The Machine Cult
The Machine Cult, known also as the Priesthood of Mars, Mechanicum or Machine Cult is a technocratic religion that preserves the ancient technology that the Imperium is utterly reliant upon yet understands so little about. For this reason alone, the Cult has a near-unique level of autonomy and religious freedom within the Imperium and a monopoly over complex technology – they control their own fiefdoms, called Forge Worlds, where their machine-worshipping religion replaces the more traditional Imperial cult.
The History of the Machine Cult
The Machine Cult was born of the red sands of the fourth planet of the Sol System, Mars. Founded by humans from before the Age of the Imperium, the Machine Cult grew in power and strength until it became the core of a fledgling Martian Empire, known also as the Mechanicum. In the waning years of the Golden Age, the Cult came to revere and worship the great machines it constructed and dedicated itself to the preservation of that technology as the Age of Strife descended upon humankind.
One of the earliest powers amongst the stars, the Martian Empire and the Machine Cult was widespread before the coming of the Emperor. When the Imperium was founded, and Terra conquered, the Emperor forged an alliance with the Mechanicum, ensuring peace between what were two Empires of humanity and the supply of materiel and goods to the Emperor’s forces, the cornerstone of the Cult’s relationship with the Imperium.
However the defection of the leadership of the Martian Empire to the service of the daemon Horus during the Imperium’s civil war, and the subsequent Martian Civil War, almost destroyed the Martian Empire.
In the wake of the Heresy, the loyal Mechanicum were absorbed into the Imperium as the Adeptus Mechanicus, sacrificing a modicum of freedom in order to placate the reeling Imperium. This decision has been the cause of many internal disagreements among the Machine Cult – and is the reason why the Imperium has not made any attempt to stamp out their divergent belief.
Core Tenets and Beliefs of the Machine Cult
Religious practice across the innumerable words of the Mechanicum is as varied as that of the Imperial Faith, and doctrine that is accepted as totally orthodox by one Fabricator-General will be denounced as Heretekal by the adherents of a different Forge-World. The details of correct religious practice and obedience to Imperial Law are all questions of theological and political debate – often owing as much to the relationships of power with a given Forge-World’s nearest Imperial neighbours as the conviction of faith.
Despite this diversity, certain key tenets, known as the Universal Laws, are held as fundamental to the beliefs across the vast majority of the Cult, and enforced by the edicts of Mars. Widely known examples include the following:
- 4th: Intellect is the Understanding of Knowledge.
- 5th: Sentience is the Basest Form of Intellect.
- 6th: Understanding is the True Path to Comprehension.
- 7th: Comprehension is the Key to all Things.
- 8th: The Omnissiah knows all, comprehends all.
- 12th: The Soulless sentience is the enemy of all.
- 15th: Flesh is Fallible, but Ritual Honours the Machine Spirit.
- 16th: To Break with Ritual is to Break with Faith.
Some aspects of doctrine are however heavily debated by the Mechanicum. For example a tenet cited in some versions of the universal laws; A Soul can be bestowed ONLY by the Omnissiah which is treated as doctrinal canon by conservative Tech Priests with close Imperial affiliations would be heavily debated by a Tech Priest who refused to acknowledge the existence of Souls or believed the Omnissiah to be a state one aspires to rather than an existent entity.
The same issue is hotly debated over the use of Xenotech manufactured by alien species. More conservative priest’s cite a Universal Law, The alien mechanism is a perversion of the True Path however this is not universally accepted. Although it is the consensus opinion of most of the Cult – there are radical elements that call this a needless political acquiescence to the Xenophobic Imperium, and there are rumours that some Imperial technologies have Xenos origins.
Despite the religious dominion of the Imperial Cult, the Machine Cult has remained rigidly independent of the Ecclesiarchy, enjoying legal rights that ensure the free practice of its religion and the absence of more than token Imperial Governance of its territories. Indeed the political situation is such that ancient laws and ties give the Machine Cult the sole legal right to prosecute individuals observed to be breaching its religious tenets and rules upon the correct and proper handling of technology. This is in part because the Arbites are just as reliant on the Cult for technology as the rest of the Imperium, and it would be impolitical to police the domain of the Cult.
Indeed this conviction that the Machine Cult is the one-true-authority on technology means that many of the most ancient War Machines and technology of the Imperium are effectively ‘loaned’ to it by the Priesthood of the Omnissiah, something that is a cause of considerable tension between Imperial Commanders, and the Mechanicus representatives to their forces.
Central to the Machine-Cult is a belief in a single ‘Machine God’ also known to the Cult as the ‘Omnissiah’ or ‘Deus Mechanicus’, sometimes translated as the ‘God in the Machine’ – the exact nature and role of this figure in the Machine Cult is a highly controversial religious subject upon which many of the Priesthood disagree. When the God-Emperor first arrived upon Mars it was claimed by many upon observing Their mastery of technology that They were the Omnissiah Arisen; however, belief diverges upon this within the Cult. Some factions choose to see the God-Emperor as a deity separate to the Omnissiah, one for the masses of the Imperium and not for the Scions of Mars; some factions even still believe the Omnissiah is no God at all, but that it represents a state of being achieved through the pursuit of knowledge, that the Omnissiah is a concept to be attained.
Divergent opinions are a common cause for intense conflict between Sects and Territories of the Machine Cult, and no better an example of this is found in the conflict between the triad of Forge Worlds that serve the Prosperitas Sector. For example the Machine Cult of Naximus Prime gives worship to the Ouroborus Omnissiah, viewing the Machine God as a separate entity to that of the Emperor, whereas Ferraeus views the Omnissiah as being an aspect of the God-Emperor and considers its Naximan cousins to be borderline treasonous in their disbelief in the divinity of the God-Emperor.
Divergent belief and fears of Imperial attempts at assimilation are strong causes for friction within the Machine Cult.