Adeptus Mechanicus religion is based on a dogma that every machine has its own spirit (either sent or part of the Machine God Omnissiah). But in the end those machines are exactly just that, so while a Cogboy would say that "he is applying holy unguents to the spirit of Baneblade and proceeds with the rite of purification" he is in fact changing oil and cleaning the barrel. After all animism is one of the oldest concepts in religions...

Mechanicus (as a religion) has a strong position against thinking machines calling them Abominable Intelligence and all devices that require programming are controlled by a biological brain (servitors). The only example of machines that was programmed without using of any wetware that I know of were CATs from Ciaphas Cain novel, but they were no more complicated than kids toys (their program was: "move ahead, in case of obstacle turn in random direction, repeat").

And then we have things like titans, worshiped as a living avatars of Omnissiah that ARE able to function without operators and seem to be self conscious (they decide what to do, who is allowed to use them etc). Mechanicus simply says that their Machine Spirit is very strong... but isn't it just a simple case of strong AI (intelligence generated by simply using huge amount of processing power)?

To avoid semantical discussion, lets assume that spirit (mechanical or not) is akin to soul, in which exist separately to body and can survive body's death (and await whatever afterlife there is); "pure" AI would die with its "brain" death.

Before someone would say that "existence of possessed titans is a proof that indeed there is a spirit in the machine", please let me point that there are also possessed swords, axes or even bits of wire ("wirewolves" from Gaunt's Ghost" series).

1 Answer 1


Maybe. The one thing HH points out though is that even by 30k, the Machine Spirit is already so complicated and distinct from machine to machine that they're effectively impossible to distinguish between a spirit and strong AI.

Are the unguents and most of the rites necessary? Probably not. But the canon seems to be fairly consistent in regards to large and important machines (i.e. Knights to Titans, spaceships and even complicated weapons) requiring idiosyncratic care to maintain in top operational condition. Plus, any pilot connected to these machines, such as a Princeps, is also affected by the mind-link with the Machine Spirit. It's not a one-way connection. The Machine Spirit bond is known to leave a mark of the Titan's disposition on it's Princeps.

Yes, you can probably explain this as strong AI causing a neurological reaction through the Princeps' cybernetic implants, but the end result is the same: it appears that the Machine Spirit is an actual thing that the Mechanicus must treat with the care of a mystical entity.

My hunch is simply that The Emperor just made peace with the zealotry of the machine cult since it kept the Mechanicus humming along efficiently. If the Machine Spirit was not an effective concept for understanding and dealing with profoundly complicated machines, I doubt the Imperium would have tolerated such a cult.

You do get the sense that 10k years has seen inefficiency seep into Mechanicus practice in the form of over the top rituals, but heck, if the same thing can happen to even the Marines and High Lords than it's hard to fault the Mechanicus for suffering the same decline into Gothic superstition.

  • Treaty of Mar's bans the use of machines that would meet the traditional definition of a strong AI, where the AI has at least the computational ability of a human. Maybe machine spirit is a "weak" AI or "medium" AI, but not a strong "AI."
    – erdiede
    Apr 21, 2016 at 2:19
  • I don't really know how we could tell though: what's the demarcation point between "weak" and "strong" AI? Also, perhaps the more ancient a machine gets, the stronger the AI becomes? We are treated to a story in the Dan Abnett Titan comic about how older Titans are dramatically more difficult for a Princeps to exert control over. The "ghost" of previous Princeps inhabit the Titan's interface and make an already quirky machine even more idiosyncratic. Again, the Treaty of Mars < The Emperor's Campaign. An awful lot was tolerated so long as it helped expand The Great Crusade.
    – Warpstone
    Apr 23, 2016 at 3:40
  • I would argue it all depends on the one asking the question. Similar to the Council of Nikaea with psykers (cause Rune Priests are totally not psykers...) and the one Gaunts Ghost novel where the discovered the STC that created automatons it all boils down to what benefits who and who is trying to discredit who. I think it also helps when whatever is in question doesn't look like a human or have the ability to talk/explain. Take the Land Raider Rynn's Might for example. It fought enemy forces and sacrificed itself at some point, and everyone basically worshiped it. Had that been a cyborg?...
    – Odin1806
    Nov 20, 2016 at 18:25
  • I'm trying to guess what HH can possibly mean.
    – Clockwork
    Apr 14, 2021 at 14:36

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