At the heart of the world wisdom traditions are books that distill the essence of the teachings of the masters down through the ages. Many have no authors, some are compilations over long periods of time, others reflect teachings of masters who themselves never wrote a word. Socrates and Jesus never wrote any books, for instance, but Plato wrote his Dialogues recalling his memory of what Socrates said and the Gospels recount the life of Jesus many decades after Jesus had gone. Other books have legendary authors but appear to be compilations heavily redacted over many centuries. Some books are considered “God’s word” such as the Bible or the Koran and have endured for millennia inspiring countless millions of believers. Others remain obscure and speak deeply symbolic truths hidden within the layers of the language in the text itself. Still others express the essence of a tribal tradition on the brink of extinction and are valued for what is on the verge of being lost. Great books continue to be written by individuals alive today.
The course is presented as a live webinar on the second Tuesday of each month, at 8:00 am Pacific time for 90 minutes. The webinars are recorded and accessed on this page for those who cannot make the sessions. Watch Great Books Webinars from the past year.
Faculty: Each year, Dr. Jim Garrison and Dr. Gyorgyi Szabo will choose six books they consider “great” and will examine each one, sometimes in dialogue with a guest specialist.
Academic Credit: Students taking the course for credit should submit a post paper to Dr. Garrison at the end of each trimester. Bachelors level post-papers 6-9 pages in length, Masters level post-papers 10-15 pages in length, and Doctoral level 20-25 pages. Papers should be written in APA style, with footnotes.
– To understand the qualities that distinguish a literary work as a “Great Book.”
– To reflect upon the challenges framed by authors in ancient times in light of current global crises.
– To grapple with deep issues common to all humanity through active discussion, web forum postings, and paper assignments.
– To compare the major themes of the books studied.
The following books will be examined in 2020:
January 14 and February 11
Jim Garrison, PhD, on The Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism
In this superb book, Lama Govinda offers a penetrating insight into the depth and wonder of Tibetan Buddhism by illuminating its foundational mantra — OM MANI PADME HUM. This mantra is the mantra of the Dalai Lama and is daily on the lips of almost every Tibetan. The book offers a profound insight into the power of Word and how words, uttered with a pure heart and clear intention, can heal the body, transform the heart, and provide solace to the soul. Each sound carries deep meaning. Taken together, the sounds OM MANI PADME HUM distill the essence of the spiritual quest.
Many print versions available, new and used, also free downloadable e-book
March 10 and April 14
Jim Garrison, PhD, on Beyond Good and Evil
Most of us live our lives within the constraints of religious tradition and social convention. We do what we are told is good and eschew what we are told is evil. We are governed by guilt, controlled by shame, and live lives of repressed yearnings and quiet dispair. Our wounds, not our hopes, govern our thoughts, words and deeds. As a result, we are in the grip of complexes of heart and soul that lead to neurotic behaviors and a range of diseases. Nietzsche calls upon us to break through the bonds of “good” and “evil.” He boldly proclaims that nothing is right or wrong except that our minds make it so. In fact, it is through breaking the barriers of convention that we discover deeper meaning and the pathway to true freedom. This path leads to a life well-lived.
May 12 and June 9
Jim Garrison, PhD, on You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter
Joe Dispenza is one of the foremost spiritual teachers of our time. He is the author of a number of books, including the New York Times bestseller You are the Placebo. He has pioneered ways in which ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things by rigorously taking control of their lives, reworking their attitudes toward themselves and their past, and cultivating positive emotions coupled with elevated intentions. In You are the Placebo, Dispenza shows how belief is a powerful medicine. Using documented case studies showing the curative power of placebos, and including how he used visualization to overcome a serious injury of his own, he teaches how you can become your own placebo.
Available in paperback and on audiobook.
July 21 (NOTE this is 3rd Tues of month) and August 11
Jim Garrison, PhD, on The Gospel of the Beloved Companion
Deep in the heart of Christian history is a love story that profoundly shaped the life and destiny of Jesus of Nazareth and the birth of Christianity – the story of Mary Magdalene as lover, disciple, wife and confidante of Jesus. The Gospel of the Beloved Companion sheds light on this narrative. It is the first English translation of a previously unpublished first century gospel originally written in Alexandrian Greek and brought from Egypt to the Languedoc along the southern coast of France during the early part of the first century. Kept secret for centuries, it is now reaching widespread public attention. Mary emerges as the only one amongst the disciples who understood Jesus’ deeper meaning. To reclaim the role and power of Mary Magdalene is to reclaim the importance of eros in the life and teachings of Jesus and for our spiritual development today.
Available in paperback and on audiobook.
September 8 and October 13
Gyorgyi Szabo, PhD, on Women Who Run With The Wolves
Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a Jungian psychoanalyst and cantadora (keeper of the old stories), of many years standing. She reveals how within every woman there lives a Wild Woman, filled with passionate creativity and ageless knowing – but repressed for centuries by a value system that trivializes emotional truth, intuitive wisdom and instinctual self-confidence. Dr Estés extraordinary and enriching bestseller shows how we can reclaim, and rejoice in, our true feminine power – how we can awaken within the depths of our souls one who is both magic and medicine.
Available in paperback and on audiobook.
November 10 and December 8
Gyorgyi Szabo, PhD, on The Little Prince
A pilot forced to land in the Sahara meets a little prince. The wise and enchanting stories the prince tells of his new planet with its three volcanos and a haughty flower are unforgettable. The book addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. Despite its style as a children’s book, The Little Prince makes several observations about life and human nature. It is a strange and wonderful parable for all ages. “The Little Prince” ranks second among literary works by number of languages they have been translated into (300.)
Jim Garrison, PhD is the CEO of Ubiquity University. He has been studying great books since childhood as the son of missionaries to China and Taiwan where he was able to delve into eastern spirituality, particularly Buddhism and Taoism. His double Masters degree in the History of Religion and Christology at Harvard University and his doctorate on a Jungian analysis of ancient Judeo-Christian apocalyptic literature at Cambridge University enabled him to study texts across the spectrum of Axial religions and wisdom traditions. He has spent a lifetime studying great books from east and west, both ancient and modern, sacred and secular.
Gyorgyi Szabo, PhD is the Dean of Graduate Students & Director of Research at Ubiquity University. She was a Co-Founder and Academic Dean of the ‘Ervin Laszlo Center for Advanced Study’ (ELCAS). Since childhood, she has been and still is an avid reader. Having been born and brought up in Hungary, her reading was limited to mostly European and Russian literature due to the restrictions of the communist regime. In her early twenties, she took off to discover the world and since then has visited over sixty countries and lived in six different ones. Her BA degree at the University of London was centered on Politics, History and Philosophy, her Masters degree at Trinity St David University focused on Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism, and her doctorate at the Sorbonne, Paris, on the Evolution of Complex Systems – from Systems Sciences to the Universal Information Field. As a Buddhist practitioner herself, Gyorgyi is a keen explorer of all wisdom traditions.