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Magic and Mystery in Tibet

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  923 ratings  ·  65 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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Average rating 4.11  · 
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Irene
Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a trip. It reads more like a manual than a memoir. Very technical regarding exactly how to perform certain mystical workings or magick spells.
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 me
...more
Happydog
Jun 25, 2008 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
Diana
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Magic & Mystery in Tibet [1929] by Alexandra David-Neel – ★★★★★

“Gods, demons, the whole universe, are but a mirage which exists in the mind, “springs from it, and sinks into it“” (Tibetan declaration, David-Neel, 1929/1965: 232).

Alexandra David-Neel was a remarkable Belgian-French explorer who became the first European woman to set foot in Lhasa when it was a strictly “forbidden” territory of Tibet or the Land of Snow. Magic & Mystery in Tibet is her account of the spiritual and occult practic
...more
Anton Channing
Sep 10, 2012 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
Delia
Nov 16, 2012 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
Craig Bergland
While I am sure this was quite informative in its day, now it is dated and in places just plain factually wrong. I suppose as a piece of relative antiquity it might hold interest for some.
Emily
Jan 15, 2008 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. ...more
Adam
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Part travelogue, part spiritual diary, part voyeuristic seeking after foreign psychic pheonemena... The strange tale of a white woman living 14 years in Tibet starting in 1924.
Marsha Altman
Jul 05, 2010 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
Vanessa G.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Fascinating account of Tibet with its manifold Buddhist and spiritual practices. David-Neel visited it in the early 19th century, when much of the country's old culture and traditions were still intact and in practice. This book seems to be a classic of Tibet studies - to be honest, I expected more tales about her travels and personal experiences, but her descriptions of the workings of monasteries, lamaist practices and mental exercises, phenomena concerning gods and demons proved to be just as ...more
George Ilsley
Jan 16, 2013 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 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.......
Mike S
Oct 14, 2008 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.
Julie
Jul 11, 2011 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.
Ruta Sevo
Sep 17, 2012 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.
Hayden Chance
Oct 30, 2012 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. ...more
Sophie
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Certainly the biggest woman traveller of the last century!
Tocotin
Aug 17, 2010 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. ...more
Stephanie Curran
Aug 28, 2012 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.
Rena Graham
Jan 21, 2013 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 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.
Alana Cash
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
I became disinterested in this book about midway and skimmed through the last half. It reads like a diary - I did this, I went there, I met this person, I camped here and all that mainly devoid of description or depth. The author says she spent a winter in a wooden cabin in the snowy mountains outside a monastery, then went off somewhere else.. How did she deal with the cold? What did she do there? She could have written an entire book about that, but instead just shallow incidental description ...more
Ethan
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Magic and Mystery in Tibet provides an excellent summary of Tibetan practices, beliefs, and culture in the beginning of the 20th century. If anyone has a suggestion for a more modern book detailing similar information, I'd love to hear it.

Alexandra David-Néel is a French linguist and Buddhist who has spent significant time traveling in and around Tibet.

The book is split up into eight chapters: Tibet and the Lamas, A Guest of the Lamas, A Famous Tibetan Monastery, Dealing with Ghosts and Demons,
...more
Katja Vartiainen
This woman was amazing! It's hasn't been long that I discovered her- actually from reading Alan Watts's collected letters, her name came up. Watts called this book title accurately 'à la Madame Blavatsky', but the book itself is an interesting, historical account of Alexander Davids-Néel's experiences in Tibet and around its borders with mystics, renunciates, and lamas, and the mystic/psychic phenomena she has come across.

She clearly states what is her own experience, what is hearsay, and what
...more
Price
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alexandra David-Neel shares with us her journey through Tibet as she seeks to study the various teachings of Buddhism. She seeks out teachers representing various teachings and practices which fall under the umbrella this religious practice. The individuals she meets present a wide range of teachings, mysticism, and magic.
It is a laborious journey. I am reminded of another inveterate traveler, Freya Stark, who explored the Islamic lands often with no protection other than a guide.
Both individua
...more
Ralph
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read from the Tibetan perspective

I have always read in school and from authors like Deepak Chopra that Buddhism, and in particular Sidartha, was born and raised in India. A friend of mine with Tibetan heritage here in Nuuanu, Hawaii insists fervently and dismissively that Sidartha and Buddhism are certainly Tibetan. This first person account from a Parisian Buddhist who spent 14 years trekking around and learning from Tibetan Buddha’s, Lamas, Sorcerers, Magicians and the like is very well
...more
Lorraine McCleary
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wow, one weird book. This French/Belgian woman and her "adopted" Tibetan son wonder thru not only Tibet, but China, Korea and Japan in the 20's in her exploration of Buddism. I thot this would be a travel log, but it really is a look at Tibetian Buddism and all its odd manifestations; physic manifestions of people and spirits, the process of moving into death, body reanimation, people who learn to breath until they become light as air and can travel great distances in a trance,... just really st ...more
Jennifer
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Originally published in 1932, this is a fascinating account of the mystical life in Tibet before Chinese occupation. The author recounts her experiences, many so strange and unimaginable as to be difficult to believe. She clearly has a great love for the Tibetan people and culture and a solid grounding in Buddhism to allow her access to experiences that few other westerners may ever have had. A sad book as it emphasizes ow much we have lost in the years since.
Thady
Feb 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adventures of an interesting traveler and Buddhist in the early 1900's - going where no European woman had been before and approaching all with an open mind. We hear of magical occurrences but Alexandra David-Neel distinguishes between those she experienced and those she was told about - raising questions but suggesting something lies behind it all. Her discussions of Buddhism are on the mark indicating she certainly knew what she was talking about and being told. A great adventure ...more
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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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