Abbe de Faria - Father of Hypnotism

                                                                          by Nandkumar Kamat

Sometime during 16th century, the family of Antu Sinai of the scenic and historic village of Colvale converted to  Christianity. They took the name of Faria. A grand house and a chapel existed at Colvale in the Faria's ancestral property. With time, both crumbled to dust. In 1754 Cajetan Vitorino de Faria, who had taken the vows of priesthood, after completing his theological education, left the religious duties, married Rosemary, daughter of a landlord in Candolim, and became their son-in law.

Strange twists and turns took place in the lives of Cajetan and Rosemary.  They separated after the birth of Jose Custodio on May 30, 1756 just a year before the famous battle of Plassy, which gave the British East India Company hold over Bengal. At that time, Hyder Ali was gaining strength in South India. The Marathas were also in full command. Events
were happening at lightening speed. Cajetan became a priest again. Rosemary became a nun and entered the convent of 'Santa Monica'.  Jose Custodio spent 15 years in Goa in the verdant surroundings of Colvale village. He never saw his mother again.

The father and son left for Portugal on the ship 'Sao Jose' on February 22, 1771 for Lisbon, Portugal, where they arrived on November 23. At that time, they would not know what history had reserved for them. For one they were destined never to see their motherland again. They had entered Europe via Lisbon during one of the most turbulent periods in international history - the period of the American war of independence and the epochal French revolution.

Father Faria received the support of the King of Portugal for the education of his son in Rome. Jose Custodio aimed to become a priest and completed his doctorate in theology and philosophy from the college' Propaganda fide' in 1780. The Europeans would know him as Abbe de Faria. He would be the first Goan to receive both bouquets and brickbats from the local press during his active and controversial life in France and even after his death.

His magnificent statue - a remarkable piece of sculpture from the master sculptor, Ramchandra Kamat stands on the pedestal near the old secretariat in Panaji. A small plaque commemorates his birthplace at Candolim. However, there are no special programmes to celebrate the 250th birth anniversary of this great son of Goa - Father Jose Custodio alias Abbe de Faria. The French novelist, Alexander der Duma immortalized him in his novel-'The Count of Monte Cristo' (1844). Those who have seen the film produced in 2002 would remember the character of Padre Faria imprisoned in the castle of If with Edmond Dantes - the protagonist. Duma has given a different background of the imprisoned priest but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the character is based on Abbe de Faria.

Until 1792, Abbe de Faria had no introduction to hypnosis (from the Greek word Hypnos for sleep). However, when he became curious about the claims of 'animal magnetism' and Mesmer's mesmerism, he devoted himself to its study. This interest continued and transformed his life. Ultimately, he was successful in rejecting Mesmer's claims and provided a somewhat scientific and rational basis for hypnosis. His followers called his technique - `Fariaism', but experts later renamed to 'hypnotism'. Before his death under utterly impoverished circumstances in 1819, his first volume explaining the principles of hypnosis was in the press. To counter his critics he had planned four volumes, but he could complete only a single tome. The world took notice of this work but it was only in the 20th century that he was acknowledged as the 'father of hypnotism'.

Most of the books on his life and work are in French or Portuguese. Recently a book in English - `Jose Custodio de Faria: Hypnotist, Priest and Revolutionary', by Dr Laurent Carrer - translator and practicing hypnotherapist has been published. I am tempted to quote Faria's contributions to the field of hypnosis from the abstract of this book available to the readers.

Faria experimented with hypnosis, a state he called "lucid sleep," on more than five thousand individuals. He took a bold stand against Mesmer's theory of magnetic fluid and believed that "magnetic fits" were not only unnecessary to healing, but potentially harmful. Faria's approach was different from Mesmer. He used to keep his subjects in a state of calm, and he believed the magnetic fit to be "a state contrary to the normal development of nature."

Faria had faced tremendous opposition from religious authorities who believed that commanding people to sleep was something accomplished through the power of the 'devil'. Faria forcefully argued that hypnotic phenomena were not due to magnetism, trickery or the devil but to the expectation and co-operation of the patient. He has shown that it is impossible to hypnotize people who are not willing.

It was Abbe de Faria who discovered the suggestive method of inducing and interrupting trance verbally. He observed and described a number of ill-understood hypnotic phenomena and provided their psychological explanations. He postulated that ordinary sleep and the hypnotic state are of similar nature (a theory that was later adopted by the School of Nancy, but has now been proven wrong)."

This book is not available in Goa but the state government needs to procure many copies of this authentic and well-researched work and get the translation rights in Konkani and Marathi so that the modern generation is introduced to this great Goan personality.

The Farias had supported and were sympathetic to the Pintos' revolt in 1787 against the repressive Portuguese rule in Goa. They were most certainly trying to secure the French support for Tipu Sultan for the liberation of Goa by establishing an Indo-French front. We have to also see the knee-jerk reaction of the British after they got a hint of such a possibility and sent their garrison to Goa to thwart an invasion. The Goans have no details of Abbe De Faria's role during the French revolution and the violent, turbulent period that followed.

The end of the father of hypnotism was in abject misery. He is still remembered in France and Portugal. Efforts were made by his Portuguese biographers to trace his tomb in Paris without any success.

It is shameful that at government level there is no public function to commemorate his 250th birth anniversary. Some individuals and institutions in Goa and abroad are trying to keep his memory alive. There is a demand to release a postal stamp in his honour. But this is not sufficient. Goans from all walks of life and especially the villagers of Colvale and Candolim need to rise to the occasion to pay tributes and keep his memory alive by organising yearlong activities.

                                                                                         The Navhind Times 29/05/06 page 10

Message: 13
Date: Sun, 04 Jun 2006 17:52:01 -0400
From: Joaquim Loiola Pereira <>
Subject: [Goanet] N. Kamat and Abbe Faria
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
With due consideration for the vast and multi-faceted erudition of Prof. Nandkumar Kamat,
I must point out to a serious misrepresentation in the otherwise scholarly article of 
Prof. Kamat on Abbe Faria, appearing in The Navhind Times of 29th May last and in
Goanet Digest, III, 547.
The extensive article refers to the father of the Abbe as one who, rather
strangely, "had taken the vows of priesthood" and "left the Religious duties"
in order to get married to the one who, two years later, would become the mother
of the great Father of Hypnotism. Stranger still, Prof. Kamat says a little 
later that "they separated after the birth of Jose Custodio" (the Abbe) and the
father "became a priest again,"  thus implying that a Catholic priest took leave
of his priesthood for the sake of  a trial marriage and was all too easily re-admitted
by the Church into the priesthood within a couple of years, after the marriage
Well aware of the confusion that the above statements of the learned
Professor may create in the minds of his readers, leading them eventually to a
derogation of the Church's teaching on the  Order of Priesthood, I would like to 
set the record straight:
Caetano Vitorino de Faria was indeed studying to be a priest. But he left the seminary,
admittedly even "after completing his theological education," as Kamat states,
but certainly before he could receive the Sacred Orders, that is, before he could
become a priest. His marriage with Rosa Maria de Sousa lasted for at least six
years, but ended in both of them agreeing to seek church dispensation in order
to pursue a religious vocation. Thus Caetano became a priest and Rosa, a nun, with
the father taking over the custody of the son, who in turn would also become a 
(very famous) priest.   It is a lesser-known fact that both father and son were
among the first priests from Goa to earn a doctorate in Theology, in Rome, the
son going ahead to take yet another doctorate in Philosophy. It is even less known
that the son  who would later be known as Abbe Faria  was personally invited by 
Pope Pius VI to preach on the Feast Day of the Holy Spirit, in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, 
in the presence of the Pope. The year was 1780, the sermon was in Latin and brown-skinned
Fr. Jose Custodio de Faria was only twenty four years of age!   Of course, he would later 
preach also to the Queen of Portugal, teach Philosophy in the University of Paris and end up
being acclaimed as the creator of hypnotism.
Fr. J. Loiola Pereira

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