Introduction


Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

According to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish while, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci), Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new and more perfect civilization. Read more about the blog.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hard criticism of Robert Burton in Russian

[ed. - Documentary about cults in Russian. See timestamp 3:51:00 for a 22-minute segment pertaining to Robert Burton and The Fellowship of Friends. The following description was provided by the person forwarding the YouTube link.]
Hard criticism of RB in Russian language.

Mostly about brainwashing in FOF, predictions and teacher's depravity with big amount of young boys and men with examples from Russian blog. 3 castes in RB harem:
  1. Privileged loved wives [young men]
  2. Ordinary sex slaves with little privileges
  3. Lower caste with no privileges that used for sex only, totally dependent from [on?] FOF.


Friday, February 7, 2020

Trump’s Acquittal Shows The GOP Senate Acts Like A Cult

The Cult of Trump. Source: GQ/Getty Images iStock

[ed. - Longtime observers of Robert Burton and The Fellowship of Friends will recognize the commonalities between Donald Trump, Burton and their devoted followers.

Three "cult experts," two of whom were interviewed for the article below, have studied The Fellowship of Friends. (Links are provided to their work related specifically to the Fellowship.)


In the August 31, 2016 GQ article, "The Cult of Trump", Rebecca Nelson spoke with Rick Alan Ross, whose Cult Education Institute has tracked The Fellowship of Friends for decades:]
“Cult leaders are most often narcissists,” Ross explains. “They see themselves as the center of the known universe, and everyone revolves around them.” Trump, he says, fits the warning signs of narcissistic personality disorder—an exaggerated sense of self-importance, preoccupation with success, power and brilliance, behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner—to a T (for Trump, probably). Lest we forget, Trump says he went to the “best school in the world,” has “the world’s greatest memory,” and will be “the greatest jobs president God has ever created.”

Janja Lalich, a sociology professor at California State University, Chico (not far from the Fellowship's Apollo compound) is very familiar with the Fellowship, having been sued by them in the 1990s. From a Los Angeles Times article, "Trouble Taints a Cerebral Sanctuary":
Janja Lalich, who runs a support group for ex-cult members in Alameda and who has counseled fellowship alumni, said such “mental traumas can be devastating.”

“The real tragedy of groups like the fellowship,” she said, “is they rip off the best and brightest people in society and use them like slaves for years. When these people get out--if they get out--there’s an awful lot of pain to overcome.”


(See also Janja Lalich's "Why do people join cults?")

Steven Hassan, Founder of the Freedom of Mind Center has also evaluated the characteristics that identify The Fellowship of Friends as a cult.]

Trump’s Acquittal Shows The GOP Senate Acts Like A Cult

Republican senators blocked evidence and used lies, conspiracy theories and convoluted arguments to defend their leader.

HuffPost Politics

February 7, 2020

By Angelina Chapin

Donald Trump stood in front of a microphone Thursday, gloating about his impeachment trial acquittal and showering his biggest advocates with praise. After entering the White House East Room to the tune of “Hail to the Chief,” he called Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) an “incredible guy,” told Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) he did a “great job” and led a standing ovation for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Trump had good reason to dole out the back slaps. Since he was charged in December with pressuring Ukraine to help sabotage his political rivals and blocking the House’s attempt to investigate the issue, Republican senators have rallied around him like a fortress wall.

They blocked witnesses from testifying at the Senate trial and used lies, conspiracy theories and acrobatic logic to try to prove his innocence. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican in the Senate to vote for Trump’s removal from office, has been skewered by the president and some members of the GOP over the past few days. On Friday, Trump dismissed two House impeachment witnesses, saying he was “not happy” with them.

And though this behavior might seem like dirty politics as usual, psychologists and professors say the extreme measures Republicans took to defend Trump resemble a more sinister phenomenon: the mentality of cult members.

“They’ve just refused to entertain any ideas that go against their leader,” said  Janja Lalich, a sociology professor at California State University, Chico, who studies cults and extremist groups. “That kind of closed-mindedness is just so typical of cult members.”

Many experts and politicians have made the comparison between Trumpism and cults. Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said there was a “cult-like” atmosphere around the president, as did Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director. Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman who launched a failed bid to challenge Trump’s nomination, said point-blank: “My Republican Party isn’t a party. It’s a cult.”

Though some professors who study groups think this description is overly simplistic, psychology experts say Trump’s narcissistic qualities, us-vs.-them mentality and lead-by-fear approach is straight from the textbook of history’s most notorious cults. Republican senators were scared that if they voted to convict Trump of the impeachment charges, he would attack them with nasty nicknames and launch campaigns to discredit them, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times.

And they have good reason to worry. In his speech Thursday, Trump referred to the Democrats who tried to remove him from office as “dirty cops,” “leakers” and “liars.” He insulted Romney, saying the senator failed “so badly when running for president,” and he tweeted a video that called him a “Democrat secret asset.”

“They’re afraid to get on his bad side,” said Lalich of Republican senators. “That very much parallels what we see in cults where people are terrified of, you know, being caught out in any kind of expression of doubt or mistrust of the leader.

Protecting Their Leader With Lies And Mental Gymnastics


Of course, it’s normal for party members to try and keep their leader in power. The political futures of many Republicans are tied to Trump and they will do whatever it takes to protect their careers, said Timothy Miller, a religious studies professor at the University of Kansas who studies group-think. He points out that during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, no Democrats voted against the president.

But there are some key differences as to how senators handled the two impeachments. Democrats didn’t deny what Clinton had done ― they argued that his affair with Monica Lewinsky didn’t merit being kicked out of the White House and proposed that he should instead be censured. While some Republicans have acknowledged, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that Trump is guilty of offering the Ukrainian government a quid pro quo to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, others have denied that reality.

Before the trial even started, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he had already decided the president was not guilty: “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” he told CNN. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) denied that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, his political rival, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said there was “no evidence of a quid pro quo.”

This type of denial and close-minded attitude mimics how cult members blindly follow their leaders after being indoctrinated. Trump thinks he is above the law said Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and author of “The Cult of Trump.” “If [Trump] says ‘I did nothing wrong,’ everyone should accept that.”

Cult members experience cognitive dissonance when presented with facts that contradict their beliefs, said Lalich. If Republican senators believe that Trump is good for America, they will work hard to ignore information that would shatter their worldview.

“They’ll shut out whatever’s happening in reality,” she said, “to keep themselves safe within this little cocoon that they’ve built around themselves.”

It’s common for members to use outright lies and mental gymnastics to protect their leader, and themselves. The mentality is that the “end justifies the means,” according to Daniel Shaw, a psychotherapist who specializes in cults. For Republicans, that means keeping Trump in power at all costs.

“Scientology operates in the same way,” he said. “Members are immediately dispersed to deny any wrongdoing and to make false claims.” They create alternate realities to discredit any narrative that attacks a leader.

Republican attorney Steve Castor, for example, repeatedly parroted a debunked conspiracy theory that the Ukrainian government had interfered with the 2016 presidential election to stop Trump’s victory, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) insisted that the claim was true. Multiple Republican congressmen said Biden could not be considered a political opponent, which is obviously false. Despite the fact that the Constitution addresses why foreign interference is an impeachable offense, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said, “This is exactly the sort of thing the American people elected President Trump to do.”

Once the trial was done, Trump attacked his opponents and Romney in a way that resembles how cult leaders pit their members against everyone else, said Lalich.

This divisive mentality helps bind group members together and makes everything on the outside seem “horrifying and evil.”

“A healthy organization needs to allow for dissent and for asking questions,” said Hassan. “When any organization treats people like traitors for following their conscience or following an oath, that to me is a telltale sign of a mind control cult."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Asaf Braverman quietly buries decades-long service to Robert Earl Burton

[ed. - It appears "Fourth Way teacher" Asaf Braverman now recognizes a liability in his roughly 20 years of devotion and service to Robert Earl Burton and The Fellowship of Friends. As Ames Gilbert writes below, Braverman's newly-polished résumé omits some "inconvenient truths."

Braverman faces a dilemma, just as Robert Burton faced when he departed Alex Horn's "school" in the late 1960s. The Fourth Way teaches that an essential element of esoteric schools is an unbroken lineage of direct transmission from "conscious teacher" to student. Thus, Braverman is bound by tradition to acknowledge his sole link to that sacred lineage, his "conscious teacher" and mentor Robert Earl Burton.

Prior to his departure from the Fellowship, Asaf Braverman's Gurdjieff website (accessed September 12, 2016) included Robert Earl Burton in his presentation of the Fourth Way lineage. From his "Backstage" post (bolds added):]


Asaf Braverman
"I encountered the Fourth Way in 1995, joining Burton’s Fellowship of Friends, and am still a member of that organization. I moved to the California headquarters in 2000 and began working closely with Burton on his teaching. In 2007, I was forced to set out on a two year journey, which brought me in contact with the origin of the ancient wisdom that I had been previously studying in theory. I traveled to all the major ancient sites of the world, spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America."

Asaf Braverman (pre-2020 autobiography)

[ed. - Bolds added]
Asaf Braverman is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Ark in Time network, a collection of blog sites focused on psychological and philosophical teachings.

Upon encountering the writings of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, during his late-teens, Asaf Braverman’s interest in practical self-knowledge was kindled. The Fourth Way – the name of the teaching that these two teachers had coined – its source extending as far back into antiquity as pre-history, was a perfected system for the evolution of consciousness in man. [ed. - Many would challenge this assertion!] In the late nineteenth century, during his varied travels and sojourns in Central Asia, George Gurdjieff gathered the scattered fragments of ancient wisdom. Peter Ouspensky then documented Gurdjieff’s exposition into a systematic presentation.

During his national service in the Israeli Army, Asaf joined the Tel-Aviv center of Fellowship of Friends, a Fourth Way school. After completing his military service, Asaf moved to the school’s headquarters in Northern California. Under the guidance of his teacher, Robert Burton, Asaf incorporated more ancient sources into the Fourth Way teaching, in effect, expanding the legacies of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and engaging in a continuation of their search, paving the Fourth Way into the 21st century.

When he turned thirty years old, Asaf Braverman embarked on a journey throughout Europe, Asia, South America and the Orient in search of the alleged ancient origins of the Fourth Way. He based himself in Europe and ventured from there to most of the major ancient sites of the world, using the Fourth Way principles as a touchstone to assay the cultures and traditions of Ancient Egypt, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and more. Like pieces of a great mystic puzzle, one of awe-inspiring breadth and depth, Asaf began to comprehend the timeless scale and striking similarities of these cultures, thus confirming Gurdjieff’s claim that the Fourth Way, indeed, encompasses all the known ancient teachings of mankind.

Asaf Braverman was also given to understand why these connections were not obvious: time inevitably distorted each expression of the teaching, giving form (traditions, rituals and rites) precedence over life. In each age, wherever upon the Earth that schools appeared, they had to revive their message of truth into new expressions so that man could pursue conscious development. Asaf likened this phenomenon to an ‘Ark in Time’: the spirit of truth is represented by the dove; its physical expression by the vessel of the ark; and its threatening degeneration by the floods of time.

Asaf Braverman (2020 autobiography)
[ed. - Bolds added]
Early in life, I was overcome by a paralyzing aimlessness. The prospect of graduating from high school and being drafted to the military, then college, career, family, and so on, made me feel like I was entering a production line that wouldn’t stop till I’d die. Yet who was I? Where was I? And why was I here? My elders dismissed these questions as inconsequential, though I could see they didn’t have a clue; they were only further down the production line than I was. I resolved to either find a deeper meaning to life, or die searching for one.

I began reading a wide range of literature. At first, my search bore no fruit. Western psychology seemed impossibly complex, Eastern spirituality suspiciously simplistic. There were a few exceptions that inspired without instructing. They did little in paving a way forward. My difficulty was compounded by my not knowing exactly what I was searching for, although I navigated by an intuition that the truth should be practical and measurable. I eventually found a genre of psychology called The Fourth Way that answered many of my questions in an unique and unflattering way. It claimed its origins were ancient, while only hinting vaguely at what these origins might be. I was intrigued. Had the answers to the deepest questions been known to past ages? And if so, why were they hidden?

The same teaching insisted that one could not practice its principles on one’s own, that one had to learn from others. So in 1995, at the age of eighteen, I joined a local branch of an international Fourth Way school. [ed. - Here, Braverman avoids directly mentioning Robert Earl Burton and The Fellowship of Friends and instead links to his own website. However, a reference to Burton and the Fellowship can be found "buried" in a subsequent "About" link. But it is clearly important that Braverman displace from top search results these references to his past affiliations.]

Members were of a mixed crowd. Not all were like-minded, nor did all share my enthusiasm toward self-study. Some of the more experienced students, however, who had been practicing this teaching for years, exhibited a sincerity and depth that attracted me. They could see right through me and advise me in a way the written word never could.

At the time of my joining, the organization had been functioning for 25 years and had accumulated in its wake the debris of cult and scandal. The founder was controversial. When I eventually met him in the year 2000, I saw the reasons for the controversy, but I also recognized a method in his madness. Sensing an opportunity, and knowing I had nothing to lose, I put myself at his service and gradually became his right hand man, handling issues that ranged from teaching to human relations and from logistics to finances. I often fulfilled the delicate position of intermediary between him and his students. This brought me in intimate contact with almost all the members of his school and exposed me to their difficulties, challenges, and successes.

Our collaboration peaked in 2004, by which time my position became very specified. The frequency of his teaching events had increased and I was entrusted with giving them content and structure. Teaching requires repetition and repetition is always threatened by dogma. How could we repeat our lessons without allowing them to lose their vitality? We tackled this challenge by expanding our sources beyond the Fourth Way to the historical traditions of the world. We were learning and teaching simultaneously, and this infused our presentation with the thrill of discovery. It forced me to dig up the hidden roots that the Fourth Way had claimed it had, but had never explicitly exposed. We worked intensively during this period, sometimes hosting three teaching events per day. The volume of knowledge I had to sift through was considerable.

Our connection ended abruptly. [ed. - In 2016, not in 2007.] In 2007, the organization came under the scrutiny of the US immigration [ed. - See INS story.] department and the foreigners in my position were forced to promptly leave the country. After seven years of complete dedication, of having all but died to my former life, I was exiled from my friends, commitments, and belongings. There was a good deal of panic and mishandling on the organization’s part, and it left those sent away with feelings of betrayal. On my part, along with the hard feelings was also an auspicious air around this unlikely turn of events, as if it were so bizarre that it had to be meaningful.

Rumors of my exile spread and members around the world invited me over while the storm abated. For a while I was on an open ended trip. Cut asunder from my past obligations, I had ample time to visit Notre Dame of Paris, or San Marco of Venice, or the Taj Mahal of Agra. So as this interim of uncertainty turned from days to weeks and from weeks to months, I became exposed to major historic monuments of the world. Having delved so deeply into inner work in the preceding years, and having researched ancient cultures so thoroughly, I began perceiving these monuments differently. Their architecture, sculpture, and painting assumed a new meaning, entirely nonreligious, surprisingly practical.

My perceptions were doubtlessly influenced by the psychological pressure of exile, by grappling with betrayal and injustice, and by the vast and daunting unknown that lay before me. And yet, it was this very pressure that enabled me to look with unprecedented clarity. The thread of exile runs straight through the tapestry of human history. I could see Adam exiled from Paradise, or Odysseus exiled from Ithaca, or Rama exiled from Ayodhya, at eye level. Time and distance availed not; they were with me, those mythical men of ever so many generations past. The more I encountered them in a stained glass window, or a relief of a temple pillar, or a mosaic in a museum, I could see them from their own standpoint, and understand their story. Something significant was at play through this fateful synchronicity, and its propitiousness lightened my burden.

I would spend the next two years scouring the museums and monuments of the world, and would find the same unorthodox meaning everywhere: Egypt, Greece, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam all taught a lesson essentially the same, rendered different by the veil of religious misinterpretation. Indeed, the deepest questions of life had been answered in past ages — and answered well. Why did none regard these truths, hidden in such plain sight? There had to be others that would be as touched by them as I was. So along with my exploration grew a sense of responsibility that urged me to record my findings methodically. The end and crowning episode of my travels was the revelation of a calendrical system that lay at the base of all ancient teachings. This would become the foundation of BePeriod.

"amesgilbert1"wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 11, 2020:
John Harmer, you so rightly say, “But then fakery is a big part of the story of the FoF”.

The fact is, Burton the Arch–Liar infects the thinking of everyone who has ever entered his fantasy, and one dangerous meme is, “The ends justify the means”. The form I encountered right from the start was, nothing, but nothing should get in the way of achieving “consciousness”.

This is exactly the same operating procedure that governs the modus operandi of the Fellowship of Friends as an organization when it interacts with the outside world. Most especially in the recruitment of new followers, but also in business interactions with the local community, and relations with government agencies such as the IRS. Much has been said this, and about the use of tools such as ‘intentional insincerity’ on previous pages.

An alert reader has pointed out another specific example, this one pertaining to Asaf Braverman and his BePeriod ‘school’. Anyone who has followed along knows that Asaf was one of Robert Burton’s most loyal followers for twenty years and became a central pillar of the whole con, so central a star that Burton was grooming him to take over the organization after he passes. On former versions of Braverman’s BePeriod website, he acknowledged this connection in rather vague terms, but did include a portrait of Burton and stated the center of the Fellowship is in Oregon House, California 95962.

But now, Braverman has altered his biography rather significantly. The ends justify the means.

Read the full autobiographical note [ed. - See text above] by Asaf Braverman for yourself.

In this new, improved version, there is no mention whatsoever of the Fellowship, or Robert Earl Burton, or Alex Horn, or Gurdjieff (though G. is mentioned on other pages), or anything related to lineage, a highly significant departure from his earlier autobiography.

There is also no mention of Apollo, the headquarters of the Fellowship of Friends, or its location, only that he eventually met the ‘founder’ in 2000. No mention of ‘The Sequence’, the ridiculous and superstitious numerology he co–invented with Burton, and that was the central teaching of the Fellowship religion for a dozen years.

He fabricates out of whole cloth an explanation of why he was forced to leave (Apollo) in 2007, but says nothing about his return 2 years later, and his subsequent final parting [ed. - Link added] from Burton in 2016.

Sigh! Those who have followed along will know that the actual truth about this absence is, according to reports, that he [was] revealed as a bigamist. The first marriage was ordered by Burton so Asaf Braverman could get a ‘green card’, as mentioned in the famous letter [ed. - Link added] to the FoF Board from the lawyer, David Springfield. Time passed, and then he entered another Burton–sponsored marriage with his present wife without dissolving the first. Upon exiting Israel after their honeymoon visit, the authorities noted his concurrent marriages, and the U.S. quite rightly denied him re–entry. Hence the ‘exile’ he milks in this latest version of an ‘autobiographical note’. Such a victim of the U.S. authorities! It is safe to assume that his wealthy family and of course, Burton with all the resources of the Fellowship, moved heaven and earth with said authorities to smooth things over. We know, because two years later, they were able to return to Oregon House. So, Diddums’ so–called ‘exile’ consisted of being flown to exotic locations around the planet at FoF expense for two years! All the while absorbing ‘ancient knowledge’ and discovering the heretofore hidden ‘calendrical system’ he currently advertises.

I can well understand Asaf Braverman’s aversion to admitting his connection to the Robert Earl Burton and the Fellowship of Friends. Who would not want to shuck off this sordid and inconvenient history? Particularly when setting out to gull fresh recruits? Yet this dishonesty speaks for itself. And lies of omission are still lies. I suspect he is attempting to put part of Plato’s philosophy, whereby the prevailing authorities are permitted their Noble Lies for the ‘greater good’, into practice. Certainly, Asaf leaves no doubt that he is on an important mission, and he learned from Burton over two decades that ‘intentional insincerity’ is necessary, and that big lies go over better than small lies. From the page linked above:
So along with my exploration grew a sense of responsibility that urged me to record my findings methodically. The end and crowning episode of my travels was the revelation of a calendrical system that lay at the base of all ancient teachings. This would become the foundation of BePeriod.
One has to read the whole ‘autobiographical note’ to get the extent of these Big Lies of commission and omission. Like I said, Braverman obviously believes the ends justifies the means, and in his particular case, such Noble Ends justify frontal assaults on a host of Inconvenient Truths.

I say all this because it shows, once and for all, that Braverman is a fake. He does not understand that the means shape the ends. And that not only do lies multiply into a tangled web faster than mere human minds can keep up with, but by their very nature, they poison the whole enterprise. Asaf has no chance of keeping up with his cover–ups, explanations and obfuscations—unless he can somehow take control of the search engine algorithms and fool anyone doing due diligence. That he does not understand such basic facts, a misunderstanding demonstrated daily by Burton and his followers in the Fellowship of Friends for over fifty years, is just one of many illustrations that Asaf Braverman is not fit to teach anyone anything.

[ed. - This February 16, 2020 video highlights Braverman's complete dissociation from Robert Earl Burton, The Fellowship of Friends, and the inconvenient elements of Braverman's own personal history. Asaf Braverman's rapidly-evolving autobiography has forced poor Ames Gilbert back to the keyboard (see below).]


"amesgilbert1" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 18, 2020:
Alert readers have pointed out that Asaf Braverman, founder and leader of BePeriod.com, has a new come–on for seekers on YouTube, titled, “What is BePeriod?”

In the spirit of purest altruism, as a service to readers and seekers, I put on my best waterproof clothing and galoshes, and waded in, regardless of the risk to my mental health.

After the introduction:
BePeriod is an active learning community for the study of oneself. It gives its members the tools and structure by which to embark on a comprehensive journey of self-observation. Its teaching breaks down human psychology into the building blocks that form who we are — our habits, illusions, weaknesses and strengths — and shows how these same blocks can be reconstructed to create a real Self.
… Braverman divides the rest of the video into the following parts:
• What is BePeriod?
• Why join BePeriod?
• What is our guiding principle?
• Who Am I?
• How do we operate?
I don’t have time to write it all down, but I have transcribed Asaf’s own words where he answers the question, “Who Am I?”, above. Here they are:
My name is Asaf Braverman. My own personal journey began when I was overcome by a paralyzing lack of purpose. For many years I traveled the world studying ancient psychology and philosophy in search of answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Where am I? And, Why am I here?
I discovered many interesting answers quite different than those offered by mainstream philosophy and spirituality. I felt my discoveries were radical and significant. I decided to share them with others. This was the foundation of Beperiod.
Readers will quickly realize that Asaf (as always way, way ahead of my ability to keep up) has abbreviated his esoteric history even more since I last wrote about the subject on the last page (185, #56, January 11th [see above]). Now the lies of omission are even more blatant. Not only does he skip over the two decades he spent learning how to operate spiritual scams directly from his teacher, Robert Earl Burton, leader of the Fellowship of Friends, but now omits any mention of the Fourth Way, Gurdjieff or Ouspensky entirely! Look at that last paragraph above, again.

Asaf Braverman certainly learned everything he knows about sheer chutzpah and arrogance from the Grand Charlatan, Robert Earl Burton, the God–Emperor of Oregon House and Best Buddy of the Absolute™!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

It was fifty years ago today...

[ed. - Robert Earl Burton considers January 1, 1970 the day he founded The Fellowship of Friends. He met Bonita Guido at a New Years party the night before and, once they agreed to subsequent meetings, he immediately became a "teacher."]

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 31, 2019:
99. John Harmer

Fifty years ago tonight, “the grand narcissist” Robert Earl Burton lured his first follower. Thus began The Fellowship of Friends.

"Cult Survivor" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 31, 2019:
100. Tim Campion [above]

Fifty years ago tonight, “the grand narcissist” Robert Earl Burton lured his first follower. Thus began The Fellowship of Friends. Thus began the carnival. “Fellowship of Friends” search on Google Images:
Photo source

[ed. - In 2017, Robert Earl Burton's autobiographical Fifty Years with Angels was published. Burton asserts that on September 5, 1967 he first met the angels. On that day, he was recruited by Alex Horn's San Francisco group. Below, John Harmer offers a review of Part 1 of that story.]

"John Harmer" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 24, 2019:
In December 2017 a very revealing document called “Fifty Years with Angels” was published. I’ve read on this blog that Burton has decreed that all Fellowship documents before a certain date are no longer valid, and that students were asked to rid themselves of them. Still the book was issued and allows a close look at the self centered and narcissistic mindset of Burton. It shows what happens when someone lives so entirely in their own echo chamber, that they have no clue how their statements sound to unbiased listeners. The book is still on sale at amazon.com with 5 reviews so far, four give it 5 stars, one is negative with only a single star.

Here are some of the statements that caught my eye in the book:

He switches between use of the personal pronouns “I” and “we”, which strikes me as a gesture of faux modesty. For example on page one we read:
I did not know what the truth was, but I knew that I had not found it. The truth certainly was not where I was, but then we found the truth or, rather, the truth – Influence C- found us and infused the truth within us.
He continues relating various events that led to him joining Alex Horn’s group, it seems even back then he was subject to ideas of reference, if a butterfly lands on his finger, he interprets it as a sign of his special destiny. There is an interesting paragraph on page 7, where he says
In his group there was a lot of violence and bloodshed, but it did not work. I was able to verify that force cannot break the lower self. Only love can do that – the conscious love we have for one another.
I remember this being the party line when I was a member, and for years I believed it. The “no gossip” task ensured that the psychological torture that he meeted [sic] out to his many lovers was concealed, and it was not until a brave individual visited the London centre in 1989, and shared details of how he had for years felt trapped in a situation that he could not find his way out of, that I became aware of the sordid truth of the situation. This young man was a sincere spiritual seeker, and valued the disciplines of the Gurdjieff work, but he felt unable to confide in the older students who surrounded and supported Burton in his role, about how he was regularly required to submit to sodomy and being sexually used for Burton’s personal satisfaction and relief. [ed. - See “The Thomas Easley Letters”]

Burton is very clear that he rates himself as a very special person, who only has the very highest motives for what he does. He contrasts himself with Alex Horn who bought a property for his school, and put it in his own name. Burton brags
I did not have one thought of putting Apollo in my name. It belongs to the school; it is for us and for those who follow. I did not have a single ‘I’ like that; that is why we have a school. This kind of generous action, and all of the many things that you support, are making Apollo what it is and making you what you are: conscious beings.
Given the many stories of his lust for baubles and trinkets, and shamelessly demanding the return of jewellery which students thought had been given to them (and which they had paid for through obligatory “donations”), it makes me smile to hear him assess himself as “generous”. Later on, on the same page, he makes the statement
Now we are all conscious beings in this room
which must have been very flattering for those in the room, I can imagine the warm glow they would have all felt.

A few pages later he makes some statements about his failed prophetic pronouncements. He says
Revelation 10:7 says, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished”
He follows this in the next paragraph with
Sometimes the gods manifest the outer meaning, which may be hydrogen warfare – the Last Judgement. I do not need to be right about these omens; I merely pass them on as they were passed to me. Sir Walter Scott said, “I cannot tell how the truth maybe; I say the tale as it was said to me”
I see this as an extraordinary statement. No one forced him to make prophecies, but given that he makes them, and all the independently verifiable ones (Depression, California falling into the ocean, Nuclear war etc) have proved to be false, surely he has to question whether Influence C really do write the play, or whether he is confabulating these messages he thinks come from higher forces. Apparently he sees no need to do that. He hides behind his humble attitude that he passes on what he gets, and if it turns out to be false, well whatever.

We get a hint about the mechanics of the messages he gets from Influence C a few pages later.
I was by myself looking at the Airstream trailers in the Court of the Caravans, and I had an ‘I’ that they looked like the early atomic bombs. Then Leonardo said “Any fool could see that.” It was a third-state moment.
So apart from his ideas of reference – making connections with car number plates etc, he experiences voices in his head. A classic sign of a psychotic mental condition.

A few pages later he reveals an interesting anecdote from his early childhood.
I remember once, when I was about ten years old, I was gathering walnuts with my mother in Orinda, a suburb of Berkeley. The estate of Henry J. Kaiser – the wealthy industrialist – was nearby, and his son asked me to drive with him around his property. He had his own little road system and his own little car. We were the same age so my mother allowed me to go. He drove me around his estate and it was like being admitted to Paradise. That was preparation for entering Paradise when that time comes. It is not so far away, in fact
Well, it seems to me that for most of the people he names as inspiration, the concept of Paradise as being a rich man’s estate in which you have your own little road system and your own little car, would be laughed at for its brazen enviousness. He seems to have tried to create his very own version of this childhood dream in Oregon House.

At that point part one of the book concludes. I will leave my commentary there for now.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Fellowship of Friends Membership 1970 to 2019

Fellowship of Friends membership tracking from 1970 through 2019
Fellowship of Friends membership from 1970 to 2019

For the first dozen years, the Fellowship routinely published membership censuses which proudly demonstrated the success of early recruiting efforts. However, by 1980 growth had slowed and subsequently showed a slight decline. In November 1981, it was announced  census numbers would no longer be published. From 1982 until 2007, membership figures are drawn from articles published in the media, and occasionally found in legal documents. Typically, a Fellowship spokesperson provided an approximate population (giving rise to plateaus in the chart.) Since 2007, official Fellowship rosters have often been "shared" with non-members, resulting in fairly transparent membership counts.

In 2006, a blog article published by The Esoteric Sheik of Inner Confusion generated a public dialog that eventually contributed to the Fellowship's decline. It remains unclear whether the Fellowship ever reached the peak of 2,200 active members "officially" reported between 2005 and 2007.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A lineage of profound deception continues

Asaf Braverman's BePeriod spin-off from Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends Fourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky cult
From BePeriod on Facebook

"amesgilbert1" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 14, 2019:
This coming Sunday, December 15th, Asaf Braverman is hosting another workshop on his site, BePeriod.com. The subject this time is:
Transitioning from searching for a teaching to practicing one

Introductory workshop hosted by BePeriod students
When is the right time to stop searching and begin practicing a teaching? What are the obstacles in this transition? Join us for an introductory workshop hosted by BePeriod students aimed at opening a window into this process.
Readers who have found this site for the first time while searching for more information about BePeriod.com and its founder, Asaf Braverman, might be puzzled as to the connection between Braverman and Robert Earl Burton, founder of the Fellowship of Friends. There is a simple answer: Braverman was Burton’s faithful, obedient follower and appointed successor for two decades. They had a falling out, and now Braverman seeks to apply what he was taught to you, a sincere seeker who is doing due diligence.

When you read through these pages, as you learn more about Burton’s depravity, his greed, his insatiable sexual appetites, his enormous lies, his lust for absolute control over every aspect of the lives of his followers—keep this in mind: Burton was Asaf Braverman’s teacher. In fact, for many years, Burton was training Braverman to take over the organization, both materially and spiritually. Braverman joined the Fellowship of Friends shortly after completing his Israeli army training, and was in his forties when he left. Think of how you were or are at the various stages of life, and thus how central to his life the Fellowship became, how much space his indoctrination into Burton’s fantasy took.

Now, Asaf’s defenders may say, “He finally realized the truth about Burton”, or, “He has gone back to a purer Fourth Way, only updated”, or any number of rationalizations about his history and present actions. I, of course, have no way of finding my way through such a minefield, nor am I interested. But, I’d say to any seeker, beware. And ask yourself, how likely is it that somehow he can slough off twenty years of mental conditioning, of being Burton’s right–hand man, of being adored and looked up to by thousands, of being assured of and accepting a luxurious lifestyle courtesy of those thousands? And how exactly does that qualify him to teach anybody anything? Except as an object lesson, of course.

No, Asaf Braverman was central to Burton’s con for two decades. And Burton was central to Asaf’s life for twenty years. It is not enough for Braverman to slough off any enquiries into his past relationship with Burton with, “It is like a bad marriage, one doesn’t talk about such things”.

I strongly advise you to look elsewhere, if indeed you believe that guidance from others is somehow vital to your spiritual well–being.

"Cult Survivor" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 14, 2019:



Friday, November 22, 2019

"How Natural Wine Became a Symbol of Virtuous Consumption"

[ed. - From The New Yorker, November 25, 2019. (Published in the print version under the title "On the Nose.")]

The New Yorker. Illustration by Greg Clarke
How Natural Wine Became a Symbol of Virtuous Consumption

The mainstreaming of natural wines has brought niche winemakers capital and celebrity, as well as questions about their personalities and politics.

By Rachel Monroe November 18, 2019

(Excerpt)

Rozman arranged to apprentice with one of the early natural-wine-makers in the U.S., a wiry, philosophical sixty-four-year-old French-Israeli man named Gideon Beinstock. Beinstock and his wife, Saron Rice, farmed eight acres of grapes in the western foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Clos Saron, their two-person operation, had proved that natural wines could please élite palates; at one point, Beinstock told me, their bottles were on the wine lists of a quarter of the San Francisco Chronicle’s top hundred restaurants.

Beinstock had studied to be a painter, but when, in his twenties, his paintings started to sell, he hated how even that small amount of success activated his ego. He had a seeker’s temperament and an appetite for discipline. Like many New Age dabblers in the nineteen-seventies, he was drawn to the Fourth Way—a brand of mysticism established by George Gurdjieff in the early twentieth century. The Fourth Way drew from, among other things, Zen Buddhism, Sufi Islam, and the occult; followers strove for unceasing self-awareness and self-mastery. In 1978, Beinstock came across a bookmark advertising a Fourth Way study group called the Fellowship of Friends, founded in the Bay Area a few years earlier. (The Fellowship recruited by strategically placing bookmarks in New Age texts in bookstores.) Beinstock attended a meeting and joined the group later that year. “The Fellowship was bursting with poets, writers, artists, musicians, actors—it was vibrating with an amazing energy,” he told me. The group’s founder, Robert Earl Burton, claimed to be in communication with forty-four angelic beings, including figures such as Plato, Shakespeare, and Abraham Lincoln. The Fellowship believed that humans spend their lives as if hypnotized, lulled into a trance by mental, physical, and emotional habits; in contrast, members of the Fellowship sought at all moments to awaken.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Robert Burton never let's a tragedy go to waste

Peter Morrow longtime Fellowship of Friends member and Robert Earl Burton patron
Peter Morrow (Source: Ocala-News)

“What is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, is the modesty to use sorrow so that it penetrates our soul.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

[ed. - On Halloween, Peter Morrow, a member of The Fellowship of Friends and patron of Robert Earl Burton for over 40 years, died when his airplane crashed on a Florida highway. In the days following, official Fellowship events seemed to indulge a morbid fascination with Peter's death and "signs" that angels choreographed the event for the exclusive benefit of Robert Earl Burton and his followers. These records demonstrate, in all its glory, Burton's "magical thinking."

The excerpt below is from Peter Morrow's Elysian Society memorial page. That both Morrow's and Burton's mothers died on a Halloween offered Burton an opportunity to remind followers that he defeated his mother's "feminine dominance," a story he's told countless times (suggesting the "victor" may have indeed been his mother.)]

Dear Friends,

Peter Morrow, a beloved member of the Fellowship of Friends, completed his task on October 31 at 1:00 pm ET in an airplane crash in Florida while piloting his own plane. A mechanic was flying with him, testing electrical equipment. Peter would have turned seventy-four this coming January 30th.

Peter joined the Fellowship in the New Haven Center on May 1, 1979.  He has been part of centers in New York, London, and Apollo, where he has lived since 2001.

Peter had a deep commitment to the Fellowship and to supporting and beautifying Apollo. He expressed his love of presence and of sharing presence by hosting students at his home at Apollo and his hotel in Jamaica. His passion for flying was central to his play, and many students will remember flying with Peter in his plane.

Robert said that it is a strong shock for the school that happened on Halloween, and that it is much worse than the death of his mother. Nothing wrong occurred with Peter.

[ed. - That simple introductory statement of facts then veers off into Robert Burton's magical thinking. Burton fills his narratives with 44s and other usual "signals" (often in the form of license plates) to assure followers that 44 (now 81?) angels are indeed watching over his flock. There is commonly an all-hands effort to collect and decipher these coded messages from the gods. Note: The crash occurred on State Road 200, near SW 43rd Court. And, per the NTSB's Preliminary Report, it happened at 11:30, not 11:44. Robert Burton cannot be accused of modesty in his use of sorrow.]
[Quoting Rilke, above] “What is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, is the modesty to use sorrow”—Peter Morrow—“so that it penetrates our soul.” It certainly does penetrate our soul. I said the other day, “You do not know how much you love a person until he [ed. - or she] dies.”

Even so, we are in the business of not dying, and it is working perfectly. A student observed that this is the forty-fourth week of the year and that today is the last day of the forty-fourth week. After Peter’s crash, the emergency vehicles were directed to go to the 44th block, between 43rd and 44th Streets. Then a former student who used to fly with Peter, Peter Ingle — meaning 'angel' — came to the scene.

An angel attended Peter; that is why he came. No harm has been done. Their aim is to make the state we have stronger. That is strictly why Influence C did it. It is a brutal shock, but that is the nature of evolution: Trick or Treat, my mother is dead, her name is Shock, it is Halloween [link added]. My mother’s shock meant virtually nothing compared to Peter’s death. She had no presence while Peter had a lot of presence. He met an objectively useful death. He received what he needed from this life. And now we are getting what we need from this shock. - Robert Earl Burton

[ed. - In the days following Peter's death, Fellowship meetings and dinners at Apollo focused on the subject and its "esoteric" significance. The Apollo Miracle newsletter captured meeting highlights. (Excerpts below.) In the following transcriptions, I have retained the full names of well-known Fellowship leaders.]

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends Apollo Miracle Newsletter regarding Peter Morrow's death

[ed. - An anonymous Fellowship insider reported on November 16, 2019:]
Peter died on Thursday, October 31st. His death and related "information" was the sole subject of the Friday night meeting, Saturday morning meeting, Saturday dinner, and Sunday morning meeting. I don't know if it extended into the following week (most likely it did, beginning with the Wednesday night meeting.)

I believe the reason for all the attention is the simple matter of Robert Burton taking advantage of a pretty major, unexpected "shock" to reaffirm his position as the wise, detached, all-seeing, all-knowing island of stability, security and relativity amidst the emotional chaos and identification of his immature and dependent children. I guess he needed so many meetings and dinners in order to make sure everyone knew what to think, what to say, and what to feel (or not to feel). I'm certain that Burton's status as conscious-immortal-enlightened wise man is sky-high right now, and the ability of Fellowship members to come to their own understanding and conclusions is at an all-time low.

During the meetings, Robert mentioned a few times something related to the ark, the future role of the Fellowship, etc. He said something about Peter's Italian-inspired house (photo), how it might become a learning center of Italian culture, or something like that. He dragged out a real oldie-but-goodie about everyone speaking Italian someday. Well, he said that 20-30 years ago, and nothing whatsoever came of it. (Burton certainly did not lead the way in learning to speak Italian.) [ed. - In the 70s, Burton wanted his students to learn French. As far as I know, he didn't learn French either.] It's almost as though Peter's death and the fact that he had this "Italian" home, stirred up these old dreams in Burton, like long-past military exploits in an old man, which will soon retreat back into his sub-consciousness.

It's clear that Burton was not going to let pass a huge potential financial opportunity.

Another possible explanation involves the Fellowship's elite.The Fellowship financial elite include Rowena Taylor (beneficiary of her father's jade mines and retail business in Guatemala,) Geraldine R.'s family (with land and livestock holdings in Australia,) Ethan Harris, Marcus Lasken (with a large inheritance from his father's business,) Diana Kay (however she became rich,) Alisanne Frew (consummate wheeler-dealer,) three members in Mexico City (Javier G. and a couple, Emilio and Lourdes), all with high connections within the government (at least the previous government); an Indian fellow named Rathin, the "Godfather" of the Indian centers (like Robert Taylor was in Russia for many years); and, of course, Peter.

No doubt Burton was somehow hoping to be willed Peter's house, but found out quickly that that would not happen. He wanted the Fellowship to buy the house for him. And, of course, this is where the wealthy elite come in. Can he get them, collectively, to donate $750,000, more or less, or maybe even $1 million; depends on what Peter's heirs or trust would be asking? What would he have to do, or promise to them (hint, hint: something about "Paradise"), to get them to donate such a large amount of money?

This venture would also include a major, year(s)-long funding-raising effort throughout the Fellowship, so that everyone can feel part of the endeavor. One of the selling points might be that Peter paid the ultimate price, and the least we can do is to honor his death by keeping his house within the Fellowship and, at the same time, showing how much we love and worship Robert Burton. Even $10 (a week) will assist in this divine effort. There will be a collection plate at every meeting. Jewelry gladly accepted. The great gods hovering in the room right now will be eternally grateful.

Finally, per a member who heard it from the horse's mouth, Robert Burton did not attend Peter's funeral service, burial and reception (at Peter's house) this past Saturday afternoon, so that he could save his energy for the dinner. (Of note, he has not attended a funeral service for many years.)

[ed. - The double entendre below was likely unintentional, though Peter Morrow was a member of the Fellowship during the era when present-day Apollo was referred to as Renaissance, California.]
"He was a true Renaissance man if there ever was one."
From Jamaica Inn "In remembrance of Peter Morrow"

Additional coverage of the tragedy:
Jamaica Gleaner report of plane crash

Jamaica Gleaner article about hotelier Peter Morrow
Kathryn's Report coverage

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry

Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry

By Robert Jay Lifton
Available October 15, 2019

Amazon's synopsis:
A definitive account of the psychology of zealotry, from a National Book Award winner and a leading authority on the nature of cults, political absolutism, and mind control

In this unique and timely volume Robert Jay Lifton, the National Book Award–winning psychiatrist, historian, and public intellectual proposes a radical idea: that the psychological relationship between extremist political movements and fanatical religious cults may be much closer than anyone thought. Exploring the most extreme manifestations of human zealotry, Lifton highlights an array of leaders—from Mao to Hitler to the Japanese apocalyptic cult leader Shōkō Asahara to Donald Trump—who have sought the control of human minds and the ownership of reality.

Lifton has spent decades exploring psychological extremism. His pioneering concept of the “Eight Deadly Sins” of ideological totalism—originally devised to identify “brainwashing” (or “thought reform”) in political movements—has been widely quoted in writings about cults, and embraced by members and former members of religious cults seeking to understand their experiences.

In Losing Reality Lifton makes clear that the apocalyptic impulse—that of destroying the world in order to remake it in purified form—is not limited to religious groups but is prominent in extremist political movements such as Nazism and Chinese Communism, and also in groups surrounding Donald Trump. Lifton applies his concept of “malignant normality” to Trump’s efforts to render his destructive falsehoods a routine part of American life. But Lifton sees the human species as capable of “regaining reality” by means of our “protean” psychological capacities and our ethical and political commitments as “witnessing professionals.”

Lifton weaves together some of his finest work with extensive new commentary to provide vital understanding of our struggle with mental predators. Losing Reality is a book not only of stunning scholarship, but also of huge relevance for these troubled times.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"Take It From a Former Moonie: Trump Is a Cult Leader"

Steven Hassan's upcoming book
[ed. - Steve Hassan operates the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and has included The Fellowship of Friends among the many cults he has profiled.]
By Steven Hassan

The Daily Beast
Updated 10.13.19 7:18PM ET / Published 10.13.19 5:11AM ET

[Excerpt]

"When I was in the Moonies, I was so indoctrinated that I was prepared to take up arms and die for the cause. I wasn’t alone. My fear is that Trump might order his followers to take their weapons to the streets if he is not re-elected. In a recent tweet, he quoted his Christian Right ally, Robert Jeffress, that his removal from office 'will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.' Worse still is the possibility that, if feeling sufficiently threatened, Trump might, like Jones, try to take others everyone with him, using his access to the nuclear codes. It’s a dark scenario, but not entirely outlandish.

"The good news is, I woke up and got out of a cult, as have millions of people. What I have learned in working with cult members, as I describe in my book, is that attacking their beliefs is doomed to fail. To help them recover their critical faculties, it is essential to develop a warm and positive relationship before teaching them about how mind control works. I often do that by showing how it operates in other groups, like the Jonestown cult or Scientology. We might use the same approach to heal the 'us versus them' mindset of Trump’s followers—and also of some of their more rabid opponents. Ultimately, the goal is to educate and inspire people to regain their capacity for critical thinking, and to free their own minds.

"I have seen people throw off the mental and emotional shackles of many years—even a lifetime—of destructive conditioning. I believe that love is stronger than fear and that truth is stronger than mind control. But I also believe that the dangers of mind control are greater now than ever due to the digital world we are so plugged into. We ignore the lessons of history—of Jonestown and other destructive groups—at our own peril."
Read more at Daily Beast. Also see Steven Hassan interviewed on CNN.