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.

Friday, December 31, 1971

1971 Notes

 "Gathered Around The Campfire, 1971" from the Internet Archive. Photo by Don Birrell.
Photo taken at MacDonalds' farm in Vacaville?

[ed. - Timelines provided by Harold Wirk, here and here. The "history" below is inconsistent. The Oregon House property's anniversary is considered July 4th, but it appears to have been purchased in the Spring.]

New Year's Eve party at Mac's [MacDonalds']
According to Harold, sometime during this period, Berkeley meetings began
1st Ranch Donation requested [Bonita "loaned" Robert $4,000 for the ranch purchase.]
Farm-garden (at Mac's)
Open meetings (1/7)
Borsch party at Anna's (1/10) [is this at Anna G.'s house in Berkeley?]
Last "Circle in Room" at Rick and Alice's [Hannah]
Smoking allowed during breaks only
Ken Jacuzzi left for Mexico (1/20)
"Stop" exercise is instituted (1/25)
40 names for group [ed. - was the Fellowship still unnamed at this point?]
Begin search for a ranch
Planting ceremony at Mac's (2/21)
March 3: Robert announces plans to purchase a ranch. Donations due March 4th.
Members looked at the "King Ranch". [ed. - Is this the 1,300-acre Solano County King Ranch, or possibly the former name for the Dixon Hill property? There is also a King Ranch Road in Bangor, just west of Oregon House.]
Robert will not personally work with new students (3/10)
April 20: The California Franchise Tax Board determines The Fellowship of Friends to be a tax-exempt religious organization
April 21: The Fellowship of Friends is incorporated in the State of California
May 28 - 31: Sea Ranch Coastway's Ranch
Alden and Bonita moved to Ranch
June 23: The United States Internal Revenue Service determines The Fellowship of Friends to be a tax-exempt religious organization
June 26: Anna 3rd [to move there?]
1st Ranch Weekend (7/4): "The Farm Octave" begins
[Official Fellowship of Friends history:] On July 4, 1971, (Robert Burton's) students purchased 1,200 acres of mostly uncleared land in the Sierra foothills [bordering the community of Oregon House and sharing Dixon Hill with the Richards Ranch]. For the next five years, Robert Burton focused his efforts on establishing a network of satellite groups or “centers” in California, and on developing the property—later called Renaissance—to serve as a central retreat for Fellowship members and as the focus for their external efforts. [ed. - According to the report by Eugene Katz, CPA, the Fellowship's land holdings as of December 31, 1971 were 917 acres, the cost, about $167 per acre.]
Coin octave [coin collecting?]
See Fellowship of Friends Master List as of August 1971.
September 4: Robert begins a 16-month period of silence.
Started paper [assumed to be "Via del Sol," the Fellowship journal and newsletter]
Around this time, members are advised to "cut life work by 20%"
Sea Ranch (10/1/-10/3)
Vegetarian diet on Ranch (10/18)
Robert speaks on the subject of suicide (10/26)
According to Harold, around this time, being "out of patterns" is emphasized, he also refers to "laughing man" [unknown reference], "organic" lifestyle is emphasized, no leather or restrictive clothing, rolfing and massages are common, members are not to eat pork. There is a slow-down in recruiting.
Fast one day [member exercise?]
Mexican dinner (11/18)
Thanksgiving dinner at Farm
Big Sur, Carmel meetings (open) started
12/2: Robert leaves ranch and tries to sell it. 14 adults, 8 kids left
12/7: Announced new group formed in Big Sur
Robert teaches 4 meetings weekly
New Year's party at Mac's [MacDonalds'?] ranch (12/31)

Tuesday, October 26, 1971

Via Del Sol Journal, October 26, 1971

[ed. - The following comes from The Esoteric History Archive by "Veronicapoe". "Bares Reposting" converted Veronicapoe's PDF file to plain text (below). It's unclear from where Robert Earl Burton's sententiousness derives, but the use of aphorisms would become the hallmark of his "teaching." Note: The use of "(i)" in the Journal may reflect an exercise Burton had already given his followers, that is, to avoid the use of "I". According to the Fourth Way teaching, using "I" only enforces the illusion that we are a single unified being. In their search for an alternative, it became most common for students to awkwardly refer to themselves as "it," even when in public. For example, ordering in a restaurant: "It would like a hamburger." (The look on servers' faces was priceless.)]

"Bares Reposting" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 20, 2011:
Via.Del.Sol.Journal.10.26.1971.pdf rendered to plain text:


Volume I October 26, 1971 Issue No. 6


(The movie “Gold Rush Days” with Charlie Chaplin was played as an exercise to control laughter.)

The control of laughter was good, the movie had humor from one angle of

Student: It also seemed to be sad in parts.

That is right, it is life… One of (my) students once said that (i) am like Charlie Chaplin.

Please try to use (my) name as little as possible. (i) don’t like to hear it — it is not (me).


There will be a trip to Mexico probably in February. There will be two levels: abundant and frugal (mostly frugal). It will be fun for all and good for impressions.

Q. How much will it cost?

A. In general, we will travel as economically as possible. Yet, for those who wish they may (and should) live high at times. We will have a planning day one day. (i) think $250 should do it, and less for some and more for some.


Students were asked how many have verified that C influence is a reality? (Several raised hands.)

Help (from C influence) is given in the amount it is appreciated and valued.

Just about all the people who raised their hands are on the “way”. Some are on the “way” who did not raise their hands.

Everything here is fated. (my) words are never (my) own, even now. C influence controls all of us to wake us up.

When you are less extreme, less happy and less sad, more mellow, more 40 or 50 (or Number 4 or 5),
less identified, then you are on the way.


If people cannot afford the farm, speak to me and (i’m) sure it can be arranged.

We can give food, lodging, and presently cannot give people money. Eastern teachings have always done this and teachers and students also begged for food and still do.

Colodi, who wrote Pinocchio, said that the wealthiest people have to beg for food.


Wear strong, high boots and try to stay on trails and walk cautiously. Listen to what you think are lizards, they can be snakes.

Q. It’s cold weather now, and snakes less apt to be out anyway.

A. Yes, and we may have some more warm weather.

Yorgos and the teacher had an experience of seeing a rattle snake on the trail – several others. People started shifting (the moving center). (A brain of its own.)

Miscellaneous Notes from October 16

People are interested in evolution on their own terms (they would like the teaching to be what their idea of a teaching is).

Q. What about other groups. They are studying the same things we are?

A. If you think that anyone in life is on the same path, you don’t yet know what you have met here. There are people who could be here, but do not have luck (good fate).

Ouspensky said, “You must not discount luck. You must have luck to meet a teaching.” It is only possible to become conscious in this present life by fate. Some people here may be fated to become conscious in another life, or this life.

Gurdjieff said, “We are all equally beggars.”


Nov. 2, 4, 9. “Please work with new people if you haven’t. Each person try to bring one or more people. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone, though.

Most people would go mad if they stopped “puttering”.

We will end now, and (i) hope you know (i) love you more now, even though (i) do not speak.


Separate: for a source of friction and health, we will stop making coffee in the farm house until Dec. 1 and at that time another decision will be made to continue or not. It will produce negativity, which is food for  the Self to come into existence.

[End Page 1]

Via Del Sol Journal Page 2 October 26, 1971

If you wish to make coffee in your tent, it is your privilege. It would be best to end the habit. People do not drink coffee or smoke cigarettes – they drink a habit and smoke a habit. The drinking of coffee and the smoking of cigarettes is a buffer. It keeps filling time to avoid the helplessness of being unable to cope with the simpleness of existence.

Remember – to use it as a source of friction.

(i) will still drink coffee once in a while, just as (i) smoke once in a while (not being mechanical), and presently (i) have three cups of coffee a year and 10 cigarettes. And (i) taste them, and use them for higher centers. On alcohol, we will eventually almost eliminate them (maybe serve at festive occasions).

When a person uses drugs, or drinks, they borrow from tomorrow. Like a heavy person who eats too much on one day and at that time says, “I will diet tomorrow”. People borrow from tomorrow. Peter Ouspensky said that.

Also, most conscious men do not smoke or drink, and in the East they do not have sex. Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were the exception in this area.

If you have one cup of coffee a day, it’s not a buffer (sometimes 2 cups). Water is the best drink.

A rock record says, “i don’t always get what i want, but i always get what i need. It is Western personality that drinks and smokes (false personality).


Brian Marshall introduced his friend, Alan Lucas. The comment was that it looks like Brian has brought his own replacement.

Discussion of angles of thought about the “lower eating the higher”. If the teacher is eaten, it is called a “crime”.

It is one of the ways C influence works.

Crime can make other students stronger who see and do not make the same mistake.

One area where a student eats the teacher is when the student wastes the teacher’s work – – for example, not doing a task.

A teacher is intended to be drawn from, but not eaten.

“Never did the eagle stoop so low as to listen to the blackbirds”.

That is the Self listening to the many “I’s”.

Q. False personality likes to be liked. Does essence like to be liked?

A. Essence is liked without trying to be liked. Essence can be hurt by insensitive people.

Angle of thought is that “I’s” that feel a “need” of another person are false personality.

The lower cannot see the higher. That is a Law.


Problems rely on outraged honor, being slighted, lack of justice, etc., and literally are not real. Parts of the emotional center enjoy problems.

Problems can come from willfulness.

A good student said to me over the weekend, “You make it hard for us.” (i) replied that you will forgive me when you are near death.

(i) am balanced and do not make it hard or easy.

When a person is about to die, all he has left of importance in his life are his moments of consciousness; that is, when his Self was awake and time has not eaten the moments of self-consciousness.

Ouspensky said that these are our precious possessions.

Do not let the emotional center take you down on the subject of death.


Suicide, in general, is vanity. The emotional center wants to be noticed or has taken itself too importantly (vanity).

Ouspenskv formulated the theory that people who commit suicide will live their lives over and over and commit suicide at an earlier and earlier time and eventually will be born dead. There is a medical name for such babies. They are born with a healthy body, but seemingly no will to live. It is called “merasmus” or  “failure to thrive” (reported Richard Hannah).

Do not try to save anybody here who tries to commit suicide. They

[End Page 2]

Via Del Sol Journal Page 3 October 26, 1971

shouldn’t he here. And they will strangle you just as some drowning people drown someone who tries to save them.

Q. What eventually happens to the soul of a person who commits suicide earlier and earlier and then is born dead?

A. It would cease to exist.

Ouspensky formulated that this would be the only true death – – the death of a soul.

Q. Are the Self and the soul the same thing?

A. Presently we will say that it is. There are many names for the Self – – the nameless one, astral body, the little gray bird, the light, the third eye, higher emotional and higher intellectual – – these are “pen names” for the Self. It is not a word, it is a state.

It is possible that people continually learn too much too soon in their lives and eventually think that they know what there is to know. Such persons are Krishnamurti, Allen Watts, etc.

They play that life over and over again, always learning too much too soon.

According to Ouspensky’s formulation, people have 2 or 3 lives in which to make it after meeting a C influence group.

Q. Allen Watts tries to teach knowledge to others, to help others.

A. Yes, and he teaches his errors to others. He has errors and he does not know they are errors.

Allen Watts is a high person, and yet he has missed the target, and does not know there is a target. A fatal error. (To the questioner: Try to give up the idea of justice.)

These people cannot work with a C influence teaching because they “know everything”. What opens the door on one level, may close it on another.

Buddha has formulated that it is one of the signs of Buddhahood for a teacher to be able to get people to value their selves more than the illusion of life.

It is always difficult to meet a school.

About no coffee at farm house. It is fine to irritate personality by not giving it cigarettes and coffee at times.

Some people need to feed a wolf; others need to irritate personality now (to produce friction).

A third force cannot be born without the duality of friction. C influence will give you more help.

Q. Some people seem to be so glum.

A. People are in sleep and it is glum if you can’t wake up and you know it. Also, it is leaving imaginary suffering, the fire keeps going out. There is joy if the Real “I” crystallizes.

Q. Gurdjieff seemed to have so much joviality in his teaching.

A. Yes, and he also gave them a knee in the stomach and struck them which is a form of love (he was trying to wake them up Martially).

Mary Ward is here – – a new octave. She is similar to Bonita, the first student.

Charles Ward may he replacement for Jim Bullock – – Jupiter.

This is not a Gurdjieff teaching – – it is Esoteric Christianity – – and, as always, it still hurts.

To change your level is as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

Also, the teaching was around before Christ manifested on earth.

Q. What about not using your name?

A. Just minimize it. “Robert” is OK, it just doesn’t need to be said much. (i) don’t like “teacher” or “instructor” either.

We will end now, loves.


Isn’t it nice (we) have a farm, after all the looking (we) did.

Q, What two centers accept that existence is simple?

A. Higher emotional and higher intellectual. The Self sees existence as simple.

The Self has a capacity to accept objective facts of existence, and not try to make existence what his or her personality imagines existence to be like.

Q. Does the self choose the next role, or is it ordered by higher forces?

A. A guess would he the latter.

Q. If a person gets to No. 4, when he recurs, will he be No. 4?

[End Page 3]

Via Del Sol Journal Page 4 October 26, 1971

A. (i) don’t know, most probably move on.

Q. Can you explain what the Enneagram is about?

A. George Gurdjieff, as (i) understand it, was the first esoteric teacher to release the diagram to the public. It has been passed on from teacher to teacher with an understanding that it should be given to only a few. It is a complete teaching, as other forms are a complete teaching.

Q. Why is C influence?

A. It enjoys existence.

Everything is a part of the whole. Parts have a separate identity as well as being parts of the whole. Ouspensky has formulated that at death, the Self immediately is born again into the same home with the same parents. We will understand more two years from now.

Q. I cannot see the relevance of learning about the Ray of Creation or the Table of Hydrogens, when we are studying ourselves.

7. Different types here need different food. Also, as buffers are removed, knowledge is necessary to replace the buffers.

Also, such knowledge brings relativity to the scale of our existence – – how small we are.

In addition, Ouspensky, for example, didn’t receive that knowledge until after being in the teaching for about 20 years. Maybe in 20 years we will find it more useful.

Try to ask practical questions. Knowledge should be useful. It is fine if something is useful for you and not for others.

Q. What should the relationship be with parents and children here? What kind of atmosphere best for them?

A. Good householder.

Q. C influence will take care of their atmosphere and environment.

A. We must proceed as if C influence wasn’t present.

Overall it is best to have children in private homes on the ranch. They are lucky not to be in public schools.


“Existence is odd.”

“For women, watch the hens on the farm – – no insult at all intended – – just observe a female species, wants chicks…after raising a brood, they’re right back at it again.”

“Meher Baba said, ‘I am the one who loves you more than you could love yourself’.”

“(i) do not need a ‘no’ – – (i) only need your love.”

“When a person is doing something questionable the reason (i) may ask about it is that you are trying to attach your will to mine, and what you are doing is not my will.”

“Try to keep musical records that have words out of the house.”

“Necessary laws are the same for all. People can be under more unnecessary laws, depending on their level of being.”

“What holds most women back from evolution is that they are more attracted to males and children than to themselves.”

“Our poor little emotional centers cannot understand the No. 3 person.”

“Forgive each other here.”

“The problem is within you, not without. Try to use it as friction.”

“Work against any weakness in yourself and you work against Chief Feature. It is building Will” (Peter Ouspensky).

“(i) love you and won’t let you down.”

This is Issue No. 6 of the newsletter. Price: 75¢ for four issues, or 20¢ per Copv. Issue No. 1 was free, so this issue begins a new set of 4 on subscription.

The subscription is beneficial to you and appreciated by the one who compiles the notes.

[End Page 4]

Saturday, September 4, 1971

Silence and "feminine dominance"

[ed. - On September 4, 1971, Robert Burton entered a 16-month period of silence, concluding in December 1972. During this time, he visited his mother in the hospital and refused to speak. Later, he was fond of citing that occasion as an example of his work against the human weakness he called "feminine dominance." (Always prone to exaggeration, on November 11, 2009, Burton would later recount, "When I was a young teacher, I worked with an exercise of being in silence for two years.")

In April of 1981, Burton even told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle the familiar story.]
“My mother was in a hospital and she was dying. They had to do open-heart surgery and I was in the 15th month of a 16-month period of silence. I was denying myself speech. I saw her in the hospital and I did not speak. It was my aim not to speak.” 
 [ed. - His work against feminine dominance did not however prevent him from assigning many members, including myself, to provide various services for his mother, who lived in Sacramento, CA at least into the late 1970s. See also "Notes from the period of silence, 1971-1972" at the Internet Archive.]

Tuesday, August 31, 1971

Fellowship of Friends Master List, August 1971

From the Internet Archive

"Melanie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends WikiSpace [site no longer accessible], March 16, 2013:
Date:  Sat, Mar 16 2013, 1:34 pm, PST
Name:  Melanie
Number:  26

How strange to see my name on the 1971 ledger sheet. I was 18 at the time, had been in the Teaching for 2 years and left in 1972 to grow up. If my recollection serves me right, 1971 was the year that we spent the summer at the ranch, one bathroom and a bad septic system. I remember having various projects, one of which was raising and killing chickens. Each student had to kill a chicken because it was important to be in touch with our appreciation with another life and the taking of it. It was an important lesson. When I left the teaching, my mother Rosemary, my father Donald, and my sister Charlotte had nothing to do with me for a few months but that was as long as it lasted. Maybe it was because I was leaving to find me not to get away from them. In any case, my mother was in until she passed away in 2003. My father left about a year before Miles because of the abuse and because people were instructed not to have sex. What I remember of that is that no-one was to have any sex unless they were married. How odd. I never really felt compelled to follow alot of the rules that Robert laid down...I thought it was a test to see if you would think for yourself or do what he said. The thread of being excomunicated was not enough to doom me to a loss of salvation. I don't see alot of former members but I do live a great life in Wisconsin. I miss my parents but I know they did a good job overcoming many challenges in this life. I had a sense of humor about the many "important and significant" statements they both made in the weekly meetings and the retreats. Really, what the heck what that all about? There was mostly alot of repressed sexual energy going around. What a hoot. I have not fully looked over all of the postings but I will. Thank you for taking the time to develop is very interesting and certainly a part of my past.

[ed. -
"My father left about a year before Miles because of the abuse and because people were instructed not to have sex."
Actually, Donald Macdonald left the Fellowship in June 1975. Miles Barth (aka Brighton) left the Fellowship in March 1985.]

Sunday, August 1, 1971

Once upon a time...

[ed. - Below is a screen print of the Renaissance Winery website captured by the Internet Archive, October 13, 1999. In the photograph, members are gathered in front of what would become the "Lincoln Lodge," and later, "Apollo d'Oro" restaurant.]