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.

Thursday, December 31, 1970

A Real Fourth Way School?

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult enneagram
The enneagram
[ed. - Apparently, to be authentic, a Fourth Way School must have a living lineage, that is the teaching must be personally transmitted from Teacher to Student. There has been considerable debate about the legitimacy of Robert Burton's claimed lineage. It should be noted that William Patrick Patterson himself is not an impartial observer. He has a vested interest in claiming the Gurdjieff tradition for himself. See his Gurdjieff Legacy site.]

From: Taking with the Left Hand by William Patrick Patterson, a respected authority on this subject:
Though Burton claimed to be a Fourth Way teacher, he himself never had an authentic Fourth Way teacher. The level of his understanding of the teaching was based on what he could pick up from Fourth Way books and from his one-time teacher, the actor-director Alexander Francis Horn. Horn, himself a faux-Gurdjieffian without any real connection to the Fourth Way, had based his own understanding on books and on that of his first wife Carol, a student of John Bennett's ten month experimental program - an eclectic melding of the Fourth Way with other teachings and practices. Horn first taught in New York and later in San Francisco where he created the Theater of All Possibilities, a theater which purported to double as a Fourth Way school. Horn financially exploited his students, manipulated their lives, often physically brutalizing them - all in the name of the teaching. The thirty-one-year-old Burton, dismissed by Horn for not "staying on task" apparently picked up enough from Horn to start his own teaching.

Alexander Francis Horn: Not much is known about Horn, but, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, his dinner theater "Fourth Way School" operation, known as the Theater of all Possibilities (the name taken from the Herman Hesse novel, Steppenwolf), had an income of $40,000 per month or some $500,000 a year. Of this, $20,000 was from student dues and $20,000 from the sale of theater tickets. Students, required to sell tickets to the weekly productions, were harangued and physically beaten if ticket quotas were not met. At Horn's instigation, all-night drinking marathons culminating in fist fights were common occurrences, all in the name of the teaching. Punishment, in many forms was a feature of Horn's teaching. A local drama critic wrote, after sitting through three hours and leaving at the end of Act II of Horn's three-act play, The Fantastic Arising of Padraic Clancy Muldoon - "In more than ten years of reporting on the local theater scene, I remember no more punishing experience." Burton had long before been dismissed from the group, but this gives a portrait of Horn's psychology and his approach.

Burton never had a genuine Fourth Way teacher. Burton's only teacher was Alex Horn who was never in the Gurdjieff Work. A martial arts expert and actor-director with a dramatic flair, Horn learned of the Fourth Way teaching through his second wife who spent a number of months in J. G. Bennett's International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherbourne, England.  For information on Alex Horn see "Theater Group: Cult or Stage?" by Jack Brooks, San Francisco Progress, December 22, 1978.  Horn is criticized for financially exploiting his students and subjecting them to psychological abuse, even beatings. See also "Real-Life Drama in a S.F. Theater Group," by Michael Taylor and Bernard Weiner, San Francisco Chronicle, December 23, 1978. The story focuses on allegations of "beatings, child neglect and a student fee structure that yielded high revenues."

Q&A session with Alex Horn, circa 1970, from "A little Survivor's Handbook"
“You seem to be in an especially good mood tonight…”

A: “I’m ALWAYS ‘in essence’ — can’t you see that?”

“What made you decide to become a teacher?”

A: “I was BORN to be a teacher!  It was no accident – or mere coincidence – that [some notorious guru] died the night I was born.  When I heard about this, I knew right then and there that I was born to take his place.  …MEANT to be – DESTINED to be – another great leader and Fisher of Men – Self-observing, Self-remembering, Self-evolving No. 4 Man – Balanced Man – Conscious Man – REAL Man – Teacher of ‘the Work’ and all the great religions, teachers and teachings in the world!”

“Did you ever have a regular job?”
A: “I was a garbage man!”

”What was your relationship like with your mother…?”
A: “My ‘mother’?  She bullied me to death and controlled every move I made – even when I was in college.  She drove my poor father – a kind and gentle rabbi – into an early grave.”

“Have you ever tried hallucinogenic drugs – like L.S.D., hash, peyote, mescaline?”
A: “No.”

“What do you think of the Beatles and their great new album?”
A: “What are the Beatles compared to Bach?”

“What happened to your teeth…? ”
A: “I had to get them pulled out and wear dentures.”

A: “My dentist said I had ‘self-cleaning teeth and didn’t have to brush like other people did’.”

“You only believed that yarn because it made you feel special!”

"Keith" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 16, 2007:
The Fellowship is not now nor was ever a fourth way school. It does not now and never did have any connection to Ouspensky or Gurdjieff. Ouspensky and Gurdjieff are the bait in the Fellowship “Bait and Switch” spiritual program. The Fellowship is Robert Burtonism plain and simple. Always has been. The ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky have been distorted beyond reasonable recognition... Forget about Fellowship ideas about the system and go directly to the source (at least the written sources).

RB was in a pseudo school conducted by Alex Horn who was never in a school himself. His wife was a student of John Bennett, I don’t know for how long. Alex Horn was not ever in any kind of Gurdjieff work. We were led to believe that Horn had come through the Gurdjieff Work, i.e., some connection to the Foundation. He was, I was told, acquainted with Lord Pentland but never participated in group work. This info was given to me by a woman in the Gurdjieff work who had been a movements teacher for 20 years and a group leader for many years after that. She had known Horn through a friend who had dated him briefly in the 50s or 60s. She was also close to Lord Pentland so I trust her opinion on this.

RB was in a pseudo school where the teacher, Alex Horn, made things up as he went along. Using In Search of the Miraculous as his guideline. According to Dave Archer, Horn never read anything by Gurdjieff. RB was in this school for sometime over a year and was kicked out for overt homosexual predatory behavior. This according to Pat Patterson. Alex Horn had an anti-homosexual rule in his school. Again see Dave Archer’s website. [ed. - relevant discussions: David Archer on the Fourth Way lineage and on Alex Horn.]

So RB in under 18 months went from man 1,2 or 3 all the way to man 5. He had a spontaneous awakening delivered by his guardian Angel Leonardo DaVinci. Give me a break. So we have a guy who never really studied with anyone who understood the ideas of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, started his own school using ideas that he did not really understand and any time he came across a question he couldn’t deal with either made something up or deferred to “higher forces”. A con is a con is a con. A cult is a cult is a cult. And each and every one of us fell for it in some way or other.

If we hadn’t fallen for this con we would have fallen for some other con. Hopefully what we all get out of our experience, at least those who were not irreparably damaged, is some new level of critical discernment, the ability to be more discriminating in regards to our spiritual pursuits.

"Kid Shelleen" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 4, 2007:
Laura [blogger],

Taking with the Left Hand is by William Patrick Patterson, who was a student of John Pentland’s and supposedly was annointed to lead the Gurdjieff Foundation when Pentland died. The observations he makes about the fof in his book are mild compared to the real deal. His point of view is coming from the “Burton has no legitimate connection to this work and is misleading his students” angle.

Here’s a story:

A couple of years ago, I was in a local book store and saw a poster for one of Patterson’s talks near my home. Just out of curiosity, I went. He talked the fourth way mumbo-jumbo for awhile, had us do some “sensing” exercises, and opened the floor for questions. For fun, I asked a question about self remembering and creating memory. He asked me about my understanding of self remembering and in my answer I used the phrase divided attention. He told me this was a wrong understanding of the idea and then, seemingly out of nowhere, launched into a diatribe about false teachings and corruption of the ideas. On and on it went. At the end, he turns his best Gurdjy steely gaze on me and says, “And this is the story of Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends, is it not,” in an incredibly self-satisfied tone. I almost laughed out loud. Judging from his manner, I believe that he thought that I thought, “Wow, how did this guy read my mind?” I came away from the experience thinking, “Same s#@t, different bag.”

Oh, and his students were a hoot, too. They seemed about as uptight as any group of folks I’ve run into. The women who introduced him (one of the inner circle, probably), spoke of him as if he were the second coming. After the event. I asked the two people manning the concession stand how many times a week the group met and how many students were in the local area. They stopped, stared at the ground for a moment, looked at each other with a look I’m sure we are all familiar with, and told me they couldn’t answer my question. So it goes.

[ed. - The following letter was sent to The Gurdjieff Club by an unknown author.]
A letter about Robert Burton

Dear Mr. Rovner,

I found your website, Gurdjieff Club, quite interesting.

I noted with interest your comments about the People of Gurdjieff's Influence where you talk about Robert Earl Burton who founded the fellowship of friends. You also say that Burton "spent eighteen months in a Gurdjieff group of the Fourth Way led by the spiritual teacher Alexander Francis Horn."

I feel like you are doing a great disservice to anyone who reads your website without stating the whole truth of these matters.
Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends was and is a cult that has harmed many people.

Please look at the following sources:

Personally, I was a victim of Alexander Francis Horn who was NOT a spiritual teacher and who had no connection to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

Alex Horn was a psychopath, a narcissist, a manipulator, a rapist and a black magician. Yes, he taught Burton and in that way further perpetrated his evil.

Please look at the following sources about Alex Horn and his groups:
[ed. - Sites below without active links have been removed from the web.]

Please, if you are interested in the truth, tell the whole story about these people.

Not all of Gurdjieff's followers were unscrupulous but some of them were and people should know about this.

Thank you for considering the above.

Best wishes

[No signature/name]

[ed. - Finally, concerning the system of beliefs upon which Burton's "school" was founded, there are reports that, just before his death, Ouspensky urged his followers to abandon the system. "Innernaut" appears to have found evidence to support these reports.]

"innernaut" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 28, 2008:
132 Another Name [responding to]

Thanks for the Alan Clements video. It reminds me of something that happened very early in my FOF time, about 1981.
I was in the Boston center, and at one point I was dispatched, along with two other students, to visit the Yale library in New Haven, Connecticut. Our assignment was to rifle through the “Ouspensky papers,” which had been donated to the university after O’s death.

We drove down there, and signed in. We were ushered to a room, where we could select the boxes we were interested in viewing. There were about 50 of them, mostly meeting transcripts covering 25 years or so, right up to his death. We chose a cross-section, with various dates, and got a few boxes brought to us. We were not allowed to make copies. We had to write down whatever we were interested in, using only a pencil and paper the library issued to us.

The boxes were crammed full of typewritten pages. Mostly just stuff that could have come from “The Fourth Way” — not terribly interesting. But there was one box — the last box, chronologically — that I was really interested in. I had read about O’s last, bizarre meetings, and I was wondering if they were transcribed. They were, so I spent almost my whole allotted time copying down the questions and O’s strange answers.

The gist of what he said is known: he told his students to “abandon the system,” saying that it was basically BS. Even back then, I felt strangely liberated; not that I had the courage to chuck it all aside then, but that one day I would be free of it. I noticed this feeling then, but pushed it aside, because what did that say about the System I had devoted my life too, that I couldn’t wait to be free of it?

After copying down many pages of this very interesting stuff, one of the students did a guilt trip on me, saying we shouldn’t be spending so much time on “unhelpful” material. Hmmm… so party-line Ouspensky is “good,” and Ouspensky when he finally sounds like he’s a human being and is telling the truth is “bad.”

This experience was probably the beginning of the end for me, in terms of the System, though it would take many years before I had the courage to throw it all out — baby, bathwater, everything.

One more thing, which Alan Clements mentioned — getting rid of the notion of enlightenment means being able to live without the certainty that a dogmatic spiritual framework provides. If it helps you live sanely, then more power to you.

"innernaut" continued:
One more thing. When I asked the idolized “older students” what they thought Ouspensky meant when he said, “abandon the system,” they had many creative things to say. But in the end, what they essentially said was, “Don’t abandon the system.” That’s right, when O says abandon the system, what he really means is don’t abandon the system.
People sure act funny when their belief system is being threatened.

1970 Notes

[ed. - At a New Year's Eve party on December 31, 1969, Robert Earl Burton meets his first "student," Bonita Guido. On January 1, 1970, he begins instruction for his new follower, thus launching The Fellowship of Friends.]

From Harold Wirk's timeline and here:
According to Harold's notes, Bonita and David Guido were Burton's first students. There were three meetings a week, at Orinda or Walnut Creek, and "Robert works with each student privately." Having relationships of children is discouraged. The period is noted for "intense 1st and 2nd line work" and the "word exercises" [avoiding the use of designated words] begin. 
First open meeting (1/20)
Tahoe trip. 22 go.
Harold, Stella [Meg] join
Meetings at Bern & Liz Berger's, Guidos', Meg's
Sea Ranch
Meg hospitalized (8/21 - 8/26)
Dinner at Guidos'
Meetings at Hannahs' and Guidos'
Tahoe trip (8/28 to 9/3)
Notebooks started
Dinner at Kenneth J.'s (9/11)
Robert gone. Students conduct first meeting (9/21)
Swim party at Ken J.'s (9/28)
Meetings at Ken's, Bonita's, Bernard's, Bill's
Big Sur trip (10/21- 10/22)
Meetings at Bill's, Meg's, Bernard's, Bonita's, Richard's
Mendocino trip (11/15 or 11/16)
"Small groups" begin
Group open meetings (11/20 - 11/22)
Christmas party at Hannahs'

Wednesday, July 1, 1970

The Fellowship of Friends as of July, 1970

Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult in July, 1970
The Fellowship of Friends as of July, 1970. Drawing by Harold Wirk. Source: The Internet Archive

[ed. - For a sense of this period, see a 1997 interview with Bernard C. Berger, M.D. (below), a Fellowship of Friends history written by Bonita Guido, Robert's first student, and Stella Wirk's Fellowship history. Drawing by Harold Wirk. (All pictured above.)]

"Veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 20, 2007:
(Quoting "Still Trying", post 125)
My own “wiseacring” speculation on the school is that the FOF started out on the right track, founded by mostly good people with good intentions, but somewhere along the line (fairly early on perhaps) an interval was not bridged, the FOF lost its aim and is now descending into perhaps the opposite of what it started out to be.
This is the collective myth. It is an attractive belief but it is not evidence based. I investigated the collective myth and found it to be untrue. There was intentional deception and pathological narcissism and unconscionable manipulation going on from the very beginning of the Fellowship of Friends.

"Veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 23, 2007:
Group myth 1: The Fellowship was something that started out good and true and right and wholesome and somehow along the way became corrupt or faltered or something.

Response to Group myth 1: The Fellowship was thoroughly, fatally corrupt from the very beginning.

(Which is not to say that all the people, or even most of them, were or are corrupt. The key thing is deception. The more innocent, naive and idealistic the person, the more manipulable he or she is, generally speaking. And deception works even better when people at all experience levels are led to disable their critical thinking faculties by “separating from the ‘I’s.”)

Foundation for response to Group Myth 1: Accounts of Bonita G. Discussions with Harold W. and the late Stella S. Discussions with the late Don B. Discussions with Jordan F-S whose whole family was in FOF in 1971. Discussion with respected student who left in 1971. Attendance sheet from 1971 showing the degree to which peoples’ attendance at events was monitored. Handwritten note in R.’s handwriting from period of silence stating “It is good when weak students leave as they are weight. It used to bother me but now it’s like a useless object being gone.”

According to people who were there, R. intentionally broke up almost all marriages and relationships of people who joined during the first two years. Someone knows the quantity of relationship splits; I don’t. The number I heard was in the 20s or 30s, a huge number in a small group.

In 1971, R. screwed Student #1 (female), who had separated from her husband after she had an affair with another FOF member. The day after, R. told her she hadn’t valued the experience of sex with a conscious being enough, and made a public announcement, reported in the Via Del Sol Journal, that he had been celibate since the beginning of the school. Her response was “why would he lie? It just didn’t make sense.”

After the end of 1970, R. began to require people to give him large amounts of money in order to continue to remain in the group. R. had been living at home with his mother and decided that people should give him money so he could get wheels, a VW bus. From dismissed elementary school teacher (March 17, 1967) to living with Mom at age 32 and giving tennis lessons at the Claremont, to conning Student #1, a woman older than he was who was obviously fascinated with him and was a married with kids in school. He soon monopolized her time 6 days a week. Go figure that one out. She’s married, she has responsibilities to husband and kids, but he monopolizes her time. The word parasitic comes to mind.

Anonymous 1971 defector, who knew nothing of FOF’s subsequent history, stated, “During the period of silence, R. would blow kisses to people. The ones he blew to me were contemptuous. There was something contemptible and contemptuous about him. I sensed in him a radical lack of integrity. My take on him was ultimately sociopathic. This was the social archeology of 1971 cognitively uncontaminated by anything that came later.

Don B. indicated that when R. used to park at Nut Tree he would take up three spaces so as to keep anybody from scratching his Rolls Royce. Classic narcissistic behavior immune from standards which apply to other people. [ed. - Burton may not have been aware of this "practice" as he was often dropped off and picked up at the establishment door.]

The thing I have never quite fathomed is that, if accounts of people without axes to grind are to be believed, R. was a popular and well liked elementary school teacher by both students and parents. How did he go from that to creating, in the FOF, such a hostile environment for children?
[ed. - The following remembrance by Stella Wirk is reprinted from a cache of her old Geocities website .]
The beginning... 
We [Stella and Harold] met Robert Burton in July 1970, as described somewhat in the next page in this sequence.

The following here is a "new beginning particulars" as the result of inquiries received about the early days of our experience with the start up of the Fellowship of Friends.

My reply to inquiries sent to me:

Subject: Re: RB in the beginning
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 01:36:17 -0700
From: Stella Wirk 

> Stella,
> >Maybe read the pages about the FOF and early years at
> > the web site:
> >http://www.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(OLD URL)
> >(follow link "About CULTS")/Stella
> So it started out as a kind of study group?...

No. Burton said he had started a "school." He said that someone at a party had asked him a question and that's when he knew he was to be the teacher and the questioner was to be the student, starting the "school."

The person who asked the first question was Bonita.

> Did RB say that he had "passed his teacher" from
> the very beginning?

Yes. We were not at all sure what was meant by that, except in the ordinary sense -- as we had no understanding then of ideas about knowledge, being, and levels of consciousness. We guessed that maybe Burton had learned all he could learn from his former teacher.

> How did RB become the leader?

and from Xxx: 

> Good question from Xxxxx. I also would be very interested in the
> very beginning of the FoF. It seems that Robert was the only
> single person in the group. Did you pick on the single guy? "Hay,
> your [sic] single, you be the teacher!"

Hahaha! No, read on. 

Xxx also wrote to first inquirer:

> Great questions. I have a lot of imagination about the beginnings.
> Insights would be much appreciated.

One suggestion in the activity of seeking insights about past events is to keep in mind that the responses from me, although most sincere and intended to convey "how it went" are necessarily the "tip of the iceberg," as we are dealing with memory, some admixture perhaps of what is known "now" with my early less informed reactions. Then, of course, the imagination already occurring can "click" on something written by me, and what I write is susceptible to misunderstanding because I have no control over what is added to this by you.

Thus what you are receiving is "the likely story" not what could be classified as "verifiable facts." This means that what you may think about my posts at best is, "according to Stella...(blahblah)" if you wish to exchange your "insights" derived from this sketchy (at best) information. That is, there is not really a way for me to transmit the whole and exact picture in the course of an inquiry into what happened in 1970. I'll do the best I can, of course. 

Burton started his "school" so, naturally, *he* was the leader. We called him by his first name, and referred to him as "the teacher."

It was at this first meeting with him he also told us his birthday was May 4, but that he changed it to May 5 because "5/5" sounded better as he was a "budding Man No. 5." (I'm surprised now that we didn't hear "Outer Limits" music at the time. ) (As I've mentioned before, his birthday actually IS May 5; we didn't know that then, though. Thus, we accepted that he LIED about his birthday for effect, and later found out he LIED about LYING! We never did understand this game.)

> When you first became involved with him, did he seem (or did he
> present himself) to be someone who had attained a special
> degree of consciousness?
(again from first Xxxxx msg)

He said he was a "budding Man No. 5." Now, I'd like you to think back when you first heard of these ideas what you might have thought of someone saying they are very close to being Man No. 5. It would depend on what you understood at the time about this concept.
Basically, we could not know much about what he meant by that. We weren't even familiar with the idea of Man No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, at that time. We also didn't know *then* what was meant by "man is asleep," or "man is a machine."

We had been spending a lot of time reading J. Krishnamurti, and had attended his talks in Santa Monica earlier in 1970. Krishnamurti's theme was that one did "not need a teacher." We thought, "maybe not, yet it might be easier for a little while; after all, we were listening to and reading Krishamurti!" haha We figured we had to "get a handle on this" some way or other. 

Mostly what we knew was that we were interested in the 4th Way ideas we had started reading a little about, maybe half-way through "In Search of the Miraculous," and he talked about them a little, as well as telling us something about himself.

The claim of being a "budding Man No. 5" meant very little to us, except that whatever it was, he said he was close to being it.

We did notice that he *noticed* a lot of little things. He gave Harold an observation. "Are you 'a-where' that every time you sip your coffee, after you swallow, you give off a little smack and 'ahhhh' sigh?" Harold was surprised to find that he was doing that! As nobody had ever done that with us before, RB seemed pretty observant to us at the time.

We also noticed, of course, that he spoke with an Arkansas accent when he said "a-where." We were being much too polite to mention it then, and when he again said at a meeting, "You must be *a-where* of yo-sef" we decided to speak up. This *emphasis* on "a-where" is because he did sort of emphasize that word in his tone of voice.

We told him the word was "Aware" and this activity eventually became personalized "elocution lessons" for Robert at meetings with the group! 

(Later years among old friends we've joked about the possibility that WE created what you see today in the form of a Burton well spoken. We were joking, of course, although it certainly was part of it. Still later, he imitated a dapper doctor's expensive three piece suits, and we were off onto the "impressions octave.")

More years later, with some experience, certainly we saw that we were easily impressed. All of this, the ideas, meeting him, etc., were very new to us, in spite of my brief experience with his former teacher, Alex Horn, whom he claimed to have "passed," whatever that actually meant.

At that first meeting, he pointed our attention to various things in the restaurant, an announcement over the loudspeaker, a bird outside the window, and other things like that. His demeanor was calm, polite, pleasant, and he explained that he was celebate, with lengthy comments about how this saved vital energy, sex enery - "the energy of creation," for the development of consciousness by controlling attention.

[Hindsight is 20/20 vision, of course, and now I realize I could do the same act myself today. I might have been able to do it in 1970, too, if I knew that was the "act of looking awake." That he was lying about being celebate was discovered ten years later when he admitted to me he always had a *big problem* keeping his "task" in this area.

[The "task" to which he referred was given to him by his former teacher, Alex Horn, and the task was to NOT pester the young men in the group for sexual encounters, and eventually we found out that Alex had expelled him from his school for not being able to keep this task!

[*Anybody* can *pay attention* to various ticks and habits people may not be aware of, and point them out to their surprise; anybody can point out things other people are not noticing -- if that's the game -- and it *does* look impressive to we uninitiated, sleeping neophytes we were at the time. EST and various "self improvement" groups do similar acts.]

Basically, Harold and I had no pre-conceived notions about how a "conscious being" would behave or somehow demonstrate himself as such. Without any criteria of this sort, we were just "there" with him as one would be in an ordinary conversation with someone just met. We were considering his offer to teach the ideas and help people to find their way through practical work to understand them.

We were not internally dissecting that he "did this" or "did that" as we went along. We were not thinking at all about how to "test" him, in other words, having had *no* prior experience of this nature (no gurus, no swamis, not even a psychology oriented person). In other words, we were dummies, and we were *ripe.* 

So, at $40/month, we said we would join, and our first meeting was at the home of a doctor in Orinda, where Harold and I were the 6th and 7th people to join. We sat around kitchen table, and Burton read aloud some passages from "Search" and explained how we could observe and verify them. He didn't tell us "what" to look for; he stressed just looking to see what we are able to see.

[ed. - The following text is transcribed from "The Account of Bernard C. Berger, M.D." pdf file. The questions from "Veronicapoe" are color-coded in red and answers from Dr. Berger are in blue.]
Subject: Re: Fellowship

Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 17:40:16 -0700

From: "Bernard C. Berger"

To: [redacted]

Dear Dr. Berger,

[Question redacted]
Yes we were members #4 and 5 of Roberts group.
Hmm. So, it was Bonita first, followed soon by David Guido. Then there was a third person of whom I know nothing. Then you and Elizabeth. Then Meg Gwynne (Stella) and Harold Wirk. Then Bill Schenker? Or did Bill precede you?
I was with Bill Shenker at an Esalen Style encounter group. He mentioned that Burton had some interesting ideas and that we should go to a meeting. He was in the group before me. I brought my wife along. We share everything together and still do. Shenker was interested in Sufism and in the idea that certain people have greater powers than others. I suppose that the Castenada Books were out by that time and reinforced that concepts.

The group quickly increased to perhaps 30. We developed some new friends in the group and 6 of us left after my wife and I were members for a year.
A year. So, you left in the Spring of 1971, prior to the purchase of the Oregon House property.

Hmm. Do you mind if I ask you some basic questions about yourself, and then also some basic questions about your perceptions at that time, as you remember them?

I have heard you are a physician. May I ask about your field of medical practice, and further, whether you have any training in psychiatry?

Yes I am a physician now retired and although at that time I was interested in Psychiatry I did not take a residency in thart [sic] field. ALL of my circle of friends from Med School became Psychiatrists. I did enjoy my practice and spent a lot of time listening to my patience [sic]. I do not give credence to psychoanalytic theory.
May I ask how you were persuaded to begin paying Robert money?
Robert asked for and received $100 per month from us. I felt it was worth it for his time and effort. He did open my eyes to Gurgeeffs [sic]concepts. It was not a bad deal for me to pay him.
How would you describe the Robert Burton whom you knew at that time?
He was a v. good teacher of the idea of being awake. He was also v. weired [sic]. His eyes always seemed to be remarkable. Very wide eyed but I was not uncomfortable with him. He really had a great shtick and did very well for himself. I also enjoyed the members. They were middle class, affluent and searching for something. Just like me. It was a hell of a lot simpler than trying to climb Everest.
Do you recall Robert ever discussing his personal life, i.e., where he grew up? I know that he was born in Arkansas, and that he later moved to California, attended San Jose State University, taught fourth grade in Lafayette. Did he ever say where he went to high school? Do you have any idea how he was keeping afloat financially prior to his requiring payments of you?
I believe that he lived with his mother and taught tennis. Robert wanted us to give him a sizable but non specific amount to purchase a ranch.
Yes. This became an institution, a dogma, a rite of passage. When I was a member ,[redacted], the "ranch donation" (one donation among many) was "one month's gross income, or $1000, whichever was greater."
It seemed like a very exploitative request and thus left the group.
Yes, it sounds like you had some basic common sense. I presume you have some concept of the group's subsequent history?

Oh, yes, another question. In reviewing the roster of members during the early years, I continue to be astonished at the number of physicians. Have you any notion of how this came about?

Physicians seem more gulible [sic] than real people. They may fool others that they know something but in their hearts they seek and have the money and time to fullfill [sic] themselves. I just finished the Everest Book Into Thin Air. There was a high percentage of Drs on that expedition. DRs are also poor investors and are an easy mark.

I would be happy to answer any questions.
I am grateful for your response and am very Interested in whatever you are able to remember from this remote time. Is It possible that you or your wife have notes tucked away, somewhere?
No notes I am sorry

Best Regards

Bernard Berger

[Name redacted]

2 of 2 06/12/97 07:00:35

Wednesday, April 1, 1970

Early Lies?

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader in 1971
Robert Earl Burton in 1971. Source: FOF History Project

[ed. - On January 1, 1970, Robert Earl Burton began the "teaching" that would become The Fellowship of Friends.]

From "History of the Fellowship of Friends"
At one of these early meetings, Robert said he had only been with his own teacher for 3 years. He also said that his teacher had increased his payments until he had had to hold down 3 jobs to be able to make the payments to be able to remain with his teacher. Then there had come a time when his teacher had told him it was time for him to leave, and go out on his own. Robert said, that he had traveled across the United States, searching for a student, that he may be able to teach, and was it not strange that he had come home, and found one (a student) in his own back yard.
Alternate history:
"Robert Burton was asked to leave Alex Horn’s school after eighteen months of work on himself. He was given the task of not sleeping with other men, and failed this task from his teacher."
Alternate Alternate History:
In 1967 Robert Earl Burton attended a meeting led by Alexander Horn, and immediately knew that he had found what he had been seeking. Mr. Horn conducted a group based on the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky ideas that used theater as a form for work on oneself. Burton devoted himself to studying the Fourth Way and to participating in Mr. Horn’s group. After eighteen months, however, Robert Burton found it necessary to part from his teacher, realizing that Mr. Horn’s teaching methods were no longer serving his aim.

Thursday, January 1, 1970

The Mysterious Life of Robert Earl Burton prior to the Fellowship of Friends

[ed. - The image above by photographer Robbi Pengelly is featured in John Capone's article, "Over The Moon" (Sonoma Magazine, Winter 2012). Present-day Repris winery is reported to occupy the former site of Alex Horn's Red Mountain Ranch, where Robert Burton is said to have labored in Horn's vineyard.

Curiously, while reconstructing this Fellowship of Friends timeline, I learned that Google's Blogger only allows posts to be back-dated to January 1, 1970, which is, coincidentally, the official Fellowship of Friends founding date. This must be a sign from Burton's "Higher Forces" (or perhaps Burton signaling that the pre-1970 past is best forgotten.) In this post I will include what little has been collected of Burton's early life. The photos of Burton, and indeed much of the information below come from the Internet Archive. "Veronicapoe" (who uploaded the material to the Internet Archive) included the following comment:]
"Three photographs of Robert Burton from the 1960s. The earliest is his yearbook photograph from San Jose State University. The later two are faculty photographs from Springhill Elementary School which date from the mid-1960s."

January 1, 1970
Robert Earl Burton considers this the day he founded The Fellowship of Friends.

Earlier History
Robert Earl Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult leader, in the mid-1960s
Robert Burton's Springhill
Elementary School staff
photograph. 1964 or 1965.
"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 15, 2013:
I think it’s fair to say Burton was trolling for students, looking for someone who would confirm his own specialness, who would play Echo to his Narcissus, who would reflect back to him the image of himself which so entranced him, that of a person of remarkable achievement and special destiny. He found that in Bonita. At the time he was a fellow who had been dismissed from his teaching job in the third year, had gone through a brutal cult experience with Alex Horn up in Sonoma, and had had a serious auto accident in Modesto in which he had significant head trauma. He managed to find some work giving tennis lessons at the Claremont Hotel [ed. - or Hiller Highlands Country Club?] and to do some subbing in Emeryville, but he was living at home in Walnut Creek with his mom. Taking monthly payments from seekers helped enable him to buy a VW van and become independent. He collected quite a group of people, but then made a very exploitative request for the big bucks, and most of them left. I think if you examine the strange fact that Burton renewed his elementary school teaching credential in 1975 for the period 1975-1980, long AFTER he had announced that he was the “Avatar of the Age” and that the group was going to produce “three angels” who would be “burned on the cross and still survive… literally and worse burned on the cross,” it forces you to come to some conclusions about sincerity. The main conclusion I draw is that Burton believed he might have to go back to teaching elementary school, because the whole scam, the terraced hundreds of acres in Oregon House, the legions of devoted students, etc., might fall apart. And he would have to figure out how to make a living again.

"jomopinata" added in another post:
I also have information of unknown veracity that Burton did business management for a rock group for a period of time in the late 1960s. I do not know whether this was before or after the 1968 Modesto auto accident.

From the Cult Education Institute website:
[ed. - Excepted from 'The Teacher' who predicts a holocaust (The San Diego Union-Tribune March 12, 1995, by Gordon Smith - Staff Writer)]
Founder and leader Robert Burton, 55, earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from San Jose State College in 1963. He taught elementary school in Lafayette and for the Emeryville Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area before studying the writings of various philosophers on his own.

He also attended a Quaker church in Berkeley off and on during the mid-1960s, which may have eventually inspired the name for his Fellowship of Friends.

In 1968, Burton became captivated-along with a number of other Bay Area residents-by the works of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky.

In the first half of this century, the two men developed a complex philosophy called the Fourth Way that revolves around the core idea that people are spiritually "asleep."

Acquiring true consciousness, they argued, requires diligent "self remembering"-a concept often likened to the Buddhist philosophy of concentrating on the present moment.

Another key is to refrain from expressing negative emotions, which waste energy and distract from spiritual pursuits, they said.

In 1970, Burton convinced a small coterie of acquaintances in Contra Costa County that he was a "man No.5"-defined by Ouspensky as a self-conscious being-possessed of higher knowledge and emotions than most people.

[ed. - Robert Burton states he was a student of Alex Horn for eighteen months. During this period he labored (and was reported to have been physically abused) at Horn's Red Mountain Ranch.
I have interviewed a few people who knew Burton in Horn's group, and their observations add even more mystery, as some elements they describe are not consistent with the person I saw in the Fellowship during the 70s and 80s.

It was clear that Alex Horn, "M." and his friend "L." regarded Burton as gay back in the late 60s. Dave Archer, who doesn't recall meeting Robert in Horn's group, but learned about him later on, clearly regards Burton a gay man. (Archer's gay.)

M. said Robert Burton was unusual, being a single gay man in a group (Horn's) that consisted mostly of heterosexual couples. He said Alex Horn treated Robert with “kid gloves." In the case of other homosexuals, Horn tried to convert to them to be “normal.” (In our conversation, L. contradicted M., saying Burton was beaten and forced to have sex with a woman in front of the group.)

M. said Burton showed no signs of leadership, but was a “loud-mouth,” that is, he was outspoken, and asked questions. He also called Burton "a hard-head," meaning he had a strong ego. (G., another person I spoke with, encountered Robert as a new student in Horn's group and described Burton as "incredibly powerful and intimidating.")

In M.’s view, Burton was a strong gay male who hadn’t yet "blossomed." He feels that Burton saw the power Horn had and probably sought to develop his own power while he could (a positive thing, in M.'s view.)

Curiously, M. recalls Robert giving a waltz lesson to the group (which seems uncharacteristic, considering Horn's macho reputation.)

Horn's wife, Ann Haas was very anti-homosexual. (She had been a catholic nun, but gave that up to be with Alex.) Ann’s "solution" for homosexuality was to direct the person to marry and create a family as quickly as possible. When Ann and Alex separated, the group also split, with many in the older, predominantly male population following Horn, and the younger, predominantly female population joining Ann's group.

M. said Burton wasn’t with Alex for long. Maybe 1-1/2 years, though he doesn’t think it was even that long.

He also recalled that Horn later traveled to Oregon House to ask Burton for money, but Burton refused him, so they had a falling out. He couldn't place the date. (I wondered if he were confusing Lord Pentland and Jacob Needleman's visit to solicit funding for the Meetings With Remarkable Men film.)
The articles below describe some of the circumstances under which Burton developed into a self-proclaimed "conscious being."]
From The Kenwood Press, February 15, 2006:
In the 1960s, psychologist Alex Horne [sic] established a retreat named Red Mountain Ranch where members studied the teachings of 19th century mystic, Gurdjieff. By paying $250 a week, the members were allowed the privilege of performing arduous manual labor. With only hand tools, they cleared the hillside to plant grapevines and by 1969 prepared 25 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 1972, the ranch was sold and Glen Ellen Vineyard emerged.

"ALAN" wrote on alt.consciousness.4th-way, March 17, 2000:
Hello Alert,

I checked out the site [Cult Education Institute] you provided in your March 8th post.

Definately [sic] a false group.

I first met Robert Burton at Red Mountain Ranch in Sonoma County, 48 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in California in 1969.

He was a 'tennis bum' at the time and when he saw how much money Alexander Francis Horn was racking [sic] in from gulliable [sic] people who knew their lives were crap, he became a 'work bum'.

And he was very successful until some of his male students started questioning getting anal sex as spiritual enlightenment. There were many stories in major newspapers about him molesting the young boys of his students.

Alex Horn used to have him beaten up regularly as Alex was very homophobic. Of course most of what Alex called his students got beaten up regularly.

There is another "work" website claiming that Lord Pentland and John Bennett were Alex Horn's teachers, allowing Burton People to claim a legitimate connection to the 'fourth-way' for Burton. It is true that in the late 50's Alex did attend an open meeting with Lord Pentland, and he actually shook John Bennett's hand in England as he was about to marry and take to America one of Bennett's students of a few months, Anne [Burrage].

Rodney Collin wrote in one of his many books that the way our descendants will know of 'work activity' in our time, is by all the fake groups, which is just about all anyone ever comes in contact with.

You are only 'in the work' if you are working.


[ed. - Below, on March 19, 2019, the 43rd anniversary of his own (self-proclaimed) "crystallization as a conscious being," Robert Burton recalls his being the only one in Alex Horn's group to recognize Horn's "higher centers."]
I congratulated him after he crystallized. I was the only one that ever knew who Alex Horn was, the only one that could see his higher centers. Because you have to have higher centers to see higher centers. No one in his group had higher centers after I left. It was our best moment when I congratulated him, and he said, “Thank you, Bob.”

[ed. - For an in-depth account of life in Alex Horn's cult, see: A Robert Burton Report From Kabul. Another fine account comes from Thomas Farber in his book, Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child, Berkeley, 1966-1969, of which a 30-page excerpt may be found on A Cult Survivor's Handbook. The following is also from A Cult Survivor's Handbook. The story below makes me wonder if Burton ever was in the oft-cited Volkswagen accident (see below on this page.) Perhaps he was just crowned in one of Horn's slugfests?]
"Theater of All Possibilities" deserves a second look

The San Francisco Progress
January 10, 1979

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on The Theater of All Possibilities. Jack Brooks will also be discussing the theater on the Jim Eason show, Friday between 3 and 4 p.m. on KGO Radio.

By Jack Brooks
For The Progress
“Speaking in general, what is necessary to awaken a sleeping man? A good shock is necessary . . . one shock is not enough. A long period of continual shocks is needed. Consequently, there must be someone to administer these shocks. The work must be organized and it must have a leader. The first and most important feature of groups is the fact that groups are not constituted according to the wish and choice of their members.”

Georges Gurdjieff, as recounted by P.D. Ouspensky “In Search of the Miraculous”
In an attempt to find some conclusion to the bizarre events that surround the operation known as The Theatre of All Possibilities in San Francisco, I have tried to find rational explanations in the stories of former members, in the texts of plays by Alex Horn, and in the writings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

The quote at the top of this article comes as close to a key to the events that have marked Alex Horn’s activities since he came to Northern California nearly a decade ago - as may be possible.

Let me hasten to say that other Bay Area Gurdjieff/Ouspensky groups are in no way connected with or sympathetic to the warped interpretation of that very popular philosophy, as practiced at The Theater of All Possibilities. The bastardization employed by Alex and Sharon Gans-Horn is summed up by the former wife of one of the present leaders, a woman who no longer lives in the Bay Area and is still trying to recover from that “nightmarish” period of her life.

“Horn uses a mixture of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky, Sufism, Judaism, Dante, Orwell, Captain Marvel, and anything else that suits his purposes of gaining mental and physical control over the students.” The woman asked that her name not be used because she still lives in fear of retaliation. She did stress, however, that “If it ever got into court, I’d be there to testify.”

Fear of retaliation is something inherent in controversial operations. Many people called me or wrote and asked that they receive the promised anonymity. Others didn’t ask for that shield because they felt that the shuttered theater would be kept closed.

According to a former actor in The Everyman Theatre (that was the name of the operation when it was in the Mission District), Mark MacIntyre, and others close to the Horns, the directors have left San Francisco and may not be back. Repeated calls to their home on Jackson Street get no answers, although the phone has not been disconnected. “It doesn’t matter,” says ex-member Kathleen Mandis, whose married name was Salmon when she was in the group. “This is a pattern. As soon as there is any pressure, the Horns split and the group goes underground. They’re meeting somewhere.”

Contradictions are routine in the stories about actor – writer – director – guru Alex Horn. Longtime friend Bob Pritikin is of the opinion that “Alex is the gentlest man I’ve ever known.” Pritikin is not a member of the group.

Gerald Greer, former head of Horn’s Red Mountain Ranch in Sonoma County disagrees.

“The things I saw Alex Horn do to people are too incredible and unbelievable . . . how do you make people believe that such things can be true?” he said.


Greer continues: “Horn’s credo at the ranch was, “We’re here to f--- and fight and, if someone gets hurt, so be it.” The men in the group were forced to fight each other. The results were bloody. But, on Horn’s instructions, no medical treatment was allowed, even for the most serious injuries. I saw one guy with his forehead hanging in a flap of skin. All he got was a band aid.

That’s the fighting part of it. Other sources have commented that his philosophy of physical beating continued at The Theatre of All Possibilities.

The sexual excesses took many forms. Again, in the words of ranch director Greer: “Horn slept with every woman in the group, resulting in rampant venereal disease, which Horn then transmitted to his wife, Anne.

The event that ended Greer’s association with Horn is, perhaps, the most ludicrous thing that this investigation has uncovered. I have withheld the names for obvious reasons.

“Alex had to prove to the group that his word was law. He had to illustrate that growth, by his concepts, meant a total destruction of ‘self’. To that end, he made a member of the group commit incest with his own daughter. It utterly destroyed them and their family. I couldn’t take anymore and left.”

The victims of that degradation have since left Horn and have put their lives back together, after years of unimaginable torment.


San Francisco first felt the impact of Alex Horn’s brand of theatre when the Everyman Theatre opened in a former gymnasium at 24th and Mission. The first production was a piece that Horn tried, unsuccessfully, to get produced in New York.

What he did get in New York was a new wife, the noted Obie Award winning actress, Sharon Gans.

When “The Fantastic Arising of Padraic Clancy Muldoon” opened at the new Everyman Theatre, it was greeted by unanimous critical condemnation. Irene Oppenheim, then writing for the Bay Guardian, said, “. . . it’s a self-indulgent disaster.” Jeanne Miller of the Examiner was, as is her hallmark, even more exact: “I remember no more punishing experience . . . The shapeless, turgid play is totally lacking in originality, drama or theatricality . . . boring to a point of total exhaustion.” I was not yet a critic, so I escaped the ordeal. Surprisingly, such reviews didn’t close the play. It simply moved the operation into a new area of street ticket and publicity exploitation.


This story won’t be closed until that question is answered. A partial answer to the reluctance of current members of The Theatre of All Possibilities to say anything at all may be contained in the observation of former Red Mountain Ranch director Gerald Greer: “The fear factor generated by Alex Horn among his followers is as strong as anything I’ve ever heard of being put out in a group outside of the Hell’s Angels.”

[ed. - From A Cult Survivor's Handbook:]
Closer look at the theater

From third article by Jack Brooks in The S.F. Progress, Jan. 12, 1979:


In the hills above Agua Cyente [ed. - Caliente] in Sonoma County, there is a ranch and vineyard called Red Mountain Ranch. Alex Horn no longer owns it. It was part of the settlement in a messy divorce settlement with his former wife, Anne [Horn, later Haas].

When Greer was overseeing the ranch it contained 457 acres, and 71 of those acres were planted in grapes. "It was a marvelous experience, beams Greer. "I would not trade the good times for anything in the world. And I'm glad I witnessed what happened when things went bad. I wouldn't have believed what people will allow to be done to them unless I'd seen it myself."

Greer remembers a night on Red Mountain: "Alex assembled the group and informed them that he wanted to buy a trans-Pacific racing boat, the biggest available. It was berthed in Hawaii. I watched as people pledged $150,000 in savings and home mortgages. He raised the money in a matter of minutes. After he bought the boat, he found that the hull was defective, so he abandoned the project."

The ranch was a lucrative enterprise, according to Greer. "One year, I believe it was 1970, Horn's income from the year was $397,000."

I assumed that that included the vineyard income. "Oh, no," corrected Greer. "It takes five years to get a grape harvest. That was just from member contributions."

[ed. - In 1968, Burton claims he was involved in a car accident in Modesto, CA. Many times over the years, he would retell the story. Here, forty years later, Burton describes that day. Some have speculated that the physical trauma may have contributed to his psychosis.]
"somebody" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 7, 2008:
[Quoting Burton] Unbelievably, we are in the same state [of consciousness] as Influence C who are in this Pavilion now. However, this state is permanent for them, while we are subject to losing it to imagination. They are asking a lot from us, but they are giving us even more. Last week I stayed in Modesto, California. It was the fortieth anniversary of my automobile accident (1968-2008), which occurred in Modesto. My car was hit sideways, and I woke up with a hundred stitches [ed. - or 144 stitches] in my head. [Referring to a photo] I was driving this same model Volkswagen “bug” in the same tan color. Shortly after [Fellowship member] Konstanze Murr completed her task [passed away], we stepped out of a restaurant in Sacramento, and we observed a car, which was the same model and color as Konstanze’s, whith a license plate saying “Sung and Danced”. It did not say, “Sing and Dance”, because Kostanze had sung and danced – she has finished her role.

[ed. - Here, Burton retells the story on September 21, 2011.]

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 21, 2011:
“Soon after I met Influence C on September 5th, forty-four years ago, one of my first observations was that life after death was not a theory. In a sense, this was our school’s first verification. Because before meeting Influence C we had all read literature about life after death, but our faith is a result of our verifications. We have the privilege of verifying that life after death does exist. … This [referring to a photo] is a road sign for Modesto, where I had a car accident. About three months after I met Influence C I had approximately a hundred stitches in my head. It is curious that a small group of students gave me a Miata as a gift last night. This [referring to a photo] is exactly the same as the car that I crashed in – a tan Volkswagen bug. I made a left-hand turn. The driver behind me stopped, but the driver behind him decided to pass, and I was hit broadside and shoved under a parked truck. I heard a horn (like Alex Horn), and an ‘I’ said, ‘Well, it’s not for me.’ That is the most wrong about anything I have ever been in my life! I woke up and the nurse was saying, ‘Doctor, you did a beautiful job with those stitches.’ They rolled me out of the operating room and I just stood up and walked out. I took a taxi and then a Greyhound bus to my little one-room apartment. It was then that I realized how serious Influence C are about helping us. Of course, we have students who have experienced much worse than that. The Miata is a nice little gift, coming almost forty-four years after the Volkswagen. I also soon realized that I was under the guidance of Leonardo. Very early on I wondered who was helping me and they started signaling Leonardo. Leonardo and I are very different, but also very similar from the point of view of presence. Later I will say a few things about why we are so different. If we survive the Last Judgment then many things will become self-evident.”
Mid-60s Volkswagen "Beetle"
[ed. - Finally, on page 5 of Fifty Years with Angels, Burton states,
 "About three months after I met Influence C, I had approximately a hundred stitches in my heard."
and on page 75, he states,
"When I met Influence C I had an enormous number of stitches in my head."
So did the accident happen before or after September 5, 1967?]
The official version of Robert Burton meeting "C Influence":
In 1967 Robert Earl Burton attended a meeting led by Alexander Horn, and immediately knew that he had found what he had been seeking. Mr. Horn conducted a group based on the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky ideas that used theater as a form for work on oneself. Burton devoted himself to studying the Fourth Way and to participating in Mr. Horn’s group. After eighteen months, however, Robert Burton found it necessary to part from his teacher, realizing that Mr. Horn’s teaching methods were no longer serving his aim.

The extraordinary meeting with C Influence, as retold 44 years later, on September 21, 2011, in Robert Burton's own words:
“On September 5, 1967, I met Alex Horn. This date marks the moment when angels from Paradise descended upon us [the royal "us"?], and our quest for divine presence began. We could say that on this day: ‘It has begun.’ Here [referring to a photo] we see a photograph of Alex Horn, showing four fingers on each hand. This [referring to a photo] is the Claremont Hotel and the Berkeley Tennis Club, where I played tennis. I met Influence C hitchhiking because it was just fashionable in the sixties; one would hitchhike from Berkeley to Carmel, and such things. I met Influence C in Berkeley on the crossing of Ashby and Domingo Avenues, like Placido Domingo, the singer. He was born in Spain and raised in Mexico, so it is an omen of my bringing the sequence – the Song of Solomon – to our school. Incidentally, the sequence is a ‘Song of the Self.’ It is four words. This is where our journey began. A doctor picked me up and gave me a ride. He would later turn out to be payment for Dr. Ethan Harris. So we did very well! The doctor was on his way to a prospective student meeting on Page Street (like William Page) in San Francisco. This [referring to a photo] is the house at 350 Page Street where I had my prospective student meeting. It is eight – three plus five. This [referring to a photo] is the interior. The owner was quite gracious about inviting us in. Here [referring to a photo] I am before the gated entrance. … I am looking up in gratitude to Influence C. I was just like you, one of many, one of seven billion. [ed. - World population was around 3.5 billion at the time.] There was no particular reason on the surface they would give any of us this gift, but we are exactly the ones they wanted. And now we are all present and we can see why they wanted us.”
[ed. - "350 Page Street" as pictured in Fifty Years with Angels (above) are actually the homes at 290-294 Page Street. In that book, Burton also refers to the "doctor" as "the Jewish professor" and the meeting as an "open meeting."]

Cult leader Robert Earl Burton resigns from Springhill Elementary - hugged the kids too much?
Springhill Elementary School accepts Robert Earl Burton's resignation. He was told he "hugged the kids too much."
From Internet Archive.

Vicks Formula 44 as Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton's Influence C?
Might this common alcohol and
remedy of the 60s and 70s
be the inspiration for
Burton's "Influence C"?
From the Appeal-Democrat:
In 1967, Robert Earl Burton was a 27-year-old teacher at Springhill Elementary in the Bay Area, coming to work in a coat and tie, carrying a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle and talking about sports.

"He was kind of one of the stars," recalled Carol Blackburn, who taught at Springhill when Burton was there. "Everybody loved him."

After a school break he returned, transformed.

He was dressed like a hippie, complete with headband, recalled Blackburn.

Burton resigned his teacher job early in 1967 and in the book "Self-Remembering," a collection of short statements by him, Burton said that six months later that "Influence C" - 44 angels who include Walt Whitman, Buddha and Abraham Lincoln - revealed themselves to him.

"Life after death instantly became a fact," he wrote.

Robert Burton's Springhill
Elementary School staff
photograph. 1965 or 1966.

Alternate history:
For what it’s worth: Robert Burton was required to resign his job teaching fourth grade at Springhill Elementary School effective March 17, 1967. He later told people he was told he “hugged the kids too much.”
Most teachers whom school districts discharge are permitted to finish out the year unless they did something egregious. It’s pretty disruptive to elementary-school-aged children to fire a teacher in mid-March. Someone must have thought it was pretty important to get rid of the guy immediately.
[ed. - Another former member recalls hearing that Burton was discharged from Springhill after taking boys camping and "behaving badly."]
And, in Burton's own words:
"I remember forming my magnetic centre. I had a nice apartment with a pool outside, a new car, money in the bank, and all of that. But I sat down and said, 'This is nothing.' So I began looking for something, although I did not know what to look for. I had to relinquish my tenured position as a fourth-grade teacher." - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels
Prior to meeting Alex Horn, Burton considered Joe Dawkins
his "B-influence" teacher. Dawkins once asked Burton,
"Did you ever think about not doing what you want to do?"

Fellowship of Friends cult founder Robert Earl Burton San Jose State Class of 1963 yearbook photo
SJSU Class of 1963 yearbook photo
December 25, 1963:
"I formed my magnetic center at Big Sur on the Monterey Peninsula in Northern California. Here [referring to a photo] we see a little girl sitting in the same spot in the Nepenthe Restaurant where I once stood, even before I met Alex Horn. I was there by myself on Christmas Day when I was twenty-four." - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels
"He received his bachelor’s degree in education from San Jose State University in 1963, and became a competitive tennis player as well as a schoolteacher." [ed. - According to the San Jose State University Class of 1963 Yearbook, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education.]


Robert graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Speech Pathology and became a "tennis bum".

Obituary for brother of Velma Shock (Burton)
Oakland Tribune
June 12, 1963
Obituary for Doyle Dawson Shock, brother of Velma Burton

"I used to play tennis and, when I was about twenty, I actually defeated the California singles tennis champion in San Francisco." - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels

Robert Burton graduates high school. On March 19, 2019 he would recall,
The only thing I learned about high school was school was out at 3:15. That's all I remember. I used to watch the clock. Go play tennis after it was over. Tennis, the only sport that has "love" in it.

September 10, 1952
A University of California list of "officers and assistants" includes a "Mrs. Velma E. Burton," possibly Robert Burton's mother. She is a telephone operator at the UC Berkeley Business Office.

Velma E. Burton, possibly Robert Earl Burton's mother
A Mrs. Velma E. Burton, possibly Robert Burton's mother, listed as UC Berkeley telephone operator.

October 3, 1951
In the first nationally-televised baseball game, a 12-year-old Robert Burton witnesses Bobby Thomson's game-winning home run, "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."

The event would be recounted time and again, and even figure into Burton's prophecies.

"I watched that on black and white television. Uh, my grandfather kept me home from school." (See video, beginning at 3:50.)
New York Giant Bobby Thomson's "Shot heard 'round the world," October 3, 1951

[ed.  - According to one former Fellowship member, Robert Burton (perhaps during a Meissen Room dinner) told those attending that he hit his violin teacher over the head with his violin.]


Velma and Robert, from
Fifty Years with Angels
The Burton Family (without Robert's father Edgar) moves to the San Francisco Bay Area.
"It is curious that I was born in Arkansas - ark-can-see - but my mother brought me to Northern California when I was four. As I was growing up, my family was like foreigners in our Berkeley neighborhood. I was the fourth child, and my father remained in Arkansas, so I did not have a father." - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels, p. 20

"I was told that I shot out of my mother's womb. I was the last-born child, and my mother had to reach down and catch me very quickly. Charles Brennan said, 'Are you sure that she caught you?'" - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels, p. 19
May 12 (or 13)
As Robert Earl Burton told his followers, he was born in Enola, Arkansas. (He enjoyed the symbology of this name, since Enola spelled backwards is "alone," a reference to his solitary, and singular role. And even "Arkansas" carries a special  message from the gods for Burton: ARK CAN C.)

He tells followers his mother is Velma Shock, another sign of divine intervention. (Burton says the Gods provide "shocks" to help us "awaken.") Burton stated that his mother was married five times. His father reportedly operated a meatpacking house. (No divine symbolism there, apparently.) Four years later, he would move with his family to the San Francisco Bay Area. He has two sisters, Betty (or "Bettie") and Frances ("Fannie"), and a brother, William ("Billie".) On the official Fellowship of Friends roster, Burton's birth date is shown as May 12, 1939.


Robert Earl Burton is born in Mineral, Arkansas, (as apparently shown on his birth certificate.)


Robert Earl Burton is born in Little Rock, Arkansas, (as reported in his biography.)

Alternate Histories: 
May 11, 1939  Robert was born (plus same location variables as above)


May 5, 1939  Robert was born (plus same location variables as above)


May 4, 1939  Robert was born (plus same location variables as above)
[ed. - In Fifty Years with Angels, Burton sidesteps the contradictions by merely stating he was born "in May 1939"!]

"Spock" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 24, 2010:
[to bloggers:] Apostate, Another Name, James,

The questions about what happened with Burton in childhood and before the FOF are extremely relevant and would cast a lot of light on Burton and the FOF in general.

Note that a sincere discussion about this topic is off-limits in the FOF. Which is odd.

This is “the most important person” in the Fellowship of Friends, and within the Fellowship of Friends we’ve heard him talk and talk and talk about all sorts of topics. But he talks very little about himself and his time before the FOF. Maybe there’s a lot “we” wouldn’t want to hear.

"unoanimo" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 25, 2007:
It is no secret concerning the difficulties RB experienced as a young boy with his mother and sister (or sisters). He openly spoke on many occasions during teaching dinners (very briefly, i.e., less than ten words) of being sexually abused by them. BTW, this was in reply to a question a Fellowship of Friends student asked him, he did not volunteer the information.

[ed. - In December 2012, ex-member "jomopinata" did some research  and discovered the following:]

"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 7, 2012:
According to the 1940 census record [1940 Census E.D. 60-120, S.D. 5, Sheet 13B] of Mineral Township, Pulaski County, Arkansas, Bobbie Burton’s parents were Velma E. Burton (32) and Edgar Burton (34). The children listed in the 1940 census are Bettie (10), Billie (8), Fannie B (5) and Bobbie (1/2)[sic - actually, "11/12" = 11 months]. The record lists Edgar’s occupation as stock dealer [farm products or livestock dealer], and indicate that the the family owns a farm. [Edgar is listed as having a 9th-grade education.]

"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 8, 2012:
Edgar Burton died in June 1967, less than three months after Robert E. Burton’s forced resignation from Springhill Elementary School on March 17, 1967. Edgar was 61-3/4 years old. His Social Security Number was 430-40-4912.
[ed. - This clears up a few things. Mineral Township and Stanley Road reported on the census no longer exist as such.

Since his birth certificate reportedly listed Mineral as his birthplace, and this census shows 11-month-old “Bobbie” living in Mineral, his claim (above) that he was born in Enola, Arkansas (30 miles to the north) appears a fabrication. The 1930 census also shows his family on Batesville Road in Mineral Township (and neighbors to two other Burton families.)

Many Burtons (his father Edgar R. Burton among them) are buried
nearby, in the small Gibson Cemetery (a mile or so from Mineral.) Included is a 20 year-old Robert Earl Burton (11/30/15 - 12/22/35) (below), who died less than four years before “Bobbie” was born.

Robert Earl Burton gravestone, Gibson Cemetery, Arkansas
Robert Earl Burton gravestone. Photo: Susan Fletcher

Robert's sister was likely Frances "Fannie" B. Burton (2/16/35 - 1/87. SS#430-64-0730.)

1930 Census E.D. 60-69, S.D. 6, Sheet 9, shows Edgar R. (24 years old, born about 1906) and Velma E Burton (23 years old, born about 1907)]

Miscellaneous Quotes
"My great grandmother was Jewish, Ms. White." - Robert Earl Burton, September 9, 2018