I think most people might know that Allan Bennett was an important mentor to Aleister Crowley, and thus an influence on Thelema. But what I don’t think a lot of people realize that that they had a falling out
Consider this exercise: try reading Allan Bennett’s essays The Faith of the Future
, (Sep. 1903), Buddhism
, Vol 1 No 1, and The Law of Righteousness
, (Mar. 1904), Buddhism
, Vol 1 No 3; but where Bennett says anything like “Buddhism” read it as “Thelema”. I think you’ll find the language strikingly like what one reads from Crowley in the years following the Equinox of the Gods.
So, after a trip to the East and a falling out with Bennett, Crowley returned to runaway with Rose to Egypt. The timing for me is interesting and I cannot help but see that the development of Thelema was, at least in part, not just influenced by Bennett’s mentorship over the years, but also a reaction to their recent fallout. Consider that as you read those contemporaneous but prior essays by Bennett and think about how they are similar and different from what Crowley would eventually write about Thelema.
Crowley was struggling to find a faith that fit his needs, for various values of “need”, and he found(ed) it. But, it didn’t come from nowhere, and it would be a mistake to be so quick to think it was entirely as novel or ab nihilo as some seem to think. There’s a lot more that could be said about that, but not now.
As an aside, at that time, you might not know, and it was a bit of a surprise to me when I learned it, both because it made a connection for me to Crowley’s visiting but also because I wouldn’t have thought Cairo as ever being any kind of Weimar Berlin, but turns out that Cairo was a hot spot destination for gay men
in the early 20th century to escape from the crushing social and legal pressures and consequences of just being themselves elsewhere. That’s got to be a possible topic for another time as well, though a bit outside the library’s subject matter, but, importantly for me it’s something that I now wonder about but cannot really prove as to why Crowley went there then.
At any rate, my point is that Bennett is often forgotten, but, in addition to being an important figure in the exposure of the West to Buddhism, I believe should be more fully thought of as an influence on Crowley and on the reaction by Crowley that led to the development of Thelema.
Also, check out the other work by Bennett in his section at the library. Many of those were things that had not appeared transcribed online anywhere else before I added them. There’s still a lot to add too!