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, 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.