Marcel Proust. Remembrance of Things Planetary

Post by Wanda Smit

The upside down Kite figure in the chart looks more like a sailing ship with the Saturn/North Node opposition forming its mast. The Small Talent Triangle is the ship and the Large Talent Triangle the sails. But the inner resources from all the blue aspects didn’t make writing plain sailing for Marcel Proust, one of the great literary figures of France. He suffered much physically and emotionally, but believed: “We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”

wanda-marcel-proust-chartThe Mast

The North node/Saturn Opposition, the mast of the ship, was the driving force in Proust’s life. His commitment to his soul’s journey, to communicate his aesthetic philosophy in his writing was opposed by Saturn in the area of higher learning. This was reflected in his reluctance to do what his mother wanted: that he did some serious work when he instinctively knew what his work was. As he wrote to her: “There is word and work. Literary work constantly forces one to exploit the very feelings that are most closely connected with suffering.”

Saturn also opposed his Jupiter on the IC. He never travelled much as his asthma confined him to bed from his thirties till death in his early fifties. But he firmly believed as he states in one of his famous quotes: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” He also knew that the real voyage of discovery can only be made within oneself, for one’s reality in the world was one’s own creation. Summing up Proust’s journey, Maurois states: “It is we, with our desires, and with the heritage of that long past by which they have been formed, who give shape and value to other beings, to other things.” Proust would later search his memory for he believed only in memory is the self continuous.

The Ship

The Moon/Venus trine is shared by both talent triangles. Proust was intensely emotional, with a surplus of water (-5) in his temperament. He also remained a ‘child’ throughout his life, what we’d call a ‘spoilt brat’ nowadays. First his mother doted on her ‘little wolf ’ or ‘little canary’, meeting his every emotional need. Then, when she had died and Proust was seriously ill, he had several domestics tending to his often overwhelming needs. The Venus in him didn’t come in the form of a particular woman, but in his refined aesthetic sense. He maintained: “A woman one loves rarely suffices for all our needs, so we deceive her with another whom we do not love.”

Underneath the Ship

It wasn’t just wind that moved the ship forward, although Proust had more than enough air (-6) in his temperament to stir up a strong gust. It was mainly the red aspects from his Jupiter to Mars and from his Sun and Uranus to Neptune on the Ascendant that propelled his ship. As he writes: “Have we got to admit that human life has no other purpose than to let down its nets and fish up from the ocean of pain and sorrow, with infinite care, a few beautiful metaphors?”

With Jupiter, Mercury/Sun and Uranus in a caring fourth house, home and family were of great importance to Proust. Even after his mother’s death, he remained in touch with her family throughout his life. His socialising, which later turned him into a dandy in the salon society – spurred on by his gracious Mars – started at all the parties he frequented at the houses of the wealthy families and the grandes dames of Paris, many of whom became lifelong friends. Understandably so, for Proust has nine planets in the collective hemisphere of which seven are on the You-side, hence his ongoing engagement with others. He wrote hundreds, if not thousands, of letters to people in his social circle. He believed: “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Even when later in his life he was confined to bed, he would visit or entertain at the stylish Ritz in the evenings when he felt better than during the day.

The four planets, Jupiter, the Sun conjunct Mercury and Uranus – all intelligence energies – are gathered around the IC which represents the personal and the collective unconscious. Furthermore, Uranus, his creative intelligence, is on a low point in the 4th house, which drew him even deeper into the collective unconscious. These planetary energies gave his novels a strong subtext: What lies beneath the surface? he often questioned in his writing. Writes Maurois: “…ever since the days of his childhood, he had been obsessed by a desire to write, and in particular to grasp a beauty which he felt to be imprisoned beneath the surface appearance of things.”

Mercury and the Sun – not even a degree apart – were inseparable in his writing. The plethora of facts gathered by Mercury on its countless excursions into knowledge were shared with his prodigious mind. He could thus describe people, gestures, mannerisms, dress codes, language, humour, emotions, etc. in minute detail. His Remembrance of Things Past would eventually be between 12 000 and 15 000 pages long. (About 40 novels of 300 pages each, based on today’s standards!)

There is also a Sun/Pluto trine beneath the ship. On a mundane level, the assertion of his bull-like ‘darkness’ – his homosexuality which was still unacceptable in his era – led to a secret sexual life in the demimonde of Paris. He often pretended to his friends and family that he was in love with a certain woman to whom he would write love letters. In an unpublished fragment on homosexuals, he wrote: “…they have to conceal their way of life, to turn their eyes from what they would most like to look at and to look at what they would most like to ignore; to change the gender of many adjectives in their vocabulary; to submit to a social discipline which is mild indeed compared to the interior discipline which their vice, or what is improperly so called, imposes on them …”

On a higher level, Pluto and the Sun – as well as a Pluto/Mars quincunx in his house chart – gave him the talent and the will to transform his thinking: “Eternal life may, at this very moment, be present in us. We live it as soon as we begin to die to ourselves, to force ourselves to make the renunciation.” Towards the end of his life, he renounced all the pleasures and worldly goods he had enjoyed in his fortunate life. He had used his prodigious intelligence to analyse the illusions of sense, sentiment and reasoning, and believed, “Love is a reciprocal torture.” But, says his biographer, this also enabled him to analyse his own symptoms “with a technical integrity.” Proust firmly believed that once the suffering has been lived through, one can move to a higher level of love. In Swann’s Way he writes: “An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…” It was this is the underlying truth in Proust which gave him “the appearance of a hermit who has not left his forest depths for many years, with something in his face that told of anguish, the mark, as it were, of a pain which is beginning to grow less.”

The Point of Departure

With Jupiter on the cusp of the fourth house, Proust had the luck of being born into a wealthy upper middle-class family, especially when he became ill. His father was a physician. From him and a surplus of air in Proust’s temperament, came his regard for the scientific. His mother came from a wealthy Jewish family. She and her mother introduced Proust at a young age to the classics, both in French and in translation from English. Her high position in Proust’s chart – as Saturn in his childhood – reflects both her role as his Great Teacher and the high regard he had for her. She, more than his father, was the captain of his ship.

But then, the Saturn/Moon trine gave Proust more love from his mother than most men experience. Their letters abound with the great love they had for each other. Worried about her son in the grip of excessive melancholy – due in part to the surplus of water (-5) in his temperament – his mother wrote: “What you most need is to grow a protective skin over your heart, that it may not be too easily hurt, too sensitive…” But creative Neptune on his Ascendant and the Moon in the area of self-assertion would let him experience and explore emotions even if it meant suffering.

The Voyage

The departure for Proust’s literary destination started in his impressive essays at school. At the age point/North Node conjunction – when Proust was only 15 – he was already unusually eloquent. It is rare to find such mystical impressionism in a schoolboy who wrote: “Not mine the power to overcome nature or familiar things, but at least I can consecrate them. I have draped them in the garment of my spirit, turning them to emblems of something that is secret and superb.”

His greatest intellectual enrichment came in 1888/9 when his consciousness was face-to-face with Jupiter and he was studying Philosophy under a teacher called Darlu who set Proust’s mind in motion on the unreality of the sensible world, on memory and on the problem of time – all issues at the core of Proust’s great work Remembrance of Things Past. Proust won the Prize of Honour for Philosophy in his final year – as if mind-expanding Jupiter had crowned him.

The next year in the army was as uneventful in Proust’s life as the planetary energies in his chart. Proust didn’t want to study law as his father, now professor Proust, wished. With his age point traversing the third house of communication, he learnt about art and music through his friends. He went to the Louvre often to study art, as well as the Faubourg St Germain to meet with the Bohemians of Paris. Finally, his father agreed that he could attend lectures at the Sorbonne with no specific end in view, what his friends called his “life of studious idleness.”

From 1892 onwards, although they had started at the 2nd-house low point already, Proust’s life was affected by asthma attacks which came ever more often and more intensely. It would lead to a lifestyle that kept him in bed during the day, when attacks were more severe, with occasional socialising in the evenings. Of course he grew more dependent on his mother, that energy that never understood his need for all the socialising when he should be working in some serious profession. Sounds like Saturn opposing Jupiter!

In 1891 when his age point encountered both his Mercury and Sun, he came under the influence of Henri Bergson, the great philosopher. Bergson agreed with Darlu that philosophy and poetry are soul mates. About Bergson, Proust wrote: “It was as though we were standing together on a high hill” – an experience that would take Proust as high as Saturn at the top of his ship’s mast in the area of higher thinking.

During the age point/Uranus conjunction, the unexpected came in the form of Count Robert de Montesquiou, a gentlemanly poet, “a man whose very arrogance had a seductive charm.” He was of infinite value to Proust in terms of the two roles Proust was already playing: social aspirant and writer. They became friends and Montesquiou initiated Proust into the “poetry of snobbery.”

In 1896, when his age point had just entered the fifth house, Proust published his first book. It was too expensive for most people as it contained drawings by a close friend. It didn’t make a name for him, but his style of writing was already clear. As one of the best-read men of his time, he was developing a great prose technique.

From 1901 to 1903, Jupiter, Mercury/Sun and Uranus enhanced his thinking: he discovered John Ruskin, the leading English art critic and social thinker at the time. Says Maurois: “Both men …had known …an existence which is not without its dangers, because it keeps the child, or the young man, from all contact with real life, though…equipping him with an unusual degree of sensitive awareness and making it possible for him to indulge in prolonged meditation, it creates in him a feeling for fine shades, which is a rare and very special gift.” Said Proust of Ruskin whose work he was translating into French: “This Beauty to which he thus found himself dedicated, was conceived by him not as an object of delight existing to give him pleasure, but as a reality infinitely more important than life itself.” It was the beginning of Proust’s own aesthetic philosophy.

Then, in 1903, his father died. Proust suffered to see his mother in such sorrow and was there for her as much as his illness – and his writing – would allow. During the low point of the 6th house – of his work and service to others – she died. Proust was now in an emotional void. He also felt guilty that he hadn’t proved his writing ability to his parents, particularly to his mother, his Saturn. A few weeks after her death in 1905 came the Mars conjunction and Proust set out to achieve what he had always aspired to: writing a work of fiction that expressed his entire philosophy, based on what he had learnt from Darlu and Bergson, and in his own life. Memory was the key. As he said: “We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.”

Over twelve years of dedicated writing, he would produce the monumental series of novels that formed Remembrance of Things Past based on the copious notes he had taken over the years of all the people and places he had experienced first-hand. Propped up in bed, with cork lining the bedroom’s walls to keep out any noise, he spent his days thinking, writing and constantly refining the thousands of pages of his great literary work. His Mars is after all in the area of gracious service to others.

During these years, his four intelligence planets were ignited by squares, then indulged by trines which gave him both the energy and the inner resources to complete his writing. The main theme of this great work on which he had spent a lifetime was, says Maurois, “the struggle waged by the Spirit of Man with Time, the impossibility of finding in ‘actual’ life a fixed point to which the self can cling, the duty of finding that point within oneself, the possibility of finding it in a work of art.”

When Pluto was opposed in 1912, his book – the assertion of his transformed self – was denied by all the publishers he approached. Then, at the C2 – almost to the day in November 1913 – he self-published the first novel in the series. It was received so well that the leading publisher, Gallimard, who did not want to publish his book originally, soon took over the publishing of the entire series.

The Destination

wanda-proust-quoteAs a novelist, Proust had arrived. Just two years before his age point encountered Saturn, he died, aged 51, but not without having been at the pinnacle of his endeavours. His Great Teacher would have been proud of his serious achievements in literature. As a thinker, Proust had shown higher minds, as well as the lower minds who had called him ‘Little Marcel of the Ritz’, the breadth and depth of his genius. Almost a century later, he is still hailed as one of the greatest writers and in world literature.

Based on the André Maurois Biography,The Quest for Proust.

Birth data: Paris, 10 July 1871 at 11:30pm