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.

Saturday, March 31, 1979

Paul Shabram, on his departure from the Fellowship

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 29, 2008:
RB was manipulative, persistent but patient with me in trying to get me to have sex with him. He finally gave up saying something like “some people’s instinctive center won’t allow certain things” to which I replied “No, it won’t”, but I was thinking “neither will any other of my centers.” He knew he wouldn’t get anywhere with me. He never attempted to punish me nor did he pitch a fit for my non-compliance.

At the time he was implying to the membership that he was heterosexual and was celibate. But he had confirmed what other older (female) members had warned me about… he was homosexual and “he likes boys you know”.

I have never been ‘homophobic’, that is other peoples sexual preference do not matter to me, but that tolerance was occasional misunderstood. I thought this was just another case of that. The lie, however, indicated problems with Robert being conscious and I concentrated on dealing with that conundrum for a couple of years. The “final straw” for me was that after making such a big deal out of “casting out a soul” (making somebody leave the FOF) for only the worst “criminal” activity, Robert kicked a male student out for no other reason other than being gay. He seem to regard gay relationships as criminal. Taking together all I had seen and experienced along with this episode, there simply was no way that RB was the real thing. I had verified. So I left (it felt like escaping). I guess I was lucky to leave with mostly good memories.

I realize now that RB was probably getting results with other young heterosexual males (I don’t think he liked gay men, but maybe that changed). It is clear that his behavior has degraded and degraded. Once you recognize a person as sociopathic, it’s hard to have any compassion for that individual. I am utterly mortified by what I’ve read in this blog.

I personally witnessed critical moments when the FOF could have gone the way of Jonestown or Waco. I was there when a member came to the Blake Cottage suggesting that he do violence on somebody troublesome. Robert said no as part of the non-violence stance, but nobody should underestimate the potential. It’s a very dangerous situation. With complete moral corruption coupled with the “everybody will die but us” doomsday belief, that danger increases.

March 1979 Notes

The Fellowship of Friends Town Hall aka Festival Hall, Prytaneion
The Fellowship of Friends Town Hall (later Prytaneion, Festival Hall), February 1979 (Photo: T. Campion)

"Renaissance Vine" newsletter [summarized]
Concerts:
March 3: Christiane Edinger
March 17: American String Quartet

Other Notes

February 27 - March 1:
Mercedes 600 is disabled in Redding and must be hauled to Carmel for repairs
Ken W. is in the market for a "hound dog" to keep deer out of the vineyard
The Renaissance Bindery is taking orders for  leather-bound "Renaissance Journal" collections.
March 9 and 19th:
Film series at Town Hall: Hamlet and Macbeth
March 20:
After the last vineyard plantings of season, vineyard workers were given two days off, a $25 bonus, and invited to join Robert in Carmel.
March 22:
New word exercise is introduced: avoid using "night" and "hi."

Thursday, March 15, 1979

John's North's escape

[ed. - John North's story below is reprinted with the author's permission. I've placed this in two locations on the timeline: March 15, 1979, when John escaped from the Fellowship, and July 10, 2018, when "Golden Veil" shared and commented on John's story.]

"Golden Veil" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 10, 2018:
Can a man be a member of the #MeToo movement?

You betcha!

Below, a personal history from Fellowship of Friends former student John [ed. - John North], who posted about his experience being placed in the Blake Cottage and serving as Robert Burton’s “attaché” on the Miles Barth In Memoriam page, Greater Fellowship, on July 6, 2017. [ed. - Greater Fellowship requires membership to access site.]
Reflecting on my time in the Fellowship still provides an opportunity for work.

It is not my wish to speak ill of the dead – only to relay my memories as best I can. Who knows the truth?

My first visit to Renaissance was in the summer of ’78. Even back then, it was like walking into Rivendell (Lord of the Rings) or Hogwarts -for you younger escapees…

I was quite literally spell bound by the elegance of the Meissen Room, the beauty and scope of the vineyard, the excellence of the antique octave, the concerts, the intellectual and emotional depth of the students, their sophistication, refinement, their level of commitment, and the efforts they made …
And many if not most of them were spell bound like me. Naïve, innocent, dreaming – imagining a perfect world created and directed by a deity.

I should have “smelled the coffee burning”.

If I remember right, I was helping Brian Sisler paint Dorothy Beaulieu’s  cottage on my weekend visits to Renaissance. I did not know Brian well but came to understand that he was being sent away for “spreading rumors” about RB and that I would be taking his place at the Blake Cottage. Dorothy turned to me and said something to the effect of  “…such a sweet young man – how could he say such terrible things about Robert?” This I remember very clearly.

Of course discussing rumors about the teacher was strictly verboten – so I did not ask. I wish I had.

If Dorothy – who was not even on the fringes of the inner circle – suspected something was (as the saying goes) “rotten in Denmark”, does anyone think the older students were unaware? Again I emphasize – I was not the first “9 month wonder”. My suspicion is that most of them (if not all) at first refused to believe (like me), then justified the behavior (like me), and then went into denial – a luxury I could not afford.

I cannot imagine many experiences that would equal or surpass visiting this magical place for months – hearing the words “crown prince”, “conscious role”, “Lord North”, and then… the first night in the Blake Cottage… having the curtain pulled back and the dark side exposed.

At first, I tried to rationalize RB’s behavior as a test but that didn’t last long. I found myself looking up references to double/incorrect crystallization, hasnamuss, and so on… I still don’t know what went wrong.

In any case – the “wine, dine & travel” octave had begun… “The Magic Flute” in L.A., Baryshnikov in San Francisco, Tavern on the Green in New York, two trips to Europe – Amsterdam (to bid on a roll top desk), London, Munich, Paris… (I don’t remember the exact order). I was Robert’s “attaché” on the first trip and the “motor” for Kevin Kelly’s wheelchair on the second. (Sadly, Kevin became ill in Paris and we spent most of the trip there).

I found the opportunity to observe myself was profound. I did my best to recall Gurdjieff’s advice – “The worse the conditions of life, the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work”.

I cannot express how productive those difficult days were. I had a very new and different perspective on “The Teacher” and the ideas. Imagination, identification, considering, expressing negative emotions, lying…

It was confusing and enlightening at the same time. I verified the usefulness and validity of The Work in ways that would have taken years by any other route. In a way I suppose I should be thankful. Many have labored and suffered for decades under his spell. My eyes were opened and I began to look for an exit.

It was not easy. No money. No car. In addition, Louis told me that I was considered a “flight risk” and would be watched quite carefully.

Late at night on the Ides of March in 1979, I gathered what was left of my worldly possessions into a back pack and tip-toed out of the Blake Cottage and on to the road. Fortunately, a newer student was driving the first car that came along. I told him Robert had granted me a three day vacation. He had no idea I was running. I was so thankful. Who knows what might have happened if I had been caught trying to escape. Probably transferred to the London Center for reprogramming. Ha!

Unfortunately, I did not escape undamaged. I have not and do not think I will ever fully trust another teacher, school or human being. That’s had an impact on every relationship I’ve had since leaving the Fellowship.

And as many here probably know – working alone is only so productive.
~ ~ ~

If there is someone out there that was or is a former or current “boy” of Robert Burton, there are agencies for help – and reporting.

“You are not alone.
It was not your fault.
It is possible to heal.
It is not too late.”

From: https://www.malesurvivor.org/index.php

See also:

https://1in6.org/