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.

Saturday, December 31, 1994

Celebrating the Fellowship of Friends' 25th Anniversary

Image courtesy of Ames Gilbert

[ed. - With the recent exodus of many "older students," the Fellowship membership is reported to number about 1,900.]

Thursday, December 1, 1994

A brief encounter with the Fellowship of Friends

[ed. - Gary Mascall was in the Fellowship's Paris Center for about six months in 1994. The following conversation appears on The Gentle Souls' Revolution (aka Cult Confessions) blog. This post is placed in the timeline when Mascall was a member of the Fellowship.]

"gary mascall" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 14, 2014:
This may seem a little out of place, I was in the french branch of this school in Paris for a while, when it was called Renaissance. I left at the time the name was changed to Apollo.

What I would like to ask is if you know of any good forums that discuss the work?

Sorry if this is a nuisance, but it is hard to find any fourth way group’s online.

"The Gentle Souls Revolution" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 14, 2014:
Hi Gary,

Wow. There’s a French branch of “school”, really, the Sharon Gans, Robert, Alex Horn “school”??? Please provide details? I don’t know of any legitimate forums, but maybe someone else out cyber-land does. Thanks for your writing and I hope you can fill us in a bit on this French branch of “school”.

"gary mascall" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 15, 2014:
This was back in 1995, and the School was called Renaissance.

At the time they use to leave cards inside a selection of 4th way book’s by a kind of reverse ‘Shoplifting’ to recruit.

There were a number of other branches, Milan, for one.

My experience was quite positive and though the teaching was not 1st rate, any group of people coming together focused on the work will make some progress.

It seems this is what Burton cashes in on.

A few member’s had come from America, and a lot of student’s delayed important work, feeling that the Holiday in America was the true time for learning.
I left because progress was too slow, and I had already done a lot of work on myself.

I was searching for school work to help with my Stalled development, and I learnt some thing’s, but not what I was expecting to learn. LOL.

From my fairly brief look over this site, I am angered that Ouspensky’s teaching should have been corrupted, but also saddened that People might be discouraged from the work.

Evolution is what the work is about, and after Reading Maurice Bucke, “Cosmic Conciousness” I see that man will not evolve purely by accident as Mr Bucke claim’s.

An interesting book by a man who did not know of ‘Schools.’

The second section Evolution and Devolution (60 pages) is fascinating.

"Haven't Decided Today" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 15, 2014:
I’m not completely certain, but I think the bookmarks are or were done by Robert Burton’s version of schools. Burton had been with Horn for a while, but from what I’ve read may have managed an even crazier version:

"The Gentle Souls Revolution" wrote on the t Confessions blog, April 16, 2014:
Hmmm, at some point in my post-“school” conversations someone else mentioned those bookmarks, but I can’t recall the context. If there’s anyone else out there who experienced “school’s” European branch, I’d love to hear from you.

Gary, was there one specific “teacher” who led the “classes”? Did you have “sustainers”? Were you told not to tell anyone about Renaissance? I’m wondering how many parallels there are between the two “schools”.

"gary mascall" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 16, 2014:
There was no leader, but a German woman, and a Canadian married woman along with an American guy in his 30’s, who formed a sort of clique. These people obviously had lived in the Renaissance centre in the states and organised most activities.

Many student’s had been to the states for a long holiday, and some where saving and planning to move there.

I wasn't very impressed with any of the writing’s or Circular’s sent by Robert, but in many way’s the group had it’s own dynamic.

Yes we were told not to speak about school outside, but an understanding of Ouspensky meant I was already aware of the futility in trying to convey to other’s any of the teaching’s.

So, like other aspect’s of True school work, this is just another aspect that is wide open to abuse through misinterpretation.

I'm sure some people used the school to develop a feeling for truth, that would have allowed them to see the falseness of Robert.

Unlike the school in America, there was little chance of any intense brain washing, so the Paris school and other’s were mainly for Subscriptions and recruitment I suspect.

"The Gentle Souls Revolution" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 16, 2014:
Hi Gary,

Thanks again for your comment. Couple of questions:

“I wasn't very impressed with any of the writing’s or Circular’s sent by Robert..”

So Robert sent writings and circulars … are you sure that this Robert is the same one we refer to on this blog? That this the the same fake Gurdjieff group?

Also did you pay a “tuition”? Typically “school’s” students pay $350/month.

"… so the Paris school and other’s were mainly for Subscriptions and recruitment I suspect.”

I want to make sure I’m understanding this statement. It sounds like you suspect that the Paris school existed purely to generate income — recruit students who would pay for the teachings. Is that right?

Thanks, again, for writing.


"Haven't Decided Today" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 16, 2014:
I’m pretty sure it’s Robert Burton. But Burton studied, such as it was, under Alex Horn. Here’s a link about him. There are others. Some of the pieces I’ve read by those who left the group are pretty damned scary.

"gary mascall" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 17, 2014:
It was definitely the Burton Renaissance group, though as I said The Name was being changed to Apollo.

The circulars were like a 2 page pamphlet with news of the US centre with vineyard. (The Rose Garden was just being set up) and also some quotes of a vague type.)

Group fees were not high, 4 cinema ticket’s a week. ( a lot of inflation in 20 year’s) and it was French francs anyway.

To the poster above, Rodney Collin was an Ouspensky student, and one of those present at Ouspensky’s passing on.

His Theory of celestial Influence is now my constant study.

As to lineage, it has been my experience that only a small number of actual Experiences ‘MUST’ be taught in person. And anyone who has learnt them can pass them on.

The almost physical experience of an ‘Objective’ state, can only be taught face to face.

Jesus may have left no writing’s because in a predominantly iliterate [sic] world face to face teaching was the only way.

My experience of Gurdjieff school’s is that almost all of them begin mixing his teaching’s with eastern system’s.

Which is harmful but typical of the New Age habit of ‘Shopping’ in the Religion Supermarket, filling your basket with the bit’s you like best.
It is the same guy Robert Burton, and what strikes me about him is the hurt that he has caused. Ex Student’s aren't just disillusioned, but whole lives are tainted by this man. The best way to heal is to continue the work, on your own if necessary.

You know enough to do so, I'm sure.

[ed. - The following poster is confused. Rather than "Circle of Friends," it is The Fellowship of Friends and Robert Burton that have the "commune" of Renaissance. At the time of this comment, Asaf Braverman was still a member of the Fellowship, and follower of Burton. It was also Burton's group that had the "international outposts." Alex Horn was not a student of William Nyland nor Rodney Collin.]

"Another Version of the Story" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 16, 2014:

Check this out. There is a lot of bad press out there about this group but this is a link to some info from a true believer who studied with Robert Burton who founded Circle of Friends in California and has a commune of sorts there called Renaissance. There are also international outposts of COF. Supposedly Robert Burton was a student (1967-1969) of Alex Horn who was purportedly a student of William Nyland and Rodney Collins [sic] who were direct students of Gurdjieff. In the Horn-Gans Group (mid 80’s ) we were told to stay away from those book marks and not to call those numbers as it wasn’t a “real school”. I tried calling at one point and it was a voicemail asking you to leave contact information. I have since heard elsewhere that the R. Burton Group members stuffed those bookmarks into books to recruit students. The website noted above makes the lineage look legitimate. I find the disputes about “true lineage” fascinating. I met a man who was supposedly part of a 4th way school neither Burton nor Horn lineage but supposedly of the legitimate Lord Pentland branch. He told me that the question of lineage of all the branches was always in dispute and that was part of the on going conversation and dismissed my questions about lineage saying, “Oh they say that about every group…it’s part of the distraction and background noise” This R. Burton Group is not part of the “Gurdjieff Foundation”. There is a lot going around under G’s [Gurdjieff's] name— including a lot of hasnamus wise-akering–it makes me wonder how Jesus feels about everything that goes on in his name.

"gary mascall" wrote on the Cult Confessions blog, April 27, 2014:
That link is very suspect in my opinion.

There is no mention of the homosexual rape allegation’s against Robert Burton. Understandably so, since the writer is a devotee.

Recently I’ve been impressed with the lecture’s of Santos Bonacci, who gives an interesting background to all esoteric teaching’s.

Tuesday, November 15, 1994

The Richard Buzbee and "WP" Letters

[ed. - Letters from just two of Robert Burton's hundreds of young male victims. The letters in question were apparently unlawfully removed from personal mailboxes at Apollo by a representative of Robert Burton. From Stella Wirk's "Learn about Cults" website, a section called, Time to Read Letters of Discontent.]
BBS: Toad Hall BBS
Date: 11-15-94 (01:54) Number: 44873
Subj: The next letter. COPY

November 1994

Dear friend,

In an attempt to prevent me from talking to others about my experiences with him, Robert has forbidden me to come to Renaissance (or Apollo). I write this letter for those who are interested.

When I came to Renaissance in the spring of 1986 I had been in the school for one year. In the center I had been told numerous stories by the center directors as to how a great, almost saintly person the Teacher was. Having come to the Fellowship needy of emotional and spiritual support I was willing to believe these reports at face value.

After a few weeks of living at Renaissance, following a heavy drinking 'symposium', Robert took me inside of one of the Academy rooms and wanted to have sex with me.

When I told him that I did not want this because I had no homosexual feelings, nor did I want to see myself assume those practices, Robert dismissed my arguments by saying that I should externally consider him as my teacher.

Partly out of fear for this 'all powerful' being, partly not to want to feel guilty or judged, but largely because of the energy with which Robert approached me, I was left with the feeling I had no choice.

While Robert went about his business of trying to stimulate an orgasm from me which he was going to receive orally I pointed out to him that I was covering my face with my hands out of shame. Robert retorted that this was a good opportunity for work for me.

This was the beginning of my functioning as a sexual servant which lasted for several years.

In order to bear my plight I kept on telling myself that it was my play to transform this kind of suffering and that learning selfless servitude might eventually benefit my soul. I also tried to stimulate in me the belief that since Robert was conscious, being in his presence had to basically be a good thing.

Robert tried to assure me that what was going on between us was the wish of C-Influence, and that the worst thing I could do was to resist their plans. He also explained his attraction to men not as homosexuality but as the result of his being an angel and a cosmos above men, just like men's attraction to women stemmed, he would add,from men being in a cosmos above women.

It was when I eventually met a woman (soon to become my wife) who cared enough to point out to me that it was up to me to take responsibility for my life, that I found the third force needed to let Robert know that I did not want to continue serving him in this fashion.

He got very upset over this and from one day to the other what he had called 'love' turned into hostility, resentment, and a total ignoring of us as his students. It was here that it became really clear to me that I had never been a 'friend' or a 'student' but had been used for one sole purpose: Robert's sexual gratification. There had been no love, let alone conscious love.

In the five years that followed we have never been allowed to have dinner with our 'Teacher', nor were we given consideration when we asked for help during great medical expenses while working on salary at Renaissance.

During this period Robert did, however, call me numerous times on the phone asking me if I would again 'come in his mouth' (his words), for which he would, among other things, offer to pay my voice lessons, knowing that these were important to me and that I had a hard time finding funding for them. Needless to say, at this point I never as much responded to his requests or 'offers'.

Much effort has been directed towards covering up information such as which is disclosed in this letter. There has also been a collective buffering among Fellowship members as regards Robert's practices.

How can people who pride themselves in having evolved levels of being tolerate this? I am convinced that many of the prevailing attitudes in the Fellowship are based on religious faith, such as those regarding unverifiable issues like Robert's consciousness; the Fellowship being an arc [sic] for a new civilization; the division of humanity into 'students' and 'life people', and the alleged spiritual
superiority of Fellowship members over non-members.

I hope that you will have the courage to challenge your attitudes and see them for what they are. For the sake of your evolution.

Your friend,

(*name withheld by request)


[Following was first distributed in October 1994. All addresses hereon have changed since then, and this piece not updated with new address information.]

Hello all, (sent by Stella to email list of ex-FOF members)

Here's a guy who is going to need friends to communicate with him and he certainly will discover who is friends *are*. Please respond to him if you wish. Here is what I received from him in snail mail today (October 13, 1994):

Mailed to Stella on Oct. 11, 1994 - Marysville, CA postmark

From Richard Laurel (Richard Buzbee, legal name)
Oregon House, CA 95962

[A hand-written letter of introduction was attached atop a small pile of papers, below:]

Hi Stella,

I don't know if you can remember me. Richard Buzbee is my legal name. I came from the Dallas, Texas center with my son back in 1977. Reddish face, blonde hair and carrying around a lot of fear back then, most of which I unloaded over time.

Here [enclosed] is a letter and two chapters that I sent out to all people in the Fellowship that I knew. I was removed from the school for sending it out, of course, and am now watching to see the response, and to proceed to the next step which should make itself clear hopefully. A group of students here at Renaissance is forming and want to take steps to remove Robert. An obvious step is the legal one but I would like to see what can be done by the group themselves.

If you have some ideas then please contact me. My phone # is 916-692-xxxx and my address is on the envelope. [see above]

I have read several books -"The Wrong Way Home," "Captive Hearts - Captive Minds," "Combatting Cult Mind Control," but the best by far seems to be "The Guru Papers." It has led me into the light and helped me to take back my dignity as a human being - not a "chosen" human being, not special, not lucky - just a human being trying to make my way through this experience of life on planet earth. So from one human being to another, I send you these things because I thought you would be interested.


[The following letter enclosed with the above hand-written message, and, as Richard wrote, was sent to everyone he knew in FOF:]

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you and several others because I value your friendship and regard you as someone with whom I can be honest and open. I decided to write to you because there have been some stories spreading through the school about myself and Robert, and I would like to clarify the situation. Also, I'm afraid that what happened to me is already being covered up and may soon disappear, like many things that have happened to others before.

I was asked by Robert to buy a gun and become night guard at his house. I accepted because I considered this to be an opportunity to learn from him, and to protect him from harm. I went with complete trust in Robert and a desire to serve. After accepting the position, I was informed that one of the duties required of all guards was to give Robert massages when he asked for them.

One morning, as I massaged Robert's back, without saying a word he sat me at the head of his bed on my knees. He then pulled down my pants, began sucking my penis, and asked me to come in his mouth. This was all done without my consent, very impersonally, without concern for me as a human being (married with a family), and without concern for me as a student wishing guidance to evolve. I felt betrayed and used by the man who I thought was my spiritual father. I quit the job and went off salary.

You might imagine that having sex with Robert is different from having sex with other people, that Robert somehow uses sex for teaching, or that it would make you more emotional, closer to the miraculous. But it wasn't emotional, and involved no teaching. While Robert was using me for sex, I was nothing more than an object, something to be used to satisfy his own sexual desires. Afterward, when I began discussing this experience with some of my closest friends, I discovered that many of them had been used by Robert for sex in a similar way. However, the greatest shock came from my son Troy, who told me that Robert had been actively pursuing him for sex from the time he entered the school--at age seventeen. While he was growing up, I taught Troy that Robert was like a God, someone he could trust fully in every regard. I thus unknowingly set him up to be used by Robert for sex.

Robert had told Troy (and many others with whom I have subsequently spoken), that C Influence wanted Troy to have sex with him. Robert also offered money and privileges in exchange for sex. During sex, Robert uses no protection against AIDS, herpes, or any other sexually transmitted disease, despite the fact that he has sex with many partners. On many of the nights I was a guard at his house, there was a succession of male students coming and going from his room.

If Robert removes me from the Fellowship because I have distributed this letter, I want you to know that I will still consider myself a member, and will support the school in any way I can. This our school--we have built it and paid for it. As a group, we have accumulated so much being; some people have been working on themselves for twenty years or more. To walk away from the school after learning about Robert's actions is to say that the school is his, and that we are powerless. But this is not true. We just need to trust ourselves and have the courage to come together and say no to actions that harm us. We not only have the right to do this, we also have the responsibility to bring the facts about Robert's activities into the open, where they can be fairly considered by all of his students.

Since this experience with Robert, I have been given several books by other people who have had similar experiences with him, and who were trying to understand the reasons for it. With this letter, I am enclosing chapters from two books that speak directly to our situation in the Fellowship. [Chapters not included here.]

Please feel free to share my letter and these chapters with other students. I would be interested in receiving a note or letter from you as to your thoughts and suggestions about what I've written here. Perhaps a plan of action will evolve through our efforts together. I sincerely hope this letter will encourage others to speak openly about Robert, the school, and their experiences. If the school is healthy, it should stand up under any honest inquiry.

In friendship,

Richard Laurel (a.k.a. Richard Buzbee)
October 1994


[As I understand it, Richard Buzbee was given "medical leave" to seek help from a psychiatrist. Typical FOF effort is to attempt to discredit what he had written in his letter by casting doubts on his mental condition. He did NOT need a psychiatrist.]
[ed. - Richard Buzbee was removed from the Fellowship of Friends roster October 3, 1994.]

Monday, November 14, 1994

The Ames Gilbert Letter

From the Fellowship of Friends Discussion
14 November 1994

Here are some thoughts I am circulating among a few friends:

There have been quite a few letters and other materials passed around in the last few weeks, and I have been responsible for some of this. I felt that spreading information was the most practical act of regeneration to counteract the crimes of closing down and censorship that have been taking place in the Fellowship, spreading light to counteract darkness. Because I have nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of, I have taken full responsibility for my efforts by signing my name to everything that I originated, although I also re-printed and circulated anonymous letters when I felt it was right.

You may have heard about the meeting last Saturday, led by Linda Kaplan with the help of Girard Haven. If you have not, I feel you missed an unusual happening, and I advise you to talk to someone who was there. I feel that we were all given a great gift, that there was a demonstration of the rigidity of the form and its mechanical response to what Gurdjieff called the sacred cry from below against the unbecoming manifestations from above. I also feel there was a demonstration that we all get exactly what we ask for. Some have asked for the courage to obey the Master within, our consciences. Others sought an important external role; they have been given it, and they demonstrate daily how they use the opportunity. Some wanted to give up all responsibility for their evolution to others; their wish has been granted. A few wanted to buy an insurance policy to heaven; they are comforted in their illusion. Some gave themselves unconditionally to support someone else’s vision, believing it to be noble. They are noble slaves. And I believe the majority of students have some or all of these aspects. They see some of the dichotomies, and are sincerely struggling to resolve the good they have verified with the difficulties they see. They want to stay positive and comfortable. I understand. I want the same.

You may not know that the next day after the meeting, Howard Kingston, Stephen Merryweather, Ramona Merryweather, and Emily Gordon were given lengthy leaves of absence from the school. Cynthia Kingston was asked if she wanted to take a leave of absence, and I was told to leave the school permanently. You may not know that the day before, James Battaglia was given leave of absence for distributing copies of a telephone conversation with Robert. If you wish to ask the others the reasons they were given for these actions, I invite you to ask them individually. The reason I was given by Robert via Peter Bishop was, “Ames does not understand the purpose of meetings”. I have been trying to make transcripts of some of the “exit conversations”, and these may follow in due course; they may help you see the situation in a new way. For me, these dismissals constitute crime by the organization against the school, and the crime emanates from the highest source of authority, Robert. If you have any doubts, please study the situation—and please tell me if you reach different conclusions. At any rate, for me it is right action and regeneration to expose these crimes, and others, and shed light on them.

The rest of this letter constitutes my personal opinion about the situation in our school. But, these conclusions are not pleasant! Please believe me when I say that I am writing from a good place, the best that I can find. I acted and continue to act according to my conscience, which I came to the school to learn to do. I am confident that when I decided to act, I was given the help that I needed and asked for. I am confident that this will continue. I do not claim to be right, only that I must act according to my conscience, no matter what the consequences, and that is the right way for me.

My own difficulties with the form began fifteen years ago when I was at Renaissance. Robert entered the bedroom of my good friend John M., in the London teaching house. Robert was nude, armed only with an erection and overwhelming psychological power. He told John that he was an angel, and that C-influence wanted John to have sex with him, that he should externally consider the needs of his teacher. As a result, my friend left the Fellowship in agony. But, I personally did not act. I abhorred what had happened, and yet justified it by telling myself that I was getting great benefit from the school, and that I was not personally harmed. And this pattern has repeated itself many times since: each time, though, I was left more distant from the form.

I feel that we are in the hands of higher forces, and that a great play is unfolding for our benefit. The play so far has been a mixture of hope and tragedy in the finest tradition. I have come to think the following. With the help of higher forces, Robert was allowed to start the school for reasons that from the beginning were not entirely altruistic, and this has spoiled the possibilities for him, and at the least delayed them for us. The average student, like myself, came to the school with a spiritual longing. We also came with psychological dysfunctions of varying severity, problems from our previous life that we had not resolved. And we dumped all responsibility for the answers we sought on Robert Burton. For most of us, this was not the careful, partial and temporary lending of will advocated by the system, but the giving of everything, including the individuality we are supposed to reserve to ourselves. Robert even told mothers to give up their children, and many did! I know how this can be, because I too gave up almost everything in the name of something higher.

To try to understand what is happening now, I looked at Robert’s past. According to my sources, Robert Burton was asked to leave Alex Horn’s school after eighteen months of work on himself. He was given the task of not sleeping with other men, and failed this task from his teacher. But, Robert is very intelligent and had learned the outward form of how to run a Fourth Way school from Alex Horn. He had enough theoretical material, he was mechanically a gifted teacher, he felt qualified to teach others. Perhaps he hoped, as ordinary educators do, that he could stay one step in advance of his pupils, in this case a spiritual step. And, because he was emotionally centered with chief weaknesses of dominance and greed, he saw the opportunity to have others support him materially. However, Robert from the beginning mistook the weakness of signals from his poorly developed conscience for impartiality, and then took this sense of impartiality as an objective indication that he was free from certain laws. Please understand that he carried with him the part that won out when he failed his task; he brought his weaknesses. And I believe he did continue to work on himself, but only in order to learn to intentionally use World 12 creative energies, which are accessible to everyone unconsciously.

However, he soon began to take advantage of the enormous accumulation of trust, power and money that came with the complete abdication of responsibility by his students. Each time he ignored his conscience, it became weaker, and Robert’s conscience became completely buried after about ten years. He started to explore new areas of power with complete impunity. He found that because of the blind adoration of his students, every action remained unquestioned, and in fact students eagerly leapt to provide explanations that defied commonsense. He found that every indulgence could be satisfied. Anything could be explained by appealing to the inexhaustible credulity of a group of people that deliberately trained themselves to excuse everything in the name of ‘crazy wisdom’. His instinctive center started to enlarge, as it perceived it had no limits, unrestrained by increasingly feeble messages from his emotional center. At this point, his psychopathic development was complete; he is now a part of a group of people who are often intelligent, personable, charming, charismatic—a typical cult leader. They just happen to be devoid of conscience. The intentional absence of precautions against sexually transmitted diseases is just one aspect of this. There are now thousands of people who have had direct and indirect sexual contact with Robert. The implications are horrifying.

With the acquiescence of Fellowship doctors, he became addicted to painkillers and to Valium, a drug that allowed him to maintain a calmness we mistook for spirituality. At some critical point (between 1979 and 1981, in my opinion), his emotional center lost all contact with his instinctive center, and started to starve. His conscience is now inaccessible to him; buried under layers so thick that nothing but melting energies from higher forces can penetrate. The ‘emotional’ and ‘spirituial’ energy we think we are receiving is now being emanated from his instinctive center, his new center of gravity. And, his instinctive center is addicted to unlimited sex, money, and power, so it works to attract these things to itself, day and night. We are seeing him possessed, truly a blind Christ.

However, Robert is a very clever man, and we are very gullible. Once his quiescent conscience was buried, he had lost his internal guide. Se he started to look for signs outside himself, and there are plenty of signs if one looks for them. This has become a major interest for him—you cannot have failed to notice. Now, no longer a teacher, he encouraged his students to start looking for a guide outside as well. And all the while, higher forces are indeed managing the play! They gave signs, not necessarily the right ones; the rightness depended on whether the higher or lower was looking at the time. Those students seeking something higher received beneficial shocks, as many as their being could use. Those seeking self-aggrandizement received confirmation of their sense of self-importance. And now we have an organization where conscience is credentialed, a religion or cult, alongside a school where, if one wishes, one can verify that consciousness cannot be credentialed. Ah, the sweet beauty of Howard Kingston’s photograph to us all! How can we tell if another person is a man number five? Why would we believe Howard? Why would we disbelieve him? And, how can it matter to anyone else but Howard?

Consider the current situation. We have Robert Burton, who celebrates his consciousness in outward displays—parties, announcements, even estimates of degrees (7.3 last month); we have Girard Haven who coyly announces last week that he is a man number five. We have a teacher who says he is needed to tell some one that he is, or will be conscious, and that consciousness cannot be achieved without his intercession. Robert claimed last week that we only achieve higher states because of him! And at the same time we have people genuinely trying to work on themselves, students that are making progress, who have verified that they are being helped, who are clearing away the rubbish of false personality from around their consciences. From time to time, some of them stumble across their conscience when it has grown too large to ignore. This is a critical point, and for me there is nothing more important in one’s evolution than what is occurring at this time. If we take Robert’s direction, that is, we accept his claim that he is the centrally important guide or permanent star in our spiritual firmament, then we must squash conscience. You might be interested in these words from Peter Bishop. Last Sunday, he delivered Robert’s message to leave the school. He was asked, “What is conscience?”, and replied, “Conscience is a collection of subjective I’s. If a student accumulates too much material there, he should leave the school.”!!!! Well, I say, on the contrary!! I say if we realize that there can be no external master, and that our highest duty is to serve the Master within, then we are finally safe, we have found what we are looking for! And certainly, we cannot serve two masters at the same time.

So here we are, in a marvelous situation. It seems higher forces used Robert to gather 1900 students together, for reasons not yet fully apparent, and the process affected and linked multiple thousands more. Robert withdrew from his conscience into his fantasy. Higher forces are now withdrawing their support for him. His play is being made manifest to us. Unfolding before our eyes, if we wish to see, is a play of epic tragedy, a lesson for the ages. We are seeing how power attracts the corruptible, and how absolute power attracts the absolutely corruptible. We are witnessing the absolute of corruption, and we must learn the lesson, embrace the pain, allow it to penetrate the very core of our being. Then, when we in turn are tested to see if we have learned the lesson, at those moments of choice when our fate hangs in the balance, we may be able to turn the powers offered to us and dedicate their use to higher service.

What now? If these theories have any basis in reality, we can expect Robert to become more and more frightened, because he has nothing real to retreat to. We will be able to feel the fear emanating from the center. For example, today (11/18) Michael Goodwin called ex-students in the area to tell them they were forbidden to cross the property to come to La Cucina, a public restaurant. Bizarre, and illegal! We can look for and expect the actions of a scoundrel, a psychopath. There are several possibilities.

Robert might announce his retirement, on his terms. This would be a slow-motion, but nevertheless large-scale looting of resources. Such a turn would make him conveniently inaccessible, even more unaccountable, but with access to the same large amounts of money, power and sex. Or, he might liquidate all the assets he can here, including the Ming furniture collection, borrow as much from his American students as their credulity, savings, and credit cards will allow, and abscond to Europe to reign in the relatively undisturbed feeding grounds there. Perhaps he will try to hold out, exhibiting increasingly bizarre and out-of-control behavior, by clamping down on all dissent, increasing his reliance on external signs, making more claims of near-divinity to bolster his weakening authority. If he takes this course, it will probably end in both external and internal tragedy. There are other options. Whatever happens, I think it will happen quite soon and quite quickly. The structure he has created is too inflexible, too fragile, and his compulsions too great to allow the present illusions to continue for much longer.

Friends, it is of critical importance for us and for him that we do not let Robert go on his terms. It would be the end of all possibilities for him; that is, he would have lost his last chance to ask for help from higher forces and from us. And, he cannot receive help unless he asks for it. Even the angels must obey that law. And for us, we would have no way to repay the help and high favors we have received, form him and from higher forces. This mess is not Robert’s alone. There is only one of him, and thousands of us. It is our mess, too, and each one of us bears individual responsibility for feeding his addictions. We dumped all our problems on him. We gave him our birthright of power and individuality. We gave him huge resources; our time, our money, our labor, our love, our obedience, and some of us, our bodies. He could not resist the temptation, and is corrupted. There have been many warnings. We would not listen. We swallowed a ball of dung because it was gilded with gold. We heard voices, our consciences, tell us something was wrong and getting worse. We pushed those inner voices away, and sinned by using those most precious and beautiful gifts, the system and the tools, to explain away the discomfort.

My conscience surfaced for what I intuitively knew would be the last time, a few weeks ago. I knew that if I pushed it under one more time, it would become so weak that it could not speak to me again. I knew this was my last chance. I am so glad I took that chance! And so, I appeal to your conscience. I do not advocate those in the Fellowship leaving, or those outside the Fellowship taking action, or indeed taking any particular course. I just appeal to your conscience. It will tell you what to do. When you obey it, you are obeying the only true Master, the Master within. Trust it, and you can make no real mistakes. And this is true even if, and perhaps especially if, everything I have put forward about Robert and the state of the school is mistaken.

I do not seek to destroy the Fellowship, as Robert and the hierarchy that support him claim. I cannot be a “traitor to C-Influence”, as Robert has claimed before, even if I wished to. Think of the scale—how could an atom betray a man? It is my school, too, and to harm it would be like cutting off my arm. But the form is crumbling, according to immutable laws, as energy is withdrawn from it. All external structures descend. That the body of the Fellowship is throwing out healthy cells in such numbers, turning on itself, is a signal of present and impending trouble. There may now be more being outside the formal Fellowship than inside it. And if my own actions, which are internal, are wrongly perceived as external threats against the organization, there is indeed rot, and the form is tottering.

For myself, I pray that we will bridge this interval in the octave of the school together. I pray that the affirmative forces that Robert represents can be harmonized with the denying forces that have arisen to meet it, that both “sides” can come to see that they are both necessary for a healthy future. If either of these forces overwhelms the other, the school will be destroyed. We know that there must also be a reconciling force. I pray that I can recognize it and align myself with it. I pray that Robert will ask for help, and allow higher forces to redeem him, and that he can rediscover his Self. I pray that when my tiny mite of help is asked for, that I will not turn aside. I pray that Robert will be able to resume his Path, that he will be able to see that his journey is by no means completed. Indeed, I feel that the longer we support what he has become, the further back on that Path he will have to go. I pray that we can continue the journey together, helping each other as we are able, learning to love and care for each other, able to explore our humanity fully, but fully understanding that we are alone and responsible for our Selves and to our Selves, and that our plays are in the hands of higher forces, not in the hands of an external teacher.

Whatever you do, and whatever you think about this letter, please heed James Battaglia’s splendid advice. Keep you eyes and ears open, and try to be in the moment. Please do not copy or distribute this letter, although you may let others you trust read it.



Monday, October 31, 1994

Charles Randall resigns from Board of Directors, calls on Burton to dismantle school

[ed. - I am inserting the following post into the blog at October 1994 as a milestone in the Fellowship history. Charles was an officer in the corporation.]

"Charles R." posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 19, 2007 at 5:35 p.m.:
Thank you for your support, all who have said such kind things about me. I really appreciate you and especially the value you bring to this wonderful blog which is so healing and helpful.
I looked in the old files and found a letter I sent to all the Board members of the Fellowship in October 1994 which I thought I’d share for what it’s worth. I left the mailmerge fields in.   
October 1994

Dear «FirstName»,

I am resigning my membership in the Fellowship. Attached is a copy of a letter I sent to Robert. In it I explain my thoughts to him and my recommendations to him.

I would like to share a couple of things with you, too.

Naturally, I recommend to you that you disassociate yourself from the Fellowship. However, I recognize that doing so is a process that takes time, sometimes a long time. For me, I would say it took me twelve years or more to finally take the step. I hope you hear what I am doing and saying with an open mind; that is, I hope you entertain the idea that I may be right. I am just like you. I wanted everything to be true.

As a member of the board of directors for almost 15 years, I know what goes on there. If you intend to continue in your capacity as director, I adjure you to rise up and take responsibility for what is happening in the Fellowship. I think you know Richard Buzbee’s letter is not an aberration; it appears to be the rule. None of the men in Robert’s harem really wants to be there, to my knowledge. And new recruits are added in an elaborate and subtle conspiracy in which they have almost no chance to say no. If you don’t know how it works, check it out. Ask Richard Buzbee. Stop being afraid.

In my current frame of mind I would not have agreed to many of the financial and operational decisions we all “rubber-stamped” in our monthly director’s meetings. The purchases of “art”, the budget for Robert’s endless vacation, the salary for Robert, including his gigantic year-end bonuses, the bogus arrangements for Robert to purchase luxury golf condominiums in Palm Springs and Gray Eagle [sic - Graeagle], just to mention a few, are repellent to me now. I suggest to you that you a.) reacquaint yourself with your conscience and b.) vote your conscience from now on. I don’t mean to sound glib; I say this to encourage you to do what you vaguely feel to be right, but which contradicts the dogma you’ve learned to live with.

Please stand up and take charge — of yourself, of your life, and of the Fellowship if you plan to stay in it. I know you. You are one of of the most decent, intelligent, and well-meaning people I have ever met. You are unfortunately living in a fantasy as far as Robert and the Fellowship are concerned. I lived the same fantasy.

It is possible to escape the fantasy. You only have to want to.

Your friend,

Charles Randall

[ed. - The following Letter to Robert was posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog on April 14, 2007.]
Hello, All,

I join everyone in thanking you Shiek [sic] — Thank you! This blog is a very good thing and I think it will be a big help to decent (those with ears and eyes) people both in and out of the FOF.

In the spirit of those who have shown their real and imagined letters to Robert, I thought I’d share a real one from 1994. I heard through reliable sources that Robert actually read it, and commented to someone near him that “Charles doesn’t believe in Influence C any more.” That apparently was all he said about it.

So, if you are wondering if Robert ever was confronted directly on his s**t, he was. The results speak for themselves.

I’m very happily living my life in the glorious world with excellent friends and family. I would never want to be in the clutches of the FOF ever again
October 1994

Robert Burton
Oregon House, California

Dear Robert,

Many of my friends are leaving the Fellowship right now, and many blame you for deceiving them. I tend to think that you may be equally deceived. I think that you, as a result of your experience with Alex Horn, may be subject to a personality formed in you that has dominated your psychology ever since.

For the last six months I have been seriously studying the current literature on cults and cult related psychology. The conclusion I have reached is that the Fellowship is, in fact, a cult — just like so many other cults. You are cast in the role of “cult leader,” and your behavior parallels other cult leaders to a surprising degree.

I think the so-called “verifications of C-Influence” are not verifications at all.

The “shocks” that we all see are real and have been known to people since the earliest times; Carl Jung called them “synchronicity” or the meaningful coincidence of two or more events. However, your interpretations of them (validating your claims) , the assumption that only Fellowship people receive them (the “chosen people”), attributing the cause to 44 former humans seen only by you — these things I contend are not real, but rather are fantasies. Fantasies generally satisfy an underlying psychological need and that, I think, is the case for all of us who have been involved with the Fellowship, including you, and maybe particularly you.

The fantasy related to your predictions has the potential to be really pernicious.

Robert, the world-wide economic collapse you predicted never happened! Please don’t believe it did, and please don’t change your story to say that you predicted a stock market crash — you predicted a crippling global depression. As for the fall of California … well, it’s absurd. Give it up. The moving of your most psychologically dependent followers to Oregon House, the closing in and isolation it will lead to, the already present armed guards — I think these things are a sign of paranoia.

I am abandoning the fantasy, and I recommend that you do, too. I recommend that you turn your considerable intelligence to studying this cult psychology phenomenon. If you are honest with yourself I think you will find that the shoe fits.

For your sake, and for the sake of those following you, please give up your messianic role, disband the Fellowship, send away your followers, and become an ordinary human again. It’s not too late. Please do it.


Charles R.

Sunday, October 23, 1994

Phone call from Robert Burton to James Battaglia, and James' written response

"Just remember I am a conscious being and Richard
is an unconscious being. Richard is lying through his teeth,
and he set me up. Richard is a wolf in sheep’s clothing
and I fell for the setup." (Photo source)

Posted by Ames Gilbert on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion Blog:
Some more history…

After Richard Buzbee (school name, Richard Laurel) distributed his letter telling of his sexual encounter with Burton and how he discovered his son Troy had been having sexual relationship with Burton (beginning when Troy was underage), Burton called quite a few students to ‘try to quell the flames’. Here is one of those conversation, verbatim.

Phone call from Robert Burton to James Battaglia, October 23, 1994

R. Hello James, how’s your liver? Are you feeling well?

J. I’m fine, Robert, and it was a kidney transplant that I had.

R. Yes, that’s right. Are you disturbed by this Richard Buzbee incident? I understand you left the meeting in protest.

J. Let me explain the scenario. I had been standing for an hour and you know my physical condition. It was two minutes to eight o’clock and there were about a hundred cars at the Town Hall. Why do you think I left?

R. To beat the traffic!

J. That’s right. If I was protesting this meeting, I’d do it verbally.

R. I don’t want the meeting to be an arena to discuss my sexual life and I allowed it to happen. C Influence wants me to be a homosexual and have sex with my students so that I may have humility. It’s a beautiful experience for myself and my students. I’m very loving and careful with them. The morality of the ark will not be based on Judeo-Christian principles.

J. What will it be based on?

R. I don’t know yet.

J. I’d like to ask you some questions concerning this matter about Richard. Are you open to that?

R. Yes.

J. Did Richard consent to having sex with you?

R. I’m over fifty and not a strong man. Richard lifted his buttocks up so that I could remove his pants. After we were through, he said that it was beautiful.

J. Had you had sex with him previously?

R. We had laid naked together in the other (Ethan’s) house and I fondled him. My students willingly have sex with me, I don’t force anyone.

J. I’ve talked with Richard myself and I feel that I have a good understanding of his experience.

R. Just remember I am a conscious being and Richard is an unconscious being. Richard is lying through his teeth, and he set me up. Richard is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and I fell for the setup.

J. I’m not conscious and I can’t verify if you are conscious. The system tells me that the lower cannot see the higher.

R. I am the brightest light in two thousand years.

J. I can’t verify that.

R. Have you verified C Influence?

J. Yes.

R. Well, the reason you’re able to do that is because I am a conscious being. Do you remember when I sent the car for you?

J. What do you mean?

R. I have to make about five hundred decisions a week. That I was able to send a car for you to pick you up at the hospital was an act of a conscious being. It’s the little things that matter.

R. Robert, I don’t see how that allows me to verify that you are conscious. Are acts of kindness an indicator of consciousness?

R. You don’t sound like you are coming from the king of hearts, more from your king of clubs.

J. I’m glad you brought up the king of clubs. It seems like you have a big identification with things pertaining to the king of clubs. What do you think is the right work of the king of clubs?

R. Gurdjieff says the king of clubs is the beast of the jungle, it protects the machine from harm. It lives in the jungle.

J. Then it seems to me a necessary part to recognize and understand. Yet you have an aversion to king of clubs things like holistic healing, hands-on healing, etcetera.

R. (vague response)

J. Robert, the only thing important to me is to keep my ears and eyes open and try to be in the moment. This moment. Talking to you is the most important thing happening. It helps me see the truth. That’s why I came to this school; I felt it was a bastion of truth. In time, though, I’ve found that most students don’t want to face the truth. Whenever I make an observation, the general response is that I’m being negative or that I’m losing the school. I see fear and feminine dominance as tools to keep students in control, I don’t have any fear of losing the school. I just need to be in the moment and if C Influence takes me out, so be it. Being in the moment is all that’s important to me.

R. That’s not enough.

J. What do you mean, not enough? That’s what you’ve been preaching all these years, self-remembering. What more is there?

R. You have to be concerned with your future.

J. What?!

R. You have to be concerned with YOUR future.

J. I’m concerned with the moment.

R. Remember when you were thrown out of the raft?

J. Yes.

R. C Influence can shake you out of the school just the same.

J. Robert, again let me say all I can do is keep my eyes and ears open and stay in the moment. That’s all that’s important to me. I don’t fear losing the school if I’m bounced out of it.

R. You have to be concerned about your future.

J. I’m only concerned with my present.

R. You have to be concerned about YOUR future (very strong emotional energy coming from Robert). Well, I’m glad that you’re o.k. about this incident. It’s fine to share this conversation with other students.

J. I won’t do that, Robert, because it would influence their thinking on this matter. I would encourage them to speak with Richard and you to form their own opinions. Are you open to them calling you?

R. Yes. Well, there’s a wedding here today and I have things to do.

J. Let’s keep the channels of communication open, Robert, and thanks for calling.

R. Goodbye, dear.

James followed up this conversation with a letter a few days later…

Dear Robert,

I appreciate you calling me and have taken time to digest the experience, and I’d like to offer you my perceptions.

My emotional center registered from your tone that you were very concerned with how I was dealing with what I’ll call the Richard Laurel incident. My action at the meeting of questioning Wayne’s angle and then leaving soon after was the catalyst for your call. I find it interesting that this was reported to you and that you acted so quickly on it. It verifies to me that you are quite active in the process of damage control over this incident with Richard and it makes me question why.

I made thorough notes of our conversation and thought about the emotional content of your voice during it. I feel that you put a lot of energy out to convince me that you are a conscious being, bordering on divinity. “The brightest light in two thousand years”, as you put it. The examples you gave to me for verification, such as my having verified C Influence because you are a conscious being and your sending me to a car to pick me up at the hospital did not penetrate as valid verifications of consciousness. I had verified C Influence before and after being in the Fellowship and I don’t see any connection with your theoretical consciousness. As to you sending a car for me and supplying rides to my doctor’s appointments at my request, I appreciate it greatly and that shows me that you were very considerate of my situation, yet I don’t know they constitute acts of consciousness. Yet I have a pretty good idea of what is not consciousness through self-observation and observing others.

As to our discussion of your sexual preferences and that C Influence wants you to be a homosexual and have sex with your students, this in unverifiable to me. Your sexuality is your business and is not a real issue with me. The issue with me and other students I’ve confided in is the possibility of you using your position as a means to gratify what appears to be a large sexual appetite. I’ve talked with students who have been your partner and their experiences have been as diverse as the individual. Some have said they were pursued quite vigorously until they succumbed, others felt it was a beautiful experience from which they gained tremendously, and others felt they were treated as an instinctive object for pleasure, then discarded. You said that your students willingly are with you and you do not influence them and this my be true. You do hold a very influential position over many and I’m sure that you realize this does affect a person’s process in responding to you. Years of observation about the type of men you have in your entourage have shown me that they are predominantly very similar in their psychologies and appear to be particularly malleable.

My final concern is that over the years it appears you have many sexual partners and that precautions for sexually transmitted diseases are not taken. I feel this is not responsible action by all parties involved and can lead to dire consequences for you and many others. Have you ever had an AIDS test and have any of your consistent partners been tested? What do you feel is your responsibility and how do you deal with this issue?

My responses and statements to you appeared to make you more defensive of your position until you photographed me as being in the king of clubs rather than the king of hearts. This appears to be a standard response by you that one is becoming instinctive if your authority is questioned. The Fourth Way, as I understand it, is a process of questioning, observing, and verification. One that does not question is asleep, in my opinion. My questioning is a step in the process to find the truth, it does not come from disrespect or judgment.

At the start of our conversation you mentioned that you had just returned from staying at a hotel, I believe it was named after Muir, and that the address was 1998 and you made a reference to the numerical significance. At the teaching dinner I attended in September, you spent a considerable amount of time talking about interpreting license plate, place names and the like. Robert, what relevance does that have towards evolution and why is it such a common topic by you to students? I searched books by Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Collins and Bennet and have not found any references to predictions. What does this information have to do with the Fourth Way and awakening? To me it appears to feed imagination. I may be wrong, so could you clarify your intent on speaking of these matters? I’d appreciate some relativity.

Robert, I feel the intention of your call was to assure me that everything is fine and as you put it, Richard was lying through his teeth, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as you stated and you fell for his setup. I don’t know why you made a particularly strong effort to convince me. I’ve been told that one of your roles is to keep students asleep as well as awaken. If this was said by you I feel that you were trying to assure me that all is well and that it’s business as usual. And you realized that I wasn’t buying it. Thus your example of being knocked out of the school felt like a strong warning to me. As I said to you, I’ve never felt as committed to my work and to supporting students as I do now. All I can do is to try to be present to the moment, keep my eyes looking and my ears listening. Trust my conscience and I’ll be shown the truth. The future will unfold as it will and I will accept it as it happens, without fear.

Robert, I appreciate all the opportunities I’ve been given to self observe and try to develop will. For our efforts and all the efforts of all students who have built and are building Renaissance/Apollo I am forever grateful. I know of no other community where I have 1901 teachers and it is something I value highly. My observations to you come from a place of caring, support and concern for what we are building and I know that you can understand and appreciate that. Let’s keep the communications open. Thank you.

With love and friendship,

(signed) James Battaglia

On the 13th November, 1994, James received his reply. He was told to leave the Fellowship, along with five others, including myself.

Historical note: “Wayne” is Wayne Mott, onetime Burton’s personal secretary (can’t remember if he was so at the time). The meeting referred to was led by Steven Dambeck, with Wayne Mott, Gunter Weninger and a couple of others (can’t find my notes right now!) up on the podium. What was notable about this ‘public’ meeting is that these folks started by freely admitting having sexual relations with Burton, and each testified that the experience was helpful for their inner work. Steven then continued the meeting on the lines of morality (with special emphasis on the inapplicability of ‘life’ morality), and steered away from any concerns about abuse of power and so on (refused to accept such questions by asking for others that suited his agenda better). A couple of days later, I responded with a letter to him that photographed him for the sleight of hand and misdirection, which I may post later.

With love to all,

[ed. - Ames Gilbert shares additional memories of his friend James Battaglia in this post dated March 19, 2009.]

Insubordination in the ranks

Jiminy Cricket's sage advice
[ed. - Timeline of events drawn from Ames Gilbert's and James Battaglia's accounts. In the days leading up to the events noted in the timeline below, Ames (among others) actively challenged Fellowship leaders. He would recall later, "I had already gathered rather more than the required three strikes…" Among his insubordinate behaviors:
  • Writing a letter to Girard questioning his rationalizations and excuses for Burton’s sex activities at the previous meeting
  • Questioning Girard’s Man #5 claim to his face
  • Warning James Tyndall–Biscoe that if he accepted Burton’s proclamation that he (JT-B) was a future Man #5 at face value, he was delusional
  • Interviewing various ‘Burton’s boys’ past and present to find out what was going on
  • Warning young men (visitors) not yet in Burton's clutches about what might be expected of them
  • Confronting Girard for his looting of the mail boxes at the lodge for subversive material
  • Copying and anonymously distributing dozens of bundles of new info, like the Samuel Sanders letter, the Sharole Manering letter, and so on ("I later learned that someone else copied these and distributed them much further"). This is the kind of stuff that Girard was searching for.
  • Actively supporting Richard Buzbee's case
  • Arguing his point of view with three of the Oregon House honchos: Peter Bishop, Laura Bishop, and Mary Carlisle
  • Publishing and distributing an "unofficial" newsletter for Oregon House members, the last issue of which came out two days before his dismissal
  • Ignoring a direction that he not attending the final meeting (below). "I was not supposed to be at that final (for me and the other five) meeting. In fact, there was a message from Peter Bishop on my machine, left about an hour before that specifically ordered me not to attend. But I ignored it, thinking I 'could have so easily missed it'."
  • Asking the wrong question at that meeting
  • Standing up at that meeting and arguing with Linda Kaplan’s directive that the subject be changed]

October 3, 1994
Richard Buzbee was "released" from the Fellowship of Friends, in punishment for sending out his letter.
October 23, 1994
Phone call from Robert Burton to James Battaglia. [Excerpt from James' written reply:]
My emotional center registered from your tone that you were very concerned with how I was dealing with what I’ll call the Richard Laurel incident. My action at the meeting of questioning Wayne’s angle and then leaving soon after was the catalyst for your call. I find it interesting that this was reported to you and that you acted so quickly on it. It verifies to me that you are quite active in the process of damage control over this incident with Richard and it makes me question why.
November 12, 1994
After distributing copies of his telephone conversation with Robert Burton, James Battaglia is told to leave the Fellowship. Fellowship of Friends meeting led by Steven Dambeck, in which he, Wayne Mott, Gunter Weninger, and others freely admitted "having sexual relations with Burton, and each testified that the experience was helpful for their inner work."
November 13, 1994
In reaction to events at the previous evening's meeting, Stephen Merryweather, Ramona Merryweather, Howard Kingston, Ames Gilbert, and Emily Gordon are told to leave the Fellowship. Cynthia Kingston is given a "leave of absence."
November 14, 1994
James Battaglia, Stephen Merryweather, Ramona Merryweather, Howard Kingston, Ames Gilbert, and Emily Gordon were removed from the Fellowship roster. (Cynthia Kingston was removed from the roster March 15, 1995.)
"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 20, 2007:
Some more history… Historical note: “Wayne” is Wayne Mott, onetime Burton’s personal secretary (can’t remember if he was so at the time). The meeting referred to was led by Steven Dambeck, with Wayne Mott, Gunter Weninger and a couple of others (can’t find my notes right now!) up on the podium. What was notable about this ‘public’ meeting is that these folks started by freely admitting having sexual relations with Burton, and each testified that the experience was helpful for their inner work. Steven then continued the meeting on the lines of morality (with special emphasis on the inapplicability of ‘life’ morality), and steered away from any concerns about abuse of power and so on (refused to accept such questions by asking for others that suited his agenda better). A couple of days later, I responded with a letter to him that photographed [a Fellowship term, an observation] him for the sleight of hand and misdirection, which I may post later. After Richard Buzbee (school name, Richard Laurel) distributed his letter telling of his sexual encounter with Burton and how he discovered his son Troy had been having sexual relationship with Burton (beginning when Troy was underage), Burton called quite a few students to ‘try to quell the flames’. Here is one of those conversation, verbatim. [ed. - See Phone call from Robert Burton to James Battaglia] On the 12th November, 1994, James received his reply. He was told to leave the Fellowship, along with five others, including myself.
[ed. - Ames Gilbert shares additional memories of his friend James Battaglia in this post dated March 19, 2009.]

Thursday, September 1, 1994

An attempt to quell rebellion

[ed. - This post is inserted into the timeline, roughly corresponding to the account's events.]

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 23, 2009:
In September 1994, [Fellowship of Friends President] Christina Bishop (as I knew her) [aka Kristina Nielsen] called me for a meeting about my activities. I suggested we meet for lunch at the Lodge, and took my tape-recorder, as was my habit in those days (I still have many tape cassettes, some of them now crumbling, from those last months).

Here is the heart of the conversation, with the numerous ‘ah’s, ‘umms’, partial sentences, interruptions, cross-talk and so forth of the actual conversation edited out.
C. “… I really want to know why you’re resisting so much. Robert has never personally harmed you, and swears that sex with Troy Buzbee was consensual and that he didn’t know he was under seventeen. So why are you pushing so hard? You’ll only have to leave, and you’ll lose everything.

A. This is pretty strange; you’re a representative of an organization that holds a central principle, “Verify everything, question everything”, and yet when I do, you react blindly to protect the organization’s identity, which in this case is Robert’s identity clothed with a few layers. So I’m not going to talk to you as a representative. I am willing to talk to you as an individual and on the basis of friendship. Do you want that?

C. Yes, I do. I’ve known you for sixteen years, and I feel that we are friends.

A. Well, I can’t say that, but there has always been that potential; we haven’t spent enough time to actualize it, that’s all. But I’ll talk to that potential. I’m acting now, publishing my newsletter, talking to people despite Robert’s demand to stop, because it’s the right thing for me to do at this time. I’m at the point where if I don’t act, my conscience will die. I’ve been burying it for sixteen years, and this is my last chance.

Look, I joined the school to develop my conscience, to learn the difference between morality as predicated by society, and my true internal guide, and I’ve found that I’ve actually joined an organization that preaches wakefulness and induces sleep. I have to take this chance, and I can no more help it than Robert can help trying to squash it. I feel I’ve woken up from a nightmare, I’m on the surface coming up for breath for the third time, and that what is happening will lead to my freedom. Robert can threaten that my soul will go to feed the moon, but he doesn’t know and can’t know. I’m taking back my power regardless of the consequences, and for me, this is being true to myself.

This is the most important thing in my life, and means more than life. It’s just the way I’m built. I can’t claim to be right, but neither can you or Robert. No one can know for me. I feel I’m a child of God, a particle of Source, and Robert has no place between me and God.

So, there it is, go and tell him that, if you dare! I honestly think he won’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about…”

I like to think that Christina appreciated this conversation (melodrama and all), but that is unknown. What I did hear is that when later she became director of the London center, she was asked for advice by a struggling student who was considering leaving the FoF. I was told that she answered that it was a matter of conscience, and that if the student’s conscience said it was better to leave, that was the correct course. This was reported to Burton, and he demanded that she and her co-director husband leave the FoF, which they did. She is dead now, but I hold her in my memory as one of the few honest, open, and decent ‘authority figures’ I knew in the FoF.

Renaissance Vineyard and Winery featured in Sunset Magazine

[ed. - This is an Internet Archive capture of the Fellowship of Friends webpage.]

The Fellowship of Friends
An international Fourth Way school
An introduction
Worldwide centres
Press archive
Further reading
Press archive
Sunset Magazine 1994
Renaissance winery As you drive north on State Highway 99 through the Sacramento Valley, rice paddies give way to farms, which in turn segue into chaparral and then the foothills of the Sierra Nevada: a region of scrub oak, pine, manzanita, redwood, and not much else. As you twist east from Marysville along State 20, civilization intrudes only in the form of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Oregon House and, a few minutes later, the incongruous clearing that marks Renaissance Vineyard & Winery.
Renaissance is the only winery in Yuba County, and the only one anywhere in which the owners, a philosophical society known as the Fellowship of Friends, invested $16 million with absolutely no need to see an immediate return. The group’s 1,900 members, most of them wealthy devotees of Russian thinkers P. D. Ouspensky and George Gurdjieff, tithe 10 percent of their annual incomes to the organization and donate labor as well. The first grapes were planted in 1976, and after 12 years a product was finally marketed. The result? Awards poured in from around the globe.
The most prestigious awards were bestowed upon Renaissance’s 1985 Special Select Late Harvest Riesling - a devastatingly good dessert nectar that Gault Millau, one of Europe’s snootier wine journals, ranked among the world’s top 10 dessert wines.
Apart from imperceptible things like the various microclimates on the 1,700-acre property, you can get some intimation of how this came about by touring the facilities. The first thing you’ll notice are the vineyards, which spiral uphill on hand-tended terraces that were carved out of granite. The winery itself is a circular concrete structure three stories tall, two of them underground. Gleaming stainless steel fermentation tanks at the uppermost level feed 2,800 handmade oak barrels below and a bottling facility below that.
Other fruits of the fellowship’s labor include a Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, which houses the largest collection of Ming Dynasty furniture outside mainland China; a 250-seat theater, where a member-run symphony and choir perform; and a restaurant. All are open to the public.
Wines are available for sale at the tasting room for $8 to $20 a bottle. The 1985 Special Select Late Harvest Riesling sells for $15. (Prices are expected to go up slightly on September 1.)
The winery is at 12585 Rice’s Crossing Road in Oregon House, a 90-minute drive from Sacramento. Free tastings and tours are at 10:30 Wednesdays through Sundays, by appointment only, and can be arranged by calling (800) 655-3277. Lunch and dinner reservations can be made by calling (916) 692-2425.
David M. Roth

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© Copyright Fellowship of Friends 1999 - All rights reserved.
RENAISSANCE VINEYARD & WINERY quietly produces one of the world’s top dessert wines from terraced slopes in the town of Oregon House.

Wednesday, August 31, 1994

Fellowship of Friends members publish With Walt Whitman in Camden

[ed. - Fellowship of Friends members edited and published the works of Horace Traubel.]


February 11, 1891-September 30, 1891


Edited by Jeanne Chapman
Robert MacIsaac
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page iv] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
[Electronic edition published with the kind permission of the Fellowship of Friends and W.L. Bentley Publishing.]
Copyright 1996 by the Fellowship of Friends, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Published by
W L Bentley - PO Box 887 - Oregon House, CA 95962
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page v] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      In 1888, Horace L. Traubel, a young political radical and aspiring writer in Camden, New Jersey, began systematically recording his daily conversations with his friend, Walt Whitman. He continued for four years, until Whitman's death in 1892, amassing a lovingly detailed record whose accuracy, fidelity, and immediacy remain unsurpassed in the history of biography. Traubel published the first three volumes before his death in 1919; the remaining volumes have appeared, one by one, at widely separated intervals. This is the penultimate volume in the series.
      Once again, we must offer our deepest gratitude to the Fellowship of Friends, Inc., and its director, Robert Earl Burton, for so generously funding the preparation and publication of this volume. It is solely Mr. Burton's recognition of the value of this neglected manuscript that has made possible the publication of the final volumes.
      We are also grateful to the many people who participated in the preparation of this manuscript. Judith Grace Bassat, Peter Bishop, Cynthia Hill, Kevin Kelleher, Leigh Morfit, Peter and Paula Ingle, Rosaline Mearns, and Alla Waite gave generously of their time and knowledge. We also thank once again the staff of the Manuscript Room at the Library of Congress and Professor Ed Folsom, editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.

Apollo, California
August 1994



Friday, July 1, 1994

Renaissance becomes "Apollo"

Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult compund at Apollo California
Official Fellowship of Friends photo

[ed. - It was around this time that the name of The Fellowship of Friends compound in Oregon House was officially changed from Renaissance to "Apollo."

In 2005, the name would be changed to "Isis", though that name would remain only briefly before the community once again became known as Apollo.]

Thursday, February 24, 1994

A personal call from Robert

"SusanT" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 25, 2007:
Hello all—
Learning about this blog reminded me that I had some detailed notes from a conversation with Robert thirteen years ago. It seems worth sharing in this wild west of free speech and truth telling. Some background: I had been in the FOF for twenty-one years when this conversation took place. My husband and I had led centers in Palo Alto, Zurich, and Rome. We spent five years in Europe. At the time of this conversation, I was recovering from cancer and couldn’t stand on FOF ceremony anymore; my voice—long absent—was waking up.
On 2/24/94 at 10:00 a.m., Robert called me at home. His call was a surprise, but there was a pad by the phone and I scribbled as we talked. Afterwards, I called my husband, Patrick, at work. “Susie”, he said, “While this is so fresh, write it all down. Word for word if you can. Years from now, you will need to know that what you did was right and good and whole. Write it down and save it. For yourself.”
It is tempting to edit this now—to make Robert seem a little stranger, me a little more confident. But I’m not going to do that. The strength of the simple truth is that everybody gets to come to their own conclusions. People who have not had a long conversation with Robert in awhile may be surprised at his inability to do anything more than repeat decades old platitudes. See for yourself if you think it is really worth paying for this: 
RB: I’ve just returned from Rome. There were many shocks this time. I missed Lea, and of course, you. We are returning to European Art, we had to study Asian art for a time so that we wouldn’t draw a blank after 2006 when all the world’s treasures come to Renaissance.
ST: I heard some details of the trip from Kristina on her way back home.
RB: Yes, we had many shocks in Milan. A student’s mother had consumed some acid in order to end her life. I said that the shock indicated that acid rain would begin falling on humanity and two days later it rained, an actual acid rain. (more talk about the student and dinners in Milan…..)
ST: I imagine that you are calling because you heard that I was thinking about leaving the school.
RB: Well, I really just called to see how you were doing and also I did hear that you were experiencing some difficulty. (mention of the Dante class, wondering if I was coming up over the weekend….)
ST: Yes, there are a number of growing conflicts in me now related to my commitment to the school.
RB: Well, what is your relationship to influence C?
ST: I believe that I have a connection to C influence now that is my own. I feel very connected to help from the gods. In this past year I have received such specific help that there is no question about it anymore.
RB: Yes, I don’t doubt that you have a connection. The thing is though that there must be three lines of work. You can’t just take, you have to give C influence something for their help.
ST: Robert, I deeply understand payment and efforts and the need to carve out an emotional life. Whether I stay or go I have to do this. But I’m not interested in all the prophesies and in the movement towards Renaissance being a closed community. It’s interesting to me that although C influence is deeply personal for you, it allows you to live in such a way that you don’t have to take any real responsibility for anything.
RB: We are not a closed community, people from Life come and go there a lot, especially to the Winery.
ST: That’s not the kind of closed I’m talking about.
RB: You are somewhat sentimental about Life. Joel is like that too. You want to believe that C influence is for everyone, but they are not. The laws are very hard. Many are called, but few are chosen. (some other quotes about Life and how they are destined to suffer…..)
 ST: You gave me that photograph the first time you met me, I’m sure it’s true to some extent, however, I’m not a fool. You talk to me as though I was a fool. It doesn’t take higher centers to see that there are descending octaves all around us.
RB: (Some acknowledgement of that….some loosening up….) Yes, humanity will suffer. Russia and the U.S. have nuclear bombs, etc…(then the story of his mother’s death, ARK KAN C, strange disconnect…..)
ST: It’s very hard for me to continue to hear these things over and over again. You have been my teacher and you have opened my heart and my mind to hundreds of new things. Now, it’s almost like the repeat of all these stories is closing my heart to you. You know, opened it at one level and now closing it at another?
RB: Yes, it is odd, isn’t it? This may be the last conversation we ever have, so I need to say everything I can. I want to feel that, as a teacher, I have done all I can. However, I like the tone of this conversation. It’s like friends talking. You are calm. I am calm.
ST: I am trying to be present and I’m experiencing no fear.
RB: Good. Fear is not self-remembering, nor is power self-remembering.
ST: I want to ask you something important and personal for me. (pause to calm myself…). If I leave the school and discover that I have made a mistake, may I return?
RB: Oh yes, of course. You can pay the re-entry fee of $1,500.00 and return. But I don’t advise it, the odds are only one in forty of staying again. It’s very very bad to lose a school..(some heavy statements about Life People about to be expunged…). When Miles left, sixty people left the school, now this, some people will lose the way, but it is necessary to prune the vine to prepare for 1998.
ST: How do you know what people do when they leave? How can you be sure that they are losers?
RB: I am an experienced teacher and I have been working half of my life with influence C. I understand these things. It’s curious that the two centers that are having the most difficulty are Marin and Palo Alto—places where people are concerned with their careers and with money. The instinctive center begins to take over.
ST: I don’t think this is about people’s instinctive centers. This is mostly an emotional process of loss of confidence in the way the school is working. I have talked to a number of students at Renaissance who would leave too, but they can’t. It’s a little like a poker game where the longer you sit at the table the more you resist folding and walking away—you have so much invested.
RB: That is a good analogy, I like it.
ST: For someone like me, it’s also hard to see that some of the people that I thinking are growing and evolving are leaving, like Molly, whereas others like Helga stay in a very narrow groove.
RB: The school is larger now than it has ever been. And our students are doing so well. Girard is doing very well. Kristina and Peter and Colin are all here.
ST: Yes, you have your ark. You will always have enough people to keep your own ark afloat. I don’t know if it’s my ark anymore.
RB:(Becoming defensive) When you are offered a life boat, you don’t question the color of the raft.
ST: I want to change the subject as long as you have called me and I am very appreciative of the call. I wondered if you’d tell me what you see in me—I mean changes that you see after twenty years with you? This is such an emotional and positive time for me. This past year was the best and the worst of my life.
RB: Oh really? What happened?
ST: You did call me after surgery, remember? I had cancer. You called me in the hospital. (really flustered….can’t believe he forgot….)
RB: I see. Well I’ve lost many of my women students to breast cancer. The last time I saw you…(struggling to answer my question….), you looked healthy, seemed emotionally good and balanced, if anything I would say that maybe you seemed a bit, you know, too successful. Maybe too much A influence.
ST: (Laughter….couldn’t help it….) Well, they took that all away pretty quick, so I’m not nearly so successful anymore. And it wasn’t breast cancer. Well anyway Robert, we pay all our teaching payments in advance, so if I have a re-entry fee, I’ll have a big credit.
RB: (Very surprised) You mean that you are still paying? So even though you don’t go to meetings now, you are still paying? Well, I didn’t realize that, that’s good then.
ST: Yes, you see, it’s not the instinctive center. There’s something else I want to ask you. I haven’t said that I’m leaving yet. This is not a trivial inquiry for me. Please let me do this in my own time.
RB: No one is pushing you out dear.
ST: No, but you have established an attitude about people leaving the school permeates throughout.
RB: I used to make jokes, but then I asked myself if that was necessary. Now I don’t talk about my former students, I just say that they have lost the way and that the instinctive center has won and….(more of the same.)
ST: This is what I mean. You have set the tone. It all comes from you. Robert, you may be able to keep more of your more mature people if you disallow this kind of talk about those who move on. This is just one thing, there are lots of things like that.
RB: Well goodness, I am running out of steam.
ST: I am too. Thank you for calling.
RB: Goodbye dear.
ST: Bye.
Following this phone call, Robert told people, “Susan T. has left the school.” I didn’t get to do it in my own time because my friends wouldn’t speak with me.
Only Abraham G. called. He huffed and puffed and said I was fomenting rebellion; a junta. A junta?? I am not making this up.
Old friends, if any of you are wondering how you will ever survive leaving, you won’t know how strong you are until you do. There may be hard days; how does a person prepare for being “expunged?” But you’ll probably be okay. If you are like me, you’ll have the best days of your life. What is on the line is integrity, that and maybe some real unconditional love, if you are lucky.
I wish you all that and more.
See you down the road,