By Titan Raines
Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis
In his wonderful little book Tears and Saints, E.M. Cioran observed: “Generally speaking, science has dulled people’s minds by diminishing their metaphysical consciousness.” Whether Cioran’s observation is correct is moot. Those who disagree with it go merrily on their empirical way through life, while those who agree usually seek spiritual enhancement through any number of safe avenues: yoga, eating organic foods, veganism, exercise, meditation, even religion. Such people are well-meaning, kind, gentle and make wonderful spouses and parents. Yet when compared to the handful of extremists who insist upon efficacious immediacy when it comes to expanding metaphysical consciousness, the safe-crowd is wimpy. Which sounds harsh, but isn’t meant to be. It’s simply that the extremists are fanatics, who recognize excellence and the superlative. They aspire to emulate the ineffable. And if they can’t emulate, they at least want to touch it.
You know what I’m talking about, right? People like Aldous Huxley, Daniel Pinchbeck, and now Titan Raines. Huxley, of course, wrote The Doors of Perception (TDP), his journey into an alternate universe via psychedelic drugs. Published in 1954, TDP is still a bestselling classic. Pinchbeck’s book, Breaking Open the Head, published in 2002, provided a historical overview of the use of psychedelic drugs, shamanism, and related his conversion from New York literary snob to frequent flyer. Titan Raines is the latest entrant to the club. His book, Cotton Comes to Holland, was just published (2012, Hexant House). And you just have to love the title – totally outside! But the subtitle is even better: Sex, Drugs, and a Journey to Sacred Mushrooms.
How can you resist?
Raines, a computer scientist, took a trip (via airplane, not via hallucinogenic drugs) to Amsterdam to deliver a paper at some obscure research conference for egg heads. While there, he got up close and personal with Holland’s “harm reduction” policy, which basically legalizes most drugs and prostitution. Raines tried marijuana for the first time. Although two years before, he had spent a year in the jungles of the Amazon becoming a “dietero,” someone who becomes an apprentice-shaman, Raines had never tried marijuana. Which is kind of bizarre, since apprentice-shamans drink ayahuasca. Drinking ayahuasca makes smoking marijuana about as dangerous as taking a multi-vitamin. But whatever.
Anyway, Raines’ description of his jump into Ganga-land is worth the price of admission. The episode starts out serious, moves to ridiculous, skips to funny, and ends up being hilarious. Needless to say, Raines was not compatible with marijuana. After recovering from that fiasco, Raines strolls through the red-light district, where he is mesmerized by the Siren Song of female flesh. Unlike Adam in the Garden of Eden, he resists temptation. The next day, he procures Psilocybe Mexicana, a hallucinogenic mushroom. Partaking of the mushrooms in his hotel room (they taste like granola), he undergoes an intense cathartic experience, shedding tears for various people in his life. He also gains insight into the motivations and agendas of people, while simultaneously realizing he is a “hub,” which is something akin to a human conduit, a kind of human facilitator.
Stimulated by the experience, Raines decides to try Psilocybe Pajateros, also known as “Enter the Dragon.” The Dragon mushrooms are chewy and soft, like unsweetened Gummie Bears. Under the Dragon’s influence, Raines hears loud, peculiar noises, which turn out to be singing air conditioner ducts and a musical door, a door that performs vibrating jazz tunes. Then Raines ‘sees’ clowns in the alley outside his window.
Is this incipient paranoia or are the doors to perception open?
Next, as a kind of big finale, Raines receives enlightenment about the prostitutes of the red-light district. They are much more than prostitutes, they are symbols of “the reproductive potential of womanhood,” a kind of sacrificial symbol.
That being said, Cotton Comes to Holland is a helluva good read – a vicarious voyage to where most people will never go. Raines writes in an easy, intimate style that leaves the reader feeling as if he/she is part of the inner circle, friendly. The story moves in a linear fashion, with occasional flashbacks that are handled well, and Raines avoids showing off, while at the same time being informative.
Raines is one of the few, an intrepid extremist willing to explore the inner space of his own mind. Others, like yours truly – the reviewer – sit back and read the accounts of such explorations and comment upon them.
On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (junk) to 5 stars (superb), Cotton Comes to Holland deserves four stars. Highly recommended.