Introduction


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 from 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.

Saturday, August 7, 1999

An evening at the Fellowship country club

[ed. - John Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash July 16, 1999. I have included this post in the timeline roughly when this dinner might have taken place.]

"Kid Shelleen" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 26, 2007:

A story:

The last teaching dinner I attended with Robert was in August 1999. He had just started (I think) having dinners where there were 44 students in attendance. Dinners I attended before this usually accommodated around sixteen or so students. It was also the first time I had to pay to have dinner with him in the fifteen years I had been in the school.

When I made my annual pilgrimage to Ren/Apol/Is that summer, I was already ninety percent sure I was going to leave. Many of the fof teachings had started to ring false in my ears. I wanted to root out my own superstitious beliefs and stop what had become, for me, a strain of fellowship fundamentalism in my thinking.

At the same time, I thought I’d give it one more go round just to see if I was missing something. Being the partially brain-washed student, I was naturally wondering if I hadn’t made enough of the right kinds of efforts. After all, I had put the school into my life and not put my life into the school. I was a member of an outlying center, married to a life person, with no intention or desire to move to the foothills. To top it all off, I still expressed negativity on a regular basis.

Still, perhaps with this trip, I would find an omen or some sort of sign to give my decision credence. What a naive mess I was!

So, I show up to the dinner feeling an incredible mixture of anxiety and expectation. Part of me is hoping to hear a single idea or experience a higher state to prove that staying is worth my time. What happened at that dinner still strikes me as strange and still makes me laugh.

Robert spent almost the entire dinner going on and on about John Kennedy Jr.’s plane crash, the Kennedys as America’s royal family, etc.; seemingly straight out of People magazine. Once he started in on the topic, it seemed to influence the questions students had for him. When he wasn’t talking about the Kennedys he spoke of another fourth way teaching topic: golf. The subject matter and the fact that he was becoming very hard of hearing at this point, needing every question and comment from the participants restated by the student seated next to him, left me with the impression that I was having dinner with a doddering, old Uncle at his Ultra-posh country club. It was time for me to leave.

I’m sure there are as many interpretations of this story as there are readers of it. Perhaps the reader will project there own inner conflicts and understandings onto the story and create their own moral. Be my guest.

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