Alexandra David-Neel

Masonic Biographies

Alexandra David-Neel

Born: Friday, 23 October 1868
Died: Monday, 08 September 1969

Alexandra David-Neel was a pioneering explorer, Buddhist and Freemason at the turn of the twentieth century who was the first to see the secret city of Lhasa.

Throughout the course of its history, Co-Masonry has attracted and produced many great people, some known to popular history and some completely unknown. Alexandra David-Neel is a unique individual in that she stands between these two worlds, famous for her world travels, writings and accomplishments while her involvement in Freemasonry, one of her great passions, is almost completely forgotten.

Born in France in 1868 to a Freemason by the name of Louis David, Alexandra was a unique child for her day. By the age of 15 she was engaged in ascetic practices usually reserved for medieval monasteries and was mentored in the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity by her father. By 18 had travelled throughout Europe and had joined both the Theosophical Society and the Mixed Rite of Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry, the French precursor to Universal Co-Masonry.

Because of her involvement in the theosophical society, Alexandra became fascinated by the history and teachings of Eastern culture and quickly acquired knowledge of Sanskrit and Tibetan. She used this knowledge to launch several solo expeditions to India, unheard of for a woman of that time. It was at this time that she became a devout Buddhist and became fixated on penetrating the land of Tibet, which was at that time completely sealed off from foreigners.

This land of mystery and intrigue drew her fascination and she was determined to pierce the veil of its mysteries. In 1924, disguised as a transient monk, David-Neel entered the forbidden city of Lhasa, one of Buddhism’s most holy sites and a city completed sealed off to outsiders. In doing so she became the first Western woman to see Lhasa in all recorded history.

David Neel would spend the rest of her life traveling extensively through Tibet, India and China, furthering her studies and publishing over 30 books on religious and esoteric subjects. In this way she became an immensely strong influence on the Beat culture that was emerging at the time of her death with many famous authors citing her work as inspiration. In 1969, after just over a century of life, Alexandra passed on to the Grand Lodge Eternal, leaving a rich and resounding legacy behind her.

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