Cannabis as an Intellectual and Spiritual Tool

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Getting High 3

Everyone likes to feel high. Even silly monkeys, reindeer, cats, and jaguars get high. Smoking, or otherwise ingesting cannabis, aka weed, marijuana, grass, or ganja is one way of getting that feeling. But there are as many ways to get high as there are reasons for doing it, and not everybody has a cannabis expert at hand to show them how.

I’m not a registered cannabis expert myself (I distrust the term ‘expert’ as a matter of principle), but after over ten years of experience with cannabis, first as a casual party smoker and a lazy pothead, and then as an artist, a mystic, and a philosopher, I’m glad to share the lessons that I’ve learned so you can learn from my many, many mistakes.

In this guide to using cannabis as an intellectual and spiritual tool, I’ll talk about the different highs I’ve come across and how to achieve them:

  1. The Social High: getting high and having fun with friends
  2. The Philosophical/Analytical High: having deep thoughts about stuff
  3. The Knock-Out High: zoning out like a couch potato
  4. The Self-Reflective High: getting in touch with your emotional baggage
  5. The Sensual High: having a heightened sensory experience and sensuality
  6. The Creative High: picking up a pencil and drawing a masterpiece

Read on in this article to find out what you can do to get the high that you’re looking for.

 Kinds of Cannabis: Body High vs. Mind High

Before you buy or grow your ganj, you should know that there are two main species of the plant with two very different effects. Roughly speaking, there are varieties of cannabis sativa and of cannabis indica. Indicas are generally grown indoors (with lots of extra lighting, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc) and give a “body high,” while sativas are more likely to be grown outdoors and give a “mind high.”

The effects may vary from person to person, but for me the indica kinds lead to a type 3 high: the Knock-Out High, where my brain gets knocked into a lower mode of consciousness and I just want to sink into a couch or a lazy chair and zone out like a zombie. Indicas (like White Widow) are very popular in the Netherlands, and are often smoked in copious amounts in giant joints laced with tobacco. Hanging out with people who smoke like this has led me to conclude that they’re not so much interested in getting high as they are in getting stoned.

My own preference lies exclusively with the sativas, especially the outdoor kind that’s had nothing but sunlight, earth, and water to grow on. With a mind high, my brain kicks into overdrive, leading to interesting new insights and perspectives, connections between thoughts that I never noticed before, artistic inspiration and creativity, and just a general feeling of being “high:” uplifted, elevated, spiritual, alive.

(Potentially) Negative Effects

Like with any substance, take too much and you might not get what you want out of it. Getting high isn’t always entirely pleasant. Sometimes, I can feel a bit paranoid or insecure, wondering if people know that I’m high. Somehow that seems like a worrisome thing, as if I shouldn’t be high. Luckily, this feeling usually subsides pretty quickly.

Forgetfulness is a lot more common yet; my short term memory can take a hit when I smoke too much, and I sometimes even forget what I was going to say mid-sentence if someone interrupts me.

In the first half hour or so, I sometimes get a dry mouth, or cotton mouth, making me want to drink water or eat some kind of fruit.

It can also get more difficult for me to do focused tasks, like mathematical calculations, complex reading, or operating heavy machinery. Never operate heavy machinery when you’re high, or so I’ve heard.

After I come back down from my high, I can feel a bit of sluggishness and tiredness. I see this as a result of expending a higher amount of mental or brain energy than usual, and with a bit of rest I’m fine the next day.

I’ve heard that there is a link between cannabis use and mental illness, especially for people with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. I can’t confirm or deny it, but I guess if you know that mental illness is in your family, be careful and read up on your risks.

How Much Do I Smoke?

You can more or less assume that you’re going to smoke too much, unless you’re a pro and you know how to properly dose it. Why? Because getting high feels nice, and people usually want more of the nice things that they find. That, and it’s also a safer bet to start with a little bit and smoke more if you need to, because you can’t unsmoke your high if you’ve toked too much.

How much you smoke will depend on several factors, like what kind of high you want, what kinds of weed you have, who you’re with, and the tolerance you may or may not have for the substance. Physical tolerance goes up the more you smoke, but you may also find yourself psychologically tolerant or comfortable with higher levels of highness.

If you’re having fun with friends, and you enjoy the social aspect of smoking, get some relatively weak MJ and/or smoke in regular small doses. That way you can still partake in the group ritual of smoking, without getting ridiculously high after one good inhalation. Spread it out, and keep it going around in circles till everyone is nice and toasted.

If you’re smoking for an intellectual high, to increase your intelligence, then start with just a tiny amount. Dutch weed is generally so strong (high in THC content, the main active ingredient in cannabis) that I only need about the size of a pea or less. But to accurately dose this high takes experience, experiment, and a bit of discipline, because it’s easy to smoke too much and have your inner river of awesome thoughts turn into a mudbath.

If you want to get stoned and zone out, don’t worry too much about your dose. Just smoke a lot, whether it’s indica or sativa, but especially indica and especially in combination with tobacco or hash. (I don’t mean to sound negative about it, this just seems to be how it works.)

If you’re looking to get in touch with your feelings, or to enhance your senses, the same goes as for the intellectual high. Start small, and check yourself after a few minutes to see if you need more.

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was to put down the joint or the pipe even when it isn’t finished yet. I’d gotten into a habit from the very beginning of getting my money’s worth out of every session, and that meant smoking everything. Nowadays, I simply observe how high I am and then stop when I’m good. Of course it helps to have experienced lots of different highs to know what I’m feeling.

Getting High

 Who Do I Smoke With?

If you’re a first-time smoker, try and find someone who has experience, especially if it’s someone you know and trust. Should you get upset or paranoid or something unforeseen happens, it’ll be nice to have them around to help you and reassure you that all will be well.

If you’re looking to get creative, smoke with some friends who like to do the same.

Since each substance tends to bring out a different attitude or “energy,” I wouldn’t recommend getting high and then hanging out with folks who are on other drugs or alcohol, especially if you don’t know them or their behavior. Stick to the weedsmokers, or people who are high on similar substances like hash, opium, or mild psychedelics. Or if you’re feeling fancy, have a nice little smoke while your friend or partner has a few beers or glasses of wine without getting dumb drunk. Weed isn’t for everybody, but if you’re with someone who has found their drug of choice, then chances are it’ll be okay.

Smoking by yourself can also be great. It might take a little extra discipline to stay away from distractions like the internet, but if you can muster up the discipline, or you have a plan, a notebook, and/or a pencil, then you’re good to go.

Where Do I Smoke? “Set And Setting”

This question comes down to personal taste. Are you a party animal and are you comfortable amongst a crowd of strangers? Or are you a loner, at home snuggled in your blanket exploring the world of your own mind? Or do you prefer being outside in the park on a sunny day with your friends?

Daytime, outside, in the sunshine, is great for your senses and for experiencing a heightened awareness of the beauty of the outside world.

Nighttime, whether outside or inside, is great for creativity, silliness, and introspection. Your inner world comes alive as the outside world goes to sleep.

Music, fire, food, conversation, the experience of all these things can feel enriched when you’re high. Make sure you have at least one of those around to titillate your senses, and otherwise, use the silence to investigate your thoughts.

Smoking at or before going to concerts, movies, or art museums can also be amazing and/or amusing.

How Do I Smoke?

There are basic ways and high tech ways of getting high. If you’re a first time or beginning smoker, I recommend smoking a joint or a pipe. It’s easiest to see how much you’re smoking, and you can smell the smoke, see the embers burning, and taste the acrid flavor as the plant turns to ash. This sensory experience, to me, is a great way of really getting into it. If you use a pipe, beware there’s a chance that you’ll light the whole bowl at once and get mega high.

There’s also bongs and blunts and waterpipes, and if you’ve got nothing on this list so far at your disposal, but you still want to smoke, then try an apple or a similar kind of fruit. Seriously. Use an empty ballpoint pen to prick two connecting holes in the apple at a 90 degree angle from each other. Place your weed at one end and use the other end to inhale. Eat the apple when you’re sure you’ve smoked enough.

If, for whatever reason, you’d rather not smoke, then there are several options, including baked goods (on which I’m no expert) and the all-important vaporizers. Vaporizers heat the cannabis to just the right temperature for the active ingredients to become vaporized, while the weed itself remains uncombusted. This ought to save your lungs from carcinogens, and it also leads to a slightly different, slightly clearer high. While less fun, social, or overtly ritualistic than a simple joint, a vaporizer has its benefits, and the day after “vaping” you will feel less dazed than if you’d been smoking.

Beware though; vaporizers have a small learning curve, because the high creeps up on you a bit more than with smoking. And you need to inhale slow, deep, and strong breaths instead of small, short puffs like when you’re smoking. That may be the final benefit of the vaporizer; it’s great for increasing your lung capacity.

 Why Do I Smoke?

My own reasons for smoking vary. Sometimes I smoke to have fun, or for intellectual exploration, self-knowledge, or creativity. I like to write and draw when I’m high, and to think out loud with others. Sometimes I just smoke to relax, like having a beer because the sun is going down. Whatever, I’m high.

But for me there are two feelings that are bound to the feeling of being high, and they are what keep me coming back to MJ and not to alcohol or any other substance. These two feelings are love and a sense of magic. Let me explain.

Being high increases my feeling of love (or, I should say, it helps me become more aware of the love I already feel) – love for myself, my friends and family, the world, and my life. Also, as my heart seems to open up, the wrongs and pains and fears that I’ve been walking around with are suddenly made obvious and clear in a new light. I then process my feelings internally, and then I can move on from my negative emotions. (This, to me, is one of the key differences with getting drunk, where you’re more likely to run away from your emotions or anesthetize them than to pursue them and embrace them).

Secondly, being high gets me in not just a philosophical mood, but a mystical and occult one. Everything, even walls, dry paint, or chairs become animated, alive, connected, and I can do magic with my thoughts, my words, and my art. Magic is a way of expressing your conscious will: to communicate in symbols and rituals to yourself and the world what you really want in life. I do a lot of magic when I’m high, in any way I can.

 What’s It Like Being High?

For me, the first time I got high (it took a few attempts before it worked), I remember running down a hill and feeling like I was a bird, so light and joyous. After that, the first few dozen times that I smoked in my teens were full of hilarity, munchies, music, and, every once in a while, visions of dark trees at night that looked like ready-to-pounce lions, or grass that seemed to be made of thousands of little springs and coils. But mostly I laughed a lot, as everything seemed hilarious. Even – or especially – the most mundane and normal things.

In college, I smoked a lot because I was bored.

After my first psychedelic experiences, my perception and my behavior changed. I smoked less, and I smoked to get high; to feel a heightened sense of awareness, of broader and deeper perception, a meditative state of self-reflection, where my thoughts suddenly seemed to be more coherent, more intelligent, sensitive, and wise.

Nowadays, the first few minutes after being high in public, up to about twenty minutes if I’ve smoked a lot, I may still get what I got in my first few years of smoking; a mild paranoia, typified by thoughts on one simple theme: “I’m high, and they aren’t. Do they know I’m high? Can they tell that I’m high? I’m so high I can’t tell if they can tell that I’m high.” This feeling passes by itself, and quite often I can overcome it with my willpower by recognizing that I’ve been here before and it’s really no big deal. Just ease into it and relax.

After the initial rush of mental energy, which in some situations leads to paranoia, I start to realize that I’m high. I’m still me; I’m still in the same place; and yet everything seems charged with an extra bit of color, sound, taste, energy, and presence. Something amazing has just happened to my brain, and it feels good. The present moment, in all its normalcy, becomes something special; depending on my mood, it could become a spiritual treasure or an enormous joke. Or both. Sometimes my analytical mind dominates, sometimes my spiritual sensibilities do; either way, my perception has been altered.

The high will usually last a couple of hours, after which it gradually wears off. You can extend it by smoking more. But I’m not sure if you can shorten it. I don’t know, because I’ve never felt the need to try.

How Often Do I Smoke?

It took me a few years, but I eventually found a healthy rhythm in how much, how often, and what kind of MJ I smoked. In my teens, living in the US, I smoked whatever I could get my hands on, which wasn’t very often. In college, in Canada, I had a period where I smoked nearly every day for months. And now, in the Netherlands, the mythical home of drugs and prostitutes, I smoke about two to four times a month.

Smoking too often can sap your physical and mental energy, leading to stereotypical pothead behavior; sluggishness, extreme relaxation, enjoying Bob Marley, etc. At some point during my pothead days, I felt that the specialness of the high wore off, and being high had become the new normal. That wasn’t a long term type of fun, as it created distance from other people and dampened my motivations.

One general rule I try to follow now is, don’t smoke two, and definitely not three days in a row, because the day or days after this kind of binge will not feel very energetic or productive, but dazed, sluggish, and void of motivation. Instead, I treat getting high as a sort of sacred ritual. It’s a special thing, for which I set aside time and dedication every once in a while. I have no fixed day to smoke though; for me, with (or without) weed, any day can be a holy day.

The right balance for me is to smoke a bit once a week or every other week. If I haven’t smoked yet within two weeks, I remind myself to smoke. Mainly to have a purposely meditative moment in my busy life, to reflect on myself and my emotions and my choices, and, especially if I’m with other creative people, to express myself and to share the feeling of being high with others. If I don’t smoke for an extended period, I start to notice that I’m taking life too seriously, that emotional baggage is starting to pile on as a result, and, in one word, I notice stress. Secondly, most of my behavior becomes automatic and reactionary when I haven’t been high, which is something I strive to transcend every once in a while. Instead of always being a robot, I like to awaken the power of my spirit, or whatever you want to call it. To feel a glint or a glimmer of the psychedelic experience of being a god instead of a monkey machine trapped in a bag of skin.

Can I Abuse It?


Of course MJ can be abused. I definitely abused it for a while, because of a lack of education, maturity, and discipline. Not that I regret that; but where I’m at right now seems so much better than how I did it before, that I like to help others to understand what they can do with weed. In the end, it’s up to each person to find out if MJ is the right plant for them or not, and what their limits and preferences are before letting its virtues become a vice.

 Is Getting High Similar To Tripping?

Yes and no. Experience with MJ can be a great preparation for tripping on psychedelics like magic mushrooms. And smoking during a trip can also be hugely beneficial to your state of mind. But MJ itself is not a psychedelic, and is extremely mild in comparison.

After my first few psychedelic trips, however, I started to appreciate MJ in a completely different way. I saw where I had gone too far, losing the benefits of the high by smoking too much and too often; I saw that MJ had a meditative and spiritual effect if used right; and I noticed that my brain produced amazing visuals when I had my eyes closed in the dark. Like my third eye had been opened, and weed was fueling it.

If you want to try tripping, practice getting high first. It’ll help you get familiar to some extent with being in an altered state of consciousness, and what’s more, being familiar with being high can help you to take control of a deeply chaotic and/or dark psychedelic experience. I’ve had multiple “bad trips,” where after several hours of struggling with death, suffering, and my ego, a good smoke of ganj not only brought the trip to new heights, but it brought stability and direction to an otherwise wild and chaotic thought process. Those trips ended up being some of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had.


If you want to know more about cannabis use in an intellectual or spiritual setting, try finding more info online or contact me with your questions. I’d be glad to help. If smoking weed is nothing new to you, and you’re interested in psychedelics, check out my guide on tripping next.


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