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.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Stella Wirk dies

[ed. - Former long-time Fellowship member and leader, Stella Wirk died on December 29, 2001. The following image and remembrance of Stella is from the Fourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky School website. See also Stella's "Eliminate Cult Abuse" page and "A few remarks from some of Stella's friends."]

Former Fellowship of Friends leader Stella Wirk

Stella Wirk was a student of the Work. Her virtual presence on the internet served a twofold purpose. She helped many victims of Fourth Way cults toward recovery. At the same time, her dedication to the application of the principles of the Work to her own life was a true "Light on the Way" for many people.

She was always there with advice, guidance, or just an understanding ear for those troubled by their experiences with the Fourth Way cults so prevalent today.

She was also a wealth of practical information and experience for those actively practicing the Work.

Stella's presence was compelling and her practicality unquestionable. She was always Stella - always the same. One could depend on that.

Most people will remember Stella by her warm heart and most generous nature. She gave her time to anyone who asked - at any time and anywhere either 'virtually' via the internet and email or even better in person (especially if an all-night coffee shop was close by).

Stella was involved in the Work for over 30 years. She was a well-respected figure on usenet. She conducted lively "Stella's Coffee Shops" and "Wirkshops" all over the world for years. She educated people about the dangers involved in degenerate cults, 'wolves in sheep's clothing', masquerading as representatives of the Work. She passed away in 2001. This archive contains her website as designed and written by her. All those who knew her miss her greatly, and will never forget her.

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

"Immortality through Self-Remembering"

[ed - The homepage of a former Fellowship of Friends website, the domain established December 4, 2001. The meta description: "A conscious Gurdjieff-Ouspensky teacher of the Fourth Way illustrates how to use self-remembering to achieve immortality. The Forth (sic) Way was introduced to the West by Gurdjieff."]

Robert Earl Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult leader, Immortality Through Self Remembering website

[ed. - From the Introduction:]
“Almost no one realizes the enormity of what can be gained or lost during his lifetime. One gains immortality or suffers oblivion, or worse. Every second you remember yourself you pierce eternity.”

"I do not imagine that there has ever been a way or path to the truth that was not strange, because one is taking a mechanical man at a physical level and transforming him into an astral body. I would not teach or use my energy unless I felt that immortality was probable and that death was an illusion for those who enter the way."

"Immortality is within our reach. Books educate us, but only self-remembering makes us immortal."

"Each person who enters the way will become immortal—that is why the way exists. The life of each person who enters the way is an epic, yet how many lives we live in this one lifetime! Sometimes one remembers with relief that higher forces are monitoring the school. We have the great privilege of understanding that higher forces do exist, and that life after death is a reality. Where does the way lead to? Immortality."

"Rainer Maria Rilke said, “All angels bring terror”—terrible shocks to awaken one. To create an astral body they use unsavory methods. Influence C frequently plays the role of villain in our lives. With them, one just absorbs continually; it is the highest path. One tries to endure without self-pity. It is curious, but Influence C crushes us into immortality."

"Human nature generally does not see the obvious, which is why esoteric truths have frequently been presented in the form of fairy tales. Fairy tales often begin with the statement, “Once upon a time,” indicating that the stories are unfolding in time, and end with a prince and a princess (World 6 and World 12) living “happily ever after,” that is, in eternity—immortality."

"Awakening is an emotional process and friction must be emotional. The suffering we experience must be real because the states we create are real. It isn’t pleasant to verify this, and yet it is a blessing. Friction can seem like a curse until we begin to realize the great idea behind it. What is that great idea? Immortality. Can anything compare with that?"

"Remember that you seek immortality, and one can hardly pay enough."

"My dear friends. You are in a critical situation. We live in a brutal universe where souls are endlessly driven from vessel to vessel. The gods have entered your life to enable you to escape this vicious cycle. Immortality is within your grasp. Firmly grip your aim to awaken and do not be distracted by anything. You are not alone; remember I love you, now and forever."

Robert Earl Burton

Monday, November 26, 2001

The Fellowship of Friends registers "" domain


Fellowship member Steven McCulley establishes the new website, as a portal for members to access internal publications. The site publicly lists Fellowship of Friends centers worldwide:

North America


Toronto +1 (416) 631 8621

United States +1 (800) 642-0212

Apollo +1 1-800-642-0212

Atlanta +1 (770) 346-0460

Boston +1 (617) 795-0084

Los Angeles +1 800-642-0212

New York +1 (877) 755-0428

Palo Alto +1 530 282 3530

Phoenix +1 530-277-2088

Sacramento +1 800-642-0212

San Francisco +1 (800) 642-0212

Washington, D.C. +1 301-933-0544



Vienna +43 6803338814


Minsk +375 (29) 763-5178


Brussels +32 474219120

Czech Republic

Prague +420 603-231-046


Copenhagen +45 (35) 421-910


Paris +33 6 33 67 00 46


Munich +49 162 988 4587

North Germany +49 800 5100051


Athens +30 (210) 965-4319


Budapest +36 30-417-6747


Tel Aviv +972 3-528-2204


Florence +39 327-3644-231

Milan +39 (349) 738.3702

Naples +39 3934289878

Rome +39 (333) 620-3411

Venice +39 39-567938


Beirut +961 3-438459


Amsterdam +31 (0) 6 474-20668


Bucharest +40 723-686-012


Barnaul +7 (913) 217-6645

Khabarovsk +7

Khabarovsk +7 (914)402-2944

Moscow +7 (926) 210-9367

Nijny Novgorod +7 915 958 3120

Novosibirsk +7 (903) 937-7449

Petrosavodsk +7 (921) 220-2367

St Petersburg +7 921)-948-2906


Ljubljana +386 (41) 902121


Berlin +49 151 56633566

Madrid +34 606 872 593

Madrid +34

Valencia +34 653 463 764


Zurich +41 (78) 761 74 25


Kiev +380 (68)-530-4444

United Kingdom

London +44 (20) 8347-5353

Latin America:


Buenos Aires +54 11 4821-4808


Campinas +55

Campinas +55 (19) 3253-5802

Porto Alegre +55 51-8288.8614

Sao Paulo +55

Sao Paulo +55 (11) 6584-0745


Santiago +56 (2)954-5523


Bogota +57 (312)378-7954

El Salvador

San Salvador +503 7839-1066


Mexico City +52

Mexico City +52 55 55 43 60 52

Monterrey +52 (81)89962447

Tijuana +52 664 684 1088

Veracruz +52 229-932-1183



Ahmedabad +91 94260 14167

Mumbai +91 02228061480

Rajkot +91 281-257-4565


Tokyo +81 05055346472


Taipei +886 987-943-713

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture published

Excerpts from Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, by Sarah Handler:
"In 1990 the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture opened in Renaissance, California. Founded by the Fellowship of Friends in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California, this museum was the only one in the world devoted exclusively to Chinese furniture. To promote the study and appreciation of furniture, the fellowship also published the quarterly Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society."

"San Francisco was again the site of a Chinese furniture exhibition in 1995–96, when the collection from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture was shown at the Pacific Heritage Museum and a catalog published. The Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society ceased publication at the end of 1994, and in September 1996 the museum’s entire collection was sold at Christie’s in New York for unprecedented sums.The collection had been formed during the 1980s and ’90s, when many excellent pieces of classical furniture were coming out of China."

"This book had its origins in the high-spirited rediscovery of classical furniture in the 1990s and developed from a series of articles I wrote about pieces in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture."

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

George Gurdjieff and a warning about The Fellowship of Friends

[ed. - On disinformation, Alex Burns writes a biographical sketch of George Gurdjieff, including a warning concerning the Fellowship of Friends. The "About Cults" link below leads to an Internet Archive copy of Stella Wirk's former Geocities website. The page also features links to several now-defunct sites of former Fellowship members: Theodore J. Nottingham, Greg W. Goodwin's The System, Charles Duncan's Fourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky School, and the contemporary Fellowship of Friends page (which cites the teachings of Gurdjieff as the Fellowship's foundation.) Bolds added.]
Take the 'wisdom' of the East and the 'energy' of the West and then seek.
~~ Gurdjieff
From his first appearance in Moscow and St Petersburg in 1912, the enigmatic philosopher and memetic engineer George Ivanovich Gurdjieff attracted the interest of occultists and the Western intelligentsia. His teachings (often referred to as the 'Gurdjieff Work' or 'Fourth Way') became widely known through the writings and lectures of his pupil, the famous Russian mathematician and journalist Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky, and were later propagated by Alfred Richard Orage, John Godolphin Bennett, Rodney Collins, and Dr. Maurice Nicoll.

Utilizing 'stolen' teachings from a wide range of groups that he had encountered (including the Yezidis, the Russian Orthodox Church, and Sufi 'Bektashi' and 'Naqshbandi' sects in the Hindu Kush and Pamir regions), Gurdjieff developed a unique system designed to enable individuals to overcome ingrained cognitice defects, become more conscious, and awaken the seeds of the Higher Self's Objective Conscience.

Recognizing that all spiritual movements eventually succumb to entropy, Gurdjieff ended his masterful use of PSYOPS adversity and confrontation at his 'initiatory laboratory' in Fontainebleu (France), concentrating upon conveying his worldview through the mammoth portable mythos 'Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson' (1950), which developed deeper esoteric themes drawn from Sufi, Zoroasterian, Sumer, and Egyptian literature.

His later work with small groups in Paris during the 1930s and 1940s, the subsequent books, the sacred dances, the piano music composed with musician Thomas de Hartmann, and the now extensive biographical and critical literature serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of this Magus. Many of Gurdjieff's concepts influenced Twentieth Century culture, including the Leary/Wilson/Lilly models of 'conscious evolution', the revitalisation of Gnostic Christianity, scientific research on 'split brain' neurology and 'multiple intelligences', Gaia eco-consciousness and the reciprocal maintenance of natural systems. Popularisations of Sufi Initiation occurred via Oscar Ichazo's 'Arica' Institute, the 'false Sufism' of E.J. Gold, and the stories of Idries Shah.

After his death in 1949, Gurdjieff's legacy was disseminated through many people, coinciding with the fragmentation of groups into secular denominations. It was further obscured by personality cults such as Robert Burton's Fellowship of Friends (Renaissance), and identifications with Gurdjieff at the expense of his ideas. Derivative movements have used isolation, group think, authoritarian power structures, and other 'unmasking psychology' methods for re-programming individuals. No one group can claim absolute control over or knowledge of Gurdjieff's teachings, and the interested practitioner is warned to exercise caution and common sense.

To quote Gurdjieff: "Beware of someone who wants to teach you something." The first rule of many 'Fourth Way' groups is: "There is nothing compulsory. One is not asked to violate cherished beliefs or accept any of the ideas presented. Rather, a healthy skepticism is encouraged."

About Cults: Fellowship of Friends
The 'Fellowship of Friends' (Renaissance), founded by self-styled 'Fourth Way' teacher Robert Earl Burton is one of the most controversial contemporary groups. Burton never studied directly with Gurdjieff or Ouspensky (he did study with Alex Horn), and is not recognised by the Gurdjieff Foundation as a legitimate heir, but has promoted himself as a self-proclaimed 'Teacher' who became notorious when his Edgar Cayce-like prophecy of California falling into the sea due on April 11th 1988 failed to occur (he also claimed to be founding a 'New Civilization' that would survive an Armageddon). The FOF promotes itself by leaving 'Gurdjieff/Ouspensky' Centres bookmarks in stores, despite several disputes with publishers and authors. This site by Stella and Harold Wirk (who met Burton in July 1970 and studied with the FOF until 1982) describes how this esoteric school began to turn into a cult within three years, the group dynamics and 'authoritarian power god' processes underlying this transformation (the school forgets its original aim and exists only to survive/propagate itself), and the inevitably decline that followed. Exercises designed to increase awareness of neuro-physiological, social, and individual limitations became extremely regimented (see the Wirk-Sheet and famous Hell Letter). This site contains letters, e-mail, and distinctive portraits. An important reminder that the Gurdjieff Work does not have obedience, faith, or blind belief!
Screenprint of Alex Burn's article on George Gurdjieff and links to Fellowship of Friends spin-offs. Source: disinformation

"the Sheik of Fatigue and Esoteric Knowledge" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 26, 2006:
Seriously watch out. First decide whether you truly do want to join a group, the history is full of people who managed great things on their own. There are also other ways to meet like-minded people than to join a group that may be potentially harmful to you. The Feollowship will be harmful to you, you have been warned.

If you still wish to join a Gurdjieff group, you might want to have a look at: [pictured above]

If you don’t mind me asking why have you decided to seek help in your search for enlightenment and what do you think it is that the Fellowship has to offer that you can not get on your own? – as to the truthfulness of the Fellowship of Friends, it is a lie that you can not do work on yourself alone. If they lied once, who is to say how much of what they say is true.

Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Celebrating Apollo's "Pearl Anniversary," 1971 - 2001

[ed. - A former Fellowship member alerted me to this rare gem offered on eBay.]

 Meetings with the Teacher - Vol. 1


Excerpts from Meeting of January 1, 2001:

  "The Most Important Questions a Man Can Ask Himself"

Excerpts from Meeting of January 12, 2001:

  "What Is the Miraculous?"

Excerpts from Meeting of February 25, 2001:
"Giving and Receiving Photographs"

Excerpts from Meeting of March 18, 2001:
The 25th Crystallization Anniversary

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Apollo. In that time both the Fellowship of Friends and the property have undergone great changes. As if mirroring the evolution of the Teacher and his students, the untamed hillsides have slowly been enriched and refined, the undulating rows of the vineyard, the maturing beauty of the trees, the enchanting rose gardens of the Academy all becoming a visible allegory of the transformation of essence. Yet in the midst of these impressive changes, the heart of the Fellowship - as revealed in these excerpts of meetings led by the Teacher - has remained focused on that which is unchangeable and invisible.

As we labor to build our Theatron, and our selves, let the words of Socrates guide us: "Through earthly beauty, we glimpse eternal beauty."

[ed. - Frankly, I think there was more "earthly beauty" in those "untamed" hills before they were ignorantly "enriched and refined." Indeed, the scarred and barren slopes of "Dixon Hill," once teaming with native vegetation and wildlife, may well be a "visible allegory" of Robert Burton's Folly.]

Friday, May 4, 2001

The Fellowship of Friends' "Self-Remembering" website is created

[ed. - The Fellowship registers the internet domain "", and creates the Self-Remembering website. The domain "" directs to this page as well. Below is a November 18, 2003 Internet Archive capture of the site.]


by Robert Earl Burton 

About Robert Earl Burton
Self-remembering by Robert Earl BurtonDeutschFrançaisItalianoEspañolRussianJapaneseArabic

© Copyright Fellowship of Friends 2001
All rights reserved.


"Self-remembering is always fresh. For years I have been grateful to speak about one word - self-remembering - which means life or death for us. Self-remembering must be pursued inexhaustibly throughout one's life. As we move toward death, we realize that all we can take with us is our selves."
- Robert Earl Burton

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Ex-Fellowship of Friends member commits suicide

[ed. - Charles Forline was Fellowship of Friends member in the 1970s and 1980s.]
Man Dies in Apparent Suicide

The Daily Californian
By Bonne Chance

A BART train struck and killed a man at the North Berkeley station 4:45 p.m. Monday in what appears to be an apparent suicide, public transit officials said.

Charles William Forline, 57, died at the station from "extensive blood [blunt?] trauma," after being hit by a train traveling nearly 18 mph.

Witnesses at the scene told police they saw Forline, a Berkeley resident, jump onto the tracks when the train appeared, said BART spokesperson Mike Healy. The incident will likely be under investigation for at least six weeks, said Michael Yost of the Alameda County Coroner's office.

The six-car train hit Forline as it rolled into the North Berkeley station and prepared to stop, Healy said. The train was in the process of decelerating at the time of impact.

It is not known if the man died instantly or if he lived for a short time after the collision took place.

Healy said the station was a regular stop for the train, which was coming in from Richmond. The train closed the track for two to three hours, although an adjacent track remained open, he said.

The station was closed for about 45 minutes, Healy said. People were able to use the trains in either direction after the closure.

While the train was out of service, transit officials set up a "bus bridge" at 5:15 p.m., which shuttled commuters to the different East Bay stations.

Forline [sic] said that while BART accidents do not occur daily, they are not infrequent.

"People get hit because people jump or have seizures and fall onto the tracks," he said.

Wednesday's death was the latest in a series of train crashes in the Bay Area. A funeral was held in early March in San Leandro for a boy who was hit by a train while trying to race with it on his bike. Several weeks ago, an Amtrak train swiped a Berkeley man's truck, which contained empty beer bottles, but nobody was seriously hurt.

A Berkeley woman driving an SUV and talking on her cell phone was also hit by a train in the fall. Although she suffered no injuries, her car was "severely mangled." Additionally, in early February, a train hit a man and dragged him for approximately 20 miles. He lost all of his limbs except for one arm.

"Jomo Piñata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 25, 2009:
Stella and Harold [Wirk] rented for years from Charles Forline. He walked around Berkeley in his bare feet and I believe it was important to him to be barefoot as an individual right. He was renting out rooms in a home which, it came to light, he did not own. The Berkeley ordinance required him to have registered the house with the City and he overlooked this little detail, which made the rentals illegal. He may have been concerned when he was found out that he was going to have to pay back all the rents he had collected, I’m not sure. But I have the sense that his being found out precipitated the suicide.

Thursday, March 1, 2001

"ArkansasBob - The Burton Assram Yahoo Group"

Grog W. Goldwing/Greg W. Goodwin ArkansasBob Burton Assram Yahoo Group Fellowship of Friends criticism
The "Grog W. Goldwing (not his real name)TM" ArkansasBob - Burton Assram Yahoo Group as it once appeared.

[ed. on March 1, 2001, former Fellowship of Friends member "Grog W. Goldwing (not his real name)TM" created the ArkansasBob Yahoo Group above ( It attracted 111 members and apparently continued discussions in the tradition begun by Stella Wirk, first with her listserv, then her website.]

Monday, February 12, 2001

Another Fellowship suicide?

[ed. - Reference to yet another Fellowship suicide. This is placed in the timeline approximately where the alleged incident took place.]

"Anonymous" commented on the Religion and Child Abuse News blog, February 10, 2012.
I am a 40 year old woman. I was in the Fellowship for 4 years, and then left about 10 years ago. My father was allready [sic] a member of the FF for 7 years when i joined.
3 years after i joined, my father killed himself.....

I can not stress enough how what is written in this article is accurate-
My experience of the FF was that it IS a cult, that you Are going through a very sophisticated and manipulative brain washing.
Most people coming to the cult are have weaknesses that led them to search for answers. The group gently and shrewdly plays on those weaknesses and gradually creates a state of dependence in the member.
Robert "recommends" that if someone leaves it is better to cut ties with them...Robert "recommends" that you be more and more involved in the group...Robert "Recommends" not to expect happiness, and that happiness has nothing to do with self development.
I see all these recommendations (and many more) at a sophisticated way of developing co dependency.

When i was there, i kept hearing stories about young guys that turned gay after Robert slept with them, or just guys that Robert slept with. This, and the constant demand to contribute more and more money (which had to do with the ruin of my family and my father), led me eventually to my leaving.
I can say allot more, but English is not my native tong [sic].
I'll just tell you this: there are allot of Narcissistic bustards [sic] out there that want to be your spiritual teacher.
Robert Burton is one of them, For sure.

Monday, January 1, 2001

Robert Burton resumes teaching at meetings in the United States

On this date, according to a former Fellowship of Friends archivist, Robert Burton led a Fellowship of Friends meeting at Apollo. The subject, "The Most Important Questions a Man Can Ask Himself." It was the first time he led a meeting in the U.S. since October 1978, when he ceased leading then-weekly "Bay Area" meetings.

This was preceded by two meetings he had also led, in Moscow on December 5th and in St. Petersburg on December 7th.

[ed. - In 1981, The Bay Area Meetings were moved to Renaissance (later known as Apollo) and relabeled Northern California Meetings.]