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)