David-Neel, Alexandra (October 28, 1868—September 8, 1969) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

David-Neel, Alexandra (October 28, 1868—September 8, 1969)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

Alexandra David-Neel was an adventurer, mystic, Spiritualist, anarchist, metaphysical adept, and scholar, and the first European woman to explore the then-forbidden Tibetan holy city of Lhasa. She lived in Tibet for 14 years, living among the shamans of Tibet and Sikkim, another Himalayan kingdom, which was annexed by India in 1975.

She was instrumental in preserving Tibet’s spiritual legacy. After leaving Tibet in 1924, she traveled, returning to France in 1946. She authored over 30 books including Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1932), Initiations and Initiates in Tibet (1931), and Love Magic and Black Magic: Scenes from Unknown Tibet (1938).

Louise Eugenie Alexandrine Marie David was born in Paris and showed early interest in metaphysical study. By the age of 18, she had joined Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, which led to an interest in Himalayan traditions. She traveled through India in 1890/91 stopping only when she ran out of funds. She married Phillippe Neel on August 4, 1904. Her husband was tolerant of her travels.

She returned to India in 1911 where she became a Tantric adept and was soon given an invitation to travel to the remote kingdom of Sikkim, where she visited Buddhist shrines, studied with shamans and learned to speak Tibetan. She studied shamanic arts of telepathy and attempted to master “tumo” breathing, the Tibetan art of generating body heat in freezing conditions.

For two years, she lived in a cave in Sikkim near the Tibetan border, with the Tibetan monk Aphur Yongden, who became her life-long friend and companion. (She eventually adopted him.) They were eventually expelled from Sikkim for several times crossing the Tibetan border, which was then forbidden.

After leaving the Himalayas, she continued to be a global traveler, first going to East Asia where, in Mongolia, she managed to create a “tulpa”—a phantom generated by intense mental focus and constant repetition of specific ritual over a period of months. She created a fat, phantom monk who was visible to others and who traveled with her. However, he gradually began to transform into a thin, sinister being who resisted her control. It took David-Neel six months to dissolve the tulpa, who clung desperately to his existence.

On February 21, 1924 David-Neel and Yongden, having returned to the Himalayas, abandoned all they owned and disguised as beggars sneaked over the Tibetan border, where they lived quietly for several years. David-Neel died in France aged 100, having just recently renewed her passport.