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Fata Morgana: A Curious Photograph

One of the most amazing things to me in all of esoterica is simulacra; the notion of representation through form. It could be effectively argued that simulacra may be among the sturdiest of unifying threads within all of academic philosophy, clear back to Plato (the cave of shadows, the forms) and into the contemporary with Baudrillard (the end of history, the hyperreal;) it's no surprise to find the idea of simulacra maneuvering itself through the respective metaphysical, new age, and occult looking-glasses as well.

Masaru Emoto's water crystals, the New Thought movement and its modern spin-off, The Secret, Stan Tenen's Hebrew alphabet, and Drunvalo Melchizedek's Flower of Life are only a few examples that all employ and lean on, in various degrees, the notion of simulacra.

Simulacra isn't always or necessarily within the bounds of philosophy or esoterica. For example, mimicry, an adaptive device used by plants and animals for advantages—for example: insects with markings that make it look like they have large eyes, and therefore, a larger head, creatures that have the same markings as fearsome predators, or a camouflage-style body that makes them all but invisible to predators.

Of course, this is adaptation—not really so mysterious. However, certainly the possible meanings and implications are: Big Mind, holographic-universe notions, the collective unconscious, the oversoul.

I find mimicry especially curious; because of the personalization involved with facial features, or particulars of the body, perhaps. There seems to be some kind of impossible cross-communication that takes place, which seems like Proof …of something.

For me, when I contemplate this, there comes this moment, kind of a pinpoint, when there's nothing but that "forever" sense of the mystical—the same feeling that can come upon contemplation of eternity, the expanse of the universe, etc.. It's an insight, but fleeting. I will try to explain just where this happens.

It's too simple to say, "How did the butterfly 'know' to make those spots look like eyes?" Obviously, this is rather a meaningless question. How did you "know" to make that birthmark on your leg? You didn't know how, and neither did that butterfly—it's "nature." It's not about intellectual, individualized knowing; it's far more involved.

But the butterfly's markings are useful—they are purposeful; they are full of meaning. In order for the butterfly to mimic eyes, there has to be some force that possesses a concept of eyes, even at the most crude level. "Nature" again? Perhaps, but it's starting to seem a bit dismissive and uninformative about now. Especially when we start seeing such exquisite mimicry—it seems clear that it's not just a crude level of understanding.

This force that possesses the concept of eyes somehow "knows" exactly how the eyes of its target model look. (It's right here that I start getting weirded out. But I go back and forth in it. The moment of insight is like that Old Hag/Beautiful woman optical illusion—you can only see one at a time, and you can learn to switch it back and forth at will.) It's the mystery of awareness between model and mimic—an acknowledgement. It seems an impossible bridge, which could only be crossed by something that is "minded."

I recently came across a most amazing photograph in Wikimedia Commons that involves what I find to be a most amazing example of simulacra. In China a few years ago, there was a mirage that got some press, and unfortunately very few photos documenting it. It seemed so intriguing, and since, I have been looking for other examples of this very strange phenomena.

It's been said that entire intricate cityscapes have been seen, with details including recognizable architectural styles, and people moving about. There also seems to be little information on the imagery as well; some documents claim that the forms are actual reflected images from distant cities, but I have yet to find anything that seems truly definitive. Because mirages are all tied up in legend, it's hard to know if the reports of fantastically detailed imagery are exaggerated, or if they can be believed.

After inspecting this photograph of a fata morgana off the Farallon Islands off San Francisco—well, I want to believe.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Here is the caption, written by the photographer:

Sequence of Fata Morgana of Farallon Islands show how Fata Morgana is changing constantly. The last two frames were photographed [a] few hours after the first frames. Around sunset time the air is getting cooler, while the ocean might be a little bit warmer after a hot day. The lower the difference in the temperatures the lower inversion and the mirage shown in the last two frames is not as complex as the mirage photographed around noon.

What is unstated are the loaded forms within the mirage. Boats! As you view, keep in mind that the photographs are of the water and mirage—that's it. The last two frames, as the mirage is dissipating, put it in perspective.

The boat forms are so convincing, that it's easy to view the bottom third of the frames as land, the middle third as boats on water, (complete with a reflection) and the top third as mountain-and-sky in the distance. But, it's nothing but water and mirage.

If there was just one photo, it would be pretty novel, and it could be concluded that a distant boat was being reflected. However, looking at the various shots is quite amazing—the forms seem to indicate on ongoing presentation of different types of boats: a yacht, canoe, and a military type or cruise ship. In the 9th frame, there even appears to be what looks like a pier, with a couple of people on it.

Is it random, or pure paredolia? Are the boat shapes being reflected from distant boats? Maybe. However, the idea that if the ocean were going to throw out some imagery, it's unsurprising it would be boats, which could be viewed as an ancient ambassador--or necessary boundary--between human and ocean.

Further reading:

Rare Mirage ... China Daily

Photo credits:

Mila Zinkova

Owl Butterfly

Contact Richelle Hawks

Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love