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.

Wednesday, July 1, 1992

Leaving the prison

[ed. - See also The Thomas Easley Letters, Group got piece of mind, and this 1993 story from the Appeal-Democrat.

"jomopinata" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 6, 2013: 
(From an article by Jean Callahan, “Leaving the Ashram,” Common Boundary, July/August 1992, at pp. 36-37.)
“Jung called it enantiodromia, the tendency of a person who has held one point of view exclusively to swing to the opposite extreme. Those who have dedicated themselves to the spirit are particularly prone to it. Suddenly, seeing all that they have missed, some become just as cynical and materialistic as they had been devoted and transcendental. Having once worshiped the guru as God incarnate, they now feel the need to smash him as a false idol. This encounter with the shadow marks the experience of very nearly every former believer who has left an ashram. It happens almost automatically, as if a scale tipped too far to one side were now simply righting itself.

Thomas Easley knows about enantiodromia. In 1989, as part of the inner circle, he left the Fellowship of Friends, an obscure California-based group loosely based on the philosophical teachings of the Sufi mystics G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. For years, Easley was hopelessly dependent upon the group’s leader, Robert Burton, who was for him the model of all spiritual growth and personal development. ‘He made all the decisions for me,’ says Easley, ‘from what tie to wear to what car to drive, from what to eat to how to go to the bathroom.’ As long as he remained with the Fellowship of Friends, Easley handed over all the money he made selling paintings–to galleries, museums and wealthy European families–to Burton. In return, he claims, Burton seduced him into a sexual relationship when he was in his early 20s. ‘I don’t trust anyone.’ Easley says now. ‘When you find out that the man who was supposed to be the second coming of Christ is actually a sexual abuser, whom do you trust after that?’ Easley was actually thrown out of the group for making his accusations. After spending some time in India, he returned to the United States, where he lived quietly for a year and a half before escaping to India again. He felt out of rhythm in the U.S., too naive to function in the New York art scene, where he was trying to establish credibility.

‘I’m like a man who’s been released from a prison camp,’ he says. ‘How can you relate to people when you can’t even tell them what you’ve been doing for the past 20 years?’”