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, 1976

December 1976 Notes

December 16:
Fellowship member Gary James died in an automobile accident in Philadelphia. 

[ed. - This was apparently the first death of a Fellowship member, and may have led to Burton's prohibition against members owning sports cars, as Gary drove a Datsun 240Z. The second death would come in January, 1979.]

"Joey Virgo" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 6, 2019:
54. amesgilbert1

I also appreciated your passionate indictment of REB’s empty eulogy It is and was very on point and right.

Your comments and the news about this most recent death of a Fellowship member Peter Morrow reminded me of the first death in the Fellowship with Gary James back in December of 1976. Gary James was only 27 years of age, and got killed in a car accident while traveling after midnight in the dead of a Pennsylvania winter snow in his car, driving back to the teaching house on a slippery road after finishing his shift at his job as a restaurant waiter! Black-hearted Burton came to the teaching house afterwards and told we the living, “He died and his soul did not survive death.”

Tuesday, November 30, 1976

November 1976 Notes

The Vine newsletter [summarized]
Avoid posting signs in teaching houses 
A mezzanine is constructed at the Lincoln Lodge 
Airstream trailers have been installed at "The Court of Caravans" 
Storage sheds removed (from the Lincoln Lodge) 
On November 1, Fellowship Centers opened in Dallas, St. Petersburg, Mill Valley, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Buffalo

Sunday, October 31, 1976

October 1976 Notes

The Vine newsletter [summarized]
October 25: Beaux Arts Trio concert at Skyline Church:
Beethoven: Trio in C-Minor
Ravel: Trio in A-Minor
Brahms: Trio in C-Major
August 25: "Kairos II" [Fellowship literary publication] was introduced at the Blake Cottage
September 25: “Magic Flute Room” inaugurated, featuring Rosenthal porcelain, Georg Jensen “Acorn Pattern” silverware, Knoll International chairs, and Baccarat stemware

Construction of “The Franklin Village”  is to begin mid-October and (hopefully) be finished in January [site of the "Lower House," formerly the "Children's House"]

Other Notes

October 18:
While Robert was teaching on the East Coast, he purchased a "pre-owned" Mercedes-Benz 600 limousine. It was being driven back across country by members of his entourage when, somewhere out in the middle of Nevada, it caught fire. (Apparently a rear wheel bearing self-destructed and led to a grease fire.) The car was abandoned at a remote gas station, with plans to retrieve it later.

Monday, October 18, 1976

A note about the Teacher's car

From Car and Driver:
The 1963–1981 Mercedes-Benz 600 is the only cost-no-object production Mercedes ever built; MSRP when new was around $20,000, but current values start at three or four times that. Routine maintenance can cost as much as a new Toyota Corolla, and a full restoration generally runs well into six (or even seven) figures. It’s complicated, artful, and glorious.
It was purchased by a bunch of dictatorial sociopaths who didn’t mind killing other people. And Jack Nicholson.
Because for many years the 600 was the most luxurious and obnoxiously refined vehicle on the planet, the rich and famous swarmed to it. Most everyone knows this. Everyone knows, too, that der Grosser was a favorite of heads of state—the 600’s massive, imposing bodywork says nothing so much as I Am Coming to Rule Your Face, Peons, and I Will Drive Over Your Brain if You Don’t Agree.

What isn’t widely known is the extent of the car’s ownership roster. On a 2009 episode of the British television show Top Gear, co-host James May rattled off the following list of confirmed 600 owners: Leonid Brezhnev, Fidel Castro, Nicolae Ceauşescu, Idi Amin Dada, Enver Hoxha, Hirohito, Saddam Hussein, Mao Tse Tung, and Marshal Josip Broz Tito. Other owners reportedly included Irish leader Éamon de Valera, Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Korean dingbats Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, Ferdinand Marcos, Deng Xiaoping, and Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk. Time magazine says King Hussein of Jordan ordered one when new, as did Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus and Indonesian president Suharto.

But wait! There’s more! Confirmed celebrity owners include Elvis Presley, George Harrison, John Lennon, Hugh Hefner, Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay (he bought Coco Chanel’s old car), and Jack Nicholson, who purchased his after driving it in The Witches of Eastwick. Harrison even bought Lennon’s old car when the latter moved to the United States from Britain, so he had two. Fancy, eh?
[ed. - When the 1974 Rolls Royce was purchased, the Mercedes 600 fetched $20,000 ($82,000 in 2013 Dollars) in trade-in value.]

Thursday, September 30, 1976

September 1976 Notes

"The Vine" newsletter [summarized]
    On August 22 an article about The Fellowship of Friends appeared in the Sacramento Bee

      Other Notes

      September 18:
      Robert is teaching in New York City for the first time, and then he will go to Europe.

      "Paul Gregory" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 7, 2012:

      [ed. - Thoughts from "The Teacher," Robert Burton, with apparent index number.]
      A teacher does not have to be present to be teaching. This is a misconception that students have. Rodney Collin expired when he was forty-seven because he did not pace himself. He died of a heart attack, although he was more fit than Mr. Gurdjieff or Mr. Ouspensky. Some of you will come to understand that you have established a link with the teacher that is out of time. This link can be reconnected thousands of years from now. It is also a law that what the teacher gains, all gain. Few of you also know that it is fated to make an enormous payment for you. Much will be divulged later that cannot now be communicated. The facts will not be pleasant. Also, some students, with the best of intentions, will drown a teacher. If this occurs, it is a result of the teacher’s own blindness. One must protect a teacher, but one must not cater to a teacher, just as a teacher must protect students without catering to them. Instead of asking, how can I receive more, one should pose the question, How can I appreciate what I have received? I am thirty seven years old, and sometimes I muse, How is it that a person thirty years old would have to think about other people so much? The main reason that I have been so consistent with the Fellowship is that the reward is great. When it is time for my role to expire, which is just moments away, when I am seventy-two years of age, I do not wish to have the feeling that I could of done more. I do not wish to deprive people of their selves. Sometimes you need to forgive me when I lapse into periods of thinking about myself. For I have sacrificed my life for you. I also puzzle why I read such divine wisdom of men that are seventy years old, such as Plato and Johann Goethe. Why do I seek that knowledge? Why do I try to be seventy when I am thirty-seven? I also could not ask more from my students than they give because I would not be worthy of what I received. (091376.41)

      Tuesday, August 31, 1976

      August 1976 Notes

      "The Vine" newsletter [summarized]
      August 2 concert: Brenda Quilling, mezzo-soprano 
      On June 1st, The Fellowship of Friends opened centers in Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, Pasadena, and Philadelphia 
      It has been an unusually dry summer at [Renaissance]

      Other Notes

      August 9:
      I answered the telephone in the Shakespeare Study with the usual “Mt. Carmel Monastery!”

      “Monastery??? Good grief!” the horrified woman spoke in a thick New York Jewish accent.

      After conveying her message, she added “so if you’re not in psychic contact, do you think you could write it down?”
      August 11:
      A fire at the Richard’s Ranch tonight destroyed a barn. Fellowship members provided firefighting assistance. [ed. - The Richards property is a roughly 7,000-acre ranch adjoining to the south the Fellowship property.]

      Sunday, August 22, 1976

      The Sacramento Bee reports on "The Fellowship of Friends"

      The Mt. Carmel Monastery of the Fellowship of Friends

      [Ed. - The images on this page are photographs of photocopies of microfilm images of the original newspaper article. Thus the poor quality.]

      The Sacramento Bee
      Story by Jim Anderson
      Photos by Dick Schmidt
      "...if we can create something that is not physical but is more real than something physical..." - Miles Barth, Mt. Carmel Monastery
      A ROADMAP best describes Oregon House. It's a tiny speck on a two-lane road about 20 miles northeast of Marysville in Yuba County.

      But if you turn off that road and follow it past a burger stand and a small country store, and after you pass a couple small homesteads with signs proclaiming "Storey's Sorry Acres" and "Filbin's Follies", you'll eventually come to a remarkable place.

      The sign reads "Private Monastery." Beyond the sign, the pursuits are beauty, truth, good thoughts and excellence through well planned, but hard, physical labor. The aim of the persons beyond the sign is "the evolution of man from his present level of existence to a higher one."

      You have arrived at the Mt. Carmel Monastery of the Fellowship of Friends. The monastery is referred to by Fellowship members variously as a church, school, ranch and farm. The State of California and the federal government recognize the Fellowship as a non-profit religious organization. The Yuba County Assessor, Glen McDougal, calls the Fellowship "just another property owner," and refuses to grant it a religious tax status.

      The Lincoln Lodge at the monastery, with its large rock-lined front patio

      THE FELLOWSHIP was formed in 1970 by a small group of Northern Californians "who had a common dissatisfaction with the experiences offered by traditional religious institutions."

      They contacted a "teacher...who they felt could instruct them in a particular system of ideas." This teacher continues to be the religious leader of the Fellowship, but "wishes to remain anonymous at the present time."

      James Chisholme, treasurer and a minister in the Fellowship said the teacher "gives direction to the group. We make use of him extensively. But he does not wish himself to be the center of attention, he wants the center of attention to be the work that each person does on themself."

      prepared information bulletin, the Fellowship explains that it has "tried to create an intensive religious experience for its members, and has endeavored to teach methods by which this experience can become a continuous and guiding principle of life.

      "These methods, as well as the Fellowship's interpretation of Gospel Christianity, are derived from the writings of Peter Ouspensky and George Gurdjieff, who called this form of Christian practice Esoteric Christianity."

      Ouspensky and Gurdjieff were Russian writers and teachers who moved to the West in the first part of this century and founded schools, Ouspensky in England and Gurdjieff in France.

      An explanation of the Fellowship's system of ideas and methods of self-study can be found in Ouspensky's book, "The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution."

      This reporter and his wife were invited recently to spend a full day at the monastery, to experience some of the activities of a normal weekend.

      The invitation was part of "a change in our thinking," according to Roger Cavanna, ranch manager at the monastery. "Because of the nature of our activity here and our desire for privacy, we did not communicate with local people for the first two years. So there was much imagination on what was occurring here."

      THE FELLOWSHIP began acquiring Yuba County property in 1971. By then it had grown to "40 or 50 members" who donated the down payment on 917 acres. The monastery property now totals 1,052 acres, membership has grown to more than 700 and there are 26 contact centers or congregations all over the United States.

      Approximately 100 Fellowship members live at the monastery full time, 30 others live in the area, and on weekends the population swells to 300 or 400. Each member donates 10 per cent of his annual income to the Fellowship. Chisholme said the approximate total assets of the group is $750,000 and that this year's working budget approached $500,000.

      The dramatic growth of the Fellowship from 40 or 50 to more than 700 persons was achieved with an extremely low key recruiting campaign. Bookmarks are placed in Gurdjieff and Ouspensky works in book stores, posters are placed in schools, churches and health food stores. The bookmarks and posters say simply "Gurdjieff Ouspensky Centers Accepting Students". They then list regional cities and phone numbers. The West Coast bookmark lists Carmel, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

      Miles Barth: 'Difficulty should not be a deterrent to a worthwhile aim'
      James Chisholme: 'We make use of him (the teacher) extensively'
      Roger Cavanna: 'There was much imagination on what was occurring here'
      Rosemary Macdonald: 'To create a better impression'
      Joel Friedlander: 'Reducing the amount (of energy) that is used negatively'

      "WE DO NOT proselytize exactly," said Miles Barth, a board member and minister in the bay area. "We try to make it known to people that this organization exists. And when people are interested we arrange meetings for them...where we explain what the aims of the Fellowship are and how we pursue the aims through our activities. And then if a person wishes to join the Fellowship he is welcome to. We do not actually try to talk anyone into it or talk anyone out of it, but just present the opportunity.

      The center of the monastery is the Lincoln Lodge, a rebuilt and much expanded log cabin. Named in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the lodge serves as kitchen, dining rooms and meeting hall for members. New additions to the lodge include two decks named in honor of Mozart and Beethoven. And their music and music of other composers can be heard continuously on the decks and in every room of the lodge.

      LIFE AT the monastery is an unusual mixture of hard physical labor, intellectual probing and refined emotional experiences. The members work for long hours in their vineyard, or at grading roads and then they come in to dinner served on German china, with crystal glasses, fresh cut flowers, fine wines and poetry readings.

      The marriage of experiences - physical, intellectual and emotional - helps members, as Cavanna said, "maximize the opportunity of just being alive. From one angle our work here is to help us to become more alive, to become more aware of our own existence."

      The fruits of their labor are beautiful. Their 80-acre vineyard is sculpted on the hillsides in sweeping contours. Each grape vine is surrounded by an individual wire cage to keep out rabbits and deer. Plastic pipe meanders through the vineyard and each vine is watered by drip irrigation.

      Roads have been graded to all parts of the monastery property, and they are planning a winery complex in the next few years.

      THE VINEYARD and winery are being overseen by Karl Werner, a Fellowship member who has "personally started 32 wineries all over the world." Werner said the winery will produce the very best wines.

      "We do not aim to produce in the Gallo or even the Christian Brothers or the Charles Krug lines. We aim to go to the real top."

      Another planting project is an experimental vegetable garden where different varieties are being grown to see which fares best. There are seven different grains being tried, one acre of potatoes will soon be expanded to 18 acres, and they have seven plantings of corn.

      But all the projects are only means, they say. The aim of the Fellowship is described as the "evolution of man from his present level of existence to a higher one."

      This evolution is measured "by the degree to which he (man) can maintain an awareness of himself, his higher possibilities and the world around him, and by the degree to which he can control his internal and external behavior."

      And "awareness" is a very important word to the Fellowship. One of the more apparent examples of the Fellowship's striving for awareness is its word exercises. They don't speak contractions and they don't use the pronoun "I." They replace "I" most commonly with "One, this person or it." The replacement often changes the verb also, as in, "It has (I have) the idea that people are frequently not as aware of what they are saying as they could be."

      THE WORD exercises, Barth explained, "have the purpose or aim to try to make us more aware of what we say. And this is, of course, connected with the exercise of not expressing negative emotion. If a person is not aware of the words that are coming out he may not be aware he is expressing negative emotions.

      "It is extremely difficult (the word exercises), but difficulty should not be a deterrent to a worthwhile aim. It says in the Bible that it is not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him, it is what comes out of a man's mouth that defiles him."

      Joel Friedlander, another board member and minister, amplified the Fellowship's exercise of not expressing negative emotion such as anger, distrust, suspicion or, in fact, any expression of unpleasantness:

      "AN IDEA that we have in the psychological study of human functioning is that there is a certain amount of energy that is produced in a human being and the energy can be used in many different ways. We have a certain quantity of emotional energy than can be used for expressing negativity...or it can be used in more positive ways. The quantity of energy that we produce is finite. We try to use more of it for positive purposes by reducing the amount that is used negatively."

      The positive purposes include fine music, good literature and art, and a museum-sized collection of china. Barth explained, "We try to cultivate emotions in the Fellowship. This is one of the reasons why we try to have a certain level of beauty in our environment. And we work hard to try to create beauty where it is possible. We try to listen to quality music, we try to read fine literature, we try to keep things clean. We are conditioned to react in certain ways to certain things. We are trying to change our reaction to certain things. To make them more intelligent and more harmonious."

      Conversation with Fellowship members is eclectic. They say their study material, in addition to most Western and Eastern religious works, includes the works of "Benjamin Franklin, Goethe, Plato, Aristotle and Shakespeare, to name but a few."

      AND THEY honor those they study and admire. In addition to the Lincoln Lodge and the Mozart and Beethoven decks, there is a parsonage called the Blake Cottage for the poet William Blake, and Anderson Meadow for Hans Christian Anderson, and the cake served after dinner on our visit was called the Othello Cake.

      Many of the common distractions of the world have been eliminated at Mt. Carmel Monastery. There are no television sets, no radios, no newspapers, and no children.

      "We do not have children here," Barth explained. "Children who come up with their parents on weekends are cared for at a house near here (but not on the monastery property) which is staffed by two or three adults."

      Asked about religious training for the children, Barth said, "We do not encourage parents to try to indoctrinate their children. We feel that children do not care that much what their parents say. They will be influenced by what their parents do.

      "WHAT WE
      are doing is basically beyond the comprehension of a child. A person has to have developed a certain intellectual capacity and certain emotional experiences to understand what our aims are. It is not something that can be taught by indoctrination. We encourage parents to try to be the words (by their actions) with their children, to try not to express negativity to their children, to try to be a good example.

      "We do not try to teach them ignorance," Barth emphasized. If at a certain age the children express an interest in the Fellowship, he said, they will have the same opportunity to join as anyone. "We give them an opportunity to see something without stuffing it down their throats. A person has to feel a need and make efforts to gratify themself. And some children as they grow will think more and feel more about the purpose of their existence, and some children will not."

      Most of the Fellowship members live in 24 Airstream trailers artfully concealed in one area of the property. Rosemary Macdonald, board member and minister, was in charge of the trailer project and said that particular trailer was chosen because "they are very attractive. We were faced with temporary living conditions and felt that if we were to limit the trailers to all of one kind it would create a better impression."

      THE FELLOWSHIP now is conducting preliminary negotiations with a contractor to build permanent structures at the monastery. If members go ahead with these plans it will mark the first time they have brought in an outsider to work for them. And it will be another stage in their process of opening up to the outside world.

      But none of these physical things - the buildings, the vineyard or garden - are considered the end in itself, Barth stressed. "We regard these things as vehicles or tools for learning what we are trying to learn about ourselves and our relationship to higher levels.

      "It is part of our work that we are trying to learn, our relationships to different levels of the universe and how they affect us and how in a sense we affect them. That is why we are doing these things here, because we will all be dead and whether there was a lodge here or a vineyard here is not going to make much difference.

      "If we can create something that is not physical, but is more real than something physical, then the creation of these things will have served its purpose. If not, they will go back into the ground in either case."

      Saturday, July 31, 1976

      July 1976 Notes

      "The Vine" newsletter [Summarized]
      Mount Carmel name is discontinued. It is now "Renaissance."
      $2,000 re-entry fee for those who leave the Fellowship and return
      Additions to our collection: Paul Storr silver pieces, figurine cabinet, desk and chairs in Shakespeare Study
      The Lincoln Lodge painted cream color with red trim
      The Blake Cottage has a new lawn
      80,000 grapevine cuttings planted in the vineyard nursery
      10,000 grapevine rootings (last year’s cuttings) planted in the vineyard

      Other Notes

      As of July 1st, the minimum teaching payment will be $60 per month

      July 23:
      Robert stated that the Fellowship was considering the purchase of the nearby “Thousand Trails” property, including a lake.

      Wednesday, June 30, 1976

      June 1976 Notes

      June 1:
      Late in the afternoon, a gathering of students at Nepenthe’s restaurant near Big Sur. As Robert joined us, Pachelbel’s Canon played from the restaurant’s music system. (We associate this with the teacher.) Between 60 and 80 students gathered.
      June 11:
      A new Caterpillar D8K arrived at Mount Carmel today. A mammoth machine.
      June 14:
      Karl Werner arrives at Mount Carmel, moving into The Rilke Cottage.
      June 23:
      Over 200 pieces of Georg Jensen “Acorn pattern” sterling silver dinnerware arrive at the Farm today. (Refinement of dining practices.)
      June 29:
      In another "Play of Crime," Fellowship purchasing agent John Ray, disappeared while grocery shopping for the upcoming Mount Carmel July 4th anniversary celebration. He was carrying $6,800 in cash [$27,500 in 2012 dollars] for the busy holiday's supplies.
      June 30:
      Being a responsible thief, John advised the Fellowship where in Sacramento their shopping truck would be found.

      From the Fellowship of Friends Wiki Page [Defunct]:

      [ed. - thoughts from "The Teacher," Robert Burton, with apparent index number shown.]
      There is no higher art form than creating a soul. (062876.78)

      Tuesday, June 1, 1976

      Bruce Arvon recounts joining the Fellowship of Friends

      [ed. - The following is from Bruce Arvon's blog, The Fourth Way Path. This post has been placed in the timeline approximately where the described events occurred. As Bruce mentions, P. D. Ouspensky’s The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution was recommended as a primer for new members. At 100 pages, it’s an easy-to-read introduction to The Fourth Way.]
      The Fellowship of Friends

      I called the number and spoke with someone who told me that they had a series of 3 prospective student meetings and it was necessary to read Peter Ouspenski's "The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution" before one could attend but since I had read "The Fourth Way" by Ouspenski, that was OK and I would be able to come to the meetings. She told me the time and place where the meeting was to be held, which was a house in Oakland across the bay from San Francisco.

      I was very nervous while driving there not knowing what to expect and worrying about what they would think of me. In the work this emotion is called considering, worrying about what the other is thinking of you. Actually, the other is mostly thinking and worrying about what you are thinking of him.

      This is our lot in life and escape from this trap is long, arduous and very difficult! Gurdjieff said that we are in a prison, this is one illustration of the bars surrounding us.

      When I arrived I was shown into the living room of a pleasant house in which several nicely dressed men and women were sitting in a more or less circle. No one was wearing jeans and all of the females were wearing dresses. They were mostly in their 20s and 30s and had bright, shiny and serious faces; the hostess [ed. - Anna Gold] was older probably in her 60s. Later I found out that she was the owner of the house and also a concert pianist. I and another "prospective student" were seated on a sofa and then the meeting started.

      They began by different people describing parts of The Fourth Way or the system that Gurdjieff had brought to the West from the East and was described by Peter Ouespenski in his book "The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution". Each person spoke about one or more ideas of the work pretty much following the chapters in the book. Some one then asked us, the prospective students, if we had any questions, which I did. I don't remember what I asked but at that time I was naturally skeptical and so my questions must have been also.

      After this session which probably lasted and hour or so, less formally, coffee and treats were served. A woman named Ellen then asked me if I wished to return for the second session which I did. After the three meetings and I had decided to join, she expressed surprise because of my skepticism she thought I would not join.

      The other two meetings were pretty much the same, following the ideas written in the book plus they began talking about the Fellowship.

      The Fellowship had someone they called the teacher but at this stage they did not reveal his name to us, they only referred to him as the teacher. The organization was not only interested in Gurdjieff's teaching but also Shakespeare and many other great writers and philosophers.

      The Fellowship also owned many acres of land in the Sierra foothills which at that time was called Renaissance and or The Farm where they were planting grapes and building a winery. Combined with teaching one how to become conscious, the group was also taught art, literature and philosophy. Turns out it was also like a Finishing School.

      This sounded perfect for me; I could become educated with all of these wonderful ideas and knowledge and also become conscious. WOW! I had hit the jackpot and it was only $50.00 per month which I could afford. The other prospect also wanted to join so we both did at that time.

      It was 1976, I was 40 years old, I paid my $50.00 (the fee was $50.00 a month) and I was instructed to come the next week to a meeting in a Church on Van Ness St. in San Francisco.

      I entered the meeting room which was being held in a strikingly modern church, the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The room was in the basement where chairs were placed in rows facing a raised dais. There were probably about 40 or more people seated and four sitting on the dais.

      I was really nervous (considering) when I entered not knowing what to expect and also thinking all of these people were conscious and could hear everything I was thinking, all my thoughts. I frantically tried to stop my thoughts because they sure were not what I wanted known! Everyone was pleasant, nicely dressed as before at the prospective student meeting and seemingly serious.

      On the dais were a very handsome man about 30 years old, Miles [ed. - Miles Barth], an older woman, Helga [ed. - Helga Barth, now Guinevere Mueller], with a German accent, another heavy set woman, Stella [ed. Stella Wirk] and a man of slight build, Harold [ed. - Harold Wirk] who was Stella’s husband. All of these people I later learned were major stars of the Fellowship. At that time and for a long time after I assumed they all had super powers and were conscious. Of course I thought I knew what conscious meant but it would be many years later until I became aware that I actually did not know what to be conscious meant.

      The meetings were structured in a question and answer form. A "student", we were all students, would ask something like: how do I work with negative emotions? The leader on the dais would answer and maybe one of the other leaders give an opinion, then someone in the audience might stand up and offer up something. Usually as in all groups the same people were the ones who spoke most of the time.

      Gurdjieff had spoken about a special language that only people with a certain level of development understood. The students in the Fellowship were given the impression that they were using this special language that others did not know. The words and their meanings were gathered from Ouespenski and Rodney Collin’s writings. I guess this so called special language began with the idea that man is a machine and then Robert Burton (the teacher) laid out a description of the machine using a deck of cards.

      We are divided into 5 separate and distinct brains, The Intellectual Center, The Emotional Center, The Instinctive Center, The Moving Center and The Sex Center. Plus there are a couple of other higher brains which we do not have access to. Now these brains which control all of our thoughts, feelings and actions are separate and unconnected to each other and act only in their own self interest, which also causes us untold problems and illusions. Each of these brains then is also separated into three major parts, the instinctive-moving, the emotional and the intellectual. Each of these three parts is again divided into three parts.

      Now in the deck of cards each of these parts is represented by a card and each of the centers is represented by a suit, the emotional center by the hearts, the instinctive center by the clubs, the moving center by the spades and the intellectual center by the diamonds. I never asked, but I guess the sex center is left out and doesn't get to play although in our daily life it is playing all over the place.

      I will use catching a ball for an example. It would be recognized as the moving part of the moving center because it more or less happens automatically without any need for thinking or feeling. Drawing might be from the intellectual part of the moving center because there needs to be thinking involved in the movement. Catching the ball would be called out as the jack of spades and drawing might be from the king of spades.

      In the Fellowship I learned how to use these classifications to represent all of my different behaviors and everyone else’s. Actually I felt very superior to the rest of humanity because I knew this secret language and they did not.

      Robert Burton used to speak about how we did not wish to remain sleeping and were willing to work to become conscious while the rest of humanity was content to remain machines and asleep!

      Monday, May 31, 1976

      May 1976 Notes

      Mount Carmel newsletter (summarized)
      The Fellowship compound in Oregon House is now to be called "Mount Carmel", not "The Farm" or "The Ranch"
      When ending a relationship, students are to wait one year before entering another 
      The no leg-crossing exercise ended in March 
      The six-week exercise of no TV, radio, magazines ends April 12
      Cinema now showing Thursdays and Saturdays at Mt. Carmel [ed. - ballet, opera, Shakespeare plays]

      Other Notes

      May 8:
      Chenin Blanc cuttings are being planted in the vineyard nursery.
      May 26:
      The Fellowship has purchased the Doyle Property [ed. - The double-wide home on the property will be called "The Rilke Cottage," and will serve as Karl Werner's residence.]
      May 29:
      The first grapevine rootings were planted in the vineyard
      May 31:
      After tonight’s Bay Area concert (Paul Renzi, flute and Anne Adams, harp) members departed for new centers: Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, and New York.

      Salaried students are being given an extra $25 and were invited to Carmel.

      Saturday, May 1, 1976

      "The Antique Collecting Octave"

      [ed. - In the mid-1970s, with the stated goal of introducing High Culture to his followers (many of whom were barely weaned from long hair, tie-die, psychedelics and free love,) Robert Earl Burton began collecting antiques. He was fond of saying

      Beauty creates its likeness in those who pursue it.*

      *See The Canons of The Fellowship of Friends.

      Heeding his own words, Burton passionately pursued the accumulation of objects reflecting his particular perception of beauty (favoring late-18th and  early-19th century arts and crafts.) Would that it were so simple to create inner beauty.

      Robert Earl Burton's Meissen dining room at Fellowship of Friends cult headquarters, Oregon House, CA
      Early 19th century Paul Storr sterling silver soup tureen

      At the Fellowship of Friends newly-renamed "Mt. Carmel" headquarters, recent acquisitions were displayed in the "Meissen Room",  the exclusive dining chamber where Robert Burton and his Inner Circle entertained a small number of select guests. One piece was a Paul Storr 1811 sterling silver soup tureen (similar to the one pictured), supposedly valued at $16,000 (about $64,000 in 2012 dollars!) Robert termed it “the most important antique yet brought to The Farm.”

      The tureen in the photo is apparently from the private collection of Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert W. Armstrong. Of Armstrong, Wikipedia states:
      "Armstrong was often criticized for having lived in extravagant wealth as a comparison to church members who paid three tithes and lived in relative poverty as a result. Personal luxuries enjoyed by Armstrong included a personal jet, the finest clothing, furniture and other conveniences."  
      A similar narrative could be written of Robert Earl Burton. Oh, that's right. You're reading it!

      Meissen Dragon Pattern dinner plate

      Also displayed was a 120-piece set of Meissen “Vermilion Dragon” porcelain dinner ware (supposedly) valued at  $3,000 - about $12,000 in 2012 dollars.)

      I can't speak for its veracity, but this website suggests another sociopath, Der Führer, Adolph Hitler had similar tastes:

      Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton and Adolph Hitler had same taste for Meissen porcelain
      Adolph Hitler, Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels at the "Eagle's Nest", with Meissen Dragon Pattern porcelain.

      Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends Meissen Room in 1978
      The Fellowship of Friends "Meissen Room" (shown here in 1978), where Robert Earl Burton dined with his Inner Circle.
      The table is set for dinner with Rosenthal "Magic Flute-Sarastro" gold-plated dinnerware, Baccarat
      and air-twist crystal and Georg Jensen Acorn Pattern sterling silver ware. Photo from S. McCormick.

      Also arriving at this time, a large antique wall-mounted vitrine (display cabinet) to house the Fellowship's (Burton's) growing collection of Meissen figurines, similar to those pictured below.

      Meissen porcelain figurines

      In preparation for the visit of prominent Bay Area antique dealer C. Frederick Faudé, the Fellowship "Mt. Carmel" (or "Mt. Carmel Monastery") property is given a major facelift, the Lincoln Lodge painted a creamy yellow with rust red trim and the landscape groomed to suitably impress Robert's special guest.]

      "Deidra Kennedy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Investigation Petition:
      I was a member from 1973 until the Fall of 1978. Among other things, it was my duty (ha! and alleged privilege) to purchase and acquire the rose Meissen Robert was so fond of--I spent many evenings in the Meissen room, cleaning, arranging and cataloging the massive collection. On buying trips to Victoria, BC--we hid substantial amounts of Paul Storr Georgian sterling silver in the trunks of the fleet of Mercedes automobiles from the border guards so as not to have to pay duty fees. Robert always asked for discounts from the antiques dealers as we were a non profit church and this was for church investments--somehow I had to say this with a straight face while dressed my best in Lanvin and Gucci clothes--oh please! This is a common practice at the Fellowship of Friends and Robert and his minions have defrauded the government out of years and years of taxes and duty fees. He should have to pay it back--talk about good householder! It is the chicken hawk activities that led to my leaving the FOF--it is not right to mess with young men who do not know from what; who knows the damage to Don Birrell's young son? We all went to the FBI and the police, but nothing was done--someone was paid off, no doubt.

      Friday, April 30, 1976

      April 1976 Notes

      April 4 – 5:
      A crew of Fellowship members is at Callaway Winery in Temecula (where Karl Werner has been winemaster) taking vineyard cuttings that will help expand our vineyards.

      At a meeting, Robert quotes Bob Dylan, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” then added that he did not like to quote such “ignoble sources.”
      April 11:
      Work is beginning on a vineyard nursery
      April 30 – May 1:
      A 120-piece, $3,000 “Vermilion Dragon” set of Meissen porcelain was brought to The Farm and displayed in the Meissen Room. Also on display, a sterling silver soup tureen produced by Paul Storr in 1811 and valued at $16,000. Robert called it “the most important antique yet brought to the Farm.”

      Also arriving, a large wooden wall-mount vitrine to house our Meissen figurine collection. Several of us struggled to carry the heavy piece around as Robert searched for the most “endearing” location (which ended up next to the spiral staircase.)

      Wednesday, March 31, 1976

      March 1976 Notes

      March 1:
      At the Bay Area Meeting this evening, Robert related his personal struggle: the accident in which his Volkswagen was slammed into by another vehicle. ("I heard a horn, but didn’t think it was for me," he said.)
      He spoke of his former school (Alex Horn’s school), which was a school of denial (physically abusive, including subjecting members to beatings.) He spoke about the astral body and his coming “crystallization.”
      He quoted Shakespeare: “tired with all these, from these would I be gone, save that to die, I leave my love(s) alone” and he held out his hands to indicate we gathered students (“his loves”.)
      March 8:
      Preparations continue for the Robert's crystallization celebration. Around the Lincoln Lodge, paper lanterns are hung, the metal clothing and boot sheds removed, decorated arches erected, walls whitewashed.
      March 19:
      During the early morning hours, it was reported "Robert crystallized," the event we were all awaiting. This meant he had become a completely "conscious being." The first one produced by this school.
      March 26:
      “Meissen Picnic” in the Shakespeare Meadow, under the great "Franklin Oak."

      Friday, March 19, 1976

      Robert’s "Crystallization"

      [ed. - At 4:46 a.m. on March 19, 1976, Robert Earl Burton claims to have experienced the "crystallization of his higher centers." That is, he claims to have at that moment become a fully-conscious (not to mention, immortal) being, in the Fourth Way vernacular, a Man Number 5.]

      My last “I” before retiring on the eve of my crystallization was: “It is not going to happen tonight”. Then I woke up at 2 A.M. I was facing the mount Apollo, with my back to California. I experienced a conscious birth, like a woman delivering a baby. It came upon me. There was a bolt of lightning, smoke and an earthquake. My higher centers fused. World 6 and world 12 were there. It lasted for about fifteen seconds. The smoke then vanished. My world 6 was looking out unperturbed, like the sphinx, with a timeless gaze. It was as if someone had shot a bullet between my eyes, and I was looking at them unmoved. I realized it was impossible to destroy my higher centers. They are immortal.

      From "30 Years of Apollo"

      From the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centers (Fellowship of Friends) website:
      Is the Teacher conscious?

      Yes. Robert Burton crystallized his higher centers in 1976. Because it is a law that the lower cannot see the higher, verifying the level of being of the Teacher may seem challenging. Yet we can approach this question in a practical way. If working with this Teacher in this School makes you more conscious, more awake than when you began, then the question of the Teacher’s consciousness is to some extent irrelevant.

      From the same website:
      I ask you to believe nothing that you cannot verify yourself. - George Gurdjieff

      Fellowship of Friends students celebrate the "unverifiable event" at "Mount Carmel Monastery"

      "a former student" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 15, 2007:
      #346 Skeptical Optimist [responding to post number and blogger]
      #344 Dick (I’m not a) Moron

      “I remember the “crystallization party” pretty well. I was living at the “farm”. Burton had gone to Arizona so he could “crystallize” at the Arizona Biltmore (tells you a lot right there).”

      I was in Phoenix with Robert at the Arizona Biltmore the evening he was to crystallize. I spent the bulk of the day with him. I met him at the Airport with Mildred Smith and Vincent Bell the center directors. We spent the day at the Biltmore and in Scottsdale. I think he had been attracted by the opportunity to buy a very large set of Meissen [German porcelain dishes] in the Red Dragon pattern at a good price. After a long day I was with him and other students in the evening and I can recall having a drink in the lounge after dinner of Johnny Walker black label scotch something rare for me and accompanying him to his cottage where he proceeded to talk me into letting him have oral sex. He used the “externally consider your teacher” line and negotiated a deal or bribe by offering to transfer me from Phoenix to another center.

      I travelled [sic] to Renaissance with Mildred Smith and other Phoenix students for the crystallization party. I had mixed feelings about seeing Robert after my experience at the Biltmore. Even today the evening at the Biltmore is a very blurry memory. It is oddly disjointed as I can recall things like what shoes and socks I had on, Burgundy Gucci’s with Cashmere socks both gifts from Robert, my suit, a Cream Colored Italian silk I got for myself and a floral silk tie I still have. I can remember the decorations on the furniture and carpets of his room , all designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but only the vaguest dark image of Robert having oral sex. The image in my head is always like a dark angel or demon.

      I seriously have questioned whether this was not a moment of choice for Robert, In that instead of crystallizing he chose to indulge himself and continue his lying sexual behavior. This experience stunned me. It was an ultimate betrayal. I did not speak to anyone about it until I disclosed it to my psychiatrist last week. I had buried the memory.

      It took several years before I left the Fellowship. This shows the deep conflict between what I hoped was true, imagined was true and had to accept as a reality. A certain fog was lifted and I was able to begin to see that Robert was as mechanical as he appeared. Self indulgent, selfish, dominating and given to micro management which was often grossly incompetent that was justified as being for “our evolution”. This was part of the developing myth of needing to accept the teachers will to free us from the law of accident.

      The other evening I was musing after reading a post from Ames and a thought came that Robert was taken over by a demon. In Milton’s Paradise Lost it is the “fallen Angels” who resist the will of God that become the demons. Another idea is that a “demon” refers to the “lower self” or King of Clubs”. So the thought is what if Robert did “awaken” and experience the “truth” that we as creations are “the angels” and what we need remember is that we partake of the divine nature.

      What if this is a test on the “way”. One of the conditions that all must meet to become man #5. Perhaps the si-do interval.

      The nature of which is to see with out buffering the different contradictory sides of ones being. This is not about higher states but of being honest with oneself. You cannot become one and continue to lie to oneself about contradictions.
      This seems to be what Robert did. He lied about his sexuality. He developed a criminal inner circle of those who knew and perpetuated his lies. He as Elena has stated became two.

      I have heard some demons referred to as “eater of souls”.

      This very clearly describes what Robert has become. His “school” attracts magnetic centers and cultivates them for his food. Instead of nurturing and feeding his spiritual children he is feeding off of their finer energies. He is a spiritual vampire.

      This also explains why many who have left seem to have lost their desire to awaken. It also explains the apparent contradiction between the experience of higher states and apparent results and the existence of a criminal center to the “school”. It is necessary for “the school” to cultivate higher energies and essence in order for Robert to feed upon it.
      [ed. - In the above, "former student" appears to contradict an earlier post he wrote.]

      "Walter Tanner" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 13, 2007:
      Fellow Travelers,

      Former Fofer [blogger] asks: “When did Robert claim to have crystallized as a man no. 5? Does anyone know? And did he ever describe that experience?”

      I have a story, probably from my entourage-time with Robert. He crystallized his higher emotional center in front of the fire on the deck at Nepenthe, Highway 1 in Big Sur. No date was given, but this was between the founding of the Fellowship and the crystallization of 1976.


      [ed. - And now a bit of humor from Jack Handey, as quoted by contributors to the Fellowship of Friends Discussion.]


      "KA" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 10, 2007:

      I keep two volumes of the most enlightened manuals on my desk and would like to quote from them. They are “Deep Thoughts” and “Deeper Thoughts” by Jack Handey.

      “To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And, at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some things I can’t remember, all rolled into one big “thing.” This is truth, to me. ”

      "Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he’s carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And, also, you’re drunk."


      "KA" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 6, 2007:

      “It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating ”
      Jack Handey, of course.

      "James McLemore" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 22, 2008:

      From ‘Deep Thoughts’ by Jack Handey

      “If you ever reach total enlightenment while you’re drinking a beer,
      I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose.”


      More Jack Handey "Deep Thoughts" from M.I.T.:

      "Sometimes life seems like a dream, especially when I look down and see that I forgot to put on my pants."
      "He was the kind of man who was not ashamed to show affection. I guess that's what I hated about him."I think my new thing will be to try to be a real happy guy. I'll just walk around being real happy until some jerk says something stupid to me."
      "We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me."
      "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face."

      "As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way."

      Saturday, February 28, 1976

      February 1976 Notes

      February 3:
      An exercise is relaxed: it is now permissible to cross one’s legs – in the hours between 11:00 p.m. and dawn!
      February 5:
      The Case backhoe is traded in for a new Ford tractor
      February 7:
      Clearing of rocks from our first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard slope. The work was done by hand, chucking rocks into tractor buckets and onto flatbed trucks.
      February 27:
      The Fellowship acquired the “Hobbs Property” [This will be called “The Whitman Glen,” with its old rustic dwelling, apparently the future site of the "La Cucina Bistro."]

      Saturday, January 31, 1976

      Silence of the Lambs

      [ed. - Bruce speaks about Robert Burton's preying upon young heterosexual males in his membership.]

      "brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, Decemebr 3, 2007:
      492 Just Another Voice Out Here

      Back in the mid 70′s the people who knew about it were the people that it was happening to, and the people who aided and abetted it. That’s pretty much it. Of the people who it was happening to, we didn’t even acknowledge it to each other, even though most of us were frequently in each other’s proximity. People didn’t know what to say, nor to whom. And we were pretty much walking around shell shocked.

      January 1976 Notes

      January 1:
      Afternoon “High Tea” is served at the "Lincoln Lodge," featuring plum pudding.
      January 2:
      There is a mass exodus from California underway, as many members have been assigned to open new centers (Hawaii, New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and others.)
      January 15:
      The entrance sign to the Fellowship property was vandalized, leading to nighttime “stakeouts” in hopes of identifying the culprits.
      During January, “Mount Carmel Motors” – housed in the barn – was formally disbanded. It seems accountability and quality of workmanship may have been issues.

      Robert Burton travels to Phoenix.

      Regular membership payments ("donations") are now $100 per month.

      On Sunday evenings, following dinner at the "Lincoln Lodge," a three-hour recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" (BWV244) is often played.

      Thursday, January 1, 1976

      Fellowship of Friends centers are established across the U.S.

      [ed. - In January, 1976, a wave of Fellowship members left Mt. Carmel (Renaissance, Isis, Apollo) and the San Francisco Bay Area to open new centers across the United States. Robert Burton described this as a "breathing out" phase in the Fellowship's history. The Detroit, New Orleans, and Boston centers, cited in the non-profit registration filings below, were among them. See "Wouldn't you like to know's" Brief History of The Fellowship of Friends.]
      The Fellowship Of Friends, Inc. is a Michigan Foreign Non-Profit Corporation filed on February 4, 1977. The company's filing status is listed as Automatic Withdrawal and its File Number is 900308.

      The Registered Agent on file for this company is Thomas Kloumann and is located at 1940 Wellesler Detroit, MI 48203. The company's mailing address is P.O. Box 4583 Carmel, CA 93921.
      The Fellowship Of Friends, Inc. is a Louisiana Non-Profit Corporation Or Co-Op (Non-Louisiana) filed on March 3, 1977. The company's filing status is listed as Inactive and its File Number is 04702980X.

      The Registered Agent on file for this company is Katie Ralston and is located at 1331 Philip Street New Orleans, LA 70130. The company's principal address is P.O. Box 4583 Carmel, CA 93921 and its mailing address is P.O. Box 4583 Carmel, CA 93921.

      The company has 3 principals on record. The principals are Barbara Haven from Pacific Palisades CA, Donald Birrell from Vacaville CA, and Stella M. Wirk from Carmel CA.

      Fellowship Of Friends, Inc. is a Massachusetts Foreign Corporation filed on March 25, 1977. The company's File Number is listed as 237233321. The company's principal address is 4583 Carmel, CA 93921.