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Magic and Mystery in Tibet

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  573 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
For centuries Tibet has been known as the last home of mystery, the hidden, sealed land, where ancient mysteries still survive that have perished in the rest of the Orient. Many men have written about Tibet and its secret lore, but few have actually penetrated it to learn its ancient wisdom. Among those few was Madame Alexandra David-Neel, a French orientalist. A practicin ...more
Paperback, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published June 1971 by Dover Publications (first published 1929)
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Happydog
Jun 25, 2008 Happydog rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Buddhists, magical practitioners
Recommended to Happydog by: Self
Absorbing view of Tibetan Buddhism as it was practiced in the very early 20th century. Although David-Neel is a product of her time, and this book is definitely not objective, what she was writing about is almost opposite to the cerebral image that Buddhism projects now.

This particular translation from the French is rather old-fashioned and sometimes difficult to read, which is complicated by David-Neel's bad case of cultural superiority. It is quite evident that she perceives the Tibetans as l
...more
Owlseyes




She had the drive.

Alex studied Buddhism at the Sorbonne.

(...)
Then she headed towards Lassa, Tibet. She had great questions to answer to; she was, indeed, a great questioner; she gave also great answers while living. Yet, there are some instances of her thought I still don’t understand.



She spent 14 years in Tibet (in fact, the 1st western woman to do so) and had a great work of translating, from the Sanskrit, the original texts.

A soprano voice, Alex marveled men, and scholars. She met with
...more
Delia O' Riordan
Nov 16, 2012 Delia O' Riordan rated it really liked it
I was utterly enthralled by this book when I read it a few years after David-Neel's death. I haven't re-read it in the intervening decades so my impressions are those of a much younger me. What I can say with confidence is that David-Neel must have been incredibly strong both physically and mentally to undertake her historic journey and incredibly courageous in the face of danger from many quarters from natural to man-made. I had no knowledge of the ancient Bon tradition prior to reading Magic a ...more
Anton Channing
Sep 10, 2012 Anton Channing rated it really liked it
Shelves: evocation
I came across this book as part of my research into the concept of a 'tulpa' from Tibetan mysticism, this being a kind of thought-form so intensely visualised by the sorcerer that both the sorcerer and others experience the thought-form as solid, possibly even mistaking it for a real person. David-Neel was apparently the first European author to write of the concept after spending many years in Tibet during a time when it was supposedly closed to Europeans, ignoring several instructions for her ...more
Marsha Altman
Jul 05, 2010 Marsha Altman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tibet
This is Alexandra David-Neel's account of various mystical traditions she encountered while traveling in Tibet during the reign of the 13th Dalai Lama. While her other books focus on how she came to be on these long journeys and how she disguised herself to get into Lhasa, this one focuses on magicians, mystics, and lamaist traditions she discovered during her research. She tries to maintain a healthy air of skepticism concerning the stories she is told, but eventually is drawn in by a few diffe ...more
George Ilsley
Jan 16, 2013 George Ilsley rated it liked it
Read this one years ago. Not sure how much of it is actually true. Some of it might be, but my BS detector is pretty active when reading this author.

The writing is a strange mixture of learning and bombast. The author seems to have missed any buddhist teachings on ego. For example (and this happens over and over), she will meet some high lama, and after he questions her a bit, she will assert that he then completely accepts that she is highly learned. Everyone is dazzled by me! I am so perfectly
...more
Pierre Mercier
Aug 25, 2013 Pierre Mercier rated it liked it
It is great in the sense that she gives a insight into the roots of Buddhism in Tibet which are strongly tied to Hindu Tantric practices and Shamanistic beliefs from Tibetan tribes which exists way back before the existence of Tibet. A funny quote is that the love of fermented beer or chang by Tibetans is linked to their Supreme Guru, Padmasambhava ( the supreme magician sorcerer)whose true historical verifyable details of his life or lives.... are hard to check and abound in epic legends.......
Bennet
Mar 06, 2011 Bennet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: explores

What an explore! She not only made an early 20th century and incredibly perilous trek from Europe to Tibet, she lived there for fourteen years, wrote and fluently spoke all Tibetan dialects, professed Buddhism, adopted an ordained lama, and delved deeply into mysticism, all while remaining "a disciple of Descartes and of Claude Bernard, practicing the philosophic skepticism of the former, which according to the latter should be the constant ally of the scientific observer." What a woman!


Mike S
Oct 14, 2008 Mike S rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the mystical side of Tibet
Shelves: metaphysics
The author lived in or near Tibet for over a decade, walked across the country several times, spoke with everyone and anyone about all sorts of mystical topics, and meditated enough to have her own experiences as well as earning respect and having a reputation as someone worthwhile to talk with. This is a must read for anyone interested in the mystical side of Tibet.
Ruta Sevo
Sep 17, 2012 Ruta Sevo rated it it was amazing
You might need an academic interest to read this story of the strangest beliefs and practices revealed by a Victorian woman who became a Tibetan Buddhist nun and learned the Tibetan language to do it. She wrote thirty books in her lifetime. An amazing, unreal bio.
Julie
Jul 11, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it
Just finished this book. I love travel books and this certainly qualifies. No one today going to Tibet could have such experiences and in this book, she shares some of her more amazing encounters and experiences.
Hayden Chance
Oct 30, 2012 Hayden Chance rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at the real Tibet and the influence the ancient Bon had and still still have on that area. Neel penetrated the country and learned secrets that very few outsiders were privileged to see and she did it at time when women were not "allowed" to do such things.
Emily
Jan 15, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite kind of non-fiction - a perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. It's fascinating, obscure, a little whacky and off-beat. I love books like this.
Tocotin
Aug 17, 2010 Tocotin rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tocotin by: my SO
One of the scariest non-fiction books I've ever read. I have an immense respect for the author for her tenacity, knowledge, curiosity, power of mind and humanity.
Rena Graham
Jan 21, 2013 Rena Graham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
Wonderful read by the first Western woman to not only visit Tibet but become a lama of the highest order. A very truthful and revealing telling of her time there.
Danica
Oct 23, 2013 Danica rated it really liked it

Some truly unbelievable stories about mystics in Tibet and tibetan version of budhism. I already miss reading this book. Need to find more by her.
Sophie
Feb 14, 2008 Sophie rated it it was amazing
Certainly the biggest woman traveller of the last century!
Stephanie Curran
Aug 28, 2012 Stephanie Curran rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism
This is a great book which I nearly finished but have had to move on to other things.
Desmatron
un pò fiacco verso la metà, riprende ritmo nelle ultime pagine
Susanne
Aug 14, 2012 Susanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing!
Svetla Angelova
Oct 24, 2012 Svetla Angelova rated it it was amazing
Александра Давид-Неел, с рождено име Луиз-Йожени-Александрин-Мари Давид, е френска пътешественичка, теософка и анархистка.

Пребивава в Африка, Индия, Сиким, Япония и Тибет. Автор на редица пътеписи от тези места. На 21 год. посещава лекциите в Сорбоната по източните езици, както и сбирките на Теософското общество. В Париж членува във феминистки, масонски и анархистически общности. От ранните си години се интересува от необичайни и увлекателни четива като приключенските романи на Жул Верн и слуша
...more
Mathews
Dec 11, 2016 Mathews rated it did not like it
One of the most boring books ever read. This is more of a travel account and if you are expecting something regarding Tibetan philosophy you are going to be disappointed
Willam Amos
Aug 11, 2015 Willam Amos rated it it was amazing
I am a great admirer of Alexandra David - Neel. Equally at home in the West and the East, she is practical, no - nonsense, and clear-headed. Yet she never dismisses the wonders of Tibetan mysticism out of hand, as many Europeans of her time did. He descriptions of Tibetan rituals are colorful and well informed. I love browsing this book. There's always something there to inform and delight the imagination.
kate
Sep 22, 2016 kate rated it really liked it
This Victorian lady with ties to Theosophy and Buddhism went to Tibet and tramped around meeting lamas and ngagspas (magicians) and Tibetan yogis, and wrote about her experiences. This book was both fascinating and illuminating, and also removed some of the veil of mystique around Tibetan Buddhism. Highly recommend to anyone with interest in yoga, Victorian colonialism, and the religious culture of the region. My favorite part of this book was the chapter "Dealing with Ghosts and Demons".
Sarah
Dec 19, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Great companion piece to 'Journey to Lhasa'. This book really gives you insight into the Tibetan beliefs & practice of their yogis. It helped to understand why the Tibetans revere the cave retreat. So much of David-Neel's observation rings true today which I find astonishing. A testament that it conveys a certain timelessness of the Tibetan culture.
Bruno Čargo
Nov 28, 2013 Bruno Čargo rated it really liked it
This book was really really interesting. I enjoyed reading it. I expected that she goes trough explanations of practical magic shown by Tibet but she actually tells stories most of the times witch are so impressive. It was a really goodread, but it talks a lot about demos, dying, and it mentions more of that dark part then the bright and loving one, that only what confused me a little bit.
Sandy Andrews
May 20, 2014 Sandy Andrews rated it did not like it
I found this book quite tedious. It seemed really factual, with little real feeling or emotion. I thought I'd find out more about the Tibetan people but it was a lot about how she tramped through the forest etc. and not much else, it seemed. It has been a couple of years since I finished the book, but this is my lasting impression.
Chris Lemig
Jan 08, 2008 Chris Lemig rated it it was ok
To be honest, I couldn't get through this one. I gave it one hell of a try though. The subject matter was facinating but I just couldn't get past the style: very dry, dense prose. Maybe some other time...
jma
Oct 09, 2012 jma rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to jma by: personal research
Shelves: history
A must read for many reasons: Alexandra David-Neel was the first woman to travel in Tibet (disguised as a monk) during the later half of the 1930's, she was a practicing buddhist, made extensive studies and reported on Tibetan buddhism & mysticism, and wrote numerous books and articles.
Joshua Chavanne
Aug 17, 2016 Joshua Chavanne rated it it was amazing
Not sure how much of the stuff about people shouting a mantra and blood shooting out of the top of their heads is 'true' but an impressive book by a really impressive lady. Highly recommended.
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Alexandra David-Néel (October 24, 1868 - September 8, 1969) was a French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is most known for her visit to the forbidden (to foreigners) city of Lhasa, capital of Tibet (1924). She was born in Paris, France and died in Digne, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. She wrote more than 30 books, about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. Her well- ...more
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“all laws whatsoever. Nevertheless there exists no rigid division between these two categories. Though their respective theories are always a favourite subject of controversy between the followers of the two schools, it seldom happens that one stands in the position of a harsh, pugnacious adversary towards those in the opposite camp. Even the monks attached to morality acknowledge that a virtuous life and the monastic discipline, though of great value and advisable for the many, are but a mere preparation to a higher” 0 likes
“The secret of the psychic training, as Tibetans conceive it, consists in developing a power of concentration of mind greatly surpassing even that of men who are, by nature, the most gifted in this respect. Mystic” 0 likes
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