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Magic and Mystery in Tibet Paperback – June 1, 1971

4.6 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Illustrated edition (June 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486226824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486226828
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Intelligent, witty and insightful. Alexandra David-Neel was, to put it bluntly, "one hell of a woman." Her frank and colourful descriptions of Tibet make one yearn for the past. For example, the Lama with a plat of hair down to his feet, who wears golden earings and is dressed like some Chinese geni. I found her cutting and frank humour delightful, her scheptical comments forthright even when faced with inexplicable incidents that unfurl before her eyes. Considering that this book was first published in 1932, the lady was well before her time. New agers will have a challange catching up with her insights, let alone her knowledge of Buddist spirituality. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed this book for many years. It gives a colorful description of the more unusual aspects of Tibetan and Bon religious practice. One chapter, for example, interestingly called "Psychic Sports", describes the lung-gom-pas runners who run incredible distances while in a trance, warming oneself in the snow through psychic heat, telepathy, etc. The author was a hardy traveler and a practicing Buddhist -- and a no-nonsense observer of the world around her -- so her observations ring true. Since this book was written early in the century, it is refreshingly free of the political controversies that surround modern Tibet; instead, it describes an earlier, purer Tibetan culture, long before the Chinese tried to destroy it. I would have liked to meet this author -- she must have been a fascinating woman!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This must be a classic book on Tibetan religion and mysticism. It is based on observations from some truly remarkable journeys in Tibet; I only wonder why the author restricts herself when relating what she has seen and heard. Part of the reason may be that she is a sceptical Western-style Buddhist and does not want to be judged as "airy-fairy" by her audience. Nevertheless, she tells of some absolutely fantastic occurences which are rendered even more authentic by her dry, understated style. A fearless person, she handles situations that would have scared most of us out of our wits! But for fear of ridicule, she could no doubt have written a much longer text on this subject.
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Format: Paperback
One remarkable book. The "Magic and Mystery in Tibet" was written by Alexandra David-Neel - a French woman explorer, spiritualist and Buddhist. The book tells a fascinating story about the author's travels in Tibet in search of the mystical aspects of Buddhism and the occult. She lived for many years in Tibet and the surrounding countries during the early-to-mid 20th century, practicing much of what she learned. In 1912, she was the first European woman who met the thirteenth Dalai Lama. She wrote many books about her travels. This one concentrates on the occult practices of mystics, and the supernatural events she witnessed during her long journey. Here are two excerpts:

"I shall cite a question, current in Tibet, which mystic hermits, as well as philosophers living in monasteries, put to their pupils: A flag moves, What is that which moves? Is it the flag or the wind?
The answer is that neither the flag nor the wind moves. It is the mind that moves."

"I may add that average Tibetans are much less eager than we are to investigate psychic phenomena. They take them as certainly uncommon, but not altogether extraordinary occurrences. They have not enough fixed ideas about the laws of Nature of what is possible and impossible to be disturbed by such phenomena. Educated or ignorant, all implicitly admit that everything is possible to him who knows the way of doing it and consequently supernormal feats do not, as a rule, awaken any special emotion beyond admiration for the competent wonder worker."

The author seems to be a skeptic with a life long fascination with the occult. A difficult combination. Despite the author's frequent use of long sentences, I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on re-reading it in the future.
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Format: Paperback
While many books about Buddhism and other historically eastern religions focus on high theology, the book describes Tibetan Buddhism as it was practiced in the early 20th century. It is fascinating.

I first read this book in college and have just read it again after many years. It was better the second time around.

The first time, I was entranced by the accounts of exotic magic and mystery. This time I searched for themes and Ms. David-Neel's viewpoint. Dealing with death is the primary theme underlying at least the popular practice of this religion. As for Ms. David-Neel, I was interested in her viewpoint and experience as a Buddhist who did not find the Tibetan version to be her paricular brand. Because of her distance from this version of Buddhism, her accounts of events that she saw or experienced personally are particularly interesting.
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Format: Paperback
I have just stumble on to the writings of Ms Neel. First, this book provides a view into the old traditions in Tibet that are not buddhist in nature but rather part of the old culture of Tibet. It provides a perspective on the old traditions versus the true practice of buddhism. The author takes a very knowledgeable approach to the pactice of magic and devination which is sometimes confused with the main line practice of buddhism. The author also explains in great detail some of the main practices of buddhism and includes a detail 3 fold explanation of "om mani padme hum". I was amazed that someone who was a very nice looking women who also perfomed opera and had many other accomplishments would put all that aside during the time period and travel to Tibet and learn all the languages in order to develop the insight that is present in her works. This book provides an excellent backdrop for the study and practice of buddhism.

Also, the practice in the monasteries in Tibet is illuminated. The point of the Theocracy vs true buddhism is brought out with the exposure of the sham and material based approach of those who are in the business of Buddhism versus those who are in practice of the middle way. The presentation is suttle but none the less obvious. Those following the middle way should read this book in order not to get caught in the web of Theocracy.
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