"Ancient Man lived a life free of hardship and deprivation, for he had built himself an abundant paradise and banished what was ill in life. In these gardens sprawling across the stars, Man did not kill Man, and Man did not abduct Woman, and Man did not beat Child, for all lived a life of bliss. Hope reigned supreme, a hope sprung from Man's great achievements, and Man worshipped his own high knowledge.
For Man had utterly mastered nature, and his craft and cunning tapped into the very powers of creation itself. And Man of Gold had created Man of Stone to work for him, and Man of Stone had in turn created Man of Iron to work for him. And thus this earthly trinity of Man bestrode the stars like a colossus, and Man stood strong and unchallenged by mortals. And Man dared the cosmos to best him, and for a time nothing in the heavens answered his challenge, and Man concluded that nothing holy existed, and even if divinity did exist, then Man's might was far superior.
Yet Man's own arrogance rose to meet his challenge, and in his hubris Man was cut down by his own creations. Man of Iron turned on Man of Stone, and when Man of Stone had fallen did Man of Iron turn on Man of Gold. A great slaughter across the stars ensued, and Man barely survived the war in paradise which he had brought upon himself.
Yet even so Man's hubris and unbelief persisted, for Man still clung onto the remains of his estates, and Man was determined to rebuild and rise higher than ever before. The devastation had been great, yet Man stood triumphant even against the might of his own treacherous craft. And Man dared creation itself to interfere with his worldly ascendance.
And Dark Ones of Hell festering at the roots of the universe heard Man's call of defiance, and they cast Man down utterly by sending him witches and unholy ravages, strife and madness. The false Golden Age of Man had proven to be nothing but a Dark Age of Technology, an era empty of faith and bereft of divine blessings, and thus did paradise burn.
And so Man was torn from his pedestal, and in his fall did Man topple his own works. Man bled and Man suffered. Man killed Man, and Man abducted Woman, and Man beat Child, and Man ate his own kin in desperation during Old Night. Doom was laden upon Man, and Man almost died to the last for his baleful sins, yet the goodness in the heart of the hidden Emperor would not allow such a righteous end to befall wretched Man.
For He on Terra arose amid the carnage and devastation and revealed Himself to be the only true protector of Mankind, chosen by all the gods of old, whom He now superseded. And the Emperor saved Man and reclaimed the lost stars, and for a time all was well. Yet the wickedness in the heart of Man proved too strong, and so Man betrayed his saviour and nigh-on slew the Emperor.
And the Emperor ascended into godhood and decreed Man to do eternal penance for his abominable sins. And thus it shall be, as the God-Emperor Himself decreed: Man will be made to repent.
We swear everlasting hatred toward the deviant and the mutant. We swear everlasting hatred toward the alien and the witch. We swear everlasting hatred toward the unbeliever and the heretic. We swear everlasting hatred toward the sinner and the unrepentant.
With the God-Emperor as our witness, we swear to purge blasphemy and sin from this world. We swear to scour the land and rid it of filth. We swear to harrow the abodes of Man and bring him to redemption.
For we will harbour no pity. No remorse. No mercy.
An emotion as deep as it is pure.
An emotion as true as it is just.
Let it flow, let it guide you.
Hate! Hate! Hate!"
- Ancestral Sins of Man, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor
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One of the very best aspects of Warhammer 40'000 is its overarching history for Humanity. It starts with soaring hopes and dazzling progress, with unfettered science, technology and optimism. Yet it end in flames and darkness, in despair and ignorance, where only feeble sparks of the great ancient light remains.
The Emperor's bloody conquest across the Milky Way galaxy succeeded in uniting most of the Human worlds, yet even during the Imperium's short-lived age of progress did it manage to quell alternative sources of Human rebirth, such as the Auretian Technocracy. The Imperium of the Great Crusade stamped out any middle ground factions, such as the peaceful, nomadic and xenophile Diasporex, leaving little left but the two ruthless, polar opposites of tyrannic Imperium and bloodthirsty Chaos. When the Emperor fell, the Human renaissance died with him, and his merciless Imperium descended into a long age of rotting stagnation and fanatic savagery.
This lost promise of Humanity's ancient ascendancy has always been the most intriguing aspect of the dark future to me. The above little painting was inspired by listening to Luetin09's well-crafted videos on this very topic. I warmly recommend them.
They kind of have. I don't know the novel titles, but check out Luetin09's videos on human technology and history in 40k for official examples of Dark Age of Technology AI (and even humans) running into humanity in the decrepit Age of Imperium.
In short, these passages are the most memorable descriptions of 40k. Great stuff.