The Four Powers of the Magus are also variously known as The Witches’ Pyramid, the Four Pillars of the Witches’ Temple, the Magicians’ Pyramid and the Magician’s Manifesto. Eliphas Levi has the earliest known mention of The Four Powers, and he refers to them as “The Four Powers of the Sphinx” which also greatly influenced Aleister Crowley’s use and mention of the Four Powers.
Many books skip over The Four Powers, if any mention at all is made. Some have a surface definition and some go a great deal deeper. In Magick Without Peers by David Rankine and Ariadne Rainbird, the only mention is alongside the elements in the tables of elemental correspondences: Air – to Know, Fire – to Will, Water – to Dare and Earth – to Keep Silent.
Noscere – To Know
To Know is the first part of the Four Powers of the Magus. Wicca for the Rest of Us describes “to Know” as being purely about the knowledge required to perform magick. This website refers to the vast amounts of astrological, numerological and metallurgical knowledge required to perform Ceremonial Magick. Silver RavenWolf takes it a little deeper, asking the would-be spell caster to know what they want to accomplish, and reduce that goal into specifics. Amber Laine Fisher in Philosophy of Wicca goes deeper yet. She talks about “to know” in the context of the true self-knowledge that is the ultimate goal of mystery traditions.
In any spell or magickal working, it is important first to know what the intended outcome will be. Further to this, it is also important to know all the little things that can make it go wrong, or simply not work. Disclaimers tagged on the end of a spell to say “if this causes harm to any, let it not work,” are setting up the spell to fail before it is begun. This suggests a lack of knowledge and research before beginning a magickal working.
Sounds simple, but in all honesty, many Witches and Wiccans have stories about how a spell worked in a way they didn’t expect, or had surprising and often destructive consequences. This is because they didn’t follow this simple principle. To Know Thyself is to know all hidden motivations, perhaps even those that are buried deep in the subconscious. It is understanding the true driving force behind the desire to perform this spell. Self-examination of this sort can be harsh, and can bring out shadows that many would prefer to keep hidden, even from themselves, but it is essential to truly know yourself in order to progress along any spiritual path.
To Know which Deities are going to be called upon is another requirement in spell working. This sounds simple enough, but it does require research. Is the goal of the spell within the realm of this Goddess? In a money spell for example, it is necessary to know if the chosen Deity has any concept of money, or if material wealth meant a fat wife and plenty of cattle in the culture They have come from. What influences are going to be around at the time of spell casting? Are there other cultures involved in the spell? In some cultures an honest mistake is less offensive than not bothering to find out the correct pronunciation of a word or name, or the right forms of address.
Knowledge and Understanding
In Ceremonial or High Magick, there is a saying “Don’t build your Temple in Daath.” Daath is the invisible Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, it means knowledge. What this is saying is that knowledge alone is worth nothing. An encyclopedia is filled with knowledge, but it can’t do anything with it. In order to use knowledge, you must understand what that knowledge is, how to apply it and what can be done with it. Casting a spell requires that knowledge, but a successful spell requires understanding what to do with that knowledge.
Velle – To Will
Will is desire, it is the goals, dreams and ambitions that form people. Wicca for the Rest of Us describes “to Will” as believing deep down that you will succeed. Silver RavenWolf describes it as belief; in yourself, in Divinity and in your own skills. In Philosophy of Wicca, Amber Laine Fisher talks about Will as the fingerprint of the Goddess upon the soul, and paints a picture determining the difference between Will and a whim.
When casting a spell or performing any kind of magick, the Will is the source of intent. The focus or goal of a spell is the Will of the witch or magician. All aspects of the Will should be considered. For example, if a spell is about gaining money it goes against the Will to have to pay it back, or that another should suffer for that money. These are simple things that can be worked into the spell to keep it true to the Will.
An it Harm None, Do as You Will
The Wiccan Rede is often reduced to these eight words, and many will include these words in a spell, or think of the Rede as their ethical guidelines. Will is often the most overlooked aspect of the Wiccan Rede, but is probably the most important. The Will is that internal drive that determines what a person is striving for in their life, whether it is success in their chosen career, to live happily ever after with the perfect family around them, or to teach, to guide, or to help those less fortunate. Will is more than a passing fancy, it is an integral part of each person, and as Amber Laine Fisher says “It is that bit of the Goddess that turns our motors.”
“To Will” goes beyond believing that a spell will work, it is crafting the spell to work according to your true desires. It is also being true to your principles and ultimate reason for being. This is where the previous “To Know” is useful. To Know beyond a shadow of a doubt just what is the Will, and how it will be achieved.
Audere – To Dare
Daring, that inner spunk that allows people to do something they normally wouldn’t do. Wicca for the Rest of Us defines “To Dare” as being willing to take risks and face down the bad as well as the good. Silver RavenWolf describes “To Dare” as having the guts to take control and change circumstances. Amber Laine Fisher says “To dare is to be willing enough, strong enough, courageous enough to pay the price required to come to know the truth.” In Truth or Dare, Starhawk says that “Truth is the dare.”
In casting a spell, magick is used. The most widely accepted definition of magick is “the art of causing change in accordance with Will.” Any change, internal or external, requires some level of risk, and there is usually a price to pay for it. Sometimes that price is as simple as the loss of some free time, and sometimes it is more complex and becomes the loss or dilution of ideals and dreams.
In Wicca there is what is known as the Threefold Law – that what you send out is returned three times over. In New Age practices this is referred to as Karma (a concept borrowed and changed from Hindu). Magick has the Law of Return. In the Bible, there is the “Reap what you sow,” and common sense and common sayings has its own “What goes around, comes around.” Even modern Physics has “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
What these are all saying is that there are consequences for everything you do. In performing magick or casting a spell, consequences can take on a different form. “To Dare” is understanding and accepting these consequences, and still casting the spell. It is taking the risk that perhaps there are consequences that haven’t been thought of, and doing it anyway.
“To Know” is knowledge and understanding, “To Will” is the focus and the drive, and “To Dare” is the personal strength required to cast a spell and accept the consequences. “To Keep Silent” is what happens next.
Tacere – To Keep Silent
“To Keep Silent” seems pretty straight-forward on the surface. Wicca for the Rest of Us takes this to mean that it’s not wise to brag about or threaten with magick. Silver RavenWolf suggests that keeping your mouth shut before, during and after an operation protects both results and reputation. Amber Laine Fisher talks about how the mysteries cannot be explained, they must be experienced.
There are numerous theories circulating that say talking about a spell weakens its likelihood of success. That potentially another may hear of it and work to counteract with a spell of their own. “To Keep Silent” is also used in the context of keeping the Mysteries a secret. The Kybalion talks of “not casting pearls before swine” and suggests that any magickal knowledge is not to be shared with those who haven’t had the same training or learned the secrets that initiates into the Mysteries have been taught.
Wiccans don’t proselytize. This is a phrase that can be found in nearly any Wiccan book or Pagan Website. What this means is that Wiccans don’t try to convert others to their faith. Some seem to believe that this means that they shouldn’t talk about Wicca in the company of those who are not Wiccan – that they should “Keep Silent” about their faith and practices. Some choose to “Keep Silent” out of a fear of ridicule or persecution. Others believe that talking about Wicca is a good idea, that removing some of the secrecy makes it seem less like Wiccans have something to hide.
To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent
Each of these has been covered individually, but none stand alone. Each must be present balancing the others. In An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present, Doreen Valiente explains that knowledge requires will and courage to take action. Will and daring need knowledge to back them up. Daring on its own requires will to see it through, and will requires courage to take the first step. None of these are worth anything unless the magician can be discrete and keep silent as babblers do not attain real magical power.
To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent. These are the Cornerstones of magick, the Pillars of the Witches Temple and the simple guidelines for any magick or spell-crafting.
The Kybalion by Three Initiates, Yogi Publication Society, Chicago, 1912
An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present by Doreen Valiente, Robert Hale Ltd, London, 1973
Truth or Dare by Starhawk, Harper & Row Ltd, New York, 1987
Magick Without Peers by Ariadne Rainbird and David Rankine, Capall Bann Publishing, Berks, 1997
To Stir a Magick Cauldron by Silver RavenWolf, Llewellyn Publications, St Paul Minnesota, 1999
Philosophy of Wicca by Amber Laine Fisher, ECW Press, Ontario, 2002