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.