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, September 23, 1990

Steps to Success: Renaissance's Terraced Vineyards Are Leading Its Wines to Medals

[ed. - Sourced from proquest.com.]
By Robert Lawrence Balzer
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1990

It took a decade for the only vineyard in North Yuba County to get its wines on the market, but for Renaissance Vineyards and Winery the wait has been worthwhile.

Since its initial releases in October, 1988, Renaissance has been winning international awards left and right, giving credence to the winery's philosophy of not releasing wines for general sales until they are deemed to be outstanding. The most recent award was in May from Wine Magazine's International Challenge in London. Four thousand wines were entered in the competition, but in the Bordeaux Style Wines" category, only two gold medals were awarded. One went to Renaissance 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon.

This medal is the latest in a series of victories that began in June, 1989, when I first heard about this winery. At VINEXPO, the most formidable wine exposition in the world, the Renaissance 1985 Special Select Late Harvest Riesling was the only American wine to come home with a gold medal. It also won two of the three other awards that American wines received: a silver for its 1982 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and a bronze for its 1987 Dry Riesling. In October, Gault Millau, a well-known European wine publication, rated 70 of the world's luscious dessert nectars. The Renaissance Late Harvest Riesling was ranked in the Top 10, the highest rating for any American wine and the highest rating for any Riesling in the world.

Renaissance, a 1,400-acre forested mountain retreat on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is one of the few wineries in the country with terraced vineyards. It is owned and operated by Fellowship of Friends, an international nondenominational organization that is committed to the arts. (In fact, there's a 300-seat auditorium for performances and a fine arts museum filled with Ming Dynasty furniture on the 365-acre winery.)

The group bought the land in 1971 as a place for its members, who today number 1,500, as a place to gather and take classes in the arts, philosophies and languages. But Robert Burton, head of the organization and a student of the writings of philosophers Georges Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, decided to go commercial with a winery.

"We treat winemaking as an art, although we try not to take ourselves too seriously," says James Bryant, president of Renaissance.

Planting was started in 1975 on the forested, granitic mountain site after the slopes were cleared of manzanita, scrub oak, pines and cedars. About 175,000 12-inch holes were drilled into the granite and filled with compost, into which the vines were placed. Ultimately, 103 miles of contoured terraces on elevation ranging from 1,700 to 2,300 feet were completed and planted with clover, annual grasses and other native ground cover, which prevent erosion on the slopes.

Renaissance's winery is the inspiration of its late, founding wine master, Karl Werner, who died in 1988 after a successful harvest. He designed a circular winery, with stainless-steel fermenters in concentric circles. This construction permits efficient handling of the wine as gravity moves it from fermenters to German oak cooperage for aging and then later to the bottling line.
Production is at 10,000 cases, with a potential for 40,000 cases annually. With the vineyard yield of but two tons per acre-in Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and White Riesling-the dedication is to quality, not quantity. Distribution, therefore, is limited.
Eight wines are currently in release, including the luscious late-harvest wines mentioned earlier. Don't miss the 1988 Sauvignon Blanc ($10) and 1988 Dry White Riesling ($8) both wines of silky finesse.

Another wine to look for is the 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon, which will not be released until next spring. It's like all the First Growth clarets of Bordeaux rolled into one. It has the color and depth of Chateau Latour, the fragrance of Margaux, the delicacy of Haut-Brion, the complexity of Lafite, and the charm of Mouton.

PHOTO: COLOR, Terraced vineyards are part of the picturesque landscape at Renaissance, 70 miles northeast of Sacramento.

(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1990 all Rights reserved)

Tuesday, September 11, 1990

Roger Green "completes his task"

[ed. - Fellowship of Friends member Roger Green "completed his task" on September 11, 1990. This is Robert Burton's way of saying he died. (According to Burton, our lives are scripted by "C Influence," "Higher Forces," also known as the gods. A member's role is scripted to benefit both their personal evolution and that of the Fellowship.) Roger was a member of the Fellowship's London center for five years. It is reported (see below) that his final bequest to the Fellowship, a substantial sum of money, was misappropriated by Burton and squandered for his own pleasure.]

"Lust for Life" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 17, 2007:
Kiran, your story about the FOF wanting you to sign your business over to them while you were at death’s door reminds me of a student in London called Roger. He was an older gentleman, who was dying and signed a lot of money over to the FOF on his passing for the purpose of building a hostel for students who were unable to afford a visit to Renaissance (as it was then). Plans were drawn up and he was convinced that it would be built but it never was and who knows what happened to the money? That left a very nasty taste in my mouth, he was such a generous man, and this betrayal was one of the factors that helped me to see that RB has no conscience.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 22, 2007:
Fat boy,

I’m just going to study your first paragraph. You said,
my feeling and verification is that FOF is managed very efficiently and cautiously with monies and if there is any mishandling it is minor (nobody or no organization is perfect.
No one is seeking perfection…but let’s have a look at “verification”.

If you indeed went to the Ouspensky Office and asked to look at the books, and if indeed you were shown them, and if indeed you have at least done Accounting 101 at college and know what double entry book-keeping means, and were given and took the time to sit down with a calculator and check the arithmetic—I’d be very surprised.

If you then took the next step and looked at all the bank records, income statements, cash flow reports, credit card expenses of both the FoF and the vineyard/winery, and did your own trial balances to check, I’d be even more surprised.

If you did all this with a forensic accountant at your side, someone with the knowledge and authority to look at true copies of wage stubs, interview the FoF accountants and recipients of those wages separately, look at the bank account, credit card accounts, tax returns and financial activities of those receiving wages (including Burton) from both organizations, and then look through all the hard drives, backups through the years, searching specifically for evidence of a second set of books, then I’d agree you are on the road to verification.

If you continued and explored the financial connections of the companies that are “privatized” spin-offs from the two entities, such as Hans–Michael H’s marketing operation and the various others, with all their financial records (including loans and startup costs), reports and tax returns, together with the all relationships to Burton’s financial records including all bank accounts domestic and foreign—still under the guidance of the forensic accountant—then I would agree, you have verified the finances of the FoF.

If after all this, you could now look at the setup, both generally and specifically, of the FoF as a non–profit organization, at the FoF canons, and can tell me how Burton lives the lifestyle he does, spends as he does, and can still say with a straight face that the FoF is managed very efficiently, using standard financial terms such as “Rate of return on investment”, then we are indeed living in quite different realities here on the planet. I mean, $85 million or so input, assets $5 million at the most… But, I’m prepared to be surprised.

Look, here’s just one example. We know about Roger Greene’s estate, how he carefully and intentionally and in full generosity liquidated all his assets as his death approached in London. How he got together the quarter million dollars in cash. How he planned his gift, so the FoF could build a decent place to stay for visiting students. How he was led on, making plans for the building, playing “what ifs”, taking joy in the expectation that he was solving a practical problem, how he could express his love for his fellow students. How he made his farewells, how his son helped turn his wishes into reality at his death. How the cash was smuggled into the States against the law and brought to Renaissance—and how Burton spent most of it at the Toyota dealership on cars for the boys within two weeks, and the rest within the month. Do you know all this? Did you find out sleuthing through the books? Did the FoF CFO or Treasurer tell you? [Bolds added]

So, Fat boy, surprise me!

[ed. - See also this telling of Roger's story by Ames Gilbert.]

Saturday, September 1, 1990

The Classical Chinese Furniture Society

[ed. - The Classical Chinese Furniture Society was created by the Fellowship of Friends to support and promote its Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture. From 1990 through 1994, the Society published the well-regarded Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society. Fellowship member Curtis Evarts was President of the Society and a journal Contributing Editor.]

From the California Secretary of State website:
Entity Name:THE CLASSICAL CHINESE FURNITURE SOCIETY
Entity Number:C1817669
Date Filed:03/17/1992
Status:SUSPENDED
Jurisdiction:CALIFORNIA
Entity Address:P O BOX 707
Entity City, State, Zip:OREGON HOUSE CA 95962
Agent for Service of Process:CURTIS EVARTS
Agent Address:12668 RICE'S CROSSING RD
Agent City, State, Zip:OREGON HOUSE CA 95962

Statement of Officers File Number: 0149200
Statement of Officers File Date: 03/19/1996
President: Curtis Evarts
12668 RICE'S CROSSING RD
OREGON HOUSE, CA 95962
Franchise Tax Board Suspension: 10/01/2001

From irs.gov website:
NTEE Category: A Arts, Culture, and Humanities A40 (Visual Arts Organizations)
Ruling Year: 1993
Revocation Date (effective date on which organization's tax exemption was automatically revoked): 15-May-2010
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 68-0263458
Legal Name: CLASSICAL CHINESE FURNITURE

Mailing Address: 20436 SEA GULL WAY, SARATOGA, CA 95070-3128

Exemption Type: 501(c)(3)
Revocation Posting Date (date on which IRS posted notice of automatic revocation on IRS.gov): 09-Jun-2011