"Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response."
- – Arthur M. Schlesinger
In Warhammer 40,000, things are so grimdark that people have forgotten all of the science that was once known; the only remaining knowledge is encoded in religious ceremonies followed by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The deity central to mechanicus dogma is the Machine God, who is also known as the Omnissiah. In practice though, the Omnissiah is more like Machine Jesus to the Machine God, and many believe the Omnissiah is in fact the Emperor.
- 1 Attributes
- 2 Worship of the machine
- 3 History of the Machine
- 4 Current times
- 5 Theories of true identity
- 5.1 Theory One: God-Emperor of Mankind
- 5.2 Theory Two: Void Dragon
- 5.3 Theory three: Both theories one and two
- 5.4 Theory four: Chaos Undivided
- 5.5 Theory five: Individual warp entity
- 5.6 Theory six: Other
- 5.7 Theory seven: Akashic records
- 5.8 Theory Eight: No God but the Emperor
- 5.9 Theory Nine: Taking Things at Face Value
- 6 Trivia
The machine god is a god of logic, and reason; and any form of chaos and disorder is abhorrent to him (although the Dark Mechanicum that still believe in him would argue otherwise). He works through and manifests in machines, which are seen by his worshipers as the ultimate expression of his order. His sacred language is binary, which pretty much every single fucking techpriest is fluent in (and which the Inquisition has spent thousands of years trying to crack but hasn't even come close yet; you'd think they'd just ask a Techmarine for a proverbial Rosetta Stone, but that's 40K for you).
Worship of the machine
To venerate the machine god is to worship your coffee grinder, your showers, your collection of electronic dildos, etc. It all involves long, complicated, and frankly needless praying and rituals to activate anything. Even turning on a light, you have to make a prayer first, probably do something with sanctified oil, speak a prayer of thanks that the electricity decided to satisfy your request, and thank the Omnissiah for bringing it all together.
Science is now an arcane art which is treated with danger and care. Literally, technosorcery. A techpriest really is a priest, learning more about hymns than how to properly weld something together. Because of that and the desire to dunk every piece of technology in oil, the sacred knowledge they guard so jealously has, over time, degraded along with their skills and ability to comprehend common sense.
Speaking of hoarding secrets, they have a habit of keeping information for the sake of it and not sharing unless forced to. It is because they believe the Omnissiah only wishes his chosen to know his knowledge. It is generosity like this that will save the human race from all the terrors that assault it.
The Adeptus Mechanicus has sixteen universal laws of the machine god, divided into eight mysteries and eight warnings as given below with helpful observations.
The Mysteries of the Cult Mechanicus:
- Life is directed motion.
- The spirit is the spark of life. (Ah, very Transformers there.)
- Sentience is the ability to learn the value of knowledge. (Pity they don't take this lesson to heart...)
- Intellect is the understanding of knowledge.
- Sentience is the basest form of Intellect. (Does that apply to Orks too?)
- Understanding is the True Path to Comprehension.
- Comprehension is the key to all things.
- The Omnissiah knows all, comprehends all. (Unlike his servants.)
The Warnings of the Cult Mechanicus
- The alien mechanism is a perversion of the True Path (Which doesn't stop them when they want a look at all those Tau and Necron goodies.)
- The soul is the conscience of sentience.
- A soul can be bestowed only by the Omnissiah.
- The Soulless sentience (i.e. AIs) is the enemy of all (But since machine-spirits and servitors are derived from a mixture of organic and technological components, they're given a pass.)
- The knowledge of the ancients stands beyond question. (This is true. Pity that knowledge is in the hands of idiots)
- The Machine Spirit guards the knowledge of the Ancients.
- Flesh is fallible, but ritual honors the Machine Spirit
- To break with ritual is to break with faith. (Which doesn't stop them doing so when they are being shot at by chaos freaks)
History of the Machine
The rise of the machine cult is all but been lost to history, although it is known that when the Emperor of Mankind began his Great Crusade, Mars was the first stop, and by then they had all been gay for the Omnissiah for so long that only a few of them got a hard on from seeing the emprah. And only then, because they believed he was the Omnissiah. Mars was a great power, with unrivaled technology and secrets, and the Emperor knew that if he was going to launch his Great Crusade, he would need Mars's support. However, this put him in a bind (because of his Imperial Truth, which said no gods or spirits or anything supernatural truly existed). This of course ruled out the Omnissiah as well, but the Emperor, like any good politician, decided to quietly brush it under the carpet and declared the techpriests were a one-off exception, since the alternative was having a potentially hostile force with a lot of valuable tech right on Terra's doorstep. Likewise, to humor their population, the techpriests for the most part declared the Emperor was an aspect of their God, which you can imagine he didn't like very much but was like "eh, fuck em" and let them get on with it.
Today the cult of the Omnissiah is one of the state religions of the Imperium, no matter how much the Ecclesiarchy fumes about it. The techpriests try to get around it by saying that the Emperor and the Machine God are the same deity, so two religions, one faith, or something. The forge worlds are the centres of worship for the Machine God, although each regular Imperial citizen at least knows a little about him and at least generally respects him for the secrets of technology he has bestowed upon mankind.
Theories of true identity
While this may seem straight forward, the actual identity of Omnissiah has become the greatest game of 'Guess Who?' in 40k, as several theories of his true form have now come forward, which are covered below.
Theory One: God-Emperor of Mankind
Some tech-priests believe that the God-Emperor of Mankind is the Omnissiah, or at least a form of him. These include the tech-priests who remained loyal to the Imperium of Man during the Horus Heresy. The Adeptus Mechanicus officially holds this view, and it is used to pacify the more zealous members of the Ecclesiarchy and Inquisition who doubt the Mechanicum's loyalty, though there are many individuals who believe they are separate. This logically leads to conflict between the two bodies and it is something that will never truly be satisfied by either side. The novel Titanicus somehow scientifically confirms that this is not actually the case, but both factions need each other.
For those wondering, this theory was NOT pulled out of someone's ass to shut the Inquisition up. There is a common school of thought in the Mechanicus that organics are technically machines, just really inefficient ones. There are many "cyborgs" in the Mechanicus that don't have a scrap of metal in their bodies, just transplanted organs. The Emperor, being the perfect human, is the logical conclusion of this claptrap.
Theory Two: Void Dragon
Other tech-priests equate the Omnissiah with the Void Dragon, one of the Star Gods of the Necrons. These tech-priests also tend to venerate the Necrons as the Omnissiah's angels. They then tend to do stupid things like poking around in Necron tombs, trying to probe them for secrets as part of their "Quest For Knowledge." They tend not to live very long, as Necrons don't care what any life-forms think of them; they are equal-opportunity destroyers. In the recent Horus Heresy fluff, it was shown the Emperor sealed a silver dragon under Mars in the distant past so humanity could have control over machines (wut? (The void dragon controls machines. So sealing him means we can use machines without fearing some eldritch skynet taking control of the toasters and microwaves and using them to control us or murder us in our sleep.)). Somehow he was able to make it so humans could take some of the dragon's power then for their own although in hindsight putting a super powerful creature in the same solar system as the capital of the Imperium might come back to bite them in the ass...
Theory three: Both theories one and two
Some versions of the myth tend to separate them in two, with the Void Dragon being the Machine God, and the Emperor being the Omnissiah who "tamed" him. It's unclear, really. A surviving Man of Iron also posited that they are two beings but the Emperor is not the Omnissiah.
Theory four: Chaos Undivided
The Dark Mechanicus, those tech-priests who sided with the Chaos Space Marines during the Horus Heresy, believe that the Omnissiah is a combined aspect of Chaos Undivided, worshiping Chaos as a form of progress and knowledge. Said tech-priests tend to take the mechanical augmentations a little further than one would like in a tech-priest. They also use bio-mechanics, which is very explicitly forbidden.
Theory five: Individual warp entity
It could be over time that like any other strong collective desire and belief the tech-priests have created their own God in the warp, which would be a Machine God of logic, machines and arcane processes. While he may have started off as one of the other theories, such belief just doesn't do anything and proof of previous miracles caused by strong belief in the god and his servants the machine spirits have been seen.
Theory six: Other
Presumably, any sufficiently-advanced machine will be taken for the Machine God by at least some tech-priests, like a functional Man of Iron, or other Dark Age technology. They could for example worship a rediscovered ipod as a significant avatar of his machineness.
In fact, the trilogy of Priests of Mars hints that there may be a kind of entity which goes far beyond the material and warp realm, with the most advanced pieces of technology created by mankind such as the Ark Mechanicus (yes, like that one that one-shot an Eldar capital ship) being sort of avatars of this transcendental being. The fact this entity was neither Chaos nor C'tan aligned and yet could interfere both with the Warp and the Star Gods' powers in their own respective fields. Furthermore, it confirms the existence of the below-mentioned Akashic Records, and points out indirectly how Horus was allowed to access knowledge which should not have been available even for a Primarch (something which happened in the Vengeful Spirit novel). Interestingly, this entity, or entities, seems to be actively hindering the destruction of the physical universe and the complete disruption of the Immaterium, and it is pointed out that it was already old at the time mankind started inventing the basics of mechanics (the lever, for instance). McNeill never clarifies the ultimate nature of this being, yet for all intents and purposes, and given the amount of shenanigans used by the Mechanicus in the novel, it may be the Machine God. It's worth noting that what we call Deus Mechanicus is what limited human capabilities can grasp of an eternally self-evolving singularity.
Theory seven: Akashic records
The novel Mechanicum presents the view that the Omnissiah may be the sum of all knowledge in the universe. Koriel Zeth, the tech-priest that was researching the Akashic records, did not actually take this view and thought that the Omnissiah just did not exist. Koriel Zeth sought to regain the level of technology that humanity had at its height, and though dangerously close to understanding the concept of science as we know it, that would be too sane for the Mechanicum and she decided not to rebuild that knowledge from redoing all that scientific research, but by connecting to the Akashic records in the Warp (the way, in her mind, that ancient humanity must have learned things, or kept all their knowledge). To Zeth, Dalia Cythera, a naturally innovative girl (read: a technopathic psyker) could do what she did not because of skill and heretical research (that she did do), but because she was connected to these records. Though being Warhammer 40K, Zeth was probably correct. Then this theory blurs all of the other theories together. Using the Astronomican and the Emperor's power, Zeth infuses a psyker with all the knowledge in the Warp. This psyker, now dying and omniscient, thought that the most important thing he could say with his new-found knowledge was to direct Dalia to re-imprison the Void Dragon, who she was destined to watch over and had a connection to. So, where does all knowledge come from? The Dark Mechanicus interrupted things, so the issue is never clarified. Worst of all, this being 40K, Zeth might have been right about how humanity developed its technology after all and no one realized it until she puzzled things out. After all, most truly useful and great inventions are created either by genii or by people who just had a one-off burst of brilliance. It is kinda of...suspicious. This would also mean that killing weak psykers might actually be helping to prevent humanity from recovering its technological power, as many of them might be connected to the Akashic Records and so no more genii and spontaneous moments of techno-brilliance will be forthcoming among anyone of any reasonable level of authority in the Imperium as anyone with more than zip connection to the Warp (other than the human norm) but not strong enough to bother collecting on the Black Ships is killed.
Theory Eight: No God but the Emperor
Unlike the rest of the deities, the Machine God has no particular representation in the form of miracles or divine figures, and doesn't appear to be any entity within the Warp. On the one hand, this would imply that tying their theology to the Emperor fulfills the need for a machine god, or that the Mechanicus are hilariously inept theologians. On the other hand, the metaphysics of 40k almost demand that there should be a Machine God for all of their faith, but, as the Warp feeds on emotions rather than prayers, the AdMech's disdain for frivolous aspects like "sentiments" and "humanity" make them just about unable to make a god for themselves.
First of all, the Warp definitely feeds on prayers, probably more so than emotions. For evidence, prayers to the Emperor weaken the Chaos Gods, because the Emperor has a Warp signature that is "anathema" to that of the Chaos Gods. So yes, the AdMech should definitely have manifested some kind of Warp entity for the Machine God. Actually, prayer does nothing. Belief influences the Warp. However, belief/faith is harmful to Chaos (possibly because it imposes order structured by the belief). Chaos feeds on emotions and aspects of reality like change and decay instead of faith and worship. Praying to the Emperor and faith in him helps fight Chaos because it both evokes his presence which is anathema to Chaos and because sheer faith in its effectiveness makes it effective against Warp entities such as daemons. What matters in this theory about "No God but the Emperor" is that if the Emperor is in fact the Machine God then prayer to and faith in the Machine God would be unknowingly directed to him anyway.
Though the emotions thing does bring up a strange debate. Magos who've had their brains sufficiently computerized are said to devote small numbers of cycles to emotion equations and engines whenever they see fit to feel an emotion. Jury's still out on whether this kind of emotion is represented in the Warp or not, because if it doesn't then it MIGHT explain why the Machine God is taking so long to form. Or maybe it is already formed, or nascent, for the same reason the Sisters of Battles can use Acts of Faith, the Canticles of the Omnissiah may just as well be "miracles" from the Warp.
Or simply believing something strongly enough in a clap your hands if you believe universe is enough to have an effect on the materium. Like Ork WAAAGH!!! but less intense due to a lack of innate psychic ability. Especially given humans have a very close spiritual connection to the Warp.
Theory Nine: Taking Things at Face Value
The Omnissiah is a combination of the two words Omni and Messiah. Literally the All Messiah. Humanity, realizing how utterly screwed they are (like having the Void Dragon on Mars, yikes) in the greater scheme of things (at least for those that have 1/10th of a clue, so basically not too many, everyone else is basically brain washed into following the plot through the Imperial Creed) has clandestinely (through the Emprah's machinations, the Ecclesiarchy, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the High Lords of Terra, basically) set about the task of attempting to create their own Warp God (or I guess another, if you consider the Emperor to be a Warp God in his own right). It is meant to be the All Savior of Man Kind, thus the Omni Messiah, which has some pretty grim portents for everyone else in the galaxy considering how Xenophobic the Imperium is. Not that any players care since nearly all of the other species very much deserve to be wiped out. Besides, the Imperium has carefully cultivated a hatred of xenos with specific vile traits (like treachery and bloodlust). So, any Omnissiah god thing would likely pass over peaceful species due to not fitting what the Imperium views xenos as being. The Eldar, being aware of this fact and masters of just pooting out any old god they like (within reason) are aware of humanity's efforts and using the powers of the Farseers to meddle in Human affairs (ie. just destroying entire Imperial Worlds for apparently zero reasons given) to affect a favorable outcome of the possible eventual Awakening of the Omnissiah or perhaps prevent it all together. Where other races line up in their awareness of just what the Imperium is up to is unknown, but one could surmise Chaos also has a clue since their gods would be aware, and then likely also the Orks assuming Gork and Mork are real and Orks really do understand ALL technology.
Long story short, the entire thing with the Emperor taking the guise of the Omnissiah and after his death being worshiped as a God, as well as the Mechanum's worship of the Machine God, is all just a plot to bring some sort of Apocalyptic Warp Deity about that somehow saves all of mankind from well, everything, while possibly wiping out THE ENTIRE REST OF THE GALAXY that isn't a faithful servant of the Imperium, like Slaanesh-ing everyone else and walking away scot-free. Essentially they're attempting to cook up a giant Warp Nuke that all at once BTFOs everything that isn't them while simultaneously saving them from the utter technological stalemate they've developed that's leading to Humanity's slow decline via complete lack of innovation with one giant *BLAM*. However, the fact they're attempting to bring about a God that achieves so much means that it could take a very long time, and the Powers that be in the Imperium may have no idea how close or far away they are.
Furthermore, it may be working, although ever so slowly, as the Warp has started to essentially resonate back on their myriad prayers. In fact the Omnissiah may already exist in some form, it just happens to be in it's infancy, much like the notion Slaanesh is still but just a child that may not have even fully awakened yet.
It may be possible not even most members of the Mechanum are aware of the exact implications of this, as they worship the Emperor as the Omnissiah and he basically saved them from nothing, as far as technology is concerned, as well as the fact they were worshipping the Omnissiah before the Emperor ever appeared to them. If the truth of the reality ever came to light it likely means the Tech-Priests of the galaxy would undergo a MASSIVE schism, so large it could likely tear the Imperium apart in a way not seen since the Horus Heresy. On the other hand, the Horus Heresy novels included an implication that the Emperor had purposely engineered the creation of both the Mechanicum and the Machine Cult...
- The Omnissiah's favourite colour is red. Hence all techpriests on Mars wear red robes. It's a rule.
- Some forgeworlds, however, have white or black as a dominant colors of their robes, though red strips are there too.
- DATZ WOY ITZ FASTAH!!! *BLAM* *BLAM* *BLAM* No Orks allowed.
- The Omnissiah's holy waffle iron makes the best waffles. It is the holy bread of his church.
- Don't let Tzeentch mess with his computer again; he hates that.
- The Omnissiah is the God of Wikis and their contributors, for their ordering, editing and adding to knowledge pleases him.
- The first avatar of the Omnissiah was an ancient Terran known to the Techpriests as Bill of the Gates, named they believe for opening the gates of knowledge. *BLAM* HERESY! While one of the avatars of the Omnissiah, Bill of the Gates was certainly not the first. We all know that the true avatar was Linus of the Torva.
- The REAL first avatar of the Omnissiah was known by the denomer of Charles Babbage, theories abound as to why he was called that.
- The first Heretek was a man named Richard Matthew Stallman, who glorified heretical research ("hacking"), which is one of the basic activities of the Dark Mechanicus.
- The oldest tech relic on Mars, hidden deep inside the catacombs of Olympus Mons, is a strange disc titled 'Friends season three, disc two, episodes six to ten'. Obviously this precious creation is a gift of divine importance, and is thus guarded fiercely by a crack legion of Skitarii, with only the Fabricator-General of Mars allowed regular access!
- It is believed the first sect of the Mechanicus was known as DARPA, to them the Machine God gave the inspiration to build INTERNET, the first material reflect of the Akashic Records and basis to all databanks to come, hence ensuring mankind will never lose the Gift of Wisdom (which it then did).