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 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, October 5, 1985

"Great Moments in meetings of the Board of Directors of The Fellowship of Friends, Inc."

[ed. - Title above is from Jomo Piñata's post.]

"Jomo Piñata" wrote on thew Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 8, 2011:
“A question was raised as to why the new Sony 30″ TV cost so much. [Name Omitted] explained that it was originally priced at $10,000 and that we received a bargain in paying only $4,600. The costs of shipping and tax brought the total expenditure to $6,000. He also informed the Board that the cabinet was constructed of the finest hardwood from Mount Fujiyama and that this model television is considered the finest ever made.”

Monday, September 30, 1985

September 1985 Notes

Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult Renaissance Winery barrel room
Renaissance Winery barrel room (second level), circa 1986 (Photo: James Kline)

September 24:
Girard Haven reminds members that they are not to listen to rock and roll music.

Monday, August 26, 1985

You must work against "feminine dominance"!

[ed. - See also, "On Robert Burton's hatred of women"]

Tim Campion posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Here is the "friendly" reminder I received from the Fellowship of Friends Secretary, dated August 26, 1985:
Dear Timothy,

Trying to salvage your marriage is taking priority over remaining in the School. I feel a leave of absence would only serve to strengthen the attempt by the instinctive center and the feature of feminine dominance to strip the School from your grasp. Therefore, you will need to work with the requirement of not falling more than 14 weeks behind with donations; should you become further behind with donations, you would be required to make a re-entry donation [ed. - At the time $1,500] before returning.

If you would like to try to work out some schedule of donations to allow you to catch up over time, I am sure we can work together on it. As Marcus Aurelius said, "In everything, look to the end." The end is clear here.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Warmly,

(s)James

"Laughing Love" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 10, 2007:

Hello All.

Feminine dominance.

The term is so insulting.

Please, anyone, remind me of what this precisely means.

Camille Paglia wrote a book called “Sexual Personae” which describes, through a historical analysis, the theory that, indeed, females are the dominant sex, although they seem otherwise.

In one section of that book, she describes the Greek’s homosexuality and the deification of the “beautiful boy”. (There were no morals relative to homosexuality and it was an intrinsic part of the culture.)

Nevertheless, she theorizes that this arose out of fear and rejection of female power, which is unrecognizable as power in a male dominated culture.

Relative to this is the current trend in fashion (which is dominated by gay males) who prefer a thin, almost male females (small breasts, no body fat).

I recommend her book. It is very detailed and quite long, but very enlightened.

I remember hearing the term “feminine dominance” and, since it was not described in my prospective student meetings, was completely confused.

I’ll theorize that “feminine dominance” acknowledges that female power exists and rejects it outright, or, at best, attempts to avoid that evil with every ounce of one’s soul.

True?

LL

"Veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 10, 2007:
[Responding to the post above ] 77/Laughing Love

On the origin of “Feminine Dominance” as applied in the Fellowship of Friends.

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:171-189 (1994)

Veronicapoe’s editorial comments, which are speculative and which are not part of the original abstract, appear in brackets:

The Role of Mother-Son Incest in the Pathogenesis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. and Stuart W. Twemlow, M.D.

ABSTRACT

Psychoanalytic case material is presented to illustrate how mother-son incest may be involved in the pathogenesis of a particular subtype of narcissistic personality disorder. Male patients with this disorder have a grandiose view of themselves ["I am the avatar of the age"] as entitled to occupy a special position with others, combined with a paranoid tendency to anticipate imminent betrayal. The enormous guilt related to perceived oedipal transgressions leads these patients to fear retaliation from an enraged, vindictive, and castrating father ["C influence is going to expunge humanity] at any moment. In addition, these men often feel that their special role vis-à-vis mother is a precarious one contingent on doing her bidding. [i.e., "being under feminine dominance."] Hence, they also live in dread of an impending disaster involving either abandonment or humiliation by their mothers. [Ergo, why "feminine dominance" must be "overcome" in order to "evolve."]

Thursday, August 15, 1985

Lewis Carroll School founded

[ed. - Exact date of 1985 founding is unknown. This date was arbitrarily chosen.]

The board, officers and membership appears comprised entirely of  Fellowship members.

Well after the founding of the Yuba Environmental Sciences Charter Academy, this school officially ceased operations June 30, 2011. As of 2013, the Lewis Carroll School Association continues to operate with three offices, and its purpose appears to oversee receipt of rents from YESCA ($50,000 - 70,000 annually) and payment of the mortgage on the association-owned YESCA building.

Sunday, June 23, 1985

Retreat's ruler: Stealer of minds or a superman?

Robert Earl Burton portrait found in Fellowship of Friends teaching houses in 1984
Portrait of Robert Earl Burton commonly found in
Fellowship of Friends "Teaching Houses" in 1984
Sacramento Bee
By Dale Maharidge
Published on June 23, 1985, Page A01

OREGON HOUSE - No one knows what goes on up there, whispers the woman as she points to the hills beyond the dead-end road.

At the end of that winding lane is an unmarked guard shack, beyond which lies the object of her bewilderment - the 1,300-acre worldwide home for a mysterious group called the Fellowship of Friends.

It's a fiefdom ruled by a recluse who uses the group to seduce men into homosexual acts and gain wealth, according to allegations in a $2.5 million lawsuit filed in Yuba County Superior Court.

Robert Burton, 46, has created a "cult-like organization to psychologically hypnotize" people to "satisfy his voracious appetite for sexual perversion and seduce young men into a life of degenerative sexual involvement," according to the suit which alleges fraud. It was filed last year by Samuel L. Sanders, a former member of the Fellowship's board of directors.

The allegations have rocked the group of men and women, who seek elevated consciousness according to the teachings of obscure turn-of-the-century Russian philosophers George I. Gurdjieff and Peter D. Ouspensky.

"There should be a law against stealing your mind," says one former member, and an in-town grocery clerk says there is fear of another Jonestown. But one Yuba County official calls members of the cult "law-abiding citizens doing their own thing."

The lawsuit illuminates this group that reveres secrecy near this remote town in the Sierra foothills about 20 miles northeast of Marysville.

Burton has predicted Armageddon. His followers view their retreat as an "ark" of culture with 44 gods who will protect them in a nuclear holocaust, ex-members have said. Burton calls himself a "god" and an "angel," according to the lawsuit and former members. He feels members are a chosen race superior to ordinary people.

Some at the Fellowship live a lordly existence - the documents say - surrounded by some $10 million worth of splendor.

They strive to enjoy the finest in wine, food, classical music and literature in a setting of rooms decorated grandly with Persian rugs, Steinway pianos and 16th and 17th century art. Everything is terribly proper - some members change their names so they sound of English heritage, no one speaks in contractions, and buildings are kept scrupulously clean.

What is known about the Fellowship was pieced together from interviews with former students, court records and other documents.

Burton and Fellowship leaders have declined to talk or allow a tour. Most members - who call themselves students - won't discuss it, either. Local residents don't know much about the group, though some felt the Fellowship has moved in and taken over the village.

Oregon House, population 420, is the kind of town you've got to work to find. Once you find it, you find there's nothing much here.

As in many foothill towns, residents either are refugees from big cities or were born here and distrust those big cities.

It's a perfect place to build a retreat from the rest of the world. In 1971, Burton and some others did just that - they filed with the state as a non-profit corporation, bought a chunk of property, closed a county road passing through it and called it Renaissance.

A new religion came into being, one less known than others such as Scientology, Hare Krishnas or followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, which were at the peak of popularity at that time.

Some of those religions recruit aggressively. Not the Fellowship. Members are as soft-spoken and low key as their leader, Burton.

The roots of the Fellowship date to the era of revolutionary Russia. Gurdjieff was an eccentric Russian born in the 1870s who once made money by selling live sparrows, dyed and clipped to resemble American canaries. His philosophy was interpreted and expanded upon by Ouspensky.

In essence, it says ordinary humans are not conscious - they are all asleep, even when awake. Only through extensive schooling can people become aware and realize their full potential. The movement became known as "esoteric Christianity."

One of Ouspensky's proteges, Rodney Collins [sic], had a student named Alexander Horn who established a school in San Francisco called "The Theater of All Possibilities." [ed. - Alex Horn was not a student of Rodney Collin.] Burton, a fourth-grade teacher, was Horn's follower in the 1960s but broke off to form the Fellowship.

Burton molded the Fellowship on his belief that the path to spiritual enlightenment can come through the worship of material goods. Burton is called The Teacher. Students believe he is a person of superior evolution.

Although everyone shares the genteel life, lower-level workers commonly put in 18-hour days for meager pay, say ex-members. The work is followed by things such as poetry readings, choir practice and Latin or Greek classes.

As far as "new religions" go, it's not large - some 1,500 members around the world. But many are wealthy, highly educated and work at a variety of normal jobs. There are chapters in about 40 cities - Paris, London and all over the United States. There are roughly 50 students in Sacramento and a dozen or so in Davis. An estimated 275 students live permanently in the Oregon House area.

From a distance, Fellowship holdings in Oregon House don't look like much. On any day, the steady grind of cement mixers drifts off a mountain where the Fellowship constructs a winery to replace the temporary one beneath a huge inflated plastic bubble at the site. Workers appearing the size of ants toil on the steep mountainside where 400 acres of grapes grow.

Dorota Starr stands at the edge of her property, listening to the mixers, looking across a field at Burton's House, an edifice reminiscent of a Victorian-era mansion.

When she joined nine years ago, the Fellowship seemed to her like a good idea. But now it's hard for her to explain how she and others became so involved.

She quit four years ago, saying she realized she had been "brainwashed." She now spends much of her time fighting the group and is local representative of the Citizen's Freedom Foundation, an anti-cult network based in New York.

She lives next door to the Fellowship on property she bought as a member but now no one wants to buy. These days, the only times she sees Burton is when he passes in his Mercedes-Benz. Most of the time, he is travelling in Europe or other places. He is rarely seen in public.

"There is nothing wrong with looking for something," says Starr. "Everyone is looking for something. What is wrong is they exploit people's deepest wishes. Is this illegal? No. But if there's a law against stealing a TV set, there should be a law against stealing your mind."

Sanders' suit, alleging members were defrauded, names the Fellowship and Burton. Sanders says he donated more than $100,000 and is seeking $2.5 million for monetary and psychological damage.

"For a long time we have been part of a criminal process which has hurt many individuals," Sanders wrote in a letter to fellow board members in March 1984.

"He (Burton) has used his position to seduce these young men with the promise of immortality," the letter contained in the suit continues. "We in our blindness have allowed some dear individuals to be defiled and damaged by his appetites. Some of these young men have become seriously psychologically impaired through this process."

Sanders says in the suit he was astounded to learn that many fellow board members "actually aided and abetted such acts." There were no reports of minors being involved. [ed. - That would come later.]

Shortly after the letter was written, Burton threw Sanders out of the church for attempting to "undermine its...spiritual aims," according to the suit.

One Los Angeles member who asked not to be named says several male friends were brainwashed and then seduced.

"A lot of people wanted to be around him," says this member. He would invite them to live with him and then lavish a lot of attention on them, He only likes to seduce straight people."

This ex-member's friends don't want to talk about it. "One friend told me, 'This may take the rest of my life to get over this.'"

One of the Fellowship's attorneys on the case, Robert C. Epley, says he can't talk about the suit because of a gag order issued by Yuba County Superior Court Judge Thomas Mathews. The case is not expected to be heard until late this year. On Thursday, Mathews ruled against a defense motion to dismiss portions of the suit.

"It's not an everyday case," says Epley. "We're opposing it on constitutional grounds - the separation of church and state." Last year, another Fellowship attorney called the suit "the worst type of sensationalism." Neither Sanders nor his attorney would agree to an interview.

Istvan Nadas, a Fellowship member and world-known pianist, doesn't pay much attention to the suit. He first heard of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky while studying at the University if Budapest in Hungary. He now makes his home in Oregon House.

"I am very happy with the philosophy," says Nadas. "The basic philosophy is to prepare people to go into the mainstream of life. It is like a driver's school that teaches you to meld together with traffic on a freeway. It is not life-changing, but life-enhancing.

"The people who are truly educated in the Fellowship, they go for the finest in the arts. I performed the full cycle of (Franz Joseph) Haydn's 52 piano sonatas in eight concerts. This is only the third place in the World where that has been done. Most people don't understand the essence of this philosophy. They interpret it as isolation from humanity."

Burton predicted in a 1983 church journal that the world was entering "a chain of events that will eventually lead to Armageddon" in the year 2006.

"Renaissance is the world's next eternal city," Burton said. "Armageddon will occur in a flash, and in a flash, our new civilization shall rise. We are all that is real in the world when we are present, and we shall be the only reality after Armageddon. We are mortals selected by angels to become like them."

Anne Rodney, who left Renaissance in May and returned to her native London, says, "We were encouraged to feel elite. Burton would say we're not better than other people, just luckier. We were told we were an ark, that we would survive the nuclear war. [ed. - Anne Rodney was reported to have been forcibly deprogrammed at the urging of her parents.]

"We were also told the gods would have an effect on weather and spare the area from nuclear fallout. There were 44 gods working - dead poets, writers and others."

Rodney says she was told there was "nothing out there for us" and that she could never leave.

A mother in Miami, who asked not to be identified, says her daughter left the group a few years ago but mentally has not broken her ties. She says her daughter has "been in an out of mental hospitals ever since."

"My daughter is very sick. She tried to kill herself. I don't know if we'll ever get her out. My daughter said, 'I don't know how to live in this real world.'"

One night says the woman, her daughter was having nightmares. "I heard her scream, 'Robert, help me, Jesus Christ, help me.' This is what he does to them. They do it subtly."

In describing her encounter, a Chicago woman says the Fellowship is soft in its approach.

"I found them through a bookmark in a store. I went to a meeting," says the woman who asked that her name not be used. She belonged to the Chicago branch of the Fellowship based in suburban Evanston. "I thought it was just a bunch of nice people getting together. I thought it was a club.

"It didn't seem heavy and weird at the time. They try to have you apply things to your life. They get you so that all you talk about is them. They aren't a typical cult. They're more philosophical than religious. People in the group are very yuppie, if you want to call them that. It's not a bunch of young kids."

As for Oregon House, some residents say the Fellowship has taken over the town in an equally subtle way. They once tried to change the name of the town to Renaissance, but postal authorities turned them down.

"I feel they've imposed themselves on Oregon house and Yuba County in general," says Donald Storm, a local resident. "These bunch of strangers are messing up my home. They've changed the social fabric of the community. Their lifestyle in a rural county is out of place."

In addition to the Fellowship's core of 1,300 acres, many members own nearby properties so that now there are checkerboard land holdings all over Oregon House - privately owned but Fellowship-related.

"If they ever decided to get into politics, they could have their own person on the Board of Supervisors," says George Deveraux, a member of the board. But the Fellowship has been politically silent.

"They haven't flexed their muscle because there has been no need, " says Storm, 37. "They've gotten what they wanted with the planning department and others. There's been a great deal of favoritism toward them."

The Yuba County Planning Department says there hasn't been favoritism - they've been treated like any other property owner.

"What they do on the hill, I don't know. And I don't care," says Carol Barnett, who works the Oregon House Grocery. "Most people here are afraid of it. They say it's a cult that will end up like Jonestown. As far as I can see, I see no reason to believe it. I think it's a fear of the unknown."

The Fellowship opens itself to inspection by locals. By appointment, it will give tours. Few politicians and residents interviewed have taken the tour.

The Fellowship spends a lot of money locally. "All and all, the total expenditures are...a big boon to the coffers of government and business as well," the Greater Yuba City-Marysville Chamber of Commerce wrote last year. The Chamber reported the group spends about $500,000 in the immediate area each year and another $500,000 in other areas of Northern California.

A visitor's evening among friends

Sacramento Bee
Published on June 23, 1985, Page A21

It begins in the occult section of a bookstore when you pick up a copy of a volume by the Russian philosophers P.D. Ouspensky and G. I. Gurdjieff.

As you thumb through its pages, out falls a bookmark, emblazoned with pictures of the two men, one bald and crazy-looking, the other bespectacled and serious. Printed between their faces are phone numbers for centers in Davis, Sacramento, London and Paris.

So you call one of the numbers. A woman in a polite, cool voice asks, would you like to attend a session to discuss the ideas of the two philosophers? She supplies a time and place.

That's how most people are introduced to the Fellowship of Friends. Unlike many new religions, there's no hard sell. No money required...at least at first. They rely on curiosity and the power of the men's ideas, with a little help from members who sneak into bookstores and plant the markers.

The basis for their beliefs, one quickly learns, is strict self-discipline. The reward, they say, is a superior knowledge of the mysteries of life. A religion or philosophy? It's hard to say. They call it a system.

Recently, a Bee reporter attended an introductory session posing as a potential recruit after finding a marker in a book at Levinson's Book Store on Howe Avenue. The session, in a remote farmhouse south of Davis, provides a rare glimpse at the inside of this relatively unknown group.

Dogs and barnyard fowl howl and cackle, and a wind blows dust across the unkempt yard. But as the door of the house swings open, an immaculate, creamy-white chamber greets the visitor.

Copies of a Rembrandt and other artwork line the walls. Cleanliness and a penchant for things cultured are hallmarks of members' lives.

Five members, hands on laps, wait for the visitor in the living room. The people are as well-scrubbed as the house. Shined shoes, free of scuffs, glisten like footwear made out of black mirrors. Wet-combed hair. Long dresses on the two women, one with her hair in a bun. They look almost Amish.

"Let us begin," says the woman who seems the leader. We'll call her Natasha. She has asked to remain anonymous.

There's a code language. For instance, the word "octave" is substituted for a job or task. And they don't use contractions. It's not proper. They would say, "I am fine" or "we are happy." She speaks in a mechanical, cold voice.

Natasha instructs the visitor not to open his mouth unless he raises his hand and is granted permission to speak. Speaking, Ouspensky says, is a "vice" that hinders man's observations. The visitors says something and she sternly orders him silent.

"There are four levels of consciousness," Natasha continues. "The first is sleep. Then there is awake. But, you see, we sitting here are not awake. We think we are awake. But we are really asleep.

"Then there is level three and level four. Ordinary men cannot reach them. Once in a while, you can accidentally reach this level. But you cannot stay there. It is like finding money on the street. One cannot make a living off that."

Natasha says the works of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky enable you to get to these levels most of the time.

"One cannot learn this on one's own," she says. "One needs to study, to go to school." The only way to get there is to study with them. "And it takes many years," she adds.

As she finishes, she stares at the ceiling. [ed. - An imitation of Robert Burton's mannerism.] Her husband raises his hand, and without her acknowledging, he talks. They seem to be reciting a script. [ed. - Indeed, it is exactly that - a performance.]

"Do not believe anything we tell you here," says the husband. "You will have to verify it for yourself. Only then will you know the truth.

"It is like being in a prison. If men do not know they are in prison, they do not want to escape. Most men do not know they are asleep. Once you learn you are in prison, you want to escape, dig your way out. All of us are trying to escape. We are all digging together, to find a way out."

He, too, stares upward when he finishes talking, and all five members sit in an awkward silence, looking at the ceiling.

Natasha's husband again talks, but is interrupted by the other woman who shakes her hand wildly. Natasha explains the other woman "photographed" her husband because he used the word "like." To "photograph," in the group's code, means to spotlight a situation.

Natasha explains each member is given a word he is not supposed to use for two months. If he uses it, other members shake their hands and "photograph" the offender. The man apologizes for using his forbidden word.

It is part of raising one's consciousness, explains Natasha. It's one mind game to increase observation. Also discouraged is imagination. (It's a "destructive faculty," wrote Ouspensky. "Imagination is almost as bad as lying.") Students are encouraged to fill their minds with meaningful things and try not to imagine.

Later she was told that the visitor was a reporter and she tried to elaborate on her philosophy.

"It is a nebulous concept. It will be very difficult for you to put it into words." She suggests practicing exercises - watching for one word each month and trying to eliminate it from conversation. Try to see how aware you can become of yourself.

Saturday, June 1, 1985

Miles Barth launches "The New Being Institute"

[ed. - Date approximate. These documents are posted on the Greater Fellowship forum. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) Membership is required to access that site. See also: Miles and Susan leave the Fellowship, Damage Control following Miles' departure, and Miles Barth's Letter (Extracts).]

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting
Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Miles Barth's New Being Institute propective student meeting



Fellowship of Friends art collection featured in Apollo Art Magazine

[ed. - This is an Internet Archive capture of the Fellowship of Friends page, featuring Apollo Art Magazine, June 1985. Vol CXXI. N°280.]

The Fellowship of Friends
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Home
Press archive
APOLLO Art Magazine 1985
Founded in 1970 by Robert Burton, the Church of the Fellowship of Friends, whose beliefs are based on the teachings of two Russian philosophers, G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky, now has 1,400 members in most of the principal cities of the world from San Francisco and New York to London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Tel Aviv and Tokyo, its central nucleus being established in the Sierra foothills of Northern California, where its beautiful 365-acre terraced vineyard and winery surround the community known as Renaissance. The arts play an important role in its activities through its art collection, orchestra, opera, theatre and ballet, complemented by an extensive art library and literature library which provide facilities for study and research by its members. The Fellowship’s art collection has been formed during the last few years under the guidance of Marco Grassi in New York, whose main consideration has been to acquire paintings of high quality in excellent condition, and we are happy to make known here the Old Master paintings that have so far entered the Collection. All the paintings reproduced in this article are in the Collection of the Fellowship of Friends at the Goethe Academy, Renaissance, California.
Please select from the following sections of this article:
Page 1 of 9

Magazine cover Countess Kagenek as Flora by Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842), signed and dated 1782.
Oil on canvas, 72 x 58.7 cm (oval). Collection of the Fellowship of Friends at the Goethe Academy, Renaissance, California. Referred to and illustrated in “Old Master Paintings in the Collection of the Fellowship of Friends at Renaissance, California” on p.378.

Jacopo del Sellajo   Page 2
Story of Cupid and Psyche
by Jacopo del Sellajo

Bernardino Luini   Page 3
St. Jerome in the Wilderness
by Bernardino Luini

Luis de Morales   Page 4
Ecce Homo
by Luis de Morales

Merisi da Caravagio/Beert the Elder   Page 5
Still Life with Baskets of Fruit and Fish
by Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravagio,
Still Life of Dried Fruits and Delicacies
by Osias Beert the Elder

Bernardo Cavallino   Page 6
The Drunkenness of Noah and Lot and his Daughters
by Bernardo Cavallino

Salvator Rosa   Page 7
Liberation of St. Peter from Prison
by Salvator Rosa

Gerard ter Borch   Page 8
Stable Scene
by Gerard ter Borch

Elizabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun   Page 9
Countess Kagenek as Flora
by Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun



Top of page | Press archive | Home © Copyright Fellowship of Friends 1999 - All rights reserved.

[ed. - In 1986, the Stable Scene by Ter Borch, would be sold through Marco Grassi of New York to the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The Fellowship's "Renaissance Journal," an in-house publication for members
, occasionally featured  paintings from the Fellowship's art collection on the cover:
March 15, 1982 – The Tempest by Claude Joseph Vernet
April 1, 1982 – The Calm by Claude Joseph Vernet
January 15, 1984 – Lot and His Daughters by Bernardo Cavallino
January 31, 1984 – The Drunkenness of Noah by Bernardo Cavallino
April 15, 1984 – Stable Scene by Gerard Ter Borch
February 1, 1983 – Breakfast Scene by Osias Beert
See also the controversy about  Il Guercino's "The Toilet of Venus" and a possible Ugolino di Nerio fake in the Fellowship's collection.]

Sunday, March 24, 1985

Damage control following Miles' departure

"The new Russian premier [Mikhail Gorbachev] has a birthmark on the top of his head.
He looks as if he has been clubbed. It is one of the worst omens I have ever seen.
He is an actor appearing on the stage of hydrogen warfare." - Robert Burton

[ed. - The above shows how, when threatened, Burton manipulates his followers through fear. In this way he maintains his power over them. Jim Jones did the same as he led his flock to mass suicide.]

Tim Campion posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion Blog:
The following shows Robert Burton in “damage control mode” following Miles’ departure. I believe it was unusual at the time for dinner notes to be immediately published and distributed, but as Robert said, this was an unusual “shock,” and it called for extraordinary measures.

[ed. - Unless otherwise noted, all remarks are Robert Burton's.]
March 18, 1985 through March 24, 1985

I have worked seventeen years with influence C and Miles’ departure rates as one of the most unexpected shocks. I arrived home from my trip at 3:30, feeling that I had everything under lock and key. Miles insisted on seeing me. I asked him to wait a week, but after a shower, I called him back.

Miles mentioned that he was leaving his teacher as I had left my teacher. However, Miles was with the Fellowship fourteen years and I was with my teacher eighteen months. I told him he was making a mistake. My teacher never said that. [ed. - Robert was reportedly asked to leave Alex Horn’s school.]

I am not trying to think about how I can understand; I am thinking about how you can understand. As events unfold they will help you understand. When I talked to Miles I asked that he not work with Fellowship students or former students. Miles stressed that they would have to decide for themselves. One does not take another teacher’s students, yet I think that this will occur. [ed. - Au contraire! See how Robert Burton schemes to take another teacher's students.]
Miles did wonderful service for the Fellowship. We have had that taken away. C influence is removing our crutch.

There are no former students that I dislike. One cannot experience self-remembering and dislike simultaneously.

Goethe said there are moments in which time can be so cruel. This was a cruel moment. Our job is to handle it because we can not change it; but we can change ourselves.

Angels are brilliant technicians and they have delivered a brilliant shock. Students may not understand how much I am an impartial observer to the play. Naturally, for they are HIGHER forces, I know better than to challenge them, but rather use their shocks.

This shock was designed to prepare us for more difficult shocks. The new Russian premier [ed: Mikhail Gorbachev] has a birthmark on the top of his head. He looks as if he has been clubbed. It is one of the worst omens I have ever seen. He is an actor appearing on the stage of hydrogen warfare.

In dealing with a shock of this magnitude one needs to separate, and also to affirm and reaffirm one’s aim to separate, and to realize it.

For every student that fails, ten will be strengthened.

This means more responsibility for all of us, and more responsibility means more being for all of us.

On the surface, a shock like this appears to make a jungle out of evolution, but on the contrary it can bring unity and harmony to one’s life. Its true meaning is to produce the third state and not identification.

With shocks like this one, one must keep one’s thinking above feminine dominance. One has to use it to be present and not identify with one’s feelings about it. If one is identified with it, one is under feminine dominance. Rainier Maria Rilke called us “wasters of sorrows.”

I am grateful for this shock. It has helped people to awaken; it has jarred them. I am grateful for that.

Each of us will need to make continued efforts after this shock. Six to twelve weeks – it is not something one can relax with. One really can never relax, but it is more apparent now.

Student: There are many students who do not have the good fortune to know you or to see you. Some of these students are confused because they know Miles and are not sure what action to take.

Teacher: Those who are crystallizing correctly will survive; those content with influence B will fail.

Student: It is very painful to have friends leave. It is something we can not understand.

Teacher: It is a natural occurrence for evolution. If we look at conscious beings they almost always lose their wife or child. So this kind of suffering is, in a way, a logical kind of suffering, considering that we are involved in evolution.

Student: Is there a way for those who are struggling to ask for help?

Teacher: The shock is designed to force understanding from people, to force something from oneself and, from one angle, not from me. Forced to one’s own understanding – nothing could be better than that.

We can and should always retreat to self-remembering. Early in my development if I could not understand something within ten minutes, I would let it go. Intuitively, I knew that the machine was undermining self-remembering. A work “I” is: “Listen to no ‘I’s now.” So I would do the looking and listening exercises, trying with all my being to dodge the many “I”s. And how sweet the “I”s can be, trying to entice one.

Something important for men number four is not to be slowed down by one another. Plato said, “Press on those ahead of you and forget about those behind.” Especially, the higher your level of being, you must not let others slow you down.

The first Gurdjieff book I bought was sold to me by a man who was a little disdainful of Gurdjieff. He said the Gurdjieff was full of holes. I said that awakening is like a donut – keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole. There are plenty of holes in the Fellowship, but there is a donut too.

One in five that enter this School enter the Way. All of Mr. Gurdjieff’s students left him. Mr. Ouspensky had a five percent retention rate, and my former teacher had much less than that. We have about a twenty percent retention rate. That is one reason I try to stay away from new students; if they leave, I do not want them to leave with my time.

In your life you will see that I have never stopped teaching. A teacher realizes himself by withdrawing.

Rodney Collin said one can love a teacher but not understand him. It is the same with influence C; we can love them but not understand them.

When we have already found influence C, why should we go looking for it elsewhere?

I wish I could convey to you how lucky we are. Paul said, “Everything I have gained is due to suffering.” This shock is suffering, but we will gain.

All that is certain is that we have this moment, our aim to awaken, and influence C; that is all we know.

Influence C do everything they can to shake us from them. Those who can not be shaken are worthy to enter Heaven.

Nothing is sacred – nothing but our aim to awaken. There is nothing influence C will not do to produce that. We are the lucky recipients of their work.

The end justifies the means. I think that one understands that simply these days. The system has to be very simple to reach us.

We could not possibly be delivered without shocks. No matter how much we are suffering, we can always look around and see someone, some life person, suffering more. Everyone suffers, but we have been instructed by Angels to transform suffering – and make something of it.

We cannot escape through thinking; we cannot escape through laughing or crying; we can only escape through self-remembering.

What there is to gain is so great that I speak two words incessantly and incessantly return to those two words: self-remembering.
See also: Miles Barth's Letter

Sunday, March 17, 1985

Miles and Susan leave the Fellowship

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader a fate worse than death
In the words of Robert Burton, those who leave him shall suffer a "fate worse than death."

[ed. - According to Robert Burton, Miles Barth (aka Brighton) was a "Man Number 5," a conscious being produced by Burton's school. Miles had been a member since December 1970. The departure of Miles and his wife Susan was a profound shock, and a large number of members followed them in exiting the Fellowship. The date used for this post is the date Miles and Susan were officially "released" from The Fellowship of Friends. In June 1985, Miles formed the New Being Institute. The following was obviously written by Susan.]

"if memory serves" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 24, 2007:
Miles was ready to leave the fof a few years before we actually left. I, however, was not yet ready and pleaded with him to stay, give rb [Robert Burton] more benefit of the doubt, etc. I now regret the personal damage Miles did to himself over those years, not being able to fully believe the strong message his role as chief apologist conveyed to others about rb. During the time that the fof was needing to prove that it was a religious 501(c)3 organization, we were asked to look at other “cults” to show how the fof was different from them. All we could see, however, was how similar we were to them. When the day finally came to leave, the cognitive dissonance too strong, Miles was ready to go, with me or without me. He gave me the choice and it was an agonizing one. Fortunately, over those years since he’d first suggested leaving, I, too had been looking at things somewhat more critically and knew in my heart it was the right thing to do, however painful. He just wanted out and was definitely not interested in influencing others to leave and starting his own group. To this end, we decided to leave without telling anyone, not even my sister. We felt the need to tell rb in person and had to wait several days after our decision to leave until he returned from a trip to Europe. I remember attending a concert at the town hall, sitting next to my friend Charles R. [Charles Randall] and feeling like the walking dead, knowing that that evening, I had 1,000+ friends, and the next day would have only one.

Our departure from Renaissance was a surreal experience that is still very clear to me. RB was quite tired when he returned to the property and wanted to rest but Miles was persistent in telephoning his house to say we’d like to come by. When we arrived at the Goethe Academy, I remember removing our shoes in the area just before the door. It was beautiful, we looked around, then at each other, knowing that we’d never see this again and it was a bittersweet leave-taking. Robert opened the door and seemed annoyed that we had been so insistent about seeing him but ushered us graciously into the “den”. We spoke a few pleasantries, he told us he was preparing to send us to lead the Paris center, and then we dropped our bombshell on him. I don’t remember exactly the few words Miles spoke, but Robert’s response shocked me in its calculating brutality. He immediately withdrew his energy from us and began to muse aloud, “what will happen to the donations? This will have an impact on the membership.” I think he asked us if we were sure of our decision, then quickly showed us to the door.

Others left the fof at that time, many for whom Miles had symbolized a canary in the mine. He did lead some meetings for less than a year which served as a sort of “half-way house” for those making the transition from in to out, the blog of the eighties. When he felt he had nothing more to say, he disbanded the group and began to pursue his own path.

I’ve hesitated writing about Miles, not wanting to put words in his mouth, or intentions in his actions that are not true. I suppose I more strongly feel that choosing conscience over convenience is a personal struggle worth making and writing about.
See also:

Miles Barth's Letter

Damage control following Miles' departure

Miles Barth, once declared a "Man Number 5," passes away

Friday, February 1, 1985

The dichotomy of life at Renaissance

[ed. - The following occurred at a time when exposure to popular film, TV, radio, newspapers and other media was strongly discouraged by Burton. I have placed this post in the timeline approximately when the events described took place.]

"RobertC" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 12, 2007:
Fat Boy, Vinnie, and the rest of you apologists who are supporting or defending or apologizing for the Fellowship: you seem to be assuming that what you really need to defend against are the gross sexual transgressions and improprieties. Well, certainly they are horrendous. But the real problem with the Fellowship is that it is not a functioning school – the rot extends much further than the bedroom. Time for me to tell another story to make of what you will.

Sometime during the early 80s my wife and I were at Renaissance for the weekend, as was our custom, and on Sunday morning we had breakfast at what was then the Lincoln Lodge with dear friends of ours, a couple who were on salary at Renaissance, and who had been recently married. They were in the process of trying to establish a household for themselves, and although they were trying not to complain about their situation, it became very clear to us that they were having great difficulty with their project because they worked hugely long hours, and thus had little time to do extra things outside work, and because they barely had enough money to do anything. It was on the edge of heartrending for me.

Because my wife and I had a commitment back in the Bay Area later on Sunday, we decided to head for home soon after breakfast. We talked about our friends’ situation all the way to our car, as it had affected both of us so much.

On the way off the property we stopped at the Goethe Academy, which I wanted to see in more detail. I think I had a little bit of an ‘inappropriate’ sense that since I was part of the FoF and had paid a huge amount of money towards it’s construction over the years, that I should be able to at least see it. So we walked in to the main central room, which was breathtaking in its somewhat overdone way, and then I headed into the library, being a lover of books.

Well my goodness……… Robert and about six of his boys were in the library watching a football game on a huge TV. I was so taken aback that I was literally stopped in my tracks. The boys all looked like they felt guilty – as though they had been ‘caught’. Robert immediately leaped up and came over close to me as though to block my view, told me that I should not be there without permission, told me that if I wanted to borrow a book I could see someone in the office, and made it clear through his tone and manner that the conversation was now over and that I should leave. My wife was standing in the doorway and also saw all this occur.

So we left and headed for home. Neither of us could see any way that the scene in the library could be right. It was wrong in *so* many ways.

A few weeks later I got a call from someone in the office who was canvassing for donations for the new Chinese furniture for the Goethe Academy. I told them that I was not willing to make a donation for the furniture, but that if they wanted donations for better housing for the salaried workers at Renaissance I would be happy to contribute. And I said I didn’t want them to just record no donation from me, I said I want you to pass on why I am not willing to make it. I was enervated by the experience of a few weeks before and was speaking a bit forcefully.

The person who had called me was quiet for a few seconds after my diatribe, and I was thinking ‘oh great, I’ve done it now’. And then they said ‘Thank you for saying that. I think everyone I am calling wants to say it but they just don’t feel they can.’

How could a true school arrive at such a low point? And that was just the early 80s ……….

So, believers and supporters and apologists, has all this sort of thing been cleared up by now? Is there now a sense of free and open inquiry in the Fellowship? A sense that you can ask whatever you need to ask without any fear of retribution or reprisal?

Oh, sorry, I forgot …. no personal questions at meetings anymore. Hmmm. Well I guess the good thing about that is that you no longer need to fear that your question might be judged inappropriate.