John Godolphin Bennett (1897-1974)
J.G. Bennett was born in London on June 8th, 1897.
Bennett attended King’s College, Wimbledon and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. in 1916 he was offered scholarships to Merton College, Oxford, but was posted to France in the Signals Army Corps. During the conflicts, Bennett was wounded and experienced an ‘out of body’ state – which he later described to Gurdjieff.
After recuperating in Scotland, Bennett learns Turkish at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and is recruited by British Military Intelligence. Subsequently he is posted to Istanbul, Turkey (1919). Here he first meets P.D. Ouspensky and G.I. Gurdjieff.
In 1921 Bennett returns to London and has meetings with Ouspensky – it is not until 1923 that Bennett attends Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, at the Prieuré, Avon (near Paris). Bennett spends five weeks at the Prieuré, where he works intensively with Gurdjieff. Although he is advised to stay on, Bennett decides he must ‘earn a living’ and return later. However, further contact with the Work is not made until 1930, when attends Ouspensky’s groups in Colet Gardens, Kensington. Following this, Bennett begins to meet with his own students, causing a rift between himself and Ouspensky.
In 1946 Bennett founds the Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and Sciences, and acquires ownership of Coombe Springs estate (where he has been working with students since 1940) , Kingston-upon-Thames. He publishes “The Crisis in Human Affairs” about the System of the Fourth Way.
Bennett meets Gurdjieff again in Paris in 1948 after an interval of 25 years. He works intensively with Gurdjieff until G’s death on October 29, 1949.
By 1952, Bennett’s Institute at Coombe Springs now has 500 members, of which 50 are permanent residents. The following year Bennett decides to travel extensively (Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Iraq), and spends four months as a Dervish.
Later, in 1956, Bennett begins work on a special construction called the ‘Djamichunatra’ – a meeting hall at Coombe Springs. The Institute begins to publish a journal in 1962 (‘Systematics’) containing research papers relating to Fourth Way subjects.
Following meetings with Idries Shah, (whom he first met in 1963), Bennett decides to donate Coombe Springs estate to Shah. Shah later sells the estate to a housing developer.
In 1970, Bennett conceives of the idea of a Fourth Way School, and in 1971 opens the first course at the international Academy for Continuous Education at Sherborne House, Gloucestershire. 90 students attend the first of five one-year Basic Courses.
In the final year of his life (1974), Bennett concludes the purchase of Claymont Court, West Virginia, USA for use as a community and Fourth Way school.