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.

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.