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Tibetan lamas and monks
Magic and Mystery in Tibet
20 January 2007


I just finished reading one remarkable book. "Magic and Mystery in Tibet" 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. I found the last two chapters especially interesting - "Mystic Theories and Spiritual Training" and "Psychic Phenomena in Tibet - How Tibetans Explain Them". The book contains many tidbits that confirm some of my own observations about the nature of reality. If you like reading about: eastern mystical training and theory, reality bending magicians, hermit life style, learned ascetics and the occult in general, then this book is for you. Available on Amazon


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