The Cult Mechanicus, also known in ancient times before the Horus Heresy as the Cult Mechanicum, is the set of religious beliefs that serves as the philosophical foundation of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Although the worshippers of the Cult Mechanicus are members of the Imperium of Man, they have their own version of worship that differs substantially in theology and ritualistic forms from the standard state religion known as the Imperial Cult that is dedicated to the God-Emperor of Mankind. The religion of the Cult Mechanicus values knowledge and the technology it creates above all else and views the final embrace of technology in the form of a purely mechanical existence as the ultimate destiny for Mankind's evolution.
The Cult Mechanicus -- the religion of the Machine God -- is a complex and labyrinthine structure, a creed of secret rites and ceremonial processions that is never shared with outsiders. Within each Forge World the myriad ranks of Tech-priests vie for mastery in a world where only through the accumulation of technology and hoarded knowledge can one advance.
Those who lead the workers and armies of the Cult Mechanicus are called Tech-priests. It is they that devote themselves to the service of the Omnissiah, altering their flesh forms beyond recognition to improve their ability to execute rites of repair, to placate Machine Spirits and to acquire lost technologies. Given the hostile nature of the galaxy, it is also necessary to ensure that a Tech-priest has the power to slay any that stand in the way of their sacred missions.
Despite the never-ending thirst for knowledge of all branches of the order, most Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus have lost the ability to innovate. No longer the master of its creations, the Cult Mechanicus is enslaved to the past. It maintains the glories of yesteryear with rite, dogma and edict instead of true discernment and comprehension. Even the theoretically simple process of activating an engine is preceded by the application of ritual oils, the burning of sacred resins and the chanting of long and complex hymns. Should mechanisms break down, as they often do in service to the Adeptus Mechanicus' war effort, a replacement must be found, or knowledge of how to repair the existing one must be learned. Across the galaxy, thousands upon thousands of armies and fleets are already searching, guided by a database begun before the birth of the Imperium. Once found, such items and knowledge are confiscated at all costs in the name of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
The Cult Mechanicus believes knowledge itself to be the manifestation of divinity in the universe. The supreme object of devotion is therefore the omniscient Machine God, an immanent and omnipotent spirit that governs all technology, machinery and knowledge in Creation. The Machine God is believed to be friendly to humanity, and to be the originator of all human technological and scientific knowledge. According to the teachings of the Cult Mechanicus, knowledge is the supreme manifestation of divinity, and all creatures and artefacts that embody knowledge are sacred because of it. Machines that preserve knowledge from ancient times are also holy, and machine intelligences are no less divine than those of flesh and blood -- perhaps more so, because they are more pure expressions of that knowledge without the conflicting emotions and imperfections that riddle organic beings like Man. A person's worth is only the sum of his or her knowledge -- the physical body is simply an organic machine capable of preserving intellect, and one that is far more imperfect in the Machine God's eyes than one of metal and circuits. For this reason, the devotees of the Cult Mechanicus often transform large portions of their bodies with cybernetic enhancements.
The Machine God and the Omnissiah
According to the Cult Mechanicus, technology is a higher form of life than that created by cruder physical processes such as biological evolution. Only a divine source could have inspired the perfection of form and function attainable in machines. This divine source is the Machine God. The Machine God is not to be understood in the sense of the ancient Terran Abrahamic religious tradition's personal God; the Machine God is not a person, but rather a force immanent in the universe. For unspecified reasons, it has appointed humans as its chosen people, and reveals its true designs and machines to them through selected prophets. In order to interact with the physical world it was also prophesied to create a physical avatar, called the "Omnissiah." In the early days of the Great Crusade, the Emperor of Mankind was recognised by the Mechanicus as the Omnissiah, prompting the signing of the Treaty of Mars (known to the Mechanicus as the Treaty of Olympus) and the alliance of the Cult Mechanicus with the burgeoning Imperium of Man, transforming the Tech-priests of Mars into the Adeptus Terra's Adeptus Mechanicus.
The Motive Force
In addition to the Machine God and its Omnissiah, there was a third member of the Cult Mechanicus' divine trinity. This was the "Motive Force", an ineffable and invisible divine power or spirit said to exist throughout the universe that was responsible for the ability of all life, whether it was mechanical or flesh, to move of its own accord. Among the Tech-priests, the fanatical warrior clerics known as the Electro-priests were the most devoted followers of the Motive Force.
The Electro-priests are divided by a religious schism into two sects, the Corpuscarii and the Fulgurites. The schism that divides the two sects of the Electro-priests dates back to pre-Imperial times, when this offshoot of the Mechanicum of Mars was still in its infancy. The forefathers of the Corpuscarii focused their worship upon the Machine God -- they believed His light should be brought to the galaxy. His energies were to illuminate the savage, in doing so bringing more resources to their order. The Corpuscarii mounted great religious crusades to this end, expending a great deal of Mars' resources in the process, but believing the price worthwhile -- those early pioneers considered the Omnissiah's power to be infinite.
Those who would become known as the Fulgurites were aghast when they counted the cost of such crusades. They were jealously protective of the Motive Force. Believing their god's favour to be finite, they claimed that the Corpuscarii were flagrantly wasting the Machine God's power -- they not only abused His divine energy in illuminating their ships, but frittered His power into the ether by channelling blasts of electricity.
Incensed at these accusations, the brotherhood of Electro-priests fractured many times, and the first Conduit Wars began. To this day, Mars' surface is still scorched by the legacy of those bitter internecine battles. The dogmatic nature of all Electro-priests means this conflict will never truly be resolved. While outbreaks of open warfare between the rival factions of Electro-priests are now mercifully rare, on every Forge World innumerable smaller hostile acts -- both political and covert -- still take place on a regular basis, and neither side can forgive the transgressions of the other for long.
The Cult also believes in the existence of Machine Spirits, minute, animistic fragments of the Machine God that inhabit every machine or piece of technology in existence. These fragments of their deity naturally command a great deal of respect, and they are also believed to be directly in control of the machine's operation. This means that Mechanicus tech-priests and others they instruct generally make many ritualized, prayer-like petitions to their machinery in order to insure their spirits are compliant and respected, and thus that they operate properly. These rituals often include many operations of a potentially mechanically-useful nature, such as lubricating an axle, securing a screw or similar actions, but also operations of no immediately visible value such as sacrifices, chants, libations and the like.
The belief in Machine Spirits is also the cause of the Cult's stance on alien technology. As aliens do not recognise the spirits of their machines, such devices are enslaved and maltreated by their creators. Because of this, humans should not make use of xenos technology even if it is superior to its human-made counterparts. Orthodox Mechanicus Cultists usually advocate the destruction of alien technology to free its spirit, while more radical followers may excuse the study, safekeeping and even use of alien devices in the name of the eternal Quest for Knowledge.
The Ghost in the Machine
Technology and its mysteries are the preserve of the followers of the Machine God, the Tech-Priests, for they believe that machines are imbued with a life-force of their own, a soul granted to them by the Machine God -- a will and a personality. The more ancient a piece of technology, the greater reverence it will elicit from these robed followers, who will spend many hours anointing a machine with the correct unguents before pressing the sigils of activation to coax its spirit into life.
A machine that is both old and complicated is given the same status by the Tech-Priests as the Ecclesiarchy would give a major saint, for many of the systems on these machines are irreplaceable, their secrets lost to time. Among the greatest of such machines are the vast battleships of the Imperial Navy, or the super-heavy Titan war machines. But Tech-Priests will also lavish their attention upon an antique Lasgun or prognosticator, and will spend much time trying to understand the intricacies of a device’s workings. All machines though, no matter what their pedigree, are treated as living things by the Tech-Priests and they will treat all with reverence, for all are gifts from the long-lost past, knowledge of their function handed on through time only by the beneficence of the Machine God. Woe betide any man who fails to treat his weapon with respect or hurls abuses at his desktop logicator within the range of the machine enhanced senses of a Tech-Priest.
Paradoxically, true machine intelligences are held to be anathema by the Tech-Priests, for they view these as soulless automata, spiritless things cast into the galaxy to confound the will of the Machine God. Shrouded in myth and legend, these abominations are rumoured to have originated during the Dark Age of Technology. Supposedly pathologically dangerous, an Inquisitor may encounter them, although rarely, in the course of his duties. Should they learn of these creations, the Tech-Priests will hunt them down, investigate them and then destroy them. Only properly sanctioned logic engines, those deemed to have a spirit gifted them by the Omnissiah, are allowed to persist.
Quest for Knowledge
The ultimate goal of the Cult Mechanicus is to understand the Omnissiah. The communal and individual attempt of Mechanicus believers at this is known as the Quest for Knowledge, and the Cult's followers view this endeavour as paramount and more important than any other concern. Generally, the Quest is pursued through scientific and exploratory endeavours. The Cult believes that all knowledge already exists, and it is primarily a matter of time before it can be gathered together to complete the Quest. The Mechanicus' members are therefore disinclined to perform much original research, and they consider it more important to safeguard that knowledge which they already have accrued and gather more by searching for STC templates and similar lost pieces of ancient human technology from the Dark Age of Technology. Some original research does happen within the Adeptus Mechanicus, although the results of such endeavours are strictly quarantined for many years before being disseminated publicly.
In the Quest for Knowledge, members are guided by the Sixteen Universal Laws. The Sixteen Laws, or "lores" are as follows:
- 01. Life is directed motion.
- 02. The spirit is the spark of life.
- 03. Sentience is the ability to learn the value of knowledge.
- 04. Intellect is the understanding of knowledge.
- 05. Sentience is the basest form of Intellect.
- 06. Understanding is the True Path to Comprehension.
- 07. Comprehension is the key to all things.
- 08. The Omnissiah knows all, comprehends all.
- 09. The alien mechanism is a perversion of the True Path.
- 10. The soul is the conscience of sentience.
- 11. A soul can be bestowed only by the Omnissiah.
- 12. The Soulless sentience (i.e. the Necrons) is the enemy of all life.
- 13. The knowledge of the ancients stands beyond question.
- 14. The Machine Spirit guards the knowledge of the Ancients.
- 15. Flesh is fallible, but ritual honours the Machine Spirit.
- 16. To break with ritual is to break with faith.
Holy Orders of the Cult Mechanicus
The term "Tech-priest" covers thousands of different roles within the ranks of the Adeptus Mechanicus which are divided into several distinct holy orders. These include the following:
Magi (sing. Magos) of all stripes are senior Tech-priests with advanced specialisations in various disciplines of science and technology who pursue esoteric agendas as likely to end in triumph as they are disaster.
- Prime Hermeticon
- Lord Dogma
- Mechae Moribundus
- Invictus Acquisitor
Genetors probe the mysteries of the biological, creating ever stranger cyborgs or slaughtering xenos beyond number in order to excise yet more secrets of their alien metabolisms.
- Magos Biologis
- Grand Parasite
- Corpus Illuminator
- Genetor Extremis
A Logis (plu. Logi) is an analyst, statistician, and logistician whose purpose is to predict future trends and make forecasts about Mechanicus expenditures and needs. Because of their duties Logi are often regarded as prophetic figures within the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Lexico Arcanus
- Monitor Malevolus
Artisans create and restore truly wondrous weapons of war, from ornate Gamma Pistols to the mind-boggling immensity of the Ark Mechanicus. Also known as constructors, they design machines, buildings, spacecraft, weapons, and military hardware. They often oversee activity on Forge Worlds and control vast labor forces of Servitors.
- Forge Lord
- Praetor Electroid
The term "Tech-priest" covers thousands of different roles within the ranks of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Genetors probe the mysteries of the biological, creating ever stranger cyborgs or slaughtering xenos beyond number in order to excise yet more secrets of their alien metabolisms. Artisans create and restore truly wondrous weapons of war, from ornate Gamma Pistols to the mind-boggling immensity of the Ark Mechanicus. Magi of all stripes pursue esoteric agendas as likely to end in triumph as they are disaster. Across the galaxy Transmechanics, Lexmechanics, Enginseers, Secutors, Cognitors, Trifactors, Myrmidons, Technoshamans, and more labour alongside the wider Imperium to bolster humanity's war machine. Within the Adeptus Mechanicus the ranks become even more esoteric.
Each Mechanicus Forge World is led by a Fabricator-General, or a similar official with a different title, and beneath him his Fabricator Locum. Each Fabricator Locum can call upon Magi Technicus, Metallurgicus, Alchemys, Cogitatrices, Pedanticum, Tech-assassins, hive monitors and Holy Requisitioners, who in turn can command a body of fabricators minoris, Fulgurites, Corpuscarii, overseers, underseers, stasis clerks, and techno-dervishes. Each sub-division within every facet of the order is split into dozens of ranks. To avoid confusion during war, the most senior of the Tech-priests adopts the title of Tech-priest Dominus to lead the effort. Each Forge World is a citadel of information, a repository of all Mankind's technological knowledge -- the temple to which each Tech-priest is devoted. Mars, the first Forge World, remains the true seat of power for the Adeptus Mechanicus. Its Fabricator-General is the de facto leader of the Cult Mechanicus, and is awarded a seat upon the Senatorum Imperialis, also known as the Council of the High Lords of Terra
The Cult Mechanicus is ordered by a strong hierarchy, but details on this hierarchy's actual make-up are not always clear. Generally, more highly positioned Tech-priests are expected to have more seniority and knowledge than lower ones, and are consequently more theologically important as greater repositories of knowledge. Across the galaxy Transmechanics, Lexmechanics, Enginseers, Secutors, Cognitors, Trifactors, Myrmidons, Technoshamans, and more labour alongside the wider Imperium to bolster humanity's war machine.
Within the Adeptus Mechanicus the ranks become even more esoteric. It should be noted that specialists such as Genetors and Logis may not have any specific rank within the Cult as a group, but rather will be ranked as individuals. Each Forge World is led by a Fabricator-General or other Archmagos with a similar rank but different title, and beneath him his Fabricator Locum. Each Fabricator Locum can call upon Magi Technicus, Metallurgicus, Alchemys, Cogitatrices, Pedanticum, Tech-assassins, hive monitors and Holy Requisitioners, who in turn can command a body of fabricators minoris, Fulgurites, Corpuscarii, overseers, underseers, stasis clerks, and techno-dervishes. Each sub-division within every facet of the order is split into dozens of ranks.
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus (8th Edition), pp. 10, 44-45
- Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus - Cult Mechanicus (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "Fulgurite Electro-Priests," "Corpuscarii Electro-Priests"
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition), pp. 41-42
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 264
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000L Rulebook (4th Edition), pp. 120-122
- Mechanicus (Novel) by Graham McNeill