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 on 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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The Fellowship's "Toilet of Venus" by Il Guercino's: real or fake?

[ed. - It appears that, on more than one occasion, the Fellowship attempted to sell this painting. Apparently, they eventually entered into an arrangement, perhaps with their ally Sotheby's auction house, perhaps with a private buyer, to lease the painting back to the Fellowship for display in its Apollo Galleria. I placed this in the timeline at the date of the 2002 Sotheby's auction.]

"YIC" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 28, 2010: 
JFT and MHN [bloggers Just the Facts Ma'am and More History Needed] thank you for your answers, I asked because I did not know what you knew about this story and I see that your answer may be partially correct but they are not the reason why REB [Robert Earl Burton] is “persona non grata ” in the European community . You were honest JTF when you said “I could be wrong ” in effect I´m surprise not body here know the real reason why he is “not acceptable” . It is something that started in Italy with a lady that left the school and she reported to the authorities that an Italian painting that is in OH should not be there because belong to the Italian State and could not leave the Italian country, from there everything started.

Even in The FOF the people does not [know] the reason why He cannot go in Europe, they just think is something to do with VISA problems or something like that, off course somebody knows the full story but those want stay for convenience in top at the Fellowship Pyramid so they do not care about the true and somebody buffer it .

"Just the Facts Ma'am" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 28, 2010:

182. YIC [responding to above] What you say, about state treasures in the way of artwork, may also be true. I vaguely remember something about that and will put the question to some friends that are artists and/or familiar with the art world. There is a 40 year tenure that could produce a good bit of bad bloody with various states both individually and as an organisation. But, what you state being the case, if it is so, does not negate the other reasons mentioned and they are more recent developments that you might not have been aware of until now. Also, these quasi-religions (Scientology, for instance, recently), have been taken to task by various jurisdictions because people can see through their facades.

"YIC" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 28, 2010:
183. JTF [responding to above]
Yes, I did not know about the recent developments. I just know for sure that the “painting” has been the reason why REB started to be not accepted in the European community.

"dick moron" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 28, 2010:
[Quoting] 187. YIC "Guercino. Venere´s Toilette."
Sorry, this painting is no national treasure - in Italy or the Kingdom of Apollo. I suspect that the only reason that mediocre work is still hanging in Oregon House, is the fact that is unsellable. The painting was in an old master paintings auction at Sothebys NY in about 1989 and it did not sell. The painting has “problems” as they say in the art world. You might also say it is “burned”.

"YIC" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 29, 2010:
190.Dick Moron. [responding to above]

The reason nobody wants buy the Guercino is because they know it should not be there. It is a very nice painting , it is not mediocre, sorry.

"dick moron" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 29, 2010:
195. YIC [responding to above]

Well, you seem to have a higher estimation of il Guercino than the rest of the modern world.

Anyway, I did a little research and saw that this painting, or a duplicate, sold at Sotheby’s London auction on July, 2002 for about 1,000,000 Great Britain Pounds. So did the FOF actually unload this dog of a painting? Looks like there might have been a little profit in that sale. So what’s the “treasure” issue with Italy if the thing sold at a public auction?? Do tell us.

"yic" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 29, 2010:
 197.dick moron [responding to above]

Seems you do not know to much about the "Galleria”, maybe you are/were a little "far” from the life there! the Guercino is there at least from 20 years and off course is the authentic one, I do not know what you found they sold there but is not the same painting.

"dick moron"wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 29, 2010:
199.yic [responding to above]

Yes I have made it a priority to stay as “far” from the life at the Galleria as is possible.

For anyone who cares: [Link no longer active.]

From the description, this appears to be the real Guercino. If there is another still in Oregon house, it is either copy or the sale in 2002 fell through.

Anyway, why would anyone trust the taste of the man who bought this trite work.

Sotheby’s London, July 10,2002
LOT 62
The Property of a West Coast Institution
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino
Cento 1591 – 1666 Bologna
1,200,000—1,800,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: 1,216,650 GBP

"another name" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 30, 2010:
If my memory is correct this was the reason the painting was not sold a few years ago. The copy in the Galleria is most likely a copy. Of course Robert said: something “what a play it was that we had the painting back”. I remember him saying this in a meeting and he seemed to believe himself.

"Just the Facts Ma'am" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 30, 2010:
[Responding to] 193. More history needed:

You don’t really expect anyone is going to read that jibberish you posted. But, thank you for the link to that translation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I hope this poop on the Guercino Venus Bathing (The Toilet of Venus) painting helps settle some issues a bit. The painting was removed from the Galleria around the time of the Sotheby’s sale (and possibly at other times) – as best as I remember. (BTW, the Sotheby’s page lists the provenance; seems like it was already out of Italy prior to its showing up in Oregon House; for what that is worth. Sotheby’s is pretty good at doing their home work.) The story was that it was up for sale and the story continued on that it did sell. Arrangement was made for a lease back, preservation, and housing of the object. This way, FoF could enjoy almost all the benefits of ownership without possessing it and tying up capital. Of course, it would mean making payments. But, it would be cared for and on display. It is a large painting – the figures being near life size. This writer does not particularly give it high marks, as Spock 89/203 stated: ‘Never had a moment of inspiration from that painting, or any sense of awe.’ It’s somewhat dark and brooding. A better description could be: The Vanity of Venus. She is looking at herself in a mirror. For me, it was primarily decorative and its main value was that its huge size covered a lot of wall space that otherwise would have required several paintings and decorative objects. So, yes, perhaps symbolic of the vanity of Fellowship of Friends. Here is large version:

"dick moron" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 30, 2010:
206. just the facts m’mam (joe friday) [responding to above]

How interesting about the Guercino. Sounds like it was bought at auction in 2002 by an investor group with an arrangement to lease it back to FOF (probably for not much money) as caretakers for their investment. An “on Loan” arrangement with a “non-profit museum”.

I wonder if it was the now-failed art investment group, Artemis Fine Art ltd. I know that R.B. and the FOF were involved with these guys in the early-1980s. The Guercino was in a Sothebys NY auction around 1989 and it not sell. I know because I was there monitoring the sale for the Burton.

And i agree that the painting is little more than a large wall covering that happened to be worth a lot of money at one time. But then, the entire Academy/Galleria is a just a little puff of decorative fluff.

"rock that boat" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 31, 2010: 
What I remember is that the FOF’s Guercino turned out to be a fake.

 "dick moron" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 31, 2010:
213. rock that boat [responding to above]
You might be thinking of the Ugolino which was discovered to be a fake when it was tested by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty was going to buy the painting and no one suspected it was fake. Standard scientific testing revealed that it was not authentic.

The FOF had paid about $1,000,000 for it and I assume the money was refunded by the Swiss art dealer that sold the thing.

"WhaleRider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 31, 2010:
rock that boat: [responding to above]

You can’t possibly be suggesting that the FOF tried to sell something that was fake, are you?…that they possibly could have stooped so low as to have been attempting to profit from selling something that was in reality only a cheap imitation?

And once the truth was discovered that the work was in fact not what it appeared to be, that the FOF’s claim of its authenticity was proven to be unfounded…that the buyer backed out of the deal?
How could that be…I mean, given that the FOF operates only under the guiding hand of c-influence?
What a shock. This is so unexpected. I am wordless.

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