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, April 17, 1987

Gurus Hired to Motivate Workers Are Raising Fears of 'Mind Control'

[ed. - From The New York Times.]


By Robert Lindsey, Special To the New York Times

April 17, 1987

In their zeal to become more competitive, American employers have turned increasingly to motivational gurus who say they can change how employees think. But now employers are encountering resistance from workers who assert that many of the training programs use ''mind control'' techniques or promote values alien to their religious views.

Defenders of the training techniques contend that raising workers' self-esteem and making them more independent, assertive and productive is essential if American corporations are to survive in a world of heightened foreign competition and increased rivalry at home brought on by deregulation.

Business school professors at Stanford and other universities have endorsed some of the techniques. But critics are asserting that many companies are forcing employees to attend seminars in group therapy style that they say pry into their personal lives and shape personalities and values off the job, often under the influence of occult precepts and mystical principles of Eastern religions.

Among the techniques some critics object to are meditation, relaxation, self-hypnosis, inducements to trance-like states or instructions to visualize events in the mind.

Complaint at Naval Shipyard

Last month James L. Baumgaertel, an inspector at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., alleged in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity officer at the base that his First Amendment rights had been violated because he had been ordered to attend training programs using meditation, ''guided visualization'' and other techniques that ''can change a person's view of reality and religious beliefs.''

In an interview, he said, ''These are psychotechnologies that are meant to induce altered states of consciousness. They are trying to reprogram the subconscious.''

William Gleaton of Albany, Ga., said he was discharged as manager of human resources at a Firestone Tire and Rubber Company plant in Albany three years ago after refusing to carry out what he described as a New Age training program offered by the Pacific Institute of Seattle, Wash. He said he had objected because the program ''was in conflict with the value system in our community.''

Mr. Gleaton said he adhered to the Christian view that human fate is dependent upon the will of God. In contrast, he said, the course ''focused everything on the self; the self was the center, the source of energy; the self had the ability to deal with any problem in life, you were capable of anything.''

Firestone, which reached an out-of-court settlement with Mr. Gleaton after his dismissal, has declined to comment on the matter. 

Mystic's Teachings for a Utility

[Bolds added] In another case, the California Public Utilities Commission recently opened an investigation of training practices by Pacific Bell, the state's largest utility. The commission said it had received complaints that employees companywide had been required to attend seminars based largely on the teachings of a mystic, George Gurdjieff, who was born in Russia and died in 1949.

Mr. Gurdjieff and many others are often associated with a disparate collection of organizations stressing human potential and quasireligious sects. These segments of what has been collectively called the New Age movement attract many followers around the country, often with an appeal based on a combination of Eastern mysticism, the occult and a Norman Vincent Peale style of ''power of positive thinking.''

William Ahern, a senior official at the California utilities commission, estimated that Pacific Bell might be spending as much as $100 million a year on the Gurdjieff-based training program in an effort to ''change its corporate culture'' in its transformation from monopoly to competitive business. The cost is being passed to telephone subscribers on their monthly bills.

Mr. Ahern said that the investigation would determine whether it was appropriate to require subscribers to bear these costs and that the commission would evaluate employee complaints, which he said could range from '' 'Gee, this thing is useless,' to, 'It's an intrusion of my personal belief system.' ''

Spokesmen for Pacific Bell have defended the course, saying it had improved communications among employees and had otherwise helped the company.

According to specialists in employee training, most of the nation's major corporations, many small companies and numerous government agencies have hired some consultants and purveyors of similar ''personal growth'' training programs in recent years.

Curtis E. Plott, executive vice president of the American Society for Training and Development, an organization of training professionals, said no statistical breakdown was available of expenditures on such programs. But he noted that, in all, businesses spent about $30 billion a year on training and that a small but growing portion was now going to outside specialists who offer courses to motivate employees.

Although many corporate executives say they are pleased with the results of the new programs, some acknowledge the growing resistance.

Among the largest operators of corporate training programs that critics have accused of having links to the New Age Movement are Insight, the Pacific Institute, Edge Learning Institute, Lifespring, Actualizations: Charles Kroll, a Carmel Valley, Calif., entrepreneur whose program is used by Pacific Bell; and Transformational Technologies of Sausalito, Calif., which franchises a program developed by Werner Erhard, founder of EST, the psychological training program that was popular and controversial in the 1970's.

Friday, February 27, 1987

Fellowship of Friends art on the cover of JAMA

From the Fellowship of Friends collection, this work by Salvator Rosa, titled The Liberation of Saint Peter appeared on the cover of the Journal of the Medical Association of America, February 27, 1987, Vol 257, No. 8.

Thursday, January 1, 1987

January 1987 Notes

Circa 1987 portrait of Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader
Circa 1987 portrait of Robert Earl Burton. (Source: eBay, $29.95)

[ed. - The monthly Calendar of Events now includes a wide variety of activities, including recitals by pianist, and Fellowship member, Istvan Nadas, chorus rehearsals conducted by Michael Goodwin, study groups focused on literary classics, lectures, Aikido sessions, horseback riding lessons, CPR instruction, and more.]

From "Renaissance Calendar of Events":

January 1, 2 & 3: Dramatic Presentation - Sophocles' "Antigone"

(A San Francisco Chronicle story – actually a play review of “Antigone” from December 26th, contained mostly a collection of the writer’s observations about Renaissance. Not negative, but somewhat critical of its isolationism.)