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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Friday, March 21, 2003

Peter Bishop's death

[ed. - Peter Bishop (formerly Peter Rand), who joined the Fellowship in 1972, was one of Robert Burton's closest companions and steadfast supporters, served as his personal secretary, directed several Fellowship centers, was Fellowship President, and founded the Petrarch Press (later, The Golden Pyramid Press.)]
Peter Bishop. Original photo by Kim Komenich.

Submitted by an ex-Fellowship of Friends member via e-mail, November 7, 2016:
-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Elizabeth Blake
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2002 12:36 PM
Subject: [Students] Message from Robert about Peter Bishop and the School

Dear Friends,

Robert wished all students to receive the following important message, which records a conversation he had with Asaf [Braverman], clarifying the significance of Peter's shock [terminal cancer diagnosis] and its effect on the School. In addition, directors are requested to read it at the next center meeting.

Yours in friendship,

Judith Grace
[October 9, 2002, a conversation between Robert and Asaf (Braverman) at the Cafe el Greco in Rome:]

Asaf raised the subject of Peter's shock, and quoted the following angle that Robert has been giving recently at teaching events: "Peter's shock contains in it the germ of the beginning of the end of the School." Asaf 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?"

Robert replied, "Peter 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. Peter 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, Peter 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. We may see many students reach Peter's age and complete their tasks, having worked with the Gods for thirty years. We must not be disturbed by this-it is the profound nature of evolution.

"All Schools reach their conclusion, after which they become life. So long as I live, our School will remain in its golden age. During my lifetime we will see a considerable flow of souls who will study with me and pass on. The completion of Peter's role contains the seed of the beginning of the end of the School, not of the civilization. The School will eventually transcend itself into a civilization.

"From another angle, the completion of Peter'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. Goethe said, in his dedication to Faust [ed. - The dedication was edited for this message]:
And names the good souls who, by Fortune cheated Of lovely hours, forth from my world have fleeted.
They do not hear the melodies I'm singing, The souls to whom my earliest lays I sang; Dispersed that throng who once to me were clinging, The echoes die away that one time rang.
Now midst an unknown crowd my grief is ringing, While those who once my song enjoyed and flattered, If still they live, roam through the wide world scattered.
"The completion of Peter's role contains the germ of the beginning of the end of the School, because if the Gods take him, they can take anyone. It is a very big loss for the inner circle. Peter shows how great our School is. One can study thirty years with the Gods and receive what one came for-the creation of a permanent tendency to evolve."

"ludoteka" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 7, 2008:
215 Veramente
“I wonder where the “teacher” is going to regenerate the “inner circle”, in Switzerland or South America with a fat bank account and bankrupted land in Oregon House.”
Vera, Robert started to displace the inner circle of that time around Peter’s death. The older students started getting cut off and replaced by the younger generation of Asafs, Dorians, etc. This was a perfect move from an imperfect master. He replaced students with tremendous personal deficiencies but still a scent of integrity in important roles by newly committed young, ambitious and finely corrupt followers who did not only not question his sexuality, were ready to supply him with an unconditional amount of it. This is what they had already learnt and assimilated from the previous inner circle so it was a much better deal for Robert. With this, he filled the Fellowship of Friends with young blood and credibility for potential new students, rid himself of older and old people which he only tolerates if they can cover themselves with huge amounts of money and took away any possibility of serious questioning by the inner circle who had served him for thirty years.

"Man Without a Name" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 12, 2011:
I know that Peter B., president of the FOF, vigorously opposed the L.A. Times lawsuit – even as Robert was telling FOFers that the FOF was going to make a killing by suing the newspaper. The rest is history. But I’m told that R. was so irritated with the P.B.’s loyal opposition that, in the end, he wouldn’t even take phone calls from him. (Yes, dear FOF students who may be reading this, R.B. can be wrathful and vengeful. Plenty of other examples – f’rinstance, I know several women who have been in sexual triangles with him. Nasty stories.)

Peter B. was cast into utter darkness. Until, that is, P.B. was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I always wondered if the stress contributed to his unexpected physical deterioration. With the diagnosis, of course, it was all kisses and hugs again. Each utterance of the dying is treated like Holy Writ in the FOF. P.B. got all the overblown, awestruck, deferential, monarchial rituals that surround death in the FOF. A stadium funeral, even [at the Fellowship's Theatron].

"Jeanette" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 6, 2007:
An extremely disappointing moment, and one of the things that drove me out was in connection to the death of a fellow student. I do not want to diminish PB’s death in any way, he deserved a beautiful funeral in recognition for his service and friendship and work. But, where was the big gathering at the town hall for Joseph M.? He had a rough life, served his school, was a friend to other students, yet hardly a mention of his death…and a barely announced service on a weekday afternoon during working hours. Did he not deserve as much as PB? Were his efforts worth less?

"Ralph" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 6, 2007:
Jeannette, your thoughts on the deaths of PB and Joseph resonate with me also. I chose to stay up on slope 17 the afternoon of Joseph’s funeral, working alone as I watched the funeral proceedings play out below me. I was lost in my troubled thoughts up there on the slope. Didn’t have the courage to go down to join the funeral proceedings. I had a great respect for PB but was put off by the “religiosity” that surrounded his death.