Introduction


Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

Monday, April 2, 1973

The Fellowship's First Suicide

Cults & Consequences reports on the Fellowship of Friends
Former Fellowship member Barbara Bruno
Lancaster contributed to this volume.
[ed. - Former Fellowship member Lore Fisher-Smith (Lore Cappel) committed suicide April 2, 1973. Barbara Bruno Lancaster (see below) had joined the Fellowship a few months earlier (November 1, 1972). Robert Burton would later tell his followers "suicide is nature's way of eliminating weak seed." 

According to Harold Wirk's recruitment diagram, Lore and her husband were introduced to Burton's group through Helga Fenn (later, Guinevere Ruth Mueller).

(7/1/17 NOTE: For a long time, this blog mistakenly reported Lore's death as occurring April 2, 1972. This has been corrected based upon Jordan Fisher Smith's statement.)]

"Veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 26, 2007 at 5:30 a.m.:
Three months after joining this “study group”, a special meeting was called and it was announced that a woman who had left the school had committed suicide. This was seen as an example of what happens when students do not value the knowledge they have been exposed to. The school had become a lifetime endeavor! (Only for those who were strong enough to succeed.) - Barbara Bruno Lancaster

"Veronicapoe" added on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 27, 2007 at 4:09 a.m.:
Joel,

Barbara Bruno’s account appears in a 1988 book called Cults and Consequences. The reference in her story is to the 1972 [sic] suicide of Lori F-S. [ed. - See page 7-5]

"Jomo PiƱata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 25, 2009:
[Quoting] Somebody
For example those posts connecting suicides to FOF actions are completely lies!!!
….
Blaming the FOF for those suicides is malicious.
Let’s examine the evidence.

Burton publicly announces,

“Do not try to save anybody here who tries to commit suicide. They shouldn’t be here. And they will strangle you just as some drowning people drown someone who tries to save them.” (October 26, 1971).

In other words, if someone is suicidal in the Fellowship, don’t try to help them, if you do try they will drag you down and strangle you.

I can hardly think of a policy which would promote individual suicides more than this one. If they are in the school and they are suicidal, don’t help them.

Then, in 1972 [sic], “a special meeting was called and it was announced that a woman who had left the school had committed suicide. This was seen as an example of what happens when students do not value the knowledge they have been exposed to. The school had become a lifetime endeavor! (Only for those who were strong enough to succeed.)” Account of Barbara Bruno Lancaster from the book, Cults and Consequences, at http://tinyurl.com/Lore-Fisher-Smith. [ed. - See page 7-5]

So, to recap:

1. Burton states, if they’re suicidal, don’t help them, they will drag you down and strangle you.

2. A woman (Lore Fisher-Smith) leaves the Fellowship and commits suicide.

3. Burton calls a meeting and states that this is what happens when people don’t value esoteric knowledge, i.e., when they leave the school. Don’t leave the school, it might happen to you. But if you’re suicidal, no one should help you, because you will drag them down and strangle them. If you’re suicidal, you’re on your own.

4. Kevin Kelly, a quadriplegic, has a basically stable life. Burton insists that his prophesies are going to happen and that California is going to fall into the ocean. People are required to quit their jobs and move to Oregon House. Kevin uproots his basically stable but difficult quadriplegic life. The prophesied fall of California does not happen. Kevin kills himself by drowning himself in the river. I am told he was not permitted to have a funeral.

These are two clear examples of the interconnection between Burton’s statements, fellowship policy and suicides. So, Someone, I am interested to know why you believe the suicides are not connected to Burton or the Fellowship.

Others may have more detailed information than I have about Brian Sisler and Kimo Beech. Tell the stories in detail, please.

[ed. - The following obituary appeared in the Daily Independent Journal, April 4-5, 1973. It is also reported that a collection of her last writings titled, Pandora's Box, Writings of Lore Fisher-Smith, was published in 2001.]
FISHER-SMITH — The sudden and untimely death of Lore Fisher-Smith, on Sunday, April 1, 1973 [sic], comes as a shock to all who knew her. A highly energetic and creatively versatile person, involved in design, dancing, painting and writing — and conducting workshops in these various subjects — Lore contributed much to the young life, especially in this community. One such contribution was a gentle mural of nature, trees particularly, in one of the lower grade rooms in Old Mill School. Active workshops in writing and poetry and body control produced significant results. As a charter member of sight and insight, she participated in exhibitions and in teaching. Lore Fisher-Smith is survived by her husband, John, and three sons, Jordan, Jeremy and Jothan, and her mother, Else Cappel of Berkeley and by her brother, Klaus Capper of Huntsville, Alabama. Friends may visit from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at RUSSELL AND GOOCH FUNERAL CHAPEL, Mill Valley. The family will be present from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Graveside ceremony Friday at 11 a.m. at Femwood Cemetery, Mill Valley. Memorial gifts may be made to your favorite charity.

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