In 1869, a Doctor who had been dabbling in physics, alchemy and electricity–
had a mystical experience in which he is supposed to have received divine illumination.
He discovered what he believed to be a secret truth about the world —
…… and he set about spreading the good word.
Have you ever heard of something called “Cellular Cosmogony” ?
How about a “Geodetic Survey”, or the “Koreshan Unity Movement” ?
Well, sit back and let me spin you a tale.
You might know of the religious enthusiasms of the 1830’s and 40’s…
Revivalism and new religious movements were so popular is the northeastern part of the United States, that upper New York State became known as the “Burned Over District”.
From this atmosphere of religious fervor and innovation, came many new voices and some strange ideas….
…….. and one very peculiar fellow in particular– Doctor Cyrus Teed.
Teed, a medical Doctor, and veteran of the War Between the States, was a man keenly interested in the scientific studies of electromagnetism and electricity, and was an avid experimenter.
One experiment went badly wrong, and Doctor Teed received a massive electrical shock which knocked him unconscious.
It was then, at that moment, that Teed had his “divine illumination”,
It came in the form of a “beautiful feminine deity” who proceeded to impart to him the secrets of the universe —
She further informed him that he, Teed, would:
“.. interpret the symbols of the Bible for the scientific age “.
To that end, Teed was to take on the biblical name “Koresh”:
(from Isaiah, 44:28- “he is my shepherd, and shall fulfill all my purpose” ) — and that his mission was to “redeem humanity”.
Some of the secrets that the vision disclosed had to do with the actual physical state of the Earth.
In this view, the Earth was a hollow sphere around a center core in constant motion containing the planets and the Sun.
We were said to be living on the inside skin of a concave outer layer, on which we are held by centrifugal force.
from Teed’s book:
“The sun is an invisible electromagnetic battery revolving in the universal center on a 24-year cycle.
Our visible sun is only a reflection, as is the moon, with the stars reflecting off seven mercurial discs that float in the sphere’s center. Inside the earth there are three separate atmospheres:
the first composed of oxygen and nitrogen and closest to the earth; the second, a hydrogen atmosphere above it; the third, an aboron (sic) atmosphere at the center.
The earth’s shell is one hundred miles thick and has seventeen layers.
The outer seven are metallic with a gold rind on the outermost layer, the middle five are mineral and the five inward are geologic strata. Inside the shell there is life, outside a void.”
Actually, Teed’s ideas weren’t all that new, but rather, are a variation on the old hollow Earth theory, of which Edmond Halley and John Leslie were subscribers.
What took Teed’s concave hollow earth hypothesis to a new level was his book, “Cellular Cosmogony“, and his attempt to build a utopian communal society around it.
He initially joined the Shaker Community of Lebanon, New York in 1878 to observe the workings of an intentional society, and then set up his own in Moravia, NY, two years later.
This community was faced with many difficulties and moved around a good deal, but quietly gained membership, and by 1892, Teed had over 100 followers at a communal home called “Beth Ophra” in Chicago.
Teed’s dream was to move his community of followers — the so-called “Koreshan Unity”– to a place that he had determined to be the “vitellus of the great cosmogonic egg”, or belly button of the Earth, where the second coming of Christ would occur.
This place was just south of Fort Myers, Florida, at Estero.
Teed initially had chosen a site near St. James City for his “New Jerusalem”, but had found the property out of his price range.
He headed back to Chicago, but not before leaving some of his ‘Cellular Cosmogony’ tracts behind.
A homesteader named Gustav Damkohler came across one of those tracts, and invited the group to settle on his holdings, about 300 acres.
By 1894, his following had grown to about 200 members and the group began relocating to Estero.
There, the Koreshans built a print shop, along with boat and cement works, a sawmill, bakery, store and even a hotel, along with homes, a three story communal dining hall, and a home for Teed- “the Master’s House”.
One of Doctor’s Teed’s first priorities was to use the community as a base for his efforts to prove the scientific validity of his convex-hollow-earth theory of Cellular Cosmogony.
He said: “To know of the Earth’s concavity and its relation to Universal form, is to know God; but to believe in the Earth’s convexity, is to deny God.”
He was going to prove it all, using something he called a “Rectilineator“.
Developed by a believer, Professor Ulysses Morrow, this massive device would measure the curvature of the Earth…
Using ten huge, double T-squares made of mahogany, set horizontally on ten carefully balanced mounts, Morrow and twelve Koreshans worked for a month to set it up, and another 5 months to perform the measurements — collectively called the Koreshan Geodetic Survey.
In 1897, Teed declared the experiment a success, since the end of the instrument touched the surface of the water’s edge, agreeable to his premise that ” a straight line extended at right angles from a perpendicular post will meet the surface of the earth at a distance proportionate to the height of the perpendicular “.
Needless to say, whatever really was proved by the experiment, science was still a bit reticent to accept Teed’s claims.
The experiment itself caught the imagination of the press , but just seemed to irritate the people in the surrounding areas…
The locals had always been a bit wary of the growing community at Estero….
New Jerusalem was booming — their cottage industries were doing well, and the Koreshans even opened the area’s first gas station.
The Koreshans had became known to the locals for their bakery products, particularly something called “Risin’ Bread”, and they also generated power, the excess of which, they sold to the homes in the area.
They had also opened a community performing arts center called the “Art Hall”, in which plays and concerts were open to the public.
Still, hostility was brewing toward the new inhabitants calling themselves Koreshans.
Their ever growing numbers, their strange ideas and their prolific building made the locals nervous…..
And when the Koreshans became active in area politics, the situation got nasty.
In 1904, the Sheriff in Fort Myers and others were implicated in a fight in which several Koreshans, including Teed, were seriously injured—
This event is said to have contributed to the death of Teed in 1908….
One of the tenets of the new religion taught that Doctor Teed- Koresh – was immortal, and that he would be resurrected.
And Teed had died a few days before Christmas, predicting his return on Christmas Day.
So, after his death, he was not immediately buried.
It wasn’t until well after Christmas, when the county coroner finally had to order the Koreshans to bury the body– was Teed interred.
His body was placed into an iron bathtub, interred in a brick vault, and guards placed around it, alert for any sign that Koresh had somehow reanimated his body and wanted out.
Thirteen years passed, and then a hurricane hit Southwest Florida– and washed Teed’s vault, and Teed, out to sea for good.
The non-event of his non-resurrection sounded a death knell for the community at Estero, and it’s population dropped off drastically, until, in the 1960’s, only a half dozen of followers remained.
Of course, some folks chose to believe that Teed had actually been resurrected, since his body was now nowhere to be found.
And, there are still a few people today who subscribe to the Koreshan system of belief.
As for the community itself:
It’s extensive library of records are still extant, and were held by the Koreshan College of Life Foundation in trust until 2009, when they were turned over to the State.
The Estero site itself is now owned by the State of Florida, and is called the Koreshan Unity Historic Settlement District.
It is open to visitors all year round , and is on US-41 at Corkscrew Road in Estero.
It’s an interesting place to visit, and I highly recommend it .