Across the Hollow Earth

This started as an experiment just to see how many digital sources I could find for this obscure figure in American history. Answer: quite a lot, really.

A year after the end of WWII, noted astronomer Gerard Kuiper (for whom the Kuiper Belt is named) published an article in Popular Astronomy describing the German astronomical work undertaken during the period in which communications had broken down. He bemoaned the “intellectual deterioration” that had allowed many German scientists to embrace pseudo-scientific theories. As an example, he mentions Nazi scientists who aimed infrared equipment upward, hoping to catch images of a British fleet on the other side of the globe. For this he blames “hohlwelt-theorie,” or hollow earth theory.

Hollow Earth

Pullquote: Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span…
Isaiah 40:12

But wait a minute, that still doesn’t make sense. The hollow earth theory was first proposed by Edmund Halley, and it conjectured that the earth was a series of concentric spheres. This would not allow anyone to view the other side of the globe.

Later proponents, like John Cleves Symmes, simply refined the theory. Symmes argued that there were holes at the poles that would allow explorers to venture inside, and he hoped to lead such an expedition. (This was an inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.)

In order for the supposed Nazi experiment to work, we’d have to live on the inside of a hollow earth. We’d need to live on a concave inner surface, so that Nazi scientists could look up and see British ships on the other side. The only person I’ve found who advanced that idea was Cyrus R. Teed, a religious and scientific eccentric from the Burned Over District.

Teed Off

Pullquote: “In 1870, the Author of the Koreshan System of Universology, upon the basis of the law of comparative analogy, announced the discovery of the cosmogonic form, which he then declared to be cellular, the surface of the earth being concave, with a curvature of about eight inched to the mile.”
Cellular Cosmology, p 5

In addition to having one of the better names in American religious history (sounds like a B-Western villain, doesn’t he?), Teed was a true son of the Burned Over District. Born in 1839, he grew up in Upstate New York, worked the Eerie Canal, served in the infantry during the Civil War and eventually trained to be a physician.

By 1869 he was also a dabbler in alchemy. According to one version of the story, one of Teed’s experiments gave him a nasty electric shock and left him unconscious, during which time he had a vision. (Another version has him receiving a vision after making a philosopher’s stone.)

Teed claimed that God had appeared as a female figure, and henceforth he considered God both Father and Mother. Then the proper understanding of the universe was given to him; Teed called this revelation “cellular cosmology,” since the universe was like a “alchemo-organic cell.” It’s a classic example of an ancient theory that the macrocosm will reflect the microcosm. Heaven and earth are like a living cell; as above, so below.

Koreshian Unity

Pullquote: “We live inside”
Koreshian greeting

After his vision, Teed took the name “Koresh,” (I’ll stick with “Teed”) but continued to live and work in Upstate New York. He worked as a physician, published a newspaper and even tried his hand at the family mop business. At the same time, he associated with some of the religious communal societies, like the Shakers and the Harmony Society in Pennsylvania.

When his medical practice declined and the mop business was wrung out (sorry) Teed was able to found a communal society of his own. It started in Chicago, then moved to Florida, where it was incorporated as the “Koreshan Unity” in 1903. No long thereafter, the society rose to 250 members.

Apparently, politics were his undoing. In 1906, he tried to play peacemaker during an argument over local politics, and ended up taking injuries when the argument turned violent. His injuries slowly worsened over time, and he died two years later. After his death, and failure to resurrect, the membership of his organization declined.

From the Upstate to Germany?

Pullquote: “One of the symptoms of intellectual deterioration in Nazi Germany was the wide-spread use of pseudo-scientific theories.”
Gerard Kuiper

I’m always interested in seeing how far the influence of the Burned Over District goes. Obviously, the Church of LDS has expanded across the globe, extending the reach of Joesph Smith’s Upstate blend of religion and occultism around the world. But did a theory invented by a single religious eccentric make it across the Atlantic to the Nazis?

Arguing for it is the oddness of the theory. Could two separate people come up with the same idea, when that idea runs so contrary to our own experience? Arguing against it is the lack of documentation. While I think that Kuiper is trustworthy, there’s no guarantee that he wasn’t accidentally passing on a legend.

There is one definite connection between the Koreshian Unity and the Nazis, although it runs the other way. The final resurgence of the Unity came in 1940, when a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany named Hedwig Michel reorganized the dying group. But even she couldn’t stave off the inevitable, and she oversaw the transfer of the organization’s property to the state of Florida in 1961.

The Koreshans, the unofficial blog of the Koreshan State Historic Site.

The Koreshan Virtual Archives, which lists the archival holdings of the official Koreshan State Historic Site.

Turning the Universe Inside-Out, from skeptic Donald Simanek. Simanek examines an experiment performed by one of Teed’s supporters, which “proved” the earth was concave.

The Dome Overhead
Martyrs for Science
I Cannot Tell a Lie
Bob Cargill on the Holy Grail
  • WarbVIII

    Seriously, HUH? and WHAT??, this is not related to your research but what these folks were suggesting(not Kuiper,but the rest mentioned). Then again considering the ‘race’ science that was a constant part of the Reich I probably shouldn’t be so flabbergasted by the above info,yet I am.
    I have a feeling that had the German Reich been more concerned,or perhaps Hitler instead of hating the fact that he himself was an Austrian Jew,with actually winning a war than with psuedo science and slaughtering the lesser non Arayan peoples, not only would Germany have won but they would have had much of the ‘free’ world as allies in attempting to destroy communist Russia,which was at the time as bad as Nazi Germany.

    • Boomcoach

      While it is fun to think of the irony of Hitler being a Jew, it really isn’t much more than urban legend at this point in time. Afaik, the scholarship is pretty strongly against Hitler having Jewish ancestry.

      • Mike

        From Wikianswers, so wtfdtk…

        “According to Lab results (published in the British magazine ‘Knack’) Hitler may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to annihilate during the Holocaust.

        Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian tested saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of Adolf Hitler. They found a common link- a chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1…this chromosome is uncommon to Western Europe; It is found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
        These findings do not prove, without a doubt, that Hitler was a Jew or of African Decent, but it is interesting to note that someone so intent on Purifying the Aryan gene pool was himself, ‘impure’ “

  • MrPendent

    I’m sure I don’t have to point out the opening for The Mole People (which, of course, is far better in its Mystery Science Theater 3000 incarnation), during which several theories were discussed, including this one.

  • NoYourGod

    I lived in Ft. Myers, FL, just north of the Koreshan State(?) Park, land that the Koreshan group has sold off to (my guess) fund their continuing operations. I checked into that land, and found that the group had held huge parcels of land at one point, and had been selling it off to pay for their existence.

    I always wondered, though…. If I started a cult, then sold the land to the state or county, would they be kind enough to me to put my cult’s name on a park, thereby immortalizing my greatness/cultness?

  • Dave Wyman

    What an interesting piece!

    Edgar Rice Burroughs – who wrote the Tarzan novels – created a series of books about a hollow Earth, including the first book, published in 1914, “At the Earth’s Core.” There were fun to read when I was a kid. And there is Jules Verne’s tedious (to me) “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”