I have just finished reading The Buried Dagger and a section at the end seems to indicate that even 7 years into the Heresy the main actors of the Heresy still don't understand how or why it began.

The Emperor on talking to the future Grand Masters of the Grey knights explains that "my sons in eagerness to usurp me turned to powers they did not understand".

The truth is that these powers have been working against the Emperor and have manipulated each of the traitor Primarchs in some way, but that the Emperor's own actions triggered the Heresy to begin with the censure of the Word Bearers.

Malcador also shows an inability to understand just how insidious the traitors have been, he is surprised that Erebus is able to create a weapon out of Rubio and doesn't seem to get that many of the attacks against him have not come directly from the plans of Horus.

This inability to truly understand why the Heresy is repeated throughout the books, with various characters refusing to understand how the Emperor's and Malcador's actions could have pushed the Primarchs and legions away from them into the arms of the ruinous powers.

Finally almost everyone seems to be unaware that the Lorgar, Erebus and Kor Pharon were the real power behind the Heresy.

Is there any indication that by the 41st Millenium anyone (on either side) has any understanding as to why the Heresy happened, what started it, the role Lorgar played etc (ignoring those that already know because they were there)? I would have thought the Word Bearers as a minimum would be crowing about the fact they started it all.

  • Heresy era wise Valdor suspected is to be because Horus was driven mad and not resentment etc. and at isstvan 5 the word bearers where still considered to be loyalists. And the primarch who had most 1st hand experience died there. Loken obviously knew what happened. other then that idk, for your question I think I have one particular thing but will answer this when at home when I can look into it a bit more..
    – NinoM
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 9:26

1 Answer 1



  • As you follow the hierarchy/chain of command down less details would be known.
  • Space Marines likely know a little bit more thanks to the knowledge machines downloading the information into their minds.
  • Everyday citizens likely know only basic details.
  • A lot of time and elaborate plans went into creating a web of deception across all humanity.
  • The galaxy is big. It takes time for any information to travel.
  • Knowledge is heavily guarded; including being destroyed.
  • Everyday 'Need to know' is really limited to 'Xenos is bad, kill them or die'...
  • I would also argue that for the most part no one cares anymore...

Just as an aside:

The Horus Heresy had more than one trigger and had a lot of build up. It was a centuries long plan enacted by the forces of Chaos and even the Heresy itself was a centuries long event. The Emperor made mistakes enacting his own plans and strategies over his many years, but he was still only human... People make mistakes. Nobody's perfect... This question is related to some of the details you mention in your question: Did the Emperor orchestrate the Horus Heresy?

The extent of the deception employed across all humanity's forces combined with the secrecy the loyalists already had in place (gene instability and etc.) created a confusion that, even after the events of the Heresy reached its conclusion, was impossible to fully unravel. While the bulk of the Heresy has eventually been discovered there are details that will always remain hidden (until GW decides expand the current story...).

To my knowledge we never learn of any dissemination of events to the galaxy as a whole following the Heresy. Astropaths likely passed along details, but their communication is not always a back and forth. The details the sending party would deem appropriate would be sent and received some time later... details would have been followed by orders. I would not see many questions asked and fewer answered. Unfortunately, even if there was a widespread publication across the galaxy to everyone explaining all the details of the Heresy who is to say what details could be trusted in such times?

Just as today, details were also held close to the chest and only passed along when necessary. Soldiers (and serfs) don't need all the details. The more information pawns have the more they may turn their attentions away from the task at hand. This is where the idea of 'need to know' comes from. Especially at first information is passed quickly with important details hopefully to be filled in later...

In addition, many details were purposefully destroyed by both sides. The Emperor prior to the Heresy was a practitioner of excommunication which made the idea of information purges prevalent across all humanity. Much information during and following the Heresy was purposefully removed from record. Today there is even a department of the Inquisition tasked with just burning records in case the Imperium's enemies learn of some unknown weakness...

Most of what was passed on/learned was likely 'need to know' and/or embellished details pushing a particular narrative. While such occurrences were common prior, the birth of the Inquisition, Imperial Cult, and etc. all made such practices wide spread. Information is passed on only when it benefits those in charge. Related: What level of education do average citizens have in the Warhammer 40k universe?

All of this combined with the amount of time that has passed makes details that are known in the 41st/42nd Millennium very subject. Hell, even dates in the Imperium can not be trusted! Even more, since the Heresy there have been countless plots and deceptions by Chaos with the attempt to unravel humanity even more.

I have been racking my brain trying to remember the name of the chapter, but a single chapter that I don't even think was special at all was destroyed from the inside by Chaos. The Chapter Master was killed by his childhood friend (his main servant) simply because he was unable to become an aspirant and gain the psychological protections from Chaos that Space Marines gained...

I would also argue that, to many citizens, they don't care. To those citizens that have never even seen a Space Marine or Xenos, and for millennia have tended to their fields and sent away their children to fight on some distant battlefield, they no longer care how it started. They care only that their fields yield a productive harvest.

  • I would have to find the passage I originally read, but I believe the chapter I was referring to above are the Crimson Consuls. I would guess I originally read it from an older rulebook or Space Marine codex...
    – Odin1806
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 23:49
  • i do think people would care about the heresy though, since people are so indoctrinated in the belief of the emperor they would still very much care about the event that almost killed their god emperor. However no ordinary citizen knows what the heresy exactly was in the current time as you said. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 8:02
  • @TerranGaming - I think that the multitudes caring is more in line with early 40k. With more emotion and individualism in the stories now I think it is more fair to say there are all types of ideals and etc. Sure there are the hardcore patriots and the religious zealots, but then you also have the highborns that just want all their fancy clothes and lifestyles or the farmer who is more afraid of the lash if his field does not meet the quota that has been set by the planetary governor. You are not wrong, especially after the more recent events, but I think there is a fair share that don't care!
    – Odin1806
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 1:26

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