Bennett received the name Bikkhu Ananda Metteyya at his ordination as a Buddhist monk and spent years studying and practicing Buddhism in the East. He was the first Englishman to be ordained as a Buddhist monk (Bhikkhu) of the Theravada tradition and was instrumental in introducing Buddhism in England. He established the first Buddhist Mission in the United Kingdom.
Bennett was, along with George Cecil Jones, Crowley’s primary teacher during his days in the Golden Dawn. Bennett was educated at Hollesly College, and scraped by as an analytical chemist. Bennett was initiated into the G.D. in 1894, taking the motto Iehi Aour, “let there be light.” He was always very poor and tormented by illness, but still made a strong impression on other occultists of the time. He was one of the more brilliant minds in the order, and favored mysticism and white magic; he was almost wholly concerned with enlightenment rather than siddhis (magical powers). Bennett had high regard for Mathers, and with him began working on a book of correspondences that Crowley would later expand upon as Liber 777.
Soon after meeting, Crowley invited Bennett to come stay with him, as Bennett was living in a dilapidated shared apartment. Bennett trained Crowley in the basics of magick and tried to instill a devotion to white magick. Bennett was very ascetic and sexually chaste, a marked contrast to Crowley’s libertine attitude. Crowley once remarked concerning Bennett’s powers: Bennett had constructed a magical wand out of glass, which he carried with him. As it so happened, Crowley and Bennett were walking along one day and came across a group of theosophists who were ridiculing the use of wands. “Allan promptly produced his and blasted one of them. It took fourteen hours to restore the incredulous individual to the use of his mind and his muscles."
In 1900, at the age of 28, Bennett traveled to Asia to relieve his asthma, and to dedicate himself to Buddhism. First he traveled to Ceylon where he studied Hatha Yoga under the yogi Shri Parananda. In 1902 Crowley came to visit him there, and was instructed in Hatha Yoga. During this time both men agreed as to the truth of Buddhism. Later, in Burma, Bennett took the vows of a Buddhist monk, under the name Bhikku Ananda Metteya, “bliss of loving kindness.” In 1903 he founded the World Buddhist Society. He later began a periodical called The Buddhist Review.
Back in England in 1908, Bennett attempted to spread the study of Buddhism on his native soil. He published “The Training of the Mind” in The Equinox. Crowley tried to rekindle the friendship that the two had known, but to no avail. By this time Crowley had rejected Buddhism and embraced Thelema; Bennett had done the exact opposite. He remarked, “No Buddhist would consider it worth while to pass from the crystalline clearness of his own religion to this involved obscurity” (Sutin 193). It is hard to say what really caused the break between them. Perhaps their visions of the divine really had grown too far apart. It would not be the only dear friend that Crowley would lose.
Some sources say that Bennett intended to travel on to California due to health reasons. But with the outbreak of World War I he found himself stranded, and forced to live in poverty and illness. He died on his native English soil at the age of 51. He wrote two books during his life: The Wisdom of the Aryes and The Religion of Burma.
- Fernando, Tilak S. World Buddhist Foundation in London Celebrates the United Kingdom Buddhist Day (http://www.egnu.org/saints/bennett/).
- Wikipedia. (2006). Charles Henry Allan Bennett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Henry_Allan_Bennett). Retrieved April 16, 2006.