The Four Magical Powers of the Sphinx

           For the last few weeks I have been contemplating the four Hermetic virtues, a.k.a. The four powers of the Sphinx. For those of you who are unfamiliar, there's Scire ("to know"), Audare ("to dare"), Velle ("to will"), and the last, and what I had mistakenly believed to be the least, is Tacere. You see, it was a conversation about the true meaning and value of Tacere which originally got me thinking about all of this, so that's where we'll start.

          Tacere is usually translated as "to be silent," but, as the root of the English word tacit, I felt that it was better translated as "to imply without expressly stating." After all, the Latin word for candle, "tace," is also derived from this root, and so, contrary to the pompous secret societies who tend to refer back to this fourth power when trying to justify the hiding of magick from the world or the arrogant protection of their privileged esoteric knowledge, I believed that Tacere instead implores a Magician to follow the same good advice given to novice writers, which is "show, don't tell." It's a simple narrative technique which lends itself to a far richer, far more enjoyable story, and a quality which I see as separating actual Magicians from the host of pedantic posers and loudmouthed wannabes who all seem to be painfully long on "wish" but usually, when all is said and done, rather short on "will."

          However, as I reflected further on this, and the other three powers of the Sphinx, I soon came to realize that rather than simply being a mundane To Do list of "knowing," "daring," "willing" and "shutting up about it," as most occultists commonly interpret them today, these four terms could be understood as being part of a completely misunderstood occult lexicon and describing very specific and significant magical states of being. I now believe that these rather important terms, whether they were intended to or not, denote four magical qualities for which no other words currently exist in our mundane tongue, qualities which each pertain to a specific Hermetic element. In many ways, these qualities serve to better illustrate what it truly means to be a Magician and so I'm all too happy to introduce these new words into our common tongue in the following essay, making some otherwise indescribable magical phenomena a bit less so.

          Let's start with the first power of the Sphinx, Scire, which I contend is not merely book learning, but rather a magical awareness which allows the budding Mage to perceive events and forces which others simply can't (or, if you're being charitable, simply don't). Interestingly enough, the words "scire" and "schizo" both share a common etymological root, the Latin word "scindare," which means "to cut or divide," and this is all too appropriate for Scire, as it is a truly dangerous lunar power which can easily shred the mind and quickly devolve into mild to severe schizophrenia (lit. split mind) if one is not careful. Welcome to magick; you have been warned.

          At first I had assumed that everyone's magical training would naturally begin here, awakening to a basic fundamental awareness of the unseen forces which any Mage must then learn to better perceive and to work with, but now I'm thinking that perhaps one could conceivably become an effective Mage without ever developing very much skill in this particular area. In fact, such blindness might even prove to be advantageous in many ways, not the least of which being the avoidance of the aforementioned dangers of a complete schizophrenic break, but particularly if one's primary magical penchant is to lean towards the second magical power of the Sphinx, Audare.

          Audare is a magical state of the heart wherein enchantments and energetic manipulations fail to enthrall you, magical wards can be bypassed effortlessly, curses are often easily ignored without any ill effect, and the various invisible bonds of fate seem to simply fall away before the awakened audacity of the Magician's undeniable freewill. As I said, this solar power may or may not follow closely on the heels of the more psychically sensitive Scire power (or perhaps they may even get in each other's way), but a bit of Audare is probably necessary before one can ever hope to safely wield the next, most puissant, power of the Sphinx, the volitional power of Velle.

          While the mundane words for "knowing" and for "daring" convey a close enough meaning in English to clearly express the magical phenomena denoted by the terms Scire and Audare, the magical will alluded to by the word Velle begins to go far enough down the rabbit hole so as to be unintelligible to nonpractitioners, and many practitioners as well, and, as you'll soon see with Tacere, it only gets worse from here, but I will say this: wishes are not horses. Velle is a psychic push the effects of which may be observed by someone with Scire, and can at times be resisted by someone with Audare, but, make no mistake, the occult power of Velle is where the true magical will begins, and describing this force beyond that is like trying to describe color to someone who was born blind. Most of you will think it means wishing and that puerile misunderstanding is something which a Djinn like me finds largely acceptable. Carry on.

          There is a point in the practice of magick wherein synchronicity and paranormal activities may begin to become so common that one must keep silent so as not to be thought mad, but the fourth power of the Sphinx is far more than just this; Tacere is a mystical state of oneness with reality, a state which eliminates the merely coincidental and the accidental alike, and makes the magician at least partially responsible for all of the various phenomenon which he or she may encounter; not because it was explicitly his or her will but simply because it was, and because the other three powers necessarily alter a Mage's relationship to the world itself and reveal the fundamental malleability of all things and the secret meanings thereby invested therein. In other words, as waking life becomes increasingly more and more like a dream, our lucid awareness of Tacere permits us to engineer magickal effects on a level which few magicians will probably ever comprehend. That's why this is a power which is most often better implied than spoken about, because only that which transcends cognition itself has any hope of truly grasping it. Upon such meager reflections as these, one tends to find only that the Moon was indeed the same as the finger that's pointing to it after all. Good Luck and Namaste.

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2 Responses
  1. gravatar Anonymous

    I love that you use the four Latin Verbs for the powers of the Sphinx. As a Latin teacher, I use these four regularly.

    Although I have a tendency to replace vélle with férre, which means to do or to make. Vélle in traditional Latin has more to do with wanting or wishing or desiring, and not all that much to do with "doing" or "making." As a (poor) artist as well as a (moderately successful) Latin teacher, I appreciate the mental shift from wishing or wanting, to the doing or creating implied by Férre... although I must admit that I don't know if it's supported in the traditional literature.

  2. gravatar Anonymous

    That's what I get for making a comment while distracted... FACERE is the verb "to do, to make," not "Férre" which is to bring, to carry.


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