The Adeptus Mechanicus

With its foundations stretching back to before the Horus Heresy, right back through the Age of Strife to the Dark Age of Technology, the Adeptus Mechanicus is the oldest institution in the Imperium. In fact, it is so old and the power it wields so great, the Adeptus Mechanicus is more akin to an allied empire than part of the Imperium itself.

 The reason for this power is straightforward in its origins. The Adeptus Mechanicus has a monopoly on perhaps the most vital resource in the galaxy – knowledge. They control the means by which mighty battleships are constructed, the secrets of Space Marine gene-seed, and the building of warp engines and plasma reactors. Put simply, without the cooperation of the Adepts of Mars, the Imperium would not exist.

 Isolated during the Age of Strife, the Adeptus Mechanicus suffered its own trials and tribulations, and from this time arose the worship of the Machine God. The Machine God is the ultimate object of the Techpriests’ veneration. It is the Machine God that gave rise to all technologies and made them manifest through his chosen Illuminati among Mankind. To the Mechanicus, machines represent a higher form of life than that thrown up by the crude processes of evolution. The planned perfection of form and function embodied in a machine could only originate from a divine source, using biological or mechanical vessels to embody and pass on its great knowledge. The Machine God can be interpreted as the combined power of machines everywhere, or a self-replicating idea that leads to technologies being the ultimate expression of perfection that can be created by evolved life.

The Quest for Knowledge

To understand the mind of a Techpriest, one must understand the purpose of his being. This is encapsulated within the tenets of the Cult Mechanicus, which dictate the goals and behavior of every Techpriest. In essence, the Sixteen Universal Laws that rule the thinking of a Techpriest help him understand the nature of life and its relevance to the Machine God, and the ways that a mere mortal can come to comprehend the Machine God. To fully understand the Machine God is the ultimate goal of the Cult Mechanicus, and Techpriests strive to achieve a kind of enlightenment through their studies and biological/mechanical symbiosis. This is generally known as the Quest for Knowledge. Several of the Sixteen Universal Laws deal specifically with the Quest for Knowledge:

 The Fourth Universal Law – Intellect is the Understanding of Knowledge: The ability to understand and use knowledge forms the measure of intellect. It is entirely possible for sentience to realize the value of knowledge/stimulus and yet possess only simplistic levels of it. It is also possible for an archive or holomat to contain a vast font of knowledge and the understanding thereof without apprehending the value of that knowledge. Neither of these two examples would be rated as possessing intellect by Tech-priests.

 The Fifth Universal Law – Sentience is the Basest Form of Intellect: The commonly held trait of sentience is hence only the first ‘tier’ of intellect. Intellect is attained through the acquisition and understanding of knowledge.

 The Sixth Universal Law – Understanding is the True Path to Comprehension: What all knowledge leads to is comprehension, a level of intellect that encompasses all the knowledge there is to be understood.

 The Seventh Universal Law – Comprehension is the Key to all Things: Comprehension of the forces of the universe brings with it the keys to reality, the ability to affect any change or creation desired.

 The Eight Universal Law – The Omnissiah knows all, comprehends all: The Omnissiah is the Supreme Being, the entity able to comprehend all knowledge in the universe. It is thus the logic of the Cult Mechanicus that if the Machine God exists (which, of course, it does as far as they are concerned), then all knowledge must already exist, and it is really just a matter of time and effort to put it all into one place. The fact that this Quest for Knowledge has lasted well over ten thousand years does not seem to deter the Techpriests!

 All other considerations, including personal comfort, are secondary to the Quest for Knowledge. A devout Techpriest will sacrifice his comrades to heighten his intellect, and will even willingly lay down his life if, in doing so, he can assist the Cult Mechanicus in the Quest for Knowledge.

 The Fifteenth Universal Law – Flesh is Fallible, but Ritual Honors the Machine Spirit: Organic components (people) are weak, forgetful, and ultimately expendable for the greater glories of the Machine God. The fallibilities of the flesh can be assuaged through the correctly prescribed rituals to enable the enlightened to interact with the Machine Spirit. To so dishonor a Machine Spirit by not undertaking the correct rituals to honor it is a grave crime, and considered extremely risky with certain spirits, for example failing to undertake maintenance rituals on a plasma reactor is sure to end badly.

 The Sixteenth Universal Law – To Break with Ritual is to Break with Faith: Techpriests rely on ritual over understanding, every screw turn and button press is precisely documented for every mechanism they build or use. Many Techpriests believe that the slightest deviation is an invitation for disaster and unleashing uncontrollable forces. Others take a more pragmatic view, believing ritual is mainly there to placate Machine Spirits and it can be hurried or even (horrors!) dispensed with altogether if the circumstances dictate – although the Machine Spirit will have to be appeased later.

The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Universal Laws open a window into how the Techpriests approach most situations and deal with unfolding events. They are, on the whole, predictable, unimaginative, and low on intuition. Before making an important decision, a Techpriest will always endeavor to seek a precedent that that can accede to – or in their terms, to see if this particular piece of Knowledge has already been discovered.

 This means that Techpriests are disinclined to rash or emotional reactions, and it is this attitude that gives them their inhuman air, which in many ways serves to separate them from Humanity as much as their physical alterations. This is not to say that Tech-priests are without feelings, and certainly, they can be angered or feel fear, but as they grow in experience they are more able to detach themselves from these fleshly weaknesses. A Magos several centuries-old will make decisions based upon the relevance of the situation to his Quest for Knowledge and the probabilities of this being advanced or hindered. When confronted by an armed man, the threat to the Magos and the Knowledge he has uncovered and may potentially uncover in the future is paramount, and he is likely to retreat to preserve this. If, on the other hand, the armed man is guarding a repository of potentially important Knowledge, then the Magos is likely to be confrontational.

 To a greater or lesser extent, they are the foundations of the Tech-priest’s thinking, the paradigm that provides him with a framework to deal with the outside world.

Pro-xenos and Anti-xenos

Individuals may on occasion break one of the Sixteen Universal Laws, through a quirk of personality or personal interpretation, active sabotage of their psyche, or incorrect instruction into the Cult Mechanicus. Often this will cause great angst within the individual at a later date, suffering the biological equivalent of a repeated error message in his mind. This can be cured with reprogramming (or Bio-error Purgation as it is commonly referred to by the Tech-priests), but if it is not treated can lead to all manner of psychological problems, leading to greater and greater heresies. This is no more evident than in the conflict between the pro-Xenos and anti-Xenos factions within the Cult Mechanicus. In many ways, this mirrors the Puritan and Radical divide that exists within the Inquisition but originates not from a philosophical viewpoint, but rather on interpretation of the Sixteen Universal Laws. As such, in some areas, this is an open, theological debate, while on some forge worlds such discussion may itself be deemed worthy of castigation. Much of this stems from the contradictions thrown up by the Eighth Universal Law (often known as the Xenos Testamenta, and also the Prime Warning).

 The Eighth Universal Law – The Alien Mechanism is a Perversion of the True Path: Alien science is twisted and perverse, a corruption of the pure thought of the Machine God. Most aliens enslave Machine Spirits to their will without showing them proper respect, hence their creations are invariably rebellious, dangerous, and corrupt – rather like bound Daemons in Mechanicus Lore. The pro-Xenos believe that even though it has been corrupted, the knowledge to be found within alien technology, and ancient archeotech for that matter, can be salvaged for the Quest for Knowledge. Thus comprehension of Xenos tech is paramount to the continued mission of the Adeptus Mechanicus and should be embraced.

 Opposed to these thinkers are the anti-Xenos, who believe that the corrupted knowledge within alien technology is no different from the knowledge that can be found in honest-to-goodness human technology. They ridicule the idea that somehow aliens could be privy to different knowledge to Humanity, and instead point to the perversions of the Machine God that have been created as lures away from the true path to understanding. There are also those who think that much can be learned from Xeno artifacts in the right conditions, but Techpriests are at risk of being immolated in some accident or corrupted by alien ideas. Many forge worlds officially ban the study of alien artifacts; others allow it but only under the most rigorous monitoring and restrictions. Nonetheless many Magos study alien artifacts in secret, hoarding their knowledge for fear of reprisals.

 Just as with the Inquisition, this conflict can sometimes become physical, and the weight of belief varies widely from one forge world to the next, and may even be influenced by the beliefs of the most senior ranking Magi at any given time. Thus a pro-Xenos inclined Fabricator General of a forge world may instigate several programs of research into alien tech, and direct his Explorators to locate such things for study. By the time the Explorators return, if ever they do, an anti-Xenos Fabricator General has ascended to command and the expedition may well be declared heretical and hunted down.

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