Introduction


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

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

But 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.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship. Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Friday, January 31, 1975

January 1975 Notes

Skyline Community Church where Robert Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult held meetings in the 1970s
Present day Skyline Community Church in Oakland. In the 1970s and early 80s, the Fellowship held weekly meetings here.
"Remember when we used to meet at the Skyline Community Church in Oakland? The minister there said he wished he could get the attendance that we were getting! A student asked me at one of the meetings what it was like to be conscious, and I replied, "The agony and the ecstasy." Now I see that it is true for all of us. The sequence is the agony - the labor to engage presence - and then we have the ecstasy - divine presence. Time may come when men with angels may participate. - John Milton When I was a young teacher, I also said, "You are not what you observe; you are what observes." It is a big relief. I remember that once at the Skyline Church, to create the third state, I asked everyone to throw their shoes to the front of the room. It felt like an elephant had reincarnated itself! We played the fool then to produce presence, but that is behind us now." - Robert Earl Burton, Fifty Years with Angels
January 2:
Returning to Los Angeles from Oregon House, Helga Barth [ed. - aka Guinevere Ruth Mueller] and Jim M. are severely injured in an accident along Interstate 5's "Grapevine" after both fell asleep in the vehicle they were driving. The vehicle ended up under the trailer of a semi-truck.
January 7:
For the weekly Bay Area meeting, Robert Burton decides to try a new venue, a country club in Alamo, CA. Once everyone had gathered, he decided the new meeting place was "too public" and the meeting was moved back to Skyline Church, reconvening at 9:00 p.m.
January 21:
A drilling rig has been making repeated attempts to find water atop Dixon Hill [ed. - aka "Mt. Carmel"]. This, to irrigate the future vineyard. Now 315 feet deep, the drill still has not found water.
January 23:
Abandoning the mountaintop, the drilling rig was moved to the "trailer park" [ed. - later called "The Court of the Caravans"] where it quickly found a relatively shallow source estimated to produce 75 to 100 gallons of water per minute.
January 31:
A basic salaried position working at the Fellowship's Oregon House headquarters is $50 per month, and includes room and board. Salaried employees are not required to make donations. (But it's also understood they may be "asked" to work 6 or 7 days a week, for that salary.)

Thursday, January 2, 1975

The price of fatigue

January 2 – Driving from The Farm to Los Angeles at night, following the holiday festivities,  Helga B. [Guinevere Ruth Mueller] and Jim M. were involved in a very serious accident on Interstate 5. Apparently both had fallen asleep, and their Volkswagen veered out of control and was crushed under a semi truck trailer. Helga suffered severe head injuries and Jim equally severe internal injuries.

[ed. - This would give rise to the "exercise" requiring front seat passengers to remain awake, and assist the driver in doing so. But it would not be the last incident involving Fellowship members falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle. In the Fellowship, especially in the early days, there was a fine line between pushing one's limits, and what was termed "lunatic efforts," which exposed members to the risk of illness, injury and psychological harm. Other examples of fatigue from just a brief period follow. From members' journals and notes:]
March 17, 1975: On a shopping mission, I fell asleep standing in a phone booth outside Terrell’s Plastics. A passerby's comment woke me.
April 19, 1975:  An example of a common state in the school: Anthony S. was actually falling asleep between bites at dinner. His head eventually dropped into his plate of food, much to the amusement of others at the table.
May 27, 1975: Riding to the Bay Area meeting later in the day, I was on I-80 west of Davis. I awoke as the motorcycle drifted off the pavement, and into the gravel shoulder. Fortunately, I firmly held course, rather than make any abrupt change, and gradually slowed to a stop.
[ed. - This note recalls the "legend" of Bernard G. riding the same motorcycle home from the Bay Area meeting to The Farm.]
Date unknown: A car carrying Fellowship members passed Bernie on the highway. A short time later, the motorcycle passed the car - without Bernie. He had fallen asleep and tumbled from the motorcycle.
July 13, 1976: I was so tired that when I inquired of the Coffee Tree waitress “can you make pot high?” I didn’t even notice. I intended to ask if she could heat up the pie for my pie a la mode.
August 30, 1977: At work both Saturday and Sunday mornings, I observed some interesting behavior, the result of fatigue and "disconnection of centers." I actually fell asleep while serving customers, waking to the strange, incredulous expression on their faces. I even fell asleep counting out change, awaking to find I had given too much change, the body continuing the counting motions after my brain had shut down. I would have liked to have been an outside observer. On the way home, I found myself "sleep-walking," walking right off the curb and into the street.