Let’s look at a central question of Warhammer 40K, the Emperor’s divinity.
The question of if the Emperor is a god is one central to the core of Warhammer 40,000. It is a question that tore the galaxy apart during the Heresy, and now holds it together through the Imperial Cult. It is a question that still divides the Imperium today, with the Space Marines, and Guiliman divided from the bulk of humanity on this question. Let’s take a look at what various people think of the Emperor’s divinity.
What The Emperor Says
While the Emperor walked free across the stars and built the Imperium, He vehemently denied being a god. The Imperial Truth, the secular quasi-religion of the Pre-Heresy Imperium denied the existence of gods or the supernatural. As such it is stated that the Emperor was not a god, but simply a very advanced human. Those who worshiped the Emperor as a god were censored and persecuted, most famously at Monarchia. Those who deny the Emperor’s godhood do so mainly based on His own words from this period.
Exceptions To His Rule
Of course, the Emperor is not always one to tell the truth. Indeed the entire Imperial Truth, was based on a lie, one that denied the existence of the warp. Thus while in the per-Heresy Imperium of circa M30, the vast bulk of humanity did not worship the Emperor there were exceptions. The largest and most important of these was the Martian Mechanicum, which viewed Him as a god, and was allowed to do so. In addition during the latter part of the Heresy the Cult of The Emperor began to gain power, the Emperor seemingly no longer wished to stamp them out.
In addition, there are hints that before He started on His Unification of Terra, He allowed Himself to be view as a god. The Perpetual Erda, one of the Emperor’s oldest companions, described Him as being linked to Jove and other ancient gods, just as she was worshiped as various earth/mother goddesses. This implies He may have sought worship of Himself in the past. We also know that on Molech He was worshipped as a god. All of this makes the Imperial Truth and His denials of godhood seem a relatively short and poorly enforced period.
What His Enemies Think
The Emperor’s great enemies, the forces of Chaos seem a little divided on the question. Horus, the Warmaster, was eventually convinced to turn on his father when the Chaos Gods granted him a vision of the Emperor being worshipped as a god. It’s not 100% clear if this was a true vision or what the Emperor wanted, or simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Horus, and many of the oldest traitor Marines thus do not view the Emperor as a god, calling Him a “false god” or “false Emperor”. However, it seems the greater bulk of the powers of Chaos do believe the Emperor to be a god, “the Corpse God”. At the very least they fear Him and ascribe to Him the powers of a god.
What Even Is A God?
The question of godhood is made a little complex by the fact that there are a large number of being’s known as gods in 40K. The most well-known are the Gods of Chaos, not only the four major gods, but also the lesser gods, The dead gods of Aldari, the Ork Gods Gork and Mork, and the C’tan Star Gods. While countless other “gods” are worshipped across the stars, these have the advantage of being “real” and directly having interfered with events. Other than they don’t particularly have anything in common. Most are tied to the warp in some way, with the C’tan being the exception, perhaps making them not real gods. Some, such as the C’tan, seem to predate other life, with others, such as Slaanesh are relatively young. Some it could be argued are simply very powerful beings, and not truly “Divine”. Sadly there doesn’t seem to a solid answer to the question of divinity.
Did The Emperor Become A God?
One common theory is that while the Emperor did not start out as a god, He has since become one. It’s a known fact that beliefs and thoughts in the physical world can affect the warp. These things have power, and, as shown with Slaanesh, can even lead to the birth of a god. Thus it is theorized that after 10,000 years of worship the combined powers of humanity have raised the Emperor to godhood, creating a new warp being, the God-Emperor of Mankind, similar in kind to most of the other Gods. Certainly, He displays the powers similar to a god, though it still does not convince some, such as Guiliman. Indeed if this is the case we are once again brought back to a question of what godhood even means. Is the Emperor a “true god”? Or simply a being with god-like powers? Does it matter? We may never know.
Let us know if you think the Emperor is a god or not, down in the comments!