Luis S.R. Vas

All photos submitted by Author from his personal collection*



SOMETIME in the early 1950s, British novelist and travel writer Norman Lewis arrived in Panjim, Goa's capital, by steamboat. "The quayside, which is really the heart of the town,” noted Lewis in the inevitable travelogue that emerged from the visit, "is presided over by a statue, not -- as one would have expected -- of the great Albuquerque, founder of the colony, but of one Jose Custodio Faria (see below), who, the inscription relates, 'discovered the doctrine of hypnotic suggestion'. Faria, who is not mentioned in short textbooks on the subject, is dressed in a wicked squire cloak of the Wuthering Heights period, and is shown strikingly in action. His subject -- or victim -- a young lady with a Grecian hairstyle, has been caught in the moment of falling, one trim foot in the air, left hip about to strike the ground, while Faria leans over her, fingers potently extended. Her expression is rapt; his intense, perhaps demoniacal...".         

Abbe Faria's statue in Panjim created by the award winning sculptor Ramchandra Pandurang Kamat of Madkai (below) and installed in Panjim in 1945


Who was Faria?

He was a native of Goa, western India, then a Portuguese colony (see map at right)


Jose Custodio Faria, better known as Abbe Faria, was born in Goa's Candolim village  on May 31, 1756 to Caetano Vitorino Faria and Rosa Maria de Souza in whose house he lived (right).


Abbe Faria's house in Candolim, today an orphanage. 

The inset plaque reads in Portuguese: The place of birth on May 31, 1776, of  the genial creator of scientific hypnotism, Fr. Jose Custodio de Faria known in the cultured world as Abbe Faria 

Jose Custodio de Faria was baptized in this church in Candolim. His parents did not get on with each other and decided to separate with the Church's permission, the father becoming a priest and the mother a nun.

Abbe Faria's father was from Colvale. He (the father) was baptized in this church.


Abbe Faria's mother joined St. Monica convent (above) in Old Goa as a nun and rose to become its prioress and acquired the appropriate nickname of peacock, given her celebrated pride. All the nuns in the convent were also given a bird's name as their nickname according to their position or occupation – swallow, mynah, sparrow, dove…..


Abbe Faria's father appears to have studied in the old Chorao seminary, near Old Goa, which no longer exists, after he and Abbe Faria's mother separated.

Abbe Faria lived and studied in Colvale.

After his parents separated, when Abbe Faria was 15, he and his father, armed with letters of introduction to prominent people in Lisbon,  sailed to Portugal in 1771 on board the ship S. Jose' to improve their prospects




In Lisbon, King D. Jose' I (left) and D. Maria I (right) sponsored Abbe Faria's studies in Rome

Abbe Faria studied at the College of Propaganda Fide in Rome where he obtained his doctorate in theology. He dedicated his thesis to the Portuguese queen. He also wrote a study on the Holy Spirit which he dedicated to the pope who appears to have been sufficiently impressed to invite him to preach before him in the Sistine chapel on the day of the Pentecost

Pope Pius VI who invited Abbe Faria to preach a sermon in his presence in the Sistine Chapel


Queen D. Maria I invited Abbe Faria to preach in the Queluz Palace chapel (right) on his return to Lisbon. On climbing the pulpit the young priest was struck dumb by stage fright. His father whispered to him in Konkani from below the pulpit: ‘cator re baji, hi sogli baji' (Chop off these vegetables, they are all vegetables) whereupon he shed his fear and spoke eloquently. This effect of his father's words was to have a profound impact on his life, sparking his interest in the power of verbal suggestion in hypnosis. 


Abbe Faria moved to France in 1788 and lived at Rue du Ponceau, in Paris, after he decided that Portugal offered him few prospects for advancement


Palais Royal, a theater and gambling complex, which Abbe Faria frequented in Paris during his early days there

The owners of the gambling establishments in the Palais Royal thought that Abbe Faria had special gambling instincts that made them lose money to him. To get rid of him they procured for him a teaching position at the Academy in Marseilles where he thought philosophy for a while and then moved to Nimes (right) where he also taught but was soon bored there and returned to Paris.

Soon after his arrival in Paris Abbe Faria is rumoured to have met Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, who was said to have come to Paris to seek French military aid against the British. The Abbe is said to have been commissioned by his father to approach the Sultan for aid to fight against the Portuguese. As it happened neither got what he sought. Abbe Faria's father is said to have been the brain behind the first anti-colonial uprising in India, the Goan Revolt of 1787 in which Goan priests and others plotted against the Portuguese. But the plot was discovered and the plotters severely punished. Abbe Faria's father was questioned but no evidence was found against him. Still, he lost his influence at the court and went into oblivion. 

A contemporary sketch of Abbe Faria while in France, the only surviving portrait, other than caricatures


“In Paris, they both [father and son] pursued clerical activities but they did not please the authorities and the son was imprisoned in the Bastille. He spent several months there. One of  his guards was fond of playing draughts; however, each game only lasted a short time and had to be started again. Jose Custodio de Faria often played with this guard and to prolong the pleasure, he invented hundred-square draughts. This was his first contribution to history,” writes Dr. Mikhail Buyanov, President of the Moscow Psychotherapeutic Academy.


During the French Revolution, Abbe Faria led a battalion of citizens against the National Convention against the terror.

The storming and fall of the Bastille was one of the highlights of  the French Revolution.

The French Revolution was soon symbolized by liberty, fraternity, equality and the guillotine.


The 100-square draughts game which Abbe Faria is said to have invented while incarcerated in the Bastille

  All that remains of the Bastille after it was stormed.

Anton Mesmer (above) was the father of  the theory of animal magnetism, described in his Memoire,  a precursor of hypnosis. Abbe Faria disagreed with his theory and practice and Mesmer is said to have challenged him to a hypnotic duel to determine who would hypnotise the other first. The Abbe, legend says, won the contest.   

Mesmer in action. He used a baquet (above right) filled with iron filings and from which iron rods protruded and were held by his patients who went into a crisis when he pranced around them. They were then calmed by Mesmer (above left). Abbe Faria argued that these practices were all useless and that all depended on the patient's imagination and willingness to cooperate with the hypnotist.



Marquis de Puysegur, a disciple of Mesmer, also led a battalion against the French Convention during the French Revolution, just like Abbe Faria. Abbe Faria discussed with the Marquis his theories of hypnosis and later dedicated his book on lucid sleep to him.


In 1797 “he was arrested in Marseilles, taken in a barred police carriage and sent to the Chateau d'If by a law court. He was shut up in solitary confinement in the Chateau d'If… While imprisoned in the Chateau, he steadily trained [himself] using techniques of self-suggestion. It appears that this helped him retain a sound mind and memory,” writes Dr. Buyanov.

Inside Chateau d'If: Abbe Faria is thought  to have been incarcerated in one of the cells seen here

Abbe Faria figured as a character in the classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (above) which was also turned into a play by the author and into several movies later

Abbe Faria and Edmond Dantes in their cell in the Chateau d'If as depicted by Alexander Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo

At a school in the Rue de Clichy (above) in Paris, Abbe Faria conducted his classes and demonstrations on Lucid Sleep after being freed from the Chateau d'If


In Memoire Sur le Somnubulisme et le Magnetisme Animal General  Francois Joseph Noizet, who was to become Faria's first disciple, wrote: “In 1814…I heard about demonstrations of somnambulism performed by Abbe Faria in Paris, rue de Clichy, in a building adjacent to the former Garden of Tivoli. I went there less out of idle curiosity than with the desire to acquire specific ideas on animal magnetism. There, I saw a tall and handsome old man, with half-greying black hair, dark complexion, elongated face, hooked nose, large bulging eyes, a beautiful horse's head… I discovered that he was an Indo-Portuguese priest from Goa. Many respectable members of the aristocracy were present, as well as several young cavalry officers; altogether thirty to sixty people who had paid three francs to gain admission.”

Chateaubriand, the famous French writer ridiculed Abbe Faria in his Les Memoires d'Autre Tombe saying he had tried to hypnotise a canary but that the bird had hypnotised  him instead!


Donald Dale Jackson of the Smithsonian Institution explains:  “Mesmer's collision with the scientific establishment failed to dissuade other venturers from exploring the phenomenon he had discovered. A Hindu-Portuguese(sic) priest known as the Abbe Faria nudged one piece of the puzzle into place when he wrote in 1819 that the stimulus  for what he called the ‘lucid sleep' of mesmerism was not magnetism but concentration by the subject. Faria had his clients relax, lean back, empty their minds and concentrate on falling asleep, which most promptly did [when commanded by a loud ‘Sleep'(see below)].”


“He could then induce them to feel illusions of heat and cold and to experience various tastes and smells. Like many of his successors, however, Faria was sometimes tempted to overreach. He once tried to demonstrate that he could mesmerize a canary and command it to die. A witness [Chateaubriand who narrated it in his Les Memoires d'Autre Tombe] described the unexpected result: the Abbe went ‘into a self-induced trance in which it seemed the canary was willing him to die instead.' Faria survived the interspecies mesmeric shoot-out ‘without any apparent ill-effects.'”

Despite his success, Abbe Faria was later vilified and ridiculed in the press and in the theater, losing attendance at his classes. The cartoon above has the following caption: The Great Charlatan: “Break your heads and limbs. I shall heal them.”


Disillusioned, Abbe Faria retired as a chaplain to a religious establishment and there wrote his book in French On The Cause of Lucid Sleep published in 1819, soon after which he died of a stroke at the age of 64. It is his sole surviving legacy.  

General Noizet later recalled: “After attending a dozen lectures [by Abbe Faria], I received my marching orders from the Minister of War and went to Boulogne, from where I set out eight months later for the Waterloo campaign. After the army was decommissioned…I got the idea to go and again see the poor priest whose sad adventures I had been told. He received me with much enthusiasm and convinced me to review his text with him, to correct some stylistic anomalies which, as a foreigner, he could not have avoided introducing into it. Thus I began this laborious task without contradicting any of his theoretical ideas and concentrating on sentence structure only, but I found this man to be so headstrong that I soon regretted my hurry in agreeing to help him. Finally, I regained my rank in the army, received new orders from the Minister, and did not again see the Abbe, who died in oblivion a few years later.

 “What I can add is that I was absolutely convinced of poor Faria's good faith, of the reality of the effects he obtained, of the correctness of a great part of his doctrine, though I believe that his physical presence, his use of facial expressions and his self-assurance played some part in the outcome.


“Soon after the publication of my memoirs, Bailliere, a bookseller on the Rue de l'Ecole de la Medecine, asked me for a copy, saying that he had a collection of works on the same subject, and, in return, he offered me the work in three volumes by Abbe Faria. I had not even finished correcting the first volume; had the author found an editor for the other two as well? I thanked Mr. Bailliere, but had no time for anything else other than my work.” No trace of the subsequent volumes of Faria's work was ever found.


De La Cause Du Sommeil Lucide was translated into English for the first time by the Goan scholar Dr. Manohar Rai Sardessai in 2004.


Abbe Faria's investigative biography and study by the Goan scientist Dr. D. G. Dalgado in French was published in 1906 on his 150th birth anniversary. This work, along with Abbe Faria's own opus with annotations was translated into English by Dr. Laurent Carrer (right), a French hypnotherapist based in the US, in 2004


Dr. Egas Moniz, the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner in medicine, wrote a study of Abbe Faria titled Abbe Faria in the History of Hypnotism in the 1950s based mainly on Dr. Dalgado's study.


Luciana Stegagno Picchio, an Italian scholar has been  planning to write a book on Abbe Faria and Goa.


*These photographs have been collected by the author over the course of several years and during some of his travels.

  Copyright status not established.

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