Abbe Faria was born as Jose Custodio de Faria on May 31, 1756, in the former Portuguese colony of Goa [now India]. His childhood, for the most part, was traumatized from overexposure to the querulous temperament of his parents, Caetano Vitorino de Faria and Rosa Maria de Souza. Eventually, the two would seek papal dissolution of their matrimonial brawl, only to later find themselves united again in God's vineyard.
Whether it was human frailty or the hand of the divine that first led Caetano Faria to the seminary and then astray in his marriage to Rosa Maria -- remains a meandering fact. A contrite Caetano Faria was merely concerned with turning himself in, to God, at the nearest seminary, getting ordained a priest, and then globe-trotting as far as Rome to earn a doctorate in theology. Maria Rosa, on her part, joined the Santa Monica convent in Old Goa, became a nun and rose to the rank of prioress.
As for the younger Faria, he was 15 when his father-turned-priest took him to Portugal on an ambitious mission to calibrate him with 'greatness' in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Obviously, the young Faria lost no time orbiting his father's vociferous aspirations. He attended seminaries in Portugal and Italy, was ordained a priest in Rome, and then also went on to earn a doctorate in theology. To just what extent the elder Faria may have exerted or exhausted his influence on the younger Faria -- remains another meandering fact. Yet, quite inauspiciously, their lives would evolve and embark on the same collision-course with religion, politics and the emancipation of the bourgeois.
After his return to Lisbon, the young Faria's effervescing interest in hypnotism gradually weaned him away from his father's shadow. He became widely acclaimed as 'Abbe Faria'. The elder Faria, perhaps dreading that he may eventually get eclipsed by his son's evolving limelight, seized on the opportunity to invest his own stagnant future in the "Pinto conspiracy", which was simmering in Goa in 1787, at the residence of one Fr. Pinto.
The conspiracy emanated from a disgruntled group of Goan priests who felt they were being discriminated against because they were off-color, and therefore, incompatible in the all-white ecclesiastical hierarchy. When their appeal to Portugal to abolish the apartheid-cult within the clergy failed, they congregated with other radicals in a plot to overthrow the Portuguese regime.
The plot backfired, because the dynamics was as botched as a homemade canon, mounted on a swivel, with no one experienced enough to foresee or caution the loading-end from the firing-end! 47 conspirators -- including 17 priests -- were rounded up, and when the crown of damnation and doom was impressed upon them, they squealed, identifying the elder Faria as the Commandant!
Commandant or not, the elder Faria's thumbprint in the plot brought the 'guilt-by-association' canon ball rumbling down Abbe Faria's path -- knocking down the ladder to 'greatness' that he [Abbe] was midway perched on. There is no account of how much information the two shared or co-conspired, or what corresponding guilt or animus they may have dished out and resolved at a cafeteria, or in the confessional. What is notably known is that the repercussions from the conspiracy caused Abbe Faria to flee Lisbon and reassemble his demoralized ladder in France.
The year was 1787. The cultural affluence of Paris and its pantheon of intellectuals would turn out to be rather propitious to Abbe Faria's own baggage of restless, unresolved ambitions. It also rekindled his smoldering interest in the occult science of hypnotism. The following year, however, he found himself marching with other radicals in the French Revolution. He was arrested, found guilty of commandeering public unrest and sentenced to solitary confinement in the infamous state prison at Chateau d'If.
When he was returned to society, a malnourished Abbe Faria found contempt await him in the old, familiar hub of life. His renewed interest in hypnotism was embraced with increasing skepticism by the scientific community. It had become apparent to him that his lease in the world of rejection had been irreversibly programmed for auto-renewal. Thus, confined to a life of meager means and prospects, Abbe Faria fortified his resolve to find solace in the candle of perseverance, and in its flickering illumination, he toiled on to evaluate, document and compile his scientific observations on the unsettled science and validity of hypnotism.
On September 20, 1819, Abbe Faria stared at reality one last time as death escorted him out of existence unto eternity. He died of apoplexy, shortly after his lifelong thesis, The Lucid Cause of Sleep, was published. Subsequently, the scientific community awoke, acknowledging him as 'The Father of Hypnotism'. A quarter of a century later, Alexander Dumas immortalized Abbe Faria in his epic work, 'The Count of Monte Cristo'.
- Dom Martin