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.

Monday, December 22, 1997

Stella Wirk's "Letter of Discontent"

This is my letter. Stella.

December 22, 1997

Dear everybody,

This is my web site, and it occurred to me that I have a "letter of discontent" somewhere inside me, and perhaps it's a good time to write about it more directly. I'll try to not repeat myself with matters already written about; this is my personal discontent with having been a member of the Fellowship of Friends.

After Harold and I met in 1968, we started reading books together at coffee shops. Harold would draw, and I would read aloud, and we would talk about the "meaning of life" as I have described elsewhere.

At that time, I had the job of postmaster at Alamo, California, a small first-class office in the SF East Bay, and was appointed to the position by President John F. Kennedy. The office had 15 employees and 4 letter carrier routes, and I had been postmaster for eight years (was 35 years old). (In my full ten years of employment, there had been no grievances from the employees and no complaints from the public.)

I liked that job a lot -- and felt that I had "public relations" or "customer service" in my essence. Plainly, I liked to do a good job, and I liked to help people. (The work ethic in the postal service in those days was higher than it is today; and that's another subject!)

I also liked to manifest myself actively because I liked to do other things, such as write. I became Editor of the "California Postmaster," a newsletter that went to about 1,200 postmasters in California (if I remember the right number -- it was big like that). I attended National Conventions, and one year I won the First Prize in newsletter competition with all other postmasters in the USA!

I have many happy memories of my time with the post office in those years, including the public relations work I did in Alamo. I helped to start the local Soroptimist Club, and had many friends among the town's people, with the advantage that many people knew me already as I had grown up there.

It was not long after joining with Robert Burton that he began to advise and counsel me that I should leave the post office job. He told me that I had worked there ten years, and the next ten years would be the same. I was resisting this idea because I really liked the job! Finally, he told me, "You do not have to worry; I will always take care of you."

Over time, and so much pressure, I gave two-weeks notice and quit! I'm still astonished that I did not even talk it over with Harold before my separation was accomplished and I was out. (He would have rightly advised me against it.)

Robert assured me I would have a "lifetime job" with the group and he would guarantee that. As we had accepted Robert at face value and believed him to be sincere all this "seemed right" at the time. After being dumped by Robert for not paying a second $3,000 smoking fine in 1982, hindsight was long in coming.

Robert Burton did not keep his promise, and I didn't have time to think about that or seek help from him. As a former member, I knew that he would not speak to me, from seeing how he responded to others he had cast out.

I didn't have time to contemplate all that had happened as I sat there with no job, no friends (except Harold who was barely holding his work when he found out I had quit without talking to him about it), no savings, and needed to find work to pay bills or be homeless. The upshot of this was that for the next 13 years I worked only for former members of FOF (for which I am very thankful for the help in those times.)

While working for Dara Haskell (in her hologram watch factory), with her support of the idea, I sought and accomplished my reinstatement into the post office at Belmont, CA, and soon had a rude awakening from what the postal service had become (another subject--mostly a very bad atmosphere with uppity supervisors and lack of respect from them, no friendly vibes whatsoever).

Within a few months I burned my bridges when I turned in my office keys and walked off what had been a horrible job (telling the supervisor where the keys could be put), and completely opposite to all my fond memories of the postal service. (Everything had changed after former President Nixon changed the postal service into a "business.")

My last job ended in disappointment when I was downsized from a landscape architectural firm in 1995, two days before my 62nd birthday, and was told (after six years w/extra service) to leave the building in 15 minutes! (sigh)

I had moved to Berkeley to follow the firm when it moved there. I couldn't find any former students there, so applied for general office jobs. Again and again, I was told "you're over qualified," and it was clear that at age 64, I was not the person companies were seeking to "dress up" the front counter!

After 26 weeks of unemployment (first time in my life I had to ask for that), I sought the help of Dee Parker, who lives in Pacific Grove, and she hired me during tax season, and I "commuted" from Berkeley to Monterey, staying overnight from Monday through Wednesday with Emily Saulsbury in Carmel. When tax season was over there were no more options, I re-applied for the second 26-weeks of unemployment. Unfortunately, working for Dee, I had earned "too much money" during the interim and no longer qualified for unemployment! Ack. I'll never understand that stuff. ;-) I had to take early retirement and receive about $500 a month. Would be $48 more a month if I didn't have to pay for Medicare!

Of late, I have built some web pages for people, and mostly advertise and keep up two web sites -- this one, and a commercial site at

What caused me to think about this now is that Robert Burton and the FOF filed a lawsuit against me on October 31, 1997 (link is updated info), in San Francisco Superior Court for libel and defamation, asking for damages of up to $25,000 each defendant! I am a co-defendant with Thomas Easley who left FOF in 1989.

The actual purpose of the lawsuit seemed to be to stop the airing of a program by "Hard Copy," an expose` type tv program for which both Thomas and I had been interviewed about FOF.

This is about the time that it really struck me what I had lost by following Burton's advice and naively believing his promise. For years, I had accepted full responsibility for my naivete and ignorance of Burton's motives and activities. I blamed myself for being duped. That, I see now, is ridiculous. It was not my fault!

When the basic principles of a spiritual teaching is that one "cannot work with people who LIE," the "act" is good and looks sincere, a "con man" cannot be recognized as such from surface observation, and the rules of the "school" keep everybody silent, it cannot be entirely my fault as I had long thought.

"By their fruits ye shall know them," or watch what they DO, not what they SAY. The thought arrived a little late.

It is not entirely anybody else's fault either, wherever private lives of individuals have been traumatized.

So, my "golden years" turn out to be borderline when, if I had the common sense to have kept my job, I would be retired by now on a comfortable and liveable stipend. Or even better, I would still be working for the USPS because I could have worked until I was 72 years old!

When I think about all of this, I just try to not think about any of it too much. ;-)

Stella Wirk
P. O. Box 3441
Sparks, NV 89432

(I've kept the PO box since leaving FOF in 1982!)

Back, 1st Letter, Back, 2nd Letter, Back, 3rd Letter!

[E-Mail!] comments or questions!
INFO: (anywhere you may find my email to show "" as the ISP, please change it to - thank you (I tried to find them all, and you know how that goes!)

NEWS: FOF dropped their lawsuit (mentioned above) early in 1999, (as methinks it was getting too close to the trial stage for them; they knew the truth is a defense of libel and defamation, and we were "long in the truth" -- little play on "long in the tooth" if younger folks don't get the humor of that--as I am getting that way, being 66 now! haha).

Thank you for being interested. These pages reveal the tip of the iceberg. (sigh)

Saturday, November 15, 1997

The Buckley e-mail

From a webcache of Stella Wirk's old Geocities website:
Un-retouched nor edited, except to add paragraph separations for
easier reading, copy of email msg received to the list maintained for
former members of the Fellowship of Friends.

Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 17:44:13
From: r_ch_rd bu_kley
Subject: Greetings!!
Greetings All!!

Was pointed towards this list via Stella after reading the 10/12/97 S.F. Chronicle article and making a contact with her. I've been sitting back for a few days, going though most of the posts, trying to get a feel for what's going on here. Quite a lively list!! I quickly had to set up it's own folder just to keep my inbox down to a comprehensible size! Despite the commotion going down with the 'hot topic o' the day', I pick up an overall feeling of general cyber-commeraderie and kindness---things most woefully lacking from many, if not most, electronic gatherings of people I run across on daNet.

I'm getting a hoot out of seeing names and reading posts from people--of which some have very clear faces--others are a little foggy--but most I have no clue as to who they be!! Old dusty memories and a big mixed bag of feelings have gotten rattled around inside here. Amazing!! Really!!

Anyhoo, my FOF story, in a microscopic nutshell, be as follows:

1) Joined in Portland 4/74...

2) Moved to the Bay Area in 1976---To the Kensington House---does anyone remember that nutty place??-- where I shared a little bedroom with four other men--sleeping on the floor-- I think 17-18 people lived in this house at a time!! I worked as a grunt for Anthony 'Somebody's' 'Fourth Way Lawn and Garden Service'. I remember customers would ask me what the other three ways of gardening were!!!. I can't remember exactly how I responded but can imagine what a fairly new "good" student back then might say. Had to be 'intentionally insincere' with those life people ya know. What I wouldn't give to roll that old film a little more clearly today!!

3) Late '76 'til sometime in '78 was sent out to Cincinnati where, after meetings, we'd go to discos instead of coffee shops. Lotsa of sex and partying coupled (pun most intended) with lotsa crazy stupid guilt. Meanwhile, while I'm trying to reconcile my raging hormonal youthful lust for life with FOF ideas and 'suggestions' re: sex and relationships, the person that I had transferred my deepest trust on to is raping young men back in Calif.. Huh?????!!!!

4) Moved back to Renaissance in '78--or was it called Renaissance yet??-- worked at the lodge as 'assistant maitre'd' for a little while. More memories bubbling up to the surface---- I remember the FOF had bought out a Selix store's surplus of used tuxedoes--which seems like it was the general working uniform of the day back then--and all these men crowded into the 'barn' getting fitted into these penguin suits (I remember fighting with Bruce L___ over a pair of pants. We were the same pip-squeak size and there was little for us to choose from) which we had to buy for the amazingly low, low price of {{{{$44.00}}} which was not so amazingly low- as I remember- I think I was getting around $75./month on salary!!! Eventually ended up working in the vineyard driving tractors. One day, while I playing tractor jockey and mowing terraces, the mower hit a rock and started a fire that burned down more than 10 acres!! Now there's a gem I haven't thought about in a decade or so! Interesting process, typing out this stuff.

5) Some time in '79 , as I was courting H_len Dr_ke (who, BTW, is alive & well; remarried and living in Sonoma Co.) Robert asked me to move into the Blake cottage. Well, this was like hitting the big time for me.

I felt as though I must be doing something right to be singled out for this honor. Little did I know. I was absolutely and completely clueless. I remember a day or so before I moved in D_n Bia_i said to me "living in the Blake cottage is very different than what you might think"---And I just let that one sail way over my head. Little did I realize--Don Knew!! Anyway, two days after I moved in RB made his move on me. **Recalling this particular episode in my life has the flavor of a weird distorted acid-trip**

I remember that even when he told me to take off all my clothes no alarm-bells went off. But when he touched me-- every thing went off like a nuclear explosion. Every alarm, every siren, every cautionary sentinel of my being was set off shrieking and screaming. "Warning, Will Robinson. Danger! Danger!!" I remember--now for the first time since then---that I felt like I was going to pass out. Like I was getting swallowed up by something way too monstrously big for me to handle. All the trust and love that I had transferred onto this guy--the person that was--to me, at the time---my ultimate caretaker, the caretaker of my very soul---was blown completely and utterly away in the fraction of the few moments it took me to comprehend what was coming down.

Incredibly, somehow, I was able to say to him that I did not feel comfortable with what he was doing. And just as incredibly, he did not push the issue with me. He did not use his "C-influence wishes this" bullshit line on me---but let me go back to my room to be alone with my horror.

Two days later he called me into his room saying--and I will never forget exactly what and how he said this--"Goodness, I think it would be a good idea if you moved out of the Blake cottage".

I had no great compulsion to argue the request---I ran!!!! The entire length of my residency there = 5 days.

I remember a few days after I moved out a couple of high profile 'good' squeaky clean students said things to me inferring that I did not have the *Being* it takes to be around the Teacher on such an intimate basis, as though it was some character flaw of mine that got me thrown out!! In some ways they were very correct. I kept my mouth shut. And if I continue to hold onto any regrets, its that I didn't say anything about my experience until several years later.

6) Come 1980 Helen and I married and I continued to work in the vineyard but my whole inner landscape was changing rapidly. No big surprise there, duh!

The outward form of the School began to have less and less meaning for me and I began to seek out and really cherish other students who--for lack of a better description--were out on the fringes of acceptable FOF high society and tinged with not a small degree of cynicalness. It was great!

I remember frequent bouts of heavy drinking get-togethers with other vineyard 'badboys' where we'd sit around swearing and just generally dissing the stinkiness of the hypocrisy so adhered to in the FOF culture. "Fuck this" and "Fuck that" "What a big asshole so&so is" and on and on.... Its exactly what I needed at the time and I'm literally LOL as this stuff comes up on my screen.

I think, now, that this was the embryonic beginning of my recovery and eventual healing!!! But, before any real tangible healing was to occur, there were still some chasms in my being that I had to plummet.

I mentioned "heavy drinking" a few lines above. Well, for me it got heavier and heavier. All the accumulated pain and loneliness of my entire life seemed much nearer the surface after my 'RB experience' and I did not have the resources to handle them in awareness. Instead, I drank.

I pretty much drank like a fish right up until 1987 when the drinking began to cease to work as an effective buffer against my pain and I began to have this vague unsettling inkling that if I truly wanted to reconnect with Life I had to start living it from the inside out instead of taking it from the outside in. It was not a sudden revelation or abrupt giving up of anything but much more a process of which I still feel very much in the middle of today------And it is all right!!!

7) Seems like I skipped a few years there maybe. Oh well. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, ;-) I continued to work in the vineyard and invisibly come apart at my soul-seams. Its interesting sometimes to play with what kept me from up and bolting from the FOF in 1980. Different factors I think.

1: It was it was my life!! I had real friends!! I was married for cyin' out loud!!

2: I still clung to the line, in one form or another, that RB once gave to another student (who did bolt soon after hearing it) " It would be better one were not born than leave the School" Scary stuff!!!---but for different reasons today.

In 1984,when Sammy Saunder's Revelations reached the general FOF public, I began to prepare for my final departure.

I took some general science courses at Yuba College and then early in '85 moved back to the Bay Area and got a degree in Nursing finally severing from the FOF sometime early in '86.

8) I'm really getting tired of typing! Suffice it to say that the last 11 years of my life---post-FOF---have been uneventfully very eventful. The process we're all on does not cease. No matter how much I wish it would. No matter how much I whine & bitch about it-------- it goes on.

So, sometimes I find I can take a breath in and out and say "Perfectimoso!!!!!!!!!"

Thanks All for letting me catharse. I feel sooooooooooo much better!!!! ;-) ...

Wishing All Well-------------------------R

Oh yeah---a quote I wanted to throw in from Ram Dass that says a lot to me re: RB ...

When asked what he thought about Hitler, he replied using the concept of Duality. And, in part, said....

"In the world of Two we try to stop Hitler. In the world of One we
realize we are Hitler." seeya-----------r

Monday, November 10, 1997

Harmonious Developments, a new Fourth Way school

Harmonious Developments is a Fourth Way School and blog apparently created by ex-Fellowship of Friends member Jon Poznanter. It was first incorporated as Maximum Achievement Center November 10, 1997. On May 31, 2003, the name was officially changed to Harmonious Developments.

They registered the domain, previously used by another Fourth Way school, on December 28, 1999.

The Harmonious Developments blog began October 2, 2011, but has since become inactive.

From the blog's homepage:
The primary purpose of is to disseminate knowledge designed to further the conscious evolution of man, woman, mankind.

See also: Conscious Evolution Institute

Friday, October 31, 1997

Fellowship of Friends sues Stella Wirk, Thomas Easley, and Does 1-100, inclusive

here[ed. - See also, Stella's "Letter of Discontent."]

[ed. - The following is from Stella Wirk's website. A screenshot of the website can be found here.]


In October 1997, Harold and Stella happily moved back to Sparks, Nevada, from California where they had been for a few years. Ahh, the land of all night coffee shops aplenty! Nearly at the same time, Stella was interviewed by the TV program, "Hard Copy," concerning her (and Harold's) experiences of membership in the Fellowship of Friends.

This was not something new for her, having been interviewed a few years before by "Inside Edition." Geraldo Rivera's program (memory says it was called "And Now It Can Be Told") had contacted Stella, although did not follow through for an interview. There were others, now passed out of memory!
None of the programs recorded ever were to see the light of day; none were aired.

Now, the "Hard Copy" interviewer, and people at their office, had assured Stella that the program would be aired. One person said, "Not to worry, 'Hard Copy' is owned by Paramount, you know the big mountain with the stars semi circle over it, so no problem!"

Well, there was a problem because during the interview, I suggested they NOT go to FOF and try to get an interview with anybody there (knowing they would say "no comment" and slam the door, most likely). Naturally, these kinds of shows do things like that anyway, as they can show they tried and the brief segment with door slamming (or the like) makes for good tv, right?

Not only that: the visit also tips off the outfit that something is going to go public about them! Eeek, we can't have THAT! So very suddenly a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco, California, called a "slappsuit" for defamation and libel (slapp = strategic lawsuits against public participation - in other words, "shut up, you can't go around saying things like that about us!"). 

(You can read about slappsuits if you're interested at: There is an ongoing effort in California to stop the ability to file slapp suits, as --one reason-- they abridge freedom of speech.)

Before the paperwork actually was served on Stella and her co-defendant, Hard Copy folks received a letter from FOF lawyer Abraham Goldman telling of the lawsuit and reminding Hard Copy of the first thing that happens: defendants are incurring legal fees. (Oh, and we did eventually!)
That did it. The program would not be aired, sorry.

The lawsuit filed in October 1997 continued laboriously for more than a year through discovery processes where the plaintiff asks for dozens of documents, and several court appearances by our helpful lawyers thanks to the suit being filed in San Francisco while we lived in Nevada. (At time of filing, FOF thought we lived in Berkeley, CA, hence some delay in receiving the summons. They were asking in excess of $25,000 from each defendant in "damages.") To see first page of filed lawsuit, click here [see above].

(Use "back" button on browser to come right back here.)

Suffice to say that as the case moved closer to the trial part, more delays, and finally the FOF agreed to drop the case. (We sorta figured they would because if the case went to trial, they could not win it. The defense against libel and defamation is proving the truth of the allegations, and that could be done. We did not recover legal fees from them, however, and that was okay as it was "over.")

Almost simultaneously, FOF filed lawsuits against several newspapers, Margaret Singer (prof. UC Berkeley, cult expert), and others. Most cases were dismissed by the presiding judges. None ever came to trial.

You can see the dismissal of the suit against the Los angeles Times (for their large article published Nov. 1997) here (consisting of 3 pages shown).

After viewing the three pages, a link will bring you back to this page at the top. Note on the three pages, FOF was ordered to pay out more than $28,000 in legal fees to reimburse defendants in that lawsuit.

Members usually are unaware of the "lawsuit budget" of their teaching payments, and probably would not complain if they did know.


[WirkSheet!] [Letter to Burton] [FOF Farm HQ]
[Sanders Letter [Start Cult Pages]
[The "Hell" Letter [Letters of Discontent]
[Underground Humor (link defunct)] [About Bookmark]

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To all visitors:
Stella Wirk passed away on December 29, 2001. This site is being maintained by her friends in the hope that it will continue to provide the guidance that it has in the past. There is a Stella Wirk memorial site here:
For further information on the ideas or opinions expressed here, please contact:

Sunday, October 12, 1997

San Francisco Examiner: Yuba Church or Cult: Leader Under Fire

From Cult Education Institute site:
[ed. - The alternate title Lawsuit sheds light on Yuba 'church' appeared in one edition of the Examiner.]
Thomas Easley, formerly a member and one of the leaders of the Fellowship of Friends,
says the group operated like a "predatory dictatorship." Original photo by Kim Komenich.

San Fransisco Examiner/October 12, 1997

By Katherine Seligman
"Fate has brought us to this enchanted place called Renaissance."
From the "Renaissance Journal" Jan. 1, 1984
OREGON HOUSE, Yuba County - The jumble of thistle end oak trees lining the road through this remote town disappears abruptly at the gate of the mysterious property known as Apollo.
There, in the midst of one of the state's poorest rural counties, a row of perfectly cone-shaped cypress trees leads the way to an imitation French castle surrounded by elaborate rose gardens, manicured sports fields and a renowned winery whose vines are etched into 365 acres of terraced trills.
Few outsiders see these wonders. The owner, a self-described "school of spiritual development" called Fellowship of Friends, has operated in relative isolation for 25 years, amassing more than $20 million in property and growing to 2,000 members worldwide.
More than 400 now live near or work at Apollo's 1,300 sculpted acres, the group's world headquarters that has alternately been called The Farm, Via Del Sol, Mount Carmel and Renaissance.
Photo caption: Thomas Easley, formerly a member and one of the leaders of the Fellowship of Friends, says the group operated like "a predatory dictatorship." 
 Fellowship founder under scrutiny
They have their own school, restaurant and cemetery, insulating them from the rest of Yuba County, where 11.4 percent of the residents are unemployed and about 17 percent - twice the statewide average-are on welfare.
They are little known to locals in the nearby county seat of Marysville, where the news this year was dominated by floods, the local militia movement, a high school book-banning controversy and, recently, a wildfire that stopped short of Apollo but ravaged 6,000 nearby acres and scores of homes.
Members are, by their own description, "unconventional," embarked on a quest for self-improvement and higher consciousness they believe can be attained partly through immersion in the world's finest art and culture. They even reluctantly accept the label "cult," noting it historically might have applied to Mormons or the first disciples of Jesus.
The fellowship's retreat, which has legal status as a church, might have continued to flourish in solitude if it weren't for the public controversy surrounding founder and leader Robert Earl Burton, a former Bay Area school teacher whom members call "The Teacher." Last year an ex-member sued Burton and the Fellowship for $5 million in damages, claiming Burton had brainwashed and sexually exploited him from age 17.
The lawsuit claimed the Fellowship was being used to further Burton's prime objective, his "voracious appetite for perverted sexual pleasure and elegant lifestyle." Burton is portrayed as a leader who considers himself "singularly blessed as being 'a conscious being,' an 'angel,' and a 'god'" who prophesies that only his followers will survive an upcoming Armageddon.
The lawsuit ended in November but neither side is allowed to discuss the settlement.

Fellowship officials have dismissed the charges as lies, but some former members tell stories with details that mirror those in the lawsuit.
The allegations unsettled some in the surrounding community, who had watched the parade of well-dressed, well-educated people driving past their small houses, mobile homes and farms on the way to Apollo.
"There is still a fair amount of tension between the Fellowshippers and the non-Fellowshippers," said county Supervisor Hal Stocker, who is also concerned that the Fellowship owes the county more than $1 million in property taxes - a debt it has agreed to settle.
"Robert Burton is a big guru so why doesn't he come out and speak to the people?" Stocker said. "I've never seen him and I don't know anyone (outside) who has."
Fellowship officials say they are only following their own beliefs, a mix of philosophy based primarily on the teachings of two esoteric turn-of-the-century Russian mystics [sic], George Gurdjieff, whose work has been popularized and applied to business, and Peter Ouspensky, whose book "The Fourth Way" has had a steady devotional following.
Burton's teachings stress "the education and discipline of the emotions," the importance of living in the present, a love of beauty and an understanding of its capacity to create higher awareness, according to a 1995 edition of his book "Self Remembering."
It is not surprising that the Fellowship attracted and trained artists, musicians and craftspeople. It has its own orchestra, chorus, opera company, theater troupe and private museum, which was filled with a world class collection of 17th century Chinese furniture until it was sold last year at Christie's for $11.1 million.
The sprawling rose garden, above, stretches behind the Goethe Academy building at the estate.
Original photo by Kim Komenich.
The "Goethe Academy," as the museum is sometimes called, now houses Oriental rugs, a turn of the century Steinway piano, the 17th century painter Guercino's "Toilet of Venus," a display of Sevres china, marble fireplaces, chandeliers and, sometimes, Burton.
Wines from the Renaissance Vineyard and Winery win medals. A February write-up in the New York Times called the vineyard "spectacular."
Fellowship officials point to these accomplishments and their community donations-including help for those left homeless by September's fire-when answering questions about their detractors.
While they don't deny Burton may have had sex with male followers, they insist the encounters were consensual acts between adults and irrelevant to the group's mission of pursuing greater self-awareness. Individual responsibility is key in their beliefs, they say.
"The Fellowship does not engage in brainwashing," said Girard Haven, of the board of directors. 'We may have a charismatic leader and strong feelings about higher forces and our own spirituality, but we know what we are doing. We are not doing it blindly."
Furthermore, said Haven, members are free to leave, as some 8,000 have done in the past two decades.
Burton, 57, was unavailable for an interview. He hasn't spoken to the press since 1981, but he wanted to "pass on" information about some of his critics whom he believes "had a history of mental problems," according to Fellowship President Peter Bishop.
Court records related to two lawsuits and interviews with former members describe a cult whose leader believes his country paradise will function as an "ark" after a catastrophic earthquake destroys the outside world next year. Outsiders, whom Burton has referred to as "life people," will perish.
Burton professes to be an angel in a man's body" who communicates with 44 angels, from Benjamin Franklin to Jesus Christ, court records and former members say.
Ex-members say Burton has lived opulently, collecting Baccarat crystal and Ming Dynasty art, wearing Gucci shoes and expensive suits and traveling around the world while imposing strict rules on followers-on sex, diet, behavior, even grooming.
In the past, according to former members and the group's publications, Burton has decreed no sex before marriage, no mixed-breed pets, no smoking, no permanents or hair coloring, no bike riding.
This summer members were not to use the words "hi," "you know" and "yeah" and were to keep both feet flat on the floor while dining.
Cynthia Hill, a member since 1979 who acts as the group's spokeswoman, said these exercises help focus attention and there is no enforcement of them.
Burton, who founded the Fellowship around 1970 after leaving another Gurdjieff-Ouspensky group, held early informal meetings inactivate homes or chain restaurants.
After incorporating in 1971, the Fellowship bought, cleared and developed land in Yuba County using volunteer labor of its followers.
By 1984, stories about Burton began circulating outside the Fellowship after a director, Samuel Sanders, wrote an open letter to the board of directors saying Burton had used to his position to seduce young men.
The Fellowship kicked him out for "fomenting schism," according to a lawsuit for damages filed by Sanders, who said he was bounced after devoting thousands of hours without pay and making more than $100,000 in donations to the group.
The Fellowship denied the charges and the lawsuit was settled out of court.
Ames Gilbert, who left the Fellowship two and a half years ago after more than 16 years, believes that he was "dropped like a brick" from Burton's "inner circle" when he turned down what he now thinks was Burton's "proposition."
Thomas Easley, an artist living in Lake Tahoe who joined the Fellowship in the early '70s, also has a story of being pursued by Burton. But, like the young man who filed the lawsuit, Easley said he felt he could not turn Burton down.
"He sodomized me," said Easley. "I was in a state of trauma. He said I had to be close to him, that I had to submit my will to my teacher. I just remember walking around in a daze, smiling and feeling like I wasn't alive anymore. I was in a state of shock, like a robot."
Easley said he was in the group for 18 years, working as a secretary and chauffeur for Burton, then running a teaching center in Venice before moving to India in the late '80s and breaking away.
What Easley considers Burton's "misuse of power" left him so shaken that he could not tell his wife of the sexual encounters until after the couple divorced shortly before he went to India. Now, he said, he wants the truth about Burton's "mind control" and "thought reform" techniques to be known.
"The Fellowship is a dictatorship, a predatory dictatorship," he said. "I should know. I was a leader."
Hill said she wonders why Easley continues his "vendetta" against the Fellowship, why he can't take responsibility for his actions and "get on with his life."
 "We do feel that without media attention (such former members) would have resumed more balanced lives long ago," she said.
Troy Buzbee was 7 when his father joined the Fellowship, according to the lawsuit he filed against the group in 1996. Buzbee regarded Burton as a "god" and joined in 1986 when he was 17.
Later that same year, Burton invited Buzbee to a "teaching dinner" and plied him with alcohol, according to the lawsuit. He then told Buzbee to come to his room and lock the door.
"I promise you I am an angel in a man's body," Burton told him, then instructed him to "separate" from his body and just "let go," the lawsuit said.
The demands for "sexual service" continued sporadically through April 1994, the lawsuit contended, with Buzbee feeling "degraded." During that time Buzbee invested thousands of hours working for the Fellowship without minimum wage pay, he charged in the lawsuit.
Buzbee was not the only member being sexually exploited by Burton, the lawsuit said. "Burton spoke openly about his sexuality in the form of jokes at the all-male dinners that he would often lavishly host at all-male, all-you-can-drink 'symposiums,' " said the lawsuit. "He would boast that 'one hundred boys would not be enough (for his sexual appetite)."'
A wave of members left after Buzbee's lawsuit and many say the departure was painful. Ex-members said they felt devastated, that friends of 20 years shunned them.
"People who leave are the lowest people in the universe," said one former top leader of the group. "These people are fallen angels. They're told their souls will be eaten up by the moon."
The Fellowship finds new members by listing center numbers on the Internet and placing informational bookmarks in key books at certain stores.
Peter Bishop, president of the Fellowship of Friends, stands on the group's estate, Apollo, in Yuba County.
Original photo by Kim Komenich.
Bishop said he joined after seeing an ad for a "Gurdjieff-Ouspensky center" in the Santa Cruz area in 1972. He'd been interested in Zen Buddhism, bioengergetics and aikido, he said, but had never joined any groups.
It was several weeks before he met Burton, who at the time was in a self-imposed period of silence, Bishop said.
"I didn't join the school because of him," said Bishop. "I was in the Fellowship because of what seemed to be the power of the ideas."
Bishop is one of about 15 ministers who perform marriages, christenings and funerals for members.
He worries little about Burton's doomsday predictions. "If something happens, that will be interesting," Bishop said. "If it doesn't happen, that will be interesting. It's very far from why we're here."
Bishop said the Fellowship's finances are precarious, despite $4 million in donations the past year and income from the Christie's sale, because the group supports centers in Russia and Mexico where members have little money.
Members - most of whom hold outside jobs - tithe 10 percent of their earnings and in the past have been required to make hefty additional donations after a year, then two years in the group. Burton reportedly was paid an annual salary of $250,000 several years ago.
County Tax Collector Jim Kennedy said he has received two $6,000 installments toward about $1.2 million in unpaid taxes from the past four years, what he thinks is a "good faith" effort to pay.
Supervisor Stocker said he's grown more wary of the group following the publicity around the Heaven's Gate suicides in Southern California.
"One of my worries is that it might be a cult," he said. "They seem to have a guru and the guru is making predictions that the world is going to end."
Yet others praise the Fellowship's generous contributions, including donations to the local community center, the fire station, arts organizations, and Lions Club.
"They've contributed quality and excellence to all the arts in the community," said Lee Burrows, head of the Yuba and Sutter counties regional art council.
To Laura Cassaro, who works at the Oregon House Grocery and Deli, members are "excellent neighbors. They keep their land and homes gorgeous. These people have class. They have finesse."
The teachings, the spiritual camaraderie and physical beauty at the Fellowship once did hold meaning, ax-members say.
"(The philosophy) had a lot of depth in it," said former member Gilbert. "Then the behavior of Burton became more and more unacceptable. One tried to idealize it but it was no longer compatible with my conscience."

[Also from the Cult Education Institute, a related article:]

Ex-member disillusioned

San Fransisco Examiner/October 12, 1997 

By Katherine Seligman

Robert Burton's ideas sounded good to Stella Wirk when she went to her first meeting at Denny's restaurant in the early'70s. He was a tall, energetic, man with luminous eyes. 
"Burton would read something and we'd discuss and make observations," said Wirk. "I felt it was pretty good stuff. Burton had a good act in the beginning."
Wirk quit her job as postmaster of Alamo, she said, to help build the fledgling Fellowship of Friends, serving as a director of a teaching center in Carmel, then at one in Amsterdam. But gradually, her faith in Burton began to waiver.
She recalls the conformity required-all teaching centers had to play the same music, Pachelbel, and have the same kind of classic oil paintings.
There were also the exercises that included having students omit certain words from their speech, Wirk said. One week it might be "Oh," the next "I."
"We'd go to a restaurant and we'd have to say, 'This person will have eggs over easy,' or 'It will have another cup of coffee,"' said Wirk. "The waitress would say, 'It would, would it?'"
At one point, Burton told Wirk and her husband to change their names to West, an Anglicized name that would be better suited for anonymity after a world economic collapse he'd predicted would occur.
Then there was the order to stop playing ping-pong. (" 'End the ping-pong octave,' Robert said. Everything was always an octave," said Wirk, referring to the term borrowed from Ouspensky.) And the directive to get rid of her mongrel dogs, Bill and Banjo.
"Burton told me we should end the Bill and Banjo octave," said, Wirk, who still, at 64, cries when she remembers taking her beloved pets to the pound.
The arbitrary rules grated on Wirk, but it was the no-smoking requirement that eventually precipitated her departure from the fellowship. Wirk and her husband once paid $1,500 each for violating the no-smoking rule.
Burton was so adamant about no smoking that he told members to sniff while greeting each other to catch renegades, Wirk said.
In 1982, 12 years after joining Wirk was fined a second time for smoking. She refused to pay and was subsequently kicked out.
Wirk now operates a Web page on the Fellowship, hoping to help those in the process of leaving Though she says much of what she got from her association with Burton was positive-the chance to travel and friends she cherished- she feels he changed.
"He's gotten so sequestered,' she said. "I think he's become like Howard Hughes of The Fourth Way."
BORN: North Little Rock, Ark., in 1939. Within a few years he moves to Berkeley with his parents (his father was a butcher), two sisters and a brother.
GRADUATED: 1968 from San Jose State University and later becomes a fourth-grade teacher in the Lafayette public schools.
FOUNDER: Starts the Fellowship of Friends in 1970 while he's living intermittently in a Volkswagen bus in Berkeley and housesitting.

Saturday, September 27, 1997

With autumn comes the harvest, and the increased threat of wildfires

[ed. - Glimpses of the tragic "Williams Fire," which struck the Oregon House-Dobbins area in late September appear in these videos showing life within the Fellowship community at Apollo. The videos were posted to YouTube by Fellowship member "Christian." Since the mid-1970s, the Fellowship has been an active participant in local firefighting and prevention efforts.]

Thursday, June 5, 1997

Michelle Milligan's campaign to expose The Fellowship of Friends

[ed. - After the Olivehurst Gospel Assembly lost its property rights battle with the Fellowship, OGA member Michelle M. Milligan continued to attack the Fellowship through her Of, By & For The People Newspaper.]
Alright Yuba County, there you have it. Another lawsuit against the F.O.F. We have been telling you all along, and warning you of the dangers of the F.O.F. The corruption in the county has a lot to do with Fellowship. It's called VOTES. A Grand Jury told you. We have told you of rapings, murders, cult activities, corrupt judges, crooked politicians, F.O.F. and Burton having AIDS. This newspaper Of, By & For The People made a report about a 12 year old boy who was raped at the F.O.F. compound through C.P.S. [Child Protective Services]. C.P.S. is being used to fulfill Burton's sexual pleasures and desires. Welfare fraud, illegal immigration, homosexuality, how much more before action s taken. Your families are in danger. You work with F.O.F. members, some children go to their schools, the public eat in their restaurant, the public views their winery, grounds and museum. They are all in danger. Chuck O'Rourke needs to do his job. Get the sheriff, shut the F.O.F. down and call for an investigation before one more boy or man is raped!!! He needs to call the Governor and the Attorney General. The F.B.I. needs to raid this compound. They are always "looking" for work. Well fellas, here's some for you. Every reason and proof has been given to warrant an investigation.

Now let's see where Janet Reno will be. The F.O.F. have guns. Are they going to overthrow the government? Will she send tanks to crash the temple and save the people? Or is the so-called government just part of the good ol' boys? There are children that are being abused. Will Janet Reno save them?

Any sex offender in our Forefather's day were immediately put to death by hanging. (Right?)

The time is now for all abused victims, victims of child pornography and rape, victims of the C.P.S. and all victims of the satanic cult, which is also related to the Fellowship of Friends to come and speak. Those of you that have been calling and writing us in the last two years come out and be a part. All information from the past to the present is needed. Please send it to our office or fax it to us. If you have something to declare make a statement with names, places and times and have it notarized. If you have old newspaper articles or information like it, please send that also. The information that you have on the murders, rapes, drugs, tortures, county corruption, corrupt judges and officials connected to the Fellowship and/or Satanic cult, present or past. Send it NOW!!!

We know that these things are very dangerous to tell. Therefore, everything will be videoed for your protection. Meetings can be held for your privacy. All of you can gather and become, not only one, but will have formed a protection for yourselves.

All of the F.O.F., cult, county and corruption stories and information are not in our office or our computers. We are much smarter than they are.

Of, By & For The People Newspaper
P.O. Box 1993
Marysville, California 95901

Phone (916) 755-3680---------Fax (916) 755-9998

[ed. - Other articles by Milligan:]

Tuesday, May 27, 1997

Early History of the Fellowship of Friends, as told by Student #1

The future "Lincoln Lodge" in May 1973. Photo by Drew Kampion

[ed. - From the Fellowship of Friends Wikispace [defunct], this retrospective by Robert Burton's "first student," Bonita H. (aka Bonita Guido) was first published May 27, 1997. Posted here, and also posted in the 1973 chronology for historical context, it presents a fascinating view of the early years.]
From Dec. 1969 to Dec. 1973
By Bon_ta Hight_wer
First student of Robert Burton


I left America in Dec. 1973 with the permission from Robert Burton, to be gone for 2 years, then return to America and be with him again, as a student. He had said that if any time in that 2 years I wanted to return and did not have the money to do so, I was just to telephone him, and he would send me the airplane fare to return. In the first weeks of being in another country, I wrote him a letter. In that letter, I said that he surrounded himself with “Yes” men, and that I did not feel it was beneficial for him. It gave him an unreal view of himself, and how things were, in the school. I also asked him why he referred to the students as “his” students, or “my” students. That why couldn't he just refer to them as students. (I had been a student teacher in Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe, and Hawaii.)

Soon after that letter was sent to him, a Hawaiian student went against the rules of the school, and contacted me, and told me that Robert had put me out of school.

I did not tell anyone the name of my Teacher, or the name of the “Fellowship Of Friends” to anyone after leaving America. Not even my dear husband, who has been my partner for 16 years.

So, it was not until 1996 that my husband heard those two names, while I was speaking to someone on the telephone and they mentioned them.

Therefore, I would like it to be realized that it is only with a great amount of thought, and a deep realization that the story that shall be told may be of benefit to those that came after me, in helping them to heal old wounds, and giving them a history which is not only my history with the FOF, but is also their history, which they have a right to know. Much of what shall be written has not been told to anyone in all these years.

It is my hope that those who read it may find some of the unanswered questions they may have had, over the years. Also, I deeply hope that it shall in some way, help them to heal.


In Dec. 1969, I was invited to a New Years` Eve party. It was to be held in Lafayette, California.

I did not know the persons giving the party. They were said to be millionaires. It was my impression that the money was from the woman’s side. It was to be a costume party.

I was 33 years old, a housewife, and was married at the time to my second husband. I had 2 daughters from my first marriage. One was 14 ½ , the other was 13 years old. They were both from my first husband, who had been of German and Choctaw Indian decent. I had been told I was of part English, Scott-Irish, German, and Cherokee Indian decent. We had a long haired German Shepard, named “Muski.” We lived at 511 Kiki Drive, Pleasant Hill, which was close to the town where the party was to be held.

My husband did not wish to attend the party. I told him that I was to meet someone that would be very important to me at that party. I have not considered myself clairvoyant, but sometimes I do seem to know something that is going to happen, before it takes place. This might have been the most definite instance of that type of occurrence taking place. None had told me of the above important person to come into my life. I just knew it.

I had been taking belly dancing lessons in that time period of my life, and had made 2 belly dancing costumes. Therefore, I decided to wear one of them to the party.

The party was held in a large, rambling wooden house, surrounded by lovely trees. The persons who had invited me were the only ones I knew at the party. As I was a passive type person, and rather shy, I sat alone, and watched other people at the party. In time, I sat by the large fireplace, and greatly enjoyed watching the fire, and the glowing embers that came. In time, a man asked me to dance. He was a tall man, with black hair, and was quite good looking. After the dance, we sat down together and began to talk. His name was Robert Burton. After some time, I said to him, “There is something quite special in your eyes. I have never seen it before. Do you know what it is?” I do not remember the response, but we continued to talk for the rest of the evening. Eventually he said that I was the first person other than his own teacher who had recognized that special quality in his eyes. One of the statements he made that evening was, “I have found a God that has no clay feet.”

Robert was a little drunk that evening. I was “high” on some 60`s drug. Probably it was mescaline. There was the feeling of awe, and a quality that was well known by many in the 60s`—that feeling, that “anything can happen”. As I had “known” I would meet someone that would be important to my life at that party, it had not taken long to realize that it was this apparently wise and mysterious man. It was Robert Burton. I had never before met anyone like him.

There was such intensity to our conversations that at times everything and everyone else just seemed to disappear. I had entered a new, wondrous world, full of hidden portent. As the party ended, we each left, going our own separate ways.

On Jan. 1, 1970, at home, after being awake for a time, I suddenly realized I had no way of contacting that man. A sense of horror came over me. How could I have been so dumb as not to have secured myself a means of further contact?

It did not take long to make a phone call to the hostess of the party, with the aim to try and find a way to contact him. The hostess said yes, she knew him. He lived with his mother in Walnut Creek. She gave me his phone number. With great relief, I made the phone call. He was home, and we made an appointment to meet in a restaurant in Berkeley. I do not remember for sure if it was for the same evening, or the evening after. I think, however, that it was for the same evening.

I did own my own car, and could drive. It was a little pale yellow Datson stationwagon. However, I had been in a bad automobile accident in 1951, and had never really gotten over some of the trauma of that accident. I did not like to drive. I had not so very often had to drive to a place I did not know. I was somewhat upset that I would have to find that meeting place by myself. Yet, that discomfort in no way took hold of me to the extent that I would even consider not going.

In fact, the night that the meeting was to occur, my brother stopped by, unannounced. It had been quite a long time since I had last seen him. I was ready to leave when he arrived. We spoke a short time together, and I told him I was sorry, but I had a meeting and would have to leave, in order not to be late. I suppose he was rather upset with me at the time, but honestly, I was not in the least concerned with how it affected him. This was too great an event in my life to be concerned with hurting him. I really do not even remember if I had thought about it, at the time. It was only much later, that I realized that I had probably wounded him pretty badly. I had fairly much raised him from the time I was 11, and he was 7 years old, until I left home, when he was about 14 yrs. old.

That had been necessary because my parents had a Spanish/American restaurant, in Windsor, California. They worked 6 days and nights a week, and I took care of him after school. They did not return home until after we were both in bed, asleep. My older sister had worked in the restaurant after school hours.

I found the meeting place, and it was perhaps only the second time I had ever driven in Berkeley. Robert was waiting when I arrived. He congratulated me for being on time. At this meeting, he told me of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. We arranged to meet again, the next day, I think, and I was to buy the book, “In Search of the Miraculous” by Ouspensky. He gave me the name of a book store in which to buy them. I think both the store, and the next meeting, were in Walnut Creek.

We sat for hours in a cafeteria or restaurant, and had only coffee. I was worried about what the waitress would think of us spending so much time there, and spending so little money. Robert said I was not to be concerned with such things, and that it was an example of what was referred to “In the Work” as a feature in false personality called, “Inner-Considering”.

That meant that what one did and did not do, were dependent on what other people would think of our action or inaction, instead of acting from what was true in and of ourselves. I seem to recall him saying that we had to be realistic, and realize that we did in fact, not have much money to spend. At that second meeting, I asked him to autograph the book I had bought. He said, “No, it is not me that is important. It is the knowledge that I release that is important. Someday you will autograph for me, a book that you write.” That has not as yet come to pass.

At some point in the meeting, after having had some of the basics of the theories of the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky given to me, I quite clearly remember going to a toilet, and trying so very hard to “remember myself”. It might have been the first real attempt I had made to do so, and was apparently somewhat successful, as it has created a memory that lasts to this day, more than 27 years later!

At one of these early meetings, Robert said he had only been with his own teacher for 3 years. He also said that his teacher had increased his payments until he had had to hold down 3 jobs to be able to make the payments to be able to remain with his teacher. Then there had come a time when his teacher had told him it was time for him to leave, and go out on his own. Robert said, that he had traveled across the United States, searching for a student, that he may be able to teach, and was it not strange that he had come home, and found one (a student) in his own back yard.

The next meeting was held in Pleasant Hill. We were in a “Burger Bar” of some kind, and I ordered a hamburger. Much to my surprise, Robert did not talk. Eventually he said, he would not teach while I was eating. Eating would be a deviation of my attention. Of course, I finished my food as quickly as possible! I made some comment as to the negative appearance of some of the customers. Robert said that to him, they look “just right”, according to their body types.

At one of the early meetings I asked what would be needed for me to become his student. He explained that one could not be considered a student until a payment was made. He said, “What do you consider it would be worth to save your soul?” He said I was to think about those things he had taught me considering payments, and to arrive at the amount I would choose to pay. I chose to pay 90 dollars per month. I paid the amount, and became his first student.

The subject of voluntary sacrifices was spoken of. I told my teacher that I would give up many things, but I would not give up my children.

In a short time, my husband also became a student. From that time, the meetings began to take place in our home, in Pleasant Hill. From the beginning, Robert and I met 6 days a week. When my husband became a student, the meetings became 6 nights a week. The two children had a hard time, as it was necessary for them to be quiet in their rooms up-stairs, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. 6 nights a week. Of course, that was only one of the reasons their life became more difficult. Yet, that is a story for a later time.

As I had the great good fortune to be a housewife, it became possible to increase the teaching periods I had. It became 6 nights a week, plus many extra meetings in daytimes, alone with Robert. I was also given a number of personal exercises which took up alot of time.

1. I was fat at the time—weighing perhaps 150 lbs. and 5ft. 3½ inches tall. I had a wardrobe for several different sizes, as I was one of those people who had been on and off diets much of my life. One of the exercises was to make a skirt and a long vest, and a blouse.

2. I had previously colored my hair, (had a grey streak down the middle from the time I was 15 years old, due to the auto accident) and had gone through the discomfort of letting all the color grow out. I was to color my hair, as an exercise. Robert said the grey—which was no longer confined to the streak in the middle— was a sign that the hair was dead, or dying. (These are not really important, they just might be a source of humor now, to some “Who have been there.")

Quite early, I was given the exercise to make a poster, to advertise the meetings, to acquire more students. It was quite a surprise to me, and I asked “Why shall one advertise a 'C' Influence teaching?" It was one of those exercises that gave me alot of friction. I was so very passive, just the thought of carrying that out took alot of working against what “came natural” — or, “what was mechanical” for me.

I had 3 months of a teacher to myself, much of the time. So much went on in the day meetings, that I surely felt myself highly privileged, and grateful. Because of the many hours spent together, the time took on another dimension of being taught. That is to say, it could not be considered to be the same kind of a 3 month period for those that came later, and, for example, may have been mostly taught in a group, 3 nights a week.

As I remember it, the 3rd. student was a Doctor. At one time the 4 of us were doing an exercise in our back yard, doing some yard work. It seemed strange to me that I had already noticed a few times when it was necessary for Robert to “separate”, when it was not needed at all for me. I figured out that perhaps it was partly because he was a couple of years younger than I, and had not been married, or had children. Meaning, simply, a lack of experience in family life, which helps one to overcome and accept many things that are not as one would want, if it were only oneself to take into account. Another thought was that perhaps it was just due to our different body types. He was Saturn, with a little Mars. I was Venusian, with a little Mercury.

There came more students. We continued to meet in our home until there came others with a suitable home to have meetings in.

Sometime in the beginning, Robert said he would like me and my husband to make our payments in advance, so he could have enough money to make a downpayment on a Volkswagen van. I think he was using his mothers` car, though am not sure. We did not hesitate to do so, to the extent we could manage. The house we lived in made it look as if we had a good amount of money. That was not correct. My husband had saved a large amount of money before we had met, and put an unusually large downpayment on the house. Most likely we had the smallest monthly income of any in that housing tract. We did explain that situation to the teacher. He gratefully accepted what we could manage to give him, and he bought the Volkswagen Van. In its time, it carried many a student to wonderful excursions. It was sort of the “hippy car” of the time, in the 60s and early 70s. Many a hippy lived in their V.W. Vans, and many were decorated in wild and beautiful colorful designs. Robert's was destined to remain its own discrete color, with none of the fancy decorations of the time. It is surely remembered with a touch of nostalgia, for those that can remember the wonderment of the time, without coloring those memories with the disillusionment that came later.

From the beginning, it was made clear that persons that became students and left, were to have no more contact with each other. The teacher said he had devoted himself to work with those persons who wished to evolve, and it was necessary to keep the energy within the group, and not let it “leak” out, to those that left.
Bonita Guido, Robert Burton's first "student,"
in February 1973. Photo by Drew Kampion.

At one point I told Robert that I had an opportunity to belly dance at a local bar. It would include being topless, as there were the usual topless dancers there. I was told that it would be o.k. to do so, as it was possible to make the performance, “without being it.” I was delighted. I wanted to experiment with the dancing I had been taught. As I had been a nudist for some years, going topless was not something of concern to me. I invited a couple from San Francisco, who were friends of mine, to be there. I did the deed. It was exciting, but really quite hard work. I changed costumes 3 times, and had a wonderful time on stage. It seemed that doing a strip-tease act was right in my essence!!! Ha Ha. Because that was what I made it into. Between performances, the top-less dancing ladies were to serve drinks. In doing so, one dear customer was so sweet as to ask me to marry him. Oh, my, did that boost my ego! Ha. However, though I felt my performances were rather successful, I did not get the job. So it was my one and only night as a professional topless belly dancer. I was quite proud of myself to have been so bold, and was glad that I would have the story to tell if I ever had grandchildren.

Many years later, in the `90s`, my oldest daughter told me a story concerning the night I had been a topless bellydancer. She said that a boy at her school had asked her about it, because HIS FATHER HAD BEEN AT THE BAR, AND SEEN ME DANCE. Oh, my poor,dear, precious daughter!!! She said she had been horribly embarrassed!!! It was certainly NOT the first time I had embarrassed her badly, for sure, but that time had been particularly difficult for her. In many ways, I was grateful that she had waited so many years to tell me. She had not told me until these later years how difficult it had been for her, due to my “unusual” interests, of a variety of kinds.

When we were still quite a small group, one of the members named Stella, asked me if there was anything between me and the teacher other than that of teacher and student. I answered, “No, of course not.” I would like to say at this time, so many years later, that I had lied.

My second husband and I had been separated 2 times, for short periods. The final separation and divorce occured because I told him that I was having an affair with a young man that had come into school. He was a Mormon. My husband could not “take” that information, and we separated and he filed for divorce. It is too long a story to go more into, at this time.

Due to the separation, it was necessary for me to return to work, to earn money. I had begun to work as a practical nurse to earn money, and knew it was a job I intensely disliked. That was because I had taken the education to be able to “give” to other people, and the jobs I had held in “Old Peoples`Homes” had shown themselves to be a horror to me. The work load was literally impossible to carry out, and it became necessary to jump over many of the functions one was supposed to carry out. To me, it had become a nightmare of being inhuman to those precious persons for whom I had learned to value and care very deeply for. So, when I saw an advertisement to be trained as a masseuse, I quickly applied for the training. I was trained by a registered nurse, and learned the trade. Because I already had a certificate as a practical nurse, I was legally allowed to massage people. I acquired a job as a masseuse.

One day, Robert asked me if I would come to his apartment in Walnut Creek. (He had moved away from his mother as soon as he had enough money from students to get his own apartment.) I gave him the massage in his bed. After, he asked me if I would like to have sexual activity with him. Of, course, I was really delighted at the offer. I had been quite curious at what it would be like to have sex with him, a conscious being. He suggested I take a shower first, which I did. We had sex together. Afterwards, he congratulated me on not buffering, by closing my eyes. He also said he had been greedy, as he had attempted to have sex again, after the first orgasm, and had not been able to do so. I had been somewhat disappointed, as it did not seem that he had any special abilities, because he was a conscious being. Also, I did not have an orgasm. There had been no noticeable “foreplay” by him to me, but of course, he had just had an hour of massage, so perhaps that had played the part of “foreplay” for him. In other words, it was just ordinary sex, not exciting or particularly positive. The most positive part of it for me, was that my curiosity was satisfied.

Later that evening, there was a meeting at my house. He seemed much more identified with the fact that we had had sexual activity earlier that day, than I was. He made a statement to the small group, that he was “A bit low on energy that night, due to an unusual expenditure of energy during the day.” I do not think I acted any different to him that night, than at other meetings, but I supposed that I had had a lot more sexual experiences than he. That was just the impression I had had. (As a “liberated” woman of the 60`s, I had experimented quite alot in the area of sexual activities.)

At some time later, I cannot remember how long, he made a statement to the group of students that he had been celibate since he had been a Teacher. Of course, I knew from personal experience, that it was a lie. It created some confusion in me. I just could not understand WHY he would LIE about such a thing. It would have been so easy just to say he was celibate...without adding the lie, “SINCE I HAVE BEEN A TEACHER.” It did not, however, become a large negative for me, as he had preciously taught me, “It can be a legitimate tool, TO LIE. It must not, however, be from mechanical parts that, for example, just want to protect an idea of an identity, or to protect mechanical features.” So, I let it go, and did not, at the time, give much space to thinking about it. It did not in any way make me think he would have sexual activities with others, and also lie about it, still stating he was celibate. Which means, that for me, later, when such statements were made, I believed them, thinking that I had been the exception which for some unknown reason, he did not want to acknowledge. (I never told anyone this story as long as I was in his school, or in America.)

Later, at a school party, he notified me that we would not repeat the sexual experience together, because I did not value him and the experience with him, enough. He also told me not to have sexual activities that did not include a “full relationship”. That is, one in which there were several centers involved, and a wish for a relationship, rather than just a sexual experience. He said that otherwise, it would be “tramp” against myself. That is, not valuing myself enough. Earlier, he had told me that his mother had been married 5 times. Perhaps, in some way, he had wanted to try and spare me that kind of fate, with those suggestions. (As it turned out, I did marry 4 times, anyway. The last marriage became “THE REAL ONE”, FOR ME, THANK GOD!!!)

Quite early Robert had spoken of the future, in which there would be acquired a farm for those students that wanted to devote their life full time to evolution, which included learning to separate from the expression of negative emotions, and learning to “Self-Remember.”

The idea was very interesting to me. I knew I needed and wanted such conditions for myself. Since we were in the process of getting a divorce, my husband and I put the house up for sale. It quickly sold. My husband and I each received 10,000 dollars cash at the sale of the house.

Because it was so very important to me to devote more of my time to evolution, I offered Robert 4,000 dollars to start the account for the buying of a property. He did not want to accept that. He said that it was too large an amount for one person to contribute. I talked and talked to him. Finally, he agreed to accept the money, if it could be considered to be a loan, which would be repaid. I agreed. In a relatively short amount of time he informed the other students that I had made that commitment of money, and there would be a collection made to gather enough to buy a farm. At that time, he said that he would make the decision as to what would be the amount of money which he would require from each student. If one did not make the payment in the amount of time designated, they would have to leave school. At a meeting, envelopes were handed out, telling each student how much they were to contribute. The amount stated in my envelope was 800 dollars. I was surprised, as I had already given the 4,000 dollars. Yet, I paid it, without question.
[ed. - See also "Wouldn't you like to know's" Brief History of the Fellowship of Friends.]

Wednesday, May 21, 1997

Stella Wirk creates Geocities website on cult abuse

[ed. - A predecessor of today's Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, this site brought to the internet the discussions Stella was for years having through her listserv groups. The counter shows over 12,500 page views, with March 21, 2002 being the highest traffic day. Harold Wirk created much of the artwork for the site. Various links on the page may be obsolete, or may load slowly. To visit an archive of their Geocities site, click here. Note: the "Fourth Way Information" link found on some of Stella's pages was embedded years later by ex-member Greg W. Goodwin to direct traffic to his own sites.]

Stella Wirk died on December 29, 2001. She had been in the work for more than 30 years.


Pages here reviewed October 3. 2001

As you read on, you may see how this is a "free speech" concern.

Greetings. You may have contacted me personally, caught up to me from my writing in your page guestbook (or somewhere else), or merely followed the "about cults" link on the first page of this site. These "cult info" pages originally were "semi-private" pages to which only known friends were *invited* by me.

I decided to link these pages here as the information might give some insight and more understanding to those puzzled by cult activities and how people are enchanted by them, sometimes to their death. Following receiving the news of "Heaven's Gate" suicides in 1997, interest in cult activities has increased (remembering Jonestown and Waco incidents as well).

[I hasten to mention that reminding people of Jonestown and Waco does *NOT* mean that I believe FOF* to be headed for similar ends! However, the cult phenomena regarding devotion of members, with diminished ability for critical thinking, is very similar. A cult is a cult, is a cult. *FOF=Fellowship of Friends, you can read about on these linked pages. Thank you.]

I ask that readers here be prudent in passing around the new URL to friends, or anyone IN a cult whom you think would be helped by this, and not publish it in newsgroups. Thank you very much.

Please read my current remarks with an "even tone of voice," as I am not presenting a "harrangue" against the Fellowship of Friends. I'm just stating facts about it, and showing some correspondence, about which I am familiar by knowing the persons who wrote it. Otherwise, I write from personal experience of FOF at the time. (Yes, I have current knowledge about FOF from people who have told me about it from the inside -- who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.)

It is my intent to show how I understand the cult phenomenon in the Fellowship of Friends, and how it is everybody's "fault", not just a small committee plotting against the members. At the same time, I cannot "blame" anyone for being "taken in" by the contrived atmosphere, induced by the group leader, Robert Burton, who is, basically, *not* the person he presents himself to be. This is not unusual in these kinds of groups, if one studies them.

(For more information about cults and their controlling methods, see also,

Check out this book! [link removed]

I realize nothing is sacred on the web, and I don't want to bother with passwords and such, and yet I also did not plan to publicy "advertise" this as a place to pick up gossip about the Fellowship of Friends. These pages are not motivated by gossip, nor retaliation, nor for personal aggrandizement. These are intended to be informational, educational, and hopefully helpful, especially to relatives and friends currently enamored of FOF, and whom at any time may lose the group they 'love' so much -- by overnight becoming an "undesirable" (should they disobey the teacher, become extremely physically ill, or become delinquent with financial donations!).

[If interested in more basics of the Fourth Way, please see the 4thway FAQ. Back button on browser or link at bottom of page brings you back here.]

In April 1998, some FOF members who refused to move east of the FOF property in Northern California (up in the hills), were either being excommunicated from the group or under threat of removal! The Teacher had "prophesied" that California would fall in the ocean April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Oh, excuse me, that was the first date obtained by the teacher some years ago from a mailbox number he saw on Highway 1 on a drive to Big Sur, California. The last big news was that if California did not fall by July 1, 1998, the teacher would recind a "sex exercise" (abstinence before marriage) and allow members to "self regulate that area." (As California remains attached, it is now 1999, we do not know if the old "sex task" has been recinded.)   ;-)

The teacher already had commented that people who do not move from the part of California that will fall "are not worth saving."]

As we all know now, Califonia did NOT fall in the ocean, and Burton went out of town for a while, saying "Higher forces humiliated me," and something about making him humble. People nod and look as if they understand that. There is no question that the idea was flakey in the beginning. I will greatly appreciate your valuation and respect for my request that you not "advertise" this site except privately among former (or current, if you dare) members of the Fellowship of Friends and other friends who may have serious interest in cult-type activities. What is posted here is my personal opinion from personal experience, my understanding, and what close friends on the "inside" have told me.

You may also wish to bookmark this page and go see this site [ed. - Link no longer active] about FOF, and has detailed examinations of a variety of areas and activities. There you also will find FOF Journals, in the public domain, which are very revealing.

This page also may be interesting for you:

click here

There is interaction available here; messages to read and reply to if you wish (and you may reply anonymously)!

[Visiting linked sites, please use browser "back" button to come back to this page, or bookmark ahead of time! Thanks!]

Well, enough of this preamble, as you have scaled some barrier or other to get this far, or dropped in out of curiosity, you might as well get what you came to see. (smile) You are most welcome to ask any questions which may arise from reading these formerly privately linked pages.

Thank you, from Stella

The works of Peter Ouspensky (left) and George Gurdjieff (right) are of great value to people who grasp the ideas of what is known as The Fourth Way. People who view these pages about the Fellowship of Friends will understand more from a "work" point of view, than from a "gossip" point of view. Please try to bring your highest valuation for the basic ideas with you here.

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Updated October 3. 2001!

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[ed. - Stella published a couple of writings:]

Bibliographic information

Title: Three Essays: The Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky: The Fourth Way

Author: Stella Wirk

Publisher: Eureka, 1993

ISBN: 9072395034, 9789072395030

Length: 14 pages

Bibliographic information

Title: From the Letters of Stella Wirk: The Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky: The Fourth Way

Author: Stella Wirk

Publisher: Eureka, 1994

ISBN: 9072395026, 9789072395023

Length: 104 pages