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
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, October 9, 2002

"Our School will have an enormous influence on the next civilization."

[ed. - Peter Bishop joined the Fellowship of Friends late in 1972, and would become one of Robert Burton's closest companions. He served as Fellowship of Friends President, co-directed several Fellowship centers, and was a staunch defender of Burton. As "Ollie" notes, Peter died March 21, 2003. Unlike many Fellowship members whose passing was barely noted, Bishop's life was celebrated in a large gathering at the Fellowship's Theatron. "AB" in the post below is Asaf Braverman, Burton's new marionette.]

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 6, 2008:
October 9, 2002, a conversation between Robert Burton (RB) and AB about the beginning of the end of the School:

AB raised the subject of PB’s shock [terminal cancer; PB died on March 21, 2003], and quoted the following angle that RB has been giving recently at teaching events: “P’s shock contains in it the germ of the beginning of the end of the School.” AB continued, “There have been repeated requests by students for clarification of this angle. Some students seem to have misunderstood it, or have perhaps taken it on the wrong scale. Do you think we should address it in any way?”

RB replied, “P has worked in the School for thirty years, and is in the heart of the inner circle. Additionally, he is a long-time personal friend of mine. The School has reached the age (with myself working with the Gods for thirty years) where students are beginning to experience their whole life-cycle, with myself as their Teacher. P was a young man of twenty-five when I first met him, and is turning fifty-five this month. For myself, as I live to be an older teacher, I will bury many of my students—some in their forties, some in their fifties, and some in their sixties. I will continue, and may live to be one hundred. However, P is the first student who I met in his youth, and who I now see complete his task. It is something I knew I would experience if I lived to be an old Teacher (…).

“All Schools reach their conclusion, after which they become life. So long as I live, our School will remain in its golden age (…). The completion of P’s role contains the seed of the beginning of the end of the School, not of the civilization (…).

“From another angle, the completion of P’s role is the beginning of the end of the inner circle. But the inner circle will continue to exist after my role is complete, although it, too, will eventually become life. Schools can have a short ministry, or a long ministry, but all eventually crescendo into a civilization. Christ’s ministry, for example, lasted only three years, yet developed into a civilization that lasted for two thousand years. People may have difficulty understanding this idea because they do not see the larger picture, which is on the scale of the whole School and is larger than one’s personal play. Our School will have an enormous influence on the next civilization.

“Furthermore, whereas Christ’s ministry lasted three years, we are already into our fourth decade. Many students will complete their roles after having studied with me for thirty years, and they will have received what they needed. My old, familiar inner circle will have completed its task, and I will be working with a regenerated inner circle. That is the nature of becoming an old teacher (…).

“The completion of P’s role contains the germ of the beginning of the end of the School. (…) It is a very big loss for the inner circle (…).”

 "Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 10, 2012:
Yeah, my story too, one of ascendency of magical thinking over common sense, let alone reason.
I wanted powers, I wanted knowledge that few others had access to, I wanted to feel special, I wanted a community of like-minded (read, community of similar weaknesses where we would mutually agree to not recognize those weaknesses,). In many ways, largely an appeal to vanity, which seeks to be recognized as special, apart from the crowd.

You said, “In my particular case I accepted Burton as a conscious teacher on the basis of the aura and general vitality of the two centre directors at my first centre.”

Yes, It didn’t help that Peter Bishop, one of my ‘centre directors’ in London when I joined, was borrowing that powerful sense of certainty from Burton, who, at the time was well on the way to permanently entering into his fantasy and passing to utterly believing it was real and true. It didn’t help that Peter Bishop outright lied when I asked him if Burton was celibate. I say lie, because in 1994 I finally learned the truth from him, which was that at the very time I asked the question in 1978, he was in an ongoing sexual relationship with Burton. He also told me that it was physically extremely painful for him to be buggered by Burton, and that sex with him was in every sense disgusting. I asked him why he put up with it and why he stayed. He gave one of the standard answers of that time and time in FoF history, that ‘the positives outweighed the negatives’. When I asked him whether his conscience bothered him then or now, he also reiterated the quote from Burton that I posted above, about the role of conscience in the Fellowship of Friends/Pathway to Presence.

Imagine if he had told newbies like me the truth! Instead, Peter told me that Burton was conserving his energies, that he used sexual energy as a gateway to higher states. In other words, egregious lies told to bolster his self-image in some way, to reduce the turmoil of cognitive dissonance (which I assume must have been occurring). He admitted that he also suspected that Burton was fucking and sucking other young men at the same time as him (“But I don’t actually know, I was not there with them, and anyway it was none of my business . . .”), that Burton was not seeking any kind of emotional relationship with him or those others. 
When I put it to him that this made it mere lust, Peter still claimed, in defense of Burton, that Burton was doing it to break the mental patterns of his students, that he was helping them evolve. When I asked him if he felt his own personal ‘spiritual evolution’ had been helped, he said working with his sense of disgust was a huge and ongoing task for him, and from that point of view, it was helpful. Such a twisted view of suffering!
In hindsight, it seems obvious. Of course Burton sends out missionaries (‘center directors’, ‘travelling teachers’ who have joined and can promote his fantasy, true believers who are certain they are ‘On The Way’. He transmits authority and certainty to those most suited to retransmit those energies to the next layer, the new recruits. The needy followers in turn reflect those energies back (narcissistic supply), providing reinforcement and belief to the fantasy. And round and round (and in and out) it goes.

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