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The Elders: Humanity, Wisdom, & the Global Village

Published: 24th June 2008

The Elders is an idea by Peter Gabriel, the singer-songwriter and musician and ex-frontman of the band Genesis, and the entrepreneur Richard Branson. The Elders are a group of mainly ex-political leaders, alongside some leaders from the social, business, and religious arenas, who are known internationally and who have accrued knowledge and experience to bring to the table.

Their status gives them not just influence but also access: their phone calls would be taken by many prime ministers and presidents. Some, such as Nelson Mandela, hold respect and admiration on a fairly wide scale around the world. Explaining his thinking behind the idea of The Elders, Peter Gabriel said:

"In traditional societies the elders always had a role in conflict resolution, long-term thinking and applying wisdom wherever it was needed. We are moving to this global village and yet we don’t have our global elders. The Elders can be a group who have the trust of the world, who can speak freely, be fiercely independent, and respond fast and flexibly in conflict situations."


In formulating the purpose of the group, Gabriel and Branson considered that there were various organisations already in existence trying to solve difficult problems but none of them were independent, and most claimed their authority from political, financial, military or religious sources of power. The Elders, they decided, would be different in that they would have legitimacy based on their collective wisdom, experience, and moral authority, just as tribal elders do.

The criteria for membership of this 'group of 12' gradually reached consensus:-
  • No current interest in politics
  • No vested interest, no personal agenda, no bias
  • Displayed moral courage
  • Already made a constructive difference to many people, dramatically changing their lives for the better
  • Demonstrated ability to move beyond their own fear in a significant way
  • Ability to listen
An extra quality noted as a common characteristic of the potential members, but not actually a criterion, was a sense of humour.

The Elders' stated agenda is 'humanity', and the purpose they have adopted is to ease human suffering using 'almost 1000 years of collective experience'. Their focus is on using 'their unique collective skills to catalyse peaceful solutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that are or may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world.'

Crucially, the work of The Elders is expected to take place without fanfare, and even behind the scenes. This is seen by them and their founding team as critical to their effectiveness.

The Elders 'birth' chart

First let's look at the chart for the convening of the group, and then we'll examine the group member's charts to ascertain its main astrological theme. The exact time of the launch is not known, but the press office for The Elders has said that 'it started late morning' so this chart is calculated for 11am.

Please exercise caution with the house cusps and take the Moon's degree and minute as approximate, however the Sign of the Moon is definitely Virgo and the degree will be close to if not exactly 12 degrees (the Moon moves approximately 0.5 degrees per hour).

The Elders Birth Chart

The group was first convened by Nelson Mandela on his 89th birthday in 2007, which also happens to be Richard Branson's birthday. That means that there are three important Suns in the same degree of the Zodiac: the group's itself, first member Mandela's, and co-founder Branson's.
That puts Mandela - and Branson - at the heart of this initiative, and there has already been talk of hope that The Elders might become a part of Mandela's legacy, to inspire younger people to follow his 'heroic journey', which is actually what the Sun represents.

With the group launched in the late morning the Sun is either in the 11th or 10th house, both of which are the houses of the wider world, the collective as a whole. That places spirit of the group, via Mandela and Branson, directly out into the collective sphere, mixing the fostering Sign of Cancer with the 11th/10th houses of the 'anima mundi', the soul of the world. And with the Moon in Virgo and almost certainly in the 12th house, there is a clear symbol of the group's 'behind-the-scenes' operational effectiveness.

A Cancerian group

But it's not just these Suns that are in Cancer. Cancer is actually the predominant Sign of the Zodiac in the entire membership of The Elders. That's the case by two ways of counting: firstly, simply totalling the number of planets in each Sign in all of the members' charts, and secondly, combining that first result with the Sign locations of all the midpoints of the group.

At the time of founding, the group members were:-
  • Kofi Annan
  • Ela Bhatt
  • Lakhdar Brahimi
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland
  • Fernando H Cardoso
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Li Zhaoxing
  • Graca Machel
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Mary Robinson
  • Desmond Tutu
  • Muhammad Yunus
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
At some point since their foundation, Li Zhaoxing has departed from the group, although the reason for that departure could not be ascertained at the time of writing.

In her automated group dynamics report astrological researcher Bernadette Brady had this to say about Cancerian 'tribal elders' groups:

"This group wants to nurture, look after, foster, and care for the community that they govern. They are prepared to take action to make this happen, and their prime motivation is to ensure the emotional well-being and satisfaction of their people. In this way, they can be a very effective Tribal Elder Group, as they can stabilise a community, allowing it to consolidate resources and, if needs be, improve its emotional security. This Tribal Elder Group tend to see the whole community as a large family."

The Achilles heel of having Cancer as the dominant Zodiac Sign is a sensitivity to being unwelcomed and rejected, and an over-emotional response to those outside the group.

"The shadow side of this sign emphases is that the Tribal Elder Group will feel unloved or disrespected if at any stage their community does not want or appreciate their efforts or their decisions.  Different members of the group can then feel quite hurt and will try to emotionally manipulate others in order to maintain their power or position. If you are a member of this Tribal Elder Group, then encourage activities which result in the making of supportive decisions that help members of the community.  But also help the group recognise that there will be times when not all members of the community necessarily agree with them and, if it is a democratic relationship and they want their community to grow, rather than to splinter, it is important that they accept this criticism in good faith."

A further potential problem not mentioned by Bernadette Brady is that of becoming an impenetrable clique. The Sign of Cancer is known for its closed doors to those it considers outsiders, especially those who are 'different' and whose 'faces don't fit'. The original internal culture of the group can assume disproportionate importance, feeling threatened by outside invasion and anything new.

Pluto in Cancer generation

What's interesting is that this group of 'village elders' is aiming to provide guidance to world leaders, who are mostly the Pluto in Cancer and Pluto in Leo generations. We are now approaching the time of Pluto in Capricorn, the Sign opposite to Cancer, and so there is a half-way review point being approached.

Perhaps, then, all of this is beginning to form a narrative, involving those Pluto-in-Cancer people attempting to consolidate some kind of wisdom of experience, ripened over time, and looking back from the vantage point of greater objectivity, which is what half-way around the circle represents. Cancer and Capricorn are, after all, the Signs of both good parenting and good governance, and the very title 'The Elders' is evocative of both Cancer and Capricorn.

The distillation of collective wisdom gained through aeons of experience is perhaps the highest expression of these two Signs, and we surely need the benefit of that in our world at this time. Instead of letting The Elders do it on our behalf, it would perhaps be psychologically healthier for us to regard them as a symbol of a process in the collective human psyche that is trying to unfold, that is appropriate to the times in which we live, and which is in unfolding in order to take us to the next stage, and which we ourselves need to foster within us.

The Cancerian capacity to nurture life at its source and the Capricornian horn of plenty not only symbolise the abundance of life-giving necessities such as food, water, and shelter, but also knowledge, 'know-how', and sagacity. The collective wisdom of humanity is the inheritance and the legacy of each of us combined, acting as a nutrient and sustenance for the human family, and that may well be the true meaning of the formation and activities of The Elders.

Other articles of interest

Pluto through the Signs of the Zodiac [read]

Desmond Tutu's chart [read]

The Elders official web site [visit]
NB: this site is external to this site & will open in a new window

Applying astrology to political lifeGordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, EU, USA, France, Australia, Uranus in Pisces & Neptune in Aquarius, & more

Applying astrology to business life Euro Currency, NHS, BBC,
USA economy, Ofcom, Concorde,
W Edwards Deming, European Central Bank, stock markets, & more

Applying astrology to people's lives Health, emotional intelligence, Zodiac elements, understanding change, Russell Brand, James Bond, Angelina Jolie, Desmond Tutu, & more

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