Recollections of Charles Harvey
by Mike Harding
I first met Charles at around midday on 24th November 1970 when I was running the Basement Theatre in Greek Street, Soho. His then partner was interested in our work and had brought Charles with her to one of our productions. Pluto was on my Sun/Moon midpoint. But, as so often with the case of Pluto, what much later turned out to be the start of a major transformation in my life took a very long time to show itself. It was not until 1979 that we met again. Many changes had taken place during this time; now I was working in a psychiatric unit, where one of the patients, in a fit of enthusiasm, had painted the signs of the Zodiac on its walls. I was interested in what they might mean for him, and attended an introductory class in astrology given by Gaila Yariv at the City Lit - the Sun on that day conjunct the position Pluto had occupied on 24th November 1970. Astrology had emerged, and from that moment my life changed. I joined the AA and started on the FAS diploma course, on which both Charles and John Addey taught. Charles was an inspiring tutor, whose enthusiasm for his subject - and his considerable knowledge of its many branches - never failed to impress. It was clear from the start that astrology was his life, and he gave his all to it - a point his daughter reflected on with considerable feeling at his funeral.
However, if anyone was destined to astrology - 'destined' being one of Charles' favourite words and inimitably pronounced - it was him. His own journey began on being left a small inheritance which allowed him to travel. Packing all his needs into a suitcase he left for Spain, only to have the suitcase stolen, and being left with only the astrology book he happened to be reading; he spotted the omen. In due course his house in Bromley became the AA's unofficial home, housing the research section, the library and just about everything else, and from where he conducted correspondence with astrological luminaries and organisations all over the globe. Deeply involved with the AA, taking on many tasks before succeeding John Addey as President, Charles was also a central figure on the council of the Faculty for Astrological Studies and during his time on their committee similarly played many roles including, towards the end of his life, their historian. With his Cancer Sun he was in some ways born to husband the past, his father being a famous if somewhat remote and austere medievalist. The creation of an Astrological library and archive was Charles' lifelong dream, which the AA has recently brought into fruition. However, his love of astrology's rich heritage was not one of unthinking acceptance. Like his mentor John Addey he was a convinced neo-Platonist (both of them being members of the Universal Order) and both committed to a rigorous investigation of astrology's claims, and the continuing quest for its underlying principles. In this respect he was a major exponent, along with David Hamblin, of Addey's work on harmonics and the Ebertin's use of midpoints. He also initiated the UK's first major astrological Research Conference with Hans Eysenck at the Institute of Psychiatry, and saw the Urania Trust as a vehicle for nurturing those aspects of astrology that could usefully play a part in promoting astrological understanding, and so usher in the time when it would 'play its destined role in the world' - a belief he passionately held. For all his Cancerian qualities I have some doubts that he would be happy with a current claim that astrology's future lies in the past.
Charles was a continual student of astrology's possibilities, both practical and technical. Do we look like our ascendant? At one AA conference Charles lined up all those with the same rising sign and photographed them. Are people with water signs drawn to 'watery' occupations? He checked out a thousand or so. Do the endless predictions astrologers make actually pan out? He wanted such predictions (with their signifiers) to be formally recorded. With Jupiter conjunct his Taurus MC came an intensely practical attitude that sometimes took precedence over the more idealistic Neptune floating 135 degrees from the same point. This earthiness was also reflected in his love of mundane astrology of which he was a major exponent, having been drawn to it in some ways by the hand-drawn maps depicting the rising and culminating of planets across the globe created by Brigadier Firebrace, a man who defended the Sidereal zodiac as forcefully as his name suggests. Later this technique became, in the hands and computers of Jim Lewis, Astro*Carto*Graphy, and Charles became its unofficial promoter, returning from conferences in the States with bundles of ingress maps which he happily shared with his students.
Having worked with Charles on many projects, both with the AA, the FAS and privately in business commissions as well as on our book, what comes back to me now is his generosity of spirit and his abundant enthusiasm. Most of the time this was of course for astrology, though he had a great love of music and enjoyed good food and wine (the kitchen, not unnaturally, became the favoured room for serious conversation) though at times his eagerness to help others with an article or reference could be infuriating if one was waiting for something already promised; it was difficult for him to place all the demands on his time in an orderly queue, and there was no shortage of those waiting. While he published innumerable articles and gave hundreds of talks, his problem with time boundaries meant that, apart from his extensive contribution to Mundane Astrology, he was never able to get down to writing the sort of magnum opus that might have brought together his life's work.
After the death of Howard Sasportas, Charles was invited by Liz Greene to become a director of the Centre for Psychological Astrology. While he was influenced by the paradigm of Jungian psychology, he had also an abiding regard for Freud, noting that he had been conceived on the night Freud died. Charles was ever ready to share personal experience and anecdotes, generally coupled with their astrological descriptors, particularly midpoints, and to this end noted the times of all sorts of events, once telling a class how he had fainted but 'fortunately looked at my watch before I passed out'. Pleased to find that, yes, the MC was on his UR/NE midpoint, for which Erbertin gives 'the elimination of the waking consciousness...'
I last saw him on 18th October 1999, some four months before his death. I had gone down to Frome to present him with a special scroll on behalf of the Urania Trust in recognition of all that he had done for British astrology, an award that touched him deeply. We had a long talk that afternoon during which Charles spoke candidly about his own life and reflected on the various decisions he had made, and how he viewed them in the light of his serious illness. He was a brave man, and a good friend, and every time I puzzle over some astrological issue, I find myself wondering what he would have had to say about it, and more than once have found myself reaching for the phone.
Mike Harding, 5:27 pm London, 9.2.2014