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 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

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