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 an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will 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 on official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, 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.

Sunday, March 4, 1984

Samuel Sanders Letter to the Fellowship of Friends Board of Directors

Samuel Sanders letter, from Internet Archives

From Stella Wirks' website:
Samuel Sanders Tries to Help FOF

The following Letter to the Board of Directors, Fellowship of Friends, was presented by Samuel L. Sanders, one of the FOF board members, in an attempt to have the Board of Directors take appropriate action to censure the unethical and criminal behavior of Robert E. Burton, self-professed prophet of the Fellowship of Friends.

(Around this same time, a precedent was set for this by the San Francisco Zen Center which had done the same for their leader for similar activities, and had given their leader a year off as leader to get straightened out with counseling or whatever. This had given some hope to FOF members that something similar could be accomplished.)

It was not discovered until later that Burton's unethical activity already had transpired unabated for fourteen years!

Samuel's letter to the Board:
March 4, 1984

Dear Friends,

What is to be said can only be heard through your heart. Please try to listen from that part. For a long time we have been part of a criminal process which has hurt many individuals. Some of these individuals have been sacrificed because we have chosen not to listen to our conscience.

Robert has over the years pursued and sodomized young men. He has used his position to seduce these young men with the promise of immortality. His actions are simply that of a degenerate being no matter how refined. We in our blindness have allowed some dear individuals to be defiled and damaged by his appetites. Our omission, and it is one in the strictest sense, is allowing it to continue.

Some of these young men have become seriously psychologically impaired through this process. Yet we go on minimizing it because it is safer not to know. These acts are a violation of Robert's position. If we excuse this by saying that it is his privilege or his private weakness we are both accomplice and victim. If it is allowed to continue, the karma which we attract will bring down our school and leave very heavy stains on our being. It is simply not worth the contamination wrought.

There may be much discomfort which comes from these words. But please try to think of the anguish some of these young men have been subject to in the name of evolution; and ask yourself whether you would knowingly, as a higher being, conduct your life in this way.

Can you truly accept that one can enter higher worlds by such actions? Would you wish to enter these worlds by such acts? This reasoning leads to one final not-so-profound conclusion; the Emperor is indeed very naked and we sadly provide his mantle.

Robert is a victim also. The highest that one can extend him is compassion and help. If one becomes angered at him or oneself or me the cycle continues. He is and will be confused and hurt by these actions. Yet firmness and equanimity are what is needed. We do great harm to our school and our being should we choose not to act.

We have talked and preached an ethic of love and acting for the higher right. Now is the time to be the words. It would also be a solemn and humane act for us to help the young men who have been hurt and damaged by Robert. It would be a proper legacy to pass on to the next generation.

If you find in your solitude that fear and or the wish to defend has kept you from hearing what has been said, you lose a very dear friend. You lose yourself!

In friendship,


Samuel L. Sanders

Update within a day:
The Board of Directors would not discuss this letter or its contents and closed the meeting to "think about it." The next day, unbeknownst to Samuel Sanders, the Board of Directors voted to remove Samuel as a Board member and excommunicate him from the Fellowship of Friends.

On June 6, 1984, Case Number 36937 was filed in Superior Court of California, County of Yuba, by Samuel L. Sanders, Plaintiff, versus Defendants: Fellowship of Friends, Inc., a corporation; Robert Burton; Miles Barth; Frank Annis; Gerard Haven; Helga Ruth Mueller; Abraham Goldman; Charles Frank; Charles Randall; Clair Bowan; and Does 1 through 50, inclusive.

The Lawsuit Complaints:

    1.    Fraud
    2.    Conspiracy to defraud
    3.    Breach of fiduciary duty
    4.    Conspiracy to breach fiduciary duty
    5.    Injunction
    6.    Damages


During this time, Stella Wirk still was publishing a small newsletter called "The WirkShop," in which she had reported on the lawsuit and letters to the editor contained comments about the situation. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Stella and Harold were out of the group, the members of FOF who subscribed to the paper had subsequently cut off their subscriptions per FOF rules about not communicating with former members in any way. (Part of the conspiracy is that the usual line given members is "If you don't communicate with former members, they have a better chance to come back into the teaching!" The "Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap" approach, and it works.) 

Abraham Goldman, lawyer for the Fellowship of Friends, brought a copy of "The WirkShop" to court and asked the presiding judge to put a "gag order" on the case, and charged that Stella was "out to destroy the Fellowship" with gossip and slander. The "gag order" was ordered by the Judge, all this without any notification to Stella Wirk. The result was that none of the participants in the lawsuit were permitted to speak about it to each other or anyone else!

(Abraham Goldman has gone so far as to state publicly for newspaper articles that Stella is merely a "disgruntled former member" who is leading a *conspiracy* to destroy the FOF because of a personal vendetta against Burton! Stella finds it amusing that a lawyer would make such a ridiculous statement. A conspiracy to expose the truth?)

The outcome of the lawsuit, some three or so years later, was that it was settled out of court. That is, the Fellowship of Friends made a financial settlement payment to Samuel Sanders, and the case was over and would not go to trial. Samuel was not permitted to reveal the financial nature of the settlement, due to the "gag order" and Robert Burton told members of the Fellowship of Friends that the case was "dropped for lack of evidence," or words to this effect, lying to the FOF membership.

It was considered by members to be a 4th Way Work effort to follow Robert's task of not speaking about this issue among the members, which effectively gagged most of the FOF and thus insuring the secret life of Robert Burton would remain secret for several more years.

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