"It took me years to overcome the warrior indoctrination I got in the Special Forces. It was very deeply ingrained. What finally brought me out of it was meditation and my wife's persistent love," says author William T. Hathaway. "Now I look back and ask, How could I have fallen for that military nonsense?"
A Special Forces combat veteran, Hathaway has answered that question in two novels about what attracts men to war and how they can be healed of the pathology of patriarchal machismo. His first novel, 'A World of Hurt,' won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal of the blocked sexuality and the need for paternal approval that draw men to the military.
"I was trying to uncover the psychological roots of war, the forces that so persistently drive our species to slaughter," says Hathaway. "Our culture has degraded masculinity into a deadly toxin. It's poisoned us all. Men have to confront this part of themselves before men and women together can heal it."
He is active in a group offering support and shelter to soldiers who have refused to be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The real heroes in the military are the deserters," says Hathaway. He wrote the introduction to 'America Speaks Out: Collected Essays from Dissident Writers' and has published numerous political articles. His writing won him a Fulbright professorship at universities in Germany, where he currently lives.
Hathaway sees spirituality as an essential component of a more peaceful world. "My military experience convinced me that to prevent war we need to raise human consciousness. A look at the history of revolutions shows that switching economic and political systems isn't enough. The same aggressive personality types take over and start another army. We have to change the basic unit, the individual.
"Many of my leftist colleagues ignore this because they see the individual as the product of social and material forces. But I think the human heart is deeper than that and can be changed.
"I've found Eastern meditation to be the most effective way to change people. Unlike prayer, it works on the physiological level, altering the brain waves and metabolism. It refines the nervous system and expands the awareness so that the unity of all human beings becomes a living reality, not just an idealiztic concept.
"After a while of meditation people stop wanting to consume things that increase aggression, such as meat, alcohol, and violent entertainment. They become more peaceful."
Hathaway's just-released novel, 'Summer Snow,' approaches peace from this meditative perspective. It is set amidst the war on terrorism as an American warrior falls in love with a Sufi Muslim and learns from her an alternative to the military mentality. While Special Forces battle al-Qaeda, the escalating violence threatens their future together and the lives of thousands in her country. To save them, she shows him an ancient transcendental way to bring peace to the collective consciousness and prevent terrorism. But can they make it work in time?
The book's wisdom figure is a Sufi crone, the warrior's lover's teacher, who has survived by outsmarting male political and religious hierarchies. "This bin Laden, this Bush, all these leading men, they have highjacked us all with their violence," she proclaims. "They have turned the whole world into their suicide airplane. These men are too primitive to have such power. Too ignorant of the underlying reality. We must stop them. We must take the boys' toys away from them...these terrible weapons." How she does that becomes the climax of this mystical thriller.
The novel's theme is that higher consciousness is more effective than violence and that women may be more able than men to lead us there.