An Interview with Kathy Callahan, Ph.D
Career Naval Officer and Noted Author Speaks out on core Native American truths and values
By: Brent Raynes
Kathy L. Callahan, Ph.D. is a noted author and speaker. She is a career Naval officer (30 years) who has an educational background in Anthropology and comparative religions. Kathy has been a student of the Edgar Cayce readings for over 40 years, and has presented workshops at A.R.E. Headquarters and field conferences. She is the author of five books including The Medicine Wheel, a Guide to the Sacred Circle; Living in the Spirit; and Multisensory Human: The Evolution of the Soul, available at Amazon.com. She currently resides in Burke, Virginia. You may contact her via her website: noble-minds.com
Brent Raynes: You've delved deeply into areas of interest and profession that many might consider an odd and extreme mixture. On the one hand, possessing a Ph.D in anthropology and being a Captain in the U.S. Navy are certainly two titles that mainstream society readily recognizes as impressive life accomplishments. However, mainstream society is not often so inclined to perceive writing and talking about medicine wheels, your years of being involved in the work of America's "Sleeping Prophet" Edgar Cayce, and other metaphysical-related areas as being time truly well spent academically or professionally. How do you respond to such characterizations?
Kathy Callahan: This is not the first time someone has asked me such a question. I actually address the issue of “blending” a scientific approach with religion in the Introduction to my book, Multisensory Human. Based on what I’ve learned through my research and my experiences in life, we have a threefold nature, possessing body, mind and soul. The three aspects of humanity are thus physical, metal, and spiritual, and I believe we need a synthesized approach to the study of humankind to truly understand each aspect of our being. My work therefore, follows a synthesized framework that includes traditional religious belief, scientific studies, and metaphysical principle. Each body of knowledge—science, religion, and metaphysics— addresses certain facets of our being. Anyone by itself does not encompass the whole of who we are, how we came to be, why we are here, and where we are going. Yet, take the pieces of each and blend them together, and you have a magnificent mosaic which encompasses all aspects of the human experience.
I would also like to point out that many of the greatest minds in history such as Plato, Pythagoras, Leonard DaVinci, and Albert Einstein, to name only a very few, knew that the human experience is much greater than that taught by religious tradition or observed through scientific measure. A contemporary scientist, physicist and well-known author Fritjof Capra put it very well when he said that science and mysticism are two complementary approaches which supplement one another for a fuller understanding of the world.
Brent Raynes: How did you come about becoming so personally immersed in metaphysical areas of study and interest?
Kathy Callahan: As a child, I was always interested in the “why” of things, particularly as it pertained to human beings and how we fit into this world. In school I was fascinated by what I learned in both history and science: the history of our planet (I loved learning about dinosaurs!), the very many different groups of people that make up this world, and the history of those people. Add to that the fact I was raised in a very loving Lutheran church, which taught me of a God that loves us all and wants the best for us. I was taught to see Jesus a “friend”\who walked with me at all times and who would always listen to me if I spoke to him. So, I guess you could say that as a child I had positive experiences with both science and religion. Even so, as I got into my teens, I felt there were many questions that went unanswered.
When I was 14, my mother brought home a book titled, Edgar Cayce on Atlantis. I took a quick look at it and wanted nothing at all to do with such nonsense. Yet, for some reason, I kept being drawn back to it. Over a month later, I picked it up and started reading. As I got into the book, I realized that it contained answers to questions I had, which neither science nor religion could answer. It spoke to our “spiritual” history and who we are as spiritual beings. I kept on reading and thus began my journey into metaphysical thought.
Brent Raynes: During a recent Indian Mounds Tour sponsored by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, as a group of over twenty of us were between sites in our large and comfortable air-conditioned bus somewhere in Georgia, you shared with the group some of the history and significance of the medicine wheel. As you pointed out, from tribe to tribe there were slight differences in meanings and symbols representing the four directions, the central hub, and other aspects of this sacred circle. However, you presented us with a synthesized, as you called, overview of the medicine wheel that could be spiritually quite meaningful for people. Could you review again for our readers these aspects and how they can best be used and applied in one's life?
Kathy Callahan: The Medicine Wheel is an ancient means of using Nature to help us better understand ourselves, our associations with others, and our relationship to our Spiritual Source. Medicine Wheel teachings provide a holistic foundation upon which to base our lives. As we walk the Medicine Wheel, we learn from the sacred four directions, the elements, the seasons, the cycles of the day, plants, minerals, and the totem clans. We also learn from the moons and the spirit animals that walk the wheel with us. These sacred teachings help us discover the power of the natural world and show us how to draw upon that power to live more balanced and harmonious lives. The teachings of the Medicine Wheel are diametrically opposed to the teachings of modern Western culture. Learning these teachings requires more than an intellectual effort. It requires a willingness to put aside preconceived ideas and open oneself to new ways of seeing, thinking and feeling. To follow the path of the Medicine Wheel is to embark upon an experiential journey.
The Sacred Four Directions. A Medicine Wheel is aligned with the four cardinal points of the compass: North, East, South, and West. This creates four quadrants within the sacred circle. Each direction is associated with an element, a wind, a season (marked by a solstice or equinox), and time of day. Each quadrant is also associated with a sacred plant, a mineral, and a totem clan, and also contains three seasonal moons and their associated spirit animals. There are many ways to walk the path of the Medicine Wheel; no one way is more “right” than another; they simply represent a different perspective. Some begin in the North while others begin in the East; most walk in a clockwise direction. As you walk the Medicine Wheel and pass through each quadrant, you will learn what that direction means in terms of the cycle of life. By becoming aware of the meaning of each direction and its correspondences, you experience different aspects of life and by doing so, attain a new level of awareness and knowing.
The East. The East is a time of new beginnings and change. The East represents the physical self, a time when we come into material being and step out into the visible world. The element associated with the East is Air, its season is Spring (Spring Equinox), and its cycle of the day is Sunrise. The Eastern plant is kinick-kinick (a type of tobacco), the stone is amber, and the totem animal is Eagle. I see the color of the East as yellow, the color of the rising sun representing the dawn of a new day. In the East, knowledge comes to consciousness. As we walk in the East we walk in a new world, a world filled with hope and anticipation for things yet to come.
The South. The South is a time of understanding and manifestation. The South represents your outer life and the present—the “now.” The South represents your mental self, the time when you learn to use your thoughts to bring ideas into manifestation. The element of the South is Fire, its season is Summer and its time of day is Noon. The color I see in the South is red, the color of fire, of blood, and of life. The plant is sweetgrass, the stone is garnet, and the totem animal is Cougar or Mountain Lion. As you walk in the South, your life’s purpose comes into focus and you begin to understand your place in the world. You learn to focus your thoughts and dreams and bring them into physical reality.
The West. The West is a time of healing and completion. It represents the maturing of our emotional self. We reflect and look back upon life, keeping the good and releasing the bad. The element is Water, the season is the Autumn and the time of day is Sunset. While many see the color of the West as black, I see it as blue, a deep sapphire blue, a hue that merges the blues of the twilight sky with the black of night. The plant is sage, the stone is turquoise, and the totem is Bear, or more accurately Medicine Bear, the first shaman. When we walk in the West, our emotions are in balance and we are healed by the wisdom that we have created our life’s path. We also come to understand that the power we once thought lay without also lies within us.
The North. The mysterious North is a time grounding and contemplation, of introspection, hidden growth and inner change. It is a place of duality where we have the elders—the crone, the wise woman, the wizard, and the sage, and yet see preparation for a new life. The element is Earth, its season is Winter, and its time of day is Midnight. I see the color of the North as white, the sum of all colors, which represents the color of reflection, clarity and renewal. The plant is cedar, the stone is clear quartz, and the totem animal is Buffalo. As you journey through the North you gain the wisdom and understanding that old age brings, achieving attunement and balance. You can look within yourselves and know who you truly are. We extend our roots and form a firm foundation upon which future growth can stand.
The Center. In addition to the sacred four directions, most traditions also honor the Center, the point from which the directions radiate. The Center represents the Creator and when we stand at Center, we understand that the Great Spirit lies within us. The plant is the oak tree, long used as a symbol for the continuity of life, the stone is petrified wood, and the totem animal is Turtle, an animal connected with the creation of the Earth in many Native American traditions. The Center represents the soul-self of every human, ever changing and transforming, moving beyond the seasons of this world and through time itself until we become one with the Creative Spirit.
Brent Raynes: Accompanying you on this tour, was your companion Florentino Aragon, who like yourself has been associated with the ARE for several decades. Tino, as he likes to be called, is a full-blood Pueblo Indian originally from a reservation in New Mexico. I gather that we're in agreement that you really don't have to be a full-blooded Native American to be able to apply their spiritual teachings and ways to your life anymore than a Christian has to be Jewish in order to be considered a part of that spiritual family? Kathy Callahan: I believe that any spiritual teaching, no matter its ethnic origin, can be of help to any person. Spiritual Truth looks beyond man-made distinctions of race or ethnicity, or religious creeds, and speaks to the soul within. I tell people that if a particular spiritual teaching resonates with them, then follow that feeling and learn more about it!
Brent Raynes: What personal words of wisdom or insight might you give someone just embarking upon the path you embarked on many years ago?
Kathy Callahan: The one thing I tell people who are “seeking” knowledge is to listen to the voice within. Each one of us has all the knowledge, all the wisdom that we ever need. I encourage people to learn to go within themselves to find answers to questions rather than looking for the answers in someone else. The Medicine Wheel is just one such tool to help you do that. It’s my personal opinion that too many people look outside themselves, to a teacher or guide, for what they already know within themselves. It’s our birthright as creations of God to communicate directly with the Creative Spirit. I for one don't want to give up that birthright!
I also tell them that walking a spiritual path is hard—very hard! It takes work, serious work. I’ve seen too many people become discouraged and abandon the spiritual path because their lives didn’t magically become easier and all their problems disappear. Being on a spiritual path doesn’t mean your life becomes easier. It just means that you look at the difficult things in your life in a different way. You learn to find the lessons in anything life brings your way and hopefully, you eventually find joy and peace within yourself knowing that you are doing what you came to this planet to do. You find peace in knowing you are fulfilling your soul purpose.
Brent Raynes: What pearls of wisdom or insight have most inspired or moved you along your life path?
Kathy Callahan: I don’t necessarily think of myself as being wise, far from it. But, I can share some “lessons learned,” as we say in the Navy. They aren’t necessarily original, but they do ring true.
• Listen to that “still small voice within.” You already know the answer you seek.
• Choose a “tool” to help guide you along the spiritual path. We have been given many such tools by the Great Teachers throughout history. Choose one that resonates with you, be it the Medicine Wheel, Celtic teachings, astrology, the Edgar Cayce readings, the Tarot, the I Ching, or yes, even biblical scripture. I myself find great comfort and guidance in the Bible. It is one of the tools I use.
• Try to see all sides of an issue. I often told my Sailors that in looking at any situation, there is not just one side, or not even two sides. There are often three, four or even five sides to an issue, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Learn to see with spiritual vision and look beyond the surface differences that so often seem to separate us.
• Be patient and kind with yourself. I know this is perhaps the hardest of all. Realize that we all have made mistakes, in this life or others, and that each of us is seeking the same thing—a return to oneness with the Creative Spirit. Spiritual enlightenment is a journey, a long and often arduous journey that leads us around and around, yet it does lead us in an ever upward spiral to the light of the Creative Spirit.
Finally, I advise people to, “Always be open to new possibilities!” This truly is a wonderful world. It has much to teach us if we just learn to see with the right spirit and open ourselves to the myriad of possibilities that are ours to experience. May your journey continue ever onward till you reach your final goal. Blessings, Love and Light to all.