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, 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!