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.

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.

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