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.

Saturday, June 30, 1979

June 1979 Notes

Poppies at Fellowship of Friends Renaissance cult Lincoln Lodge (Apollo de Oro), April 1979
Poppies at Lincoln Lodge, April 1979 (Photo: T. Campion)

"Renaissance Vine" newsletter [summarized]
Scraping has begun on Winery Knoll
Aggregate is being brought in (from Yuba River tailings piles, for concrete)
No bookmarking is to be done at Dutton bookstores
June 9 and 10 concerts: Beaux Arts Trio
1,231 members
Photos: California poppies on vineyard slope, marble bust of Mozart

Other Notes

June 1:
Antique Austrian vitrine is delivered to Renaissance.
June 2:
Scrapers begin moving soil on winery knoll for future barrel storage and bottling warehouse levels.
June 5:
A manufacturing project for Kopa Engineering is completed. Finished oak wood products, produced at "Wygal Manufacturing" (the Town Hall) for an office building in Saudi Arabia are loaded for shipment. Workers are given three days off and a $50 bonus.
June 9:
The Quarterly Concert features the Beaux Arts Trio.
Meetings with Remarkable Men is showing in San Francisco.
June 16:
Truckload of air-conditioning equipment donated to Renaissance by Phoenix member.
June 18:
Monday night Bay Area meetings resume at Skyline Church.
June 21:
Concrete batch plant is moved to winery knoll.
June 22:
Footings for Butler Building are poured.

Monday, June 11, 1979

My Dinner With Robert

Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult Renaissance Vineyard and Winery
Winery site from vineyard slope, Spring 1979 (Photo: T. Campion)

[ed. - When Robert Burton dined in the evenings with eleven invited guests from the membership, it was customary that a scribe be assigned to capture any comments "the teacher" made. These dinners would be held in "The Meissen Room" or outside on "The Mozart Deck." The following are scribe's notes from one such evening.]

From the Fellowship of Friends Discussion Blog:
Student: Is it true that the theory of ladders is more useful for you than us?

Teacher: It is useful for both if we can both verify it.

One can hear the stars in this music. (Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”)

This was a wonderful weekend. (The Beaux Arts Trio’s first visit to Renaissance), yet I am glad it is over. The Beaux Arts Trio is quite interesting. They perform a great deal. They are beginning to be at home here now.

London is our most successful foreign center. Munich is in a mi-fa interval which Helga is overcoming. Soon Stella and Harold will go to Amsterdam and Dale and Pamela to Copenhagen.

I marvel that we consistently enjoy food. Yet as enjoyable as it is, it is nothing compared to the self. Few people on earth can rise above food. As simple as it seems, it is quite rare.

It is interesting that we can surprise people like Zara Nelsova and the Beaux Arts Trio, who have traveled all over the world.

I am never concerned that we might be laughed at, for I know the nature of our ark. It is said that Noah was laughed at when he built his ark. I have no ill feelings toward people who cannot understand us; I pity them.

I think the Fellowship is destined to have a good relationship with life. The people of Thebes said they could never defeat Athens as long as it had its beauty to defend it. The beauty here will serve us well, as life appreciates it.

There are many things I do not bother to explain, for there is not time to explain everything. I also know I do not have to explain to students of the inner circle, for they have their own working relationship to Influence C, and attempt to remember themselves. There would be no school if one had to explain everything, if there were no inner circle.

C Influence produces bogus and charlatan B Influence teachings in order to produce an environment in which a C Influence school can flourish. B Influence serves to produce magnetic centers fit for a C Influence school. This is the esoteric meaning of Christ’s words, “many are called, but few are chosen.”

The knowledge of the Old and New Testaments is essentially the same. In the story of Samson and Delilah, Samson being blinded means that he was identified with Delilah, and thus blind. The removal of Samson’s eyes means the extinguishing of his “I’s”, rather than merely the physical organs of sight.

One of the pleasant aspects of our school is that we can draw from Mr. Gurdjieff, Mr. Ouspensky, and Mr. Collin.

There are many obscure personages we have drawn from for the engraving octave; nevertheless they each had one profound thought which will enrich our lives.

One excellent “I” to use, if one could remember it before, rather than after the friction, is “this negative state is not permanent.” The Queen of Hearts becomes identified and one forgets that a negative state will pass. It is odd that such work “I’s” often elude us in the heat of the struggle and reappear when the friction is past.

It is impossible for the Queen of Hearts to have relativity because the hydrogens are not there.

Time and effort yield results.

One thing I have tried in my life is not to change something that has proved successful – especially friends. Our machines will seek to change something successful merely out of boredom.

When I am speaking with a student who loses the “I” he wishes to express, I open my mouth as if I am about to speak and that usually is enough to evoke his lost “I”. This is because all of our machines have a desire to be the active force and occupy space.

As I said, all our machines desire to be the active force. I notice that my own machine, when listening to another, will produce an ache in my shoulder in order that I can twitch my neck. At other times the machine may produce an itch or burp to buffer being the passive force. Initially, I found it difficult to believe that the machine buffers in this manner, yet I have since verified it. The instinctive center feigns a clumsy ignorance in order to mask its deceit. It is alright, for the King of Hearts far surpasses it. We are obviously governed by the King of Hearts, for otherwise students would not be out in the world struggling to support the school as they do.

In 1998 [the predicted Fall of California] we will have to live by nature’s candle.

I was raised by a woman who worked and raised four children; I am quite accustomed to the idea of women working.

Richard Kim is a positive third force C Influence is applying to our school. He is on Karl Werner’s ladder and is philanthropic like him. He is eager to assist in building the school. Karl is quite frugal and quite generous, and one cannot be generous without being frugal.

Stella does not tire of the system. I am not tired of it either, yet I could not go on with Monday meetings. This may be because we reached the end of a nine year gestation period for the school. Rodney Collin speaks of such a gestation period for a school.

One cannot speak of the future with certainty, for one’s level of being changes and a new being is there. I do not think that I will teach in meetings again, yet one cannot be sure, as I said. Yet this keeps us from becoming formatory, and I have never dreaded coming here.

Life becomes a lot more interesting when one ceases to talk about oneself.

The Beaux Arts Trio enjoyed performing here, despite the fact that they perform in the great cities of the world. They appreciated the beauty of the stage and the level of the audience. Mr. Pressler is coming back to give us a solo performance, and the Trio is coming next March, although they said they have more offers than they can accept. They have chosen to come here above life engagements.

If any man wishes the truth, it must be from here.

We are one people, we are the new chosen people, and of course that means suffering, which means immortal states.

Mr. Pressler said that Felix Mendelssohn was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as he was born into a wealthy family. I was thinking that people who enter the way are born with golden spoons in their mouths.

It is amazing how many people one must pass to enter the way. I introduced two of my former teachers to my conscious teacher, and although they did not join his school, I felt I had repaid my debt to them.

Truth is not of any age; that is, one can find it when one is 20, 40, or 60.

There are many people who wish the truth in our age compared to other ages. Seeking the truth is a buffer for many people, for finding it means the beginning of real work.

I do not think that anyone who enters the way has a real problem; however the verification of that is reserved for higher school than this, never to be seen on earth.

One positive aspect about the completion of my role, that is, the dissolution of this body, is that I feel I will be able to communicate to students information I could not give them here, particularly about their next roles. Mr. Ouspensky was able to communicate with his students after his passing; this information is in Rodney Collin’s Theory of Eternal Life

I was only three days off in the prediction of my crystallization, which over a period of ten years is quite good, and I consider that prediction accurate. If a depression occurs in 1984, if California falls in 1998, if Armageddon occurs in 2006, then I was correct regarding the other information I have been speaking about.

Actually, most of what I speak about is facts.

I think that the depression will be a source of suffering which we will transform. As Mars will be close to the Earth, I think it will be a violent depression. However, California will be the best state to be in, due to the mild climate and long growing season. Probably one out of every three students will be unemployed and will come here to build the school. Higher forces has indicated that the depression will last 3-1/2 years, and it will probably be ended by a war somewhere which will reactivate the economy. [Bolds added]

It is interesting that the moon is quite large and we are quite small, yet there is something in us which far surpasses it. It seems to have no way of civilizing itself. The Absolute seems to have produced a forest of galaxies in which there may be pockets of life; we know there is one here.

The higher conversation we have had this evening has not been poetic fantasy but reality. The truth is too real to be believable. Byron said that “the truth is stranger than fiction”, which is more true than he knew.

When I traveled to the Middle East, I had no respect for persons like Alexander the Great who conquered those people who desperately need help. To slay those people was an act devoid of compassion.

It is difficult to have a real experience like this apart from Renaissance; to remember that one is in a universe when one is in life struggling to support a school.

Life, with due respect, is quite childish; the law of accident in motion. Life does also produce some remarkable achievements.

One reason I like cameos is that they remind me of self-remembering, as one has to carve one’s self out of the stone of one’s life. When people’s roles are ended they will perhaps will their cameos to a Fellowship museum, and the cameos will serve as a remembrance of them.

Thursday, June 7, 1979

People of the Bookmark*

Early Fellowship of Friends Bookmarks

 [ed. - This comes from the Cult Education Institute site. As part of their "third line of work" (work to support the school,) Fellowship of Friends members were assigned to secretly place bookmarks in all new and used books that were on the Fellowship's "workbook" list. This was often the first step in recruiting new members.]

Agreement Regarding Bookmarks

This letter is from Fellowship Of Friends (FOF) dated June 7, 1979 explaining that an agreement seems to exist between E. P. Dutton & Co. and Triangle Publications (copyright holders or publishers) and the group that (as listed) certain books are not to have bookmarks left in them by members of the FOF. A request that seems to have originated with the publishers and copyright holders.


Typical bookmark surreptitiously placed in "work books" by FOF members.
The reverse side would list center locations and their telephone numbers

 [*From William Patrick Patterson's Taking With the Left Hand. This is his alternate name for The Fellowship of Friends cult.]

[ed. - The following is an interview excerpt from The Gurdjieff Journal, featuring William Patrick Patterson. The subject is Patterson's book Taking With The Left Hand.]
TGJ: It's so different from either of your previous two books. 

WPP: Yes, Eating The "I" was a memoir and evocation of my teacher and the ancient teaching of the Fourth Way. And Struggle of the Magicians was a history and, in a certain sense, an inner exploration of the teaching. This latest book is a cautionary tale, an example of how people bite into power and lead others to do the same. 

TGJ: Can you give an example? 

WPP: Take Burton [Robert Burton]. He never had a legitimate Gurdjieff teacher, and the one "teacher" he did have expelled him. So what did he do? He invented his own version of the teaching. Since that would have no appeal, he disguised it by appropriating the title "Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centres." Though he advertises Gurdjieff he doesn't teach Gurdjieff, only Ouspensky. Stella Wirk, a close student of his from the beginning, said Burton could never read All and Everything, didn't know what Gurdjieff was saying. 

TGJ: There were a lot of mismatches from the beginning. 

Fellowship of Friends Gurdjieff Ouspensky Centres bookmark (redacted)
WPP: These mismatches are clues. He has students put bookmarks advertising his brand of the teaching in Fourth Way books, thus giving the unsuspecting reader the impression-suggestion that the bookmark comes from the same source as the content of the book. That's a clue. Then, there's the constant demand for money. Another clue. Then, though he speaks of himself as "master of the emotional center," he seduces young boys and married men, telling them that he is "an angel in a man's body." One could go on.

"Laura" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 4, 2007:

Yesterday I was in one of my city’s major bookstores. As I was waiting for some books I had requested, I wandered through the esoteric book section. The shelves held one or two copies of Gurdjieff and Ouspenski’s main titles and, surprisingly for me, three copies of obscure teacher Robert Burton’s “Self remembering”. Italy is one of the countries (maybe the only one?) where Robert’s book was translated and published by a local editor.

All the fourth way books had been bookmarked. There were two kinds: the “before makeover” G-O-style ones and the “new look” divine presence ones (“reaching wordless divine presence is the greatest miracle of the universe”!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

Anyway, before I even thought about it, I found myself pulling all the Fellowship bookmarks out of the books. My understanding is that the Gurdjieff foundation is not happy about them bookmarks either. So it occurred to me that this is a quite easy way to boycott the Fellowship of Friends: take those bookmarks out, again and again, till they get tired or find a better advertising tool. It’s a little considerate gesture that any of us located in a city where there’s a centre can do!

A little addition: as I was researching info for this post, I ran into an Amazon review of a book called “Taking With the Left Hand: Enneagram Craze, People of the Bookmark, & The Mouravieff “Phenomenon”, was this mentioned already on the blog? It looks like an interesting read. The “People of the Bookmark” are us, just in case that was not clear.

Ames Gilbert's anti-bookmark

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 5, 2007:
Dear all,

The suggestion of putting ‘anti–bookmarks’ (Laura #22-133 or thereabouts) where the FoF puts bookmarks seems an idea whose time has come, and certainly protected as free speech. Is it necessary to have a special design? I would think that a few choice words from any computer printer would do, the message would be clear enough. I’ve already done mine:

Bookmarks (in this book or other 4th Way books) coming from The Fellowship of Friends (, are actually invitations to join a religion based on the ideas of Robert Earl Burton.

This leader makes extravagant claims such as, he is “the most conscious being on the planet, second only in history to Jesus Christ”, and also that it is necessary for him to have sex with numerous of his good–looking, male, heterosexual followers. Know that payments start at 10% of gross income, and rise after two years to as much as 30% of gross income. You will receive ‘special attention’ if you are rich, or a talented artist.

This card is put in place by ex-members who are warning you to find out all you can about the Fellowship of Friends. For example, an ongoing blog discussing the Fellowship exists:
For those who are really busy, I’ve put these words in a slightly fancier setting (warning triangles and such), in color, six bookmarks to a page. You can find it at: [ed. - Link no longer functional]

Thanks, Laura!

[ed. - The following anecdote about the "People of the Bookmark" comes from Ashala Gabriel's book, Remembering: Being with My Teacher, in a chapter titled, "bookmark-re-marks" (pp. 57-60). Gabriel was a student of Lord John Pentland, leader of The Gurdjieff Foundation in North America.]


Self-promotion has never been a "marker" of Mr. Gurdjieff's teachings, in fact, much the opposite, which is why, even inching-up on a full century since his "followers of origin" were attracted to this charismatic master of cosmic laws. Work groups continue to remain relatively intimate in size and populated only by those who felt a "clarion call" to his ideas.

My teacher. Lord Pentland, originally a student of P.D. Ouspensky, was profoundly drawn to G.l. Gurdjieff's Work and, in the final period of Mr. G's life, was, himself, deeply immersed in practicing these teachings in his direct presence.

LP often said "You don't find this Work, this Work finds you."

In the 70s, however, when many bookstores in San Francisco, Marin County and the East Bay areas of Northern California were well-stocked with the published writings of both Ouspensky and Gurdjieff to give the searching "book-worms'" amongst us access to some well-seasoned and carefully-prepared food to meet this calling towards a three-brain-balanced Work sometimes referenced as The Fourth Way, a promotional-anomaly occurred.

Certain individuals with an affiliation to these Work ideas but who did not acquire their "group training credentials" from long years of practice and under the experienced-oversight of group leaders within the authentic Gurdjieff Foundation were inserting self-promotional advertising inside the printed pages of Mr. G's unadvertised teachings.

Several of us, having discovered what these "bookmark people" were up to were quite upset by this unsanctioned intrusion into the approved Gurdjieff literature, and we made an equally unsanctioned - okay, a reflex-reactive-decision - to go around and remove every such bookmark we could find and bring all of these to Lord Pentland's direct attention. "Mission Bookmark" took place tandem with one of my several house-guest stays under LP's roof, so I was naturally amongst those self-appointed students to show him the results of our self-initiated "Work." I remember how calmly he read the contents of the "bookmark people" bookmark, how quietly he reflected on the situation we had just presented him with and I anticipated his "Well done" comment as we had "saved" the day (or, at least, the books] from outside influences.

Lord Pentland lifted his head up from the bookmark and spoke as much to wake-up our beings as our headbrains. "I think it would be best to return these bookmarks inside the books they came out from, as the ideas which have been selected to promote our teaching are reasonable and helpful. But before doing that, we'd better, perhaps, make one small alteration to the content."

Then, wide-eyed and in full-startle-wonder, I watched my teacher take up his pen and proceed to cross-out the phone number which appeared on each and every bookmark — there must have been well-over a hundred — and in his beautiful penmanship, to substitute a phone number which would put whoever called immediately and directly in contact with the head of the Gurdjieff Work in America!

Flabbergasted doesn't begin to express the level of the shock waves we who witnessed this "bookmark-signing" were experiencing. I, personally, felt the color drain from my face and a definite wobble in my ankles.

Lord Pentland continued his Work until every last digit and dash was properly corrected and infused with the energy of his own "calling hand", then divided these bookmarks into smaller stacks which amazingly also looked to be perfectly right-sized for precise number of us standing there to receive them, and passed them back to each of us, individually.

"Now, don't get caught," he chortled with a definite twinkle under those bushy brows, "and don't let any of the others at the Foundation know what we're doing."

I'd give my eye-teeth to know some of those who were fortunate enough to find the real Work and a real teacher in this unorthodox intentional way, but I can't imagine, almost 40 years after-the-bookmark-task and coming up on 27 years since my teacher's excursion to the Higher Bookstores, how that will ever happen.