The Holy Guardian Angel in Religion and Magic

As you might have guessed, dear reader, working with the Holy Guardian Angel is, in fact, a thing.  A pretty big thing, at that.  There’ve been rituals written for thousands of years now on how to come in contact with this spirit, along with plenty of kinda-similar-kinda-dissimilar descriptions on the nature of this spirit.  And, judging by the pan-blogosophere/occulture debates on the nature of the HGA, chances are this topic will continue on for quite a lot longer.  In fact, some magicians go so far as to say that coming in contact with the HGA, also known as Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA) is the sum and whole of the Great Work itself.  This isn’t a wrong view, but it’s a little misleading if you don’t inspect all the ramifications of such a statement.

No, I’m not going to talk about how to attain KCHGA, or how to find your HGA’s name, or which ritual is best to come in contact with your HGA.  Yes, I have contact with my own HGA, and I’ve been working with him and involving him at nearly every step of my occult path since I first met him.  What I want to talk about is something that I don’t see often discussed: the relationship and differences in view of the HGA between practitioners of magic and devotees of religion.  The two feed into each other, clearly, and the notion of the HGA itself can easily be attributed to either source or a mixture of both.  It’s the relationship and lack of correctness I’ve noted between what the HGA is claimed to do and how one is supposed to work with the HGA, at least in my own experience, and what the HGA actually does and how one should really work with the HGA.

The term “Holy Guardian Angel” itself can be attributed quite clearly to the Book of Abramelin, but the term was already in use by the Catholic Church, the culture of which helped form and develop the spiritual context for the Abramelin (along with other Solomonic, goetic, and qabbalistic traditions interwoven together).  It’s been canon in the Catholic Church for each human being to have a guardian angel for quite a long while now; there are scriptural hints that this has been a longstanding notion (Matthew 18:10, Acts 12:13-15) since before the development of the proper Church, but it was really codified when Saint Basil in the 4th century wrote that “beside each believer stands an angel protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Adversus Eunomium III, Catechism of the Catholic Church 1.2.1.1.5.1 #336).  Okay, cool; we know that it’s actually a belief that guardian angels exist in Catholicism and, moreover, that its believers are actively encouraged to work with and ask for help from one’s guardian angel.  This is further indicated by the prevalence of medallions, litanies, candles, novenas, and the like dedicated to this divine figure.

However, the perceived goal of the HGA is different between Abramelin and Saint Basil.  In the Abramelin, the text states that “[e]very learned and prudent man may fall if he be not defended and guided by the angel of the Lord, who aided me, and prevented me from falling into such a state of wretchedness, and who led me undeserving from the mire of darkness unto the light of the truth” and later that “[y]e shall also supplicate [God] that in the time to come he may be willing and pleased to regard you with pity and grant you his grace and goodness to send unto you his holy angel, who shall serve unto you as a guide, and lead you ever in his holy way and will; so that ye fall not into sin through inadvertence, through ignorance, or through human frailty”.  Magically, however, Abramelin states that “my holy angel, whom God the most merciful had destined from my creation for my guardian, spake unto me with the greatest goodness and affection; who not only manifested unto me the Veritable Magic, but even made easier for me the means of obtaining it”.  Mathers writes in his own introduction more succinctly that “thereby and thereafter [obtaining knowledge of and conversation with one’s guardian angel] we may obtain the right of using the evil spirits for our servants in all material matters”.  Of course, even the Abramelin alludes to the difficulty in describing the nature of the HGA, perhaps foreshadowing decades of internet-based flame wars: “their angel being by its nature Amphiteron [inaccessible, double?], because the angelic nature differeth to so great an extent from that of men, that no understanding nor science could express or describe it, as regardeth that great purity wherewith [the angels] be invested”.

The thing is that the Abramelin is, above anything else, a work on magic.  The whole 6-month (or 18-month, if you’re reading Dehn’s translation) period of prayer and asceticism is meant to put you in contact with your HGA, after which you work with the HGA to accomplish any and every other type of magic.  In other words, the HGA becomes the only familiar or supernatural assistant one would ever need, able to bind or loosen any other spirit, achieve any task, or obtain any objective.  In this light, Abramelin shares strong similarities with several PGM texts (I.1, I.42, IV.154, VII.505, inter alia).  The general gist is that the magical view of the HGA is to assist you in getting what you want.

This is counter to the standard religious view that the HGA is to lead you to virtue.  After all, probably the two biggest drives for people studying magic are to (a) get paid and (b) get laid, and texts like the PGM, Grand Grimoire, and the like are pretty blatant in saying so, with books like Abramelin and the Keys of Solomon being a little more subtle about it.  What we want to accomplish is not always in line with virtue, if not directly opposed to it.  From this, it might be said that the magical HGA isn’t an angel at all, but a familiar spirit of a lower rank than an angel.  I disagree; after all, it’s a staple in Stoicism, Christianity, and Thelema that you shouldn’t judge what others do, and what might be terrible vice for you can just as easily be blessed virtue for another.  The Abramelin approach to this is to strike a balance between the two: the HGA is to help you achieve what you want, but also to lead you to virtue, so what you want will eventually coincide with what God wants.

From this, it’s easily understandable how Thelema linked True Will with the HGA.  If True Will is what we’re meant to accomplish according to the Divine, then our True Will is the will of God.  Thus, by aligning our will with our True Will, we align our will with God’s will.  It’s still free will and freely chosen, but it’s that alignment that produces true power and true Work.  However, the vessel for knowing and keeping on our path of True Will most easily lies with the HGA compared to other paths, since the HGA is most in tune with our lives specifically and knows our specific needs and wants, and since the HGA leads us to God, he can lead us in a way most effective for ourselves to God.  If I recall correctly, this is likewise why many Golden Dawn lodges have no formal initiations above Adeptus Minor (5=6, corresponding with Thiphareth/Sun), which is associated with KCHGA, since the KCHGA becomes one’s real teacher after that point and the Work they indicate to do becomes proof of one’s real grade.  The HGA will still accomplish nearly anything you ask for, but rather than the HGA changing their nature through your working, the HGA is the catalyst for you changing your own nature through your Work.

This is an element that appears to be lacking to me in religious-devotional methods of working with the HGA, like through novenas or simple prayer.  Without truly needing and aspiring to know and converse with the HGA, it’s extraordinarily rare for one to contact and accomplish anything with them, and the methods involve at a minimum powerful and wholly-concentrated prayer to the point of fanaticism and faith so extreme things become more magical than theological.  Sure, you can obtain the favor and a few helpful nudges after repeated novenas or litanies to the HGA, and they’ll probably throw a sign to you once in a while that you may or may not miss, but for concentrated work and learning, I haven’t found the Catholic prayer stuff nearly as useful to work with the HGA as I have magical methods and involved ritual.  (Then again, Catholic rituals as I would reckon a “ritual” to work with the HGA are few and far between, and I don’t know of anything that powerful besides Mass itself, and I’m not qualified to perform that.)

Despite that I’ve worked with plenty of other angels, the HGA seems to be an angel of a wholly different type than the planetary angels/intelligences/spirits/choirs, and is distinct still from the seven archangels themselves.  I can’t yet discern whether this is a function of him being so close and connected to me, lower than the rest, higher than the rest, an outgrowth of God itself into my life in a discrete form I’d recognize as an angel, or something else entirely; I sense my HGA smirking and snickering as I write this, which I take as a recognition of the futility of this sort of pondering.  What I do know is that the HGA is definitely worked with in a way distinct from any other spirit.  He doesn’t require or feel the need for formal conjurations, nor does he care for chaplets and novenas and candles burned in his honor.  He instructs me to pray, but with a special prayer he helped me write to align myself to the Almighty and not to his specific presence.  He directs and smooths out my work, but has no specific ritual for himself (beyond the Headless Rite, which is how I came to contact him in the first place, but which he’s somewhat distanced himself from since).  He’s distinctly Other, but in a way that makes him not-Other at all.

Personally, I take the HGA, as the Golden Dawn does, as one’s true teacher, but in a farther and in a more ecumenical way.  I claim that once one has true and certain contact with one’s HGA (which is a complicated and hard-to-accomplish thing to begin with), they need no more dogmas or religions or texts beyond that which their HGA directs them to study.  If the HGA is one’s connection to God and one’s true path, then that path becomes their true religion; no other path will do for them, since any other path would divert from their True Will.  In that sense, the HGA can act as one’s personal Christ, or personal God who talks to them, or another emanation of the Divine suited just for them that only they hear, that they need to hear, and that only they need to hear.  As one of my Golden Dawn friends has said in the past, the HGA is a kind of divine sockpuppet, throttling back the infinity of the Almighty into a finite and “easily” understandable form for our finite minds to process and comprehend.  It’s a kind of hilarious metaphor, but it definitely works, and probably works best and most succinctly of any blog post I’ve read or written on the subject.

In that light, I suppose I should reevaluate my earlier evaluation that strictly devotional methods are sub-par compared to magical methods to contact the HGA.  After all, not everyone is suited to magical practice (though I’d like to think they are), and some people should probably stick to the devotional methods and get the most out of them than they would of any set of spiritual practices.  After all, my own HGA would rather me work in more active ways than simple prayer, but that wouldn’t go for everybody’s HGA.  Regardless of whichever path one should be taking to contact their HGA, it’s definitely something everyone should work on, since knowing one’s HGA is equivalent to knowing one’s True Will, which is equivalent to knowing one’s place in the cosmos and in the plan of the Divine; KCHGA in any form is “know thyself”.

More about Geomantic Perfection

The idea of perfection comes from horary astrology, considered to be the primary and foremost divination system of the antique, classical, and premodern periods; you can find good descriptions of astrological perfection here and here, among elsewhere.  In horary astrology, where the planets move through the 360° of the Zodiac at different rates, the planets make certain aspects to each other at different times; noting how these aspects take place, where they take place, and what other planets make aspects at the same time can indicate different types of perfection or different ways that perfection cannot be obtained.  Geomancy, however, uses sixteen figures that can appear at 12 discrete places in the House Chart instead of smoothly moving through 360°

So, with all that in mind, let me get out the basics first starting from first principles.

What is perfection?  Perfection is a technique used in geomantic divination where a House Chart and not the Shield Chart is used.  This technique helps indicate different types of connection, or the lack thereof, between different actors, events, or goals in a situation.  While the figures themselves describe what a given actor, event, or goal may be like, perfection indicates how these things relate to and work with or against other things.  The things that play a role in a situation are represented by figures called significators, and these figures are found by inspecting a particular house of the House Chart that best represents the thing.  For instance, the querent (person asking the query, or question of divination) is represented by house I, so the figure that appears in house I represents the state, quality, and person of the querent.  If the querent is asking about something in specific, such as a marriage, job, health problem, or debt, we would look to other houses to see what those things are represented by in the chart, which are houses VII, X, VI, and XII, respectively; the thing being asked about is the quesited.

Because any given figure can appear in multiple places in the House Chart, it is possible that one of the significating figures can appear in multiple places, as well.  Different houses that share the same figure indicate a strong connection between the two areas of life, actors, events, or goals.  For instance, if the significator of the querent appears in houses I and VI, we might say that the querent is heavily involved with matters of health, service, or working for others in addition to those things having qualities similar to the querent since they share the same figure.  A figure can appear in more than two houses; in one rare case, the same figure can even appear in all 12 houses, but it’s more common that a figure appears in one to three houses at a time, depending on the chart.

All this puts geomancy in an unusual place in divination systems generally; unlike Tarot, runes, astrology, or other forms of divination, where any given symbol can appear at most once in a reading, a geomantic figure can appear multiple times in a reading.  This allows us to make use of this repetition of figures to indicate relationships between significators based on how they repeat, or pass, around in the chart in relationship to each other.  This is where geomantic perfection is superficially similar to astrological perfect, where the latter relies on aspects being made between planets to form contacts between significators, the former relies on repetition of figures to do the same.  Say the querent wishes to know about marriage, or marrying a particular person; in this case, the significator of the querent is in house I, and the significator of the quesited is in house VII.  If the querent’s significator passes from house I to house VI, then we note that house VI and house VII are neighboring each other; the querent’s significator comes into direct physical contact with that of the quesited.  This is a type of contact made that illustrates perfection.

There are four types of perfection used in geomancy, and I went over those in an earlier post, which you should read up at this point.  To review, there is occupation (the same figure appears in both the house of the querent and the house of the quesited), conjunction (either significator appears in one of the two houses neighboring the other), mutation (when both significators neighbor each other at some other location away from their own houses), and translation (when the same figure which is neither significator appears next to both).  If no method of perfection applies, then we say that the chart is in denial, or lacking perfection.  Where the figures pass to, such as before or after the significator, or whether a figure passes to both before and after, or a mutation-conjunction combination, can all offer variants of these four methods of perfection, but the same basic rules apply.  If a chart has perfection between the significators, then we say that the chart perfects for those signficators; otherwise, we say that the chart denies perfection.

What does perfection answer?  To speak floridly, perfection indicates the connection between different realities, the experienced reality of the querent (represented by the significator of the querent) and the hypothetical reality of the query (represented by the significator of the quesited).  If the chart perfects, then the hypothetical reality will come to pass; if the chart denies perfection, the hypothetical reality will not come to pass.  In more direct terms, perfection in a chart indicates a simple “yes” to the query, and denial of perfection indicates “no”.  So, if Jane Doe asks “will I get married to John Smith?” and the chart perfects between houses I and VII in any way, then the answer is yes, Jane will marry John; if the chart denies perfection, the answer is no, Jane will not marry John.  It’s important to be clear on phrasing the query, because perfection answers about the situation inquired; if Jane asks “will I not marry John?” and the chart perfects, then the answer is yes, she will not marry John.  In other words, perfection affirms or denies the query put to divination.  Learning how to phrase the query clearly and concretely is an important aspect of divination generally, but especially so when perfection is used.

Being able to phrase a query clearly and directly is important especially if one phrases a query in a negative light.  Perfection will affirm whatever is asked, and denial of perfection will deny whatever is asked.  So, if one asks a question negatively, like “will X not happen?” or “should I not do X?”, then the query will be answered as it is.  Thus, if one asks “will X not happen?” perfection says “yes, X will not happen”, and denial says “no, X will not not happen” (or, more directly, “X will happen”).  Thus, the more directly one can phrase the query, reducing all ambiguity and complexity to its barest, the more clear and easily accessible the answer will be.

Now that you understand (hopefully) what perfection is, let’s talk about the limits of this technique.  For one, perfection does not answer whether something is good or bad; it only indicates whether something will or won’t happen.  It indicates a connection between different realities, but it does not indicate whether it’ll be good or bad, pleasing or displeasing, or any other qualities besides whether there exists a connection and how that connection is forged.  For understanding the qualities of the situation, you’d need to look at the figures themselves and whether they’re good or bad, how those figures relate to the rest of the chart, the Court figures, and so forth.  You can envision a kind of 2×2 table that shows this:

Good figures Bad figures
Chart perfects Will happen,
situation will turn out well
Will happen,
situation will turn out badly
Chart denies Will not happen,
situation will turn out well
Will not happen,
situation will turn out badly

There are lots of techniques in geomancy, and perfection is only one of them.  Perfection really comes in help when a query is phrased in a way that “yes” or “no” will answer it, i.e. if the query expects a binary answer.  Anything that is asked in a way like “Will X happen”, “Should I do X”, “Can I do X”, and the like are all things that can be answered directly and easily with perfection.  Other queries, such as “When will X happen”, “What will X be”, “Where is X”, and the like are not answered by perfection; in this case, the use of perfection simply doesn’t apply to these queries and will produce nonsense answers.  For instance, if Jane Doe lost something, she might ask “will I find my lost object?” and use perfection for that reading; if she wants to know the answer to “where can I find X?”, she should use another technique entirely, since this isn’t a yes or no question.  Perfection is only one tool in the toolkit of the geomancer; just as one wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, perfection isn’t the best tool for the job when the query is best answered in a non-binary way.

Many binary queries put to divination are straightforward: whether I can get such-and-such a job, whether I’ll find my true love in the next five years, whether I’ll flunk out of college even if I study hard, and so forth.  In many instances, it suffices to use only two significators in the reading, one for the querent and one for the quesited.  However, some queries are more nuanced and complicated, and to fully answer it require a nuanced and complicated reply from the reading.  This is most easily done by considering multiple significators, where one figures out how different actors (plural) relate amongst themselves as well as with the querent in a situation.  Consider a situation where a querent wants to know how a new medical treatment prescribed by their doctor will help a health issue they’ve had for some time now.  We know of several factors here: the querent (house I), the doctor (house VII), the medical treatment (house X), and the health issue itself (house VI).  Any of these significators can perfect with any other, and since there are six different ways perfection can be forged between the significators (I and X, I and VII, I and VI, X and VII, X and VI, VII and VI), the answer could get quite complicated, indeed!  In this case:

  • Perfection between I and X indicates that the querent will carry out the medical treatment prescribed to them.  Denial indicates that they won’t or it simply won’t be available to them.
  • Perfection between I and VII indicates that the querent will be in contact with their doctor to work with them.  Denial indicates that their relationship may be blocked, broken off, or obstructed.
  • Perfection between I and VI indicates that the health issue will be resolved or will be helpfully controlled.  Denial indicates that the health condition will continue unmitigated.
  • Perfection between X and VII indicates that the doctor is the one prescribing the treatment and understands it.  Denial indicates that the doctor isn’t in control of the treatment or has no clue what he’s doing.
  • Perfection between X and VI indicates that the health issue will respond to and be helped by the treatment prescribed.  Denial indicates that the issue will not be changed or helped by the treatment.
  • Perfection between VII and VI indicates that the doctor understands the health issue and is actively working to help it.  Denial indicates that the doctor has no idea what’s going on and doesn’t really care.

These types of readings with multiple significators can be deeply involved, and there’s no simple yes or no to be had with these.  Instead, one has to develop a nuanced, qualified answer that might be yes in some ways and no in others, and build a complete message from that.  For instance, say that in this hypothetical health reading, say that perfection exists between I and VII (querent and doctor), I and X (querent and treatment), I and VI (treatment and health issue), and VII and X (doctor and treatment); the chart denies perfection between X and VI (treatment and health issue) and VII and VI (doctor and health issue).  In this case, the querent is getting along fine with the doctor and will take the steps prescribed by the doctor to change the situation.  However, the treatment prescribed by the doctor will not have any effect on the condition since the doctor doesn’t really understand it well enough to prescribe something useful; even then, however, the treatment will still be cleared up on its own or due to the personal actions of the querent.  So, in some ways, the query of “will the treatment prescribed by my doctor help this health issue?” is answered by “no”, and in some other ways “yes”, but it’s hard to answer that query fully in a single word if the whole story needs to be communicated.

Perfection is a useful tool, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also one of the most difficult to understand for many beginners due to its complexity.  I ascribe this to the mechanics of geomancy itself, since this isn’t your standard oracle deck-fare divination; there’s math and analysis involved that go far beyond intuitive readings of the figures themselves as you might normally do in other divination methods.  Many people don’t pick up geomancy as their first divination system, so they’re used to systems that are simpler, more rudimentary, and less mechanical in their own ways; this is not a bad thing, but it ill-prepares them to study geomancy in a proper way.  It’s important to know the limits of perfection here, as well as when to use it and when not to use it, to fully understand how the technique works and what it represents in a chart.

De Geomanteia: Coniunctio (crossroads and crossing others, sabres, sexual interests)

Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that?  I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it.  If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity.  With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy).  This week, let’s talk about this figure:

Coniunctio

This is the figure Coniunctio.  In Latin, its name means “Conjunction”, but is also named “assembly” or “meeting” in some Islamic traditions, as well as “crossroads” or “sail”.  If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like an X, two figures joining hands, or a bridge.

First, the technical details on this figure.  It’s associated with Mercury in retrograde motion, the astrological sign Virgo, and the sephirah Hod.  It has both the air and water lines active with the fire and earth lines passive, making this a wet figure and associated with air (the primary quality of which is wetness).  It is an even figure with six points, relating to objective situations rather than internal or experential events.  It is a mobile and liminal figure, showing things to be dynamic, hesitant, and able to be changed at a moment’s notice.  In the body, it signifies the belly, intestines, arms, and hands.  Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Carcer, the Prison, showing that this figure is not isolated, not restrained, and not permanent.  Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is the same, Coniunctio itself, showing that this figure is the same from all points of view.  Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Carcer, showing that it is cyclical, pausing, and foundational.  It is a middling figure, but generally held to be good with good figures and bad with bad figures; it is favorable in matters of discussion, meeting people, making decisions, short travel, and unions of love and partnerships, while it is bad in matters requiring isolation, stability, and fixidity in opinions.

In my meditations of this figure, I picture myself in a wagon in a caravan with another, older man.  We’re just talking about future plans, what-ifs and what-could-bes, shooting the shit about nothing and everything in particular, where we’ve been, what we like and dislike, and what we have to go on later on.  We’re both travelers, there only for the duration of the ride, and neither of us is particularly sure about where we’re going, together or separately.  That said, we were happy with this, and once the wagon stopped, we got out and saw a crossroads, four roads leading out to the four corners of the world, each drastically different.  Another two wagons were present, with the first having disappeared, and we sat by the edge of the intersection and kept talking.  The road can wait, we figured, and we really have the entire world ahead of us.  We weren’t finished with our journey, but neither had we really begun.  We weren’t badly off, but we weren’t content.  We had potential and possibility, but we had nothing definite or planned out yet.

This is one of my more favorite figures, probably because of its ambivalence and directionlessness.  Crossroads are sacred and powerful places in many religions and folklores because, when you’re at a crossroads, you’re not going along any one road, you’re not part of any one territory (think of Four Corners in the western US), and so you’re really between thresholds.  In a sense, the crossroads is a place between worlds, belonging to none, leading to all.  This is why you’d find statues of protection or heraldic gods (like Hermes’ hermai) at crossroads, watching over the passage of people, cargo, and spirits going from place to place.  Coniunctio, being a figure of a crossroads, lines up with this: it’s a figure of a decision just before its made, a choice just before it’s finalized.  Anything can go anywhere with this, and it’s hard to tell which way it’ll go.

The two elements that are active in Coniunctio are water and air, the sociable elements able to freely mingle and flow from here to there.  Earth is solitary, heavy, and immovable, while fire is caustic and focused only on rising upward; these dry elements are not conducive on their own to actually moving around.  Water, however, flows, as does air, and are able to go up, down, sideways, inside, outside, and anywhere else.  They help facilitate communication, relationships and relating to others, empathy, sympathy, and telepathy (yes, I went there).  Coniunctio, the conjunction or meeting, is really a figure that shows an intermingling of forces, bridging the gap between the heavens and earth or between two corners of the world, where communication and chatting can occur freely and helpfully.  It represents meetings of all kinds, especially sexual union and conjunction; as a symbol of marriage or sex, Coniunctio represents the combination of opposites (female Puella and male Puer, or slow Albus and fast Rubeus).

While Albus represents Watery Mercury, Coniunctio represents Airy Mercury: the talkative, thinking, discussing child that hasn’t yet figured out where to go but knows that he wants to go somewhere.  By reasoning things out with words and discourse, plans can be drawn up, maps drawn out, and all the information one needs to make a decision can be obtained with only a few moments’ work.  The downside is that one can get caught up in the decisionmaking to such a degree that one gets lost in the details and fails to see the big picture; it’s as if one gets too obsessed with how the roads looks from the intersection instead of considering where the roads actually lead.  Without keeping a broader or more intuitive eye on things, the energies of Coniunctio can get so bogged down in the logical minutiae of life that nothing ever actually gets accomplished due to all the micromanaging of itineraries and decisions.  Making a well-informed decision is one thing, but knowing everything about absolutely nothing at all is quite another.

Coniunctio is, as I’m sure you may have guessed by now, a figure of reason and deliberation.  It nearly always signifies a meeting or interaction with outside forces, often with past choices being questioned or drawn-up plans redrawn and refigured.  It’s a figure of change, much like the other figure associated with the roads, Via, but unlike Via, Coniunctio doesn’t utterly change things, but merely reconsiders them for the better.  However, it’s hard to do that kind of reconsidering on one’s own, so outside opinions are not only appreciated here but necessary to make the most out of Coniunctio’s force.  It’s through a meeting of minds, separate worlds in and of themselves, that progress on one’s path can really be accomplished.