Signs and symbols have been used to deliver messages through the ages. From the Paleolithic cave paintings where symbols first appeared, they have followed the development of civilization, and still speak powerfully to man's intellect, emotions and spirit. The written word is no more than a symbol system representing the spoken word, images and gestures - the reality around us. But symbolism also relates to the inner psychological and spiritual world. In this sense, a symbol may represent a deep intuitive wisdom that cannot be expressed with words.
Some symbols are universal as they occur in similar forms carrying similar power across cultures and time, representing the natural expression of inner psychological forces - what Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, termed the 'collective unconscious'. By observing his patients, Jung noted the recurrence of certain deeply symbolic images, leading Jung to conclude that symbolism plays an important part in the psychic processes influencing every aspect of human life. What he called the collective unconscious consists of instinctive thought and behavior patterns shaped by millennia of human experience into emotions and values. These primordial images can't be accessed except in symbolic form. Jung called these primordial symbols 'archetypes' - the common inheritance of humankind.
Next week I'll delve deeper into the archetypes, explore the cultural impact and the power of symbols.
This weeks sign, the lemniscate, the side-ways figure 8, denotes 'infinity' or simply 'ribbon' in Latin. Like the ouroburous - the symbol of a snake devouring its own tail - and the phoenix - the cycle of rising from the ashes to burn up and start the whole process again - the lemnescate has no beginning and no ending.
The lemniscate appears on the tarot cards of the I Magician and XI Strength.
The infinity symbol was introduced to mathematics by John Wallis, an English cryptographer and mathematician around 1655.