The Infinity Symbol: More complex than you may think


Often the simplest symbols are the ones with the richest meanings. The infinity sign, the figure of eight, and the mathematical lemniscate all refer to the same shape that contains a wealth of complex meaning within its fluid lines. This mysterious symbol is found on an everyday object, the camera, where it appears as the infinity lens focus.

As a mathematical device, the infinity sign was first "discovered" in 1655 by John Wallis, but its significance as a religious symbol is much older. The infinity sign has its origins in the Arabic numerals that actually came from India in the first place. The sign can be drawn in one continuous movement, making a seesaw movement of clockwise and counterclockwise loops. These loops reflect the balance of opposites; male and female,day and night,dark and light.

Because the circles of the lemniscate sit side by side, the sign implies equality between these opposing forces, with the connecting point in the center the convergent point. The sign epitomizes the idea of sex-
ual union and of "two becoming one." The infinity sign stands for wholeness and completion.

The lemniscate appears in the elaborate curlicues in Arabic calligraphic renderings of the Name of God; the elegant loops providing a decorative device as well as pointing toward the idea of eternity.

The symbol appears in the Tarot, as part of the Magician card. In the Pamela Colman/Rider Waite version, the magician has the lemniscate floating boldly above his head; in other decks, the brim of his hat conceals the shape.   

Adele N.

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