Monday, January 26, 2015

Classic #2

I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015.

Magic and Mystery in Tibet - Alexandra David-Neel

The French journalist wrote travel books about Africa, India, and Japan, but her best-known works were about Sikkim and Tibet. Educated at the Sorbonne in Eastern languages, she became a Buddhist and a lama in fact, and thus uniquely qualified to provide a traveler's impressions of the Lamas and their mystic theories.

Since its release in 1931, this book has been in print and a favorite of the popular public interested in anecdotes about experiences and seeking with the "Short Path" or yogic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. People find interesting her observations on the mystic practitioners' techniques and efficacy in controlling "little-known laws and forces." To her credit, David-Neel in fact lived for several years various regions in and near Tibet. She gives her picture of monastery and hermitage life.

She goes deeper into the mysticism and philosophy of complex systems of thought. She also describes mystic banquet rites in cemeteries, psychic play, occult and supernatural beliefs, and also the spiritual training of the Tibetan religious disciples. She argues that scientists should systematically investigate the psychic phenomena of Tibet, such as sending curses or remote viewing.

Readers with an interest in early linguistics, ethnography, and comparative religion may find this interesting but the material on occult and magic may be hard going for skeptics.

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