Consecutive Days Riding: 54 Consecutive Days Blogging: 55
Today’s Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 477
As I ride the bike today and we approach our next pilgrimage site I am reminded how much I enjoy this journey. Not only because my body has adjusted to the rigors of the daily ride, but because of the excitement of discovering new places, people and events. Today’s site has a fascinating story to tell.
Cyrus Teed was born in 1839; he worked on the Erie Canal and fought as a private in the civil war. He returned to New York and becomes a “practical doctor.” He then had an “Illumination” where he was visited by an angel who told him to “redeem the human race” and complete Christ’s mission. He formulated a theory of the universe as a hollow sphere, with the earth on the inside of the spheres skin. The horizon curved upward not downward according to his teaching. He combined his “science” with religious thoughts, and called himself “Koresh”, Hebrew for shepherd. He claimed he would be resurrected after his death, and collected a group of followers. Tormented by neighbors he and 200 Koreshans settled in the forest and marshes south of Fort Myers Florida. He established New Jerusalem, a planned city of 10 million, based on his ideas of science, religion and education.
Where is his city now? It died with him in 1908, it died when his followers began to dissipate after no resurrection ensued and authorities forced them to bury his rotting remains. It is now a state park, a collection of preserved buildings bearing the name “Koreshan Unity Settlement,” including a trailer park, campgrounds and nature trail. Visitors enjoy the weather and scenery, while few probably know of the misplaced and shattered dreams of the Koreshans who once inhabited this place.
I find this story intriguing for it holds the components of many movements we see today. We may call them cults, if they last long enough they might earn the title of sect. Some tie themselves to an established faith as a returned messiah or the embodiment of a prophet of old. Others are based on the charisma of the leader, paranoia of member’s toward “secret forces”, or the revelation of an angel, alien or God himself. They attract a circle of “believers” and often hide in the wilderness or behind a non-descript storefront. Some simply fall apart or fade away with the death of the leader. Some go out in a blaze of fire, while others choose suicide to slip their mortal bonds in protest against “outsiders.”
As I’ve said before, we all seek meaning in our life, a sense of direction, something to believe in. Without it we are at a loss, we feel adrift, without an anchor. Some people jump at the first offer of guidance, turn off their critical reasoning, and take a group’s teachings entirely on faith. Only later they may discover they have been lead down a false or dangerous path, because of a leader’s needs or desires. Some discover in time, for others it is too late to turn back.
The leader or guide may be genuine in their beliefs, certain in their message, but is their path right for everyone? Being involved with a particular path, church or movement may give our life a sense of purpose. It is a choice many people make! The question of whether the path is worthwhile and safe is a different issue!
Please click on the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page to visit the park, see photos of the settlement and find out more about the movement.