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.

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