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40K Grimdark Theories: Is The Emperor Wide Awake?

6 Minute Read
May 26 2022

What if the Emperor of Mankind is wide awake, and fully aware?

One of the core elements of 40K is that the Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind is entombed upon the Golden Throne, asleep or comatose. It’s literally one of the first things you read in any 40K book:

“For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind. By the might of his inexhaustible armies, a million worlds stand against the dark. Yet, he is a rotting carcass, the Carrion Lord of the Imperium held in life by marvels from the Dark Age of Technology and the thousand souls sacrificed each day so his may continue to burn.”

It has been generally agreed that the Emperor is still alive. It’s also acknowledged that He does not speak directly, or directly control events. Instead, He is trapped in some sort of comatose state. Possibly He influenced events through His warp powers, or spoke to people through the Emperor’s Tarot. Yet these interactions were always vague. They might simply be the manifestations of other warp powers or mental insanity. This has not stopped people from prophesying the Emperor’s return. But what if He already has returned?

Signs That The Emperor Is Active

In recent years there has been a number of events that seem to point towards the Emperor becoming more active. Possibly even being awake. One recorded instance of this is the Miracle of the Saint’s Wall on the besieged world of Benediction, in which a golden procession of spirits and light held back the onrushing tide of Chaos. Other incidents included manifestations of golden eagles and other phenomena. This is described as something new and not before seen. While the Emperor has always seen fit to grace His subjects with miracles (or it may be that the acts of rogue Psykers have been mistaken for miracles), these new incidents seem to be of a different breed.

Also in Psychic Awakening, we got a number of small snippets of intercepted chatter. Many of these could point to the Emperor being awake, such as this one from Blood of Baal:

“The King! The King on his Throne! I’ve seen him stir, I’ve heard him speak. Cold and gold and old and bold, sing for your suppers you priests who scold!”

This is a pretty clear reference to the Emperor. It directly states He is stirring and speaking.


The Plague Wars

In the novel the Plague War there is also the instance of a portent being seen on Parmenio, a world of Ultramar, during the Plague Wars. Here a young girl began to manifest to Emperor’s powers directly. Rather than acting as a Saint, she seemed to be more an avatar of the Emperor.  His (or another powers) spirit took over her body to work wonders. The girl, or the power working through her, worked to undo the plans of Chaos and saved the Primarch Guilliman. During the final conflict, many who look on the girl think they are seeing someone else. A daemon calls the girl Anathema, a title reserved for the Master of Mankind. The Custodian Guard Colquan experiences this:

“In her face burned golden eyes as old as time, and from her mouth sprang the luminance of a star. Within his ornate helm, Colquan’s mouth fell open. “My lord?” he whispered.”

All of these apparitions are tied together by the color gold. This color is directly associated with the Emperor and in particular with His powers. This is a lot of evidence adding up to Him being more active.

He Speaks

The status of the Emperor and his ability to communicate have long been debated. Many have claimed to have conversed with the Emperor. In times past, it was said that the Head of the Inquisition reported directly too and took orders from the Master of Mankind, Various sources have implied that He had a more direct hand in ruling His empire. Most recent sources, however, have moved away from that stance. They portray the Emperor as a silent overlord. If He communicates at all, He does so through the Emperor’s Tarot and visions.


Guilliman, however, seems to lay the matter to rest. He spoke with the Emperor. A fact which no one, not even his daemon brothers debate. At one point, Guilliman notes that the Emperor had fallen silent after the Heresy. Since that time, to the time Guilliman had gone into stasis, no one had spoken to him. Later in a fit of rage, Guilliman further states, “I am the only living being to have spoken with the Emperor for ten thousand years.” This seems to confirm that since his wounding, the Emperor has spoken to no one at all. The fact that Guilliman was able to speak directly with the Emperor seems solid confirmation that the Emperor is awake to some degree, and the fact that He was able to do so, when He could not for the past 10,000 years, implies that He is getting better.

His Enemies Think He Is

It is not just His loyal subjects who are seeing portents of His return. The foul enemies of the Master of Mankind see it also. Indeed His enemies seem greatly worried by events. In one conversation in Plague Wars Ku’gath, a greater daemon of Nurgle,  and Mortarion of the Death Guard discuss the possibility that the Emperor is awaking:

“Ku’gath’s antlers quivered bashfully. ‘I tend to pessimism,  I agree, but this is too much. A primarch walks the stars for a century, and saints of the Anathema and His unliving legions are abroad. These are all signs that He-of Terra is gathering strength again.” (Note, my copy of Plague War is the original printing, given recent retcons this passage my end up getting changed in newer editions to reflect the altered timeline).

Ultimately they agree it’s possible that the Emperor is awakening and coming back as a major and active player. Later in Godblight we get additional evidence of the Emperor being active.

All According To His Plan

All of this implies an Emperor who is not just stirring, but might be actively awake. Rather than simply sending signs, He is directly speaking to Primarchs. It also appears that He is directly intervening in events. His inhabitance of an Avatar is particularly interesting. This all seems to imply that the Emperor is active and taking a hand in events. The questions remains, has He been totally active for the last 10,000 years, or did something change to wake him up.

If something changed, what was it? Perhaps the opening of the Great Rift did it. The massive jolt of warp power restarting the Emperor. Maybe it was the return of Guilliman. Made from the same Warp Stuff, maybe the Eldar ritual that Yvraine preformed to give life back to Guilliman, also affected the Emperor. Maybe the actions of the mysterious actions of the so called King In Yellow, who may be Constantin Valdor, helped the Emperor awaken several hundred years ago. Maybe the Emperor has just been lying low for some time, letting His enemies gather. Whatever the true case, we should get used to considered that the Emperor is back and active once more. He may not even be tethered to the Throne anymore. Chaos better watch out!


Let us know what you think the Emperor is up to, down in the comments! 

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