The Hermetic Cross: Sixteen Days of Insight

When John asked me to come up with a month of daily meditation exercises, I immediately thought I might put together a program based on the Hermetic Quaternary, a.k.a. the “Powers of the Sphinx.” Who knows how old the Quaternary really is or where it originated. All we can say is that it was first revealed in Eliphas Levi’s book Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie and not widely known until Levi’s book was translated into Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual by A. E. Waite in 1896.

I’ve been working with the Quaternary for almost thirty years, and still each year brings a new insight or two. Its power is not to be taken lightly. So I’m leaping at the chance to make this deceptively simple framework accessible to a wider audience. There is mystery at the center of the Quaternary that awaits you, but I dare not name it for fear of spoiling the revelation that awaits you. It is my sincere hope that you will know it by the final day.

To get the most out of this program I strongly suggest that you keep a journal. Write down the thoughts and realizations you have as you go along. This will help to solidify your spiritual gains while making them available to you in the future should you wish to revisit those exercises you found most valuable.

I hope you enjoy the exercises. Whether you like them or not, I’d be delighted to hear from you at 12thkey@gmail.com. One learns from repeated failure, not from continued success, and this old dog loves to learn new tricks.

Robert Mitchell Jr.
Richmond, VA

The Hermetic Quaternary is an axiom that goes “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent.” Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

A mundane compass indicates the four cardinal directions of North, East, South, and West. The Hermetic Quaternary is an aeternal compass. It is outside time and can help you navigate other realms too – many of which you be learning about in the meditations to come.

In order to succeed in any endeavor, you must have the necessary knowledge (“To Know”), the will or desire to succeed (“To Will”), the daring or courage to begin and persevere (“To Dare”), and the ability to shut up, listen and observe (“To Be Silent”). Say the Quaternary out loud as you touch the points on your body with the first and second fingers of your right hand: “Two Know” in the North (forehead), “To Will” in the South (navel), “To Dare” in the East (right shoulder), and “To Keep Silent” in the West (left shoulder).

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Now visualize the compass and conceive that it will allow you to move through any realm if only you could master its secrets. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary. Visualize the compass often and cement its arrangement in your mind.

Last time you learned to associate the Quaternary with the four compass points and the four points of the body. Hopefully you have it memorized – “Two Know” (forehead), “To Will” (navel), “To Dare” (right shoulder), and “To Keep Silent” (left shoulder). Good. These signs are “fixed” and they connect you to the four “fixed signs” of the Zodiac. Now say the Quaternary touching each point on your body as you orient yourself with the Zodiac – Taurus (forehead), Leo (navel), Aquarius (right shoulder), and Scorpio (left shoulder).

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your monkey mind and meditate, in a non-linguistic way, upon the symbolism of this arrangement. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

The Quaternary also correlates to the four classical elements. Now say the Quaternary touching each point on your body as you orient yourself with the elements: Earth (forehead), Fire (navel), Air (right shoulder), and Water (left shoulder).

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your monkey mind and meditate, in a non-linguistic way, upon the symbolism of this arrangement. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Remember, Hermeticism is the original Human Potentiality Movement and it is closely linked with Alchemy. Its plan for ultimate success – call it what you will, the Philosopher's Stone, the Stone of the Wise, the Magnum Opus, redemption, transformation, enlightenment – depends on setting and keeping a course using the Hermetic Quaternary.

So it’s no surprise that the Quaternary also correlates to the four Alchemical elements. Now say the Quaternary touching each point on your body as you orient yourself with the elements: Salt (forehead), Sulphur (navel), Azoth (right shoulder), and Mercury (left shoulder). Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your monkey mind and meditate, in a non-linguistic way, upon the symbolism of this arrangement. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

The Quaternary also correlates to the Cross of Light – a ritual for orienting oneself in relation to the Supreme Ultimate, the Uncaused Cause, the Father of Creation. Now say the Quaternary touching each point on your body as you orient yourself with God: Ateh “thine is” (forehead), Malkuth “the kingdom” (navel), Veh Geburah “the power” (right shoulder), and Veh Gedulah “the glory” (left shoulder). Then put your hands together in prayer position and say Le Olam Amen “Forever may it be so.”

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world properly oriented with regard to your higher power. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

The Quaternary also correlates to four very special divine names of God. Ssay the Quaternary touching each point on your body as you call out to God by these four names YHVH “Yahweh” (forehead), Adonai “Lord” (navel), Eheyeh “I AM” (right shoulder), and AGLAH (short for “Ateh Gebur Le-Olam Adonai” which means “Thou art great forever my Lord” (left shoulder).

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your linguistic mind and experience the reality of being oriented properly with God. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

The wisest of the wise don’t see anything from just one perspective. They rise above and take an “all-encompassing” view that includes, without contradiction, all ways of knowing. From the theories of Cognitive Science and the work of John Vervaeke, we know that there are four primary ways of knowing: propositional, perspectival, participatory and procedural.

To understand something propositionally is to see it intellectually and philosophically (To Know). Take the martial arts for example. One might know a great deal about the martial arts, its theories, techniques, strategies, history and have an excellent grasp of the various aspects of armed and unarmed fighting, war, self-defense, and sports.

But martial arts mean something different to each person. This is the perspectival way of knowing (To Will). Some people want to ban MMA as “human cockfighting” while the fighters themselves may see it as a way out of poverty or a means to fame and glory. Fight fans see MMA as a form of entertainment or perhaps as a social event to watch while hanging out with friends and eating chicken wings. Non-professional participants see martial arts as a way to get exercise and lose weight, as a way to promote safety, improve self-esteem, or one of a host of other ways.

Which leads to the participatory way of knowing. To some extent you cannot fully understand any activity until you have actually participated in it. Can an observer really appreciate martial arts the way an experienced martial artist does? But isn’t it also true that not being a participant can provide critical distance and insight? There is wisdom in participation for sure, but there is also wisdom and non-participation as well.

And finally there is the procedural way of understanding martial arts. This is the way referees, instructors, coaches, and organizers understand martial arts. Knowing the rules of a given martial art, if any, are integral to making sense of it fully.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.

Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle, scratch, count, or think in language. Quiet your chattering monkey mind and visualize what you would look like if you moved through the world embodying this axiom. Record your thoughts and impressions in your journal or diary.


Now think back carefully. Do you remember the four ways to read sacred literature that you learned in Day 14? Those ways were literally, allegorically, morally and analogically (a.k.a. mystically). Can you see that these ways of understanding sacred literature line up with the way human beings understand the world around them?

A literal reading corresponds to a propositional way of knowing. This is a straightforward way to lay out what something is with as little passion as possible. The allegorical reading method corresponds to the perspectival way of knowing. Your understanding, your interpretation in relation to you and your circumstances, is unique to your perspective. A moral reading is a participatory way of knowing. These are action understandings related to how things get done. And lastly, the mystical way of reading is like the procedural way of knowing. These are the transcendent, detached ways of seeing.

Putting all of this together we get the following table.

Day 1: The Hermetic Quaternary Day 2: The Directions Day 3: The Fixed Signs Day 4: The Elements
To Know North Taurus Earth
To Will South Leo Fire
To Dare East Aquarius Air
To Keep Silent West Scorpio Water
Day 5: The Alchemical Elements Day 6: The Cross of Light Day 7: The God Names Day 8: The Hermetic Ways of Seeing
Salt Ateh YHVH Gnostically/Intellectually
Sulphur Malkuth Adonai Magically/Instinctually
Azoth Veh Geburah Eheyeh Scientifically
Mercury Veh Gedulah Aglah Mystically
Day 9: The Hermetic Ways
 of Achieving Day 10: The Nature of Integrity Day 11: Plato’s Qualities Day 12: Being and Action
Visualize Thoughts Wisdom “I am not”
Plan Desires Courage “I am”
Execute Actions Justice “I will”
Practice Beliefs Temperance “I will not”
Day 13: The Archangels Day 14: The Four Ways of Knowing Day 15: The Quadriga Day 16: The Heavenly Creatures
Uriel Propositional Literal Ox / Luke / Sacrifice
Michael Perspectival Allegorical Lion / Mark / King
Raphael Participatory Moral Man / Matthew / Teacher
Gabriel Procedural Mystical Eagle / John / Christ Logos