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.

Wednesday, January 31, 1979

January 1979 Notes

"Renaissance Vine" newsletter [summarized]
January concerts: American String Quartet; Nancy Allen, harp

Other Notes

January 3:
An estimated 400 members attended the Quarterly Concerts December 31st and January 1st.
Robert and Karl Werner are traveling to New Orleans and the East Coast.
Stella and Harold are moving from Renaissance to the Bay Area.
January 15:
Fellowship member James G. is "released" from the school. A former member who was in a relationship with James stated that Robert Burton was "in love" with James, and even proposed running away with him and abandoning the Fellowship. [See below.]
January 29:
Robert extending his trip to include Athens, Cairo, New Delhi and Hong Kong. While he’s away, a fireplace is being built in the Blake Cottage.
January 31:
Karl is acting as traveling minister. Taking the model of the new winery model on the road with him.

"Life Person" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 24, 2007:
#78–I’m not aware of Burton having brought anything to the table that he didn’t find somewhere else. According to Rick Ross’s site, Burton adopted the term “feminine influence” from Horn’s group and turned it into “feminine dominance.” http://www.rickross.com/reference/theater/theater21.html

By using the term, which has no basis in fact for being gender-specific, not to mention by trumpeting how he supposedly severed feminine dominance by treating his mother to stony silence on her death bed, Burton demonstrates his continuing weakness in that area. “Overcompensation,” I believe, is the term. Protesting too much. (Kind of like saying about the Fellowship of Friends “Actually it is fast-going and solid more than ever.”)

But I agree with your basic assessment of Burton and his sexual, um, issues. It’s so mundane when seen without the trappings of Fellowship propaganda. I’d be interested in hearing from somone with some experience in the area some theories about why Burton feels driven to have sex obsessively, yet finds so little pleasure in having sex with men who actually prefer the type of sex Burton enjoys. I can only suppose it’s more about power than anything a more normal person would associate with pleasurable sex–if it isn’t to some degree against the other person’s will, it isn’t any fun.

Your point is well-put that “Because this is so far away from normal behaviour, we imagine it could be possibl[e] that he is ‘conscious’.” Precisely. No sane person generally familiar with his behavior, sexual and otherwise, would ever imagine that Burton is anything other than a very sick individual. Most people come to that conclusion sooner or later. But there are always some (and apparently, having run out of recruits in the U.S., the gullible are increasingly found in third world countries) who will choose to take the approach, opposite to that offered by Occam’s Razor, that Burton must be anything but sick–in fact, he is god-like.

Anyone remember James Godbe? I’d been told back in the olden days (I think by Richard Focazio, R.I.P.) that Burton had a genuine crush on James, and urged him to run away with him and leave behind the tiresome students, and James declined. I wonder whether Burton ever found anyone else he truly cared for. In my own experience, his reaction when spurned was indistinguishable from that of a petulent child deprived of a toy.

"if memory serves" posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 26, 2007:
Despite life’s busyness, I repeatedly come out to my office to read some more of the blog, uncomfortable at spending so much time doing so, but realizing on a deeper level its healing potential. It when I catch up to the current postings that I most strongly feel all of you out there in the world thinking about and contributing to this amazing thing and send my heartfelt thanks to all contributors, silent or vocal. Much of the time, the memories feel like they are from a long time ago, happening to someone else. Today, I am startled by how immediate the feelings are, you who are writing today words that evoke feelings today felt now by me.

Whalerider, at the end of your post 417, I cried deeply and to those who know me, know I am usually more reserved and cry rarely. An internalized phrase from my occasional therapist ”follow the feelings” helped overcome my immediate impulse to just move along to something else. Most days, I’ve felt so detached, like I can relate, but it isn’t really MY story. Today, I felt like “that girl”.

I loved James G. my first boyfriend in the fof, mid-70’s. We lived in a teepee up the hill with a red couch and carpets. James was a poet, a sweet gentle man who went head to head with Robert. I remember my confusion when I realized I was competing with my teacher for the affection of my boyfriend. Confusion, sadness, anger, uncomprehending shock. James left the group and I regret that I cannot access more clearly what happened. There is so much shame mixed in with the excitement of having found a “school of evolution”. I’m sure I did not talk about the shameful parts and just moved on with the “evolution” parts.

Being a female “second class citizen”, I settled for “second-best” closeness to rb, by getting involved with Thomas E. There was a big triangular struggle going on there, too, but again, the shame shrouding the situation did not allow us to talk openly about it and I remember just being very confused. Thomas and I fought often about it and eventually moved farther and farther apart. I remember calling him from the pay phone in the Lodge while he was traveling with rb to tell him I was pregnant and him telling me to just take care of it. I knew it wasn’t wanted, by him, by me, by Robert, so was shortly thereafter driven to Yuba City by Fran for an abortion. I know I’m leaving out the next chapter, but one step at a time.

I had permission to play the piano in the Goethe Academy during lunch when no one was there. It was one of the happiest hours of my days. When Robert would come smilingly back after lunch in the company of those from his entourage, his face would fall upon seeing me, and although it is not exactly the reptilian conversion Cyclops referred to in his powerful post above, that look of revulsion, disappointment, annoyance was one that I and many other women were on the receiving end on many occasions.

One other memory from my days of a woman in the company of men around the Blake Cottage/Goethe Academy was sadly watching while RB walked around and around the outside perimeter of the lawn trying to convince one of his wonderful young men that he and his lovely girlfriend/or wife, can’t remember the timing, must not have a child, and that in fact they must have an abortion. I had an opportunity to see this sad childless couple years later (when I was “out” and they still “in” thus we didn’t converse) and my heart has always gone out to them.

My tears are for you, Whalerider, Cyclops, THAT GIRL, Joseph G., Richard M, Elena, and many others who lost faith in themselves, were deceived, coerced, had abortions, gave their children away, shared their husbands with another, for all the suffering you experienced. They are for me, for the teenager I once was, for the world I’m leaving to my children. May tears of joy fall once again on us all.

Susan

Sunday, January 7, 1979

The Fellowship of Friends Articles of Incorporation are amended

The Farm/Mt. Carmel/Renaissance in Winter. (Photo; T. Campion)


[ed. - The Fellowship of Friends Articles of Incorporation, first executed June 11, 1978, are amended as discussed below. The following Directors signed the amendment: R. Miles Barth, Don Birrell, Ethan G. Harris, Rosemary MacDonald, Linda Lee Rockwood (Kaplan), Neal O'Brien, Pamela O'Brien, Samuel L. Sanders, and Walter Scheer.]

From the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
On January 7, 1979 the Fellowship of Friends Board of Directors voted to amend the Articles of Incorporation to read:

II [excerpt]

The purposes for which this corporation is formed are

a) The specific and primary purpose is as a religion;


VII

The Property of this corporation is irrevocably dedicated to religious purposes and no part of the net income or assets of the organization shall ever inure to the benefit, of any director, officer, or member thereof or to the benefit of any private persons.

Upon the dissolution or winding up of the corporation, the assets remaining after payment of all debts and liabilities of this corporation shall be distributed to a non-profit fund, foundation or corporation which is organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes and which has established its tax exempt status under Section 501(d) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

See also "The Fellowship of Friends Articles of Incorporation."

The Articles of Incorporation may be viewed on the Internet Archive.

"Jomo Piñata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 25, 2014:
The specific purpose [of The Fellowship of Friends] was as a “church” in the original Articles, but they [the articles] were later amended to provide that the purpose was as a “religion.” Some people equate these, but I see the second purpose as much more grandiose than the first.