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.

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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.