Bennett, (Charles Henry) Allan (1872-1923)

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Bennett, (Charles Henry) Allan (1872-1923)

British occultist, at one time the teacher of Aleister Crowley, whom he met when they were both members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. However, Bennett's inclination was primarily toward mysticism rather than the occult. He lived in London in great poverty, racked by illness, but made a profound impression on a small circle of perceptive friends for his dedication to Buddhist principles and ideals. Aleister Crowley claimed that he had once witnessed Bennett levitate while in a state of meditation.

Bennett was born in London on December 8, 1872. Orphaned at an early age, he was adopted by S. L. M. Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn. Bennett was educated at Hollesley College and at Bath, England, and took a special interest in scientific research. As a young man he earned a living in a chemical laboratory. Although originally brought up by his mother as a Roman Catholic, he was introduced to occultism through his foster father, who eventually initiated him into the Golden Dawn, in which he was known as Frater Iehi Aour ("Let there be light"). He displayed a great talent for occultism and also conducted a number of dangerous experiments upon himself with poisonous drugs, investigating the borderline between subconscious and supernormal aspects of the mind. Most of the time he lived simply in a small London apartment, where he first studied Sir Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia, one of the first translations of a Buddhist text readily available to the public. He became increasingly fascinated by Buddhism, and at the age of 28 decided to travel abroad to study Buddhism and to seek relief for his asthma.

He traveled to Ceylon in 1898 and studied Pali at Kamburugamuwa. In Colombo he became a pupil of the yogi Shri Parananda, who taught him Hatha Yoga asanas and pranayama as well as meditation techniques. Bennett went on to Burma, where he became a Buddhist monk in the monastery of Akyab, taking the name Bhikku Ananda Metteya ("bliss of loving kindness"). The name was appropriate since he was a particularly compassionate individual. He founded the Buddhasasana Samagama, or International Buddhist Society, in 1903. He initially served as its secretary general.

He still suffered considerably with poor health and his doctors recommended he travel to California where the air might be better for his lungs. He came back to England on the first stage of his journey, but the intervention of World War I prevented further financial assistance from the East, and he was obliged to stay in London. Here he was befriended by the playwright Clifford Bax and published the Buddhist Review, propagating the cause of Buddhism in England. He never got to California, spent his time in London in great poverty and ill health, and died March 9, 1923.


Bennett, Allan. The Wisdom of the Aryas. London, 1923.

Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. New York: Hill and Wang, 1969.

Oliver, Ian P. Buddhism in Britain. London: Rider, 1979.

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Bennett, (Charles Henry) Allan (1872-1923)

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