Alexandra David Neel
- Category : Entertain-Music-Vocalist-Opera
- Type : GE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Small (42,60)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Wishes 2
French explorer, scholar, author and mystic, who became famous worldwide for her wanderings through central Asia. The first western woman to enter Lhasa, Tibet, she detailed her adventures in over 60 published works, including the triumphant "Voyage d'une Parisienne à Lhassa" ("My Journey to Lhasa") and "Women in Tibet," 1934. During her old age, Alexandra David- Néel, known to posterity as "Our Lady of Tibet," was considered one of the wisest "free thinkers" of the 20th century.
Born Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie David, she was the only daughter of a French father of Huguenot ancestry. Her mother was a Catholic of Scandinavian origin who dreamed of having a son who would become a bishop. At age five, unruly, rebellious and already dreaming of traveling faraway lands, she fled the austere and harsh atmosphere that pervaded her childhood home. In an attempt to tame her independent spirit, her parents finally placed her in a Calvinist convent, but when she was 15, she left the convent and headed for Great Britain. Her Bohemian spirit took her to Italy when she was 17, where she crossed Saint Gothard Pass on foot. Proud and fiercely individualistic, Alexandra followed her heart, on one journey after another. Daring by nature, and living her life with total freedom, she immersed herself in her twin passions of exploration and study.
Always full of energy and ideas that were well ahead of her time, she wrote a feminist text in which she drew up a list of women’s rights and demanded a salary for housewives. While temporarily settled in Paris, she found much inspiration in Hindu texts, and in 1891 she left the Sorbonne and set sail for Ceylon. In 1892, she joined the Theosophical Society, and formed a close allegiance with its leader, Annie Besant. David-Néel spent much of 1893 at the Theosophical Compound in Adyar, India.
By the age of 27, she began a career as a singer, under the stage name "Mademoiselle Myrial." With only minor appearances under her belt, she became the lead female singer with the Hanoi opera, and over the next two years, she was praised by critics for her performances in "Carmen," "La Traviata" and "Manon," among others. Still nomadic, she returned to France, but soon moved on to perform with the Athens opera, and then on to Tunis.
Her journey to India in the early 1900s marked a revival of her youth, and began a new phase in David-Néel’s life. She began her studies of the arcane teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, and received the extraordinary privilege of being heard by the 13th Dalai Lama. She was dubbed "Lady Lama," and as a disciple of a Tibetan grand master, she stayed in a Himalayan hermitage, leading the life of an anchorite. Throughout this period, she scorned all creature comforts, ignored weakness, was prepared to survive on a starvation diet, and was almost overcome by hostile yogis. She discovered the art of "tumo," a means of tolerating severe cold while increasing the body temperature. She was infuriated by the ban on entering Tibet’s capital, and after numerous failed attempts to enter the forbidden city, she achieved the impossible. Accompanied only by an Indian boy, and on foot, she traveled thousands of miles over the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas, and disguised as a beggar with a blackened face, she finally entered Lhasa in 1924.
She married Philippe Néel, a railroad engineer, in 1904, but shortly after they wed, she declared, "We married more from mischief than affection." Giving up the theatre, and with the backing of her new husband, she embarked on her well-documented trip to India, and for the next fourteen years, until 1924, she did not see her husband. On 5/10/1924, welcomed by the French as a national hero, her married life ended. She adopted Lama Amphur Yongden, the Indian boy from the state of Sikkam who accompanied her on her journey to Lhasa.
In her 80s, she retired to her home in Digne. She never gave up hope of traveling again, however, and at age 100, she still renewed her passport regularly. David- Néel, a woman who once responded to a question by saying, "Goodness, miracles! I can perform them, you see…," died on 9/08/1969 in Digne, France, at over 100 years old.