- Principia Diabolicus -
A Philosophical Treatise


There has been much discussion recently about the so-called 'gothic philosophy', a code by which we all live, a code by which we strive to live, or a code that we live by 'more than you' (but only on weekends). This abstract will consider the various aspects of gothic philosophy and sub culture in an attempt to bring together the thoughts and dreams of various learned children of the night from around the world.


If the barbarian tribes of pre-medieval 'Germany' had a philosophy it can probably be found in their writings. The Visigothic language is similar to old High German and Anglo-Saxon. However, my Anglo-Saxon is as rusty as my French, and besides they didn't actually write much down - all that exists are some passages from the Bible and some helpful phrases for the tourist:

Hwa Quithan = What can I say?
Wyrcan thone Wihagan = Make a shield wall!
Aaargh = I am presently being serrated by a drunken psychotic, axe wielding, smelly, barbarian

However, we like to think of them as a bunch of axe wielding, psychotic, rather good looking men and women, dressed in black riding mighty war horses into battle, and eventually (axeidently (sic)) setting fire to Rome and bringing about the collapse of civilization and then going out for a beer.

Philosophically speaking we have the beer and the desire to strike terror into the hearts of mortal man in common.

That seems to be a useful beginning, and, as it would not do to dwell for too long on the fact that the visigoths were actually a group of crusties on the piss, let us consider the Medieval connection.


Castles on hill tops, thunder, lightning, storm clouds, knights, dragons, musical song and dance numbers? There is a strong medievalistic element in many of today's goths. It's not an Arthurian yearning for days of chivalry and Grail quests, but rather a link with the quasi-fantastical 'romantic' aspect of the time and the genre. I think romanticism is the key here, we each have our own notion of the period and each associate it with different things. But as I appear to be bordering on psychology, and that is definitely not my field, I shall change the subject before I say something to start the Freudians twitching (....but I do have a thing for armour!).

There is more, of course, the Medieval period brought us the other legends of Camelot, those which did not so easily convert to the Christian ideal, the magic and dark forces, the supernatural! There are also the 'darker' characters (and again we know about them only through literature), Chaucer's Pardoner tells of plague and of Death stalking the land, The Gwain Poet describes the fatalistic humour of the Green Knight, and Malory of the Death of Arthur.

So from this period we get our sense of the fantastic - a sort of 'New Age with Attitude' tract which was further developed by some of the Romantic poets, oh, and the desire to ride around carrying a sword and 'smiting' people for the fun of it.

17th Century

The New Model Army were formed by Oliver Cromwell and went on Tour.

Romantic Period

The Romantic Junkie Poets were proto-goths, they fought, drank, took to many drugs, wore baggy shirts, and, like the barbarian tribes before them went to Italy to either die or misbehave (apart from Wordsworth who went to France and took part in the Revolution, and Coleridge who was too fat to be a goth but wrote some damn fine verses so he can join as long as he stands at the back).

Their own philosophy seemed to be a hedonistic celebration of nature and supernature almost on an anthropomorphic level, and a strong sense of individuality within the identity of their peer-group! I like them but Shelley was a better poet than Byron and I don't *care a toss* what the good Doctor says!

Victorian Decadence

The introduction of Vampire chic. This was a period more to do with the aesthetics of modern goth than it's underlying philosophy. However a certain element of moral turpitude could well have crept in. I suppose Dracula, although it was mainly about syph. , could be considered one of the great philosophical books of the period, or not, please yourself!


I've jumped ahead a bit here, but the pre-gothic subcultures from which we borrowed are worth considering briefly. No Leaders, Anarchistic Nihilism? No, I don't think we really borrowed that much from the punks as a whole - of course there are many individual goths who subscribe to these political doctrines - but it doesn't seem to be an integral part of the subculture today. Oh, and, "never trust a hippy!" - often a very useful bit of advice!

New Romantic

Again this was an aesthetic thing really. Adam Ant did a fair amount for breaking down the visual barriers and gave many male goths something to aspire to (beauty?) for the first time.
But then Ian Astbury was a Native American Indian about the same time, so maybe it was him.


One particular quote always springs to mind, it was made by a relatively insignificant heavy metal singer:

"It is about having as much fun as possible, doing as little damage to
yourself and preferably none to those around you that you care about,
and doing as much damage as possible to people you don't like."

But as a) he was talking about a record and
b) it was on Belgian TV, I think he was probably joking.

And that, of course, is the final part, the very crux of the gothic philosophy, Ladies and Gentlemen we have a sense of humour! We are morbid, not suicidal and we can laugh at other people, and, just occasionally, at ourselves.


We have borrowed various philosophical elements from our historical sources, but the philosophical elements which are most clearly defined are: the desire to strike terror into the hearts of mortal man (or at least turn heads in the street), a romantic sense of the fantastic, the desire for pleasure in extremes, a visual identity within the subculture, questionable sexual and social practices, a fascination with supernature, the macabre, and the safety of being within a group where we get the in joke.

Take a Bite
First published in 1993
by Battlebridge


(c) 1993 Battlebridge

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