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The infinity symbol, also called the eternity symbol or the forever symbol, is a well-known icon. But where did it come from, and why was this particular symbol chosen to represent infinity? Here’s a closer look at the history and meaning of the infinity symbol and how it’s changed over the years.
Origins of the Infinity Symbol
The sideways eight that we now associate with infinity comes from the world of mathematics. In 1655, mathematician John Wallis was looking for a symbol to represent the concept of infinity. He may have been inspired by the Roman numeral for 1.000, which is CIƆ. While not exactly alike, it has some similarity to the infinity symbol. The symbolism of this Roman numeral would also have been perfect, as it represents the idea of ‘many’. Wallis may have also based the infinity symbol on the lower case version of the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega. It looks something like this: ‘ω‘.
But although we attribute the invention of this symbol to Wallis, the concept of infinity had existed long before him. This was what gave infinity its eventual graphic form. In the Jain mathematical text Surya Prajnapti, dating back to either the 3rd or 4th century B.C.E., numbers were classified as either countable, uncountable, or infinite. Anaximander, a Greek philosopher, utilized the term ‘apeiron’ to denote infinity. Additionally, Zeno of Elea, who was born around 490 B.C.E., gained recognition for his paradoxes related to the concept of infinity.
Symbolism of Infinity
While the infinity symbol has changed in meaning and has found interpretations outside of mathematics, the idea of infinity is still the basic concept behind the image. But it has other meanings as well.
1. A Representation of the Ouroboros
The circular shape of the two components that make up the infinity symbol is seen by some mystics to resemble the ouroboros, the snake that is represented as eating its own tail and therefore creating a circle. It’s sometimes drawn similar to the sideways eight of the infinity symbol as a reflection of the mystics’ belief in the eternal and infinite.
2. Harmony and Balance
The two circles coming together and uniting have also been seen as representing two opposing people or forces coming together in harmony and balance. It can also be interpreted as an interconnectedness between all things.
On a spiritual and metaphysical level, the infinity symbol can carry the meaning of regeneration and eternal life after death. It can refer to the boundless and unlimited capacity of God and the Divine and to the eternal love we experience from the deity.
4. Kundalini Energy
Within Hinduism, the infinity symbol can portray the Kundalini energy, which is typically illustrated as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. Also, it is sometimes seen to represent the duality and unifying nature of males and females.
5. Christian God
For Christians, the infinity symbol can indicate God, who is eternal by nature. It can also be a reflection of the everlasting promises God has made toward his people.
6. Eternity of the Universe
Practitioners of yoga see the eternity symbol to indicate the unceasing existence of the universe. There is no beginning or end, just an endless cycle of destruction and creation. Everything within the cosmos is in continual motion. There is a oneness we have with the universe, and though we are individuals, we also have an unbroken connection with one another.
7. Nature of Energy
You may spot the infinity symbol on some tarot cards where it used to indicate the limitless nature of energy and the never-ending interchange between matter and energy. It can also be interpreted as the infinite essence of our thoughts or spirits.
What’s the Connection with the Number 8?
Because of its likeness to the number 8, the symbolism of 8 is often attributed to the infinity symbol as well. 8 represents harmony and balance, renewal, prosperity, and the cycle of life.
In Hinduism, 8 represents the initiate, that individual who has passed through the seven stages of spiritual awakening and the seven heavens of Hindu theology. Therefore, the symbol can represent resurrection and renewal as well as regaining lost Paradise.
For the Chinese, 8 is an auspicious number, and so the infinity symbol takes on an interpretation of good luck and fortune. In fact, 8 is considered the luckiest number because it sounds like “ba,” which means “wealth” or “prosper.”
For Buddhists, 8 represents karma, as the Noble Eightfold Path constitutes the principles that guide ethical and mindful living, signifying spiritual awakening and freedom from suffering.
Double Infinity Symbol
Sometimes, you’ll see a double infinity symbol consisting of two interwoven infinity symbols. This portrays the idea of two separate commitments coming together as a single whole. It signifies a unity of different ideas.
On a more romantic level, it can indicate the vows two people have made to each other as they unite in a relationship. Additionally, the double infinity symbol can reflect perfect balance and harmony and the aesthetic value behind the perfection.
Infinity Symbol in Jewelry and Fashion
The infinity symbol is one of the most popular symbols used in jewelry and fashion. It’s a popular tattoo design as well. It’s symmetrical and can be the central focus of the jewelry piece or a decorative accent. This makes it a versatile addition to jewelry designs. Its multi-layered symbolism also adds to its value.
A gift with the infinity symbol is also perfect for a variety of occasions, whether for family or friends. Here are some perfect instances when gifting this symbol makes perfect sense.
- A single infinity symbol can be taken as a statement of the eternal love a couple has for one another. When incorporated into a heart, the combined symbolism strengthens the romantic association.
- When given to a friend, the infinity symbol represents eternal friendship, indicating that you value their friendship and will hold onto it.
- To a graduate or someone coming of age, giving an infinity gift represents the endless opportunities and path ahead of them.
- For Christians, an infinity with a cross symbolizes God’s eternal love for them and eternal life offered from such love. It can also reflect a Christian’s devotion and obedience to God. A triple infinity symbol can also represent your family or the trinity within Christianity.
The infinity symbol remains one of the most popular symbols, not just in mathematics but in everyday life. Although originally created as a mathematical representation of an infinite number, its meaning has evolved. Over the past 400 years, it has been used outside of mathematics and has given it a number of interpretations, both spiritual and romantic.