"Even though I don't consider myself observant in the Jewish faith, I have had a very strong emotional bond to Jewish philosophy, literature and ethical teachings for many years," he said.
In Ethics of the Sages, Pies compares precepts contained in Pirkei Avot, the only tractate of the Talmud that deals exclusively with moral and ethical lessons, with similar precepts from the world's other major spiritual traditions. Additionally, he demonstrates the relationship of Pirkei Avot and other spiritual teachings to concepts found in modern psychotherapy literature.
Pirkei Avot, he said, contains an immense number of psychologically rich observations and truths.
"There is a maxim in Pirkei Avot that says ‘Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.' This notion that we can be rich or happy by appreciating what we actually have I think is a very important psychological truth," Pies said.
Unfortunately, psychiatric patients and some psychiatrists as well, he said, tend to dwell on the things that they don't have and become fixated on those.
Currently, Pies is working on a book, called Everything Has Two Handles.
"That title is taken from a Stoic teaching. The notion is that everything that happens to us, good or bad, can be seen in two ways, or, as it were, picked up in two ways. You can pick it up in a way that leaves you feeling miserable, sad and hopeless, or you can pick it up by the handle that allows you to view it in a positive and creative way," Pies said.
The melding of Judaic, Stoic and some Eastern traditions is of great interest to Pies as a psychiatrist, because he believes the spiritual traditions that he draws upon are focused on helping individuals put aside some of their unnecessary suffering.