Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970.

Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

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

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

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

Friday, March 28, 1997

Group got piece of mind

[ed. - From the Rick Ross Institute. See also this 1993 story from the Appeal-Democrat.]
Ex-cultist fell prey to 18-yr. brainwash

Daily News/March 28, 1997

By Anne E. Kornblut

Thomas Easley's devotion to a California cult did not waver during his 18-year membership - not when he was raped, molested or told how to urinate. At age 47, eight years after he escaped, Easley thinks he understands why.

The cult leaders told him "to expand your awareness of the world, you have to start behaving in a particular manner, little by little," said Easley, now a Lake Tahoe, Calif., artist. "I did not believe I was being brainwashed."

Easley was a 21-year-old college dropout when a newspaper ad for the Fellowship of Friends-a group unrelated to the computer cult that committed suicide-caught his eye. Believing it was an enlightened group that met for philosophical discussions, he and his girlfriend paid a $35-a-month fee and joined.

The bi-weekly discussion groups about "human evolution" and "world awareness" seemed innocent enough, Easley said. "They were nice, normal, friendly, thoughtful people. I was very impressed with the knowledge they had."

After a few months, Easley, a runaway at age 16, and his girlfriend were flattered by the group's invitation to live in a communal home in Carmel, Calif., run by the leader, Robert Earl Burton. But they were unaware of the house rules.

Residents were forbidden to say "I," instead referring to themselves as "it," he said. They were pressured into getting nice ties, fashionable shoes and a taste for classical music. They turned over at least 10% of their salaries to the fellowship and were told they had better "never leave" the group.

Easley said he was barred from having sex with his girlfriend and was even instructed to urinate to the side of the toilet to make less noise.

And Burton, 58, who described himself as a "female goddess in a male body," molested Easley and demanded sex acts, Easley charged.

"He made me his personal secretary and chauffeur. I had to move into his bedroom," he said. "You assume there's something wrong with you, not the group."

The fellowship, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1971, has been sued twice by former cult members who alleged Burton pursued them and others for sex. Both suits were settled out of court, and the fellowship headquartered in Yuba County, Calif., insisted all sexual encounters were consensual.

Easley, cut off from his family and friends, moved quickly up the ranks of the sect. During those years, he sometimes questioned Burton's leadership but never objected outright.

It took a 1989 visit to the Dalai Lama for Easley to at last hear that "sexuality and spirituality don't mix." His instincts confirmed, Easley wrote Burton to warn him he was going public with the cult's activities.

In the years since, Eaasley has devoted himself to warning others away from similar groups telling reporters about his experiences and appearing on tabloid TV shows.
The mass suicide of members of a different cult has reminded Easley of a phenomenon "that's been happening for years."

"I expected to gain some meaningful knowledge. It was a fraud," he said. "I'm sure these Higher Source people lived, and were brainwashed, in the same way."

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