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.

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,