paranormalIf like me, you grew up enthralled by books that told tales of the Sasquatch and the Jersey Devil, of telekinesis and remote viewing, you might be disappointed by the humdrum, empirically rigorous world of laboratory science, and wanting to recapture that old sense of magic within a mainstream intellectual framework. Here are the college majors I most recommend for those with a sense of wonder:

1. Religious Studies

This, along with English, was my major. I suppose it would have been different if I had attended some parochial or religiously affiliated university, but at a secular school, religious studies programs tend to be more about comparative religion, which was more my bag.

I got to learn about the most far-out things imaginable, from all the world’s faith traditions, from voodoo ceremonies where practitioners were possessed by loa who made them dance and utter magical incantations, to Buddhist monks disappearing in a rainbow as they passed away, leaving behind only fingernails and hair.

The attitude generally taken in academia toward these types of phenomena is for the most part respectfully skeptical, seeking to understand the spiritual significance of these occurrences rather than analyzing them as truth-claims. (There are, of course, also some excellent New Age institutions with varying levels of accreditation, such as the Institute for Noetic Sciences inSan Francisco…but that’s a topic for another article entirely.)

2. Folklore and Mythology

This is another excellent program of study offered at such venerable institutions as HarvardUniversity. Its focus is to document and study oral traditions, both those of the most ancient foreign cultures and the most down-home local urban legends.

One really cool thing about this one is the emphasis on field research and interviews. The Brothers Grimm basically did this same kind of work, gathering the great stories handed down from the wise elders of Europe.

3. Anthropology

A related field to the above, this discipline also includes archaeology under its umbrella. Perhaps you grew up reading of lost civilizations like Atlantis, Lemuria, or Mu, or just always wanted to be Indiana Jones.

I met an archaeology student when I was studying abroad in England who was heavily into this stuff. His professors tried to gently point him away from his more fantastical theories and obsessions (as there are definitely enough cranks making false claims out there already, particularly when it comes to the so-called Holy Lands), but that childlike wonder was undeniably the fuel that got him into his field to begin with. And that’s a wonderful thing! See where your own imagination leads you, and parlay your love of the unknown into a great education.

Valerie Soleil, B.A., LL.B.

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