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, 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 Friend
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.]