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A Sense of Place: a contribution from astro-cartography
Dr Damian Ruth, Massey University
Graham Ibell, independent astrologer
presented in working form at
Organisation, Identity and Locality (OIL) Conference1
Critical Studies of Management and Organisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand
11-12 February 2010
Victoria University of Wellington
This paper explores the value of an astrocartographical perspective on identity and locale. It addresses the
criteria for validating knowledge, provides two illustrations of astro-cartography in practice, and concludes that
there is a reasonable case for considering the contribution of astrological knowledge for the making of
meaning in a post-modern world. It connects to the work of critical management theorists, as well to the
aesthetic, linguistic and spiritual turns in management theory. The paper also addresses how we create
spaces, and in the context of the metaphor of mapping in management, particularly strategy, it suggests that
the symbolism of astrology has a much to offer in exploring our theories of identity, location and purpose.
We may be seeing the beginnings of the reintegration of our culture, a new possibility of the unity of
consciousness... Such integration will be based on the rejection of all univocal understandings of
reality, off all identifications of one conception of reality with reality itself... It will recognise that in both
scientific and religious culture all we have finally are symbols, but that there is an enormous difference
between the dead letter and the living word.
Robert Bellah
Beyond Belief
The OIL conferences occur in the context of increasing complexity within Critical Management Studies. The
notion of critique is subjected to critique. But what is to be critiqued? The practice of critique is predicated on
the notion of there being knowledge that can be critiqued. With this admittedly simple idea of the relation
between critique and knowledge, we suggest that a process which questions the very basis for management
knowledge is a fairly radical critical step. (We are not suggesting it is novel.) We take this step by exploring
astrology as a form of management knowledge or at least as a theoretical resource for management practice.
(Again, we make no claims of novelty.)
We conduct this exploration with the linguistic and discursive, aesthetic, spiritual and other turns in
management theory in mind. When astrology is considered as a discourse and an art, and connected to
purpose and fate, and putting aside the inconclusive evidence in justifying it as a predictive tool, it is at least a
resource for narrative. It can be seen as another way of constructing a story of a self, a tool for understanding
identity, whether it be the identity of a worker, leader or organisation.
There is another intriguing way in which astrology links to management, especially strategy. We are still
exploring this ourselves.. Astrology is the art of interpreting a map, and the map is a prevalent metaphor in
strategy theory. By taking a symbolic map, and engaging in a process of interpretive divination, the astrologer
offers a picture of the world, a kind of ‘environmental scan’, to put it in traditional strategic parlance. With this
knowledge, so the astrological claim goes, the entity is better equipped to engage in what strategists would
call scenario planning. We would like to explore this at the conference.
Another unresolved line of thought is to do with symbolic thinking. Managers and leaders are considered
symbolists. Astrology is considered a symbolic art. Once we have shorn management theory of its pretensions
to scientific and concrete knowledge, and dismissed the popular misconception of astrology as simplistically
predictive, is there a way in which management and astrology could be mutually constitutive?
Finally, to return to the use of maps, we ask if there is a way in which astrology can help us understand our
locale. Places, or locations as we may know them, are products of our imaginations; a specific person, the
product of a specific culture and time, ‘discovers’ a large body of water and begins the process of inventing
Lake Victoria. Another person ‘discovers’ some islands and begins the process of inventing New Zealand,
irrespective of prior and/or contemporaneous inventions of Aotearoa. It seems reasonable to suppose that a
‘discipline’ or ‘art’ or activity such as astrology, which is predicated on interpreting symbols and their influence,
and, through its fundamental technique, oriented to latitude and longitude, would offer resources for
understanding the conceptualisation of place, and perhaps of specific places.
Knowledge criteria
Barnett (198?) asks why astrology and witchcraft should or should not be taught at university in order to
discuss how certain domains of knowledge are acknowledged or excluded as legitimate in higher education.
Invoking polemical philosophers of science like Latour and Feyerabend, he deconstructs the criteria for
admission, and discovers that they are far from consistent or secure. Insofar as they are understandable, it is
our view that astrology passes the test.
The 17th Century created the scientific gaze under which all objective knowledge would be stabilised,
categorised, and standardised. In this world, that which could not be subjected to stabilisation, categorisation
and standardisation was not knowledge. This attitude did not only categorise certain knowledge as legitimate
and other as invalid, but disallowed certain stances towards dealing with the world. In this way esoteric
knowledges and indigenous knowledges were invalidated or subjugated. Case and Phillipson (2004) describe
astrology and alchemy in organisational theory as ‘insurrection of subjugated knowledges’ and remark on the
fact that astrology and other forms of alternative knowledge and cosmology resurgent in the business world
are rooted in non-European and pre-modern worlds. Scientific rationality is just one of many forms of
Liz Greene (1984:13) in her work on astrology and fate observes that ‘Any symbol, astrological or otherwise,
cannot be truly grasped by the intellect alone. There are many more elusive yet equally productive roads by
which the “map of the heavens” may be approached’ and on this basis she brings to bear ‘fairy tales, myths,
dreams and other oddities, along with more respectable references from philosophy and psychology’ (page
14). Like the astrologer Cornelius (2003), she is impatient with those astrologers who seek in vain for statistical
verification of astrology’s claims, and insist that its value lies in its symbolic value.
Organisation and strategy theory is understood as a symbolic process of story-telling and is also replete with
the use of ‘fairy tales, myths, dreams and other oddities’. We may change our language and labels, but in
practice management remains an art of divination, and its prima matera is the written word, especially story.
We suggest that astrology is a rich source of story, and that it deserves our attention along with many other
hitherto excluded forms of knowledge. Casey (2004:67) observes how senior, expertly skilled and successful
organisational employees are exploring ‘additional, contested rationalities’;
I have observed crystals, Native American ‘dream-catchers’, and statuettes of the Buddha displayed,
oftentimes together, in corporate cubicles... pictures of Sai Baba, yoga gurus and Hindu goddesses…
artefacts of pagan traditions, alchemy and Wicca… employees consulting tarot cards, astrological
charts and divination devices.
Case and Phillipson (2004:474) cite many references on the use of astrological knowledge in organisations.
Marketing executives are drawn the possibility that astrological knowledge might enable companies better to target their products
and services (Mitchell, 1995; Mitchell and Hagget, 1997; Mitchell and Tate, 1998; Phillipson, 2000)...
similar interest amongst the financial fraternity (Anon., 1996; Brooker, 1998a, 1998b; Galarza, 1999)...
books with a business focus published by professional astrologers (Bates and Chrzanowska-Bowles,
1994; McEvers, 1989)
We suggest that there are specific ways in which astrology may contribute to our understanding of strategy
and organisations. One way is via the use of metaphor.
Mapping and metaphor
The map is one of the most pervasive metaphors in strategic thinking and the story of soldiers who used a
map of the Pyrenees to make their way out of the Alps is widely told. We draw two implications from the
soldiers’ story. Firstly, the value of a map derives from its capacity to provide a sense of orientation, and this is
more important than its factual accuracy. The second is that we create our sense of place, and a map is an aid
to do so – the map is not the territory. We do not use a map in order to make sense of where we are – we
create maps in the process of making sense of where we are. In this light a process which aids map-making is
potentially valuable.
A map is a metaphor. Through mini-metaphors and organisational stories we create, shape and make sense of
where we are and where we may go. The map is not only an artefact, but a metaphorical construction and
metaphors, like maps, are orientation devices. A strong theme in management metaphors is the invocation of
archetypes as in Myers-Briggs, Morgan’s images of organisation, and Handy’s gods of management.
Cummings and Wilson (2003) quote the story of the lost soldiers who used a map of the Pyrenees to find their
way out of the Alps. They point out that how people are animated and orientated by maps justifies a more
respective attitude to ‘pre-modern’ knowledge. In their discussion of pre-modern maps and mapping, they
speak of a “subjective web” and then go on to discuss modern maps and mapping wherein they speak of “the
triangle” and “objective grid”. The crux of the issue is the 17th Century creation of the scientific gaze under
which all objective knowledge would be organized into an arboreal hierarchy with all its implications for
stabilization and standardization. Management knowledge has been fashioned in this image. Concepts
related to maps can also be treated as metaphors; terrain, territory, position, orientation, the high ground,
coordinates, contours, scenario, and so on. Such metaphors abound in strategy theory. In each instance
though, unless we are aware of the metaphorical implications of our ‘map’, we are as likely to create dust
storms and cloudy conditions as we are likely to find ‘True North’ (George, 2007). The point is to do the work of
mapping with a sense of its provisional and creative nature.
Huff and Jenkins (2002) regard ‘mapping work as an especially strong vehicle for moving between theory and
practice’ and the increase in work on cognitive mapping, fuelled by advances in mapping methods, has
‘highlighted the limitations of remaining rigidly within a cognitive perspective’ (page 2). They define a map as
a visual representation that,
establishes a landscape, or domain,
names the most important entities that exist with that domain, and
simultaneously places them within two or more relationships.
A more complex map has two further characteristics. It
• facilitates images of being ‘within’ the established domain, and
• encourages mentally moving among entities. (page 2)
We suggest that this could serve as a description of an astrological chart. We link Huff and Jenkins’ description
of a map, and the idea of entities and their relationship within a domain, to the use of archetypes in
management theory.
Handy (1995) is one of many theorists (and he acknowledges that he is not original) who uses gods as
archetypes. He uses the ancient Greek gods to symbolize four distinct management cultures or philosophies;
the club (Zeus), role (Apollo), task (Athena), and existential (Dionysus) cultures. There are many other
examples of archetypes in management theory, some of them consciously created, for example; the portfolio
organization of stars, cash cows, question marks and dogs; the organization as machine, brain, computer, and
so on; the leader as priest, artist, manager. Of interest to us is that organizations and strategies are designed
on the basis of perceived givens, and that this process of design and the assumptions that shape perceptions
are rarely made explicit enough. As management theorists, were are able to accept this kind of analysis and
use of imagery as a creative act, a kind of storytelling. The stuff of management is symbolic and the act of
management is the telling and enactment of stories. In it is this context that we suggest that astrology, and
specifically, for the purposes of this paper, astro-cartography, has something to offer.
Astro-Cartography is a relatively technical branch of astrology that is described in detail by Lewis & Irving
(1997), Cozzi (1988) and Davis (1999). It displays an astrological chart (a geo-centric mapping of planetary
positions of longitude, normally for the birth moment of a human, enterprise or similar) on a geographical map
in such a way that it shows where on the earth each planet (in astrology this refers to the conventional planets
with the addition of the moon and sun) was found at each one of the four key ‘cardinal’ points in the diurnal
cycle: precisely on the eastern horizon (rising), on the zenith (culminating), on the western horizon (setting) or
on the nadir (anti-culminating) at that moment of birth. (Traditionally in horoscope charts, east is on the left.)
These four cardinal points have been seen for millennia as key positions of manifestation, where the qualities
and energies associated with the specific planet are likely to be experienced externally in someone’s life.
These, if you like, are places where one is more likely to meet the god. In archetypal astrology, linked with the
school of archetypal psychology and with strong neoplatonic origins, the planets are seen as gods, or ‘living’
representations of archetypal qualities. So, for example, the line of Mars (the archetype associated with
assertion, will, power, passion, competition etc.) on a person’s astro-cartography map shows where on the
earth Mars was at the zenith at the time of birth, and therefore where the person is more likely to find an
external focus for their assertion, will, power and so on. For simplicity in this paper we focus on only one of the
four cardinal points, the zenith position which is most associated with public, visible, career, and goal-oriented
expression. Cozzi (1988: 111) says of such a position “An untiring effort toward goals is promised”. Lewis &
Irving (1997:178) say “A powerful drive for success and social accomplishment urges you on… though … you
will not get where you are headed without encountering the real danger of accidents and injury”. This ‘god’ or
‘force’ is mapped as a line circumscribing the globe, showing exactly where on the earth the planet is on one of
these cardinal points. Convention extends the planet’s influence to include a band of several hundred
kilometres either side of each line.
In the next two sections we illustrate the symbolic and story-telling power of astro-cartography. We first
provide a basic analysis of an aspect of a natal chart, which is the most familiar use of astrology, and then an
example of the less familiar organisational natal reading. The first example is a reading of the chart of the
famous New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary, the other a reading of Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest company.
This allows us to make what we think is a reasonable case for suggesting that astrology can provide a
resource for theorising about organisation, identity and locale in the Antipodes.
Sir Edmund Hilary
To show how we might use astro-cartography
at a personal level, we will use the birth chart
of Sir Edmund Hillary. For reasons that will
become clear, we will illustrate our
discussion in this paper by concentrating on
the conjunction (i.e., the longitudinal
positioning of planets in the same part of the
zodiac) between Mars and Pluto in Sir
Edmund’s chart.
According to the literature this combination in
a birth chart brings “superhuman power”, “the
attainment of success through excessive
effort”, and “the ability to demonstrate
extraordinary force and vigour, great selfconfidence, the obsession to work without
The natal, or birth, chart of Sir Edmund Hillary showing
the conjunction of Mars and Pluto circled.
any break, great ambition” and “has the
reputation for being singularly ruthless and fiercely competitive” producing “a person who might say to
themselves, unconsciously if not consciously: ‘I will win, I will fight, I will survive at all costs’” (Ebertin,
1940:162-3). Moreover, “people with this combination are usually capable of extraordinary courage and
powers of endurance… and [it] is useful for those who physically push themselves to and beyond the limit:
dancers, athletes, mountaineers and the like” (Tompkins, 1989: 222-5).
This is a quality inherent in the psyche of Hillary, and given it’s in his birth chart it is something he must work
with throughout his life. Seeking an appropriate vehicle for expression of such a strong combination is always
important, and clearly for him this was mountaineering.
We can now demonstrate how this tough combination was, for Hillary, focused or brought out more acutely on
particular parts on the globe, places where he would probably meet these qualities- either in himself or in his
immediate world. These are the places highlighted by the ‘lines’ that encircle the globe where these two
planets are on one of the four cardinal positions mentioned above. As noted, of the four types of line it is the
zenith that suggests the greatest likelihood of publicly oriented or visible expression of this most tough
archetypal combination.
According to Lewis & Irving (1999:186-7), the places on the globe that highlight a Mars–Pluto combination
suggest areas “where you may encounter extreme situations”, and involve yourself “in a battle for supremacy
over powers which at times seem almost superhuman in nature”. “Everything”, they suggest, “becomes a
contest and a compulsive concern with the masculine image… and proving yourself”. “The military and
intensely demanding athletics are career areas which can focus this otherwise unmanageable energy
With these lines crossing within
only a few kilometres from Mt
Everest one can see how clearly
Hillary’s astro-cartography reading
gives a specific and historically
significant indication of where he is
most likely to deliver this “almost
superhuman power” through an
“untiring effort towards [a] goal” as
indicated in his natal chart. This
being a ‘line’ encircling half the
globe one might, if course, ask
Mt Everest
why does it find its expression in
Hillary at that specific spot? This is
Map of northern Nepal and surrounding countries showing the Pluto
and Mars lines (zenith) for Edmund Hillaryʼs natal chart.
where the interplay of the personal
and the archetypal come into consideration. Hillary was a mountaineer. Had he been a sailor, he would
probably have met his ‘god’ (this Mars-Pluto conjunction) somewhere in the ocean on that line of longitude.
This technique has obvious applications in management, for example in the selection of personnel, particularly
in international or multiple site settings, in order to focus and/or develop skills and opportunities, as well as in
strategic planning. It might be interesting, for example, to consider the implications of setting up a new office
on the Mars-Pluto line of the CEO. On the other hand, research on trait theories of leadership have been
inconclusive. The questions are Do we have a story-telling mechanism here, and what are the implications for
The chart of the New Zealand dairy giant, Fonterra, provides another example of the precision of astrocartography. The astrology of organisation and nations, referred to as mundane astrology, has a long tradition
(Baigent, Campion and Harvey, 1984). As in natal astrology as chart is drawn for the moment an organisation
or nation came into being. Clearly, unlike with a person, there can be many such birth moments for an
organisation. Thus several charts can exist for the same entity, each describing a different facet of the
organisation. Convention – and experience – dictates that for companies the incorporation process represents
the legal and financial birth, laying down a fundamental picture of something like its ‘soul’. For a nation, it is
often its independence, or a pivotal charter or treaty.
Fonterra’s birth chart is drawn for the date
and place of the co-operative’s
incorporation, with the time of 12:00
midnight, as is the convention in such
charts (Stathis, 2001). One could also make
a study of the 3 organisations that merged
to form Fonterra, all with their own history
and ‘soul’, which would be of relevance to
the understanding of this company. But for
the purposed of this paper, it is sufficient to
explore a use of such a company chart with
reference to astro-cartography.
We are concerned with the time of the
Sanlu milk scandal in September 2008, in
which the Sanlu dairy company, 43% owned by Fonterra, was adding a chemical to milk powder in order to
increase its protein content, unbeknownst to Fonterra. At this time, Neptune, the planet symbolising deception,
deceit and obscuration was in moving through a part of the zodiac strongly linked with the Fonterra’s Sun,
symbolising its leadership and ‘life force’. Astrologers would interpret this as a likely time for the company to
suffer from something confusing or shady, in which the leadership may not thinking clearly nor be able to see
things as they are. This analysis highlights when we are likely to see a particular confrontation with the gods, in
this case the deception and obscuration of Neptune.
Neptune line
Astro-Cartography map of NE China and the Koreas for Fonterra Co-op Group Ltd. showing the site of
the factory at the centre of the Sanlu scandal, in Shijiazhuang, and the position of the Neptune (zenith)
What astro-cartography adds to this is that it can point out where such confusion or deception is likely to occur.
In Fonterra’s astro-cartography map highlighted for China we can see the Neptune (zenith) line passing within
about 400km of the Shijiazhuang, base of the Sanlu Group. This would suggest that Fonterra at this time could
have done well to put extra-special effort into investigating all operations relevant to its business carried out
within this eastern portion of China.
A related example is given in Phillipson (2000), where a business astrologer, using the techniques of location
astrology, was able to prevent major fraud in her client’s business through recommending thorough
investigation of the company’s stores that were found along a similar Neptune line. This claim does seem to
tempt us back to the predictive power of astrology which we have dismissed.
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Cummings, S., & Wilson, D. (2003). Images of Strategy. Oxford: Blackwell.
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