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Luzes, P. (1999). A Letter from Portugal. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(2):621-626.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(2):621-626

A Letter from Portugal

Pedro Luzes

It is generally agreed that the origins of psychoanalysis were influenced by Freud's observation of experiments in hypnosis carried out on hysterical patients in Vienna and Paris. If that is the case (and it is), Abbé Faria, a Portuguese priest and scholar and a pioneer of hypnotism in France, may be said to have made a great contribution to the development of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.


José Custódio de Faria (1776-1819) was born in Goa and became a priest after studying theology in Lisbon and Rome. He was living in Paris during the troubled times of the French Revolution and the Empire, and it was there that he became a disciple of the magnetists, as hypnotists were then called. A disciple of Mesmer and Puységur, Faria is mentioned by Chateaubriand in his Memoirs from beyond the Grave. Like many others in the history of hypnotism, he gave public demonstrations, experiments that often drew unfavorable reactions. He came under attack in the satirical Paris newspapers and was ridiculed in a vaudeville show. This drove him into premature retirement, where he wrote a book (in French) explaining his theories and their practical applications.

Of the representatives of the new therapy, Abbé Faria was the first to abandon the erroneous interpretations of hypnosis that were propagated by the masters: the theory of magnetic fluid defended by Mesmer and the theory of the hypnotist's will defended by Puységur. Faria believed that magnetism was a natural phenomenon resulting from predisposing causes (an impressionable disposition), occasional causes (the removal of external stimuli), and immediate causes (the command “Sleep!”). The importance of his theory and of his book—De la Cause du Sommeillucide—was recognized by authors like Bernheim, Liébault, and Janet. His name is mentioned in all modern works on the history of hypnotism.

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