The Imperial Truth is the name given to the secular, rationalist ideology promulgated by the Emperor of Mankind during his Great Crusade to reunite all the worlds of Mankind beneath the umbrella of the newborn Imperium of Man in the late 30th Millennium. The Imperial Truth was pioneered by the Emperor on Terra even before the Great Crusade began, and is a collection of ideologies that upholds the core values of reason, science and secular progress over the older traditions of religion, superstition and faith that had longed defined many of the human worlds that had fallen into darkness during the Age of Strife after the fall of humanity's first interstellar civilisation. The Emperor Himself declared that Mankind would never be free to progress and advance to its destined position as the pre-eminent intelligent species in the Milky Way Galaxy until "the last stone from the last church was cast down onto the last priest." He purged ancient Terra of all its ancient religions and superstitious beliefs, even going so far as to personally witness the destruction of the final church on Terra's ancient soil after engaging its resident holy man, Uriah Olathaire, in a battle of ideas, wit and dogma. The Imperial Truth also held that humanity was the species which should rightfully rule the galaxy since its physical form was the most pure and all of the other intelligent alien races, such as the Eldar, had already tried and failed to maintain galaxy-spanning civilisations. An important element of the Imperial Truth's ideology was the belief that it was now Mankind's turn to find a place in the sun and come to dominance in the Milky Way -- and that humanity was more deserving of such a position than other species.
The Emperor ordered the Imperial Truth to be brought to all the worlds of Mankind, peacefully at first but imposed by war if necessary, because the Emperor believed that unity was the only way for humanity to survive and prosper in the face of a very hostile universe. If this required the unfortunate use of force against those who refused to understand this necessity, then so be it. While the Imperial Truth upheld the light of reason and science, it did have one proscription: men must never develop artificially intelligent machines. The Emperor remembered that it was the great war fought by Mankind against the thinking machines known as the Men of Iron that had helped to destroy humanity's last united interstellar civilisation at the end of the Dark Age of Technology and He had no desire to see the human race repeat its past mistakes. As such, when the expeditionary fleets of the Great Crusade encountered advanced human civilisations in the dark of space that had developed artificial intelligence, these worlds' populations were simply exterminated outright as potential dangers to the entire body politic of the newborn Imperium.
The Imperial Truth was spread to all of the rediscovered human colony worlds during the Great Crusade, taught to the men of the Imperial Army, spread by the Space Marine Legions, and inculcated amongst the populations of newly discovered and Compliant worlds by scores of Imperial Iterators. The Iterators were a corps of orators and rhetoricians of supreme skill and passion who were attached to every Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade specifically to spread the Imperial Truth. This creed only further strengthened the Great Crusade, lending the Emperor's symbolic support to all of the scientists, sceptics and thinkers on whom the Emperor's plans for a united, galaxy-spanning human civilisation hinged. The Emperor needed a new Renaissance to begin across the nascent Imperium to see His ambitious dreams for the betterment of Mankind fulfilled. The Emperor hoped that a new age of science and technological progress would solidify and consolidate the gains He and His warriors had made in achieving a new place for Mankind in the galaxy, a restoration of humanity's rightful place as the predominant intelligent species in the known universe.
However, the dominance of the Imperial Truth was already under attack decades before the Horus Heresy had even begun. A text known as the Lectitio Divinitatus calling upon all of humanity to recognise the Emperor's divinity as the one, true God of Mankind had been authored by none other than the Primarch Lorgar of the Word Bearers Legion. Lorgar had been raised on Colchis, a theocratic world dominated by priests and the worship of the ancient Gods of what was called the Old Faith. Lorgar had overturned the Old Faith in pursuit of a new religion called the Covenant of Colchis that saw the Emperor as a God incarnate after Lorgar had suffered from visions throughout his youth of a god-like figure that would eventually stand beside him. These visions, probably psychic in origin, proved true when the Emperor came to Colchis to collect His lost son. In the interim, Lorgar, alongside his mentor and foster father, the Covenant's high priest Kor Phaeron, had launched a successful six-year-long holy war against the adherents of the Old Faith on Colchis to force them to convert to thef worship of the Emperor.
After Lorgar finally met his father, he penned the Lectitio Divinitatus which taught that the Emperor was the only God deserving of worship. The text spread rapidly through the expeditionary fleets of the Great Crusade, and received more support amongst the civilians and support personnel of the fleets and Compliant Imperial worlds than with the Imperial Army's officers and the Astartes, who believed more strongly in the Imperial Truth because of their closeness to the Emperor. Yet, over time many of the people of the Imperium became convinced that the Emperor was truly a divine being and Emperor-worship cults began to spread, gaining more momentum as the onset of the Horus Heresy approached and the influence of the Dark Gods began to wax. This process was accelerated since the Word Bearers would convert every world they made Compliant for the Imperium to their new faith. This policy made that Legion's progress much slower than that of the other Legiones Astartes and ultimately lead to their brutal humiliation as failures in the Great Crusade before the Emperor Himself on the world of Khur, one of the planets where they had successfully spread the faith of the God-Emperor. This savage rebuke came only after the Emperor ordered the Ultramarines Legion to destroy the great Khurian city of Monarchia where He had been openly worshipped as the God of Mankind. This humiliation played a major part in Lorgar's corruption and fall to Chaos, allowing his First Captain Kor Phaeron and First Chaplain Erebus to convert him to the worship of the Chaos Gods and corrupt his Legion. Lorgar had always rejected the Imperial Truth and believed whole-heartedly that religious faith was what truly made Mankind strong in the face of adversity. If the Emperor rejected his worship, than he was determined to find the Gods of the Colchisian Old Faith that he had once warred against and offer them his devotion. He led a portion of his XVII Legion, the Chapter of the Serrated Sun, on what became known as the Pilgrimage of Lorgar to find these true divine beings. Lorgar ultimately made contact with them near the world of Cadia close to the Eye of Terror. Lorgar willingly gave his soul to them once he learned that there were truly Gods in the universe and that they welcomed the worship of Men. Lorgar became a secret, devoted servant of the Ruinous Powers who feared the imposition of the Order over the galaxy that the Imperium brought. Lorgar spent the next several decades slowly positioning the pieces of a great plot to convert the Space Marine Legions to the service of Chaos and ultimately initiate a great revolt against the Emperor in the name of the Dark Gods.
The Imperial Truth slowly died away as the Horus Heresy progressed and religious faith in the Emperor seemed to offer both spiritual succor and real psychic protection against the growing powers and daemonic threats of the Ruinous Powers. Just as the Word Bearers had once converted whole worlds to the worship of the Emperor, now Lorgar imposed the bloody worship of the Dark Gods upon every world they captured during the Heresy, forcing the inhabitants to memorise his new work of faith, the Chaotic Book of Lorgar. Once the Horus Heresy ended in the defeat of the Forces of Chaos and the Traitor Legions fled into the Eye of Terror during the Great Scouring, the Imperial Truth's hold on the hearts of Men retreated even more rapidly. Without the Emperor's guiding influence and constant reaffirmation of His desire for the establishment of an Imperial culture based on secular rationalism and materialism, superstition and religion crept back into the hearts of Mankind.
Lorgar had been right about one thing: religion did provide a far surer way to bind humanity together than reason and science. Belief in the Imperial Truth slowly eroded away, year by year, world by world, until the Adeptus Ministorum was officially established in the 32nd Millennium and the Imperial Cult was recognised as the state religion of the Imperium by the High Lords of Terra. The Imperial Cult combined the widespread human beliefs in the God-Emperor who protected humanity from the terrible dangers of the universe into a single, unifying religion that would sweep away the Imperial Truth as false and heretical dogma. Ultimately, the Imperium's state religion lead Mankind towards a decline into ignorance, superstition, intolerance and tyranny, the very things the Emperor had fought so earnestly against. Ironically, by the late 41st Millennium, the Imperial Truth itself would be seen as a heresy punishable by death at the hands of the Ecclesiarchy or the Inquisition.
The Emperor's Purpose
At first glance, the Imperial Truth seems to be a great contradiction: why would the Emperor of Mankind, an immortal being who had been alive for millennia and who well knew about the existence of the Chaos Gods, daemons and all the other psychically-reactive entitities of the Immaterium, promulgate a code of belief that only upheld reason and science? Particularly when the psychic power within the Warp generated by the faith of billions of people could be used to protect them from the influence of Chaos. The reason seems to be that the Emperor's entire purpose in initiating the Great Crusade and the creation of a galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man was to seek the destruction of Chaos once and for all. The Emperor, who had Himself been responsible for the development of several of the major religions once prevalent on Old Earth, had dedicated His entire existence to the ultimate benefit of Mankind. Yet time and time again, He had seen the principles He had propounded in the form of religion become twisted by human nature, transforming a faith based on the tenets of love and respect for one another into bloody creeds of violence, repression, murder and holy war that actually strengthened the Chaos Gods.
After the onset of the Age of Strife brought an end to humanity's previous interstellar Golden Age and savagery consumed human civilisation, the Emperor decided that His long policy of hiding His true nature from His fellow men as He sought to guide them towards a better future had failed. He needed to take a far more active role in shaping His species' future, so He created the persona of the Emperor and intended to use His own potent psychic abilities, intellect and extraordinary knowledge to reunite the entire scattered human race, by force if necessary. The Emperor came to this harsh conclusion because He feared that unless all of Mankind was united, it would eventually be destroyed piecemeal by the hideous dangers lurking in the galaxy, including Chaos and the other alien races. By promulgating the Imperial Truth on every world inhabited by humanity in the galaxy, the Emperor ironically hoped to eventually create a psychic well of belief in reason and science so strong that the Chaos Gods, who thrived and grew stronger on Mankind's darker psychic emanations, would be fatally weakened.
Of course, the Ruinous Powers were aware of the Emperor's intentions and they moved from the beginning to destroy this plan and actually make it work in their favour. They first corrupted several of the Primarchs almost at the moment of their birth when they were stolen from the Emperor's gene-laboratories beneath the Himalazian (Himalayan) Mountains and scattered through the Warp across the galaxy. They next corrupted Lorgar and used him as their instrument to corrupt Horus and eventually all of the Primarchs and Traitor Legions who turned against the Emperor. Their corruption destroyed the Emperor's dream of a united Imperium opening a new Golden Age of reason and progress for Mankind. In the end, the Emperor miscalculated, deeply underestimating Mankind's basic need to believe in something larger than itself beyond the stale confines of science and technology. Ironically, what ultimately presented the only hope for Mankind surviving the Age of the Imperium that unfolded after the end of the Horus Heresy was religious faith in the Emperor Himself. Humanity's collective faith in the God-Emperor empowers His psychic form within the Warp, allowing Him to combat the destructive influence of Chaos and providing His servants with the psychic power to defend themselves against the threats of daemons, aliens and Heretics alike. Though the price for the survival of the Imperium has been incredibly high, a cost far greater than the Emperor hoped humanity would have to bear, a new version of the Imperial Truth has become predominant among the million worlds of Mankind. This is a truth whose first principle is the cornerstone of the Imperial Creed: the Emperor protects.
- Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Galaxy in Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden