"Mystical Origins of the Tarot" By Paul Huson is a
well-researched book. It reveals the divinatory meanings of the cards as
understood by diviners in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. And "The Man
with Three Staves" wields occult powers by virtue of the mystical "three
staves" he carries. Three, as we know, is a very powerful mystical
As for "Who is the third who walks always
beside you?" -- i.e, beside "you and me"
-- in the context of the journey of Christ's disciples to
Emmaus, it carries strong connotations of the divine that
always accompanies us in our spiritual
quest. Regardless, the use of "the third"
here may just be coincidental, though,
IMHO, one cannot rule out a
mystical dimension to it.
That, Eliot says, is an arbitrary association of one card.
There is no context for making all other examples of three into
mystical moments. And in any case, the Fisher King is not, as
far as I know, a mystic.
What is the basis for your assertions?
The ascription of
"mystical" cannot be arbitrary -- it is the context
that decides whether it is warranted, as in the
following use of "three":
"Here is the man with three staves".
According to Eliot, it is the Shackleton expedition and
the Journey to Emmaus, both of which had examples of this
phenomenon. It is three, no doubt, because in the
Journey to Emmaus it was three. I do not think Eliot
shows any tendency to numerology anywhere, unless you want to
note that he writes in movements like music.
There are many explanations for this phenomenon of
another being experienced as present who is not
literally there. For example, it is a kind of
hallucination frequent in soldiers and others who watched
trauma during WWI. The masses on the street, for
example, echoes Bertrand Russell's image, and Stetson echoes
many, many accounts of soldiers who think they see someone
even though the person died in the War. Another literary
example is the hallucinatory scene in Mrs. Dalloway of the
former soldier's dead officer, imagined as walking toward
My point is that there is no single, absolute way to
define this as somehow mystical--though that may be one
experience of it. And if every time we encountered three
of anything it meant a mystical experience, we are all having
them all the time. One may, of course, read it that way
if one finds it useful, but it is not a fact or an
>>> Chokh Raj 04/20/10 10:27
Significantly, there is the triple configuration of
"Who is the third*who walks always
"There is always
another one walking beside
"—But who is that on the other side of
The triple emphasis
here appears purposive,
especially vis-a-vis the denial of the
supernatural dimension of life in The [modern] Waste
Land. Reminds me of Christ's prophetic
words: "Verily I say unto thee, that this night,
before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice."
poetic images: our origins do not always
explain our ends
"Who is the
third*who walks always
I count, there are only you and
I look ahead up the white
There is always another one walking
Gliding wrapt in a brown
do not know whether a man or a
who is that on the other side of
Notes: "I am not familiar with the
exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards,
from which I have obviously departed to suit my
own convenience. The Hanged
Man, a member of the traditional pack,
fits my purpose in two ways: because he is
associated in my mind with the Hanged God of
Frazer, and because I associate him
with the hooded figure in the
passage of the disciples to Emmaus in Part
mystical image, the presence of
the mystical number 3 in "the
third" is noteworthy.