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 an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws on official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Sunday, October 23, 1994

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.]

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