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Rizzuto, A. (1994). Religious Objects as Psychological Structures: A Critical Integration of Object Relations Theory, Psychotherapy, and Judaism by Moshe Halevi Spero Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, xvii + 242 pp., $27.50. Psa. Books, 5(1):67-70.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Books, 5(1):67-70

Religious Objects as Psychological Structures: A Critical Integration of Object Relations Theory, Psychotherapy, and Judaism by Moshe Halevi Spero Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, xvii + 242 pp., $27.50

Review by:
Ana-María Rizzuto

Spero's entire reasoning of his study of religious objects centers on the premise that, as Jews believe, God exists and actively participates in the psychic life of human beings. He then asks, “How is the real divine object to enter the therapeutic process?” His answer is challenging, carefully wrought, highly controversial.

He writes specifically for religious Jews, steeped in the rabbinical tradition. He is intent on convincing rabbinical scholars and observant Jews that psychotherapy is not antithetical to the Law. On the contrary, its practice reveals its religious nature and its compatibility with Jewish Law.

Spero must be praised for his efforts to study in depth one of the most complex and difficult areas of psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theory: the relation between the humanly mediated process of cure and the healing potential of a “relationship” with God, that is, religion. This is a subject that most analysts have neglected, as though, by ignoring it, patients would forget their religious quest for a personally meaningful relationship with the God they believe in.

Spero's answer postulates the actual existence of God, a being capable of initiative and willing to enter in a relationship with the believer. To give psychological substance to his hypothesis, Spero proposes two lines of development in the formation of the representation of God as an object. One follows the normal developmental and psychodynamic process of formation of the representations of the human primary objects and borrows its characteristics from them. This is the human source of the formation of the representation of God (projected God object).

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