Within the Imperium of Man, Heresy is any action or opinion which is seen as contrary to the interests of the Imperial regime or its teachings. Due to the theocratic nature of the Imperium Heresy is often a political charge alongside a religious one. In practice, all enemies of the Imperium are invariably labeled Heretics. In the Imperium, the most common sentence for heresy is death.
Heresy within the Imperium may take many forms. These include deviations from the established Imperial Cult, to denying the rights and rule of the Adeptus Terra, to collaboration or association with Xenos and Mutants, to open dissent or rebellion. The most serious acts of Heresy are reserved for those who associate with the Dark Gods of Chaos. Formal declarations of Heresy or of Heretics can come from a variety of sources, but the most common is that of the Ecclesiarchy. Nonetheless, often the accusation of Heresy in the Imperium used as a weapon by those wishing to gain power over others. Moreover, as the Imperium is a vast realm with countless different cultures and traditions, what is considered Heretical to one world may be perfectly acceptable to another. This makes the persecution of Heresy a delicate affair.
Types of Heresy
The act of simply defying the Imperium or its Adepta is often decried as Heresy. Rebellion in the Imperium can take many forms, from a desire to free oneself from the Imperial yoke to conversion to Chaos. While often all types of rebels are branded heretics, wiser and more experienced Inquisitors are able to discern legitimate greivances from malicious corruption and avoid unnecessary purges.
The Ecclesiarchy condemns non-sanctioned forms of mutation to be acts of Heresy. Mutant represents deviation from the physical norm and a potential taint of Chaos, and mutants are often viciously persecuted on Imperial worlds. However more experienced Inquisitors will often ignore simple mutants, seeing their extermination as a waste of time and resources. Instead, they focus their attention on truly threatening mutant bands that may associate with the likes of Chaos Cults or Genestealer Cults.
The "Witch" is a superstitious term often labeled against unsanctioned Psykers that may be discovered within Imperial society. Imperial citizenry is routinely lectured on the threat of the Psyker and the need to report their presence to Imperial authorities. The Witch is seen as a threat far greater than any mutant or common heretic, embodying a constant threat to the souls and lives of all around them. Left unchecked, a Psyker could potentially devastate an entire world. Imperial Psykers are thus heavily controlled and usually collected by the League of Blackships. Those Rogue Psykers that may exist are the frequent target of the Ordo Hereticus.
Xenophilia, or association with Xenos, is strictly forbidden by the common citizens of the Imperium and is seen as a severe act of Heresy. The Imperial Creed has declared all aliens as filthy and debased, worthy only of extermination. Collaboration with Xenos will often bring swift death to all involved. Nonetheless, many worlds on the frontiers of the Imperium often have contacts with Xenos and in some cases share their worlds with such beings. Moreover, Rogue Traders make frequent contacts with Xenos and species of the Kroot have even served as Imperial Mercenaries. Such activity is frowned upon by the Ecclesiarchy, but can be tolerated depending on the context.
Often simply dubbed "true Heresy", this is perhaps the most serious of all charges within the Imperium. Religious Heresy involves denying the divinity of the Imperium and worst of all association with the Ruinious Powers of Chaos. Religious heretics will often form Cults to coordinate their activities and spread their beliefs. These Cults represent an enormous threat to stability of Imperial worlds and can be the heralds of Chaos Space Marine or Xenos invasion.
The declaration of religious Heresy is a delicate matter and often left to Cardinals and Missionaries. Large-scale deviation from the Imperial Cult can be tolerated, most notably by the Cult Mechanicus of the Mechanicum and the Chapter Cults of the Adeptus Astartes.
Techno-Heresy is a charge leveled by the Adeptus Mechanicus upon those which may deviate from its technological and scientific teachings. This is seen as a betrayal of the Cult Mechanicus. Techno-Heresy comes in many forms, such weakening the Adeptus' stranglehold on the knowledge of the Imperium's technology, or embracing individual experimentation and innovation.
The Imperial regime has multiple bodies dedicated to quashing Heresy. These include the Adeptus Arbites, which enforce the Lex Imperialis across the worlds of the Imperium. The Adeptus Ministorum devotes a large part of its efforts in determining what qualifies as Heresy and condemning heretics wherever they may be discovered. During a War of Faith, Imperial armies will often exterminate massive numbers Heretics. Most zealous in these purges are the Sisters of Battle, the militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy.
But the most sinister of all is the Inquisition and more specifically the Ordo Hereticus, which has made it its mission to eliminate the heretic. The Ordo Xenos is often tasked with combating xenophilic acts of Heresy while the Ordo Malleus will sometimes exterminate the most dangerous of all Chaos Cults. In some cases, the dreaded Officio Assassinorum or even the Adeptus Custodes have brought their wrath down upon suspected heretics.
For combating Techno-Heresy, the Adeptus Mechanicus maintains its own secret police force known as the Prefecture Magisterium. This agency operates hunter-killer clades with brutally deal with suspected Hereteks.
- 1: Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs pg.20-22
- 2: Dark Heresy: The Inquisitor's Handbook pg.204-205
- 3: Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods pg.21-25
- 4: Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition) pg. 38
- 5: Codex: Genestealer Cults (8th Edition) pg.6-7
- 6: Dark Heresy: Book of Judgement pg.9
- 7: Dataslate: Officio Assassinorum - The Chains that Bind
- 8: Codex: Adeptus Custodes (8th Edition) pg.26
- 9: Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook pg.44
- 10: The Horus Heresy Book Three pg.204-205
- 11: Codex: Sisters of Battle (2nd Edition) pg.6
- 12: Index Astartes - Cult of the Machine God
- 13: Index Astartes: Volume I - Chaplains and the Ecclesiarchy
- 14: Codex: Inquisition, pg. 13
- 15: Dark Heresy Core Rulebook pg.267