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, June 15, 1996

Renaissance Commitment is Evident in Their Wines

There may be no other vineyard in America as spectacular as Renaissance in northern California.

From Gold Medal Wine Club Newsletter, Vol. 6 No. 6, June 1996:
“If there is a more remarkable vineyard in California, I did not see it.” Those were the words carefully chosen by James Halliday the author of Wine Atlas of California, to describe the Renaissance Vineyard. Located in the rugged countryside of North Yuba County, California, Renaissance Vineyard indeed stands alone in many respects. Its first distinction is that there are no other vineyards in the very small North Yuba appellation. Secondly, with 365 acres of vines, it is the largest mountain winery in North America. And, as if its unusual location and size were not enough, there is another unique aspect to the Renaissance tale—it is owned and operated not by a single family or by a traditional corporation. Rather it was founded by a philosophical group called the Fellowship of Friends. It is the Fellowship’s aesthetic ideals and beliefs that led to the creation of the vineyard in 1974 and continues to guide its direction today.

If a commitment to the traditional artistry of winemaking fueled the vision of Renaissance, two prominent figures, Karl Werner and Grant Ramey, helped turn the vision into a reality. Werner who came from a prominent winemaking family in Germany, took the reins as winemaker. Ramey, born and raised in nearby Yuba City became the vineyard manager. In the very beginning Ramey had serious doubts that viticulture was even possible at the Renaissance site. It was an understandable concern given the property’s 500-foot changes in elevation, with 40 degree slopes reaching altitudes of 2,300 feet. But during several trips to famous mountain wine regions of Europe, Werner (who helped rebuild Schloss Vollrads after World War II, and was a consultant for wineries around the world before devoting himself to the Renaissance project), educated Ramey about the achievements of other notable mountain vineyards such as those on the steep mountainsides of the Mosel in Germany. “Karl showed us what could be done—with ‘blood, sweat and tear’ as he used to chime—on steep land with marginal climates,” Ramey recalls.

Indeed it took great perseverance and dedication to transform the rocky mountainsides into a world-class vineyard. To begin, the fellowship members cleared the original oak, pine and dense manzanita by hand. Clearing was followed by ripping and raking with caterpillars, dynamiting and constructing over 100 miles of horizontal terraces with pipelines every 500 feet. Then Fellowship members drilled holes into the hard ground for trellis posts and rootings, added composting and planted 135,000 vines. Planting was completed in 1983 and the first releases came in 1988. At that time Renaissance focused on just three estate grown varietals: Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Under Karl’s experienced hand their first efforts captured instant acclaim with the vintage 1985 Late Harvest Riesling being ranked as the finest Riesling in the World, in a prestigious international competition.

Their early success was not only a tribute to the quality of the grapes and Karl’s prowess as a winemaker, but it validated some of the pioneering methods used by the Renaissance team. For example, Renaissance was among the first California vineyards to install a drip irrigation system which is now standard for premium producers.

The joy of Werner’s early Renaissance success unfortunately ended abruptly with his death in 1988 and the winemaking torch was passed to his wife Diana. For the next five years with help from Ramey and assistant Gideon Beinstock, Diana continued the success that Karl had set in motion. Development in the vineyard and winery continued as did construction of a restaurant, museum, and beautifully manicured gardens and rolling meadows, making the grounds a showcase for the thousands of guests and members who visit each year.

Distinguished by its gleaming white exterior, the winery was designed to sit like a jewel on its hilltop, vines above and below. Circular in shape, it was built on three levels, relying largely on gravity flow. The crushing and fermentation area on the upper level, serving three concentric rings of gleaming stainless steel fermenters. The 2,800+ barrels, principally of white German oak, are on the next level, while the bottom level houses the bottling line and vast bottle storage facilities.

In 1993, Gideon Beinstock (a French-Israeli winemaker), was already starting to help steer the winery in an exciting new direction. He began by “finishing” the 1991 Cabernet, blending Renaissance’s traditionally single varietal Cabernet with 4 percent Merlot and making other minor alterations. The result was a Gold Medal at the 1995 VINEXPO wine competition. Wine author and columnist Matt Kramer called it one of the year’s best Cabernets.
By the time Beinstock was officially named winemaker in 1994, the winery was well on the way to international notoriety. Since 1994, Beinstock has continued to mold and shape Renaissance wines in a European fashion. It was a style he learned during the 1980’s when he roamed the vineyards of France and was influenced by wine experts such as Stephen Spurrier (Academie du Vin, Paris) and Maggie McNie, MW (Masters of Wine Program, London). “My first love was definitely French wines” ,says Beinstock.

As the vineyard has matured and changed, Renaissance has continued to broaden its selection of wines. Today in addition to offering their original varietals, they are increasingly emphasizing Chardonnay and Merlot. Some wines are bottled under the Renaissance label while others are part of their second label called “DaVinci.” Plans are also under way to add other varietals as early as 1998, including Viognier, Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Sangiovese.

With all the progress and positive changes over the years, there are still some Renaissance traditions that seem as set in stone as their vines. According to Ramey and Beinstock the grapes will continue to be hand picked, with the picking often cluster-selective, and the grapes arriving at the winery minutes after picking. They will also continue the vineyard as pesticide-free and all grapes will continue to be estate grown with yields remaining low to insure the highest quality fruit.

There is perhaps no other vineyard in North America as unique and stunning as Renaissance. The enormity of the project, the undaunted level of commitment and energy brought to the task, let alone the sheer expense to build it is unparalleled. Indeed it is safe to say that no commercially motivated group would have deemed the project feasible. But at Renaissance, money was never an issue. Entirely funded by the Fellowship members, the entire project is paid for and the contributors expect no monetary pay back. It is that rare commitment and focus to achieve that transcends into the quality of Renaissance wines.

The Fellowship of Friends

What would you call an eclectic group of individuals drawn from the distant corners of the earth to Northern California to grow grapes, make wine and nurture a love of the arts’ Dreamers’, Artists’ Entrepreneurs’ How about all of the above’ They call themselves the Fellowship of Friends and they are the force behind the tremendous success of Renaissance Winery and Vineyard.

Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960’s [ed. - 1970] by Robert Burton, the group is made up of approximately two thousand individuals from all over the globe (about a third live near the winery), who share a common philosophical view of life. The Fellowship was originally inspired by two early-twentieth century Russian philosophers, G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky,. At the root of their beliefs lies the assumption that man achieves his spiritual potential only through continual self-awareness and discipline, and that art is essential to the pursuit of higher consciousness.

As a manifestation of their beliefs, the Fellowship indulges in the theater and arts which are an integral part of life. All of us have talents and abilities which our normal life patterns and occupations suppress, they believe but which should be developed. Exercising these talents and abilities contribute to a person’s whole being. Each year at the winery, members of the Fellowship put on numerous voice recitals, several classical theater productions, and one major opera. They even have a complete orchestra and full time conductor comprised entirely of Fellowship members. This collective undertaking in the theater and arts creates a practical expression of their Fellowship-of-Friends philosophy.

Again, the Fellowship is a practical philosophy, not a religion, for in fact, its members are from all different kinds of traditional religious denominations. Members come from all walks of life and all kinds of careers including, lawyers, doctors and other professions. The appeal is a little bit different for everyone but the philosophy is the common link.

While the original group had a uniquely Eastern outlook and cultural bent, the modern Fellowship of Friends as it exists today is decidedly Western in nature. In 1970 [ed. - actually several years later] the Fellowship decided to create a winery. To them growing vineyards and making wine symbolizes a way of life, yet another collective undertaking and expression of their ideals and beliefs. Their commitment to Renaissance (meaning rebirth) took the form of both hard labor and great financial support. So far, the vineyard and winery development has cost a whopping $16 million dollars. Members of the group contribute 10% of their gross incomes to the Fellowship. But the Fellowship is not simply a sponge soaking up income. There is an expectation, though not an absolute obligation, that members will spend up to one month a year in the active service of the aims of the Fellowship. For most Fellowship members those aims in large part have been targeted at creating a world class vineyard and winery. Working together they have accomplished much. They began by hand clearing 1,400 acres of forested mountain property in northern Yuba County, California near the small town of Oregon House. It took four years for the terraces to start to take shape, with granite boulders blocking the path at every turn. Planting commenced in 1975, and today there are 365 acres of vines planted, yielding about two tons or less per acre. While the terraces were being built the Friends were allowed to stay on the estate, principally in an up-scale caravan park. As the work was completed many of the members stayed on and purchased homes and created businesses in the area.

One of the early driving forces behind the vineyard and winery project was Karl Werner. Karl was a former Winemaster at Schloss Vollrads, consultant to Mondavi Winery and founding winemaker at Callaway Winery. He was retained from the outset to guide and shape the style of the wines and at his side was Grant Ramey who managed the vineyard. Between the two men, Renaissance got off to a fast start, winning its share of domestic and international Gold Medals and other prestigious awards.

Today the Gold Medal tradition is being carried on by winemaker Gideon Beinstock. Under Gideon the winery currently produces about 30,000 cases a year and the Renaissance team has plans to increase production to 50,000 cases by the end of the century.

In addition to their dedication to winemaking the Friends also use the winery and vineyard estate for pursuing and highlighting other artistic and culinary talents. They have completed a 300 seat auditorium in which members participate in regularly held concerts, dramatic presentations and operas. Also, on-site visitors can enjoy the tasting room, a restaurant (available to all visitors and run by a noted professional restaurateur) and a museum which up until recently housed one of the world’s finest collections of Ming dynasty art, artifacts and furniture said to be worth $6-$8 million.

When members aren’t honing their artistic skills, many come to participate in the grape harvest. In most years the entire crop is picked by Fellowship members who journey from around the world to participate in the ritual. It is a lifestyle that seems to breed great contentment among the members and certainly generates great results from their wines.

Saturday, June 1, 1996

The Fellowship enlists Scientology's private investigator to intimidate former members

[ed. - Ex-L.A.P.D. cop and private investigator Eugene Ingram, was employed by  L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology for decades, often being dispatched to intimidate its enemies. In the mid-1990s, The Fellowship of Friends hired Ingram to similarly harass and threaten those involved in the cult's own investigation.]

Eugene Ingram PI
"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 1, 2007:
To: Clara Helena Haven (#124)[blogger]

Please get a lawyer to give you general advice before you make any threats to the FOF, however subtle or unsubtle. You need to protect yourself in the visible world as well as the invisible world. Do not make the mistake of thinking Abraham Goldman is the mild, gentle man he projects himself as to so many. When it comes to protecting the Fellowship, he is to Burton as Karl Rove is to Bush—utterly and completely ruthless, and completely without conscience. For him, ANY means justifies the end. He has huge resources behind him, and can easily tie you up in expensive litigation; you might ‘win’ in the end, but you may also be bankrupt. Remember, this country may have quite a different legal system to the one you are used to. For example, in most cases, parties to litigation usually pay their own fees. That means, even if you ‘win’, you are unlikely to get back the costs of defending yourself, at $200 or more an hour, court costs, deposition fees, and innumerable more expenses, not to mention your own time.

I’m not trying to frighten you. I’m not a lawyer, I’m advising you to talk to one before you go too far on your own. I personally know how Goldman works. For example, he sent an employee of the Church of Scientology, an ‘investigator’ called Ingram, to threaten me and my family with harm if I did not help the FOF by withdrawing my help for Troy Buzbee. The sleazy Ingram at that time was wanted in two states for his abusive investigations. Ingram also went to Troy Buzbee’s mother (who knew nothing of the case) and revealed what was going on—not to obtain information (she had none), but to use her horror and dismay as a weapon against Troy. That is the kind of person Abraham Goldman is, behind the soft smile and the ‘harmless’ act.

Another piece of ‘non-lawyerly’ advice: document everything, from now on. Make copies of everything you have that is pertinent to your aims, and put them in the hands of people you trust (and at least one copy abroad, beyond the jurisdiction of a United States court). Do not let Goldman defeat you with a ‘gag order’.

I wish you well.


Ames Gilbert

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 30, 2009:
For the sake of completeness, I’m adding the rest of the correspondence between Abe and myself to the post I made on the last page (#74-232). I say ‘the rest’ because Abraham has stopped talking to me for now; maybe he’ll continue in the future. (This round of correspondence started when I called him June 24th to verify that the e-mail he sent to Godlike Productions was true, complete and correct. He said several times he’d send me a copy, which he hasn’t done so far).

In Abraham’s e-mail, he wrote the words [Abraham Goldman] himself as he inserted his answers into my letter to him, to make the reading easier. Thanks, Abe.

On Jun 24, 2009, at 5:08 PM, Abraham Goldman wrote:

Dear Ames:

In years past, we were friends, and I don’t recall us ever having any negative feelings for each other. I really don’t want to go down that slippery slope, with you, or with anyone, for any reason.

I really don’t take personally all of the blame and negativity thrown at me on the blog and other sites. It would take lifetimes.

I don’t have much time left before leaving the office today, so I will get back to you at more length tomorrow.

Please see a few comments below so you can see at least I did have time to read your letter, even if quickly.


From: Ames Gilbert Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 4:02 PM
To: Abraham Goldman
Subject: Re: Ames Gilbert’s e-mail address

[Ames Gilbert] Abe, I guess you’re kidding, right, about the rights of folks to communicate with their lawyers?

[Abraham Goldman] Not at all. I spent most of the last 32 years fighting for underdogs who had already been turned away by other lawyers.

[Ames Gilbert] You’d more profitably spend your time, in my opinion, asking President Obama why he continues to support, and indeed expand on, the Bush doctrine of the infallible, unaccountable presidency which apparently has the right to lock anyone (U.S. citizen or no) away without recourse or representation, indefinitely.

[Abraham Goldman] I agree with this 100% if he is still allowing it.

[Ames Gilbert] My research indicates that the government also believes it has an absolute right to listen in on anyone’s telephone and e-mail conversations, without even the minimal fig-leaf of FISA.

[Abraham Goldman] Ditto.

[Ames Gilbert] Getting down to your role as the Fellowship of Friends lawyer, you know and I know that you, the Board of the Fellowship of Friends, and the senior Council members believe that all followers have a higher duty to whatever Burton decides than to the law of the land, let alone conscience. This is why you continue to defend and protect the illegal acts that have been a central part of the history of the FoF for almost as long as it has existed.

[Abraham Goldman] I joined 1979; started legal work about 1981. Carl Mautz did all the work before that. If you ask Carl if he has a ethical duty to protect privilege, I think he will say yes.

[Ames Gilbert] I myself have heard Burton claim he is representative of some higher morality and that he is not subject to the laws the rest of us labor under, man-made or physical. You believe (or pretend to believe) exactly that, and certainly your actions are not those of a free, independent legal professional who follows his conscience, then the law of the land, then the interests of his client, in that order.

[Abraham Goldman] This sentence has about 6 parts: too many to reply to all at once. I have my own view of Robert, which anyone can share or disagree with.

[Ames Gilbert] I’ve looked closely (!) at the Wikileaks article, and I can see no words there that indicate that I posted the letter to their site. It just uses my name and telephone number as a contact. I can’t even find a way to communicate to them that I’d like my name removed. So, like the letter itself, my name is ‘out there’ for the time being. Tough luck for you, tough luck for me!

[Abraham Goldman] If you had no connection to it, we will talk further.

[Ames Gilbert] Look, Abraham, the posting to the Fellowship of Friends Discussion Blog came as complete a surprise to me as it (probably) came to you. You and David Springfield are probably cursing Black Marker, whoever he/she is; I am blessing him/her. The letter seemed truthful and sincere. I have no way of verifying that, but the circumstances, wording, and my general knowledge of how the FoF and Burton works made it seem more likely than not that it was true.

[Abraham Goldman] Like I said before, Ames, the issue for me is the privilege between attorney and client. WordPress took this seriously. So did the Archives. The Godlike people seem to like to fight. I just believe, and the whole legal system, opposed to anarchy & tyranny, rests on a layperson’s right to talk to a lawyer when needed. It’s the same as spousal communications and other privileges.

[Ames Gilbert] You and I and a host of others know that the general gist and particular infractions the author listed are TRUE. The more you fight to cover it up, the more threats you make (and I’m not referring to just this letter, Abe, as you know), the more credence people are going to give to the whole affair. In your letter to the Godlike Productions website, you practically admit that the contents of the letter are true and valid. In your dubious claims (in my personal opinion, but then I’m no lawyer) of client-attorney privilege, you practically admit it. In the court of public opinion, you have admitted it. Because the claims made in the letter are, as you well know, grounded in fact; all you have left to do is defend the reputation of the Fellowship. Nothing can change the TRUTH, the facts of the case, but you can try to change public (and intra-Fellowship) perceptions of the truth. But, Abe, you are not succeeding, not by a mile, with the course you have chosen to take.

[Abraham Goldman] I did not write the letter. Right now, I am defending the right of clients and lawyers to personal confidentiality. There is too much other ground you cover above, so it will need to wait.

[Ames Gilbert] If you can find a way for me to communicate with the editors/organizers of Wikileaks on this subject, I’d be happy to ask them to remove my name. I sure don’t want to attract the fate of Thomas Becket after the Maximum Leader of his time, Henry II (who also claimed to be anointed by God,) asked rhetorically, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"

[Abraham Goldman] Well, history, or at least T.S. Elliott, gave Becket the better of the deal, yes? And Henry lost France eventually, and didn’t exactly have a happy family life.

[Ames Gilbert] More to the point, I am also trying to communicate with the Wikileaks people. We certainly agree that is not easy. I will be happy to add to my efforts that you want to have your name removed, and share with you on that.

Who made you the lucky one in the first place? Maybe they can get their own post withdrawn? I wish you well,

[Abraham Goldman] And I you, Ames.


Ames’ reply June 26, 2009:

Hello Abe,

thank you for taking the time to comment on parts of my letter.

I agree with you that confidentiality of client/attorney communications should be sacrosanct– unless the client and attorney are engaged in a criminal enterprise or engaged in covering up evidence of a criminal enterprise.

I support any efforts you make to protect client/attorney relations, except for the above.

I point out again that the government disregards safeguards for privileged communications pretty much as it darn well pleases, and that our lawmakers and the U.S. public appear to support them–except when such disregard effects them personally. Efforts to change that are worthy, in my opinion.

I don’t have any negative feelings for you, though I don’t recall us being particular friends; what little friendship there was disappeared the moment you sent Ingram, the Scientology ‘investigator’, to threaten my family. There were many people in the Fellowship who I had nodding acquaintances with, but few that were deep friends, and they have all left. Nevertheless, I feel that I contributed to some members staying far longer than they should, and so I try to make amends.

I believe that the Fellowship of Friends is based on spiritual and economic fraud, and that this emanates from the center, Robert Burton. He believes, as do most of the followers, that he is exceptional. This exceptionalism leads him to act outside the law, and to cause others to act outside the law; hence the dereliction of duties by the Board of Directors, the inurement, the tax-avoidance and income sheltering schemes, the misuse of visas, and so on.

I believe that one of my civic duties is to help expose crime if I’m made aware of it; that not doing so implicates me in the crime as a knowing accessory to that crime. The law of the land suggests the same. I believe that the same duties apply to any attorney, even the attorney for an exceptionalist like Burton. Apparently, this is the core of any disagreement we may have. You appear to believe that any ends justifies the means of protecting Burton and other officers, I believe that the means shape the end.

Abe, you are entering the final phases of your life, as I am, as Burton is. What legacy do you want to leave for your children? Again, I wish you well,


P.S., you mention the client/attorney relationship many times. In the letter to Godlike Productions (which you promised to cc to me, by the way), who is your client?

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 30, 2009:
Just the Facts Ma’am (#75-14 or thereabouts)[blogger and post number], thanks.

I had to go to the link to verify the ‘Amount Demanded’. No typo, it really is 350 million dollars! (Did Burton himself suggest that brobdingnagian figure?) However, it appears that all the on-line documents are password–protected. Does anyone happen to know: if I go in person to the courthouse in Sacramento, will I be able to view any documents that are a matter of public record, and better still, make copies? I just have a strong feeling that the “David Springfield Letter” is, as of this moment, on public record, and that Abraham Goldman has been, and is, “snowing” us all the while.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 3, 2011:
The conflicted opinions about Abraham Goldman reflect my own. On the one hand, I found it unforgiveable that he would sic the revolting Scientology ‘investigator’ called Ingram onto me, in an effort to dissuade me from supporting the T__y Buzbee lawsuit. Ingram was the one who threatened me during one of our two meetings, “You wouldn’t want something bad to happen to your wife and child, would you?” And Goldman also sent Ingram to hassle Troy’s birth mother, who until that time had absolutely no idea what was going on in her son’s life; this purely to put pressure on Troy and make him yield. At the time, this Ingram excrescence was wanted in two states to answer for his abusive investigations.

Goldman worked for years as the principal lawyer for the Fellowship of Friends; during this time he not only worked on the ‘fireworks’, lawsuits and such, but also the ‘bread and butter’. That is, he actively guided the organization, advised the Board of Directors, and supported their malfeasance. According to the ‘David Springfield letter’, he knew of the improper relationship between the Board and Burton, and condoned it by commission or omission.

So the impression I got was that when it came to protecting Burton or the Fellowship of Friends, he was completely ruthless and without conscience.

Goldman was also disciplined by the state licensing authority, and had his ability to practice law limited for a period of time.

On the other hand, outside the role of lawyer, he seemed to be a mild and gentle man, but our personal relationship was confined to nodding when we passed each other. From the time I first met him (1981, I think), he seemed fragile, and later on it was apparent his health was deteriorating. The last time I saw him a couple of years ago, as he was shopping in the locality, he looked gray, worn-out and completely exhausted.
I can’t imagine the pain, physical or psychological that would drive one to suicide, but obviously he could not bear it, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I feel very sorry for the family he left behind, especially his children.

Sallymcnally, you have mentioned twice that he was deeply conflicted. Can you tell us something about these conflicts without disclosing information that should remain private, or which will identify you?

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 5, 2011:

Renald (#106-149 or thereabouts)[blogger and post number],

You have the correct timeline, but I don’t think Linda was ‘gunning for me’, in fact I think that if she had known I was banned from meetings she would not have called on me to speak (I only found out myself twenty minutes before via Peter Bishop, but decided to disregard the order and see what happened).
X-Ray (106-#148 or thereabouts),

I actually had very little to do with the case. I offered my support, and made that publicly known. I gave some money. Ford Greene asked me to write a brief account of my time in the Fellowship with a summary of recent events, which I did. That was it. Anyway, AG sent me a subpoena demanding everything including the kitchen sink, which was delivered by Ingram, led by someone from the Goldman office. The second time, Ingram found his own way. My understanding is that Goldman got together with the Church of Scientology because Ford Greene had been one of the few people who won a case against that organization, and they found common cause. The Scientologists lent one of their top ‘persuaders’, the odious Ingram. The meetings were very intense for me because I was torn. I wanted to be physically violent, wanted to protect my family, but my wife was clinging to me, begging me to see reason, I was also angry with her for what I perceived as cowardice, I realized Ingram could be armed (he appeared to be wearing an underarm holster), all these things going on at the same time. Very intense.

When Abraham Goldman subpoenaed me in 1996 to get documents relating to the Troy Buzbee case, I enclosed this letter with the material he requested.

21 October 1996


One final appeal to your conscience. As the person best equipped in the Fellowship to bring the reign of madness of Burton to an end, you must act to do so. You are the only one with complete access to the information, to all the evidence accumulated through the years, and you have been Burton’s confidante for all these many years.

Please think back to when you joined the Fellowship. Surely, if you had by a miracle been given the knowledge of knowing then what you know now, you would have turned away. It cannot have been your ambition to end up catering to a charlatan and a pervert, covering for his mistakes and predations, wearying yourself to the bone with lies to cover his omissions and commissions? Surely you imagined a life of openness, not lies? Surely you imagined a life among true friends into whose eyes you could look with joy and honesty, knowing they could see the same in yours? Surely you did not imagine a life where your final defense against your own conscience would be, “I was only following orders”? Please, wake up and follow your conscience. Do not be afraid. There is so much love and help and forgiveness—if you wish. Face up to your responsibility. You could help so many people by telling the truth, now. You could save so many people so much heartache in the future. But, best of all, you could be helping yourself. You must have lain awake many nights struggling with the latest revelations of the day about Burton, and your heart must have ached to be in a place where none of this had anything to do with you. Such a place exists, both psychologically and physically. Look within. Act and forgive yourself, as all others with a good heart already have. Nothing can take away your responsibility for your past actions; you must face up to them yourself, but there is all the help you need if you ask for it.

You can make your life exactly as you wish it. You have done so until now, and will do so in the future. It is your gift from God, to do with as you please. If you wish to continue as you have done—thy will be done. If you wish to break away from this mess—thy will be done. It is up to you.

Know, that even if I personally am sometimes angry about the situation, I am not angry with you. You have your lessons to learn, and you have chosen your path. But, know that I believe you are strong enough to create joyful changes, if you wish. I send you loving wishes and encouragement.

(signed) Ames Gilbert

It is pretty sad to go to Abraham Goldman’s Facebook page (link above, #108) and see his face. Not the face of a happy man. It is sadder to see that he had 404 friends. Four hundred and four friends–and no one to turn to when he needed help most. Like most of us, he was probably at heart a decent man, but a weak one. His weaknesses led him to some bad decisions, one of the worst being to put his trust in Burton and essentially hand over not only his will, but his conscience to a hasnamuss of the fourth kind. The same Burton who said, “Conscience is a collection of subjective I’s. If a student accumulates too much material there, he should leave the school.”


A.R. Orage—anger and hatred are negative emotions only when they are misdirected. Never fear to hate the odious.

"elena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 19, 2008:
 Is anyone here familiar with Eugene Ingram being hired by Fellowship of Friends to go around to the ex-FoF homes for intimidation purposes?

Would appreciate any lead into this.

"xeeena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 19, 2008:

Looks like Ingram has a history of intimidation and ties to Scientology.

"xeeena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 19, 2008:
Another Ingram link.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 20, 2008:
Ingram was definitely poking around Oregon House in the mid 1990s. @ that time I was informed that he had sought out St_____ M-rriw____r.

[ed. - The following shows Mr. Ingram and Scientology's involvement in harassing attorney Ford Greene, who has been involved in the Troy Buzbee lawsuit.]
Sign of the Cult-Buster

San Francisco Weekly, Wednesday, October 5, 2005
By Ron Russell

Anti-cult crusader Ford Greene and the town of San Anselmo are staging a nasty public fight over Greene's strident anti-Bush political signs. But is that an old religious enemy we see behind the curtain?

Maybe it was "Defy Evil Bushism" or "Christmas Is No Fun in Fallujah." Or it may have been one of the other not-so-subtle references to President George W. Bush posted on the sign next to his law office; perhaps "Vote the Thug Out." Or was it the sight of the American flag suspended upside down from that same sign, in protest of the outcome of last November's election?

Ford Greene isn't quite sure what sent his opponents over the edge with respect to the giant marquee that hangs from the side of his two-story combination law office and residence along busy Sir Frances Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo. His "Freedom Sign," as he refers to it, has been there for more than a year. Every few weeks, or whenever the spirit moves him, Greene rearranges the moveable lettering to vent his liberal spleen.

Who knew that a few conservative zealots would take offense? Or that the town's elected officials, citing an obscure law, would move to power down the attorney and self-proclaimed anti-cult crusader's public musings? A showdown looms later this month, with Greene, who has already gone to court to protect the sign, threatening to do so again.

It's a minor brouhaha that wouldn't ordinarily garner attention beyond the borders of the affluent Marin County community in which it's playing out. Except that, in their campaign against the controversial cult-busting lawyer's Freedom Sign, Greene's opponents appear to have received some unsolicited help from someone who seems to have some kind of connection to the Church of Scientology.

An outspoken ex-Moonie-turned-cult-deprogrammer-turned-lawyer, Ford Greene has cultivated a reputation that has earned him the ire of Scientologists (who follow the teachings of the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard), the Unification Church (founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claims to have met Jesus on a Korean mountainside in 1935), and other so-called new religious movements.

To the dozens of people he has helped "deprogram" from supposed indoctrination they received in these so-called cults, Greene's a bona fide hero, unafraid to stand up to threats and harassment. Others, including one of his own sisters -- whom he once helped to kidnap in a failed attempt to bring her out of the Unification Church -- view him as a misguided soul who lacks respect for religious freedom. "There's no middle ground when it comes to Ford," says longtime friend and attorney Ed Caldwell. "Having enemies is a natural consequence of the mission he's chosen for himself."

Perhaps chief among those enemies is the Church of Scientology, which over the years has gained a reputation for relentless litigation and other tactics -- including picketing the homes and workplaces of detractors -- aimed at thwarting its critics. That reputation stems, in part, from a 1960s Hubbard edict proclaiming that persons interfering with Scientology were "fair game" for church efforts to discredit them.

Greene believes that he became fair game in 1989 after signing on to represent the church's former head of worldwide security and his wife, who at the time were the highest-ranking officials ever to bolt the Los Angeles-based organization, which is perhaps best known for its celebrity adherents, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Since then, he claims, he's been spied on, his home and office have been broken into, and he's been the subject of smear campaigns targeting his neighbors, clients, and associates.

Greene isn't the only person who has made such claims.

In a 1992 deposition taken in a Scientology lawsuit against two former church members -- a lawsuit in which Greene was not involved -- former Scientologist Gary Scarff related how he posed as a friend to infiltrate Greene's office and rifle through Greene's Rolodex and confidential legal records. Among the more extreme measures that Scarff claimed Scientology officials had discussed in his presence -- and that church officials later denied -- were the possibility of having Greene arrested on drug charges, spreading a rumor that he had AIDS, or tampering with the brakes on his car.

Now Greene is convinced that the church is at it again.

After the tiff over the anti-Bush postings on his office sign erupted last year, a site with anonymous sponsors who bill themselves as the "Friends of San Anselmo" suddenly appeared on the Internet. It delves into Greene's private life in excruciating detail.

It quickly created a buzz in San Anselmo, with whoever is behind the site even leafleting the town to make sure residents saw it.

The Web site reads like a private investigator's dossier. It lists Greene's shoplifting conviction as a young college student; his hit-and-run conviction; his physical altercation with a traffic cop; and his dispute with an old girlfriend who called the police and had him arrested for trespassing after an unpleasant breakup. There are even links to a sex scandal involving Greene's long-dead father. "It's a really cheap smear job," says Greene attorney and friend Larry Bragman. "Who else but Ford Greene could attract that kind of nastiness, all because of a sign dispute?"

For the record, a Scientology official denies that the church had anything to do with the Friends of San Anselmo project. "I don't want to puncture his paranoia balloon, but the poor guy has lots of enemies, any number of whom could have put up that Web site," says Jeff Quiros, head of the Church of Scientology's San Francisco office. In the course of a brief interview, Quiros referred to Greene as a "mosquito," a "pig," and a "pathetic individual." He insisted that he wasn't aware of the Web site until a reporter brought it to his attention.

Records show that the Web site is registered to a Sausalito man, Allen Long, who did not respond to interview requests for this article. But Greene believes evidence from the site suggests Scientology involvement. The many documents assembled there include a 1992 letter from the State Bar of California in response to someone who had complained about Greene. As reproduced on the Web site, the letter does not show the name of the person to whom it was addressed. However, a copy of the letter that the bar association provided to Greene does identify the addressee. He is none other than Eugene Ingram, a former Los Angeles police sergeant and a longtime private investigator for the Church of Scientology.

Ingram could not be reached for comment for this article.

Although it is possible that someone unaffiliated with Scientology could have obtained the Ingram letter and posted it on the Web site, Greene thinks that happenstance unlikely. Indeed, Ingram has taken an interest in Greene's affairs over a long period of time, several of the lawyer's associates say.

Ed Caldwell remembers Ingram approaching him in the early 1990s seeking dirt on Greene in connection with a legal matter in which both Greene and Caldwell were involved, he says. Similarly, Robyn Kliger, who until recently taught medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, recalls the day years ago when a man identifying himself as Eugene Ingram showed up at her home wanting information about Greene. "He didn't want to take no for an answer," she says. "On his way out, he made a point of letting me know that he knew that both my mother and I had been involved in anti-cult activities. It came across as sort of threatening."

Ford Greene's office is in a century-old storefront that was once a bakery; he lives in the basement. The office is filled with the byproducts of his unorthodox calling. Displayed in a corner is a feather necklace that was the gift of a Tahitian prince he once helped bring out of a cult. There's an entire room devoted to materials pertaining to the Church of Scientology; he calls it his "Scientology War Room." There's even a stack of "cult-buster" T-shirts lying around that he designed himself.

Greene's life -- both professional and personal -- is an extension of the anti-cult mission he's set for himself. It's a mission born of falling under the spell of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church as a young college dropout -- ironically, while trying to extricate his younger sister Catherine from the group.

After breaking free from the Unification Church, Greene joined forces with his mother, Daphne Dibble Greene, the former chairwoman of Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union and a leading anti-cult activist in the '70s and '80s. An outspoken advocate for parents convinced that their children had been brainwashed by the Moonies and other sects, she organized parental support groups and, along with her son, testified before Congress.

Ford Greene eventually assumed a more controversial role, becoming a "deprogrammer" hired by parents to pluck their sons and daughters from cults, sometimes employing tactics that bumped up against the law. In 1977, he was charged with kidnapping in Colorado after helping to abduct a rancher's son who joined the Moonies and tried to cash out his share of the family spread. (The charges were later dismissed.) Greene's deprogramming of a young Canadian schoolteacher who fell in with the Unification Church while on a trip to the Bay Area was chronicled in the 1980 film Ticket to Heaven.

By his estimate, Greene deprogrammed more than 100 young people, scaling back only after managing to talk his way into law school at San Francisco's New College of California. It was hardly the Ivy League track that his influential parents had imagined for him. But for Greene, who had bounded from one expensive boarding school to another as a teenager and was without a college degree at the time he was admitted, the tiny, little-known law school suited his purposes. He chose law not for the sake of becoming a lawyer, he says, but as a way to better equip himself for the anti-cult crusade in which he had already enlisted. "Ford is one of those people for whom the law is a means to an end, and in his case that has meant going after groups that he considers to be cults," says Murray Orrick, whom Greene helped deprogram from the Moonies and who is a Bay Area music producer and nephew of the late federal judge William Orrick.

As a lawyer, it didn't take long for Greene to make a mark.

For example, in 1979, a young law school graduate named David Molko and another former Moon follower sued the church, claiming to have been coerced and brainwashed. Lower courts ruled that constitutional guarantees of religious freedom barred such suits. But in Molko v. Holy Spirit Association, Greene prevailed before the California Supreme Court. In an opinion written by Justice Stanley Mosk in 1988 that would bear on the tactics religious groups use to attract followers, the court said that any burden on the free exercise of religion was outweighed by the state's interest in protecting against "fraudulent induction of unconsenting individuals into an atmosphere of coercive persuasion."

A year later, Greene scored another victory against the Unification Church, persuading a Colorado jury to acquit two deprogrammers of kidnapping a woman who became a Moonie. In that case, he and another lawyer successfully used a "choice of evils" defense to argue that the deprogrammers were forced to capture the woman to prevent her from being brainwashed.

About the same time, he agreed to represent Richard and Vicki Aznaran, the high-ranking husband-wife duo whose departure from Scientology sent shock waves through the organization. In the mid-'90s, he helped represent ex-Scientologist Lawrence Wollersheim, to whom the church agreed to pay an $8.7 million judgment after Wollersheim claimed that Scientology operatives had subjected him to numerous deprivations, including being held as a church prisoner on a ship off the California coast. Greene also successfully represented a partially brain-damaged former Scientologist named Raul Lopez, who contended that church officials in Southern California had bilked him out of nearly $3 million from an insurance settlement.

In a 1998 case involving the Ananda Church of Self Realization, Greene won a $1.7 million judgment against the church and its spiritual leader, J. Donald Walters, aka Swami Kriyananda. In that case, a jury found that Walters and another church official had sexually exploited a former Bay Area devotee, Anne-Marie Bertolucci, under the guise of helping her to make spiritual advancement.

"Fighting cults comes from deep within Ford's own experience," says Vermont attorney Max Taylor, whom Greene helped bring out of a group called Fellowship of Friends years ago. "In his mind there's nothing worse than using spirituality to take advantage of people.

The eldest of four children born to wealth and privilege in Marin County, Greene has a rogue reputation as a cult-buster that could hardly be more distant from the legacy of his corporate attorney father, the late A. Crawford Greene Jr. Both his father and grandfather were partners at San Francisco's venerable McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. At Yale Law School, Craw Greene, as Ford's dad was known, was part of an enduring clique that included former Reagan administration Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge and ex-New York City Mayor John Lindsay. Another of Craw's pals, former U.S. Sen. James Buckley, was Ford's godfather.

Craw and Daphne Greene were a dynamic duo. He served for years on the boards of both St. Luke's Hospital and the Legal Aid Foundation of San Francisco; she was a charter member of the advisory panel set up for the fledgling Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They raised their son and three daughters in a late-19th-century mansion atop Willow Hill, in the upscale community of Ross, where one or another Greene had been prominent in local affairs since the 1880s. Ross' Natalie Coffin Greene Park, a redwood and eucalyptus oasis, bears the name of Ford's paternal grandmother.

The fortresslike house, with its expansive views of Ross Valley, became a kind of intellectual crossroads during the Greene children's formative years. The parents played host to the likes of architect Louis Kahn, existential psychologist Rollo May, Catholic diarist John Tracy Ellis, "and countless other fascinating people my mother gathered 'round the dinner table," recalls Tina Greene, a Sacramento attorney. It was at the house, she says, that Joseph McGucken, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, and C. Kilmer Myers, the Episcopal bishop of California, met for the first time.

"From the outside, our lives growing up appeared really enviable, but the reality is that we were a family of secrets," Tina says.

A particularly explosive secret involved Ford Greene's father, whom both Greene and his sister describe as "emotionally remote" and who, despite his professional and social success, never forged a bond with the children. After nearly 40 years of marriage, Craw Greene dropped a bombshell on his wife shortly before Christmas of 1990. Acknowledging that he was gay, he confided that he had been in a 17-year relationship with a heroin addict three decades his junior named Joseph Miller. They'd met during one of the elder Greene's clandestine trips to Cape Cod when Miller was still a teenager. Craw Greene brought Miller to San Francisco and set him up in an apartment in the Richmond.

Shortly after her husband's revelation (he had already become sick and three years later would die of AIDS), Daphne Greene summoned her children to the office of a family counselor and broke the news. She then scribbled letters to two dozen of her closest friends to inform them of the circumstances of the couple's separation. After someone gossiped to Herb Caen at the Chronicle, news of "the senior partner in a most prestigious law firm" taking up with his gay lover became the talk of the town.

But Ford Greene says he carried an even darker secret.

He says his father's incestuous inclinations toward him were first manifest during a fondling incident when he was 12, recurred when he was 16, and culminated in his father's performing a sex act on him when he was 19. The latter incident occurred after the two of them had smoked marijuana while sharing a hotel room in Monterey during a weekend event at his sister Catherine's boarding school, he says.

Although Greene told no one at the time, the ordeal helped to send him into an emotional tailspin. He tried college but couldn't focus on studying. Determined not to return to Willow Hill, he lived for a time in a fleabag hotel, did a stint in a hospital psychiatric ward on suicide watch, and had several run-ins with the law. He was arrested for shoplifting bedsheets from a department store, cited for assaulting a police officer after a traffic stop, and arrested for hit-and-run after he panicked following a traffic mishap. (Nobody was injured, he says.) "Desperate and depressed," he went off to climb mountains in the summer of 1974. (He says he and a friend scaled 16 peaks of at least 14,000 feet in elevation in the span of three months.) "I hit all the rocks in the bottom of the river, with the last one being the Moonies," Greene says.

Ford Greene's experience with the Unification Church is inextricably linked to Catherine, the sister with whom he was closest growing up. She met the Moonies while hanging out in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza in the fall of 1974 and moved to a church commune near Booneville in Mendocino County. Moon, the controversial Korean-born religious figure accused of brainwashing young people into selling flowers to support his movement, was rapidly attracting converts in the United States at the time.

Greene went to Booneville to "rescue" his sister. Instead, he succumbed to the group's indoctrination after several days of being showered with love and affection, he says: "I was in a lot of emotional pain and was vulnerable." He lived in church dorm houses in San Francisco and Berkeley and took a job at a church-owned gas station on Market Street.

After being unable to accept Moon's messianic pretensions, however, he left the Moonies eight months later and joined his mother's anti-cult crusade. "Having been through it, Ford was able to reach people in ways that few others could," says Michael Daly, 51, whom Greene helped bring out of the Moonies in Nebraska in 1976. (Daly and his then-wife had joined the group in San Francisco during an intended trip to Alaska and ended up moving to the Booneville commune.)

But Greene's biggest failure as a deprogrammer was with his sister.

Using his mother as bait, he and other family members lured Catherine to Willow Hill in 1977. They handcuffed and blindfolded her and whisked her into a van that drove to the home of relatives in rural Marin County. But things went badly. On the second day of her captivity, Catherine stabbed herself in the stomach with a broken juice bottle and had to be taken to a hospital. From there, she notified the police and friends from the Moonies. The account of her kidnapping and escape from her own family was all over the news the next day.

The district attorney declined to bring criminal charges, and Catherine did not follow through in pressing a civil suit she initially filed against her brother and other family members. Today she lives near Boston, is married, has two daughters, and remains a member of the Unification Church. "She's like a zombie," Ford Greene says of his sister. "I still love her, but she's not the bright, effervescent person we all knew growing up." She sees her mother and other family members once every year or two. "It's strained and polite, and we never talk about anything of substance," Ford Greene says.

For her part, Catherine Greene Ono says she prefers not to discuss her brother. She says she made peace with her family long ago despite the trauma caused by the kidnapping, and she is following a religion she believes in. "He still thinks I'm brainwashed," she says. "What else can I say?"

When it comes to Ford Greene, however, others from groups often accused of being cults have plenty to say.

"I view the man as dangerous. He definitely has issues," says Allen Seher, a Bay Area attorney and Unification Church member. Quiros, the Scientology official in San Francisco, is even more vociferous. "In my estimation the guy is a nut case," he says. "I don't think condoning or advocating kidnapping against people trying to practice what they believe is something that anybody ought to admire.

In 2003, San Anselmo police pulled a political banner from the side of Ford Greene's law office. The sign supported a friend of Greene who was running for a seat on the Town Council of nearby Fairfax.

After Greene sued San Anselmo, saying his free speech rights were violated, the town passed a new sign ordinance. It declared that residents couldn't have more than one sign bigger than 6 square feet. Greene circumvented the law by stringing together a series of 16 "signs," inches apart, that, in sum, covered about 100 square feet. In a ruling favorable to him, a judge declared that the town could limit the size of signs, not the number.

San Anselmo officials insist that their response to the sign has nothing to do with Greene's provocative political messages. "We're being as fair to him as anyone else," Mayor Peter Breen says.

Yet the dispute clearly has political overtones.

A chief opponent of the sign, attorney John Newell, a partner in the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins, has been openly critical of the content of its messages. In an e-mail to the San Anselmo Town Council earlier this year, he accused Greene of using the sign to "regularly incite people to commit violent acts," an accusation that Greene dismisses as "the ranting of an uptight Republican." Newell declined to comment for this article.

In August, Newell helped persuade the town's Planning Commission to revoke a previous variance it had granted to Greene to keep the sign in place. Since then, Greene and the town's elected officials, who acknowledge having spent $50,000 so far on legal fees in the dispute, have declared a temporary truce in hopes of working out a compromise.

As part of the cease-fire, Greene agreed to use only about half of the sign's available space for messages. Meanwhile, he has added his name to the list of candidates for the Town Council in November. As a prelude to his campaign, Greene invited the public to a "free speech soul party" at his place. About 150 people showed up. The invitation, as displayed on the sign, read "Eat an Oyster. Meet the Hoister."

In his anti-cult crusade, however, Greene exhibits little mellowness or tendency toward compromise. He wears the derision of his critics as a badge of honor. "It tells me that I've made a mark; that I've gotten to them," he says. In his usual work attire of blue jeans and a sweat shirt, he looks remarkably boyish, not at all like a 52-year-old lawyer who is due in court in a couple of hours. It's noon, his part-time assistant is at lunch, and he's sifting through stacks of legal briefs while recounting his most recent skirmish with the Scientologists.

The case involved a young San Francisco woman who sued the church after claiming that a former Scientology official in Mountain View used her as a sex slave with the knowledge of local church officials. The woman contended in a court declaration that she was raped and sodomized dozens of times over the course of a year after being ordered by her Scientology superiors to move into the one-bedroom apartment of the man accused of assaulting her. As part of a deal with prosecutors, the man pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery in 2003 and was sentenced to prison.

The lawsuit was recently settled, but a confidentiality agreement bars Greene, who represented the woman, from talking about it. He suspects (but can't prove) that his acceptance of the Mountain View case, his first legal tangle with Scientology in years, is linked to the Internet smear campaign that the Friends of San Anselmo have run against him. "They saw the chance to discredit me, and they took it," says Greene, who doesn't shy away from his controversial and colorful personal history.

In fact, he says, by throwing all his missteps onto the Web, his enemies have done him an unintentional political favor.

"I'm a man with no skeletons in the closet," he says. "They're all dancing around in public."