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.

Friday, July 31, 1981

July 1981 Notes

The D-8 terracing Slope 23 (Photo: T. Campion)

"Renaissance Vine" newsletter [summarized]
New parking lot has been created at Renaissance

The Blake cottage and Franklin Complex [structures only] have been sold

A second pond is now under construction

Learning other languages (besides English and French) is now permitted

July 11 and 12: Sydney Harth and Menahem Pressler 
July 19: Maureen Forester [died 2010]
August 8 and 9: Istvan Nadas [died 2010]
1,362 members

Photos: Iris Walk at The Court of the Caravans

Other Notes

July 24:
Walt Whitman recital at the Marin Teaching House
July 26:
Robert leaves for Europe

Tuesday, July 14, 1981

Star belongs to bizarre cult

[ed. - Laurie Walters (also known within the group as Laura Walters) was a member of the Fellowship of Friends from 1975 until 1984.]

"Whalerider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 13, 2019:
The FOF cult had its own well known TV actress as a follower during my time…

"Eight is Enough" star belongs to bizarre cult of robot-like followers (shown above)

To make an impression as part of my indoctrination, burton arranged for her to give me a ride in her Mercedes once when I accompanied him on a trip down in LA.

[ed. - Article text:]

"Eight is Enough" star belongs to bizarre cult of robot-like followers

by Kitty MacNab
World Weekly News
July 14, 1981

Cutie-pie actress Laurie Walters - who played Joanie Bradford on TV's "Eight is Enough" - is in the grip of a sinister cult whose zombie-like followers worship a Jim Jones-type leader who claims that he is Jesus Christ.

Laurie's worried friends fear that she is pouring her money into the cult and ruining her career by linking her image to the bizarre group.

"Laurie has been hanging out with the Fellowship of Friends for a long time," said ex-member James Trattner of Sacramento, Calif.

"She goes up to their luxurious, 1,310-acre estate at least once a month

"She's really been taken in by the group."

The 1,375-member fellowship is led by a dictatorial leader named Robert Burton, said Trrattner. A 41-year-old former schoolteacher, Burton lives like a king on the estate, buying millions of dollars worth of art objects while group members donate their money and free time working to make the cult rich.

One distraught father who lost his child to the group told how his son became a mindless robot-servant for Burton, who has convinced his followers that he's Jesus Christ.

"These kids are zombies," said the anguished father. "My son went from being a normal, extroverted kid to being a complete robot.

"He can't talk with us anymore.

"We have nothing to say to one another.

"He only wants to see things the way they have indoctrinated him to see them.

"The teacher (Burton) lets it be known that he's Jesus.

"Well, I think he's the devil himself."

Another source described the group as a "professional operation" that binds the minds of its members so it will have slaves working to make the cult rich.

"People are afraid to leave partly because they become so brainwashed that they begin to believe that Burton has the key to truth," said the source.

Sources say cult members give 10 percent of their incomes to the cult plus "special donations" of $115 per month. Meanwhile, Burton dresses in expensive clothes, drives a plush Mercedes car and surrounds himself with luxuries.

The group teaches that appreciation of the finer things in life is the path to spirituality. Members are told to avoid newspapers and TV and the modern world and devote themselves to studying art, fine music and classical literature.

At special sessions, members discuss negative feelings and emotions which block the development of their spirit.

Laurie believes her visits to the cult's estate in Yuba County, Calif., have opened her eyes to the secrets of life.

"I realized before I met them that I couldn't change myself by myself," said the pretty young actress.

"I come to the Fellowship every four to six weeks and spend a weekend washing dishes, ironing linens and I go to dinners, look at the art collections, work in the garden and spend a lot of time just visiting with my friends.

"What I want is a higher consciousness and I feel like I get what I pay for."

Members like Laurie deny that the group is a cult. They look at Burton as a "teacher" and feel they are studying a philosophy that will change their lives for the better.

But experts on cults say that the Fellowship is as dangerous as any of the so-called true followings.

"And in the Fellowship of Friends, just like many of the other cults, you have to sign your life away and do as you're told.

"So people like Laurie are in danger of losing their personal freedoms," said Ted Patrick, who works as a cult de-programmer.

Meanwhile, a source from the industry says that Laurie's link to the group could destroy her chances for new acting jobs now that "Eight is Enough" has been canceled.

"It's really disturbing to see a young actress of Laurie's talent involved in one of these cults," said the source.

"It is not good for her career because it creates bad publicity about her and because she gets a reputation in the industry as being a kook.

"That never helps!

"Now that her series is no longer a regular on the air, her involvement in the fellowship could really be a problem for her. There are hundreds of good actresses like her out there competing for jobs - and something like a weird religious involvement could be just the thing that could keep her out of work."