June McDaniel

Professor Emerita

June McDaniel specialized in the study of religious experience, especially in the Hindu tradition.

In her own words
I work in the field of the History of Religions, in which we study the history and development of religious ideas, and how religious experiences are understood and interpreted in different cultures. In teaching, I believe that it is important for students to learn both the range of religions--which means gaining wide knowledge of many religious traditions, both present and past--and also to develop depth within a specific tradition, to gain expertise and insight into its religious perspectives. While such skills as critical thinking and analytic ability are important, I also emphasize developing empathy towards other cultures, and the ability to look at events through other religious perspectives. A good researcher can be both insider and outsider in the religion of his or her expertise, and be capable of comparing religious themes and ideas across both classical and folk traditions.

The courses I taught included World Religions, Women and Religion, Mysticism and Religious Experience, Religions of India, Sacred Texts of the East, Phenomenology of Religion, and Myth, Ritual and Symbol.


1986 - Ph.D. History of Religions, The Divinity School at the University of Chicago,
Specializing in South Asian devotional religions

1980 - Master of Theological Studies, Candler Seminary at Emory University,
Focus on Christianity and Psychology of Religion
1974 - B.A., Studio Art, SUNY Albany

Research Interests

  • Religious Experience, especially in the Hindu tradition
  • Mysticism
  • Hindu bhakti and tantra
  • Women's religious rituals
  • Study of holy people

She has spent two years doing fieldwork in India, most recently from 1993-1994 on a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant, and earlier on a grant from the American Insitute of Indian Studies, from 1983-1984. She has also done research in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sikkim.

Courses Taught

  • RELS 105: Intro to World Religions
  • RELS 205: Sacred Text of the East
  • RELS 245: The Religions of India
  • RELS 298: Spirituality, Madness & Healing
  • RELS 298: Special Topics: Goddesses in World Religion
  • RELS 298: Special Topics: Religion & Psychology
  • RELS 301: Mysticism & Religious Experience
  • RELS 350: Phenomenology of Religion
  • RELS 365: Religion and Psychology
  • RELS 375: Asian Esotericism: Yoga and Tantra
  • RELS 450: Religious Symbolism



Lost Ecstasy: Its Decline and Transformation in Religion. Palgrave Macmillan, Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Mysticism Series, 2018.       

Perceiving the Divine through the Human Body:  Mystical Sensuality, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.  Co-edited with Thomas Cattio.

Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives:  An Introduction to Women's Brata Rituals in Bengali Folk Religion, Albany: SUNY Press, 2003.

The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Book Chapters

“Magical Tantra in Bengal, Bali and Java; from pisaca tantrikas to balians and dukuns.”  In Tantra, Magic, and Vernacular Religions in Monsoon Asia:  Texts, Practices and Practitioners form the Margins.  Ed. Andrea Acri and Paolo Rosati.  Routledge, 2023.

“Fierce Goddesses of India:  Durga and Kali” in The Cambridge Companion to Religion and War, ed. Margo Kitts.  Cambridge University Press, 2023.

“From the Underworld of Yama to the Island of Gems: Concepts of Afterlife in Hinduism.” In Candy Cann, Death and Afterlife. Routledge Publishers, 2018.

McDaniel, J. E., Dark Devotion: Religious Emotions in Shakta and Shi'ah Traditions. In John Corrigan, Feeling Religion (North Carolina: Duke University Press).

McDaniel, J. E., (2017). Dark Devotion:  Religious Emotion in Shakta and Shi'ah Traditions. In John Corrigan, Feeling Emotion (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 117-141.

McDaniel, J. E., (2017). From the Old Lady of the Grove to Ekatmika Bhava:  Women's Mysticism, Devotion and Possession Trance in Popular Bengali Shaktism. In Zayn R. Kassam, Women and Asian Religions (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Publishers), 297- 312.

McDaniel, J. E., (2015). Death Visions of the Goddess Kali. In Thomas Cattoi and Christopher Moreman, Death, Dying and Mysticism:  The Ecstasy of the End (New York City, NY: Palgrave Macmillan), 189-202.

McDaniel, J. E., (2015). Death  Visions of the Goddess Kali. In Thomas Cattoi and Christopher Moreman, Death, Dying and Mysticism:  The Ecstasy of the End (New York City, NY: Palgrave Macmillan), 189-202.

McDaniel, J. E., (2014).  Psychoanalysis and the Problem of Religious Ecstasy. In Essays in Honour of Sudhir Kakar:  Psychoanalysis, Culture and Religion (New York City, NY: Oxford University Press).

McDaniel, J. E., (2013). Yoginis in Bengali Religious Traditions:  Tribal, Tantric and Bhakti Influences. In Istvan Keul, Yogini in South Asia:  Interdisciplinary Approaches (New York City: Routledge).

McDaniel, J. E., (2012). Modern Bengali Sakta Tantrikas:  Ethnography, Image and Stereotype. In Istvan Keul, Transformations and Transfer of Tantra in Asia and Beyond (Tubingen: De Gruyter), 147-164.

McDaniel, J. E., (2011). Kali:  Goddess of Life, Death and Transcendence. In Patricia Monaghan, Goddesses in World Culture (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications), pages 17- 31.

Latest Research Grants

Research: ILAS Teaching Grant (Innovative Teaching and Learning in the Liberal Arts), College of Charleston, (June 2014).

Research: Collaborative Grant, for Study of Religious Emotion, American Academy of Religion, (February 2014).


"At the Burning Ground: Death and Transcendence in Bengali Shaktism" Religions 14, no. 8: 1014.  2023.  Special Issue: “Mystical Theology:  Negation and Desolation’ https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081014 

“Shakti in Village India: Priestesses, Sadhikas, Bhar Ladies, Ayes, Bhaktas, Witches, and Bonga Girls”.  Religions 14, no. 6 789. 2023. Special Issue: “Gurus, Priestesses, Saints, Mediums and Yoginis: Holy Women as Influencers in Hindu Culture” https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060789 

“Strengthening the Moral Compass: The Effects of MDMA Therapy of Moral and Spiritual Development.  Pastoral Psychology, 66 (6), pp. 721-742, 2017. 

“Religious Change and Experimentation in Indonesian Hinduism.”  International Journal of Dharma Studies. 2 (20), 14 pages.  2017.

McDaniel, J. E. (2013). A Modern Hindu Monotheism:  Indonesian Hindus as 'People of the Book'. In Jounral of Hindu Studies (Ed.), Journal of Hindu Studies, 6 (3), 333-362.

McDaniel, J. E. (2013).  Indonesia,  Modernity and the Problems of Religious Adaptation. Wacana:  Journal of the Humanities of Indonesia.

McDaniel, J. E. (2012). The Role of Yoga in Some Bengali Bhakti Traditions: Shaktism, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Baul, and Sahajiya Dharma. Journal of Hindu Studies, 5 (1), 53-74.

"Agama Hindu Dharma as a New Religious Movement: Hinduism Recreated in the Image of Islam" in Nova Religio, vol. 14.1 (August 2010), 93-111.

“Sitting on the Corpse’s Chest:  The Tantric Ritual of Sava sadhana and its Variations in Modern Bengal” in Breaking Boundaries with the Goddess:  New Directions in the Study of Saktism, ed. Cynthia Ann Humes and Rachel Fell McDermott.  New Delhi:  Manohar, 2009.

“Religious Experience in Hindu Tradition” in Religion Compass, 3 (2009), online refereed journal. 

“Experience” in Studying Hinduism:  Key Concepts and Methods, ed. Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, eds.  London and New York:  Routledge, 2008.

“Emotion in Hinduism” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion, ed. John Corrigan.  NY:  Oxford University Press, 2008.

 “Come One, Come All, to the Fair of the Mother’s Transformation!” in The Constant and Changing Faces of the Goddess:  Goddess Traditions of Asia, ed. Deepak Shimkhada and Phyllis K. Herman.  Cambridge:  Cambridge Scholars, 2008.

"Does Tantric Ritual Empower Women?" in Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition, ed. by Tracy Pintchman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

"On the Path of Holy Women" in Elixir Sufi Order International, #2, Spring 2006.

"Folk Vaishnavism and the Thakur Pancayat: Life and Status among Village Krishna Statues" in Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity, ed. Guy Beck. Albany:SUNY Press, 2005.

"Fusion of the Soul: Jayashri Ma and the Primoridal Mother" in The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States, ed. Karen Pechelis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

"Emotion in Bengali Religious Thought: Substance and Metaphor" in Religion and Emotion: Approaches and Interpretations ed. John Corrigan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

"O Tushu Ma:  Self-Expression, Oral History and Social Commentary for the Jharkhand Goddess" in the International Journal of Hindu Studies, (March 2002).

"Fieldwork in Indian Religion:  Some Notes on Experience and Ethics" in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, vol. 13 (2001), 78-81.

"The Tantric Radha:  Some Controversies About the Nature of Radha in Bengali Vaishnavism and the Radha Tantra," The Journal of Vaisnava Studies, Vol. 8.2 (Spring, 2000).

"Interview with a Tantric Kali Priest:  Feeding Skulls in the Town of Sacrifice" in Tantra in Practice, ed. David White. Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2000.

"Blue Lotuses Everywhere: Divine Love in Gaudiya Vaisnava and Catholic Mysticism" in Journal of Vaisnava Studies, vol. 5.1, (Winter, 1997).

"Emotion in Bengali Religious Thought: Substance and Metaphor" in Emotions in Asian Thought: A Dialogue in Comparative Philosophy, ed. Joel Marks and Roger T. Ames. Albany: SUNY Press, 1995.

"A Holy Woman of Calcutta: Sri Archanapuri Ma" in Religions of India in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

"Mysticism, Madness and Ecstasy in the Gaudiya Tradition" in Vaisnavism: Contemporary Scholars Discuss the Gaudiya Tradition, ed. Steve Rosen. New York: Folk Books, 1992.

"The Embodiment of God Among the Bauls of Bengal" in the Journal of Feminist Studes in Religion, Fall, 1992.