New levels of understanding! From the well-recommended text, “Electric Machinery”:
A magnetic circuit consists of a structure composed for the most part of high-permeability magnetic material. The presence of high-permeability material tends to cause magnetic flux to be confined to the paths defined by the structure, much as currents are confined to the conductors of an electric circuit.
So I can finally think of permeability in a clear way: as an analogy for conductance, like copper conducts current, a high permeability allows for “conductance” of magnetic fields. Way cool!