central tenets, there exists a massive body of both sanctioned and unsanctioned dogma which varies from sector to sector and is the subject of constant debate. The subject of the afterlife is a regularly debated topic, with many teachings mentioning the form of an afterlife in which the faithful take their place beside the Emperor for eternity. However other elements of the Holy Synod maintain a different version of the afterlife, and the belief in an afterlife varies greatly depending on the culture of a planet.
In M41, the ordinary Imperial citizen believes that the Emperor has always been venerated as an immortal and omnipotent god, but this is inaccurate. At the beginning of the Emperor's Great Crusade, there was no Ecclesiarchy; on the contrary, the Emperor had deliberately outlawed organised religion in any form, declaring it the source of much of the strife and ignorance that had prevented humanity from achieving its potential.[4a] The idea of worship was anathema to the Emperor's vision of a secular empire of man, ruled by reason and science. The official Imperial doctrine was that the Emperor was an extremely powerful being, the rightful ruler of all mankind, and the perfect image of humanity, but no matter how supreme, still a human being.[Needs Citation]
During the Great Crusade however, many ordinary Imperial citizens found that the light of reason and truth brought by the Emperor was not enough, and they took to worshipping him as a deity. The Emperor himself did not wish to be considered a deity, but his deeds during the Great Crusade and the very fact of his existence - an immortal man, and the most powerful psyker in the history of the galaxy - gave rise to a cult, known as the Lectitio Divinitatus[4b], based on a tome written by the Primarch Lorgar, postulating that the Emperor was in fact a divine being.
The Emperor became an object of general veneration following the Horus Heresy and his internment within the Golden Throne on Terra. Over the following decades many individual Imperial cults sprang up throughout the Imperium, with their central theme being the redemption of humanity through the Emperor's self-sacrifice. After a few hundred years, a single cult known as the Ecclesiarchy was formed from the unification of a number of smaller cults, which gradually absorbed the main body of believers. In M32 this cult became the official religion of the Imperium, gaining the title of Adeptus Ministorum. Remaining cults were persecuted and mostly destroyed.[1b]
- 1: Codex Imperialis
- 2: Realm of Chaos, Slaves to Darkness, pg. 214
- 3: Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs, pgs. 18-19
- 4: Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- 5: Scions of the Storm (Short Story) by Anthony Reynolds
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, pg. 268