Note: The following article is copied as it appeared in a Bismark, North Dakota newspaper in 1907.
Zion, Ill. Oct. 20 – Zion schools of which Wilbur Glenn Voilva, the over-seer of the colony is president have adopted his new theories of a flat world and the absence of gravitation, and the 1,000 and the high school pupils that believe them implicitly, according to their teachers.
The public school maintained by the state board of education and attended by the children of non-members of Voliva’s Christian-Catholic Apostolic church still teaches, however, that the world is not a globe moving through limitless space and that it was the attraction of gravity which caused the apple to fall on Isaac Newton’s head.
At the Zion schools the new course of study teachers that:
The earth is a flat circular world, with a north pole in the exact center, no south pole and surrounded by a wall of ice which keeps venturesome mariners from falling off the rim.
That the earth has no motion but remains stationary in space.
That the sun is not thousands of miles in diameter and 91,000,000 miles away, but is really a little orb 32 miles across and only 3,000 miles from the earth.
That the law of gravitation is a fallacy and when object are thrown into the air they continue to rise until the force which propelled them is expended, and then fall back to earth because they are heavier than air.
A standard map of the world, on Christopher’s projection, is used in the schools to demonstrate the flat world theory. This map, which is used by navigators and scientists in making time and longitude calculations, differs from the usual Mercator’s projection familiar in other schools, in that it shows the earth as it would look to an observer directly above the north pole, with the continents and seas projected on a flat plane. As a result of the north pole is in the center, and instead of a south where the Antarctic regions are indicated by a white ring about the outer circumference of the circle. This ring, according to Voliva, is the ice barrier which keeps mariners from falling off the edge of his flat world.
The Christopher projection was made 30 years ago, prior to the discover of the south pole and before much was known about the Antarctic regions, so only a bare outline of portions of the southern ice land is shown.
Believer in Theories
Miss Mary Thompson, principle of the Zion school system, and an ardent believer in the Voliva theories, has propounded a question which she believes will trip scientists and navigators. Showing on her flat map that the tropic of Cancer, 43 degrees from the north pole, is a much smaller circle than the tropic of Capricorn, 47 degrees farther away, Miss Thompson says:
“Navigators on a globular earth would find if they were to sail completely around either of these tropics that they would be identically the same length. On a flat earth, however, the tropic of Capricorn would be much larger than the tropic of Cancer, and would take much longer to sail around, because on a flat earth Cancer would be nearer the center, or north pole. Why don’t some of the globular earth believers try sailing around the two tropics and find out whether they or we are correct? The globular people certainly can’t prove curvature of the earth.”
Miss Eva Baker, teacher of geography demonstrates to her classes that the sun is only a tiny orb a few thousand miles away, instead of an orb thousands of miles in diameter and 91,000,000 miles from the earth. If the sun was so large, she says, it would light up all the world, instead of confining its hottest rays to a 3,000 mile wide belt between the two tropics. Voliva himself, in a recent sermon at Shiloh Tabernacle, said God certainly would not have made a sun to light the world and then placed it so far away.
“A man would be a fool,” the overseer added, “to build a house in Zion and place his parlor light in Kenosha Wisconsin.”
“World is Flat”
Miss Thompson, principal of the schools, says the children prefer their new flat world to the old fashioned round one in which Columbus believed.
“The student in Zion schools,” she says, “grasp the theory of the flat earth readily because their minds are not full of globular earth teaching such as older folks have had drilled into them. Therefore, they accept the flat earth teaching without question, not because they have to, but because it appeals to them as rational. I don’t believe there is one student in the grades who has questioned it. The flat earth seems more reasonable to them. The globular, unreal.”
Wilbur Glenn Voliva, who succeeded John Alexander Dowie as overseer of Zion on the latter’s death in March, 1907, was born near Newton Indiana, March 10 1870. In 1897 he received his B.A. From Hiram College, Ohio, and in the same year a degree from Union Christian College at Merom, Indiana. In 1889 he has been ordained at minister in the Christian church at the age of 19, and held a pastorate at Linden, Ind., from 1889 to 1892; Urbana, Ill., 1892-93; studied theology at Stanfordvile, N.Y., 1893-94 and supplied the pulpit of Chestnut Street Christian Church at Albany, N.Y.; filled a pulpit at York Harbor, me., the following year; and was pastor of the Christian Church at Washington, C.H., Ohio., in 1897-99.
In 1899, Voliva joined Dowie’s church and was ordained an elder and placed in charge of the Zion tabernacle in Chicago. In 1900 and 1901 he represented Dowie at Cincinnati; and then was sent to Australia as overseer of the Dowie settlement of Zion there. He returned to Zion, Ill., in 1906 as assistant to Dowie.