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India has Been the Inspiration for the Arts, Cuisine, Architecture of Indonesia: June McDaniel

Dr June McDaniel, specialist in the study of religious experience,  Professor Emerita at the College of Charleston, has done fieldwork in India as a Senior Fulbright Scholar and earlier on a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies.

How and when did your interest in religion studies start?

My interest in religion came about through my interests in art, and later psychology. At the undergraduate level, I was studying painting and illustration, with an appreciation for symbolic and surrealist styles of art. I was interested in the origin of the imagery, which led to a study of psychology, especially Jungian analytic psychology and the collective unconscious. But the psychology classes at the time had no interest in the unconscious, their focus was behavior, learning, and brain states. I started having mystical experiences in college, and I realized that religious experience was what interested me most of all. Religious Studies was the closest I could get to the study of mystical states, and it guided my studies in graduate school.

Are there adequate and accurate sources in universities abroad to study Hinduism and other Indian faiths?

When I was an undergraduate, there were no Religious Studies classes available, and certainly none on Indian religions. The closest I came was study with a Philosophy professor with an interest in Eastern religions. I studied Hinduism and Buddhism with him, often through Independent Study classes. Today there are many schools with Religious Studies programs, and professors who specialize in Indian religions. But in those days, there was much less information available, so it was harder to study.

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