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, April 30, 1983

April 1983 Notes

From the Fellowship of Friends Wiki Page:

[ed. - thoughts from "The Teacher," Robert Burton, with apparent index number shown.]
Humanity as an organism does not have an immunity to a synthetic poison such as the neutron bomb. (040183.813)

This year (1983) signifies the beginning of the depression and the chain of events that will evbentually lead to Armadgeddon. First in this chain will be the depression, which will require a war in the Middle East to lift us from it; then will come the fall of California, and finally, 2006. The Last Judgment (Armageddon). I have, to an extent, laid my role as a prophet on the line by predicting these events in the years 1984, 1997, 1998 and 2006. (040183.18)

Armageddon will be the biggest tragedy humanity has ever experienced. (040183.812)

We are a people who shall endure the Last Judgement; imagine it is only twenty-three years away. (040183.92)

Armageddon will occur in a flash, and in a flash our new civilization shall rise. (040183.118)

The most dire events in history are brewing and will take place in the next twenty three years. Humanity will be destroyed by a volley of devastating events. (040183.59)

We are all that is real in the world when we are present, and we shall be the only reality after Armageddon.

(In reference to a picture of a man in Poldi Pezzoli Museum, receiving divine inspiration)
People flatter themselves in thinking they are inspired from above. (040183.58)

Friday, April 22, 1983

Conducting "church business" in the most fashionable places

The Arizona Biltmore, once a favorite destination (among many favorites) for Robert Burton with his entourage

[ed. - Robert Burton and his entourage frequented the Arizona Biltmore. In fact, he chose the Biltmore as the site for his "crystallization."]
"Influence C gave me the date of March 15, 1976 for my crystallization. I went to Phoenix and stayed at the Arizona Biltmore in the desert waiting for it to happen. The astral body was breathing, but the crystallization did not occur. So I returned to Apollo a few days later and my last thought before I went to sleep was ‘Well, it’s not going to happen tonight.’ That was about at 11 pm; then I woke up at 4 am and it was upon me. It was March 19th and world six immediately rose to handle it. I was facing Mount Apollo at the time with my back turned to California." - Robert Burton, September 21, 2011
"Richard M." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 24, 2008:
238. veronicapoe
Seems to me I was told that the Fellowship had incorporated as a church “for tax reasons.”

It was pretty common knowledge among insiders during my time in FOF, that “church” centers were usually opened and maintained in cities around the world where Burton liked to visit, eat, shop, and spend lots of cash. If the church “pastor” spent time in those cities, his expenses could be legally payed for by the “church” as long as he met with a few of the members of that “congregation”usually at meals or while shopping. Visits to places without centers or where he had no church business, such as buying for the “impression octave,” say Palm Springs, had to be payed for out of his “personal” funds. This explains why he would sometimes stay at a Motel 6 or other cheap hotel in those cities, while he usually stayed at one of the best hotels while visiting a center. Detailed notes of who attended the meals and a few teaching quotes by Bob had to be noted in a travel diary by the secretary as proof that church work had occurred. These notes were transcribed and submitted to the Collins office for filing in case of an IRS audit. In fact I recently found a travel diary from my 1983 employment.

Here are 2 sample entries:

4/22/83 Phoenix [center] Lunch, Arizona Biltmore. Shopped for table. Dinner, Gold Room, Arizona Biltmore with Clyde A.

4/23/83 Blythe [on road from Phoenix to LA] lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Here is a good quote right from the horses mouth:

4/23/83 “I have been spending much time lately waiting. I am waiting for 1984. I have been waiting for a long time, but it is quite near now. I feel like I am waiting for an earthquake”

He was, of course, referring to 2 his since failed prophesies:

1984= Worldwide economic depression.

1998= California falling into the sea.

It would be interesting to chart the location of centers over the history of the FOF in relationship to Burton’s shopping habits at the time. Fine press books/NY, London. Meissen Porcelain/Germany. Old Master Paintings/Italy. Chinese Furniture/Taipei. Hong Kong.

[ed. - And from an earlier visit to the Biltmore:]

"a former student" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 15, 2007:
#346 Skeptical Optimist [responding to comments]
#344 Dick (I’m not a) Moron

“I remember the “crystallization party” pretty well. I was living at the “farm”. Burton had gone to Arizona so he could “crystallize” at the Arizona Biltmore (tells you a lot right there).”

I was in Phoenix with Robert at the Arizona Biltmore the evening he was to crystallize. I spent the bulk of the day with him. I met him at the Airport with Mildred Smith and Vincent Bell the center directors. We spent the day at the Biltmore and in Scottsdale. I think he had been attracted by the opportunity to buy a very large set of Meissen [German porcelain dishes] in the Red Dragon pattern at a good price. After a long day I was with him and other students in the evening and I can recall having a drink in the lounge after dinner of Johnny Walker black label scotch something rare for me and accompanying him to his cottage where he proceeded to talk me into letting him have oral sex. He used the “externally consider your teacher” line and negotiated a deal or bribe by offering to transfer me from Phoenix to another center.

I travelled [sic] to Renaissance with Mildred Smith and other Phoenix students for the crystallization party. I had mixed feelings about seeing Robert after my experience at the Biltmore. Even today the evening at the Biltmore is a very blurry memory. It is oddly disjointed as I can recall things like what shoes and socks I had on, Burgundy Gucci’s with Cashmere socks both gifts from Robert, my suit, a Cream Colored Italian silk I got for myself and a floral silk tie I still have. I can remember the decorations on the furniture and carpets of his room , all designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but only the vaguest dark image of Robert having oral sex. The image in my head is always like a dark angel or demon.

I seriously have questioned whether this was not a moment of choice for Robert, In that instead of crystallizing he chose to indulge himself and continue his lying sexual behavior. This experience stunned me. It was an ultimate betrayal. I did not speak to anyone about it until I disclosed it to my psychiatrist last week. I had buried the memory.

It took several years before I left the Fellowship. This shows the deep conflict between what I hoped was true, imagined was true and had to accept as a reality. A certain fog was lifted and I was able to begin to see that Robert was as mechanical as he appeared. Self indulgent, selfish, dominating and given to micro management which was often grossly incompetent that was justified as being for “our evolution”. This was part of the developing myth of needing to accept the teachers will to free us from the law of accident.

The other evening I was musing after reading a post from Ames and a thought came that Robert was taken over by a demon. In Milton’s Paradise Lost it is the “fallen Angels” who resist the will of God that become the demons. Another idea is that a “demon” refers to the “lower self” or King of Clubs”. So the thought is what if Robert did “awaken” and experience the “truth” that we as creations are “the angels” and what we need remember is that we partake of the divine nature.

What if this is a test on the “way”. One of the conditions that all must meet to become man #5. Perhaps the si-do interval.

The nature of which is to see with out buffering the different contradictory sides of ones being. This is not about higher states but of being honest with oneself. You cannot become one and continue to lie to oneself about contradictions.
This seems to be what Robert did. He lied about his sexuality. He developed a criminal inner circle of those who knew and perpetuated his lies. He as Elena has stated became two.

I have heard some demons referred to as “eater of souls”.

This very clearly describes what Robert has become. His “school” attracts magnetic centers and cultivates them for his food. Instead of nurturing and feeding his spiritual children he is feeding off of their finer energies. He is a spiritual vampire.

This also explains why many who have left seem to have lost their desire to awaken. It also explains the apparent contradiction between the experience of higher states and apparent results and the existence of a criminal center to the “school”. It is necessary for “the school” to cultivate higher energies and essence in order for Robert to feed upon it.
[ed. - In the above, "former student" appears to contradict an earlier post he wrote.]

Wednesday, April 20, 1983

[ed. - Place holder only. An article about the Fellowship of Friends reported by Jeff Ackerman appeared in the Yuba City Valley Herald.]

Friday, February 11, 1983

"On the Fourth Way"

Image from John Raithel's website.

[ed. - John Raithel was a member of The Fellowship of Friends from 1976 until 1983. Below, in his "Autobiographical note" thirty years after departing, Raithel reflects upon his reasons for leaving the Fellowship and describes the atmosphere in the organization at the time. I've posted this in the timeline at his date of departure.]
In Search of the Miraculous

For some people immediately, for some eventually, a need comes to talk about these ideas with other people, test one's practice and, ultimately, find people who know more. We realize that if we are going to make real progress, we have to go to school.

I began in this line by meeting some people which eventually led to my involvement in a group begun by a student of Gurdjieff's, Willem Nyland. The work there was interesting and, I think, profitable, but I knew it wasn't exactly what I needed, and I eventually discontinued my involvement with that group.

Some time later, at another bookstore in Milwaukee, I came across a beautiful little poster showing a pair of cherubim and reading "Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Centers Accepting Students" and listing telephone numbers. The closest was Chicago, and I had no plans to go there—I imagined boring lectures for some reason—but when I came across a similar advertisement in the university newspaper with a local telephone number, I decided to give it a call.

To make a long story short, I ended up connecting with an actual school, called at that time the Fellowship of Friends, and working in that organization for several years, first in Chicago and Milwaukee, and later in California. I won't go into my experiences there, nor discuss the nature of the teaching. The ideas taught there are probably the most influential of modern teachings on the fourth way and you can look into it or not as you see fit.

Eventually, I decided to leave the Fellowship, an organization I had felt increasingly alienated from since moving to California. Nonetheless, it was a hard decision to leave. Partly because the organization itself stressed that such an act bordered on the disastrous [emphasis added]. Partly because of all I had learned there, and the friends I had made.

I left for various reasons. First, I was no longer participating, and continued dues-paying seemed senseless. Second, I felt a need to be less secretive about my life, which was difficult to do when one's life-style was so determined by the organization, even if only in the funneling of significant income to it, and I felt unable to integrate these two sides of my life. I also felt a certain dissatisfaction with the school, mainly in the fact that its third line and my needs were increasingly diverging. While I had no illusions about finding a school with a third line more in harmony with my first line, I felt it possible to strike out on my own, or at any rate felt I really had no choice but to pursue those interests that had originally merged my path with the school but which now diverged.

So what was the difficulty? It seems rather straightforward, and normally would be—however difficult to clearly state one's own interests, once done, one follows them. The difficulty comes in with the teaching itself—how it makes clear that "false personality protects itself", and how various parts within ourselves may work against the interests of other parts. With great subtlety. And I had learned that this was so.

But something was telling me to go. And really the difficulty proved to be still another gain, in that it forced me to evaluate, to discriminate, in a way I had hardly ever done before. My decision became definite if non-verbalizable, and I set off on my own.

I left with, or at the approximate same time as, some of my friends, and it may well be this helped me leave. In general, there was a lot of agonizing and departures, many angry, at this time, as the teacher's sexual preferences became more widely known. If that affected me at all, it was only in the sense that I did not think it should have been hidden before, but I remained largely ambivalent about it. Especially as it was impossible to get any real information—those who were angry seemed to be very anti-homosexual, and any comments about particular behaviors were so colored with the vehemence of those emotions that I began to avoid those people as well.

So, for a variety of reasons, I left. I saw that my own path lay in a similar, but not the same, direction, and I felt it was time to grow in ways that I could not while I remained where I was. I felt it was again time to try to work on my own.

Monday, January 31, 1983

January 1983 Notes

January 28:
Goethe Academy concert: Istvan Nadas, piano
Note included with January 1, 1983 Renaissance Journal:
“In preparation for the coming depression, the Renaissance Journal will be published once a month. Concurrently in London, Barbara and Girard Haven will publish a monthly newsletter, A Letter from London. The Teacher urges members to subscribe so that they will have two sources of input for the months ahead.”
Additional note:
The Goethe Academy is now displaying a pair of Chinese famille rose urns from the Ch'ien Lung Period (circa 1765). A pamphlet states,
A pair of urns bearing the same design but in inferior condition, showing considerable signs of wear, are on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, near to Canova's sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa.