The Great Books
of the World’s Wisdom Traditions


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.

Dr. Jim Garrison has been studying the great books since childhood as the son of a missionary 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 the great books across the spectrum of Axial religions and wisdom traditions. He has spent a lifetime studying the great books both ancient and modern, east and west, sacred and secular.

Each year, Dr. Garrison and his colleagues Will Taegel, Gyorgyi Szabo, and Karen Castle, will choose six books they consider “great” and will examine each one, sometimes in dialogue with a specialist in the book at hand.

Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the qualities which distinguish a literary work as a “Great Book.”
  2. Reflect upon the challenges framed by authors in ancient times in terms of current global crises.
  3. Grapple with deep issues common to all humanity through discussion, web forum postings, and paper assignments.
  4. Compare the major themes of the books studied.

The course meets on the second Tuesday of each month, at
8:00 a.m. Pacific time for 90 minutes. The following is the schedule of lecture and discussion sessions for 2017:

Antigone by Sophocles

This is the earliest work known to us that deals with the very complex issue of civil disobedience. It involves a woman named Antigone, the sister of a man who was killed revolting against a tyrant in ancient Greece. The tyrant forbids anyone to bury the dead body but Antigone does so anyway, saying that the laws of heaven are more important than the laws of a king. She is arrested and the play unfolds from there. In today’s world, in which so much evil is being conducted by nation states and political leaders, is civil disobedience justified, and if so, how does one decide?

A variety of free downloads are available, eg:

The Book of Hopi by Frank Waters

Above all else this “Great Book” is a narrative never before expressed in written form. In it we can discover the “natural language of Spirit,” a mother tongue, speaking in loud and clear tones through an indigenous people. The Hopi people are a conduit, but in a real sense it is the story of a pre-1492 Western Hemisphere. In an even deeper light it is Earth’s story, our story. In it we encounter the phases through which we humans have unfolded. It addresses the questions: Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? Hopi prophecies thus far are eerily on target. Imbedded in their storytelling are pointers to climate change and religious wars and the role our choices and ceremonies can have in shaping that future. Are you interested in Cosmic maps that point a way through the turmoil of culture and the rebalancing of Nature? Join us in using this Great Book as a foundation for such explorations.

Free access to The Book of Hopi is available through this site:

The Dhammapada, sayings of the Buddha

The Buddha lived in the sixth century B.C., and at his death his disciples began to recite and write down all they could remember of what he said and did. Dhamma means “doctrine” or “eternal truth.” Pada means “path,” or “way.” The Dhammapada is a collection of the Buddha’s sayings written down in verse form first in Pali, the language used by the oldest Buddhist communities. The Dhammapada is roughly equivalent to the Gospels in the Christian tradition, recordings of the sayings and deeds of Jesus by his disciples and the early community of believers.

A variety of free downloadable versions are available, for example:

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

No other novel in the canon of Hesse’ fiction matches the immense appeal of Siddhartha for the modern reader. Inspired by Hesse’s profound regard for Indian philosophy and written in prose of almost biblical simplicity, it chronicles the quest of the Brahmin Siddhartha for the conquest of suffering and fear. His tortuous road leads him through the temptations of luxury and wealth, the delights of sensual love, and the sinister threat of death-dealing snakes, towards the fulfillment of his destiny as a ferryman guided by the all-knowing voice of the running river.

A variety of free downloadable versions are available, for example:

The Prince, by Machiavelli

The Prince is considered one of the most influential political treatises of all time and the foundation of modern political science. It has shaped the thinking of leaders as diverse as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. It was written during the Italian Renaissance by Niccolo Machiavelli who was for many years a senior official and diplomat of the city of Florence. Seeing that Italy was being torn apart by intrigue, war, pestilence, and religion, he sought to write a treatise that would serve as a guide to the princes of his age. For him, politics could not be based on ideals but on the hard realities of power and violence. The Prince raises the fundamental question of whether morality and idealism can or should play a part in political decision making.

A variety of free downloadable versions are available, for example:

The Exultation of Inanna, by Enheduana

Enheduana is the first known author of a specific work of literature in human history. She was the daughter of Sargon the Great, the first known king to build an empire. They lived about 2300 BC in ancient Mesopotamia, over a thousand years before Moses, 1,500 years before the Buddha or Plato, and 2300 years before Christ. She was a devotee of the goddess Inanna, the first goddess who encompasses both the celestial and the earthly. Enheduanna’s writing portrays a relationship with a powerful feminine deity that ignites her spiritual and psychological liberation. Studying these ancient books of origin give us an awareness that all the issues with which we grapple today were all there at the beginnings of human civilization.

Free downloadable version of The Exultation:

Other References
Meador, B. (2000). Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart, Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Wolkstein, D. & Kramer, S.N. (1983). Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth. New York: Harper & Row.


Assessment and Grading

Whenever there is a question about what assignments are due, please remember this syllabus is considered the ruling document.

The final course grade will be calculated as follows:

All students are required to read each of the books, participate in the monthly lectures, participate consistently in the Facebook discussion group, and prepare a post-paper. Student work will be evaluated for the following areas:

  1. General knowledge of all required reading assignments and of all material presented by the instructor in lectures and in class discussions.
  2. Clear, concise, reflective, critical thinking as well as artistic expression and subjective evaluation based on the readings. This juxtaposition of analytical thought and artistic expression engages both hemispheres of the brain and contributes to holistic learning.
  3. Regular, active, and meaningful participation in class discussions of assigned readings in class and on the Facebook discussion group (students are expected to reflect on the concepts and issues in the readings and be prepared to articulate those thoughts).
  4. Quality of all assigned post-papers. All papers must use proper grammar and include footnotes and a bibliography. All papers should reflect a dialectical relationship between demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the books you have read with how you have been impacted by your reading of the book. At Ubiquity University, we are interested in personal growth, so we encourage all papers to balance subjective experience with the objective understanding of the material. We are interested in how the learning experience affects you, and how you are being personally or professionally transformed.

Post-paper evaluations are by letter grades.

Graduate Students

Students must submit, at the end of each calendar year (three trimesters), a single 20–25 page paper that comparatively analyzes the six books the student has read and discussed.

In addition, students should respond to each book with some form of creative expression inspired by the assigned work. This may be a drawing, poetry, music, or video, or any other form of creative expression of your own choosing. These creative expressions should be scanned and forwarded to Jim Garrison or Teacher Assistant together with your final paper.

Undergraduate Students

Students must submit, at the end of each trimester, a single 5–7 page paper that analyzes the student’s reaction to the two books read and discussed. What did you learn? What did you agree or disagree with? What issues were compelling to you? How has your thinking changed as a result?

In addition, students should respond to each book with some form of creative expression inspired by the assigned work. This may be a drawing, poetry, music, or any other form of creative expression of your own choosing. These creative expressions should be scanned and forwarded to Jim Garrison or Teacher Assistant together with your final paper.

For any questions or issues, please contact our Director of Admissions and Student Support, Constantina Clark, at

Dates: January 10–December 12, 2017

Time: Second Tuesday of the month at 8:00am Pacific Time/ 5:00pm Central European Time/ 8:30 New Delhi Time/ 1:00am Sydney Time.

Location: Teleseminar

Faculty: Jim Garrison, Ph.D., Gyorgyi Szabo, Ph.D., Mark Ryan, Ph.D., Will Taegel, Ph.D., with other guest specialists

Academic Credit:
3 Credits for BA and MBA students, 4 Credits for Wisdom School students



Wisdom Masters (4 credits) $800.00 USD
Wisdom Doctorate (4 credits) $800.00 USD
Ubiquity University B.A. (3 credits) $300.00 USD
Ubiquity University M.B.A. (3 credits) $600.00 USD
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* Students enrolled in B.A. and M.B.A. programs should contact the Director of Admissions for more information about course requirements, cost and credits.

* This is an ongoing, all-year monthly core course for all Ubiquity students. If starting during the year ask Registrar for price adjustment.

Free Public Audit
(no academic credit)

Lecture Recordings

Faculty Bios

Jim Garrison

Jim Garrison received his BA, magna cum laude, in World History from the University of Santa Clara in 1973; his MTS from Harvard Divinity School in Christology and the History of World Religions in 1975; and his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in Philosophical Theology in 1982. His doctoral dissertation was on the theme “Hiroshima, Apocalyptic and the Antinomial Nature of God.”

Garrison has developed this theme in all his published writings beginning with his first book in 1980, called The Plutonium Culture (SCM). This was followed by The Darkness of God: Theology After Hiroshima (SCM/1982); The Russian Threat: Myths and Realities (Gateway Books/1983); The New Diplomats (Resurgence Press/1984); Civilization and the Transformation of Power (Paraview Press/2000); and America As Empire (Barrett Koehler/2004).

Garrison served as president of Wisdom University (now Wisdom School of Graduate Studies) from 2005–2012, and is now president of Ubiquity University. Before coming to the university, Garrison served as president of the State of the World Forum, which he founded in 1995 in partnership with President Mikhail Gorbachev and Senator Alan Cranston. He founded the Radiation and Health Information Service in 1978; co-founded the Christic Institute in 1980; was Executive Director of the Esalen Institute Soviet-American Exchange Program from 1985–1990; and founded the International Foreign Policy Institute in partnership with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Secretary George Shultz in 1991. Garrison founded the Gorbachev Foundation/USA in 1992 with Mr. Gorbachev as founding chairman.

Gyorgyi Szabo

Gyorgyi Szabo

Ph.D., (Summa Cum Laude) University of Paris-Sorbonne - in Sociology
M.A., University of Wales Trinity Saint David - in Philosophy
B.A. (Hons) Birkbeck College, University of London - in Philosophy

Gyorgyi serves as Ubiquity University’s Director of Academic Research and Program Development and Dean of Doctoral Studies at the Wisdom School of Graduate Studies. She was a Co-Founder and Academic Dean of the Ervin László Center for Advanced Study (ELCAS). She served as Director of Research and Development of the Center's Exploratoria Program. She was co-creator of the WorldShift International Foundation, and the WorldShift 2012 organizations, and currently serves as Member of the Advisory Board of the Memnosyne Foundation. She collaborated with Ervin Laszlo in preparing some of the meetings of the World Cultural Forum in China and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Club of Budapest France. In 2012, she founded and now serves as a president of UniverSoul, a Hub for Conscious Evolution in Paris, in association with Barbara Marx Hubbard. Gyorgyi lectures worldwide and has published papers in The Scientific and Medical Network’s Review, The Shift Network, and World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research. She translated from Italian to English The Basic Code of the Universe: The Science of the Invisible of Physics, Medicine and Spirituality by Dr Massimo Citro.

Gyorgyi is also a trained Reiki and Reconnective Healing practitioner. She has lived in America, England, Italy and Spain. She currently lives in Paris, France. Her holistic approach to metaphysics and interest in conscious evolution serves as foundation for her work in facilitating cooperative evolution toward a peaceful and sustainable world.

Mark Ryan

Mark Ryan

Ph.D. and M. Phil., Yale University
M.A., University of Texas at Austin
B.A., University of St. Thomas

Mark B. Ryan is former Associate Dean of the Wisdom School of Graduate Studies and former Chair of the Board of Directors of Wisdom University. Prior to joining Wisdom, he was Titular IV Professor at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico, where he also served as Dean of the Colleges, Master of José Gaos College, and Coordinator of the graduate program in United States Studies. For more than twenty years he was Dean of Jonathan Edwards College and a teacher of American Studies and History at Yale University. He holds Ph.D. and M. Phil. degrees from Yale, an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. Mark is author of A Collegiate Way of Living (Yale University, 2001), articles in various journals on higher education, and articles in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology on transpersonal thought. He served for fourteen years on the Board of Trustees of Naropa University and is a certified by Grof Transpersonal Training as a practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork.

Will Taegel

Will Taegel brings an integral approach to his work in education as the Dean of the Wisdom School of Graduate Study of Ubiquity University. He weds his Native American background and traditional training in shamanic circles with his 30-year practice of psychotherapy, including a stint as Chair of the Texas State Board of Examiners in Psychotherapy. He balances his academic interest in evolution and trauma with the spiritual practice of rain water collection, solar and wind energy, and environmental restoration. Dr. Taegel is the author of 8 books and numerous professional articles. He was among the first researchers to connect clinical and cultural disturbance with human estrangement from the sacred core of Nature and, in that regard, to build a number of ongoing eco-spiritual communities and is the co-founder, with Judith Yost, of an eco-spiritual, integral practice community called the Earthtribe. His first doctorate, a D.Min., focused on systems therapy, and his recent Ph.D. concentrated on integrating ancient wisdom with the science of fields. His recent book, THE MOTHER TONGUE: Intimacy in the Eco-fields, has a five star rating on Amazon.

Karen Castle

Ph.D. in Wisdom Studies (2016), M.A. from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (2008) and Florida College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2005), B.A. at Northern Illinois University (1988).

Karen has an eclectic background derived from her skills as a Licensed Acupuncturist, her education, her training in Holotropic Breathwork, The Enneagram Personality Types, and Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training. She is author of two books highlighting the Goddess Inanna myth. Unveiling the Modern Goddess: Thru Symbolism, Chakras & Myth (2011) captures the eccentric symbolism in Inanna’s ancient story for development towards our life potential. The Sacred Union: Connecting the Masculine and Feminine Within (2012) brings awareness and importance to the relationship of our inner mirror through archetypal counterparts.

Karen has been in the field of Alternative Medicine since 1997 and resides in St. Petersburg, FL where she is a Licensed Acupuncturist. Shecurrentlyhas a practice on board a cruise line, travelingworld-wide and is now assisting in a groundbreaking program with Dr. Andrew Weil’s group to roll out a Mindful Living Program in the international cruise industry. She continues to host Holotropic Breathwork™ workshops in FL and as faculty with the Enneagram Institute in NY. Her personal, collective commitment is towards conscious awareness in an effort to integrate the tension stimulated through our current global arena to create a balanced perspective of the conscious and unconscious realms.