Paranthropology: A Cultural Approach to Psi - Syllabus


Course Description

How do native cultures view psi phenomena?

How do culture-based beliefs and folklore around healing and psychokinesis differ between places like China, Mexico, and the Australian Outback? Why are seers and clairvoyants accepted in some cultures but shunned by others, modern culture included? How are culture-bound/religion-bound magic, witchcraft, and sorcery beliefs related to psychic abilities and experiences?

This 8-week academic course will be a high level overview of the ideas and beliefs of psychic experiences, the human mind and spirit, and related areas (life after death, reincarnation, etc.) as those beliefs have been “seen” by anthropologists and parapsychologists around the world.  We will look at the possible instances of psi phenomena best reported in studies of divination, witchcraft and sorcery beliefs and practices, various cross cultural studies, modern beliefs in the occult and supernatural, and the application of psychic functioning in archaeology and anthropology.  From the parapsychological side, we will examine the ways culture affects belief, which in turn affects the psychic experience.

There will be weekly discussion questions, a midterm and a final quiz.


Course Outline

Week 1

An Anthropological Study of Magic and Religion

An overview of Anthropology and how belief in magic and religion play a part in what a culture is and does. Witchcraft, sorcery, and magical beliefs and practices and how psi might be seen in them. A discussion of the roles of mythology, ritualistic behavior, symbolism and taboos in relation to magical beliefs and to psi.  The place of the medicine man, shaman, sorcerer, and magic-giver will be discussed.

Week 2

Divination and Prophets

A survey of divination techniques from fortunetelling to contacting the dead for information, ancient and modern, including forms of channeling and culturally dependent stereotypes of the “fortuneteller.”9 Also covering the part of drugs and other altered states-producing substances.

Week 3

Ethnomedicine, Religion and Healing and the Opposites

What is the place of non-medical healing (folk medicine, psychic, spiritual and faith healing, etc.) in human culture? Who and what are the healers? A discussion of Hex Death and Psychic Attack

Week 4

Modern "Primitive" Beliefs in the Psychic

A discussion/survey of pre-literate and indigenous peoples around the world who still have heavy magical belief systems and how they compare with “modern” cultures. What is the place of psi in these societies? What is the place of psychic fraud in these same societies? Discussion will include the Australian Aborigines.

Week 5

Psi and Archaeology

Taking a break from beliefs and practices, this week’s class will review the use of psychics and psi abilities in archaeology.

Week 6

Spirits, Good and Bad, Through the Ages: The Power of the Dead

A survey of beliefs around spirits from ancient peoples (i.e. Neanderthals, Cro Magnons, Sumerians, Egyptians…) through the Middle Ages. Also, a discussion of the issue of Good and Evil in relation to such spirits and how they manifest as ghosts, vampires, zombies, guardian “angels” and the like and their relation to the societies in which they appear. We’ll also look at ideas of spirit/demonic possession and exorcism. Finally, a look at beliefs in Death and how they shape the life-styles of people around the world.

Week 7

Mind, Consciousness, and Spirit in the 20th/21st Centuries

A discussion of ideas and beliefs dealing with the existence of psi and its relation to consciousness and human spirit in industrialized cultures around the world and how popular beliefs of the supernatural, occult and New Age show we are not far from other “magical thinking” cultures.

Week 8

Psi Relevance

Psychic experience in the context of the information provided by anthropologists and sociologists, with respect to parapsychology. We will look at the importance of belief factors in psi experience and how such cultural beliefs can affect what types of psi experiences occur in a given culture, as well as how such factors may affect frequency and magnitude of psi.


Course Materials

  • Main reference or materials for the course
  • Various articles selected by the instructor and provided for download throughout the course.

Course Activities

  • Students will be expected to view the class broadcasts or the recordings of the classes each week.
  • Students will be expected to participate in weekly discussion forums and activities. Each student will be expected to provide an original posting each week and to respond to at least one other student in the discussion forums. Greater participation in this area will be considered during class evaluations.
  • One multiple choice or short answer evaluations will be assigned after the 4th or 5th week of class.
  • One final evaluation at the end of the course

Evaluation and Grading

Students who are taking the course for a grade will be assessed using a letter grade based on the standard letter grade format.

  • A (90-100)
  • B (80-89)
  • C (70-79)
  • D (60-69)
  • F (below 60)

Participation in the forums is a large component of the grading, and substantive postings are necessary to get full credit for each discussion topic.

The following activities will be considered to contribute to the courses as follows:

  • Discussions (5 points per week; Total 40%)
  • Assessment #1 (30%)
  • Final Project or Assessent (30%)