Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Eight)

In Part Three of this series, we alluded to the fundamental principles of Koreshan belief that arose from founder Cyrus Teed’s “illumination.” Among the most interesting beliefs of Koreshanity was cellular cosmogony, or the hollow earth.

In The Cellular Cosmogony (first published in 1898), Teed explained that the earth was not a convex sphere but instead a hollow, concave cell containing the entire universe with the sun at its center. The earth was motionless while the heavens rotated within the concave sphere. Life existed on the inside surface of the cell, and people were held on that inner surface by centrifugal force. Teed dismissed gravity, heliocentricism, and other scientific theories as “gigantic fallacy and farce” and the convex appearance of the earth’s surface as an “optical illusion.”

Wall hanging at the College of Life building illustrating the hollow earth; photographed in 2008

Wall hanging at the College of Life building illustrating the hollow earth; photographed in 2008

In truth, according to Teed, “The earth is a concave sphere, the ratio of curvation being eight inches to the mile, thus giving a diameter of eight thousand, and a corresponding circumference of about twenty-five thousand miles. This fact is physically and mechanically demonstrated by placing a perpendicular post at any point on the surface of the earth, (though it were better to place it by the side of a surface of water,) and extending a straight line at right angles from this perpendicular. The line thus extended will strike the surface at any distance proportionate to the height of the vertical post.”

Title page and facing page from the second printing of The Cellular Cosmogony, 1899

Title page and facing page from the second printing of The Cellular Cosmogony, 1899

 

Teed’s inscription of the book to “H.N. Rahn, Pastor of the Church Triumphant in Baltimore”

Teed’s inscription of the book to “H.N. Rahn, Pastor of the Church Triumphant in Baltimore”

The Koreshans had in fact conducted this very experiment in 1897 to demonstrate the truth of their beliefs. The Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff devised an apparatus they called a rectilineator and conducted tests on the Gulf Coast at Naples, the results of which Teed published in The Cellular Cosmogony as proof that the earth was indeed concave.

Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff and onlookers with rectilineator (postcard image). The short gentleman in the center in black with the creased hat, next to the woman in white, is Ulysses Grant Morrow (1864-1950), who headed the geodetic survey and apparently wrote much of The Cellular Cosmogony.

Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff and onlookers with rectilineator (postcard image). The short gentleman in the center in black with the creased hat, next to the woman in white, is Ulysses Grant Morrow (1864-1950), who headed the geodetic survey and apparently wrote much of The Cellular Cosmogony.

Bolstered by what he considered scientific proof of his theories, Teed now laid them out in detail in The Cellular Cosmogony. According to Teed, the sun and stars formed a “stellar nucleus” in the atmosphere above the concave surface of the earth at the very center of this hollow cell. Instead of the earth rotating on an axis and revolving around the sun, it was the heavens that moved, their movement generated by the “electro-magnetic substance created at and radiating from the stellar nucleus.” The heavens were, as Teed described them, “a great electro-magnetic battery.”

The only extant section of the original rectilineator, now preserved at the Koreshan State Historic Site.

The only extant section of the original rectilineator, now preserved at the Koreshan State Historic Site.

This universology also dictated Teed’s vision of what the final form of social government would be. “The government of the physical universe is imperial,” Teed wrote, “in that the head of government resides in one center; but democratic, in that all of the stars bear that reciprocal relation which makes the center dependent upon the reciprocal activity of the subsidiary but contributory centers. While there is a subordinate relation of the multiplicity of stars to the central one, so there is a subordination of the central star to all of the stars, whence the central one derives its powers of government. The regulation of society, therefore, is not left to another experiment, because former experiments have failed to accomplish for the people that for which government is established, but must be regulated by the scientific knowledge and application of principles which may be determined before the correct form of government is instituted.”

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