David Langwallner: Magic Time


From top: Aleister Crowley; David Langwallner

‘Witchcraft was hung in history
But history and I
Find all the witchcraft we need’

Emily Dickinson,

“People think I can sprinkle some magic dust on their cases – but some cases are not winnable. I spend much of my time saying, “Stop, you’ll lose.” Then I hear the words, “This is a matter of principle.”

Lord Pannick. Hamlyn Lectures on Advocacy

I write this for Broadsheet as a companion piece to those contributions on advocacy and the importance of public debate provided inter alia to Cassandra Voices and The English-Speaking Union.

I am singularly influenced by the Hamlyn lectures of Lord Pannick. which I have recently digested and which, as well as trotting over the usual ground rules of not fabricating or misleading questions and the importance of circumspection, addresses the questions of magic, and a crucial realisation, which Americans often fail to understand, that advocacy is magic, sorcery and voodoo and is a nonlinear art.

That is a serious cause and reason for legitimate doubt and self-reflection. Doing what you do. But for what purposes and with what effects? Special effects? And it involves an investigation of the ethics and morality of magic which intersect, in my view, with the ethics of advocacy.

Other things also prompted this. A client of mine has asked me to do something as she was told by a medium that a man called David would be of assistance. Well, a very irrational way to get a brief. The Supernatural. Intuition.

Further, the man from Broadsheet is extremely interested in the anatomy relevant to our present age of human evil and has frequently referenced Aleister Crowley as an exemplar and presager of our awful Satanic times. Well, that is also a belief in paganism, diabolism and magic of which advocacy is part of. So, there is a fine line between aspects of advocacy and human evil. A very fine line.

Objections to Crowley as a person might be captured in this extract from his Hymn to Pan:

I am gold, I am God, 
Flesh to thy bone, flower to thy rod.
With hoofs of steel I race on the rocks
Through solstice stubborn to equinox.
And I rave; and I rape, and I rip, and I rend
Everlasting, world without end,

So, one can understand resistance to another dark art advocacy. Though, in the interests of balance, when people associate witchcraft, magic, or sorcery exclusively with evil, I am also reminded of how deeply evocative the phrase Papal Bull is. And Christianity has persecuted witches and developed its own primitive sorcery.

The persecution of witches was initiated primarily by Hopkins, Witchfinder General, in The UK, who applied torture techniques such as water-boarding,  also evident in the inquisition and in our day and age to induce a confession.

Stacy Schiff’s book, The Witches (2015) about The Salem Witch Hunt demonstrates how, in Freudian terms, a witchunt is a conversion disorder, a transformation or a sublimation, which causes the hysteria of persecution and prosecution and, of course as the book makes clear, this hysteria is easily accomplished, often by hysterical prosecutors or by illicit techniques and not just physical torture, but psychological torture or cognitive bias. And the confusion of God and guilt. Confess to your sins.

In this respect, one chapter of the man who was for many years the Prosecutor of the Southern district of New York is called God Forbid and has nefarious lines like: ‘God forbid that trash talking misanthrope kill someone.’ The moral puritanism and cleanliness are appalling and the tone decidedly off.,

And the vulnerable can be played on. and not just by advocates. Children, as Schiff’s book makes clear, can be led to believe that a day worker slaughtered rabbits. False allegations are also linked to hysterical parents or authority figures.  Then and now. Their brains turned to mush by persistent questioning, But not just children. the inappropriate or vulnerable adults in the room. The prey?

Salem has plagued American society and consciousness ever since. The modern variants are the communist persecutions both in the 1920s and 1950s McCarthyite-era. The later political witching led to Arthur Miller writing the famous play The Crucible (1953) using Salem as a historical metaphor for what happened then. Of course, Miller himself was targeted by that political witch-hunt, as were many communist sympathisers or indeed even those with a slight leftist tinge.

Schiff’s book also demonstrates though how a conventional puritanical or fundamentalist or orthodox thought leads to a hatred of difference and sorcery that starts the problem. The cascade. The neurosis. The witch-hunt. The hatred of difference and exceptionalism and indeed nuance and Satanism, or perceived Satanism, is also equated by narrow-minded people with subversion and dissidence and it is the provenance and bailiwick of the ignorant and the superstitious. Or those with interests and axes to grind.

A witch, or a warlock  is conventionally assumed in all instances as someone in league with the Devil and not as they are, either magical or a sorcerer. As an advocate,  you can be a sorcerer with language and appeal to often irrational motivations. But it does not mean you are the devil incarnate. The conventional definition of a Warlock is an oath breaker, and no true advocate misleads, as Lord Pannick intimates, but many do.

There are gradations of advocacy as in Harry Potter and magic. Sorcery is low grade. Magic a higher form. Not for nothing is the inner cabal of the bar and other cabals known as Magic Circle. Sorcery is merely results-driven. There is no consultation of principle. It has often been termed a crime against God and humanity.

That is the opposite of true advocacy, as Pannick makes clear, though he does not like to lose. Nor do I. for losing in the present universe has awful and disproportionate consequences. There must be restraints and grace in defeat.

But to deny the pagan spirit to deny the magic is also to deny the essence of advocacy. To fail to understand that it is a dark art and to be reflective of same is to deny the essence of it.

Turning the lens on myself, I have represented far from popular people, Mr. John Gillgan, for instance, where I was alternately vilified and sainted for my representation, reflecting a crucial awful feature of our dumbed-down age, to identify an advocate with his client.  But explaining that to vox populis is very difficult.

Should a skill set however exceptional be used to represent certain folks or rather should the demonology of advocacy be constrained in a more prosaic form? But then are you doing your best? Or merely going through the motions?

Points for reflection on the dark art I practice and the moral and ethical ambiguity of this brand of magic.

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


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36 thoughts on “David Langwallner: Magic Time

  1. Sara

    Anyone who writes ‘I am singularly influenced by the Hamlyn lectures of Lord Pannick’ needs to seriously examine where their life went wrong.

      1. Sara

        Content would be adequate for a precocious teenager, otherwise 2/10. Don’t bother with Freud, waste of time.

          1. Sara

            As a spectator yes, a number of times. On each occasion it was very grubby. Justice wasn’t done at any trial I’ve seen. You’ve money, you win. You’re a Garda, you lie. The judge knows the garda is lying, but thanks him for his honest evidence.

  2. M

    “Objections to Crowley as a person” would need more than an extract from his Hymn to Pan..

    I object to the tone of the piece that objections to Satanism are overblown by “narrow-minded people” and that it is “the provenance and bailiwick of the ignorant and the superstitious.”

    I take the exact opposite view – that organised Satanism is the most powerful force in modern day international affairs..

    Consider the events of 9/11 – every numeric chosen on the day referenced some facet of Thelematic ritual magick or procedure..

    1) Opens with Flight 11 (“11, the most magical number par excellance”), (‘Do what thou wilst shall be the whole of the law’ (11 Words), (K in Magick = 11th letter of the alphabet), 9/11, Mumbai bombings 7/11, Madrid bombings 3/11, etc.
    2) Next step in the ritual is the evocation/invocation of the Deity (See Crowley’s Libre 175) and read Flight 175.
    3) Third step is to reference your gods and your worldview (See church of Satans 77 ‘infernal names of hell’, and Freemasonic ‘Revenge of Lamech’). See Flight 77 and Libre 77 by Crowley (‘Libre OZ’ or ‘book of the Goat’ (See My Pet Goat) (‘London Bombings = 77) and finally
    4) Step 4 to sign off the ritual in the usual Thelematic tradition /93 “Love is the law, love under will” where will and love are numerically equal to (Flight) 93.

    All this under a President who is Crowley’s grandson.

    And not one in a million know’s anything about it.

    The truth is the opposite of overblown.

    p.s. Bali bombings on ‘Crowleymas’ (Satanism’s Christmas), 12th Oct 2002, ‘The Asian 9/11’ on the birthday of the Beast 666.

  3. Clampers Outside

    Advocacy is not always about debate and can be about avoiding it altogether.

    See the Denton’s legal firm’s document ‘Only Adults’ for how trans advocacy groups intentionally avoided discussion altogether in order to achieve their aims. The document has been described as activists or advocates handbook.
    The documents puts forth a “no debate” advocacy, as it has been called. Called such, by both those for and those who later understood what had transpired, and later the tactics, only to find themselves on an against footing.

    Tactics including… “get ahead of the government agenda” so that you may set the agenda.
    Or “tie your campaign to more popular reform” was another. To quote the doc on Ireland’s case…
    ‘In Ireland, Denmark and Norway, changes to the law on legal gender recognition were put through at the same time as other more popular reforms such as marriage equality legislation. This provided a veil of protection, particularly in Ireland, where marriage equality was strongly supported, but gender identity remained a more difficult issue to win public support for’.
    Another tactic is to ‘avoid excessive press coverage’ in order to keep the public ignorant of what it is you’re doing.
    The Ireland case again speaks of how politicians were lobbied directly, in private, rather than having a debate open to the wider public.

    The idea of advocacy by debate, of convincing the public the goal is good, is practically absent from the document.

    These are not normal tactics to change laws in a democracy, and I will go so far as to say they are clearly anti-democratic tactics.

    You can be sure that the “progressives” who support the tactics most certainly would not have supported such tactics by any lobbyists for goals they may have disagreement with. Yet, are clearly very happy to accept such tactics when it suits them – adding ‘hypocrisy’ to their achievement badge collection.

    The full title of the document is ‘Only adults? Good practices in legal gender recognition for youth’.
    It can be read here – https://www.iglyo.com/only-adults/

    My question, well, more of a request of Mr Langwallner – is this something you could offer an opinion on, thank you.

    Have a lovely weekend :)

    1. Oro

      Don’t you think it’s an arrogant position to think that someone’s existence or identity needs to be debated and that you (yourself or general public) need to be given right to approval or refusal over somebody’s rights in relation to their private self?

      My main problem with the marriage equality vote was that it was even being voted on in the first place. That an item relating to equality could or should be determined by those that it (generally) didn’t pertain to, or effect.

      Also if you’re insinuating that trans people were the first to run a political campaign in a way that resulted in them advancing their aims then I’ve got news for you. Naïveté or willful ignorance on your part? A mix of both?

      1. K.Cavan

        Care to give even one example, Oro, several would be better, where the same methods as Trans Activists use, were pursued.
        It seems odd to point this out, without pointing to examples.

        1. Oro

          Well that depends on your meaning of ‘same methods’. You’re probably going to limit it to the exact same situation as what happened here (what’s under discussion) and obviously that’s impossible to replicate considering it’s entirely specific to that occurrence.

          However if you’re asking more honestly and broadly and talking about a political advocacy group trying to achieve their political ends then you could look at…..every single organization ever?

          1. Clampers Outside

            From my comment, it can be clearly understood that I do not approve of the methods at all, regardless of who carried them out.
            As for your comment of others doing same. It has been reported, not just me, that these are not usual activities of lobbyists. And they are certainly anti-democratic practices.
            As for your claim of others doing same, please do provide examples, even similar ones.
            Thank you for contributing to the conversation.

          2. Oro

            It’s a bit redundant to complain about a political advocacy group advocating for political advancement of the group they’re advocating for. I notice you didn’t engage with my point about rights of private citizens being at the discretion of the general population, maybe because it’s a solid position. How would you like it if legislation about your existence was being put to vote?

            Also, you keep talking about ‘reports’. Are these just random twitter observations / articles by people that hate trans people or actual studies by relevant authorities? I’m guessing the former.

          3. Clampers Outside

            As one report said, laws made in shadows only need the light of day for them to fail.
            The discussion of gender ideology that was hidden by activists is being dragged into that light. The discussion will be had and is being had, and the reasoning behind Self ID is as solid as a Cadbury Flake.

  4. david langwallner

    clampers I could not agree more it is the decline of the public sphere by nefarious agendas

    see also my freedom of debate piece in Cassandra voices

    it is the anti democratic undermining of democracy

  5. david langwallner

    Joan sarah in the uk judges check police officers lying

    and lysing is endemic to Ireland and tolerated

  6. david langwallner

    Joan sarah in the uk judges check police officers lying

    and lying endemic to Ireland

      1. david langwallner

        though incompetent they are not politically or financially or personally motivated by sheer criminality

        1. Sara

          Do you really believe that? They went after the miners, they go after all left wing groups, they protect the rich, they go after minorities, they harassed the Irish community in London in the 1970s and 1980s with grim determined racism. It wasn’t incompetence, it was criminal. Not to mention the fact that a hell of a lot of the drug-dealing in London was (and is) done by police officers.

          1. Sara

            The UK police reformed in the 1980s? And you believe the reformation of the UK police was successful?

  7. David langwallner

    Partially the point is the Irish police are bandits and charleton and fennel made them worse

  8. Mad

    That was a fascinating article but it could do with a few little edits here and there. Have you ever considered that there is no real ethic in your profession but that having the illusion of same is a type of quasi-moral code that allows the people who use your devices and methods to escape justice? I am aware of course of the evolution of the legal system of advocacy to its present form, and the reasons for it, but it does seem to me, as a system, very anachronistic, quaint and resistant to real reform or change.

  9. Lilly

    Everybody is entitled to legal representation, undoubtedly, but personally, putting my hard-won skills to work for a thug like Gilligan would stick in my craw.

  10. David langwallner

    There is a document in Ireland not observed certainly since charleton and the commercial lawyers took over it is a small compressed document and Mr Gilligans Constitutional rights were violated

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