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The above excerpt, taken from the second graphic novel in the Daemonifuge series published in 2002 is but one of the myriad references to religion in Warhammer 40,000, some obvious, other more subtle like the above strip which echoes the following excerpt from the Book of Revelation: Revelation 10:9 I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. He said to me, “Take it, and eat it up. It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” Revelation 10:10 I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth. When I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. [Apk:10:9] U mort ħdejn l-anġlu u għedtlu jagħtini l-ktejjeb. U qalli: “Ħu, u ibilgħu, u jsirlek imrar ġo fik, imma ġo ħalqek jiġik ħelu għasel.”[Apk:10:10] Jien ħadt il-ktejjeb minn id l-anġlu u blajtu, u ġo ħalqi ħassejtu ħelu għasel; iżda meta kiltu, mlieni bl-imrar ġo fija. The story of Daemonifuge centres on Ephrael Stern, a warrior nun of the Adepta Sororitas. The Sororitas form the militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy, the Church of the God Emperor. Stern is endowed with mystical powers, the result of being imbued with the accumulated knowledge and consciousness of
Kev Walker et al., p 86-87, Daemonifuge Book Two: The Lord of Damnation, (Nottingham: Black Library 2002)
around seven hundred fellow sisters who were tortured unto dismemberment and had the remnants of their bodies and anima to construct a screaming cage, a living sculpture of skin and bone which echoes the words of the madman of Gadarenes “My name is Legion, for we are many.”2 This story, alongside others such as the duel between Horus and Sanguinius (albeit reversed), the Emperor and his Primarchs which mirror Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the monastic mien of the Space Marines, the very presence of a Church replete with cardinals and priests and so on point out to this religious influence. There is a continuous interplay between the religious and the technological; sometimes the two are interchangeable, sometimes the former serves as a ward by the superstitious masses against the latter.
Horus defeats Sanguinius, detail from The Emperor versus Horus (Adrian Smith)
Archangel Michael defeats Satan
There are other, sometimes less subtle, references such as the already mentioned contemporary3 religious debate in the Horus Heresy novel Prospero Burns: ‘I’m sorry. It’s easy to mock religion,’ Murza said. ‘It is,’ Hawser agreed.
Mark 5:9. Although by no means limited to our time, especially when cosidering that this debate has been raging since, I believe, the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, it is still very much in vogue with the likes of the New Atheism in 2007 propogated by the “Four Horsemen”: Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.
‘It’s easy to scorn it for being old-fashioned and inadequate. A heap of superstitious rubbish. We have science.’ ‘We do.’ ‘Science, and technology. We are so advanced, we have no need of spiritual faith.’ ‘Are you going somewhere with this?’ Hawser asked. ‘We forget what religion offered us.’ ‘Which is?’ ‘Mystery.’ That was his argument. Mystery. All religions required a believer to have faith in something inexpressible. You had to be prepared to accept that there were things you could never know or understand, things you had to take on trust. (...) Science deplored such a view, because everything should be explicable, and that which was not was simply beneath contempt.4 This goes in line with the following extract from Fr. Ray Francalanza’s thesis Sign and Signification where he writes about the call for reflection in discerning the mystery: “... each model, age or scholar carries its own tension. Moreover schools of thought are transient phenomena that ebb and flow with the times. (...) Then there is what I call the tired debate between faith and reason. (...) So immediately and I would add unfortunately, the theme of conversation and dialogue is taken out from the binary path of the sacred and the awe experience of grace in every day living...”5 The spiritually gothic and the medieval are reflected through the iconography and very presence of the Inquisition and the concept of the Great Crusade earlier in the chronology of Warhammer 40,000. The most direct reference to earlier forms of religion which pins the situation spanning the entire Imperium is found in an earlier passage in Prospero Burns, where one of the characters is of the Catheric faith, Catheric being a play on words with the word Catholic and Cathar: Catheric had a strand of Millenarianism in it. The proto-creeds that had given rise to it had believed in an end time, an apocalypse, during which a saviour
Dan Abnett, p139 Prospero Burns (Nottingham: Black Library, 2011) Rev Dr Ray Francalanza OSA, p25, 37 Sign and Signification: Networks of Discernment in the Church (University of Malta, 2009)
would come to escort the righteous to safety. An apocalypse had come all right. It had been called Strife and Old Night. There had been no saviour. Some philosophers reasoned that mankind’s crimes and sins had been so great, redemption had been withheld. Salvation had been postponed indefinitely until mankind had atoned sufficiently, and only once that had happened would the prophecy be revisited.6 The Council of Nikaea in A Thousand Sons is concerned with the use of Librarians, members of the Adeptus Astartes able to tap into the powers of the warp and use sorcery as a weapon. Just as Constantine the Great called the First Council of Nicaea which was the first attempt to gain consensus in the church through an assembled gathering representing the entirety of Christendom, so does the Emperor convene a council on the planet of Nikaea with various representatives from across the Imperium where he “...chose this moment to heal that rift and bring his sons together as one.”7 This assembly includes the Primarchs of some of the Legions, amongst them Magnus the Red, the Crimson King of the Thousand Sons. Since then, as it came to be known amongst others, the unofficial title of the Council of Nikaea is “the trial of Magnus the Red”8 just as in Nicaea, “the council's real business was to reach unanimous consensus on the christological views of Arius”9 and here one can link the figure of Arius, propagator of the Arian heresy, to that of the Crimson King. Certain figures and roles are replicated, for instance, Malcador the Sigillite’s role as advisor to the Emperor is a reflection of Ossius, bishop of Cordoba, as was the reluctance of both Emperor and Sigillite to convene the council in the first place, the former having done so with a heavy heart. At one point during the Council, Ahriman, Magnus’s Chief-Librarian “...could see the Master of Mankind clearly, reading the reluctance etched onto his regal features”10, with the Crimson King saying that the Emperor had no choice “but to appease his supporters”11. In a letter sent to the bishop of Alexandria and Arius, Constantine and Ossius “blamed both contestants alike for their controversy over theological questions that never should have been brought up. In it the emperor insisted upon the goals of peace, harmony, and unity.”12 After a long winded debate, with both sides pitching their arguments against their opponents’ the Emperor decrees that the Librarian departments are to be banned, his edict ending with the following sentence:
Magnus the Red (John Blanche)
Dan Abnett, p138, 139 Prospero Burns (Nottingham: Black Library, 2011) Graham McNeill, p323 A Thousand Sons (Nottingham: Black Library, 2010) 8 Ibid. 9 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1202069 10 Ibid, p 319 11 Ibid. 12 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1202069
Woe betide he who ignores my warning or breaks faith with me. He shall be my enemy, and I will visit such destruction upon him and all his followers that, until the end of all things, he shall rue the day he turned from my light."13 Just as the use of sorcerous powers threatened to break apart the fellowship of the Legiones Astartes, the “squabbles and divisions over the employment of Librarians” festering and spreading “to become a rift that would never be sealed”14, so did the Arian heresy threaten to break apart the unity of the Godhead, Father and Son, as perceived by the Church and handed down by the Apostles. The battle for the Imperial palace, the culmination of the entire Horus Heresy, is a reflection of John Milton’s battle between Lucifer’s followers, reflected in Horus and the traitorous Primarchs, and the armies of Heaven. The Emperor’s reluctance in confronting Horus, his most favoured son, is reflected in God’s reluctance to take part against Lucifer. Even the choice of name, Horus, derived from Egyptian mythology, reflects the dynamism of the character himself since amongst the many functions he served in the Egyptian pantheon were the sky god and the god of war. The aftermath of this galactic civil war is a ten thousand year long decay, with the Emperor becoming an increasingly distant figure as the light of the Astronomican, the psychic beacon which holds the Imperium together growing dimmer. In her essay, Schwartz asks the following question: “What are the concerns of contemporary life which are mirrored in science fiction? The major one, hovering over all peoples, is the possibility of the destruction of the world; it is a repetition of the Biblical myth of Noah, but this time, with-out any hope of ultimate salvation.” In the 5th edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, the current epoch of the Imperium is the Time of Ending, summed up in the following words: As the dark days close in, Mankind stands before the precipice. Now is the time of judgement, wehre faith shall be tested in fire, and courage put to its very limits. Secession and rebellion are rife in all corners of the Imperium. Sensing weakness, alien empires close in from all sides. The Space Marines and Imperial Guard are at war as never before, defending humanity from threats within, without and beyond. This is humanity’s darkest hour.15 Scwhartz’s answer to her question is further emphasised by the grim feel of Warhammer 40,000’s aesthetic and the following tagline: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war” in contrast with the rise of the new Jerusalem following the turmoil at the end of the Book of Revelations.
Graham McNeill, p356 A Thousand Sons (Nottingham: Black Library, 2010). Ibid, p323. 15 Rick Priestley, Andy Chambers et al., p123 Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition Rulebook, (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2008)
At the onset of the Horus Heresy, when the rebel Warmaster was approaching Terra, the Emperor laid the foundations of what would become The Holy Orders of the Emperor’s Inquisition. He bade his most trusted advisor, Malcador the Sigillite to “...draw about you men of character, skill and determination. These men are to be rigorously tested and trained to ensure that they are of the highest calibre and that their loyalty to me is unshakeable. These men wil be the cadre of an elite group of investigators whose role is to to root out heresy and treachery wherever it may hide.”16 This ties in with John Wyndham’s novel The Chrysalids17 which revolves around the world of Labrador, a place as punitive and repressive as the Imperium of Man. The survivors of the catastrophe, termed “Tribulation” in reference to the Book of Revelation, are zealous inhabitants who have embraced a creed that rejects deviancy from the norm. The tenets of this creed are: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; BLESSED IS THE NORM; IN PURITY OUR SALVATION; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT; and, THE DEVIL IS THE FATHER OF DEVIATION.18 which ties in well with the following: Heed not the heretic! Look not upon the alien! Speak not unto the daemon!19 and Burn the Heretic! Kill the Mutant! Purge the Unclean!20 As mentioned earlier, the Golden Age of Technology becomes the Dark Age of Technology and viewed with suspicion as being the reason for the Age of Strife or as it is colloquially known “Old Night” which followed. This paranoia is further exacerbated by the Horus Heresy and just as in Labrador, the citizens of the Imperium are watched over by the overbearing Inquisition which serves as an ecclesiastical tribunal and a sort of specialised police force/secret service as seen in the Eisenhorn short story Missing in Action. Of the twelve individuals gathered by Malcador, eight were Space Marines and were to be the first eight Grandmasters of the Grey Knights, the militant arm of one of the Orders of Inquisition, the Ordo Malleus. The other four individuals were “trusted servants of the Emperor during the building of his galactic empire. (…) They were divided in opinion, with two believing that the fledgling Imperium could not survive without the Emperor to directly lead Humanity, while the other two were adamant that the Emperor has ascended to a
Alan Merrett, p324 The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Nottingham: Black Library, 2007). Published in the United States as Re-Birth. 18 http://www.jstor.org/stable/814025. 19 Nick Kyme ed., p2 The Inquisition (Nottingham: Black Library, 2007). 20 Marc Gascoigne ed., Let the Galaxy Burn! (Nottingham: Black Library, 2006).
higher plane and that it was folly to interfere with the course of events as they had unfolded.” 21 The two Inquisitors who were loath to “interfere with the course of events” echo the Inquisitor in The Grand Inquisitor, a fable told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. “Why have you come to get in our way? For you have come to get in our way and you yourself know it. But do you know what will happen tomorrow? I do not know who you are, and I do not want to know: you may be He or you may be only His likeness... (...) The old man shudders. Something has stirred at the corners of his mouth; he goes back to the door, opens it and says to Him: “Go, and do not come back... do not come back at all... ever ... ever!” And he releases him into the “town’s dark secrets and squares”. The Captive departs.”22 The God-Emperor is a reflection of the Prisoner/Christ mentioned since his corporeal body is imprisoned within the baroque machinery of the Golden Throne. The Inquisitor rulebook opens with a scene where “the four individuals” discuss the fate of the Emperor. Moriana suggests that the Emperor can be brought back to life and that he “need not suffer this hideous eternal life in death”23 but one of the two Inquisitors who were of a conservative mind is adamantly opposed to this, asking “What if the person brought back was not the man we once knew?”24, echoing the Inquisitor in Ivan’s fable. One of the more famous Inquisitors in Warhammer 40,000, is the Witch Hunter Fyodor Karamazov, whose name is an amalgamation of the book “The Brothers Karamazov” and its author Fyodor Dostoevsky. The themes of faith, free will, and morality are amongst the central tenets of the book. In addition, another Inquisitor by the name of Torquemada Coteaz is an obvious reference to the Spanish Inquisitor General Tomás de
Gav Thorpe, p3 Inquisitor: The Thorians , (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2006) Fyodor Dostoyevsky, p326, 342 The Brothers Karamazov trans., by David McDuff (London: Penguin Books, 1993, revised 2003. First published in 1880) 23 Gav Thorpe, p5 Inquisitor, (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2001) 24 Ibid.
Torquemada who, like Coteaz, is known for being zealous as well as incorruptible. The machinations of the Inquisition in Warhammer 40,000 mirrors that of the Inquisition in Europe: its workings in its pursuit to eradicate heresy through investigation and trial through torture and its meting out of castigation to those found guilty. This is also reflected in the choice of aesthetic as seen in the above artwork of Inquisitor Karamazov upon his throne and procedures such as Trial by Balance and Trial by Holy Seal. The artwork below, is of more militant Inquisitors, by militant those who take the fight to the enemy and eradicate mass roots of heresy, such as the Rebellion on Vraks, the revolt of Salem Proctor, the Macharian Heresy and so on, as reflected by the siege of Monstegur and the eradication of the Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade (1209 - 1229), a military campaign lasting for twenty years which was started by the Catholic Church to purge the influence of Catharism in the region of Languedoc in France. Arnaud Amaury’s notorious saying “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own”25 is reflected in Inquisitor Karamzov’s uncompromising approach as noted in his saying “There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court. A plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty”26 which is further elaborated in the latest edition of the Grey Knights codex: Karamazov has no patience for those foolish enough to appear guilty when they are blameless. Such halfwits are guilty of wasting his valuable time, if nothing else, and are led without hesitation to the purging fires, alongside the murdererd, traitors, saboteurs and heretics.27
“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." Armaud’s alleged answer to confused crusaders who could not distinguish between Catholics and Albigensians [Cathars]. [http://www.crusadesencyclopedia.com/arnaudamaury.html retrieved 14th November 2011] 26 Nick Kyme ed., p54 The Inquisition (Nottingham: Black Library, 2007). 27 Matt Ward, p46 Codex Grey Knights (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2010).