Venus is known as the goddess of aesthetics and, in the case of Simone de Beauvoir, of the beauty of thought: philosophy. This French writer and philosopher involved in Existentialism, is known primarily for The Second Sex, a scholarly and passionate plea for the abolition of the oppression of the feminine, of Venus in thought and action. (All quotes in this article are from her autobiography, The Prime of Life, which spans from the 4th to the 7th houses in her Age Point Progression).
She also wrote four books of philosophy as befits her Venus in Aquarius and travel books on China and the United States, as befits her Jupiter in the 9th house, plus a number of essays, some of them book-length. In addition, she published several autobiographies which don’t only paint a picture of her life, but also that of French intellectuals from the 1930s to the 1970s.
The two peaks of the incomplete Irritation Rectangle in De Beauvoir’s chart remind me of the great heights she reached, not only in her philosophical and sociological thought, but also in the many mountains she scaled, walks and treks she went on, often alone and often for eight hours at a stretch. Could her motivation be other than excessively (-4) cardinal?
Venus in Green and Red
Her strong Venus plays a leading role at the green angle of four of the five Irritation Triangles in the Radix. Venus is in the 3rd house which spans Aquarius and Pisces – like in Nietzsche’s chart – giving her learning a philosophical and creative slant.
Venus at the green angle of these Irritation Triangles was constantly aware of the opposition between Uranus/Mercury/the Sun in the 2nd house and Neptune/the North Node in the 8th house and longing for a resolution of the conflict, as suggested by the Venus quincuncx. “The energies stored in it are looking for a way to resolve the state of the opposing pressures, the blocking of energy flow and the rigid attitude they produce.” So write the Hubers in Aspect Pattern Astrology (p. 177).
In the fifth Irritation Triangle, Venus is directly confronted by Jupiter in the 9th house, as if this energy kept on reminding her that there is more to the bigger picture than meets the eye. De Beauvoir climbed every mountain, literally and figuratively, to get a vaster view of life. The surplus of fire (-7) in her temperament constantly inspired her and sharpened her intuition to reach greater heights, while the overdose of earth (-18) underlay her great love of nature and her sensuous descriptions of landscapes.
It is noteworthy that in the House Chart, there are only two Irritation Triangles based on the Venus/Jupiter opposition on the Learning axis, making life less challenging for Venus. Although both these planets are in intercepted signs, Mars conjunct the Moon at the green angle could be a possible way of dealing with the pressure. It is also noteworthy that in the Radix, Mars and the Moon are unaspected, but in the House Chart, they are involved in both Irritation Triangles.
When her consciousness was saturated with these two planets in 1927, she was studying at the Sorbonne where she met several intellectual men, the kind of men she liked most. After the C1 in 1928, there was a major shift in her consciousness when she got to know Jean-Paul Sartre, who would become the founder of Existentialism and the man closest to her heart. There were several other men in her life, as she and Sartre believed in open relationships, but she remained closest to Sartre for over half a century.
With Jean-Paul Sartre.
Meeting Sartre seems to have paved the way for her soul’s journey up the second peak in the Radix where the Neptune conjunct the North Node awaits her. Sartre was also doing his postgraduate studies at the time. He was awarded first place and de Beauvoir was placed second. At only 21, she was the youngest person ever to pass the exam.
But her philosophical Venus also longed to be creative as reflected in the Venus/Neptune quincunx and in this quote: “I had never got this feeling of elation when planning an essay or some similar piece of reportage (left-brain); but it surged up whenever I gave free play to my imagination” (right brain).
De Beauvoir was born into a bourgeois Parisian family who lost much of its fortune shortly after World War I. Her mother – a wealthy banker’s daughter who was deeply religious – insisted that her two daughters be sent to a prestigious convent school. As a child, De Beauvoir was so religious that she even intended becoming a nun. But in her early teens, she lost her faith and remained an atheist for the rest of her life.
Her father was a legal secretary who encouraged his intellectually advanced daughter, often boasting that “Simone thinks like a man!” Thinking is a masculine and feeling a feminine principle and her outstanding intelligence became her highest personal value as suggested by Uranus/Mercury/the Sun in a Capricornian 2nd house.
These three intelligence planets are opposed by Neptune/the North Node in the 8th house: she certainly paid her dues by improving the self-worth and value of women, and making the world aware of how badly older people are viewed and treated, as she writes in her book, Old Age.
In 1925, when her Age Point had almost completed its progress through the 3rd house of learning, her consciousness was filled with Saturn’s energy as suggested by the AP/Saturn conjunction. She passed her baccalaureate exams in mathematics and philosophy, making the Great Teacher in her, as well as her mother, proud. Then she attended the Sorbonne, where, in 1929, she passed her agrégation in philosophy, which qualified her to teach.
Saturn and the Sun are her strongest ego planets, both with a score of 9. In the Radix, Saturn is fired up by Pluto in the 7th house of close personal relationships which sparked several confrontations with her conservative mother (and other traditionalists) who found it difficult to accept De Beauvoir’s unconventional, open relationship. Her father confronted Sartre on this issue and Sartre asked Simone to marry him, on a provisional basis, by signing a 2-year lease on their agreement. This was done to appease her parents, in particular, her mother.
Writing of her youth in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, she states: “…my father’s individualism and pagan ethical standards were in complete contrast to the rigidly moral conventionalism of my mother’s teaching. This disequilibrium, which made my life a kind of endless disputation, is the main reason why I became an intellectual.”
Fortunately, in the House Chart, Saturn and Pluto in the area of close personal relationships have a more relaxed interaction as suggested by the Saturn/Pluto trine. Perhaps she had indeed appeased her mother. But later, her ideal relationship would be described in her book The Second Sex and it bore little resemblance to the marriage standards of the day.
Instead, she and Sartre entered into a lifelong ‘soul partnership’, which was sexual but not exclusive, nor did it involve living together. De Beauvoir chose never to marry or set up a joint household and she never had children. This gave her the time to advance her education and engage in political causes, to write and teach, and to have lovers. The Venus in her had made her choice. Not that her prominent open relationships didn’t at times overshadow her substantial academic reputation. (Would it have happened were she a man?)
During the low point of the 4th house, she couldn’t relate to her world: “Though I still enthusiastically ran after the good things of this world, I was beginning to think that they kept me from my real vocation: I was well on the road to self-betrayal…’” In the years to come, her real vocation would turn out to be her battle with conventional values, constantly questioning the ruling traditions, and, of course, the ruling class.
While her Age Point was traversing the 5th house, De Beauvoir taught at various lyceums, often in other towns, rather than in Paris. But life was not all work and no play. Her consciousness was now experiencing the creative self-expression of the 5th house. She often went to Paris to be with Sartre.
Paris was a paradise for Bohemians who were intellectual, creative and artistic (before ‘Bohemian’ came to mean down and out). In The Prime of Life, she mentions the many art exhibitions (and her friendship with Picasso and other Surrealists), cinemas and theatre productions she and her friends attended, and the many intellectual and creative people they met at the coffee bars they frequented, particularly The Dôme or Flore, the coffee bars for Bohemians.
During WW2, when her consciousness had left the collective and entered the individual sphere of the chart, she started questioning her tendency to avoid the collective and its political and social issues. She writes: “So I embarked upon what I might call the ‘moral period’ of my literary career, which lasted for several years. I no longer took my natural spontaneity for granted; I was drawn to question myself concerning my principles and aims…’ Henceforth she would be more involved in social matters, particularly those of a feminine nature.
But as her Age Point traversing the 6th house coincided with World War 2, she taught but was often unable to work on her first novel. Sartre was posted elsewhere, so she sometimes went to coffee bars to meet the few remaining friends, or for a walks in the countryside, which had a beneficial effect on her mind: “I don’t forget for a moment the grim actuality of war….Yet nothing can efface the luminous softness of this landscape; it’s as though one had been overcome by a feeling sufficient to itself, that had no past history, as if one had been torn out of context, suddenly without a sense of involvement.”
In 1945, with her Age Point now in the 7th house and the war now over, she and Sartre founded and began editing Le Temps modernes, a monthly review which involved several other intellectuals. In addition to Sartre, her closest relationships were always with these intellectuals. Both of them also befriended Albert Camus, the other important philosopher, who, like they, “had moved from individualism to a committed attitude.”
Of her other works of fiction, the best known is The Mandarins published in 1954, a year after Uranus, Mercury and her Sun had been opposed by her consciousness. It is a chronicle of the attempts of post-World War II intellectuals to leave their “mandarin” -educated elite – status and engage in political activism. Everything she had done until then, her innovations, learning and thinking had to now serve different goals.
It is noteworthy that in the same year, her consciousness was brimming with Neptune conjunct the North Node, as if this new approach would enable her to pay her dues to society, as suggested by her Age Point in the 8th house. She won the Prix Goncourt for this book, which favoured her Saturn in creative Pisces – and got her mother’s approval! – as implied by the Saturn/AP trine.
The Feminist Bible
Nowhere does De Beauvoir’s philosophical Venus come to the fore as in The Second Sex, first published in 1949 when her consciousness was filled with Pluto’s transformative energy. Over the centuries, women have been seen as “female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities” (Aristotle), “imperfect man” and the “incidental” being (St Thomas).
Instead, De Beauvoir asserted that women are as capable as men of taking responsibility for themselves and can choose their freedom. Although she was initially reluctant to call herself a ‘feminist’, she publicly declared herself one in 1972 when her Age Point was in the 11th house. She and the Feminists certainly were like-minded. Her active engagement with France’s women’s liberation movement led to the legalisation of abortion in France in 1974.
In addition to the feminist issues in her work, de Beauvoir was concerned with the issue of aging, which she addressed in A Very Easy Death, written after her mother’s death in a hospital, and Old Age, a bitter but true reflection on society’s indifference to the elderly. This was published in 1970 when she was 62.
After Sartre’s death in 1981, she wrote Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, a painful account of Sartre’s last years and of the loss of her closest person. Her Age Point was then on the cusp of the 1st house and opposing close relationships. She asserted herself as a woman on her own, of formidable courage and integrity, who lived her belief: that the basic options of an individual must be made on the premises of an equal vocation for man and woman founded on a common structure of their being, independent of their gender.
De Beauvoir died of pneumonia in 1986 in Paris, aged 78. She is buried next to Sartre at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.
I have read several of her books, but none has touched me on a deeper level. I agree with Henry Miller who read her first novel for a publisher and wrote: “my main criticism is that the novel is lacking in any originality at a deeper level.”
But then, her strongest ego planets are Saturn and the Sun, and her temperament is one of too much earth and fire, with very little air and water. The writing of Anais Nin, for example, also on this blog and also in Paris between the wars, involved and intrigued me more emotionally.
De Beauvoir, like philosophy in general, is too left-brain for me, whereas psychology in general is not, and Astrological Psychology, most certainly not.
It is more my kind of philosophy.