The Great Work of the Holy Guardian Angel

The Great Work of the Holy Guardian Angel by Sheta Kaey

“Angel” is a word that carries even more baggage than “soulmate” — baggage that goes back thousands of years to the beginnings of Judeo-Christian theology. While the most common definition of the word tends to be “messenger of God,” that raises the further question of “what is God?” and that’s a question I’m not going to touch with your ten-foot pole. It’s clear, however, that the Judeo-Christian majority in the Western world assumes that God and angels are known quantities, and that no one else should have any claim to them.

A long time acquaintance of mine has a relationship with a being many believe to be an archangel. His name is Azrael. My friend once told me, “Azrael says that angels are simply those who came before.” Meridjet appreciates the broad scope of that definition, and goes on to say that there is no explicit spiritual hierarchy as is often believed. There are no “higher” or “lower” beings, only less evolved and more evolved — further, if you like, but not higher. While the classification of higher and lower worlds and beings is useful, particularly in study of the Tree of Life, it’s important to remember that the map is not the territory. We should not fall into the trap of taking any symbol as literal truth, including the illusions of separation or hierarchy.

Most humans in the West, regardless of religion, tend to label worlds, planes, and beings of a subtler nature as “higher,” and worlds, planes, and beings of a less subtle, denser nature as “lower.” This labeling, while indeed useful for comprehension and aspiration, unfortunately grew into a judgment call. In time, any denser being was assumed to be evil, while any subtler being was assumed to be fundamentally good. While the hierarchical label itself isn’t a problem, the assumptions it invites are problematic because the nature of any being is not reliant upon its vibrational level any more than a television station on the “higher” digital band is essentially more divine than a television station on the “lower” analog band.

Angels, when reduced to the bare bones of the concept, are mediators between the divine and humankind, providing guidance, instruction, and service for the betterment of individuals and the whole of the species. This does not mean, however, that they are the light to a demon’s darkness in some cosmic polarity dividing the universe into “good” and “evil.” All beings have light and darkness within them, and all beings are capable of comforting as well as brutalizing us, if given sufficient cause. In the name of growth, most actions are acceptable. This is a very frightening thought.

In Thelema, my favored philosophy, there is the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is not the usual “guardian angel” that hopeful individuals invoke in difficult or stressful situations, but something more akin to Socrates’ higher genius, what he called his daemon. Yet it is more than that. The function of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) is part higher self and part autonomous spirit guide, with a healthy dollop of animus (or anima, as the case may be), all wrapped up in mysterious, powerful attraction. It’s never firmly defined in any text, including this one, as it’s a concept that cannot be grasped without the experience to provide the Eureka!, the epiphany of understanding that accompanies all great truths.

The purpose of the HGA is generally described as “revealing your True Will,” “revealing your Great Work,” or “leading you to your life’s purpose.” These concepts, then, are often assumed to be synonymous. But as with the concept of hierarchy, these should not be taken merely at face value. I’ll attempt to explain them, and then circle back to illustrate my point. The “life’s purpose” is, of course, the reason you are here. It’s what you are meant to do. But how do you know what that purpose is? How do you discover it? Everyone judges the raison d´êtres of those who’ve passed on: When I was younger, people said that John Lennon had lived to promote peace and was killed when he’d learned all he needed to. Mother Teresa lived a life of sacrifice and love, caring for the poor; she was meant to set an example for the rest of us. Princess Diana’s life was meant to renew the inspiration of British royalty, while eschewing the status quo and traveling the world, revealing horrible conditions that even today we still seek to assuage. And so on. We speculate endlessly about the life purposes of now dead public figures because we find them easier to pigeonhole, to define according to our limited views of what’s important. Our own purposes elude us, and even as we seek them out, we may suffer doubt or fear that we’ve missed the signposts and are careening out of control, toward a death that will bring no easy epitaph.

Thelemites and magicians like to believe that they’ve got the inside scoop on what they’re meant to do with their lives. They talk about their HGAs and their True Wills, how “Love is the Law” and “compassion is the vice of Kings” as if they were members of a secret club giving out magic decoder rings to the worthy. Magical fraternities and orders perpetuate this belief by keeping certain teachings for the inner orders, available only by petition and initiation. “Would you like to learn why you’re here? Step right up and we’ll show you your life’s purpose!” This “life’s purpose” is the blind, or false information that sets the ignorant upon a pointless path, often found in magical texts and especially in the writings of Aleister Crowley. Or, if you’d rather, not really false information, in this case, so much as divergent information.

The Great Work is the term used by Thelemites to refer to the life’s purpose, which is revealed to the individual who receives Knowledge and Conversation with his or her Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA). The blind exists in the novice’s assumption that one’s Great Work is mundane: to become something within the span of this lifetime that gains recognition, contributes something to the world, or in some way leads to the usual definition of “success.” When a magician claims to have KCHGA and in the next sentence refers to his Great Work as a mundane, finite goal, he reveals himself to be a fraud.

In actuality, the Great Work refers to the true (and infinite) goal of everyone, everywhere, regardless of race, creed, intelligence, or any other factor. This goal is simple: to evolve. To become something better today than we were yesterday. To grow as individuals. To put it in New Age terms, it’s the raising of the consciousness of humanity, ushering us into that New Age, or New Aeon, when restriction falls away and freedom equals harmony. It’s a pipe dream, when applied to the world as a whole; there is never going to be a recognizable dawning of a New Aeon, and certainly not in some great cosmic shift as so many like to believe. Dawn is incremental; by its very nature it is impossible to gauge except in retrospect: By the time the light of humanity (or day) shines brightly enough to be recognized, the dawn will have passed.

Furthermore, a single day’s worth of encounters with random humanity is enough to illustrate the vast number of people who have no interest in evolving unless it serves their most immediate needs. If they can’t see the payoff, they’re not going to bother. Case in point: Who believes that the wife-beater down the street who spends his entire welfare check on beer and weed has any desire to become more? But when you consider the individuals who do have an interest in that becoming, it’s at the very least food for thought. The world is made up of individuals, and someday maybe the majority will make that choice — to become more — one at a time, and will tip the scales in favor of that New Aeon. (In my opinion, this mundane universe is a compressed, self-contained learning system — a classroom — and eventually, everyone will move on to those “higher” vibrations and pass to a more enlightened universe. Whether this one ever really dawns into something more hopeful is very nearly immaterial.) And this brings us to the True Will.

The True Will is completely the property of the HGA. People, magicians, Thelemites can harp all day about making conscious choices and about how acting like a buffoon during an important meeting is their “true will,” but that won’t make it so. The True Will transcends conscious awareness, and it manipulates us in spite of ourselves. Make that choice, decide just one time that you’re going to seriously, truly dedicate yourself to your personal growth, and your True Will steps up to the plate and takes over. You may have never heard of the concept, but (unlike missionaries converting the savages to the love of Christ) it’s not necessary to know of it, because your conscious involvement is of little concern. The True Will is set into gear by your dedication, your choice, taking over like a spiritual autopilot, bringing you into line time and again. You may not get there — to “more” — via the most direct route, and you may not get there painlessly (in fact, the odds are against it), but you will get there, because once you’ve made the commitment, the Universe responds to every move you make with either momentum (supporting your conscious choices) or a slap upside the head. Have you ever felt battered by circumstances, asking yourself what you did to deserve this? Try looking around — what are you being shown? What is the Universe, and your HGA (KCHGA or not), trying to show you? Stop playing the victim, and take responsibility for the lesson. If you don’t, those slaps will just keep getting harder.

As the governor of True Will, your HGA will lead you in whatever way is necessary to accomplish your evolution. You’re now on the fast track, and look out, because (as a friend once said to me), your HGA will rip your arm off and smack you with it if he thinks that’s what will get the point across. I strongly advise listening before things get to the arm-ripping point.

Not your mother’s guardian angel, is it?

This article is excerpted from the upcoming book, Infinite Possibility.

Sheta Kaey is Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil and is working on her first book, Infinite Possibility. You can read her blog here.

©2009 by Sheta Kaey
Edited by Sarenth

Rending the Veil is seeking serious volunteers to help kick off next summer with new features and new staff. Also, we now welcome submissions anytime, so send in your best pieces today! Volunteer application (.docx).


8 Responses to “The Great Work of the Holy Guardian Angel”

  1. IAO131 says:


    You have touched upon some important points: HGA is not the guardian angel or your conscience that sits on your should. Your ‘purpose’ is not to be a doctor, sailor, etc. but to perform the Great Work.

    Something I take issue with is your notion of ‘evolution.’ That itself is just a subtle value judgement to say someone is ‘further’ or ‘more evolved’ – you are just switching a spatial metaphor (upper vs lower) for another (evolved vs unevolved). The Great Work is to know one’s True Self, coterminous with the HGA, and consequently know one’s True Will since will is simply the dynamic aspect of the self. You can put this in terms of ‘evolution’ but Crowley says something to the opposite effect: ” Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step. ”

    Great work though, no pun intended.

    93 93/93,

  2. RTV Admin says:

    I agree with you regarding the subtler value judgment of the evolutionary description, but what I’ve learned in my short time studying with Meridjet is that we grasp what concepts we can, until we can grasp the greater subtlety. While the “further” is not a great difference from the “higher,” it does invite analysis and contemplation. “Further” can indicate any direction, including inward.

    I like the term “evolution” because it provides that flexibility. Nothing in my article, I hope, indicates specifically what that evolution refers to. We are limited to the scope of language, and while I’m sorely under-read (comparatively speaking) with regard to Crowley, I don’t see a profound difference between his statement and my description — it’s just a matter of how you interpret it. To me, “becoming more” is a process of revelation, and that’s in line with what he says in your quote.

    My goal in this article was to make the concepts as I understood them more accessible to the average person. The excerpt is from a book not on Thelema, but on spirit work. I hope it’s not too misleading.


    • IAO131 says:


      If this is a book on ‘spirit work’ I am glad you are infusing it with such beautifully-stated Thelemic ideas. I approve.

      (I tend to mention things I disagree with more than the things I agree with so I tend to look… disagreeable… but I think 99% of your article is top-notch compared to most other writings, even the explicitly Thelema-related writings, on the HGA, etc.

      I agree that evolution is less liable to confusion than higher vs. lower. I like your notion that evolution can proceed on an inward scale/direction, as well. Perhaps that could be fleshed out a bit?

      93 93/93,

      • RTV Admin says:

        Thank you for your kind and supportive words. :) They mean a lot to me, since I’m really only starting to express my Thelemic ideas publicly.

        I do intend to further explore the evolution concept in my book. It’s a major reason I’m writing it at all. I feel that, if given a slightly more accessible bent, the Thelemic ideas of HGA and the Great Work will be easier for the layman to relate to. There’s a lot of untapped potential in people, and I’m hoping to help those with what I call “spirit companions” to realize the profound opportunities inherent to the experience. This is how it started with me, before I even knew what Thelema was.

        It may be a backwards avenue compared to the usual material on the topic, but I don’t think it’s a faulty one. All it really takes is a shift in purpose and perspective to bring a spirit relationship like this around and make use of it.

        I’ve probably told you more than you want to hear, at this point. lol.

        Thanks again.
        93 93/93,

  3. Grey Glamer says:

    About that whole “ripping off your arm” thang…

    Apart from the fact I just finished reading John Gardner’s *Grendel*, which IMHO ought to be required reading for anyone interested in the concept of magic as paradigm shifting, and which involves a rather prominent arm-ripping near the end, I can appreciate the notion the HGA doesn’t always communicate needful wisdom through gentle coaxing. I’ve had colleagues speak of the Lurker beyond the threshold, which is essentially the antagonistic devil to the “good” HGA – something to be banished or bound, lest it bring harm to the practicing Magician.

    In my own experience, this extreme, zero-sum sort of moral dualism simply fails to account for the world which I perceive. My own guardian spirit, like most of the other spiritual entities I’ve encountered over the years, exhibits both Seelie (bright and innocent) and Unseelie (dark and mischievous) tendencies, as the mood and the moment seem to strike him, or more likely, with the guise in which my conscious self really needs him to appear. He’s not exactly an angel with the shining halo, but neither is he a cruel, depraved tormentor. He’s the healer and the trickster, by turns. And this is how things should be, I feel.

    I very much enjoyed reading your perspective on this crucial field of study and meditation.

    Blessed Be!

    Grey Glamer’s last blog post..Musings upon Hume’s Fork

    • RTV Admin says:

      My own guardian spirit, like most of the other spiritual entities I’ve encountered over the years, exhibits both Seelie (bright and innocent) and Unseelie (dark and mischievous) tendencies, as the mood and the moment seem to strike him, or more likely, with the guise in which my conscious self really needs him to appear. He’s not exactly an angel with the shining halo, but neither is he a cruel, depraved tormentor. He’s the healer and the trickster, by turns. And this is how things should be, I feel.

      I completely agree, and this is exactly how Meridjet is with me. People who are unaccustomed to seeing, for instance, a harsh martial arts sensei, see some of his methods and cringe, or even at times argue for mercy on my behalf. He’s unmoved, but never truly lacks compassion. There are moments when I feel so close to breaking, and can’t believe he can refuse me what I think I need — encouragement, a nod, a smile. And then I pick myself up and keep going anyway. And later, when I’m not suffering over the lack, I’ll receive the compassion and encouragement I thought I had to have to keep going. He doesn’t coddle, and he can be every bit that harsh sensei… but his devotion is complete and undeniable.

      Though, god, he can be a bastard. ;) He knows exactly what I need.

  4. sonno says:

    I don’t even know how I found your site, but you think in a clear way unlike most I’ve seen through my searching. I’m glad you put your thoughts out to be learned.

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