It seems that in the western mystery tradition, when people come accross a deeper or more profound interpretation of something, the tendancy is to regard the new interprerarion as true and the old one as false, or perhaps as a blind. This type of thinking is a trap.
In Tantric training, one learns that various texts, axioms, prayers and such have multiple levels of meaning. Often long commentaries are devoted to these various layers of meaning. Commentaries on The Guhyasamaja Tantra, the oldest written Tantra, teach six levels of meaning that can be found for every line. More often you will see interpretations split into three: Outer, Inner, and Secret.
The key here is that the outer interpretation is not considered False. The Secret interpretation is no truer than the outer interpretation, merely more profound and meant perhaps for a smaller audience. Religion itself is like this. On the outer level it is a tool of translating the world; telling the masses what happens when we die, what the meaning of life is, how to be good, etc. On the inner level it is a means of transcending the world, of experiencing the subtle layers of reality directly. On the secret level, even that falls away and the mystic is left knowing that he was always beyond the gate from the start.
First there is a mountain, than there is no mountain, than there is.
Anyway, I thought I might offer Outer, Inner, and Secret interpretations of the four powers of the sphinx. Just remember that one is no truer or better than the other, anymore than the inner shell of a russian matrryoksha doll is better than the outer one.
On the outer this is exactly what it sound like: knowlege of magickal rituals, spells, correspondences and all the "stuff" that we talk about.
On the inner level this is direct knowlege of the subtle layers of reality. The ability to see clairvoyantly the astral and empyrian layers and its inhabitants. Also the ability to feel the forces at work behind the magick we work.
On the secret level this is pure Gnosis. No longer concerned with the outward appearances of angels and devas and such, this is knowlege of our own divine nature.
On the outer this is simply whatever your desire is. As you will, so shall it be. Do not underestimate the power of this outer level in generating magick.
On the inner this will as an action. Your desire is focused to the extent that it causes volition. Things happen from force of will.
On the secret level this is the True Will or Thelema which extends from Gnosis. The realization of your own divine will as inseparable from the will of god. This is why so many prayers and even magickal rituals end with statements like "but only if it be thy will." This seems like a cop out submitting to an external diety, but to the mystic this is a tool for alinging their actions with their gnosis.
On the outer this is indeed about being daring. Most of the world, and most outer religion considers magick to be a harmful persuit: at best a distraction from spiritual progress and at worst a path to damnation. In certain times and places, you could be killed and tortured for practicing it. If you are going to attempt it, you damn well better be daring.
On the inner level, to you are daring the inner dangers. You are defeating your mechanistic nature and calming the storm of cause and effect that keeps you locked habitual patterns. The monkey mind does not surrender easily though. Magick has caused madness and even death. Remember all the inunctions about looking at the face of god causing death? You are daring that.
On the secret level you are daring to be as you truly are. Its hard to explain, but at the higher levels of realization, things are not as colorful and strange as they are at the lower levels. In fact, the first time I really attained Rigpa for any length of time, I described it to my teacher as "transecndent ordinariness". You must dare to realize not only the illusory nature of the material world, but all the astral and "higher" realms as well. You must dare to give up your HGA.
TO KEEP SILENT:
This one has caused more discussion than the other three combined.
On the outer level this is simply the injunction to shut up about what you are doing for numerous good reasons that I will list in a post later this week. Protecting the reputation of a teaching, protecting intellectual property of an order or group, protecting yourself from societal reprecussion, and protecting the work you are doing from interferrance from others are just a few points that I will expand upon in time.
On the inner level to keep silent is the need for actual silence in practice. Like, literally shutting the fuck up. Almost every great mystic I have even talked to has stressed the importance of keeping time for silent reflection, prayer, and meditation. Its vital to the path. Whether you can take 40 minutes in the morning and evening, or only drive to work with the radio off, the simplicity of silence will pay off in ways that will amaze you.
On the secret level this is the silence of the maelstrom of the mind. The silence of the 8th sphere that leads to the 9th is connected with this, but at a simpler level think of it like a lake filled with water that is muddy because the water is constantly being agitated. You are like that. Though the water in the lake is inherently clear and luminous, this nature can only be realized when the agitation stops and the obscuring dirt settles to the bottom. This is the secret silence.