Podcast 176 – “Surfing Finnegans Wake” Part 1


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna


[NOTE: All quotations below are by Terence McKenna.]

“In some ways, I think it can arguably be said that this is the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature, of the twentieth century.”

“The reason I’m interested in it is because it’s two things, clearly. ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ is psychedelic, and it is apocalyptic/eschatological.”

“What I mean by psychedelic is there is no stable point of view. There is no character, per se. You never know who is speaking.”

” ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ is as if you had taken the entirety of the last thousand years of human history and dissolved all the boundaries.”

“Joyce, once in a famous interview, said that if the whole universe were to be destroyed, and only ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ survive, that the goal had been that then the entire universe could be reconstructed out of this.”

“It’s about as close to LSD on the page as you can get.”

“Anna Livia Plurabelle is Molly Bloom on acid, basically.”

“People say the psychedelic experience is hard to remember, dreams are hard to remember, but harder to remember than either of those is simply ordinary experience.”

“The character of life is like a work of literature. We are told that you are supposed to fit your experience into the model which science gives you, which is probabilistic, statistical, predictable, and yet the felt datum of experience is much more literary than that.”

“What all these people are saying, I think, and what the psychedelic experience argues for as well, is that we are somehow prisoners of language.”

“We are living in a terminal civilization. I don’t want to say dying, because civilizations aren’t animals. But we are living in an age of great self-summation. … Western civilization has had a thousand years to work its magic, and now there is a summation underway.”

“The purpose of literature, I think, is to illuminate the past and to give a certain guidance as we move into the future.”

“Somehow, complexity is the ocean we have to learn to surf.”


PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option

"Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce "A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake" by Joseph Campbell

The Oracle Gatherings … June 2009 … The Fountain

Posted in Books, Creativity, Eschaton, Terence McKenna (mp3) and tagged , , , .

One Comment

  1. Comments from original blog page: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=1089

    Ohhhh this is going to be great! I know what I’m doing after work!

    I have an older mp3 version of this talk (as well as the cassette edition), and most of my knowledge of the Wake emanates from that. Unlike many who’ve attempted it, I’ve actually made it into chapter 2, but not much further. Someday I’ll get through the entire thing at least once, though.

    Also, check out Finnegans Wiki when you have the chance:


    I attempted it three times … never made it past page 50 … you’re a better man than I am, Eliazar.

    Ouch, Lorenzo, why did you have to do this?!??!!!?!!! You’re just testing my typing skills, innit. I am going to HAVE to type this one up – the thought of our beloved Terence being on every school curriculum’s essential reading list is just too good to waste… so now I have to master Joyce’s quirky esoteric language as well as Terence’s… :-000

    Brilliant stuff. And only Part 1 !!!!!!!! eek

    Of course, you know that now you’ll have to get a copy of the “Wake” to have any hope of spelling his new words correctly … Are you really sure you want to do this??? 🙂

    To be picky: there’s no possessive apostrophe in the title. It’s “Finnegans Wake”, as in “Hey, all you sleeping Finnegans! Wake up!”

    The Internet has been very good for the Wake, which anticipated the technique of hypertext by a half century or so. Over the last dozen years I’ve been part of an online group that read and interpreted the book at the pace of one page a week. Back around the first of this year, we completed the journey at page 628.

    And then started again. Fin, again.

    Great book, which I’ve been reading in, through and around about again for over forty years – and I’m here to report that it is indeed, eventually, comprehensible – and great commentary by Terence (although he garbles the actual opening passage pretty badly). I also very much like Robert Anton Wilson’s take on it. Thanks for the podcast, Lorenzo.

    I wanted to thank you, Lorenzo, for posting this. I love the way the salon keeps ever expanding our notions about psychedelics, what they are and their implications could be. Realizing, as you once noted, that this isn’t only specific substances it is a whole culture and way of thought. This is why I find it beautiful to have this lecture on the topic of a work of literature which I doubt I will ever be able to read, but which is fascinating to hear about in a psychedelic context.
    Just wonderful!

    what a synchronicity.. the other day i was listening to a podcast about synaesthesia.. very interesting.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaesthesia
    well in that podcast, vladimir nabokov was mentioned for being an example : an artist that made use of this “malfunction” or “gift” he had.. and terence also mentions nabokov as one of the more visionary authors..
    (he shares his fascination for butterflies with terence..)

    Thanks for the edit, Warnwood … fixed it :-)!

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