Patron of research
Arthur Mather and Geoffrey Dean
An expanded version of the original tribute in Astrological Journal 42(6), 45-46, Nov/Dec 2000.
Abstract -- Charles Harvey influenced the course of 20th century scientific research into astrology more than anyone else. His eminence within astrology, and his enthusiasm for scientific research, led to his becoming a key figure in the astrology-science debate. Without Charles there would be no Recent Advances, no Correlation, no London Research Conferences, no Kepler Days, no British research tradition to lead the world, and no websites like astrology-and-science.com. Like his mentor John Addey, he pinned his hopes on Neoplatonic ideas (true reality is intangible and manifests through number) and on a scientific revolution that would eventually validate astrology as a "systematic algebra of life and consciousness." Such an astrology, he believed, would heal mankind's ills by uniting spiritual and material values. Unfortunately research failed to support astrology to the extent that everyone had hoped, and in the years since his death the support has grown even weaker. The divide between astrology and science is still not bridged. Ironically Charles's efforts may have inspired a growing recognition, at least among researchers and innovators, that astrology is a spiritual endeavour not a material one. And with this, in contrast to his own belief, comes the need for a separation between perceived inner meaning and outward reality, between astrology and science, as the constructive way forward. Without Charles and the achievements he set in motion, the position today might be far less clear.
Charles Harvey influenced the course of 20th century scientific research into astrology more than anyone else. His achievements in mainstream astrology alone were extraordinary. Chronologically the main ones were: 1965 Astrological Association records officer, 1968 AA secretary, 1970 founder trustee of the Urania Trust, 1973 co-founder of the Cambridge Circle to develop harmonic astrology, 1973-1994 AA president, 1977-1986 Faculty vice-president, 1980 co-founder of ISCWA (Institute for the Study of Cycles in World Affairs), 1988 driving force behind the UT Astrology Study Centre and the acclaimed annual UT guide to astrological resources (effectively his own address book writ large), 1992 co-director of the Centre for Psychological Astrology, and 1994 AA patron, at which time it was estimated that Charles had devoted 19,000 hours of unpaid labour to the interests of astrology (Astrological Journal 36(5), 285-287, Sep/Oct 1994). In 1998 he named and launched the Sophia Project to guide a million-pound bequest for establishing astrology at a British university, characteristically setting up a meeting of astrologers and sympathetic academics to discuss options although he himself was too ill to attend. He passed away peacefully in his 60th year in February 2000. Over 300 people attended his memorial service in St James Piccadilly.
Respect for science
In 1969 Arthur Mather was making regular research contributions to the original Correlation, pre-cursor of today's Correlation, when in the cafeteria of the Royal Festival Hall he had his first meeting with Charles to discuss research. Thanks to Charles he succeeded Fleming Lee as editor and in 1971 was appointed AA research co-ordinator. Charles's commitment to acquiring scientifically viable data blended perfectly with Arthur's own commitment to identifying scientifically viable tests. It was three years later, in 1974, that Geoffrey Dean first met Charles to discuss research. Charles was then living in Bromley and Geoffrey, temporarily returned to the UK from Western Australia, was staying in Chislehurst just a bus ride away. Without that slender coincidence of geography, and Charles's enthusiasm for research, the two of us (Mather and Dean) might never have met.
The first scientific survey
As Charles himself puts it, the idea of Recent Advances was "to bring together all possible work that had been done in astrology, ... not necessarily critical, but attempting to see how astrology works, trying to understand better the principles behind astrology" (see Origins of Recent Advances under Historical on the home page). Its success in bringing together hitherto widely scattered facts and figures had been made welcome ("The most important book ever written on astrology" said Phenomena), but not its general lack of support for astrology, which led many astrologers into much rationalising after the event ("no room for empathy or universal wisdom" said Astrology Now).
Surge of research interest
Unfortunately, when we reviewed for RA2 the outcomes of this new research activity, they failed to substantiate astrology to the extent that everyone had hoped. If anything the later picture got worse rather than better, which led to a perceptible distancing on the part of Charles, who was wedded to astrology and its interests above everything else. As he told us in person, but only much later in print, he felt that in Recent Advances and in our subsequent work we were too hasty in drawing conclusions from tests that he felt were inadequate. Charles's criticism was largely due to the Neoplatonic ideas he had inherited from John Addey soon after becoming active in the AA, and which guided his attitude towards astrology from then on.
Insights from harmonics
It was this claim, and Charles's enthusiasm, that resulted in Addey's harmonics receiving prominent treatment in Recent Advances, albeit not all of it positive. For example, contrary to what harmonics implied, the harmonic waves found in the Sun positions of 7302 UK doctors bore no relation to those of 6877 US doctors (p.150). Nevertheless, from now on, Addey's harmonic findings seemed to get progressively more positive while the conventional scientific findings seemed to get progressively more negative. This led Charles to believe that the negative findings were due to a failure to ask the right questions. But he still pinned his hopes on a more enlightened scientific approach eventually validating astrology.
These hopes are described in his essay "Ideal Astrology" in Tad Mann's anthology Future of Astrology (Unwin Hyman, London 1987, pp.71-80). Unlike most of the other essayists, Charles delivers what Mann's title promises. He predicts that full-time astrology courses will appear in universities "in the fairly near future", where huge banks of computer-analysed charts with portraits and case histories will lead to a better understanding of astrology. But before this can happen "many more astrologers will need to dedicate themselves ... to real astrological research." (He was obviously keenly aware of how astrologers generally showed little interest in serious research.) He stresses the need for empirical research: "we cannot evade the need for demonstrable, quantifiable evidence for astrological effects. ... Astrology works according to laws and principles, and much of the building of the larger future of astrology will depend upon the demonstration of these laws and principles in clear, unambiguous and often quantifiable terms."
This conclusion points to a difference in viewpoint between Charles and ourselves. Whereas we saw an absence of evidence as indicating "not proven", Charles saw it as indicating "not disproven." To him astrology was valid until proven otherwise, and even then any apparent disproof might be overturned by more sensitive investigations.
Reaction to negative evidence
Charles notes that "such major developments in astrology, with all their profound philosophical implications, are discounted or dismissed by most [conventional scientific] researchers as unproven, illusory, or as post hoc rationalisations to explain why any chart fits the facts." Yet an astrologer has a "sensitive awareness" of how astrology works and "knows that the same combination can express itself in a whole range of ways" that escape scientific scrutiny. Therefore "The more those of us researching astrology start thinking in the kind of symbolic and metaphorical language used by astrology, the more likely we are to come up with experiments which will produce convincing and interesting results."
This conclusion points again to the difference in our viewpoints. While it is true that scientific researchers tend to discount such developments, they do so only because they see a sensitive awareness of astrology's variability as an unawareness of nonfalsifiability. To us the argument would be more convincing if astrologers were not so ready to believe that astrology works while simultaneously failing tests that in many cases they themselves had helped to devise. Arguments about methodology do not explain why astrologers believe astrology works if astrology is so difficult to demonstrate under conditions where non-astrological factors are controlled. Or their seeming inability to meet Charles's urgent 1990 call for "really thoughtful and imaginative experiments based on the way astrologers work", or even to identify "the right questions."
Unlike his previous writings, there is no hint here of the need for better tests. The only empirical findings he cites in favour of the "remarkable science and art" are the positive findings of the 486Gauquelins. Their negative findings are not mentioned nor the existence of hundreds of other empirical studies. His chapter on resources lists sixty astrology books and journals but omits any reference to Recent Advances, to Correlation, or to anything scientific. Other than a brief aside there is not even a mention of John Addey's harmonic findings, possibly because Charles was aware that a study by one of us (GD) had shown they could reasonably be attributed to artifacts (Correlation, 16(2), 10-39, 1997).
Hopes of a scientific revolution
Like John Addey, Charles believed that astrology would eventually revolutionise science and contemporary thought, and that it would heal mankind's ills by uniting spiritual and material values. But in the years since his death, empirical support for astrology has continued to dwindle. And as noted by American astrologer and historian James Holden, the idea of harmonics "has not found favor with most astrologers, and interest in it has waned" (A History of Horoscopic Astrology, AFA 1996, p.201). The divide between astrology and science is still not bridged.
Ironically Charles's efforts, unrewarded by the hoped-for results, may
have inspired a growing recognition, at least among researchers, that
astrology is a spiritual endeavour not a material one. And with this
recognition, in contrast to his own belief, comes the need for a
separation between the spiritual and the material, between perceived
inner meaning and outward reality, between astrology and science, as the
constructive way forward. The hoped-for revolution is not ruled out, but
it would still have to accommodate the results already obtained.
Nevertheless Charles's own work, and the achievements he set in motion,
have established a sound context for whatever may emerge in the future.
Working to clarify these fundamental issues would be a fitting tribute
to his life. Charles's contributions to astrology are commemorated by
the AA's annual Charles Harvey Award for outstanding service to
astrology. Recipients have been Liz Greene in 2001, Olivia Barclay in
2002, and Nick Campion in 2003.
Left. London researchers in 1983. From left seated are Charles Harvey, Danielle Claret, Jane de Rome, Mick O'Neill. Standing are David Stevens, Nick Kollerstrom, Rowan Bayne, Martin Budd, Simon Best, Patrick Curry, Michael Startup, Graham Douglas, Jonathan Cainer. Right. Charles's last book, dedicated "To all who would hear the music of the spheres"