It is within Transcendental Magic by French occultist Eliphas Lévi (1810 - 1875) that the "Four Powers of the Sphinx" is allegedly first mentioned. Although later to become know as the "Magi's Pyramid" (amongst other names), Lévi’s referred to these four "powers" as being "indispensible conditions" that a student of the Ars Magica must include within their study in order to attain the "Sanctum Regnum" 0r the knowledge and power. These four "powers" were inscribed upon the symbolic forms of the sphinx as being:
To know (sciere)
To will (velle)
To dare (audere)
To keep silent (tacere).
To keep silent (tacere).
Each of these four powers were linked with each of the four elements (Air, Fire, Earth, and Water) as well as the four kerubic signs of the zodiac (Aquarius, Taurus, Leo and Scorpio). The sphinx itself is a composite creature as it has the head of a man, the torso and front paws of a lion, the rear end of a bull, and the wings of the eagle. According to Lévi the sphinx symbolises the synthesis and synergy of the "Four Powers", represented by the “four living creatures of symbolism” (the Kerubs) who have been “conquered and enchained” into one figure, the sphinx.
Whilst both man and the sphinx are composed of the four elements, within the sphinx these elements are balanced whereas they are not within man. Therefore the sphinx represents the perfected man, the Magus - man in the state of perfection.
It is within The Great Secret, Lévi's final work, that instruction is received as to how to practically apply the four powers of the sphinx, as Lévi states:
“The great secret of magic, the unique and incommunicable Arcana, has for its purpose the placing of supernatural power at the service of the human will in some way.
To attain such an achievement it is necessary to KNOW what has to be done, to WILL what is required, to DARE what must be attempted and to KEEP SILENT with discernment."
With this in mind, at times I cannot help but wonder why many modern practitioners of the Ars Magica so readily expose intimate details about their practices. Could it be that in the century that has passed since Lévi these powers are deemed no longer valid in our inter-global mass-media focused society. Or something much worse - that the art of dedicating one's self to a path (spiritual/occult, etc) is fast becoming a thing of the past, an "outdated" "unnecessary" skill for, as I have been informed on a number of occasions "nothing is secret" these days for "all the Mysteries are known".
Hmm, I personally beg to differ. And whilst my life is just as busy and hectic as the next persons, continuing my study of the Ars Magica in order to attain the "Sanctum Regnum" will always remain high on my list of priorities. Just as knowing when to abide by the "Four Powers of the Sphinx".
Inspired and adapted from part of On the Powers of the Sphinx
by Michael Osiris Snuffin (2002)