Inquiring of God: A God-Centered Psychology
When he started his journey to the Jewish bookshelf, the confusion only increased. “I spent time with talmidei hakhamim [religious Torah scholars] who recognize the existence of intention and plan in the world, from which one can derive a personal and national destiny. Exactly what I was looking for. But they came to me with a list of obligations [the mitzvot], which contradicted the hints that I had about what the Master of the Universe wants from me, in the present,” he writes in the book.
On the other hand, he had a problem with the home court as well. “The secular society in which I lived allowed me to interpret the meaning of my existence on my own, encouraged me to embark on an independent path, to discover what was destined for me, but presented a condition for the freedom it offers – giving up God. Giving up intention, and obligation that can be discovered, without which there is no meaning to my journey. The complete freedom that was promised is like a prison to me.”
After the encounter with Yeshayahu Leibowitz, he says, he became another person. And it wasn’t that Leibowitz proved to him that there is a God. Nor that he suddenly understood what God is. He discovered that he had always had a God, even if he had used other names; he just didn’t know it.
In the early 1990s, Caspi participated in the establishment of several dozen groups studying Judaism here, part of the trend to “return to the Jewish bookshelf.” These groups are still studying together today. When he began to teach at Tel Aviv University, he says, secular students started a “world war” against him. They thought he had come to bring them back to religion. They complained about him. They became panicky: Look, the dosim (a derogatory term for Orthodox Jews) have taken over Tel Aviv University, they said (usually seen as a strong hold to the seculars).
Caspi managed to placate some of them, proving that he had no interest in religious preaching and certainly not in religious coercion; that he was talking about something else on another level; that he was simply suggesting a method of working for self-improvement in the spirit of Judaism. He doesn’t touch Israeli religious politics at all. Some were convinced and remained. Some left.
Today, says Caspi, it’s different. Anyone who comes to him has already heard what it’s all about, has read the book and been exposed to his ideas. They come because the word “God” does something to them. They are not thinking at all about returning to religion, but want to come and to listen because they are searching. Even the psychologists who come are of a certain type – those who are capable of recognizing the limitations of psychology; who don’t fall apart when their professional approach is criticized; who are interested in examining its weaknesses; who want to enrich and deepen it. In short, people who are searching.
The English translation (co-authored by me) can be found on Amazon:
And in Hebrew, Lidrosh Elohim, is available in Israeli bookstores.