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Statue of Abbé Faria next to the Old Secretariat in Panaji

Abbé Faria, or Abbé (Abbot) José Custódio de Faria, (Goa, 1746 - Paris, 1819) was a colourful Indo-Portuguese monk who was one of the pioneers of the scientific study of hypnotism, following on from the work of Franz Anton Mesmer. Unlike Mesmer, who claimed that hypnosis was mediated by "animal magnetism",[1] Faria understood that it worked purely by the power of suggestion. In the early 19th century, Abbé Faria introduced oriental hypnosis to Paris.

He was the first to affect a breach in the theory of the "magnetic fluid," to place in relief the importance of suggestion, and to demonstrate the existence of "autosuggestion"; he also established that nervous sleep belongs to the natural order. From his earliest magnetizing séances, in 1814, he boldly developed his doctrine. Nothing comes from the magnetizer; everything comes from the subject and takes place in his imagination (i.e., the Indian concept Sammohan Bhavana shakti[How to reference and link to summary or text]); generated from within the mind. Magnetism is only a form of sleep. Although of the moral order, the magnetic action is often aided by physical, or rather by physiological, means - fixedness of look and cerebral fatigue.

Faria changed the terminology of mesmerism. Previously focus was on the "concentration" of the subject. In Faria's terminology the operator became "the concentrator" and somnambulism was viewed as a lucid sleep. The Indian method of hypnosis used by Faria is command, following expectancy.

After-years Ambroise-Auguste Liébault (1864-1904), the founder of the Nancy School, & Emile Coué (1857-1926) father of applied conditioning, developed the theory of suggestion and autosuggestion and made them therapeutic tool. Afterwards Johannes Schultz developed these theories as Autogenic training


José Custódio de Faria was born in Candolim, District of Bardez in Goa, Portuguese India, on May 31, 1746. He was the son of Caetano Valeriano de Faria, an Indian Brahmin Christian of Colvale village, and Maria de Sousa of Candolim village, and had an adopted sister, Catarina, an orphan.

Since his parents could not get on with each other, they decided to separate and obtained the Church's dispensation. The father joining the seminary to complete his studies for the priesthood which he had interrupted to get married, while his mother became a nun, joining the St. Monica convent in Old Goa, where she rose to the position of prioress.


The father had great ambition for himself and his son. Hence, Faria reached Lisbon on December 23, 1771 with his father at the age of 25. After a year they managed to convince the King of Portugal, Joseph I, to send them to Rome for Faria Sr. to earn a doctorate in theology, and the son to pursue his studies for the priesthood.

Eventually, the son too earned his doctorate, dedicating his doctoral thesis to the Portuguese Queen, Mary I of Portugal, and another study, on the Holy Spirit to the Pope. Apparently His Holiness was sufficiently impressed to invite José Custódio to preach a sermon in the Sistine Chapel, which he himself attended.

On his return to Lisbon, the Queen was informed by the Nuncioof the Pope's honour to Faria Jr. So, she too invited the young priest to preach to her as well, in her chapel. But Faria, climbing the pulpit, and seeing the august assembly felt tongue tied. At that moment his father, who sat below the pulpit, whispered to him in Konkani: Hi sogli baji; cator re baji (they are all vegetables, cut the vegetables). Jolted, the son lost his fear and preached fluently.

Faria Jr., from then on, often wondered how a mere phrase from his father could alter his state of mind so radically as to wipe off his stage fright in a second. The question would have far reaching consequences in his life.

Participation In ConspiracyEdit

He was implicated in the Conspiracy Of The Pintos during 1787, and left for France in 1788. He stayed in Paris residing at Rue de Ponceau.


In Paris, he became a leader of one of the revolutionary battalions in 1795, taking command of one of the sections of the infamous 10 of the Vendémiaire, which attacked the French Convention, taking an active part in its fall. As a result, he established contacts with personalities like Chateaubriand, the Marquise of Coustine, and was also friend of Armand-Marc-Jacques Chastenet, Marquis of Puységur, (a disciple of Mesmer) to whom he dedicated his book Causas do Sono Lúcido ("On the Causes of Deep Sleep").

In 1797 he was arrested in Marseille for unknown reasons, and taken in a barred police carriage to the infamous Chateau d'If by a law court. He was shut up in solitary confinement in the Chateau. While imprisoned he steadily trained himself using techniques of self-suggestion.

After a long stint in the Chateau, Faria was released and returned to Paris. Here he met Alexandre Dumas, the novelist, who was so impressed with the Abbe that he used him as a character - the mad monk - in his novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.

In 1811, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of France at Nîmes, and was elected member of the Société Medicale de Marseille at Marseille.

In 1813 Abbé Faria realising that hypnotism was gaining importance in Paris returned to Paris, and started lecturing a new doctrine, which contributed further to his fame.

He provoked unending controversies with his work Da Causa do Sono Lúcido no Estudo da Natureza do Homem (On the cause of Deep Sleep in the Study of Nature of Man), published in Paris in 1819 and was soon accused of being a charlatan.

He retired as chaplain to an obscure religious establishment, and died of a stroke in Paris on September 30, 1819. He left behind no addresses and his grave remains unmarked and unknown, somewhere in Montmartre.


Quotes Edit

  • "[Faria was] great, because he had no fear and fought for truth rather than for his place at the vanity fair. The Abbot de Faria's mystery does not lie in the circumstances of his life that are unknown to historians and lost forever; his mystery lies in his talent, courage, and quest for truth. His mystery was the mystery of someone who was ahead of his time and who blazed a trail for his descendants due to his sacrifice." - Dr. Mikhail Buyanov, President of the Moscow Psychotherapeutic Academy, and author of A Man Ahead of His Times, a study in Russian of Abbe Faria.
  • "There was a man in Paris who made the experience of hypnotism public. Every day, some 60 people used to gather at his residence and it was rare among these, that there were not at least five or six people who were susceptible to fall into a hypnotic trance. He would openly declare that he did not possess any secrets nor any extraordinary powers, and that everything he achieved was dependent on the will of the persons he was performing upon." - French General Francois Joseph Noizet.


  1. The use of the (conventional) English term animal magnetism to translate Mesmer's magnétism animal is extremely misleading for three reasons:
    • Mesmer chose his term to clearly distinguish his variant of magnetic force from those which were referred to, at that time, as mineral magnetism, cosmic magnetism and planetary magnetism.
    • Mesmer felt that this particular force/power only resided in the bodies of humans and animals.
    • Mesmer chose the word "animal", for its root meaning (from latin animus = "breath") specifically to identify his force/power as a quality that belonged to all creatures with breath; viz., the animate beings: humans and animals.

References Edit

  1. Moniz, A. Egas, O Padre Faria na história do hipnotismo (Abbé Faria in the history of hypnotism), Lisbon, 1925.
  2. Delgado, D.G., Memoire sur la vie de l'Abbé Faria, Paris, 1906.
  3. Hypnotism - Catholic Encyclopedia
  4. Charls. J. Borges, Goa and the revolt of 1787.
  5. José Custódio de Faria: Hypnotist, Priest and Revolutionary
  6. digitized copy of Abbé Faria's original manuscript "De la cause du sommeil lucide" (original version - in French) - Preface by D.G. Delgado - Paris 1906 - courtesy of Dr. Paret
  7. 2006 Portuguese Postcard celebrating 250th anniversary of Faria
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