The Virtual Abbé Faria
By Luis S. R. Vas
September 20 marks the death anniversary of José Custódio de Faria (1756-1819) better known as Abbé Faria. Although he was born in Goa, he lived most of his life in France where he investigated the phenomenon of somnambulism, now known as hypnotism, hypnotizing over 5,000 subjects and producing spectacular cures and other results. He was the first to give a scientific explanation to the phenomenon, attributing its effects to suggestions appropriately implanted by the hypnotist into the subject’s mind. He thus became known as the father of scientific hypnotism.
Later, Emile Coué (1857 – 1926), a French druggist, used Faria’s discovery to develop his own system of auto-suggestion in his book Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (http://www.psychomaster.com/books/emile/ ) and prescribed the formula ‘Every day in every way I am getting better and better’ to his patients, which enabled them to heal themselves with its help. Further on, Dr. J. H. Schultz (1884-1970), a German physician, used Faria’s and Coue’s ideas to develop his own series of suggestive formulae, which, repeated as prescribed, enabled the subjects to raise their body temperature, fight freezing cold and achieve other mind-over-body effects.. He termed his technique Autogenic Training (http://www.guidetopsychology.com/autogen.htm).
In the 1950s another German doctor, Dr. Hannes Lindemann dramatized the power of autogenic training by using it when he crossed the Atlantic alone in a canoe, to brave and surmount stormy weather, freezing temperatures, hunger and thirst.
The importance of Abbé Faria to the development of hypnosis is, therefore, indisputable. But, when about a decade ago Dr. Rajendra Hegde, an enterprising and public spirited psychiatrist from Madgaon, decided to commission Manohar Rai Sardessai, the late Konkani poet and French scholar, to translate De La Cause Du Sommeil Lucide, the opus in French by Abbé Faria into English, he had to send a photographer to the Central Library, Panaji, to photograph every page of the fragile copy of the book preserved in the library, before it could be translated. No other copy was available.
Just a couple of years before the 250th birth anniversary of the Abbé in 2006, Dr. Laurent Carrer, a French hypnotherapist living and working in the US also decided to translate the same book into English along with a biography of the Abbé and assessment of Faria’s book by the Goan scientist Dr. D. G. Dalgado. He could download all three texts from a French website for a fee. Today the full text of Abbé’s book and the introduction are available free on the Net courtesy an Italian hypnotherapist, Dr. M. Paret.
The Internet has been a great boon to the memory of the Abbé. When Dom Martin, the talented Goan expatriate artist living in the US, thought of appealing to the governments of India, Portugal and France to issue a postage stamp in honour of the Abbé, it was suggested to him to go online with his appeal after canvassing support from other Goans and admirers of the Abbé. He set up the website www.abbefaria.com where anyone accessing it could add their names to the appeal. The appeal was successful in persuading the Portuguese postal department to issue a commemorative postcard (“um inteiro bilhete postal”), more appealing visually than a mere postage stamp, on May 31, 2006.
Today the website has not outlived its usefulness. To the contrary, it has become indispensable to anyone interested in the Abbé.
* biographical and photographic material on the Abbé;
* a collection of articles and links on him;
* Abbé Faria’s sermon on the Advent of the Holy Spirit delivered before pope Pius VI in the Sistine Chapel translated
from Latin into English by Fr Ivo Conceição de Souza of Rachol Seminary;
* a picture of the postcard issued in his honour;
* digitized and illustrated text of De La Cause du Sommeil Lucide with an English summary;
* two extraordinary and contradictory eyewitness accounts of the Abbe’s lectures in Paris in 1813, one by
columnist Etienne Juoy, the other by General François Joseph Noizet, who was to become his first disciple; and
* a fascinating New York Times review, dated 1907, of Dr. Dalgado’s book Memoir on the Life of Abbe Faria
published in French in 1906.
In a word it is a treasure trove on Abbé Faria, all of it exquisitely illustrated by Dom Martin himself.
Long ago Dom Martin had suggested that the ancestral house of Abbé Faria, in Candolim, currently an orphanage, be converted into a museum in the hypnotist’s honour. So far the suggestion has failed to hypnotise or even persuade the concerned authorities despite several attempts in Goa to follow up on the suggestion. However, Dom Martin’s own website has turned literally into a virtual museum, a veritable ‘museum without walls’ in the words of the celebrated French writer André Malraux, becoming accessible to anyone anywhere interested in this great Goan.
It’s not a substitute to converting the Abbé’s house into one, but it’s the next best step, thanks to the Internet and Dom Martin’s imagination.
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