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.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Bennett, (Charles Henry) Allan
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,
Oliver, Ian P. Buddhism in Britain. London Rider, 1979.