Almost everything I know about the Powers of Sphinx

This article covers:

● Context
● What does the Sphinx symbolize?
● The Neophyte test
● The Sphynx on Neophyte’s path
● The Elements
● Magick and Mysticism
● About the Vows


Of the powers of the Sphinx much has been written. Wisely they have been kept in the forefront of true magical instruction. Even the tyro can always rattle
off that he has to know, to dare to will and to keep silence. It is difficult to write on this subject, for these powers are indeed comprehensive, and the interplay of one with the other becomes increasingly evident as one goes more deeply into the subject. — Liber ABA, Part III

Several schools of thought — such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, Freemasonry and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, among others — show in their rituals that we now have access evidence that their early Neophytes were often tested in a fourfold, sometimes fivefold challenge. Those challenges was almost always related to the four classic elements, presented in a way that represented both a real physical challenge to be overcome and a philosophical challenge to be considered.Here I will not mention details of these rituals out of respect for the Brothers I share in one order or another, and because they are of no immediate importance to this exposition.

The first author to speak openly about these challenges linked to the figure of the Sphinx and the virtues inherent to them was Éliphas Lévi in ​​1854 in “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”, about which he also speaks here and there in “La clef des grands mystères” and in some other of his works. Crowley later expanded these ideas in light of the Law of Thelema and spoke at length about them mainly in his Libri CXI (Aleph) and IV (ABA), where he associates them with the four emanations of the Law, — Light, Life, Love and Liberty — which are explained mainly in Liber CL (De Lege Libellum).

What does the Sphinx symbolize?

Mainly portrayed in the Abrahamic, Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek cultures, the Sphinx almost always represents a guardian to keep away those who intend to plunder the tomb of some dignity, or desecrate the mysteries of some sanctuary. A sphinx is a chimera composed of two or more animals, and possesses the magical abilities and virtues of those.

The one that is of interest to this exposition has the body of the Bull, claws of the Lion, wings of the Eagle — Dragon in Thelemic symbolism — and the head of a Human.

The most common correlations made to the parts that compose the sphinx are with their respective magick verbs, elements, zodiacal signs and emanations of the Law. Of course, we can always go further. Below is a table of the main correlations I found in my research on this subject:

Did you notice that there are two lines relating to Verbs? In Libri Aleph and ABA, “To Will” is attributed to the Bull, “Keep Silence” is given to the Dragon, and “To Dare” to the Lion. In the more recent Magick Without Tears (MWT in the table) and Book of Thoth, three of the Verbs change position. Until the beginning of writing this exposition, I confess that I had no idea why.

I discussed this question with several Brethren, until Fr. Ad Astra came up with this insight: If you overlap the court cards as described in the Book of Thoth, the correlation is coherent, and probably Crowley found them more harmonious with the energy of the current Aeon.

In the Book of Thoth, we read this excerpt which, due to its importance, I reproduce in full:

The Knights represent the powers of the letter Yod in the Name. They are the most sublime, original, active part of the Energy of the Element; for this reason they are represented on horseback and clad in complete armour. Their action is swift and violent, but transient. In the Element of Fire, for instance, the Knight corresponds to the Lightning flash; in the Element of Water, to Rain and Springs; in that of Air, to Wind; in that of Earth, to Mountains. It is very important as a mental exercise to work out for oneself these correspondences between the Symbol and the Natural Forces which they represent; and it is essential to practical Magical work to have assimilated this knowledge.The Queens represent the letter He of the Name. They are the complements of the Knights. They receive, ferment, and transmit the original Energy of their Knight. Quick to receive that Energy, they are also fitted to endure for the period of their function; but they are not the final product. They represent the second stage in the process of creation whose fourth and last state is material realization. They are represented as seated upon thrones. This emphasizes the fact that they are appointed to exercise definite functions.The Princes represent the Forces of the letter Vau in the Name. The Prince is the Son of the Queen (the old King’s daughter) by the Knight who has won her; he is therefore represented as in a chariot, going forth to carry out the combined Energy of his parents. He is the active issue of their union, and its manifestation. He is the intellectual image of their union. His action is consequently more enduring than that of his forbears. In one respect, indeed, he acquires a relativa permanence, because he is the published record of what has been done in secret. Also, he is the "Dying God", redeeming his Bride in the hour, and by virtue, of his murder.
The Princesses represent the He final of the Name. They represent the ultimate issue of the original Energy in its completion, its crystallization, its materialization. They also represent the counter‐balancing, the re‐absorption of the Energy. They represent the Silence into which all things return. They are thus at the same time permanent and non-existent. An audit of the equation 0=2.

By this explanation, from the point of view of the Court Cards, “To Keep Silence” is of the Bull, “To Dare” is of the Dragon, “To Will” is of the Lion, and “To Know” of the Man. Of course, some characteristics assigned in the table above can also change places depending on the point of view you work with.

And which one is “the right one”? A symbol is only useful insofar as it accurately indicates the reality it represents. If consulting your GPS it says there is a sharp turn on the right, you’ll be careful not to be taken by surprise, but if that turn doesn’t come, will you turn right just because the GPS said so?

Always be on the lookout to find out where the symbols match the experience and where they don’t, where they correctly point the direction and where they take you to unplanned places. On the other hand, it is not always helpful or healthy to despise pre-existing knowledge, which has survived the analysis of many valiant Brothers past and present just because you do not understand them. Where your vision seems to disagree with the symbols, put them both to the test. Use the GPS, but keep an eye on the road!

The Neophyte test

In the Oath/Task of a Neophyte of our Holy Order, it reads:

It is part of a Neophyte’s Task to pass four distinct tests called The Powers of the Sphinx. “He shall pass” leaves no doubt that we are talking about being approved, and not merely be tested on them. As has become obvious, such tests concern the virtues of Bull, Dragon, Lion and Man, and their magick verbs.

Specializations and Refinement of these powers are, as we can see from the table, the subject of degrees from Neophyte to Dominus Liminis. It is important to note that full success in all branches of the Sphinx Powers is impossible for the Neophyte, and if he obtained them, he would then be an Adept.

As for the Neophyte:

  • To Will: One practice will be defined.
  • To Dare: One specific ordeal will be prepared for them.
  • To Know: They will be examined in 777 and the Alphabet of Truth.
  • To Keep Silence: They will be tested without knowing it.

Although it is common knowledge to almost everyone who has attained the grade of Zelator, it is difficult to find written reference beyond the Oath. Lest you have to take my word alone, I have consulted some Brethren about this reference, and it was the excellent Brother Alan Willms who found the answer. Interested parties should consult Crowley’s diary called “The Ordeals” and his writings on the Magick Vows of 1906.

How each test is conducted varies depending on the Superior’s genius and the need of each Brother. Obviously we do not intend to reveal what the tests are, nor how and when they are applied, but we can give instruction on how to perfect Wisdom, Courage, Will and Silence, and how to combine the Four Beasts into a cohesive and harmonious whole united under a single Will.

The Sphynx on Neophyte’s path

With very few exceptions, it is with the Bull (or was it the Lion?) the aspirant’s first encounter. It is because of his Will that he approaches one of our Brothers and asks for admission. It is through Will that he goes through the preliminaries and starts studying the Student Curriculum. It is by the Will that he takes the Oath of a Probationer, under a motto — a magical name. Oath and Motto, both witnesses to his Will. But isn’t it necessary to Know about these things at least a little bit? Isn’t it necessary to Dare to step into the unknown? Is it not necessary the Silence of those who have placed themselves in the position of observing and absorbing?

And it is also by his Oath of Probationer that he takes the Vow of Holy Obedience, a training for the Will, which I dealt with in the article on Bhakti, and resolve to obtain a “scientific knowledge of the nature and powers of my own being.” By his Will he swears to Know and dedicates himself to it. And his Will is proved by the Ordeals of Probation.

So when admitted to Neophyte, once more by his Will he takes a new Oath. “To obtain control of the foundations of my own being.” which requires great Courage. “To observe zeal in service to the Probationers under me, and to deny myself utterly on their behalf.” which requires a surrender of the Will. “Apply himself to understand the nature of his Initiation”, “commit to memory a chapter of Liber VII”, “study and practice Liber O in all its branches” and “study
Liber H” which will exercise your Knowledge, will enlighten your Will, and test your Courage.

Note that as in the Sphinx, it is difficult to see where each of the elements of the composition ends and begins. All these things will produce Silence. Silence of those who meditate and ponder. Silence of those who work. Silence of the one who goes on unshakable.

The Elements

Probably the most known ritual to beginners is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram which is taught in our Liber O. In it, the magician symbolically declares himself the center of his own universe, and then, like a maestro conducting an orchestra, he places each of the four elements in its proper place by the Holy Names.

With some poetic license, it’s as if he says to each of the elements “Look! I am the focus of pure consciousness! You belong to me, not I to you! Take your place, where you should exist with the other elements in proportion and beauty!”

In front of him he places the Air, the magick sword of the Son’s Reason with which one can analyze the most complex ideas down to indivisible unity. Behind is the Water, the cup of Mother’s Emotions, with which you can embrace the universe in beauty and proportion. On the right is Fire, the Wand of the Father’s Will with which he leads Chaos to produce Order. To the left, Earth, the pantacle of the Daughte’r Form, with which she sustains and nourishes all things.

When each of these elements is in its proper place and function, the Axis of this composition manifests the Spirit, the Lamp of the Pure Soul, about which Liber ABA, Part II, Chap. X says:

When the eyes of the Magus are fixed upon this Lamp naught else exists.The Instruments lie idle on the Altar; that Light alone burns eternally.The Divine Will that was the Wand is no more; for the path has become one with the Goal.The Divine Understanding that was the Cup is no more; for the subject and Object of intelligence are one.The Divine Reason that was the Sword is no more; for the complex has been resolved into the Simple.And the Divine Substance that was the Pantacle is no more; for the many has become the One.

Balanced on all sides in this way, nothing outside your circle can disturb your inner harmony, even more so if your circle embraces all things and there is nothing outside it. Nothing within your circle can become unbalanced, as they are like the three dimension axes crossing in a punctual manifestation of time and space that is exactly where it should be.

Even the most humble of the uninitiated who practices this ritual brings the essence of these things into their symbolic ensemble, and will gradually manifest this truth.

But the more advanced the practitioner is, the more he should seek quality in these things: Does his intellect hijack for itself the identity of the Self and reduce everything to simple rationalization? Does your will waver and is fickle? Are your emotions easily unbalanced and spilling from your cup threatening to break it? Is your material base insufficient to sustain and nurture your highest aspirations?

Ritual practice is important. Vigilance and self-criticism of your actions and reactions before life are essential.

In this regard, I recommend reading our Liber Librae. If you can read in portuguese, I also suggest reading my articles A Carruagem(The Chariot) and O Cocheiro(The Charioter) yet to be translated.

Magick and Mysticism

In our Postcards for Probationers four main and two additional methods are given for uniting the mind to a single idea. These methods are given in pairs, one for Magick and one for Mysticism. It is also said that they are united by the Supreme Method of Silence. They can be linked to the five verbs of the sphinx as follows:

To these two we add — To Go

  • Mantra Yoga/The Invocations — Union through Speech
  • Karma Yoga/The Acts of Service — Union through Work

In the table given above we see the four main methods linked to the four Powers of the Sphinx, which also coincide with the development that is made from Neophyte to Philosopus, and the additional ones linked to Dominus Liminis.

The main ways in which the Neophyte practices the Union by Knowledge is by studying and expanding the knowledge basis about his own being that he acquired as a Probationer and by studying Liber Pyramidos, the ritual of his initiation, as in item 3 of his Oath/Task it is written “He he must apply himself in understanding the nature of his Initiation”. Obtaining a thorough knowledge of Liber 777 as indicated in section II of Liber O, as item 5 of his Oath/Task says “and furthermore, he shall study and practice Liber O in all his branches”.

The Neophyte practices Union by Will through Liber O, sections III (Assumption of God-forms), IV (Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram), V (Formulation of the Body of Light), VI (Ascension on the Planes), and also through Liber HHH.

He practices Union by Love through his Vow of Holy Obedience as we discussed in the previous article, and also through item 8 of his Oath/Task “He shall everywhere proclaim openly his connection with the A.’.A.’. and
speak of It and Its principles (even so little as he understandeth) for that
mystery is the enemy of Truth.

As for Union by Courage, the Liber O to which the Neophyte commits in his Oath/Task says “Before entering upon any of these practices, the student should be in good health, and have attained a fair mastery of Asana, Pranayama, and Dharana. For this he will find help in Liber E, Liber ABA Part I, and Eight Lectures on Yoga. Furthermore, Liber HHH will also be a help on this path. As stated in the Oath/Task, “He shall in every way fortify his body according to the advice of his Zelator, for that the ordeal of advancement is no light one.”

Item 9 of his Oath/Task also discusses about the construction of the Pantacle (link yet to be translated), which will be more perfect as the Neophyte has advanced in these matters. He is the representation of the Universe as the Neophyte understands it, and how much he understands will depend on how much he Knows, Dares, Wills and Keep Silence. It is his spiritual food, and like the Sphinx, it must be an eidolon of the Law that can nourish your Great Work on all levels.

Although not formally assigned to the Neophyte, other instructions can be useful here and there, such as Liber Resh is linked to Bhakti, Hatha and Raja, or like Liber Reguli is linked to Raja and Jñāna.

About the Vows

In monasteries of both Eastern and Western traditions, it is common for certain vows to be taken, the most common being those of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Silence. Although the teachings of each tradition may contain moral or theological principles that justify them, their universal use is to silence the mind. In the words of Liber ABA in his introduction:

This is the object of the usual monastic vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. If you have no property, you have no care, nothing to be anxious about; with chastity no other person to be anxious about, and to distract your attention; while if you are vowed to obedience the question of what you are to do no longer frets: you simply obey.(...)Another great point in this consideration of Magick Vows is to keep them in their proper place. They must be taken for a clearly defined purpose, a clearly understood purpose, and they must never be allowed to go beyond it.It is a virtue in a diabetic not to eat sugar, but only in reference to his own condition. It is not a virtue of universal import. Elijah said on one occasion: "I do well to be angry;" but such occasions are rare.Moreover, one man's meat is another man's poison. An oath of poverty might be very useful for a man who was unable intelligently to use his wealth for the single end proposed; to another it would be simply stripping himself of energy, causing him to waste his time over trifles.There is no power which cannot be pressed in to the service of the Magical Will: it is only the temptation to value that power for itself which offends.


The Vow of Holy Obedience is related to the verb “To Will”. As a Probationer, in addition to placing himself under the wand of his Superior, item 5 of his tasks reads: “Beside all this, he shall perform any tasks that the A∴A∴ may see fit to lay upon him.” Such tasks on behalf of the A.’.A.’. should not be and given lightly by any Superior. In light of item 5 of the Oaths of Probationer, Neophyte and Zelator, we note that the Zelator is the first to be assigned to work for the A.’.A.’. under your own responsibility.

This subject is too extensive for this exposition and will be better addressed in the future. My advice to the Neophyte Brothers is that if you give a task in the name of the A.’.A.’., be sure that it comes from above. This vow is sealed by the Will of the one who takes the Oath, signing with his Magick Motto. This vow teaches to focus your Will exclusively on the Great Work.


The Vow of Silence teaches to regulate the whole organism so that even an aberrant fact is not capable of causing any commotion in the individual. Obviously you can practice not speaking for a while, or refraining from speaking certain words, or about certain subjects. This may add to your experience, but that is not what such a vote is about.

It’s about not to allow any external or internal facts to be able to upset the practitioner’s balance. For this he will engage in practices to balance and strengthen the health of his body, mind, emotions and will, already mentioned in the sections on Magick and Mysticism and on the Elements in this same article.


The Vow of Poverty teaches not to esteem anything, and not to value anything but the Great Work and is related to the verb “To Know”. The center of this vow is the Oath, where the Neophyte’s Great Work is defined as “obtain control of the nature and powers of my own being.” There are the things that obviously go along with this, and those should be looked for.

As for the other objects that adorn the Neophyte’s universe, such as work, the bills that are due, friends, love relationships, family, hobbies, etc., it would be a mistake to move away from them, because perhaps what seems to be the most profane and unworthy in your reality, may be the one that will take you to new heights. Therefore, let the Neophyte search in all these things how to put them at the service of the Great Work, or better, find out how they already exercise this role.


The Vow of Chastity teaches how to use Magick Power only to perform the Great Work and is related to the verb “To Dare”. Regarding such Power, Liber Librae tells us that “Το obtain Magical Power, learn to control thought; admit only those ideas that are in harmony with the end desired, and not every stray and contradictory Idea that presents itself.” And what is the Neophyte’s desired end if not the control of his nature and powers as he swore?

The vow of perfect Chastity would be such that whoever took it would avoid seeking to accomplish anything but his Great Work. Obviously, this does not mean that he will stop working, socializing, eating, and so on. Take, for example, “The Will” that some Brothers recite before their meals, as a reminder of their Vow of Chastity:

Leader:(knocks 3-5-3) Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
All: What is thy will?
Leader: It is my will to eat and to drink.
All: To what end?
Leader: That I may fortify my body thereby.
All: To what end?
Leader: That I may accomplish the Great Work.
All: Love is the law, love under will.
Leader: (knocks once) Fall to!
*When eating alone, someone can say both lines to himself, or just the leader's.

Likewise, in a vow of Chastity to oneself, each act must, in its ultimate purpose, serve the Great Work.


One of the parts of the Oath/Task of the Neophyte, which is less talked about out there, and therefore more neglected and poorly practiced. They don’t speak because they don’t Know, don’t Dare, don’t Want to, or choose to Keep Silence. But now here it is made explicit as much as possible from the point of view of a Brother who has already dealt with these things to the point of almost going mad. Maybe he really went crazy! Maybe he’s a fool! To accept these words without putting them to the test of your Magick Weapons and the Sphinx’s Verbs would be foolish.

Let the one who reads lift up the incantation of Silence! Raise the Sword of your critical sense to destroy all nonsense with it, lift your Cup to fill it with whatever useful this exposition contains, submit these new pieces under the command of your Wand, and take note of the existence of these newly-discovered element in his personal universe that is his Pantacle.

Know, Will, Dare, Shut Up… And Go on. For the sake of the Great Work Go on.

Send your question or comment

If you have questions about A.’.A.’. or suggestions of subjects you would like to read about, send it through the form below. If you don’t express clearly how you want to be called, your question or comment will be posted anonymously. The question and answer will be posted here (if it is about the Powers of Sphinx) or in future articles, according to the subject so they can be useful for others in the future.



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Frater F.

Frater F.


Um homem é o que faz de si mesmo dentro de seu destino herdado. Busco a cada dia fazer de mim alguém que possa acrescentar ao progresso da humanidade.