Inquiring of God: A God-Centered Psychology
A personal experience
Yair Caspi calls his unique system, which is a mixture of psychotherapy and God, “God-centered psychology.” For 10 years he has been teaching a course of his own creation called “Psychology in Judaism,” and for the past three years has run a program by that name at the Cymbalista Jewish Heritage Center at Tel Aviv University.
This is a one-year program for studying Judaism, designed mainly for psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers; those who want to be facilitators have the option of continuing for a second year. Recently, courses within this framework have opened for students from other departments and for the general public.
The teachers come from a variety of backgrounds: researchers in the field of Jewish studies, clinical psychologists and rabbis.
Yair Caspi doesn’t teach Jewish sources like other scholars of Talmud and the Hebrew Bible. His goal is to improve the world – “to help people learn how to improve themselves,” as he puts it. The curriculum does in fact include introductions to the Bible, Talmudic literature, kabbala (mysticism) and Hasidism, but for Caspi everything is done through a psychological prism and for a very clear purpose: improvement. The heart of the matter involves undergoing a personal experience by using the methods of self-improvement found in the Jewish sources. In other words, this is a therapeutic workshop for self-improvement in the spirit of Judaism. Reading materials include the Bible, the Talmud, books on kabbala and Hasidism as well as Hebrew literature and poetry. But Caspi’s own book serves as a manual, a kind of “guide for the perplexed,” according to which the course is conducted.
The fact that this writer, who has dared to offer a guidebook for self-improvement and conducting a new dialogue with God, is secular, might be especially challenging for some Orthodox people. Still, while expressing reservations over the fact that Caspi is not religiously observant, and because he has turned his discovery of God into a therapeutic method, one rabbi wrote: “… This is a book that is not easy for an Orthodox Jew to digest … I was fascinated, and moved as well … At many points in the book I had the feeling that it was directed at the truth of Torah and the truth of faith, with a depth that one doesn’t find in the beit midrash [study hall] … The book sweeps you along, and contains a promise of renewal and almost of revelation.”