Inquiring of God: A God-Centered Psychology
Yair Caspi is a popular lecturer at rabbinical conferences and events, and he is invited to give workshops in yeshivas. One national-religious yeshiva invited him to conduct a workshop for the yeshiva’s rabbis about dealing with social problems in the yeshiva in accordance with the Jewish sources.
In Caspi’s academic program at the university, on the other hand, 80 percent of the students are secular, about 20 percent are Orthodox, a small minority of them ultra-Orthodox. Several rabbis study and teach there. The Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox come, of course, from a relatively open-minded milieu; they are part of the “new religious discourse” and leaders of a revolution taking place within the religious world. Similarly in the secular world, some feel angry at the normative religious world: “Why did they (the religious groups) take God away from me?’ asks one woman who is a secular therapist, and declares `Nobody will determine my God for me.’ Professionally speaking, I’m a clinician. It was interesting to discover a new way of seeing and relating to people’s conflicts in terms of Judaism. It’s entirely new to me. It’s another language, another way to reach people.”
Despite the fact that Caspi does not hesitate to citicize the Orthodox world, he has harsh and substantial arguments against the world of secular culture. As a patient and as a psychologist, he claims he has had firsthand experience of the ineffectiveness of psychology. “The 20th century gave rise to a new religion – psychology. This religion fascinated everyone. It offered people a wonderful formula – forgive yourself. For everything. For everything you have done and thought. Feel better. Get rid of all feelings of guilt. But this is a synthetic forgiveness. It has no depth. It has no true hesed [loving kindness]. It’s hesed that doesn’t know whom to thank and therefore it will never connect man to the source of his love. The fact is – a person goes to therapy for 10 years, and yet continues to hate himself.”
What does it lack?
“It lacks God.”
For years, Yair Caspi deepened his familiarity with the “Jewish bookshelf.” After finding in the sources everything containing a psychological insight that could be used in his work, he returned to his office – the office of the psychotherapist – and took from it everything available, from Freud and Adler to Gestalt and Irving Yalom. Whatever he thought was suitable.
His book, as we shall see, contains dozens of examples. The quotation from the source, the psychological interpretation, and the “work” suggestion. Here is one: “Thousands of years before psychoanalysis, the Bible presented one of its main tools: Let him pour out his complaint. `A prayer of the afflicted when he feels weak, and pours out his complaint before the Lord’ [Psalms 102, 1]” and Caspi explains: “Let him pour out – everything that’s inside him. He shouldn’t think before he speaks. He shouldn’t weigh his words. He shouldn’t organize. He shouldn’t classify, he should talk. Pour out everything – all the requests and all your desires, including alien thoughts, to whom you are attracted, about whom you dream, what desire of yours is forbidden, what correct foundation is contained in this desire, why it invites you, pour out everything …”