Following a mini Twitter debate I thought I’d write yet another musing about the Horus Heresy and, more specifically, the Emperor and the point of view that the background is written from. Gamers, usually non-Imperial players if I’m honest, decry the Emperor for allowing thousands to be sacrificed everyday to power the Golden Throne. Spouting the usual bullshit of what is Good and what is Evil.
I have two problems with this.
The first is that although the Imperium can be pretty gittish at times, it ain’t nothing compared to what the Chaos powers would do given half the chance. And it’s not like the Eldar, for example, are holding out the olive branch. They’re capricious and self-interested and would happily see humanity burn if it meant their own survival. And before the fan rage comes piling in, the Tau are not the soft and cuddly bunch people assume them to be.
The second and more important reason is the Emperor had bugger all to say about it. Officially he ordered he be interred in the Golden Throne but that makes no sense considering he’s an immortal that has been reborn many times before. The thing that most people over look when reading the background is that it is written from the perspective of someone in the Imperium. It’s folklore and parable. They believe that the Emperor is a God. More to the point the events detailed are also written with that bias in mind. It says it in the opening gambit. The Immortal God Emperor has sat immobile atop the Golden Throne for 10,000 years. Were it a chapter master of the Adeptus Astartes doing the writing the perspective would be wildly different and a lot of the truths that you have to scrape and dig for in the background would be much more obvious. But GW loves a bit of ambiguity, which is fine because it allows for people to take what they want from the fluff.
The background details the Golden Throne as a life saving device that the Emperor commanded he be interred in. If you read the background in the Inquisitor rulebook – which I urge you all to do if you haven’t because it’s ace – there’s a short story that details the decision to inter the Emperor initially as a short-term measure to preserve his life whilst they heal his body. However there were those that thought returning the Emperor to ‘life’ so soon after the fall – with so many already decreeing his ascension to God-hood – would spark another civil war. So they left him in there as a symbol. Something to polarize the people. And killed those who disagreed. Needless to say those events were lost to history as those responsible took their place at the Emperor’s side.
The irony being that had they allowed the Emperor to heal, instead of slowly decaying, the Imperium may not be on the brink of collapse. Although it’s an interesting question. Would the Emperor’s return so soon after falling to Horus sparked yet another religious war? There were already those that worshipped the Emperor as a God, something the Emperor denied countless times and his return could have tipped the balance one way or the other.
However this is based around the idea of religion and worship and yet one more assumption. That the Chaos Gods are, in fact, Gods. Which they aren’t. They’re warp entities of extraordinary power who live in an environment where emotions, including those associated with worship are amplified a hundred fold. They grow strong through worship but they are worshipped out of ambition, madness and fear. All three of these things are in abundance in the 41st Millennium. Equally we call the daemons of the warp daemons because it’s easier for the minds of mortal men to understand them in those terms. It’s a lot easier than saying its concentrated emotion given sentience and made manifest in the material world. And to be honest not even that explanation quite covers it.
Lorgar was a lost soul and needed something to look up to. He had the heart of a poet, not a warrior and his father failed him by pressing him into service at the head of a legion who, too, were looking for inspiration. Had the Emperor seen Lorgar’s true worth which was one of statesman rather than soldier he could have channelled that aspect of Lorgar’s soul into something more constructive than blind faith. When he rejected Lorgar’s worship, which in truth was actually his son’s love, Lorgar turned to the embittered embrace of his adoptive father and with it the whisperings of the Chaos ‘Gods’.
Warhammer 40,000 is a game of fanaticism and faith both in the background and those that play it and the funny thing is that the hidden message beneath it all is that all dogmatic devotion gets you is killed.