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.

Monday, January 1, 1973

"The Original Michael Group" forms

1st Edition cover. Source
[ed. - Date approximate. Following the November 1972 "Play of Crime," many Fellowship members left Robert Burton to pursue their own direction. One group comprised of Alice and Richard Hannah, Sarah and Richard Chambers, and Gene Trout formed what would eventually evolve into "Messages from Michael" and The Michael Foundation. Alice and Richard Hannah, and Gene Trout appear on the 1972 Fellowship Recruiting Diagram. Sarah and Richard Chambers do not, but Kathryn (Hannah) below mentions Sarah was a member. It is unclear whether Richard Chambers was ever a member of the Fellowship. See also the 314-page document, Transcripts of the Michael Channeling Sessions. The following was published on In this remembrance, former Fellowship member Kathryn (Hannah) Fitzgerald speaks about this early history. See also:‘Michael Speaks’ — the 1970s group transcripts are finally published and The Michael Teachings on Wikipedia.]
History of the Original Michael Teachings Group

There were five people who formed the core of the original study group that would channel the Michael Teachings — Alice and Richard Hannah, Sarah and Richard Chambers, and Eugene (“Gene”) Trout. The history of these people and this group is quite fascinating.  While we hope to have the detail history available eventually, here is the brief* outline.

The members of the original group were complex individuals with full lives. They had teenage children; some of them had been divorced and remarried. Their ages ranged from mid-thirties to fifty-ish. Richard Hannah and Gene Trout were medical doctors, Richard Chambers was a civil engineer, Alice Hannah was a biochemist and Sarah Chambers was a life long educator (as she described herself). They lived in Northern California during the time when the “New Age” movement was very active. They were also spiritual seekers –- they had sessions with local psychics, they studied the Seth material, Alice Bailey’s theosophy, Rosicrucian hermeticism and A Course in Miracles, among others. They went to workshops taught by Robert Monroe (Journeys out of the Body) and got to know him very well. Many in the group attended Werner Erhard’s EST seminars.

The core group members were serious students of the Gurdjieff and Ouspensky “Fourth Way” teaching, and belonged to a local Fourth Way group for a time. According to one of the members, after they read about Jane Roberts and the Seth material in the newly published books at the time, several of them wanted to see if they could get messages themselves. They came together as a group in late 1972 or early 1973, to begin their attempts to get information through a Ouija board used by several different members of the group as they experimented. They had many questions about a wide range of subjects. They contacted at least three non-physical beings before the Michael Entity showed up on August 12, 1973. After that, attendance at the group’s sessions grew larger and larger for a couple of years until the large public sessions were disbanded in June of 1975. After mid-1975, Sarah Chambers, who had become the primary channel, continued to have sessions with small groups of friends up until about 1983. Some regular attendees formed their own small study groups of friends, to continue their own personal growth and study, after Sarah stopped channeling publicly. During that time, other student’s began to learn to channel Michael and study groups formed around their work.

A couple of years after the large group sessions ended in 1975, Sarah met author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro at a Science Fiction convention. Ms. Yarbro became interested in the transcripts although she never attended any of the study group meetings herself. There were some special sessions done for her to help in writing first her book, Messages From Michael (MFM), which relied heavily on some of the original group transcripts and dealt with the teachings’ structural aspects.   Ms. Yarbro would put together her own channeling group and eventually wrote three other books which concerned the Michael Teachings.

After a hiatus from Michael for quite a few years, Sarah returned in the 1990s as an active channel and teacher, in partnership with several other long-time channels. She left California and moved to Santa Fe, NM in 1998, where she died unexpectedly in December of that year.   The rest of the original core group, and many of the students that gathered around them, went on with their lives.  Of those that remain, several have been kind enough to assist us in reconstructing the group history.

Since the late 1970s, there have been more than 25 additional books written about the Michael Teachings, with new e-books coming out by several authors.   The Michael Teachings continue to grow and expand as students become more experienced and as their questions become more varied. Michael has continuously said that they are available to anyone who asks and reminds that the whole purpose of their teaching is to help us learn Agape — unconditional love.

[ed. - From Transcripts of the Michael Channeling Sessions:]
I had the feeling that Robert Burton said that everybody good was Saturn. I had it beaten into me, and I guess it is so. They are strong, smart, big, with strong teeth. When I learned the Body Type information, it really put me down. It’s not a good feeling to be told you have a feminine body when you’re a man. Venusians are weak and non-existent. There’s nothing good about Venusians.

The same goes for the Lunar type — not much can you say about them that is good: timid, obstinate, feminine, ad nauseum.

I felt in Robert Burton’s group that only men in the active Body Types could contribute anything to the group except for money. You could not even be his friend unless you were an active Body Type. The Body Type stuff is the Body Type stuff — I verified it as true. (p. 56-57)

Robert Burton had this charisma which make [sic] people want to be with him. What he has is worth emulating.
He has total assurance in himself and does not need pats on the back. He had this peculiar way of not laughing out loud, but of covering his widely-opened mouth with his hand when people would say something he thought was funny. (p. 161-162)

"Was KathleenW" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 14, 2007:
Here’s a post-FoF story.

A couple of years after I left in 1984, I read a book titled “Messages From Michael.” It was supposedly channeled. It presented a spiritual system based on the idea that each person comes into a lifetime with a set of “overleaves,” that overlay essence in order to have certain types of experiences, lessons, etc.

Some of the overleaves were body type, center of gravity, chief feature and several other categories not used by the Fellowship that, in some ways, made it a more complete system. The overleaves were seen as tools with a purpose rather than flaws, though tools that need to be seen for what they are (subjective).

The book was based on information that came from a small group of people in the East Bay (No. Calif.) that got together on a regular basis and supposedly channeled Michael. I was told later that at least one person in that group had a connection with the Fellowship.

A few years later, two people who studied the material, J.P. Van Hulle and Aaron Christensen, began teaching, channeling and writing books on the subject and attracted a group of people who came to meetings, read the books, learned about their overleaves and hung out socially. Aaron had been in the Fellowship a few years earlier. (This is reasonably public information.) It presented an interesting spin on the FoF material, and I liked the people, so I hung out with them for a year or two.

It was not a school, there were no rules or “suggestions” about behavior, no conscious beings, no teacher, no pressure to attend events or any of that. There were no fees except for private channeling sessions, and a small donation at the meetings to cover hall rental. It was all very loose. Self-remembering and presence weren’t really part of the package. It was more about self-understanding.

I rarely heard anyone question whether the material actually came from Michael. It was just accepted and believed for the most part. Clearly the FoF stuff had been expanded into a larger system, and it seems unlikely that all of it came whole cloth from Michael, even assuming there is anything to channeling or that there is a Michael.

Maybe it didn’t matter. If people grew and gained something from the experience of seeing themselves in a new way, then it was of some value. People weren’t being exploited, controlled or expected to support anything unethical. Discovering that you believed some pretty outrageous things can be enlightening in itself.

"WhaleRider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 14, 2007:
Was KathleenW #90 [responding to above]

Thank you for your post. You sparked a post-FOF memory that I’d like to share.

When Miles left the FOF he attempted to start his own group. I remember that when he gave his first open meeting in the bay area, hoards of people from Renaissance drove to it, including yours truely.

Amazingly, many of us drove in Renaissance vehicles using FOF gas to get there and back! Nobody tried to stop us from going or made a list of who went. I seriously doubt this would occur in today’s FOF, but I could be wrong.

During the emotionally charged meeting he spoke of leaving the FOF because of his conscience. He thought that too many people were being permitted to join the school whom he felt did not have enough being to seriously under take the work. He felt these people were only being allowed to join to fill the FOF coffers with cash. He was going to be more selective in who joins his group. He charged five bucks a head for the meeting that night. I remember our group drove all the way back in silence without discussing a word of what he had said.

Anyway, after I left the FOF later that year, I contacted Miles to inquire about his group. I learned that he was experimenting with the Michael channeling stuff. I was quite surprised that Miles had broadened his views of the fourth way in this direction. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I was left with the impression that Miles had diminished himself by relying on a ‘spiritual medium’ to do the ‘channeling’ of higher knowledge (or whatever) instead of coming from his own being. So I didn’t join his group and went another direction. Miles’ group later dwindled. So he eventually closed it down and went to college to study counseling.

BTW, this is the story I was told on how ‘c-influence’ indicated to Robert that Miles was going to become a man number five. When Robert first saw him, Miles was wearing a V-neck sweater, with the V in gold trim, signifying the number 5 as the Roman numeral V. Later the prediction was correlated I believe in Shakespeare’s sonnet #44 with the line … “miles when thou are gone”. This is a another good example of Robert’s ‘ideas of reference’, like ‘Union 76′. Also the high tech spy plane ‘SR-71′ which flew from an airforce base near Renaissance was ‘self-remembering 1971′ or when self-remembering came to the area in 1971.

"KathrynF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 14, 2007:
TO: Cyclops, wasKathleenW [above]
RE: Messages from Michael

After Yorgos [George Ellis "Yorgo" Savides] left the FOF in 1972 or 73, during the “first play of crime”, several splinter groups formed. One of them became the “Messages from Michael” group. I know this for fact, because these folks including many FOFers, and others never associated with FOF often met at my parents’ home. Over several years, I attended three “sessions” via ouiji board.

Sarah [Chambers], the party pythonness channeler was highly educated, with a Ph.D. in classical studies. She worked as the empressaria for the (now defunct) Oakland Symphony, and was a former FOF member. I had grave doubts about Sarah’s honesty. She later confessed (under pressure from another self-appointed 4th-way guru) that the sentences she wrote on the ouiji board came first through her head.

Anyway, at my first session, Sarah suggested I ask silent questions, to which I got generalized answers. She then recommended I ask myself a question and channel the answer (without the board). I had good advice for myself.

We are legion.

— KathrynF

"nowackim" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 13, 2014:
I have not followed this blog for several years. I would like to search the whole thing for comments submitted by Bonita. Can anyone advise if/how to do this? You can email now ack im AT yahoo .

My interest again revolves around the question of how the body type teaching developed in the first years of the FoF. It happens that I heard of the “Michael Channel” only for the first time in the past few weeks. Questions (re)arise about it due to that. I am particularly interested if anyone remembers what sources other than Theory of Celestial Influence were used, and when / how the center of gravity /playing cards arrived on the scene, which clearly did not happen until at least 1973…

Michael Nowacki (“Woods”) ’77 – ’94

"Jomo Piñata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 15, 2014:
I corresponded with Bonita for several years beginning in the late 1990s. She said nothing about that subject. You might have a look at Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s book Messages from Michael which can be found as a used trade paperback for almost nothing. Reading it one sees a great deal of borrowing of FOF doctrine. Have a look at this link:

"nowackim" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2014:
As I should have said in my previous post, I am looking for those who were FoF members from as early as possible before ’73 when the Michael Channel began. I am not interested in MC per se, but I have not encountered any large group unconnected with the FoF that knows the body type enneagram before. I am in touch with Kathryn H. from whom I got some info.

FWIW I have the desire to see this knowledge in the hands of other than the FoF or, it seems now, the MC people. My experience is that it is real enough and I continue to have perceptions about people that are due to knowing it, and that I would rather have than not. I think they do constitute a direct perception beneath the conditioning that is referenced by terms like personality, ego, identity and culture. I also think the knowledge is very undeveloped, and could integrate a great deal of scientific psychology, no small body of which I have studied for the past 20 years.

It was a surprise to me to encounter a person who IMO accurately sees types. Following her indication of the MC, I quickly recognized that she only had a re-telling of the FoF teaching. I found stories about the genesis (sic) of MC in which Sarah McCord was said to be friends with a couple named Hannah, and that they count exposure to FoF as among their influences. That prompted me to contact Kathryn, who also addressed some questions about the history several years ago without mentioning the MC.

So it seems straightforward enough that Sarah McCord dabbled in the FoF for a while and had already exited before ’73. Kathryn said that to her recollection the cards were not in use before that time, which explains why the immortal being happened not to include it in its revelation.

There is the issue of just exactly how the very sketchy treatment in Theory of Celestial Influence was fleshed out into the knowledge I got circa ’77. Kathryn has said that she once stumbled upon a book, seemingly to her at the time to be of medieval origin, which showed the whole teaching. She was a kid, and freaked out, and said nothing. There are now interesting tidbits easily available about Jacob Boehme that seem to describe planetary types, but K says she is now less sure that Boehme is the author of that book. She was never certain. This at the least is something I would like to uncover.

Another detail supplied by K is that the Alex Horn cult also had the body type info. I recall a small handful of ex-Hornites in the FoF when I first joined. Does anyone have access to such people, or even remember any names? Robert Tully is the only one I can recall at the moment. Haven’t seen his name here.

Any assistance you are kind enough to offer is appreciated. It is not my intent here to instigate a discussion about the merits of channeling, or spiritual work in general. If you would need voluminous correspondence to describe your knowledge or memories, I would be happy to just talk by phone or skype to make it easier. -MN