Ten years before Keyes entered Oxford, Aleister Crowley was to have addressed his now famous banned lecture, ‘Gilles de Rais’, to the University Poetry Society (3 February 1930). In what is really a polemic against Catholicism, Crowley enters into some of the questions our writers examine, in particular, questions of historical knowledge (what do we really know about Gilles?) and the transgressive spirit of the pursuit of science under the Church’s hegemony…
He also anticipates the major thesis of Tournier’s text:
…he was accused of the same crimes as Joan of Arc by the same people who accused her and…was condemned by them to the same penalty. The real problem of Gilles de Rais amounts accordingly to this. Here we have a person who, in almost every respect, was the male equivalent of Joan of Arc. [Crowley, The Banned Lecture]
Crowley suggests that it was Rais’s passion for science that aroused the hostility of the Church: ‘the pursuit of knowledge – knowledge of any kind- was justly estimated by the people in power as the one and only dangerous pursuit’ [Crowley, The Banned Lecture]. Crowley was not the first to suggest the Gilles de Rais’s trial resembled Joan’s in one other important particular, that it was a massive miscarriage of justice brought about by political scheming.
From: Morgan, Val. The Legend of Gilles De Rais (1404-1440) in the Writings of Huysmans, Bataille, Planchon, and Tournier. Ewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003, p.27. Brackets added.