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Astrology, Alchemy and Retro-Organization Theory: An Astro-Genealogical Critique of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®


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The influence of astrology and alchemy on organizational conduct has not hitherto attracted much serious social scientific attention. Retro-organizational theory licenses paying closer attention to topics that are systematically occluded by modem knowledge regimes and is invoked in this article to examine the manner in which premodern cosmologies underpin certain contemporary organizational practices. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(R) (MBTI) is presented as a particularly conspicuous example of how the modern may be suffused by the pre-modern. An astro-genealogical account of the development of the MBTI(R), is offered, tracing its jungian origins and exposing structural debts to Renaissance thinking and earlier forms of symbolism. The article concludes with a consideration of Latour's claim that 'we have never been modern' and suggests ways in which his hybridization critique of modernity connects with astrological and alchemical cosmology.
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DOI: 10.1177/1350508404044059
2004 11: 473Organization
Peter Case and Garry Phillipson
Critique of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®
Astrology, Alchemy and Retro-Organization Theory: An Astro-Genealogical
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Astrology, Alchemy and
Retro-Organization Theory: An
Astro-Genealogical Critique of the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Peter Case and Garry Phillipson
University of Exeter, UK and Bath Spa University College, UK
Abstract. The influence of astrology and alchemy on organizational
conduct has not hitherto attracted much serious social scientific atten-
tion. Retro-organizational theory licenses paying closer attention to top-
ics that are systematically occluded by modern knowledge regimes and is
invoked in this article to examine the manner in which premodern
cosmologies underpin certain contemporary organizational practices.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
(MBTI) is presented as a particularly
conspicuous example of how the modern may be suffused by the pre-
modern. An astro-genealogical account of the development of the MBTI
is offered, tracing its Jungian origins and exposing structural debts to
Renaissance thinking and earlier forms of symbolism. The article con-
cludes with a consideration of Latour’s claim that ‘we have never been
modern’ and suggests ways in which his hybridization critique of moder-
nity connects with astrological and alchemical cosmology. Key words.
Foucault; genealogical analysis; geomancy; humours; Jung; Latour; man-
agement development; MBTI; organizational development; psycho-
To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reputable investigations
of the influence of astrology and alchemy on practices within the contem-
porary worlds of organization and management. This seems somewhat
surprising given evidence of the manifest impact astrology is having on
organizational conduct in both empirical and theoretical terms. Despite
modern science’s best efforts to exorcise the demon through rational
Volume 11(4): 473–495
ISSN 1350–5084
Copyright © 2004 SAGE
(London, Thousand Oaks, CA
and New Delhi)
DOI: 10.1177/1350508404044059
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means, astrology continues to have a pull on the popular imagination, as
testified to, for example, by the prevalence of sun sign columns in the
mass media. Organizational life, too, reflects this broader social interest
as more and more corporations turn to astrologers for help in making
decisions. The attention of marketing executives is being drawn by the
possibility that astrological knowledge might enable companies better to
target their products and services (Mitchell, 1995; Mitchell and Haggett,
1997; Mitchell and Tate, 1998; Phillipson, 2000). There has been similar
interest recently expressed amongst the financial fraternity (Anon., 1996;
Brooker, 1998a, 1998b; Galarza, 1999), and there are also a small number
of books with a business focus published by professional astrologers
(Bates and Chrzanowska-Bowles, 1994; McEvers, 1989).
In empirical research terms alone, then, it seems legitimate to ask why
astrology appeals to the executive world, where and how it is being
deployed and with what organizational consequences.
Although wish-
ing to encourage and promote such enquiry, this article adopts a more
theoretical orientation. Starting from a broad interest in the sociological
and organizational dimensions of astrological phenomena, we want to
make contributions on two interrelated fronts: (1) to offer a theoretical
justification for researching astrological interests and practices using the
intellectual framework afforded by Burrell’s ‘retro-organization theory’
(Burrell, 1998); and (2) to apply retro-organization theory to an analysis
of one of the most widely used psychometric instruments in the contem-
porary organizational world, namely, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
(MBTI). In short, we seek to construct a ‘history of the present’ for the
—an ‘astro-genealogy’, if you will—informed by a reading of
Burrell’s work.
Adopting this line of enquiry is a risky business. As the paucity of
credible research suggests, astrology and alchemy are generally con-
sidered taboo for academics whose interest in such subjects is anything
other than strictly historical. There is a distinct danger, openly acknowl-
edged by Eysenck and Nias (1982),
of attracting ridicule or even con-
tempt from one’s peers for daring to express a professional interest in
such topics. We should emphasize, therefore, that our purpose is not to
promote or proselytize on behalf of astrology nor to stand in judgement
on the validity or morality of the practices we discuss. We seek, instead,
to open to scrutiny some of the otherwise unacknowledged ways in
which premodern cosmology informs actual patterns of conduct and thus
to contribute to an improved understanding of the range of motives and
effects at work within the organizational world.
The Insurrection of Subjugated Knowledge
In justifying his own ‘astrological experiment’, Jung (CW,
vol. 18: 497)
observes: ‘In no previous age, however, “superstitious,” was astrology so
widespread and so highly esteemed as it is today.’ Although penned in
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the early 1950s, the remark certainly still holds true. If anything, at the
beginning of the new millennium, interest in astrology along with other
forms of alternative knowledge and cosmology, such as Buddhism, Tao-
ism, Sufism, feng shui, complementary medicine and the occult in
general, has enjoyed something of a renaissance. We think it not insignif-
icant, moreover, that many of these cosmologies (astrology included)
trace their origins to non-European and premodern roots. The renewed
and revitalized interest in these cosmologies marks a disillusionment
with modernity and its sciences and a search for meaning within systems
of understanding that approach the world in a less objective and instru-
mental fashion. To place this trend in the context of organizational
studies, at the very time that, according to Ritzer (1993, 1998), relations
across the globe are becoming McDonaldized, and that rationalization
and intensified accountability are being lauded in many institutions,
there appears to be a countervailing desire amongst certain population
segments actively to re-enchant their disenchanted world (Ritzer, 1999).
We witness the emergence of a rather strange trading relationship
whereby the West appears to be exporting the ideologies and technolo-
gies of global capitalism while simultaneously importing those of Middle
Eastern and Oriental occultism. It is as though Westerners en masse are
seeking to redress an imbalance that has been caused by what, in
Foucauldian terms, might be characterized as the subjugation of partic-
ular forms of spiritual and occult understanding by knowledge regimes
and disciplines associated with modernity (Foucault, 1980: 81–5).
The renewed interest in these alternative cosmologies may also be a
nostalgic throwback to what are perceived in the popular imagination to
be less complicated and more wholesome times. Spurious and misplaced
though such nostalgia may be, the particular re-emergence of astrology—
as one among many alternative cosmologies in circulation (Short,
2000)—could be viewed as part of a broader pattern of a new medieval-
ism emerging in the West. In short, bodies of knowledge and ways of
understanding that were historically occluded by modern science are
creeping back into vogue, much to the vocal chagrin of proponents of
scientific method who view the trend with disdain and often take it as an
affront to their professional integrity.
Given the changed circumstances
of the contemporary world, of course, these cosmologies are deployed in
newly innovative and synthetic forms that simultaneously differ yet draw
from their premodern applications. As we shall argue with respect to
astrology and alchemy, there are both continuities and discontinuities in
the marks they have made on the organizational world.
Retro-Organization Theory and Genealogical Analysis
We have thus far spoken of the ‘re-emergence’ of astrology in West. In one
important sense, of course, it never went away as far as the masses are
concerned, and it is only relatively small knowledge ´elites under the
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sway of Enlightenment thinking that sought its exclusion from protocols
of accepted scientific practice. Concerning the widespread mass appeal of
astrology, Curry (1989: 96) arrives at an interesting conclusion based on
historical scholarship:
Historical evidence is rarely complete, however . . . [i]n this case, there is
enough for us to say that popular astrology persisted, almost unchanged in
its content, from about the late Middle Ages until at least the mid-
nineteenth-century, probably throughout the British Isles. As such, in the
eighteenth century it remained an important part of the cultural life of the
relatively poor and powerless. It is also possible (indeed, necessary) to go
further, and get a sense of how astrology informed their perceptions and
offered guidance in matters of vital concern—agriculture, husbandry,
physic, and love-life—thus comprising a kind of plebeian science of life.
That Curry deems astrology to have been a more or less consistent aspect
of cultural life for the ‘relatively poor and powerless’ and to have
constituted ‘a kind of plebeian science of life’ resonates interestingly
with some of the tenets of Burrell’s ‘retro-organization theory’ and, in
particular, with his concern to resurrect the non-rational pragmatic
knowledge and oral traditions of largely illiterate populations (Burrell,
1998). As Burrell puts it, ‘We should ask about the peasantry today,
yesterday and tomorrow for this category has been hidden from organiza-
tional behaviour for far too long. . . Life in organizations is much more of
an everyday story of country-folk than we imagine. . . To understand
today we must engage in retro-organization theorizing’ (1998: 98). An
important aspect of Burrell’s agenda is thus the celebration of knowl-
edges and practices that have been marginalized under modern industrial
capitalism and that find their roots in a pre-Enlightenment age—
witchcraft, herbalism, astrology, alchemy, and so forth. Reasserting an
interest in such worldviews holds out the possibility of breaking from the
delusional obsessions of modernity, which, on balance, Burrell takes to
have wrought far more harm than good for the great majority of the
world’s population. He urges us to abandon historicist notions of inevita-
ble progress and the rule of rationality; to give up attachment to linear
order and closure; and, in their place, to embrace willingly a Nietzschean
world of the discontinuous, the non-rational, the Dionysian.
It is Burrell’s rendering of Foucauldian genealogical analysis—arguably
a central feature of the agenda just outlined—that is particularly relevant
to the tasks we are pursuing in this article. Although this is not the place
for a detailed exposition of Foucault’s genealogical method, it is perhaps
useful to note some of its key principles in order to provide further
theoretical context for the analysis that we engage in below.
genealogies are concerned with the ‘insurrection of subjugated knowl-
edges’ (Foucault, 1980: 81), by which is meant knowledges that exist as
discounted or marginalized counterparts of privileged institutional
discourses—medical, legal, psychiatric, scientific, governmental and so
forth—and that are correspondingly afforded less social value within a
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given network of power/knowledge relations. Thus the perspective of
psychiatric patients or ill people is actively discounted and often harshly
opposed by medical knowledge, as are the local knowledges of delin-
quents, homosexuals or, indeed, any ‘minority grouping’ produced or
reproduced by the webs of practice associated with a particular knowl-
edge regime. Foucault famously asserts that, ‘power produces knowledge
. . . power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no
power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowl-
edge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the
same time power relations’ (Foucault, 1977/1991: 27). Through genea-
logical analysis, Foucault demonstrates how it is possible to expose
institutional power imbalances, injustices and inequities that have
become naturalized and taken for granted within a given social order. The
task of genealogical criticism is to reassert the ‘low-ranking’, ‘unqualified’
or ‘directly disqualified’ positions of the underprivileged or marginalized
and thereby challenge the orthodoxy of hierarchical, functionalized,
systematized social orders. It is by thus exposing taken-for-granted and
naturalized networks of power/knowledge relations that, as Foucault
puts it, ‘criticism performs its work’ (1980: 82). ‘Genealogies’, he pro-
claims, ‘are precisely anti-sciences’ (1980: 83).
Retro-organization theory and genealogical analysis are directly ger-
mane to our project insofar as astrological knowledge and practice have
become marginalized through the privileging of natural and social scien-
tific discourses that have broadly succeeded in discounting the value of
intuitive understanding, holism and geomancy in favour of rational
explanatory models based on material causation and a principle of
verificationism rooted in experimental method. We contend that
astrology, as a subjugated knowledge par excellence, is a strong candidate
for the kind of genealogical and retro-organizational critique advocated
by both Foucault and Burrell. Having set out what we trust is a credible
theoretical licence for our undertaking, what follows is an analysis of a
particular application of genealogical method in the field of management
psychology. The particular example we wish to consider is that of the
, a psychometric instrument in widespread use that finds legiti-
macy, in part, through its affiliation to ‘scientific psychology’. Our
argument is that astrology and alchemy are integral to the history of the
s development and hence are implicated and replicated at every
stage of its application—in its theoretical assumptions, formal measure-
ments, results and modes of interpretation. Yet, despite their prevalence,
the occult aspects have been conveniently marginalized in a bid to secure
scientific credibility for the approach. To the users of MBTI
, its astrolog-
ical and alchemical heritage remains completely opaque, having become
obscured by the multiple accretions and signs of scientific legitimacy.
The astro-genealogy that we offer is intended to contribute to a more
well-rounded account of the instrument by providing an overview which,
in terms of Dreyfus and Rabinow’s account of genealogical analysis,
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‘allows the depth to be laid out . . . in a more and more profound
visibility’, such that the astrological and alchemical legacy becomes ‘an
absolutely superficial secret’ (1982: 106–7).
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
For those unfamiliar with the MBTI
, a few words of introduction may be
in order. Proponents of this approach claim it to be the most widely used
psychometric test in the world, and an estimated 3.5 million MBTI
are administered each year in the USA alone; it has been translated into
two dozen languages and is routinely used in Canada, the UK, Australia,
New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Korea and many other
countries (Myers, 2000). Its popularity owes much to the fact that
business communities across the globe have found it of practical value—
not least because of empirical evidence correlating ‘psychological type’
(as defined by the MBTI
) with occupational role (Kroeger and Thuesen,
1992). The MBTI
is commonly deployed to assist decision-making in a
variety of management training and personnel areas, including: recruit-
ment and selection; career counselling; team building; organizational
change; individual and leadership development. It is also frequently used
in post-experience and post-graduate management educational contexts,
with students on business administration master’s courses often being
exposed to the test at some point in their studies. Whatever one might
wish to challenge or criticize about this instrumental form of character
analysis, there is no question that the MBTI
has a strong appeal, based
on both pragmatic and intuitive factors.
developed out of the interests of Katherine Cook Briggs
(1875–1968) and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers (1897–1979) in human
personality difference. They both read Jung’s Psychological Types shortly
after its initial publication in English in 1923 and were prompted, at the
outset of the Second World War, to try to ‘operationalize’ the typology
that he set out. They thought that the construction of a psychometric
indicator might, amongst other things, prove useful in addressing certain
pressing military personnel decisions faced at that time in the USA. Early
forms of the MBTI
testing procedure were thus developed in the period
1942–4, but it was after the war and in the years leading up to 1956 that
more systematic research involving medical students, nursing students
and other sample occupations was conducted using the MBTI
. Neither
Briggs nor Myers had any formal training in psychology or statistics, so
Myers’ encounter with a young psychology research student named
David Saunders in the early 1950s was significant in terms of the
statistical enhancement and subsequent development of the instrument.
Although isolated researchers and clinicians showed some interest in
the MBTI
as it continued to evolve during the 1960s, it was not until
Consulting Psychologists Press included the Indicator in its publication
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list in 1975 that the approach became widely available and major
commercial success ensued. Work on the development of the MBTI
continues to this day, with scales within the test being constantly re-
evaluated and refined. There are several psychologists associated with
the approach: Naomi Quenk, Otto Kroeger and Linda Kirby are three
notable figures, but the most significant contemporary advocate is Mary
McCaulley, who, since meeting Isabel Myers and striking up a close
working relationship with her in the late 1960s, has been a vocal
proponent of the MBTI
. A membership organization, the Association for
Psychological Type, was formed in 1979 and a research publication—The
Journal of Psychological Types—established for those working primarily
(although not exclusively) with the MBTI
From the standpoint of genealogical analysis, it is important to note
that, although the MBTI
is often presented as a form of ‘scientific
psychology’ par excellence (see, for example, Gardner and Martinko,
1996; Hammer, 1996; Thorne and Gough, 1991), its origins in Jungian
personality typology (Jung, CW, vol. 6) result in the MBTI
sciously inheriting and reproducing theoretical and epistemological
structures founded on astrological and alchemical cosmology. Because
Jung’s analysis of personality derives conscious inspiration from his
active interest in alchemy and astrology (Jung, CW, vols 12, 13, 14),
contemporary practitioners of this brand of psychometrics inadvertently
find themselves conducting a form of astrological character analysis. In
what follows, we endeavour to show how the development of Jung’s
categorization of psychological types not only reflects his fascination
with quaternity in general (what he considered to be the archetypal
significance of the number ‘four’) but explicitly connects to the four
elements of astrology. Jung’s typology, in turn, forms the conceptual
basis of a range of MBTI
products, services and related academic
research. Were the alchemical and astrological legacy lying at the
conceptual heart of MBTI
exposed and acknowledged, we suggest, it
would be anathema to the discipline of scientific psychology with
which this system is closely aligned.
We begin our critical exposition
with a brief consideration of the four elements and their place in the
Renaissance astrological system. This overview is a precursor to examin-
ing Jung’s own interest in Renaissance alchemy and the symbolism of its
binary oppositions and quaternities.
The Four Elements of Astrology
In a critical review of alternative cosmologies, John Rennie Short (2000:
16) observes that ‘here is an astro-archeology that underlies the contem-
porary rationalist world’. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the seminal
part played by astrology in the development of what we now take for
granted as being the methods of rational scientific enquiry (Webster,
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1980). Astrology was central to the Renaissance worldview and con-
tinued to influence intellectual pursuits well into the Age of Enlight-
enment (Shumaker, 1972). Not only that, but this pagan system, whose
legacy we will glimpse in what follows, possesses roots that stretch well
back into antiquity, with the consequence that much of our everyday
language and modes of organizing is tell-tale, though subliminal, testi-
mony to this cosmology. To take one simple illustrative example, the
division of the week into 7 days is based on a segmentation of the regular
28-day lunar cycle into units corresponding to each of the 7 major bodies
in the solar system visible from Earth: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars,
Jupiter and Saturn. The days of the week are named after these planets—
the following collage of English and French day-names makes this
Monday = Moon day; Mardi = Mars day; Mercredi = Mercury day; Jeudi =
Jove’s day (Jupiter); Vendredi = Venus day; Saturday = Saturn day; Sunday
= Sun day
The ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles is generally acknowledged
to have been the first person to interpret natural phenomena using four
elements—air, water, fire and earth—as an organizing vehicle. On the
island of Kos around the 5th century BCE, Hippocrates, popularly known
as the ‘father of medicine’, equated the astrological elements with corre-
sponding bodily substances—blood, phlegm, yellow bile, black bile—and
with four respective qualities: dry, warm, moist, cold. This innovation, in
turn, set up the supporting intellectual conditions for another ancient
Greek physician, Claudius Galen (2nd century BCE), to divide humans
into four classes according to differing admixtures of Hippocrates’ four
substances, thus giving rise to the premodern notion of bodily ‘humour’
or ‘temperament’. A preponderance of blood (air) in an individual was
considered to produce a sanguine temperament; phlegm (water) was
characteristic of the phlegmatic; yellow bile (fire) yielded the choleric;
and black bile (earth) the melancholic. That Galen’s typology held sway
for some 1700 years thereafter, finding its way into Arabic alchemy of the
9th and 10th centuries AD and being ‘rediscovered’ in the translated texts
of Christian alchemists during a period ranging from the 10th century to
the 16th century (Hayes, 1983; Singer, 1959; Webster, 1980), is plain
testimony to the pragmatic value it had for the premoderns.
To illustrate the kinds of relationships between the humours and
elements devised by Renaissance thinkers, it may be helpful to consider
the scheme developed by Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), a student of
medicine and astrology. In Book I of his Vita libro tres (Three Books on
Life), Ficino (1989) makes the equations shown in Table 1 between bodily
substance, element, quality, temperament and associated planet. We
observe that little has changed in Ficino’s fourfold arrangement of sub-
stance, element, quality and associated temperament since Galen’s for-
mulation. Indeed, in medical and psychological astrology the Galen
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cosmology survives intact to this very day (Crane, 1997; Ridder-Patrick,
1990; Tobyn, 1997).
What, however, is the significance of the connections in this cosmol-
ogy? What do these arrangements represent? To answer these questions
we need at least a rudimentary understanding of alchemy and its pur-
poses. The origins of alchemy are less than certain. Aveni (1996: 38–9)
suggests alchemy was probably first practised by the Alexandrian Greeks
in Egypt. He notes that the etymology of the word alchemy seems to
derive from the Greek—either from ‘fusing’ or ‘smelting’ (chyma) or ‘the
black [soil—of Egypt]’ (keme), or indeed, both. The subsequent addition
of the prefix ‘al’ almost certainly reflects the fact that the study was
passed to the West via Muslim scholars who inherited the alchemical
tradition in Alexandria when their soldiers conquered Egypt in the 7th
century CE. It was not until the latter part of the first millennium
(c. AD 800–1000) that alchemy was embraced by Sufism and Hermet-
icism and began thoroughly to blossom in the Middle East.
It is interesting to note in passing that something of a renaissance of
scientific exploration was occurring in Arabia during an era that European
Renaissance thinkers were later (in patronizing and Euro-centric vein) to
characterize as the ‘Dark Ages’. In actual fact, Renaissance scholars such as
Ficino, Paracelsus, Heinrich Cornelius, Francesco Giorgi, Giordano Bruno,
John Dee and Robert Fludd owed their knowledge of astrology and alchemy
to the translation of texts inherited from their Greek, Judaic and Arabian
predecessors. The practice of alchemy may be understood as a precursor to
modern chemistry insofar as alchemists were concerned to explore—
through frequent and repeated experimentation—the property of materials
and their chemical transmutation (Jung, CW, vols 12, 13,14; Haskins, 1960;
Marshall, 2001; Webster, 1980).
This systematic exploration was motivated by the search for a material
ideal whereby base metals might be transformed into gold (then con-
sidered to be the purest expression of substance). To contemporary eyes
Table 1. Ficino’s Analysis of the Humours
Substance Element Quality Temperament Planet
Blood Air Warm and
Sanguine Jupiter (always)
Choler Fire Warm and dry Choleric Mars
(red or yellow bile)
Black bile Earth Cold and dry Melancholy Saturn
(black choler)
Phlegm Water Cold and moist Phlegmatic Moon (always)
Source Adapted from Short (2000: 28).
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this endeavour may seem extremely naive. Before dismissing it out of
hand, however, we should understand that the pursuit of this external
ideal was often viewed allegorically by the alchemist. Outer material
transformation mirrored inner personal transformation. The chemical
experiments were an outward expression of a spiritual ideal; that of self-
transcendence and realization. It was a search for understanding how the
deepest meaning of life could be derived from quotidian experience.
Our point in drawing this quick sketch of alchemy and astrology (and
we recognize it is no more than that) is to prepare the way for showing
that Jung’s attitude towards these subjects is broadly sympathetic and
that his interest in premodern cosmologies informs his critique of moder-
nity. Jung argues that ‘modern man’ (sic) has an inherent or instinctive
need to pursue spiritually purposeful trajectories through life; a need that
is fundamentally frustrated and denied by modern science, technology
and the materialistic lifestyles to which they give rise. The search for the
God-image is hardwired into the physiology of the brain and is part of an
evolutionary inheritance (CW, vol. 6: 243) and, as such, it must find
expression through constructive or, if denied, destructive means. Our
point is that, in his writings on alchemy and astrology, he is in direct
sympathy with the Renaissance proponents of these methods and con-
siders the spiritual symbolism and meaning to have been lost in contem-
porary science, including, of course, psychological science. A
fundamental tenet of analytical psychology (and one reason why Jung fell
out so badly with Freud over his ‘god-less’ psychoanalysis) is that pursuit
of the God-image is natural and healthy, and that its repression or denial
is the source of much neurosis and psychosis in modern societies.
Alchemy represented for Jung a science of spiritual and material integra-
tion: the search for the union of opposites and spiritual transcendence. Its
symbolism attempts to invoke a state in which the inner human micro-
cosm is undifferentiated from the outer macrocosm.
Take, for example, Jung’s interpretation of the Rosarium Philoso-
phorum, a 16th-century alchemical woodcut, as reproduced in Figure 1.
The old German text beneath the image translates as, ‘We are the metals’
first nature and only source/ The highest tincture of the Art is made
through us. No fountain and no water has my like/ I make both rich and
poor both whole and sick. For healthful can I be and poisonous.’ Here is
an extract from Jung’s interpretation:
This picture goes straight to the heart of alchemical symbolism, for it is an
attempt to depict the mysterious basis of the opus. It is a quadratic
quaternity characterized by the four stars in the four corners. These are the
four elements. Above, in the centre, there is a fifth star which represents
the fifth entity, the ‘One’ derived from the four, the quinta essentia. The
basin below is the vas Hermeticum, where the transformation takes place.
It contains the mare nostrum, the aqua permanens or . . . the ‘divine
water’. (CW, vol. 16: 203)
He continues:
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This structure reveals the tetrameria (fourfold nature) of the transforming
process, already known to the Greeks. It begins with the four separate
elements, the state of chaos, and ascends by degrees to the three manifesta-
tions of Mercurius in the inorganic, organic, and spiritual worlds; and,
after attaining form of Sol and Luna . . . it culminates in the one and
indivisible (incorruptible, ethereal, eternal) nature of the anima, the quinta
essentia, aqua permanens, tincture, or lapis philosophorum. (CW, vol. 16:
As in the Rosarium Philosophorum, the four elements feature promi-
nently in many so-called Annus-Mundus-Homo (Year-World-Man)
astrology diagrams of the Renaissance. Although not explicitly con-
sidered by Jung to our knowledge, ‘Byrhtferth’s Diagram’ pictured in
Figure 2 is an exemplary representational form of the kind of holistic
integration sought through astrology and alchemy.
The signs of the
zodiac (each of which is associated with a particular element) form a
circular link to the four elements: terra (earth), aqua (water), aer (air),
ignis (fire). The four seasons, the four temperaments and the four ‘ages of
man’ are also depicted. Jung was intrigued, some contend ‘obsessed’, by
such quaternities not only in alchemical contexts but also in Buddhist
mandalas and many other manifestations (McLynn, 1997: 265). To him,
Figure 1.
Rosarium philosophorum
, 16th-Century German Woodcut
Source Jung (CW, vol. 16: 203), reproduced with kind permission of Routledge & Kegan
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the quaternity was archetypal; a mythological motif that was ‘always
collective’ and ‘common to all times and all races’ (CW, vol. 6: 443), and
it is with this understanding that we should approach the fourfold
division of functions of consciousness that inform his psychological
As he explicitly states:
The quaternity is one of the most widespread archetypes and has also
proved to be one of the most useful schemata for representing the arrange-
ment of the functions by which the conscious mind takes its bearings. It is
like the crossed threads in the telescope of our understanding. The cross
formed by the points of the quaternity is no less universal and has in
addition the highest possible moral and religious significance for Western
Figure 2. Byrhterth’s Diagram, 12th-Century
De concordia mensium atque elementorum
[On the concord of the months and the
elements], MS 17, fol. 7v, St John’s College library, Oxford.
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man. Similarly the circle, as the symbol of completeness and perfect being,
is a widespread expression for heaven, sun and God; it also expresses the
primordial image of man and the soul. (CW, vol. 16: 207–8)
Jung’s Four Psychological Functions and the Four Elements
It is in his detailed study of the works of a 16th-century Swiss alchemist,
Paracelsus, that Jung (CW, vol. 13) makes the most direct comparison
between the four astrological elements and his earlier work on the
functions of consciousness and character typology (CW, vol. 6). We quote
at length from the relevant passage since it provides pivotal evidence for
the case we are making about the relationship between the psychological
types inherited by the MBTI
and its alchemical/astrological origins. Jung
refers to the last chapter of De vita longa (1562) in which:
Paracelsus makes almost untranslatable allusions to the four Scaiolae, and
it is not at all clear what could be meant. Ruland, who had a wide
knowledge of the contemporary Paracelsist literature, defines them as
‘spiritual powers of the mind’ (spirituales mentis vires), qualities and
faculties which are fourfold, to correspond with the four elements. . . The
Scaiolae, he says, originate in the mind of man, ‘from whom they depart
and to whom they are turned back’ . . . Like the four seasons and the four
quarters of heaven, the four elements are a quaternary system of orientation
which always expresses a totality. In this case it is obviously the totality of
the mind (animus), which here would be better translated as ‘conscious-
ness’ (including its contents). The orienting system of consciousness has
four aspects, which correspond to four empirical functions: thinking,
feeling, sensation (sense-perception), intuition. This quaternity is an arche-
typal arrangement. (CW, vol. 13: 167)
We have traced one other moment in Jung’s work where, in a discus-
sion of Plato’s Timaeus, he equates the ‘empirical functions of conscious-
ness’ with the four astrological elements (CW, vol. 11). In one passage he
analyses Plato’s character, suggesting that, although he possessed a pre-
ponderance of fiery ‘spirit’ and ‘airy thought’, he was relatively lacking
when it came to connection with sensational reality and concrete action
(‘earth’). As Jung puts it, ‘[Plato] had to content himself with the harmony
of airy thought-structure that lacked weight, and with a paper surface that
lacked depth’ (CW, vol. 11: 122–3). Jung’s equating of the earth element
with ‘concrete reality’, of air with ‘thought’ and of fire with ‘spirit’ in this
analysis enables us to infer the following relationships between the
Jungian functions of consciousness and the astrological elements:
thinking–air, intuition–fire, feeling–water, sensation–earth.
Whereas the elemental aspects of Jung’s analysis of psychological
typing are an implicit influence on the development of the MBTI
, there
is one company that has self-consciously used the alchemical aspects of
his system in their management consultancy practice. Insights Learning
and Development Ltd is a firm of management consultants offering
training and development courses to corporate clients. According to its
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website publicity,
‘Many of the world’s finest companies are using Insights
to develop a common language and to provide the skills necessary to excel
in today’s marketplace.’ Indeed, Insight’s client list includes such familiar
blue-chip companies as British Airways, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, McDonalds,
Microsoft, NatWest and Royal Mail. Interestingly, it explicitly links Jung’s
four functions to the humours as they appear in Hippocrates’ philosophy
and practice. Amongst other things, the company offers a diagnostic
psychometric system (see Figure 3) that types individuals according to four
colours, corresponding (with some qualifications) to Jung’s four psycho-
logical functions, and the four elements: red (fire), yellow (air), green
(earth), blue (water).
The functions and elements of the system are further
associated with 8 primary organizational types that represent a simplified
version of a 56-element typology that, Insights claims, more accurately
models individual differences. For the purposes of the argument being
developed here, it is worth noting the striking structural resemblance
between the 12th-century Annus-Mundus-Homo diagram (Figure 2) and
the contemporary chart employed by Insights.
It is, we suggest, a further
indication of how this particular aspect of premodern cosmology is being
purveyed in a postmodern corporate marketplace.
Figure 3. The Eight Primary Types of Insights Learning & Development Ltd.
Source (consulted April 2001).
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An Astro-Genealogical Critique of the MBTI
The publication that inspired Insight’s system and, as we shall see
shortly, the MBTI
is Jung’s Psychological Types (CW, vol. 6). A work of
not inconsiderable sophistication and scholarship, Psychological Types
draws together ideas taken from such disparate sources as Schiller,
Goethe, Schopenhauer and William James and marries them with clinical
psychiatric experience in order to establish a system of character analysis
based on the two ‘attitude-types’ and four ‘function-types’. In presenting
Jung’s conclusions concerning this typology, we are not particularly
concerned with the veracity or otherwise of the psychological framework
he offers. Critics abound, as McLynn (1997) is careful to note, but our
intention here is to trace the relationship of Jung’s psychological typology
to its astrological and alchemical origins and further to establish a link to
the MBTI
. To this end it will be useful to set out Jung’s own summation
of the typology thus:
The attitude-types . . . are distinguished by their attitude to the object. The
introvert’s attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom, he is always intent on
withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object
from gaining power over him. The extravert, on the contrary, has a positive
relation to the object. He affirms its importance to such an extent that his
subjective attitude is constantly related to and oriented by the object. (CW,
vol. 6: 330)
And, of the functions of consciousness and their corresponding types, he
The conscious psyche is an apparatus for adaptation and orientation, and
consists of a number of different psychic functions. Among these we can
distinguish four basic ones: sensation, thinking, feeling, intuition. . . Thus
there are many people who restrict themselves to the simple perception of
concrete reality, without thinking about it or taking feeling values into
account. They bother just as little about the possibilities hidden in a
situation. I describe such people as sensation types. Others are exclusively
oriented by what they think, and simply cannot adapt to a situation which
they are unable to understand intellectually. I call such people thinking
types. Others, again, are guided in everything entirely by feeling. They
merely ask themselves whether a thing is pleasant or unpleasant, and
orient themselves by their feeling impressions. These are the feeling types.
Finally, the intuitives concern themselves neither with ideas nor with
feeling reactions, nor yet with the reality of things, but surrender them-
selves wholly to the lure of possibilities, and abandon every situation in
which no further possibilities can be scented. (CW, vol. 6: 518–19; empha-
ses in original)
Each of these four function-types is mediated by an attitude-type of
extraversion or introversion, thus giving, in Jung’s scheme, a minimum of
eight types (although he suggests that this is a relatively crude matrix and
that each of the four functions may be subdivided into more refined
categories; CW, vol. 6: 523).
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It is this typology that was taken up by Katherine Cook Briggs and her
daughter Isabel Briggs Myers in the postwar period and developed into
the MBTI
instrument (Myers, 2000). In their interpretation of Jung,
however, they give greater prominence to the distinction he drew
between the ‘rational’ functions of thinking and feeling—the way in
which experience of the world is judged—and the ‘irrational’ functions of
sensation and intuition; in other words, the purely perceptive or phe-
nomenological apprehension of the world. These two auxiliary functions
Briggs and Myers refer to as ‘Judging’ and ‘Perceiving’ respectively
(Myers, 2000). In addition to the dominant orientation of consciousness
to its environment—the ‘superior function’ in Jung’s scheme—there is a
secondary or ‘inferior’ function. This means that in the MBTI
there are 16 psychological types resulting from possible combinations of
(1) attitude-type: extraversion (E) or introversion (I), (2) the basic mental
processes of sensing (S), thinking (T), feeling (F) or intuition (N), and (3)
judging (J) or perceiving (P). Hence individuals responding to the MBTI
psychometric or following a process of guided self-assessment will
arrive at a type for themselves that can be coded using combinations of
four letters: ISTJ, ESTP, ENFP, INTJ, and so on. It is important to note
that the alchemical quaternity is still very much intact in this formula-
In the case of the MBTI
, there is a considerable amount of academic
research pursued in the name of establishing construct validity of the
instruments used to generate the character typologies in order that
clients can be assured of the scientific credibility of the interpretations
offered. Much of this applied research in areas of career management
and counselling, team building, cross-cultural studies and the like is
empiricist in epistemological and methodological orientation,
and as
such conceals the astrological and alchemical origins that we have been
at pains to demonstrate lie at the very heart of this typological scheme.
This is where retro-organization theorizing enables us to challenge and
expose the obfuscation and concealment at work. What results from the
scientization of the MBTI
we contend, however, is the substitution of
one form of mystification—based in a premodern cosmology—by
another form of mystification based on positivist scientism. Consider, for
instance, the following extract from a comprehensive review of MBTI
applications in management research. We have dipped into the text
more or less at random with the intention of conveying the narrative
tone of the work and the scientistic language being employed:
Part of the problem in validating the EI scale stems from the difficulty of
developing criterion measures. Still, Thorne and Gough (1991) found that
the ACL-EL cluster could serve as an observational measure of
extraversion/introversion. This cluster correlates moderately and signifi-
cantly with the MBTI-EI scale (r = .32 for males, r = .40 for females).
Although many of the ACL extraversion items measure sociability (e.g.,
talkative, outgoing), others reflect an external focus (e.g., energetic, active).
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Moreover, while it is hard to observe an ‘inward flow of energy,’ the
introversion items suggest an inner focus (e.g., reflective, preoccupied).
(Gardner and Martinko, 1996: 73)
Interestingly, in this 39-page review of MBTI
research very little space
(two short paragraphs) is given over to the conceptual basis of the
instrument. Neither is there any mention of ‘people’ in any integrated or
rounded sense. Instead there is talk in free-floating generalities of coding
of ‘types’ and measurement of fragmented social psychological disposi-
tion. This may seem reasonable given the espoused interests of the
authors (to provide an overview of the ‘empirical’ research) until we
consider their methodological conclusion, namely, ‘managerial research
into type is mixed, with the experimental studies employing the strong-
est designs’ (1996: 55), and ‘our critique of the management type studies
identified many weaknesses, especially for those with descriptive
designs’ (1996: 79). One wonders, then, what Gardner and Martinko
make of Jung’s original contribution on typology, since that is entirely
descriptive in design and devoid of formal ‘empirical’ evaluation and
evidence of the sort they might recognize or value. Psychological Types
contains not a single correlation coefficient or tabular matrix and in it can
be found no presentation of numerals outside a consideration of their
symbolic (as opposed to statistical) significance. Our genealogical cri-
tique thus leads us to question fundamentally the value of the empiricist
edifice to which the MBTI
has given rise in light of the Jungian
theoretical legacy that we have attempted to explicate. Based expressly
on premodern cosmology and symbolism, Jung’s propositions form an
interpretative heuristic intended to assist in the apprehension and under-
standing of human character. We speculate that he would have been
decidedly unimpressed by the scientistic turn taken by many of the
s protagonists.
Conclusion: Have We Always Been Non-Modern?
Now that we are no longer so far removed from the premoderns—since
when we talk about the premoderns we have to include a large part of
ourselves—we are going to have to sort them out as well. Let us keep what
is best about them, above all: the premoderns’ inability to differentiate
durably between the networks and the pure poles of Nature and Society,
their obsessive interest in thinking about the production of hybrids of
Nature and Society, of things and signs, their certainty that transcendences
abound, their capacity for conceiving of past and future in many ways
other than progress and decadence, the multiplication of types of nonhu-
mans different from those of the moderns. (Latour, 1993: 133)
‘As above, so below’ is a central dictum of the occult sciences,
ing astrology. It might equally be applied to the critique of modern
ontology offered by Latour (1993) in his essay We Have Never Been
Modern. Latour puts forward nothing less than a moral and political
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programme for rediscovering what he considers to be the excluded
middle of modernity. A false dichotomy has been created by the moderns
between ‘transcendent Nature’ on the one hand, and ‘immanent Society’
on the other, he suggests. Since the Enlightenment, the moderns pursued
a programme of ontological ‘purification’ that denied acts of human
mediation between the two respective provinces of Society and Nature
and attempted to ensure that the ‘things’ of nature remained uncon-
taminated by the social constructions of apperceiving minds. It is there-
fore imperative, Latour maintains, to expose the networked nature of
both ‘things’ and ‘social order’ and hence dissolve the false duality that
modernity has imposed. Indeed, as the title of his essay suggests, he
contends that a consideration of historical evidence concerning the devel-
opment of natural and social scientific knowledge reveals that ‘we have
never been modern’ in the sense that ontology is always already a matter of
networked processes; of mediation, delegation, distribution, mandate and
utterance. And yet, in the acts of purification necessary for the stabilization
of modern objects and modern conceptualizations of ‘humanity’, ‘society’
and so forth, the a priori fact of mediation has to be occluded or
consigned to a kind of ‘modern unconsciousness’ (1993: 37).
As a student of the history and sociology of science, Latour is no doubt
intellectually aware of the role played by astrology and alchemy in the
formation of modern sciences. It can surely be no mere coincidence,
therefore, that he has alighted upon a form of philosophical holism that
itself resonates strongly with premodern cosmology. Indeed, as the quota-
tion at the opening of this section reveals, he openly admires the
premoderns’ unwillingness to differentiate ‘durably’ between Nature and
Society and values their persistent attempts to find and expose hybrid-
ized human/non-human connections within the universe. By synthesiz-
ing elements of premodern, modern and postmodern attitudes toward
ontology and epistemology, Latour devises a nonmodern ‘constitution’
and programme of enquiry and politics that acknowledges the extent to
which ‘we have never been modern. . . Half of our politics is constructed
in science and technology. The other half of Nature is constructed in
societies. Let us patch the two back together, and the political task can
begin again’ (1993: 144).
We began this article by invoking retro-organization theory as a way of
licensing serious enquiry into what might otherwise be considered to be
the social scientifically taboo subjects of astrology and alchemy. Based on
an interpretation of Foucauldian genealogical analysis, retro-organization
theory’s challenges to the received wisdom of apolitical, ahistorical and
‘phallocentric’ approaches to organizational studies open the door to new
ways of thinking about present-day conduct in organizations. By follow-
ing the tenets of retro-organization theory in combination with Latour’s
hybridization project, one is freed to forge new conceptual and analytical
syntheses unfettered by the constraints of modernist ontology and episte-
mology. The pandemonium that results from eschewing the modern
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creates fissures through which knowledges previously proscribed well up
and re-present themselves in potentially new and interesting combina-
We have sought in the astro-genealogical analysis of the MBTI
sented above to lay open to scrutiny a set of intellectual interconnections
and legacies that, through the ‘scientific purification’ engendered by an
empiricist rendering of the MBTI
, have been systematically forgotten or
otherwise obscured. Our explicit aim has been to reconnect premodern
cosmology to the modern in this specific, yet important, area of organiza-
tional conduct and thus, less directly, to demonstrate the fecundity of the
form of retro-organizational analysis adopted. Although we have focused
largely on a theoretical dimension of the impact of astrology on organiza-
tional life, as we intimated in our introduction, there is scope for a
programme of empirical research on the influence of occult sciences
within organizations. We hope that this article may spark new research
ideas and directions for colleagues who are interested in exploring these
topics in an organizational studies context.
We thank Simon Lilley, Frances Laneyrie and the editors and reviewers of
Organization for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts of this article.
Andrew Hall of Consulting Psychologists Press kindly provided background
readings on the MBTI
and Catherine Chassay helped trace additional reference
material. The work in embryonic form was presented at the 18th Standing
Conference on Organizational Symbolism, ‘Organization and Culture: Premodern
Legacies for a Postmodern Millennium’, 5–9 July 2000, Athens, Greece.
1 Engaging in primary research of such issues can be a highly sensitive matter,
not least because many executives are embarrassed to admit to having
resorted to astrological consultation and also because professional astrolo-
gers working with business clients are bound by strict codes of confidence.
Despite these not insubstantial difficulties, one of us has managed to gain
corporate access and to report on some preliminary interview findings
(Phillipson, 2000).
2 Eysenck and Nias (1982) report on a systematic study of astrology from the
perspective of scientific psychology. Their epistemology and research
questions—which generally hinged around whether or not astrological
claims could be statistically validated—differ from those pursued in this
article. Interestingly from our point of view, however, Eysenck and Nias
(1982: 220) do note the considerable resistance they encountered from their
own research community: ‘[M]any of the people in the scientific establish-
ment would have fitted well into the panel which condemned Galileo! We
have become aware of this climate of censorship and intolerance . . . from
remarks warning us that even criticizing astrology in detail, and showing
familiarity with its pronouncements, would undermine our scientific stand-
ing and reputation. So much for the religion of the open mind.’
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3 We make extensive reference to the Routledge & Kegan Paul edition of The
Collected Works of Carl Gustav Jung (21 volumes, 1953–83) and abbreviate it
as ‘CW’ throughout.
4 Phillipson (2000) documents objections to astrology voiced by an organized
group of natural scientists. See also Dawkins (1995), Maddox (1994) and
Adorno (1994) for critical assaults on the tenets of astrology. Maddox (1994:
185) reflects the sentiments of many natural scientists and sceptics when he
observes: ‘It is a plain fact that astrology is a pack of lies in the literal sense;
those who peddle horoscopes do so on an explicit set of statements about the
real world that cannot be correct. There is no evidence that the positions of
the planets can affect human behaviour, nor any plausible mechanism by
which they could do so. It would not matter if the lies were told in some
other context, say an alleged link between stock-exchange prices and the
popularity of rock-and-roll music. That they are told, and believed by
countless innocents, in flat contradiction of the more objective view of the
world accumulated over several centuries, means that each and every
horoscope is, by denying the objective view of the planets, an attack on the
probity of science. . . Would other professionals, lawyers or accountants say,
be as tolerant of public belief that undermined the integrity of their work –
and, potentially, their livelihood?’
5 For a useful general introduction to the Foucauldian concept of genealogy,
see Dreyfus and Rabinow (1982: 104–25). Burrell (1996, 1998) discusses
genealogical analysis and its relation to organizational studies, as do Calas
and Smircich (1999: 655–8), who also offer a comprehensive overview of
extant organizational research conducted using this approach.
6 For indicative responses to astrology on the part of the scientific psychology
community, see Eysenck and Nias (1982).
7 This diagram was constructed in the year 1110 by Byrhtferth, a monk of the
abbey of Ramsey, and appears in a text he composed entitled, De concordia
mensium atque elementorum (‘On the concord of the months and the
elements’), held in the library of St. John’s College, Oxford (MS 17, fol. 7v).
See Baker and Lapidge (1995) for a full translation of the text and Edson
(1996) for comments on the structure of the diagram. We thank the President
and Scholars of St. John’s College for their kind permission to reproduce
Byrhtferth’s diagram in this article.
8 Were Jung to have explored the burgeoning contemporary literature on
organizational theory, he would doubtless have gained great satisfaction
from the vast number of confirming instances for his thesis. As students of
organization and management will be aware, 20th-century and early 21st-
century organizational theory is replete with two-by-two matrices. Whether
the substantive topic is ‘leadership’, ‘motivation’, ‘strategy’, ‘marketing’ or
‘operations’, one inevitably encounters fourfold frameworks. From the
JOHARI window, to SWOT analysis, PEST analysis or the ‘Four Paradigms’
proposed by Burrell and Morgan (1979), there would appear to be a powerful
intuitive pull to this representational form for both the producers and
consumers of organizational knowledge. A fuller exploration of this fascinat-
ing preoccupation would warrant a paper in its own right.
9 See (consulted April 2001).
10 This diagram is used frequently in Insights’ literature, for instance in
presenting the ‘Insights System’ on their website. We thank Andrew M.
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Lothian, chairman of Insights, for permission to reproduce the diagram in
this article.
11 The earliest form of the Annus-Mundus-Homo diagram, so far as we know, is
a 10th-century medieval cotton manuscript produced in Exeter and currently
held in a British Library volume, Tracts on Astronomy (MS Vitellius A.XII,
fol. 52). Our thanks to John Rennie Short for directing us to this document.
12 See, for example, contributions to Hammer (1996).
13 This popular phrase is abridged from literal translations such as ‘that which
is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that
which is above’ (Holmyard, 1968: 68). It comes from the Emerald Tablet
(Tabula Smaragdina) of Hermes Trismegistus—long believed to be a divinely
inspired prophet or god, now identified as a composite figure to whom
various authors, probably spanning several centuries, attributed composi-
tions. The Hermetic corpus seems to have been collated for the first time, by
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Organization 11(4)
at James Cook University on May 5, 2013org.sagepub.comDownloaded from
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Peter Case is Professor of Leadership and Organization Studies at the Centre for
Leadership Studies, University of Exeter. His academic studies encompass the
ethics of leadership, organization theory, methodology and multicultural aspects
of management learning and development. He is currently writing an intro-
ductory organizational behaviour textbook and co-editing a themed issue of
Culture and Organization on ‘Speed and Organization’. Peter is chairperson of
the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism. Address: University of
Exeter, Centre for Leadership Studies, Crossmead, Barley Lane, Exeter EX4 1TF,
UK. [email:]
Garry Phillipson is currently reading for a PhD in astrological belief and practice at Bath
Spa University College. His book Astrology in the Year Zero (2000, Flare Publica-
tions) has been praised by both sides for the even-handed way in which it
portrays its subject. Website: Address: Flat 1,
3 Market Street, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LH, UK. [email: garryp@]
Astrology, Alchemy and Retro-Organization Theory
Peter Case and Garry Phillipson
at James Cook University on May 5, 2013org.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Ser man for eksempel på det mest anvendte HR-vaerktøj gennem tiden, som fortsat er udbredt, nemlig Meyers-Briggs Type Indikator (MBTI), så har denne test en tvivlsom forskningsmaessig opbakning (Case & Philipson, 2004). Primaert på grund af den underliggende typologiske model, der beskriver modpoler på fire dimensioner, men også på grund af det ipsative svarformat, der tvinger respondenten til at vaelge mellem disse poler, så lever MBTI og lignende typologiske vaerktøjer ikke op til de videnskabelige kriterier for en god test. ...
... Ofte kraever det ganske få aendringer i besvarelsen af en typologisk test, før det medfører en ny personlighed! Det er til skade både for den oplevede og videnskabelige pålidelighed (reliabilitet), og det hindrer forskeren i at genfinde sine resultater (Case & Philipson, 2004). Derpå opstår der tvivl om testens gyldighed (validitet), fordi en sådan omskiftelighed strider imod selve idéen om personligheden. ...
... Én konsekvens af at fortsaette med at anvende typologiske tests, der kan sammenlignes med horoskoper eller alkymi (Case & Philipson, 2004), er, at HR går glip af de økonomiske gevinster, der kunne have vaeret høstet ved at anvende mere videnskabelige redskaber. Derudover er det uholdbart, at praktikere til stadighed fremmer en gammeldags sprogbrug om personforskelle. ...
Artiklen redegør for de indholdsmæssige, teoretiske og psykometriske overvejelser bag Femfaktorprofilen (e-stimate, 2013). Profilens spørgeramme er en dansk oversættelse og kulturel bearbejdning af 120 item-versionen af IPIP-NEO-testen (Johnson, 2011), der afspejler femfaktormodellen for personlighedstræk. Denne model er anerkendt i videnskabelige kredse, og den danner rammen om langt størstedelen af den internationale forskning, der inddrager personligheden. To grupper udfyldte profilen: hhv. en gruppe af voksne og erhvervsaktive danskere indsamlet fra profilens drift (N = 558) og dels en gruppe indsamlet til lejligheden (N = 410). Faktoranalyse af data fra den første gruppe bekræftede femfaktormodellens overordnede struktur, selvom visse facetter af extraversion og agreeableness byttede plads. Resultaterne viste en dominant/mindre social udgave af extraversion, kaldet Handlekraft; og en social udadvendt/samhørighedsorienteret udgave af agreeableness, kaldet Socialitet. Den anden gruppe dannede grundlag for at udvælge supplerende items og dermed bedre tilpasse profilen til anvendelse i Danmark. Resultaterne diskuteres i forhold til forskellige modeller for personlighedstræk.
... Building from this tradition, recent work points out that constructs useful in analysing premodern societies such as gift giving (Alter, 2009;Faldetta, 2011), ghosts (Orr, 2014), myth-making (Holt & Cameron, 2010;Nolan, 2011), ritual (Malefyt & Morais, 2010;Smith & Stewart, 2011), totemism (Cayla, 2013), Jungian astrological archetypes (Case & Phillipson, 2004) and spiritualism (Salamon, 2002) play a significant, sometimes strategic, role in organizational life. For instance, it is now well recognized that organizational rituals serve as communication and learning systems helping to channel the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of organizational members into proorganizational pathways (Malefyt & Morais, 2010;Smith & Stewart, 2011). ...
... Finally, all this shows that organizational sensemaking through material forms is not reducible to the cognitive work of information integration (Kaplan, 2011;Stigliani & Ravasi, 2012), but is also a magical process. In the spirit of Latour's (2010) 'symmetrical anthropology' that critiques the claims of modernity which contemporary organizations assert, recent work points out that constructs useful in explaining phenomena associated with pre-modern societies can clarify processes that play a significant, sometimes strategic, role in organizational life (Case & Phillipson, 2004;Malefyt & Morais, 2010;Salamon, 2002). Our research extends this work on the magical and spiritual dimensions of organizational life into the realm of market sensemaking. ...
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What is the sovereign consumer that occupies such a central role in organizational discourse whose satisfaction has become an organizational imperative? Our research draws from extended fieldwork in the world of commercial ethnography. Our analysis shows how ethnography is implicated in the organizational fetishization of consumers, that is, how in the process of understanding and managing markets, a quasi-magical fascination with amalgams of consumer voices, images, and artefacts comes about. We offer several contributions. First, we demonstrate the pertinence of (primarily anthropological) theories of the fetish to organizational sensemaking. Second, we describe a distinctive process of organizational market sensemaking that is sensuous, magical, and analogical. Third, we offer a subtle critique of commercial ethnography, a popular research practice that aims to bring 'real' consumers to life inside the firm.
... Assessments and critiques of the MBTI have been published for over 40 years (Arnau et al., 2003;Carlyn, 1977;Carlson, 1985;Case & Phillipson, 2004;Choi, 2021;Dawes, 2004;Furnham 2020Furnham , 2022Murray, 1990;Pittenger, 1993;2005;Querk, 2000;Stein & Swan, 2019;Thompson & Borrello, 1986;Yang et al., 2016). ...
... Many of the assessment tools deployed today in student LDPs derive loosely from psychodynamic approaches developed in the 1930s, from the scientifically discredited but still popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (Case and Phillipson 2004;Nadesan 1997), and from the pervasive discourse of positivity in American leadership discourse (Collinson 2012). All of these tools involve some form of simplistic and preset labelling, some of them more informal and less ostentatiously scientific than others. ...
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We apply a critical perspective on leadership development discourses and practices to the case of student leadership development programs in the US universities and colleges. We leverage the first author’s personal experiences as a facilitator in such programs to focus on the manner in which they adapt and deploy a variety of commodified pop and positive psychology techniques—including prominently among them icebreakers and psychological assessment tests—that encourage participants to share personal and emotional insights about themselves as the necessary prerequisite for becoming leaders. We draw on Foucault’s notion of pastoral power to argue that these quasi-therapeutic practices help to produce and to normalize what we describe as a confessional culture of leadership development that prepares would-be student leaders to submit themselves to similarly or even more psychologically demanding regimes of governmentality in the workplace after they graduate. We conclude with a call for future research on the central role of such leadership development practices—and the institutions, industries, and actors that promote them—in folding together the ways that individuals seek to claim agency and to develop themselves as leaders with the ways that organizations function to constrain that agency and to govern them as willing but compliant subjects.
Organizational tensions are overwhelmingly considered problems to be solved promptly, because they disrupt a rightful order and impede the normal flow of effective practice, production and service. I propose to look at organizational tensions through a more holistic and spiritually infused lens. The discussion is articulated around a core question: from a symbolic and spiritual viewpoint, how do we make sense of and how can we handle the inevitable tensions that fuel organizational life? Following the work of C.G. Jung, I identify tensions as opportunities for soulful learning and as synchronistic opportunities which point toward a chance at awakening something latent in our self. I outline how the complex and artful practice of alchemy offers a process of meaning-making of tensions in organizational life that is both systematic and creative, allowing a deeper understanding of what transformation entails, what shapes it can take, and how we can be present to it.
The full dissertation is available here: Personality, Incorporated traces the history of personality testing in American corporate management from 1960 to 1995. Through three case studies, this dissertation takes up the twinned history of psychological techniques, as deployed by a cadre of “consulting psychologists,” and the psychological capacities conjured by these techniques. Personality, Incorporated make two core arguments. First, it argues that personality tests aimed to incite and channel employees’ psychological capacities as forms of economic value. Psychological tests did not simply measure static traits, but they also actively elicited and mobilized affects, subjectivities, and differences, that they then harnessed for corporate value production. Second, this dissertation argues that late twentieth-century corporations were not just sites for the application and circulation of psychological knowledge, but they also served as important experimental laboratories for investigating human’s interpersonal, emotional, and cognitive capacities. A core contribution of this dissertation is to identify, investigate, and interrogate the specific form of value mobilized at this intersection of personality tests and management practices: “psychological capital. As an analytic category, psychological capital names how human beings’ psychological capacities are enlisted into circuits of economic value, with the aid of psychological techniques that can measure and incite these capacities. Psychological capital circulates as an intangible yet nonetheless measurable form of capital that was made visible, measurable, and valuable through psychological techniques of personality testing and training amidst economic, social, and cultural changes of the knowledge economy. This dissertation offers a new way to think about psychological tests: as tools designed to mobilize and channel psychological capacities, to elicit and cultivate the very characteristics that they purported to measure. In weaving together histories of psychology, science and corporate capitalism with critical scholarship on affect and value, this dissertation excavates how psychological tests have become corporate techniques that shape contemporary selfhood. Personality, Incorporated’s significance lies in offering a historical and analytical account of psychological capital: a subset of human capital, psychological capital is a category that names how non-rational psychological capacities, like our ability to be motivated, think intuitively, and work in teams, became a form of economic value. Although not a brand-new form of value, psychological capital emerged in particularly intensified forms in the late-20th-century transition to the knowledge economy, marked by new forms of labor, technology, and corporate structure. As the first scholarly project to narrate the history of personality testing as a history of human capital, my dissertation excavates how psychological capital became a crucial form of value for corporations, psychologists, and everyday citizens in twentieth-century America.
Gossip is a complex and ubiquitous phenomenon, widely found and variously practiced. Gossip and Organizations provides the reader with an analysis of gossip and informal knowledge across different national, organizational and cultural contexts, drawing upon empirical findings and the author's experiences of researching gossip in nursing and healthcare organizations and higher educational institutions. Kathryn Waddington aims to dispel once and for all the myth that women gossip and men have conversations, shattering the illusion that gossip at work is trivial talk. This book challenges the assumption that gossip is a problem that should be discouraged. While there is undoubtedly a dark side to gossip, Kathryn Waddington argues that paying closer attention to gossip as organizational communication and knowledge enables exploration of other ways of seeing, interpreting and understanding organizations. Gossip is not merely an impediment of organizing, it is a form of organizing which shapes perceptions and actions, and can forewarn managers of future failure in organizational systems. The complexity of gossip is such that a of range inter-disciplinary explanations is necessary in order to account for this form of communication and knowledge across multiple levels and spaces in and around organizations. Waddington provides a new evidence-based framework incorporating ethics, emotion, identity, sensemaking and power as a guide future research, theorizing and critical reflective and reflexive practice in the field of organizational gossip.
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The article presents the process of institutionalization of ethical codes in the auditing profession. Auditors have always been seen as an important part of the social contract as they provided certification services for the truthfulness and fairness of financial information in the public domain. However, due to scandals at the eve of the twenty-first century, trust in the auditing profession decreased. As a response to these scandals, codes of ethics are being developed; these codes are seen as an important means to restore public trust and credibility in the profession. The article presents the development of the auditing codes of ethics in the US, the UK, and an international organization of accountants. The Polish experience with the code of ethics is also discussed.
In this article we first reflect on the significant and positive impact of postmodernism for organizational theorizing during the past decade. Through several examples we point to contributions that poststructuralist perspectives have brought to the field. Finally, we consider four contemporary theoretical tendencies—feminist poststructuralist theorizing, postcolonial analyses, actor-network theory, and narrative approaches to knowledge—as heirs (apparent) of the postmodern turn for organizational theorizing past postmodernism.