Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Michael Lee Johnson writes

Alexandra David-Neel

She edits her life from a room made dark

against a desert dropping summer sun.

A daring traveling Parisian adventurer

ultimate princess turning toad with age -

snow drops of white in her hair, tiny fingers

thumb joints osteoarthritis

corrects proofs at 100, pours whiskey,

pores over what she wrote

scribbles notes directed to the future,

applies for a new passport.

With this mount of macular degeneration,

near, monster of writers' approach.

She wears no spectacles.

Her mind teeters between Himalayas,

distant Gobi Desert, but subjectively warm.

Running reason through her head for living,

yet dancing with the youthful word of Cinderella,

she plunges deeper near death into Tibetan mysticism,

trekking across snow covered mountains to Lhasa, Tibet.

Nighttime rest, sleepy face, peeking out that window crack

into the nest, those quiet villages below

tasting that reality beyond all her years'

vastness of dreams.
 "La vérité apprise d’autrui est sans valeur. Seule compte, seule est efficace la vérité que nous découvrons nous-mêmes." - Alexandra David-Neel -


  1. Alexandra David-Néel was still Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie David until 1904 when she was 36, when she married her cousin Philippe Neél de Saint-Sauveur (though they had been lovers since 1900). In 1911 she returned to India for her 3rd trip there, promising to return in 19 months. They rejoined for a few days 14 years later, though they continued to correspond extensively until his death in 1941. By the time she was 18 she had already travelled alone from Belgique to England, Switzerland, and Spain and was studying theosophy. In 1889 she converted to Buddhism, and from 1895-1902 she sang opera in Hanoi and Tunis, living and writing with pianist Jean Haustont. In 1898 she had written an anarchist treatise with a preface by Élisée Reclus, whom she had known since her childhood through his association with her father, and was writing for the feminist journal “La Fronde.” In India in 1911 she became an advisor to the crown prince of the Himalayan country of Sikkim (which became part of India in 1975) and retired to a cave in Lachen to practice Tibetan Buddhism. In 1916 she went to Tibet despite the British ban on foreigners entering the country; when she returned to Sikkim the British colonial government expelled her. She traveled to Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia (via the Gobi desert) , and back to Tibet, where she translated the “Prajñāpāramitā,” one of the earliest sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. Then in 1924, disguised as a beggar, she entered Llasa, which was forbidden to foreigners. Returning to France, she became an instant celebrity due to her exotic travels. She published “Mystiques et Magiciens du Tibet” (Magic and Mystery in Tibet) in 1929 and turned her Provençal home, Samten-Dzong ("fortress of meditation") intoFrance’s 1st hermitage and Lamaist shrine in 1932. At 69 she returned to China to study Taoism but was caught up in the war against Japan; after a year and ½ she returned to Tibet for the next 5 years. In 1946 she returned to France and resumed her career as an author, publishing “Textes tibétains inédits,” a collection of materials that included the erotic poetry written by the 6th Dalai lama in the 18th century. She survived until 1969, just a few weeks short of her 101st birthday.

  2. Just wonderful combining my poem which has been updated slightly with your history of Alexandra David-Néel. Also researched this amazing lady before writing the poem.


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