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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 415-417
Contributions of an Indian to the science and art of hypnosis

Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

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Date of Web Publication8-Dec-2014

How to cite this article:
Khandelwal SK. Contributions of an Indian to the science and art of hypnosis. Indian J Psychiatry 2014;56:415-7

How to cite this URL:
Khandelwal SK. Contributions of an Indian to the science and art of hypnosis. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2014 [cited 2022 Nov 28];56:415-7. Available from:

Edited by: Abbe Faria

Edition : I


Publisher: Cinnamon Teal Publishing, Margao, Goa, India.

Pages: 392, Price: Rs. 495

No visit to Goa is ever complete without paying a visit to the famous statue of Abbe Faria in a small square near the secretariat in Panjim, where he is depicted hypnotizing a young woman. Abbe Jose Custodia Faria (May 31, 1756 - September 20, 1819) was a catholic priest in Goa, and the pioneer and originator of hypnotism through suggestions. It is this achievement that is commemorated in this statue, sculpted in 1945 by Ramchandra Pundurang Kamat. Unfortunately, it is this statue only that tourists and residents of Goa now associate with the name of Abbe Faria. We have almost forgotten that it was Abbe Faria who boldly debunked the then popular notion of "mesmerism" or "animal magnetism" of Franz Mesmer as the cause of hypnosis; Faria demonstrated it worked purely by autosuggestion; and he did it much earlier than the more famous people such as Charcot, Bernheim, or Freud worked on or through hypnosis or suggestion to treat their patients suffering from hysteria.

Abbe Faria, whose full name was Jose Custodio de Faria, was known in the scientific and medical world especially in France, as having marked the end of the era of animal magnetism and magnetized-trees, and starting the era of lucid sleep or hypnotism. His book, "De la cause du sommeil lucide" in French was published in 1819 and had brought him his scientific reputation, but had disappeared since a long time from circulation. It is now to the credit of Dr. Rajendra Prabhakar Hegde, an eminent psychiatrist of Goa to bring the English translation, "Of the Cause of Lucid Sleep or Study of the Nature of Man" to the public and scientific community in India through his untiring effort to get it translated first, through the painstaking labor of noted scholar and French teacher, Dr. Manoharrai Sardessai, and then getting it published with the hope that Abbe Faria gets his rightful place in the annals of world psychiatry in general, and Indian Psychiatry in particular. Dr. Hegde reminisces that it was only after reading this book that he understood the meaning of commonly used Konkani phrase "cator re bhaji" (chop the vegetables).

Josι Custσdio de Faria was born in Candolim village of Bardez in the Portuguese administrated Goa, on May 31, 1756. His family was a descendent of Anantha Shenoy, a Goud Saraswat Brahmin and had converted to Christianity in the 16 th century. Faria's father had great ambition for himself and his son. Hence, Faria reached Lisbon on December 23, 1771 with his father at the age of 15. After a year Faria Sr. managed to convince the King of Portugal, Joseph I, to send them to Rome for Faria Sr. to earn a doctorate in theology, and son to pursue his studies for the priesthood. Eventually, the son too earned his doctorate and on having returned to Lisbon, was invited to preach a sermon in Queen's chapel. But Faria, climbing the pulpit, and seeing the august assembly before him 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. He understood the value of suggestion, and that would have far reaching consequences in his life.

To understand the significance of this book, and to appreciate the contribution made by Abbe Faria in the field of hypnosis and psychotherapy, we must look at the period when Abbe Faria made his observations and wrote them down. More than 200 years ago, the word "hypnosis" did not exist; the term was coined by Braid much later in 1843, and since then it is understood as a state of mind in which a person, under the suggestion of a skilled person, has no recollection of his actions. However, the significance of suggestion and the role played by the person's own mind in inducing this state of hypnosis was first explained by Faria under the name "lucid sleep" much earlier. Before Faria, Mesmer (1734-1815), during 1770s, had been demonstrating his prowess in putting people to sleep and curing them from their medical ailments. He called his technique "animal magnetism," and claimed that the animal magnetism could pass from a more powerful person to others through invisible magnetic fluid, put them into trance like state and cure them of their symptoms. General public popularized this technique as "mesmerism." However, Mesmer did not explain how this "magnetic fluid" brought about trance like state, and gave no credit to the subject in the entire process. Faria was taught "animal magnetism" by Mesmer's disciple Puysegur while in a Paris prison (he was imprisoned in Bastille prison on charges of being a conspirator during French revolution); however, Faria did not believe in the concept of "animal magnetism" and dismissed it to put forward his own theory of value of "suggestion" given by a skilled person (hypnotizer) in producing the state of "lucid sleep" (hypnosis) to bring about changes in subject's mind and body. Faria wrote this book during difficult postrevolution France. He delved into the ailments of mind and body, though he himself was not a man of science or medicine. For a man of religion and philosophy to be recognized or accepted by the noble society was not easy. Yet, Faria displayed his scientific temperament in his observations. Thus, he states, "the publication of a work of the mind always supposes in the author the intention, either to discover new truth or to separate errors from known truths." He also cautions scientists against combining their work with the love of glory since the hope of fame in letters is always mixed with bitterness. He also declares that a doctrine, if it is not derived from the theory of its subject, deserves to be considered only as a forged fable, and that stupidity is not worthy of an answer. Even during trying times, Faria maintains ethics in dealing with others and for patients. He also displays his utmost concern for the sufferers of psychological ailments when he does not find the play of that time "Magnetismomania" ethical, "what is a matter of importance cannot be a subject of amusement for the public." Perhaps, his training in priesthood had helped him to be a compassionate man too.

He dedicated his book to Puysegur even if both had differing opinions on the subjects of "animal magnetism" or "lucid sleep;" in fact, he seeks latter's affirmation stating, "…our differing opinions will not preclude you from adding the weight of your approval to my work." At the same time, he is quite harsh on Mesmer. Faria was a well-read man, and had been a student of philosophy too, and believed in making careful observations and interpreting them objectively. He debunks Mesmer's animal magnetism convincingly by pointing out that the "phenomenon being observed in Europe in recent years, has been as ancient as the cradle of man; many natural and beautiful inventions disappeared from the civilized nations, but nations, regarded as barbaric, provoke it at will, cultivate it and apply it to various uses of life" (sic). The phenomenon of somnambulism, in which a person during sleep walks, talks, and performs all complex actions, had been known since ancient times. For Faria, nothing could justify the term "animal magnetism;" the word magnetism expresses the action of magnet on iron, and with adding the word animal, it can only signify a magnetism between living beings, or "the word animal magnetism could more technically signal the attraction that exists between the two sexes more than one wishes to express too freely." He wonders how the mankind was so naοve to find the cause of somnambulism in a bath tub, in a magnetic field, or in the animal heat. Through his own careful observations, he proves that natural sleep and lucid sleep (Faria's term for induced sleep, which later Braid called hypnosis) are one and the same thing, the only difference being of employing an external method in the latter. For inducing lucid sleep, one must find an apt subject with required dispositions, without which one would fail. Thus, Faria does not believe in someone possessing mysterious power to induce hypnosis in others. His critics called him an enemy with designs to bring ravage and desolation; sometimes the attacks had been slanderous without mentioning him by name, or sometimes satirically. And what did he do to deserve this: He simply practiced in public, but undoubtedly with greater simplicity and less pomp that what was practiced before a narrower circle. He laments that their aim was not to study this wonderful state and see its utility to suffering humanity, but only publicity.

This book is like a well-kept journal written by a scientist. Faria has divided the entire book in 14…sessions. First he reviews the prevalent practices, demolishes them objectively, and then gradually and convincingly builds up his own hypothesis. He emphasizes time and again the absurdity of action of external will or magnetic fluid in the production of lucid sleep. He reviews all the methods that have been employed since ancient times to help patients to sleep and relieve them of their ailments; what are the external features that help in determining, which persons are likely to be good subjects for inducing lucid sleep; what are sources from which phenomena of this sleep arise; and how incompatible are imagination and intuition in a subject. How astute he was in his observations and deduction is gauzed when he differentiates impulse from habit. Instinct is merely an internal impulse of the soul, which leads man to an action before any reflection; it is a voice of nature, which tends to the preservation of the being. Habit, on the other hand, is like a second nature of a man and results by the repetition of the acts; sometimes it can be mistaken for instinct when it becomes free from any reflection.

Dr. D. G. Dalgado wrote the introduction of the book that he wrote in 1906 while reprinting the original text of Abbe Faria. This has been reproduced in the present publication. While writing the foreword for the present edition, Prof. N. N. Wig reflects how little do we know of the contribution of Indians in Modern Science? In the field of psychology and psychiatry, Abbe Faria was one such outstanding Indian who greatly influenced our understanding of the phenomenon of hypnosis and the role of suggestion in the hypnotic state, which ultimately contributed greatly to the development of psychoanalysis and modern psychotherapy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prof. Wig believes Faria's story has a great message for today's young people of India. With courage and conviction, one can achieve great things. Remember senior Faria's advice "Cator Re Bhaji."

The book has been published in India by Cinnamon Teal Publishing in 2014, and has been modestly priced at only Rs. 495. The students and teachers of psychology and psychiatry will find the book interesting and inspirational. The book should also help in getting Abbe Faria's contribution acknowledged in English speaking countries, which hitherto has remained confined to French, Russian, and Portuguese speaking countries.

Correspondence Address:
Sudhir K Khandelwal
Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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