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.")

But 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.

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 from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, 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.

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

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