Sometimes called “Four Powers of the Magus” or “Four Powers of the Sphinx” and sometimes considered to be “The Witches’ Pyramid”, which is how they showed up in Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft.
To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent – the four powers of the Magus. While not Wiccan in origin, many Wiccans and Pagans claim to/attempt to integrate these concepts into their magical practices. It’s not surprising really, since the influence of Ceremonial Magic and the Golden Dawn can be seen in many areas of Wicca.
Now, while I had thought (since I have it noted in one of my journals as such) that the Four Words were mentioned in Francis Barrett’s 1801 work The Magus, apparently this is not so.
“Fun fact: what is sometimes called the “four powers of the sphinx”, specifically to know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent appears to have been invented by the French occultist Eliphas Levi who lived in the 1800s. There doesn’t appear to be any reference to the concept prior to Levi’s two volume book “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” first published in 1854.” – Ben Gruagach, via a Facebook posting.
However, as noted by Prof. Robert Mathiesen in that same discussion, “The work Arbatel, first published in 1575, says in several places that a magician ought to value silence or taciturnity.
However, these four powers specifically are (to the best of my knowledge) mentioned before Eliphas Levi only in an anonymous work on the “Egyptian Mysteries” from the late 1700s. (This is not the ancient work by Iamblichus, but another, lesser work.) “Always remember your guiding principles: knowledge, will, courage, silence.” Part II, symbol 5.”
Anyway, they got here from somewhere, but nobody seems absolutely certain of their origin.
So what are they? In Paul Huson’s abbreviated recounting, “The four cornerstones of the witches’ pyramid are: a virulent imagination, a will of fire, rock-hard faith, and a flair for secrecy.” That is to say, to KNOW, to DARE, to WILL, and to KEEP SILENT.
To Know1 – Noscere in Latin. This Word tells us to strive for knowledge, and to apply the knowledge we have gained. We are to seek the truth, no matter how difficult the search or the revelations may be. This rule is associated with Air and intelligence.
To Dare – Auder in Latin. This Word tells us to question everything, even the truths we hold dear. Be courageous. Auder is associated with Fire and change.
To Will – Velle in Latin. This Word reminds you to focus your thoughts. You need to meditate on your goal, clearing your mind of anything that can distract you. This rule is associated with Water and emotion.
To Keep Silent – Tacere in Latin. Some say this Word is a reminder not to speak to others of your magical workings, lest they seek to undo them. To me, it means to know when to speak of what you know, and when to share your knowledge. I also see it as a reminder to know when to silence yourself so you can hear your inner voice. It also means to always watch what you say, for if you are truly disciplined, there is no need for insults and wasted words.
1 – The following four paragraphs are adapted from similar pieces online at http://silverlotus.net/wicca/magic/four-powers-of-the-magus/ and https://windingstream.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/the-witchs-pyramid-tacere/