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.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Monday, July 14, 2003

The Fellowship of Friends and Chilean Wine Palm Trees

[Ed. - This brief conversation takes place on the Cult Education Forum]
"manzanita" wrote on the Cult Education Forum, July 14, 2003:
i'm wondering if anyone has information here about the fellowship of friends and their interest in chilean wine palms. does anyone know why they are so keen on purchasing and raising these trees?

"corboy" replied July 15, 2003:
some new names: Renaissance, Apollo The leader is Robert Burton. There is a huge amount of information on this group in Rick Ross's archives.

Burton claims to be a Fourth Way (Gurdjieff) teacher, but he is bogus. Legitimate Gurdjieff study groups all disavow him.

Go to 'Groups' in the Rick Ross site, go to 'R' and go to 'Renaissance'--you'll find hours of reading material there.

"manzanita" wrote July 16, 2003:

thanks for the context and info on the fellowship of friends. i'm still very interested in any more specific info on their interest in wine palms. are they sacred objects in some way? how long have their been collecting them? apparently, they have a guy who travels all around southern calif buying them up and they even have a special truck designed just for transporting them. they usually try to trade anything they can for them rather than pay outright cash.

"corboy" replied July 16, 2003:

with this group.

Burton collects expensive art and gives complicated reasons that this creates an environment that accelerates spiritual development. His rules and regulations change constantly. To give him credit, he has an excellent collector's eye for fine art and has done very well.

So somewhere along the line, Burton probably convinced himself that Chilean wine palm trees have some property that accelerates spiritual development to a higher level of being.

The only way you will find out why Burton thinks CWP trees are valuable is if you become a member of Fellowship of Friends.

By the time you are far enough along in the group to be told why the tree is so special 1) You may have lost your objectivity or 2) Burton may have decided CWP trees are not so special after all, and he may develop some new collector's obession.

"Hope" wrote July 16, 2003:
with the "wine" made from the sap. Drinking the wine supposedly causes a euphoric state. Sources say the sap can only be harvested from felled trees; other sources say the tree was nearly extinct in the early 1900s. Do a google search. There were lots of hits on the tree.

"corboy" replied July 16, 2003:
It is entitled 'Degenerate Players in the Work' They dont mention groups by name, but if former members read the descriptions, they will very likely recognize thier groups!

William Patterson, a scholar of Gurdjieff work has written a book describing the genesis of 3 counterfeits, and has a chapter on Burton.

Burton's teacher, Alex Francis Horn and Sharon Gans created a Fourth Way franchise called Theatre of All Possibilities.

Eventually Gans took control, and her group is called the Sharon Gans group. Rick Ross has a ton of info about her in his archives.

Robert Burton was kicked out of Horn's group because Burton was homosexual and Horn was homophobic.

Even though 'legitimate' Gurdjieff study groups exist and have produced some lovely people, it is my personal opinion that Gurdjieff was the source of the trouble. He put his followers in an impossible position because he demanded that they verifiy everything for themselves and at the same time, fostered an environment where they had to put all their trust in him. He pandered to regressive fantasies of finding a Magic Daddy and was unable to bring his students out of that fantasy. His personality was powerful and he offered some profound teachings, but I think that G was himself so needy that his personality was a distraction from the goals he claimed to serve.

"corboy" added July 16, 2003:
Burton's group does operate a renowned winery. They have an estate in Yuba, California, and have become famous among wine experts because they have successfully created excellent wines in an area where weather conditions are unfavorable for wine grapes. So, yes, they would have the expertise to make palm wine.

Their grape wine is good enough that it was served at a state dinner at the White House during (I think) the Reagan Administration.

However, some wine merchants refuse to sell thier product, despite its being an excellent wine. There's an article about this in the [ed. - Now] archives.

So maybe they are doing a wacky experiment to create vintage palm wine. Or Burton really thinks the trees put off some kind of vibration that accelerates spiritual development. Burton and his acolytes live in a world of their own--dont expect anything they do to make sense.

The title of the book by Patterson is 'Taking with the Left Hand'

"Leonido" wrote April 27, 2007:
The Fellowship advertises itself as Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centers through bookmarks and in the internet. It is run since 1970 by Robert Burton (born 1939). He uses fragments of the knowledge you can find in Ouspensky's books. He claims to be a 'new christ' and he wants to start a new civilization after Armageddon, that he prophesied for 2006. The leader's lifestyle can be read about in a lawsuit that has been published on the web, ( along with several newspaper articles detailing his activities. The group has about 2000 members all around the world, who pay at least 10% of their gross income every month, plus many extra donation.

This link provides a lot of backround information

It is a blog with a few thousand posts of Ex-member and members of this organisation.