The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Néel

With Michael Foster

Joint meeting with the San Francisco Chapter of the Society of Women Geographers

Time and place

Date: Friday, February 25th, 2000
Place: Golden Gate Club, San Francisco
Time: 6:30 PM cocktails, 7:30 PM dinner, 8:30 PM lecture
Cost: $45 ($50 if received after February 16th, 2000)

Golden Gate Club at the Presidio

cover of Fosters' book
"Neglecting small things because one wishes to do great things is the excuse of the faint-hearted." - Alexandra David-Néel

Michael Foster will speak at our February meeting about Alexandra David-Néel. She was a prolific author, inveterate explorer and traveler, pioneer feminist, and authority on Tibetan Buddhism, and Lawrence Durrell called her "the most astonishing woman of our time." She was the first European to penetrate Tibet on the level of its learned hermits, nomads, and brigands, and the first foreign woman to enter its forbidden capital. She made her famous journey to Lhasa over the Himalayas in midwinter, disguised as a beggar, ignoring hunger, cold, bandits, and the threats of British imperial officials. Few have led a life of adventure equal to hers, or made so much of it.

Barbara and Michael Foster published their book, The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Néel: A Biograpy of the Explorer of Tibet and Its Forbidden Practices, in 1998.The authors reveal rare information about the mystical practices of Himalayan shamans, many of which were mastered by David-Néel -- including out-of-body travel, mental telepathy, and the self generation of heat.

The book is a vividly detailed chronicle of a heroic woman's quest to conquer her personal demons and of the journey that made her a celebrated figure. As National Geographic wrote, "She defied East and West in her quest to explore a forbidden land."

"Alexandra David-Néel was an enthusiastic Buddhist and the first to introduce the real Tibet to the West." --H.H. The Dalai Lama.

"Blakean imagery in Alexandra David-Néel's Magic and Mystery in Tibet magnetized me toward Buddhist meditation half a lifetime ago. Now her own vast sacred life record is happily accessible to her lineage descendants." "Allen Ginsberg

Michael Foster, novelist, biographer, and historian, was born in Brooklyn but claims he got his talent for telling stories from his Russian blacksmith grandfather. A graduate of Cornell in philosophy, he received an MFA from the Writer's Workshop, Iowa. He also did extensive graduate studies at NYU in the history of science. Freedom's Thunder, his first novel, was praised by Isaac B. Singer. While writing The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Néel, Michael merged with the consciousness of David-Néelto recreate her inner life. He has lectured for a decade across North America about David-Néel's life, adventures, and philosophy.

Links to information about Alexandra David-Néel

The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Néel: A Biography of the Explorer of Tibet and Its Forbidden Practices, a book by Barbara Foster and Michael Foster

USC-UCLA Joint East Asian Studies Center

Alexandra David-Néel Cultural Centre for Franco-Tibetans Cultural Exchanges

Magic and Mystery in Tibet, a book by Alexandra David-Néel, 1929, the herbal community, is also a project for Michael.

Northern California Chapter field trip to see Elephant Seals.

About nine Explorers and friends joined the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association hosts Sealabration on Saturday, January 22, 2000 to visit the Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo. Most of us got out there quite early in the morning so we could have cold weather for viewing the animals. When the weather is too warm, the seals get overheated and are quite inactive. Well, as it turns out, the weather was sunny, warm, calm, and beautiful: all the things you do not want if you are a seal. Well, as it also turned out, a large number of females were hauling up on the beach from the surf zone about that day so the males had to jockey (read "fight") for position despite the heat. We got the best of both worlds. For more information and the e-Seal Camera shots (updated hourly), check the web site:

photo two young bull elephant seals in a fight

photo seals with island in the background

photo Eva with binoculars

photo pelican in flight

photo Liz, the naturalist

photo bull slithering over low ledge from surf zone

photo Lesley and Eva

photo Lesley, Susan, Bob, Mike

Ramblings and Explorations

We were very happy to see Jerry Athearn, who has been battling cancer, when he came to our Board meeting in January. He is turning over the Treasurer's records to Tom Hall.

Bob Fabry and Susan Taylor enjoyed the Explorers Club trip to Patagonia. The trip was shared by the Denver Museum of Natural History and the Chicago Field Museum. Bob's project to set up 18 radio beacons around the world has just added the 17th beacon, located in Novo Sibirsk. The 18th will be sited in Hong Kong, coming soon.

Alan Hutchinson drove the length of Cuba in January, picking up hitchhikers as he went. He found the people to be just as friendly as he remembered.

Don Heyneman is proud of his adventures on the trek around Mt. Kailash in Tibet.

Dana Isherwood is in Northern Michigan preparing for an expedition to the North Pole in April 2001, and meanwhile will be heading off to the magnetic North Pole this April.

Dan Liebowitz is working on the tenth revision of his book on Emin Pasha.

Chris and Lori Jake celebrated the Millennium in Laguna Beach.

Hank Skade and Les DeWitt submitted the Vinson Massif and were expected back on January 29th.

Greg Miller reports that he will attend ECAD, as he does each year.

Tom Hall's guest Liz McLoughlin's story about bicycling cross country was published in the Chronicle on January 23.

Ron Reuther is bound for a conference in Las Vegas about Amelia Earhart; he promises to let us know if she shows up.

Ron Rich, Lesley Ewing's guest, was searching for Amelia in the South Pacific last summer.

Gary Richter traveled to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon for the Millennium, thinking that was an appropriate area for the occasion, cradle of civilization and all that. He found it sobering when he witnessed the Arab crowd at a rock concert, just before midnight, cheering a video of Saddam Hussein, the Holocaust, and Hitler.

Charlie Brush is back in Sausalito this winter. We missed him last year when he was caring for his late wife Ellen during her illness. He has been indulging in competitive daffodil growing (in New York, not Sausalito) and is looking forward to taking the blooms to the competitions with his daughter, EC WebmasterKaren Brush this spring.

James Prigoff went to the Yucatan for the Millennium, where they witnessed the first Millennial sunrise from the easternmost point. His new book on the history of African American murals in the US just went to Pomegranate Press.

Belatedly, we mark the passing of Thomas Jukes last November. He was a biochemist at UC Berkeley and campaigner for the causes he believed in, arguing for pesticides (including DDT) and against creationism.

Joel Tuttle has been in China to do some teaching and exploring out of Guangzhou.

Bill Kruse has been taking a sabbatical from a decade of 60 hour work weeks. He is "very happy right now cleaning up old projects at home, exploring new technical ideas, updating computer skills, getting lots of exercise, backpacking, traveling, looking up old friends, and investing in the stock market."

Newsletter Deadline is Friday, February 25.

Send items to

Sue Estey, Editor
216 Carmel Ave.
El Cerrito, CA 94530
or bring them to the meeting.

How to Find the Golden Gate Club (February Meeting)

Building 135, Fisher Loop
Presidio of San Francisco

CLICK HERE for their Web-site directions.

From Highway 280: Follow signs to Golden Gate Bridge. Follow signs for the 19th Ave/Park Presidio. Continue through McArthur tunnel and follow signs for Downtown/Lombard St. exit. From Lombard St., turn right at Lyon St. and turn right into the Presidio at Lombard Gate.

From Lombard Gate: Enter the Presidio at Lombard and Lyon Streets. Continue on Lombard, turn right at stop sign onto Presidio Blvd. Continue straight at stop sign where Presidio becomes Lincoln Blvd. Turn left on Montgomery and make right onto Sheridan at first stop sign. Make first left onto Fisher Loop.

From Presidio Boulevard Gate: Enter the Presidio at Presidio and Pacific streets. Follow Presidio until it turns into Lincoln. Follow directions above.

From Arguello Gate: Enter Presidio at Arguello and West Pacific streets. Follow Arguello downhill to Moraga and turn left. Turn right on Infantry Terrace and left on Fisher Loop.

For maps, see

Dinner Reservations

Michael Foster's talk will be at the Golden Gate Club February 25th, 2000. Costs: $45 per person, with a $5 later charge for reservations made after February 18th, 2000. Call Lesley Ewing if you mail your check after the due date so she can plan for you. Please make your payment to:

Lesley Ewing
1679 Tacoma Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707
email to Lesley

Date created: 01/26/1999
Last modified: 05/11/2002

Content from Sue Estey, Secretary, Northern California Chapter of The Explorers Club; email to Sue
Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster. email to Mike (

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