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Friday, August 29, 2003

God-talk on the couch.

Can a secular Israeli psychologist teach the Orthodox how to draw closer to God? And why would a modern psychologist bother with the Bible? (Hasn't he heard of evolutionary psychology? Or perhaps he shares Chutney's sense that the best way to approach theology is to ask, "Does anybody have any new ideas about what we human beings might make of ourselves in light of this god question?")

Yair Caspi calls his approach "God-centered psychology." And while his use of traditional Jewish texts for therapeutic rather than religious ends — not to mention his criticism of Orthodox practice — has upset some religious Jews, many others are finding it profoundly, spiritually liberating. The rest of us have something to learn from him too:

Despite the fact that Caspi does not hesitate to criticize 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."

And be sure to read the second page of the article, where his use of the Psalms is described — and where we get this capsule summary of Caspi's method:

[People] choose an issue that's bothering them and conduct an "exercise" about it. After selecting the issue, the student clarifies to himself what he wants to do about it. Then he must expose the evil instinct that is linked to it, and ask: What is the lie I tell myself on this issue, and what is the truth of the matter? Then comes hesed: What am I allowed to do and what am I excused from doing? Or: What do I receive for which I want to say thank you to God?

Then comes a more difficult stage: What is my sin? Which of my actions testifies to the fact that I am avoiding my moral responsibility to someone or something? Where am I taking upon myself more than required, responsibility that isn't mine at all — which is also a sin. And for the sin I have committed, what is my punishment?

Because the basis of Caspi's concept is that all of us — secular, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox — worship idols of some sort, the student must identify his idol and what he sacrifices to this false god.

(Thanks for the tip, Nextbook!)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 29 August 2003 at 1:01 PM

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Next: Democracy for Dummies.

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4 comments:

Yair Caspi:

July 18, 2004 09:27 AM | Permalink for this comment

Shalom Chris
Thanks for your comments on my book and work.
I am currently in New York (on a short vacation) looking for an American publisher for my book.
(The book was a best seller in its Hebrew edition in Israel).
Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks.
Yair

Philocrites:

July 18, 2004 10:15 AM | Permalink for this comment

Yair, what an honor to hear from you. I can think of several publishers that might be interested in an American edition of your book: William Morrow published Yossi Klein Halevi's book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden; Farrar Straus Giroux, W.W. Norton, Alfred A. Knopf, Doubleday, the Free Press, and Beacon Press have all published very high quality books with religious subject matter for general audiences. I'd start with them.

If you're not already familiar with Nextbook, "A gateway to Jewish literature, culture, and ideas," I'd definitely suggest spending some time there to find good contacts.

Israel Foger:

November 16, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink for this comment

Yair Caspi.
Are you the one from my grade in Hadasim ?
If so -
Contact Israel Foger
theizzy@bellatlantic.net

Daniel Burstyn:

July 6, 2006 07:18 AM | Permalink for this comment

Yair Caspi will be appearing at Baltimore's JCC on Tuesday July 19, 2006!



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