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.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Quotations from Robert Earl Burton - 2004

"Thoughts from the Teacher" (on the Fellowship of Friends Wikispaces site)
I find it curious that joggers are uninterested in developing their souls. (January 25, 2004)

I try to avoid Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Collin’s interpretations of the Bible. They did not understand it and I do not want to be influenced by them. I am more simple than they are, and I must protect that simplicity. (February 8, 2004)

More than ever, I know that I am going to reach the conscious child within my students, from the conscious child within myself. (February 8, 2004)

Life has a very distorted imaginary picture of conscious beings. In Alex Horn’s group, I was the only student who agreed to take out the refuse and sweep the floors. People do not think of Buddha as doing those kind of things, when, in fact, it is exactly what made him conscious. (June 6, 2004)

We have a new religion: self-remembering and working with the forty-four Gods. It is the highest religion ever given to man. (June 13, 2004)

As your teacher, I can see Influence C’s plans. I can see the part in you that counts. (June 13, 2004)

I do not have to ask my students to love me more. I never knew such love in my life. (June 13, 2004)

On my level, during the teaching events I see students being twice born right before my eyes. It is the most beautiful sight for the Gods. (June 20, 2004)

I do not think that the Sufis had a school. Schools undergo very brutal shocks, and the Sufis have a certain cuteness in their works that suggests they were not in this position. (October 3, 2004)

The Fellowship of Friends is the birth of conscious democracy for man. (October 10, 2004)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Build it, (and the inspectors will come.)

Illegal Fellowship of Friends Theatron structure at Apollo compound, Oregon House, CA
The illegal Fellowship of Friends Theatron structure at Apollo, Oregon House, CA

[ed. - Yet another example of the Fellowship of Friends flaunting the laws to which mere mortals are subject. "Since it's a 'religious structure,' (Abraham Goldman) said, "Fellowship members thought they could build it first and get the permit later." The Board of Supervisors subsequently approved a Conditional Use Permit for "Phase 1."]

Amphitheater lacks permit
December 21, 2004 09:00:00 AM
By Harold Kruger/Appeal-Democrat

A new amphitheater graces the Yuba County foothills, rising from the Fellowship of Friends' property in Oregon House.

The Theatron, as it's called, is reinforced concrete faced with limestone. The landscaping is palm trees.

The facility may eventually have enough seating for about 2,200.

"It's certainly a wonderful structure, no doubt about it," said Abraham Goldman, the Fellowship's attorney. "It was built with real love and care by some very skilled people."

And it was built without any county permits.

"The use is not permitted in the zone and requires approval of the Planning Commission prior to conducting any such activity," Peter Calarco, assistant director of the county's Community Development Department, wrote to Fellowship officials last July. "Additionally, all permits relating to the building, health and safety code must be obtained."

Last summer, a county inspector, who was nearby on another job, was told of the construction and issued a red-tag, stopping construction.

Next month, the county Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the Fellowship's request for a conditional use permit.

"The county is going to do what they have to do to get it taken care of," said Martin Griffin, the county's chief building official. "If they don't get the CUP, I guess they'll be tearing it down. It's not guaranteed they're going to get their use permit."

Griffin said the amphitheater is the biggest building he knows of in the county erected without permits. He said it's been valued at a little more than $2 million.

"Usually, we get a garage here or bar here or something," he said. "It was pretty big. Nice job."

Griffin, in an August letter to the Fellowship, said the group has to meet these requirements to obtain a county permit:

  • Adequate permanent restroom structures for both males and females.
  • Adequate water supply for fire flow in hydrants around amphitheater.
  • A path of travel for emergency exit from the amphitheater to Rice's Crossing Road.

Goldman said there was ready explanation for construction preceding permitting.

Since it's a "religious structure," he said, Fellowship members thought they could build it first and get the permit later.

"It was not the intent not to get a permit," Goldman said. "The problem was, given the fact it's a small church and the funding is irregular, the plans were changing. When we met with (county officials), since the plans were changing rather frequently, it just didn't seem like it was going to work to submit one plan and a second plan and the third plan and fourth plan until the Fellowship could see what it could accomplish."

The Theatron is "really not completed yet," Goldman said. "It had gotten to a certain point where the Fellowship was confident it could be presented to the county and not go around on a merry-go-round and be changed again and again."

The Fellowship, a worldwide group that bases its beliefs on the teachings of Russian philosophers George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, has been in Oregon House since July 4, 1971, an anniversary the group celebrates along with Independence Day. It also operates a winery there.

In a letter last June to the county, Goldman wrote that the Fellowship "is not asking for any special favors."

According to his letter, "The site in question is an essential extension of the Fellowship's religious buildings on the Oregon House property and is devoted 100 percent to activities that involve the Fellowship's religious teachings."

He wrote that the Fellowship was "willing to immediately sign any indemnification agreement the county might request, and deposit anticipated fees for any permitting that might need to be done."

A few days later, Linda Tulisso [Linda Kaplan], the Fellowship's president, wrote to the county, explaining that most of the group's 2,200 members are scattered around the world.

No more than 700 would gather at the Theatron at any one time, she said, "and that is not anticipated to change for the foreseeable future."

Goldman, in an interview, praised the county for how it's handled the situation.

"I would say, from 10 to 15 years ago, Yuba County has come a long way and the current administration is a real model of people that are qualified and very helpful, not like the old days," he said.

Unlike the larger Sleep Train Amphitheater, the Fellowship's Theatron will not be open to the general public, Goldman said.

"The Fellowship wants to be a real good citizen and help out any way they can," he said. "We can't afford to make this a public structure because it would cost millions of dollars more in roads and things if the public could come to it. The Fellowship would be happy to share, but can't afford it. It's for members only. If there's any way the county or the city wants to enlist our assistance in some fashion, we're always open to that."

In his June letter, Goldman said the Fellowship "has been a very good citizen of Yuba County."

The Fellowship hosted "a high-ranking Air Force general and his wife in connection with the efforts to keep Beale Air Force Base open, which the Fellowship fully supports," he wrote.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Harold Kruger can be reached at 749-4717. You may e-mail him at

Read more: Amphitheater lacks permit

[ed. - Harold Kruger wrote a follow-up opinion piece in his Appeal-Democrat "Off Beat" column.]
No Yuba permit? - It's no problem

By Harold Kruger/Appeal-Democrat
Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2005 12:00 am

Have you been thinking about building something in Yuba County? Have you wondered about all those darn permits and approvals you need?

Well, there's no need to worry any more.

Permits? What permits? Go ahead and build the thing. The permits will come later, and so will the county's OK.

That was the distinct message earlier this month when the county Planning Commission routinely approved a conditional use permit for the Fellowship of Friends' Theatron, the glorious amphitheater nestled in Oregon House.

It was built last year, but somewhere along the way somebody forgot to tell the county. Eventually, a county building inspector, who happened to be in the neighborhood, was tipped about the amphitheater, which can hold about 1,400 people. It was kind of hard to miss.

So it came time for the Planning Commission to dive into this issue and ask the tough questions of Fellowship officials. How could this happen? What's going on here?


No tough questions.

No indignation.

No nothing.

The commissioners never mentioned the history of the Theatron. They never asked. They didn't seem to care.

They didn't have much to say about anything.

No big deal, apparently.

Some of the folks from Oregon House who came down the hill for the hearing mentioned how unfair it was for the Fellowship to be able to build without permits and get them later, while seemingly everybody else in the county does it the other way around.

But that didn't get much of a rise out of the commissioners. It didn't get any rise at all.

And so the next time somebody builds in Yuba County without a permit - and it's bound to happen - they can just point to the example of the Fellowship's Theatron and say, "Oh, we're sorry. We thought it was all right to build what we want. We're in Yuba County."

"X-Ray" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 28, 2011:

[ed. - English is not X-Ray's first language. I refrained from editing the text, as the message seems clear.]

I don´t mind Ames, but how much a slave like me can tell you except how much I hated that?

What I do remember is working like a donkey for 400 dollars a month six days a week 10 hours a day under a burning sun trying to remember myself, not express negative emotion, no judging, no having a lower ´´I´´, not loosing a valuation for the school and so far and so on.

I think it was around 2001 when burton still had his Greek hysteria, deciding to build a theatron so he can invite the Russian ballet dancers to Apollo who then were paid by cash from tickets purchased by 500 students who were encourage to see ballet because it was good for their evolution.

There were auctions after auction with over a hundred thousand dollars proceeds each. I think, conservatively speaking, there was over a million dollar raised during the first year just from the auctions. Theatron was the worse octave there, the hardest one, people didn’t want to work there but as you know, killing yourself for the aim of the school is good for your evolution too, so you just doing it. People were getting hurt there without treatment ¨¨it just your machine, your soul is evolving´´.

There were other slaves who were cutting the white blocks up on the hill also for salary, so I think, they were only buying the blocks. How much that cost I don’t know, but I kind of doubt that it cost as much as they were raising for it.

At the most we were around 10 workers in total, multiply by 400 a month, you get 4000 a month. One auction a month over one hundred thousand dollars. They were paying out 4000 in salary buying some block and putting in their packets tons of cash. Then one day Louidgi came (a landscaping octave leader, and not a bad guy really, he actually had a heart and was trying to be kind to people without getting a hit on himself) and said that for the next two days all of us have to carry the big pots with cultivated plants (a little palm trees which was burtons obsession at the time) to the theatron to cover it completely. We did. Few days later came inspectors.

I think it was W.M. who have suggested to block the road to Galleria/Academy ( the road that leads to theatron) and lead them up the hill to the winery. From there you could see a big spot of little palm trees brought together. I don´t remember the details but soon after that this octave was suspended for a while but then continued again and the theatron was built. Burton was inviting his Russian ballet dancers, then inviting them for ´´school events´´, was giving them whole a lot of attention.

There were rumors that the county shuted down the project because they didnt have a building permit but people were dismissing that as gossips.

The auctions were continuing regardless and more money were puring into their packets. So how much they raised only 44 knows.

What I remember very well, is my feeling when coming to have a lunch at Apollo doro once and been asked from now an on to pay a 50 cents for the olive oil (which was free before)to use with the bred, thanks to which I felt full after lunch. And that´s after serving at burtons´ dinners for free, as a third line work after 10 hours work and seeing how all untouched food was removed from the hungry students who just paid about $100 per person, was thrown out.

I think thats pretty much all what I can think of now. Will right more if anything will come up.
If anyone remember better, please do correct me.

Oh, the location.. when you get out from the Gallerias front door, you go thru the rose garden( a deadly place for deers, dogs and cats) passing a Posaidon fountain which also cost about 140 thousands dollars, crossing the road going down, they planted palm trees there, going farther and you get there.

From the theatron you can see the winery pretty much streith ahead on the hill. The capacity is hard to say, but when we had about 500 people, there was space for more on the sides. Down below you had a stage. burton always was coming last with his flying monkeys, of course getting the best sitts.

"My2Bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 29, 2011:
Re: Theatron posts

The Theatron, generally described in previous posts, was perhaps the Fellowship’s most expensive infrastructure project. After years of holding music, theatre, and dance performances on make-shift stages in the woods, at locations only accessible by dirt roads, RB needed to have a venue worthy of his ambitions.

In my view, the construction of the Theatron revolved around RB’s wish to attract high-level ballet artists to OH to perform exclusively for him and his. Of course, musicians and actors would also have their time in the spotlight.

The crowning moment was, perhaps, when a troupe of dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet invited RB to join them on the stage for a final bow. To them, he was like a wealthy rock star, living on a huge estate in the middle of nowhere. All-expense paid travel between Moscow and the US, generous fees, wining and dining hosted by resident Russians — what a deal! RB cultivated relationships with these artists to the extent that the Bolshoi company had to push back legally to prevent RB from hijacking dancers from their performance contracts at home.

That such first-class artists would travel to OH to perform for RB & Co. offered him much-needed validation after the failed ’98 prophesy, and proved what some 4th Way ‘chutzpah’ and a little money could do — with a little help from the Angels, of course. But his moment of glory had its human price.

The Theatron was build by student labor, cheap or free. Pieces were individually cut from Texas limestone and were assembled to form the amphitheater. Once, I spent a half-day tying foundational re-bar in the hot sun, and that was more than enough for me. I remember the ‘cutting tent’ up near the winery where a crew of students worked endlessly with electric saws, finishing each day completely covered in white limestone dust. The construction work was gruelling, to say the least, but the telling of the most pertinent back stories should be left to the workers themselves.

It was hard to pin down the actual cost of this project. A million? Millions? All I know for sure is that there was fundraiser after fundraiser, year after year.

Gala events were held to celebrate the completion of the Theatron, and to send the venue on a few technical shakedown cruises. It took a bit of getting used to, for performers and audience alike. The seats were flat limestone slabs. Soon, there was a busy local market in designer cushions and luxury portable seating.

The first stage was simple and inadequate, so the next project was “the superstructure,” an expensive aluminum construct designed to support sets, lighting, sound, and off-stage areas. This kicked off another round of fundraisers to raise the necessary 250K-500K.

As it turned out, the acoustics were poor — not good at all for an expensive, solid stone amphitheater. The intended orchestra pit below the front of the stage swallowed sound and was deemed unusable. It was nicknamed “the alligator pit” and was later covered over. Acoustic surfaces were built to project sound out from the stage, and more expensive sound systems had to be purchased. For ballet performances, a special floor of specific size was needed. The stage size was expanded and the expensive floor was built. As the project cost ballooned, residents grew increasingly weary, and wary, of the endless fundraisers.

RB’s seat at the Theatron was chosen by a favored consultant to be ‘the best’. Ticket prices for assigned seats were skewed based more or less on their proximity to the teacher’s seat. A large block of seats surrounding RB’s was reserved for his entourage and other chosen ones. I often had the thought, “bread and circuses”.

The Theatron was built ‘on the sly’, away from the prying eyes of building inspectors. RB, in his hubris, considers himself to be above the ‘level of life’ and essentially unanswerable to authorities. His ‘MO’ was to go full steam ahead on a project, and then sort out the details later. It’s true that the Theatron was once camouflaged with palm plants to hide it from a scheduled inspection of the property.

But we live in the age of Google Earth, and it couldn’t be kept hidden for long. At one point, inspectors shut down the Theatron completely until a goodly number of code violations could be resolved. Many non-student residents of OH went ballistic when they heard about this new theater. They complained of the increasing and sometimes high-density traffic on the narrow road leading to the Fellowship property. Eventually, things calmed down and regular performances resumed.

This story has already become too long. My apologies. While there were admittedly many amazing performances at the Theatron, I do agree with other posters that its construction was and is emblematic of the steady streams of hubris, greed, narcissism, exploitation, and corruption within the organization.

'Wondering Who's Watching" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 29, 2011:
181. My2Bits – August 29, 2011 [responding to above post]:

‘His ‘MO’ was to go full steam ahead on a project, and then sort out the details later.’

This is in keeping with his [Robert Earl Burton] ‘fire, aim, ready’ style of management; as compares with the normal orientation of ‘ready, aim, fire,’ that most people use. Or, in other words, of wild west origin, ‘shoot first, ask questions later.’

The seating capacity was in excess of the entire membership of the Fellowship of Friends (FoF) (, Pathway to Presence, Living Presence, Church of Robert Earl Burton) – certainly more than all those members who lived in Oregon House and Northern California combined; plus their families and friends. The size rivaled the sports/speedway venue, that was constructed, about the same time, in the south Yuba County area nearest the Sacramento metropolitan area. (I had never been to see that facility. ‘the lack of opposition to plans to build a speedway and amphitheater in southern Yuba County is extraordinary — but no more extraordinary than the fact that this $90 million development is pegged for one of California’s poorest counties.’ 1April1999 – Yuba County Indy and NASCAR racetrack.) It was mind boggling where the audiences would come from to fill this theatron, given that it was not open to the public, by FoF design. Then, of course, there was the problem of traffic and access, as well as parking – all needing to meet public safety standards – not to mention what the non-FoF neighbors might think about it. The winery, under construction for decades, was not properly permitted at various times, let alone ‘temporary use permitted’ for how it was being used. Robert Earl Burton’s residence, I hear tell, was built with a garage addition permit to a mobile home site, the Blake Cottage. How was this going to be any different?

Also worthy of mention: The construction was the equivalent of a giant solar energy collector dish. Since it was facing east with little or no shade, the sun shined on it all day and it reradiated the heat from the stone for many hours after shadow fell on the seating areas. With an outdoor venue used mainly in the summer, this place was going to be hot in the evenings when performances would take place – even worse during the day, when workers and performers needed to make preparations. Most events required formal attire of those attending or serving.

Then there was the problem of not having appropriate drainage for the place. That caused water to collect in various areas in the rainy season. This caused unwanted stuff to grow on the near brilliant white stone. But, worse, with freezing temperatures in the winter, the softish limestone was caused to delaminate from the repeated ice/thaw cycling that took place.

Most of the professional workers employed on the project refused to acknowledge that they had anything to do with it for fear they would lose their licenses by working on a non-permitted project.

No matter what the county or locals wanted, FoF could not be stopped from using it, right?

None of these things mattered, of course. The important thing was to raise the money (so appropriate ‘skimming’ could be done) and to get it done.

From ‘Self-Remembering’ – by Robert Earl Burton:
‘The last words of Peter Ouspensky were, 'Aim, aim; more effort, more effort.'"
Definition: In general, the theatron was where the audience of a Greek tragedy sat to view the performance.
A theatron referred to the place where spectator looked at sacrifices, dances or theatrical performances. A theatron came to refer specifically to semi-circular, tiered, stone seats for viewing performances.
Theatron: Greek term for “place of seeing.” Thea: “view” + -tron, suffix, denoting place.
Wondering Who’s Watching

"Opus111" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 29, 2011:
The “theatron” was also known in local parlance as the white elephant, due in part to its appearance and the failed attempts at hiding it under the green rug.

It was really no secret at all to the locals that the construction was going on without permit. Imagine truckloads after truckloads of lime stone slabs crawling up the hill for months, with truck drivers happily sharing information about their destination with whomever might ask them at truck stops.

Once the county officials manage to catch FOF red handed, under the guise of a winery inspection, those officials were more than happy to plan for retribution for the many instances of hubris shown over the years by FOF, its leader and legal representatives. They first red-taped it indefinitely (emotional pain), then asked for costly improvements before it could re-open: new stage, railings, handicap access (FOF prefers to hide than give access to its handicapped) and toilet facilities (port-a-toilet was still the norm around the premises). I think they ultimately negotiated temporary and restricted usage before most of those improvements could be completed. Left unused and under the elements, the elephant started to show its flakes and wear, and ultimately grew weeds. Parenthetically, some of the more knowledgeable stone workers had warned that this particular stone would not endure the elements without some major finishing/cover/whathaveyou. However, Wayne M. [Wayne Mott], one of the favorite flying monkeys in charge, had the ear of the master and much of his hubris. The project continued to its current sad, flaky, preposterous state. Flaky and preposterous would indeed be an apt way to characterize the master and his various projects.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 29, 2011:
X-Ray [blogger],

thanks very much for telling us more about the Theatron and your experiences working on it. I ‘Google Earthed’ it last night, and took a virtual tour of the property afterwards . . .

And thanks to all you others who added to the details and their understandings of this project. It would be laughable if it didn’t involve the suffering and injuries of so many. Talk about a monument to hubris and grandiosity! I guess none of the 44 knew anything about engineering, site preparation and acoustics worth passing on, nor did they trouble themselves to access to such knowledge on his behalf. Certainly Burton, who thinks any random thought that comes into his noggin must, by divine circular reasoning, be an objective message from ‘higher realms’, fancies himself a new ‘Renaissance man’, a polymath, expert in all things knowable.

This is yet another example of the actual level of Burton, and how he is unfit to teach anyone much of anything. He considers any random firing of neurons in his brain to be a valid ‘do’ or start of an octave. He starts giving orders, the followers work overtime to rationalize his spewings and convince themselves that crazy is the same as wisdom, and the result is something like the Theatron. Ironically, surrounded by another giant monument to his failures, the vineyard. And there, up on the hill, the never–to–be–finished winery, made with so much concrete that it would take a tactical nuclear weapon to remove it. How do the minions explain that monument to vainglory to themselves and visitors and performers? The fact is, Burton has no idea how to start, run or complete his undertakings in self–glorification. And he has no idea about the scale of maintenance and upkeep necessary to keep a project going after the initial completion. The way he organizes his external world is a valuable clue to how his internal world is structured. Crazy is as crazy does.

"Critical Mass" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 1, 2007:
Yes, the bistro (La Cucina) burnt down, no subterfuge there, it was probably caused by a cappuccino machine. The FOF received the insurance money, which just got swallowed up. Then 2006 saw the bistro fundraising. I can’t remember how much money was raised, but it was substantial, and a student was on salary specifically for the fundraising, and now she is fundraising for Robert’s personal funds. But then the FOF failed to meet the milestones dictated by the county, so the county started playing hardball and the FOF had to pay a $35000 fine. So the bistro project was abandoned.

I remember Robert announcing that Asaf was going to stay at Isis to teach and host events when Robert went to Egypt in Fall 2006. Asaf was beaming proudly. Then Robert announced that the reason Asaf was staying on at Isis was because the FOF needed to raise the extra funds for the county fine, and of course the events bring in money. You should have seen Asaf’s face.

So the theatron wasn’t usable. Now there are further fundraisers for a replacement stage for the theatron, one that will meet county standards. The proposed ballet is going to be held at the tennis courts next to the burnt out bistro instead. The FOF will surely cut corners with the legal requirements, so the county may as well have someone on hand for the first night of the tennis court ballet—there could be good money in it for the county. There was a recent email from Wayne Mott, an attempt at glasnost, that selectively detailed the history of the theatron project, reproduced below:-
(c) Wayne Mott 2007

After many years of work by a dedicated team of experts and non-experts alike, the Theatron has re-entered the construction phase that will bring it to its completion. The following is a short story of that process.

Back in January of 2005 we received a Conditional Use Permit from Yuba County for our Theatron. Since then we have been going through a process, stated simply, of creating a set of plans, having them approved and inspecting/testing the existing structure. The completion of this process would then allow us to continue with construction and finish what we had started in 2001.

In April of 2005 we submitted our first and admittedly not very complete set of plans. We followed that with a more complete set, Revision 1, by the end of May that same year. This was really the beginning of a learning process that kept us scrambling for the next couple of years. With the help of building code analysts we learned about how to deal with the many elements that would help us finish the project.

By February 2006 we were ready with Revision 2 of the plans, more or less. We were sure that there would be a lot more work to do but we began to hire the necessary help. We hired an engineer to design the waste system for the bathrooms. We then hired the same lighting engineer that did the design for the Sleep Train Amphitheater in Marysville with all its emergency lighting and backup systems, and also a fire system engineer for the hydrants and under stage sprinkler system. All of this was done to prepare Revision 3 which we submitted on June 30th 2006.

Our code analysts came and went as well as the staff at the Yuba County Community Development Department. As most of the staff that we had worked with moved on to neighboring counties we hired the person that we had worked with at the building department as our last code analyst. He knew the project well and was a great help in finishing off the last details.

After a few of weeks of review and minor corrections we finally received our approved set of plans, 50 pages of architectural, engineering, electrical, fire, handicapped access, site plans, indexes, etc… And in another week we had our building permit.

This allowed us to move to the next phase in the process. We had to verify that what was built was the same as what was indicated on the approved set of plans. After having our engineers submit an inspection proposal to the county, we began a program of testing. The independent testing company examined a random sampling of exposed footings and soil conditions. They also used a radar scanning technique and core drilling of the walls and footings to verify the reinforcing steel. After this was done a report from the independent testing company and our engineers was sent to and approved by the Yuba County Building Department. That brings us to where we are now.

The first part of the new construction will be to rebuild the stage in a waterproofed concrete which will then have a wooden surface constructed on top. The stage was the only major part of what we had constructed which was open to question. The weathering was already beginning to show on the existing wood structure. It was designed before the project took on the dimension that it has today. We had the possibility of re-building parts of the stage that needed replacing with a different kind of wood but decided unanimously that a concrete structure was more in keeping with the rest of the Theatron and would better serve future generations.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

"Apollo University" in Buenos Aires

"Old FOF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 4, 2007:

Wanted to be sure to thank students for the recent information about the number of students still remaining for now in the Fellowship of Friends, and the outward flow. It will be interesting to follow – and I expect, and fully believe, that a tipping point has been reached.

You could call this blog the symbol of the tipping point, but from the outside looking in – it senses more like the middle of the tipping point. Upon hearing that Robert had begun “teaching” again maybe three year ago, a friend remarked that something dramatic must have happened – as we both knew that Robert Burton would do about anything before leading meetings again. Whatever induced Robert Burton to begin “teaching” since he had stopped in about 1977 is likely the beginning of the tipping point.

Because, in a certain way, and this is a strange thing to write – Robert Burton although superficially a good teacher, is in reality – not a good teacher. At another post, I may write up an account of a hilarious prospective student meeting that I once saw him lead (with the single prospective student almost literally running away out of the door); and of Robert teaching a meeting in a tiny center – absurdist. He did have a way with the energy of big meetings – but when you went back and read his angles, they were strangely flat and reductive.

Plus, at a certain point in the late 1970s, Robert Burton stopped feigning the responsibility of a teacher, and with a Wal-Mart like impulse, began to essentially outsource any teaching responsibility to his jumped-up idea of C-Influence. Kind of like the old saying, “God cures, but the doctor takes the money.” Now, Robert Burton no longer had to take responsibility for his actions and decisions as a teacher in regard to individual students – it was all C-Influence. In the process he redefined the act of “teaching” with minimalist duties for himself. In passing, might I add that the 30 work Is and the Sequence have seemed to me to be other examples of this Wal-Mart like impulse – crude non-personalized tools that require little by way of teaching. Even in 4th Way terms, how long before “the machine” makes simplistic words or phrases (or a mantra) fully mechanical?

In any case, for me, the symbolic and essentially actual end of Robert’s active teaching period back then was the New York Meeting in about 1977. New York was the unofficial hub of the East Coast (U.S.) teaching centers that had started in two waves beginning in late 1975 into 1976 (although some might argue that for a while the hub was the Washington D.C. center). New York was part of the second wave to my memory, but had grown very quickly.

There was a big gathering of East Coast (and southern) center U.S. students in New York – and it is hard to overstate the energy and tension that attended the sense of THE Meeting that weekend. Some of the students had come from up-to or more-than 1,000 miles away for this. The energy and expectation of the relatively new students (and us “older” students of maybe 24 months duration) was just so powerful and palpable. Robert led the meeting, as he did all of the weekly northern California meetings then – and seemed OK although maybe a little off – for perhaps the first 15 minutes (or less?). But, maybe say a quarter of the way through the meeting, Robert stood up and kind of nodded to Miles who was sitting next to him AND who seemed bewildered for a moment – but who then understood that he (Miles) was to continue leading the meeting, and did what seemed to me a remarkable job of it. By the way, this had never happened (to my memory) before this. Anyway, Robert walked off and (strangely) sat during the remainder of the meeting at the top of the stairs of the NY teaching house. Most of us could just see his legs. (kind of funny in 30 year hindsight).

After the end of the meeting the tension had been released and energies were running high. A group of us had been invited to dine with Robert at Pappagallo’s restaurant (the NY teaching house was on Long Island at the time). While we were waiting to be seated, Robert took Miles off a few feet and berated him publicly for giving an angle during the meeting to the effect (about features) that “power proposes; willfulness opposes” – calling the angle extraordinarily formatory – not a simple rebuke but lasting a number of sentences – and given in a somewhat savage manner.

At the time, to me, this public rebuke seemed churlish and plain wrong to offer to Miles, who had just done an admirable job of the meeting (which seemed like relatively few of us could have done). Even then, I had the sense that Robert was trying to re-establish any possible dominance that he may have lost by possibly seeming unequal to the task of leading the meeting (which idea hadn’t occurred to at least me, until then).

In any case, there may have been a few meetings that Robert Burton led after that, but not many, if any. He just stopped leading meetings.

The online video snippets of Robert in “recent” teaching mode (in which he appears to me to be somewhat sedated?) have been interesting and good reminders of how bad and essentially clunky his so-called teaching style really is, and was.

Others may have different memories of that event – or thoughts about when these periods in the Fellowship of Friends history started or ended (symbolic or actual).

With Robert in Buenos Aires

Traveling under the auspices of the non-profit "Apollo University."

Fellowship of Friends leaders Robert Earl Burton and Asaf Braverman lead meeting
Robert Burton and Asaf Braverman lead a Fellowship of Friends meeting

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers

When a member of a cult or a cult brand makes a commitment to the cult or cult brand, they're investing a huge amount. They're often giving up, often for brand cults, their family, their time, their money, their reputation. It's a massive, massive cost -- not just money cost -- to join the cult. That feeling or that investment must be felt to be reciprocated by the people who run the cult. There must be feeling amongst the membership that the people who run the cult feel as committed to them as they are committed to the cult. If there's any inequality in that sense of responsibility, the cult will break apart, often violently. For example, in one cult I investigated called the Fellowship of Friends in California, a classic cult based on the teachings of [Peter] Ouspensky, people gave up their whole lives and lived in a commune to follow [Robert Earl] Burton. Burton was then accused of molesting some of his followers and embezzling money. The moment that was discovered, that lack of trust was revealed, that lack of commitment was exposed, the cult began to disintegrate. 

Similarly, The Body Shop crashed from its dizzying heights in the mid-'80s when there was one small article that then became widely distributed that essentially [said] The Body Shop was a lie; that its ingredients weren't all natural; that they weren't harvested from the mountains of the Himalayas; that, in fact, Anita Roddick had ripped off the whole idea from a friend of hers. In other words, for all the high-mindedness and all of the very laudable meaning system of honesty that Anita Roddick had created, she basically let down her membership. She lied to them. And the membership drifted away, at least the committed members.

- Douglas Atkin, author of The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers (excerpt from interview linked below)

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 29, 2008:

Here is a great PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S.A.) interview in 2004 with a person who has been in advertising for his entire adult career. He talks about the similarities between brands and cults, the good and the bad, and how marketers use this knowledge of human psychology. There is a brief mention of the Fellowship of Friends and Robert Earl Burton as an example.

Interview with Douglas Atkin

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Oregon House

By Ching Lee/Appeal-Democrat
2004-08-14 09:00:00

Wilma Steiner calls them her "babies" - the family of deer that lives in her backyard.

"They walk up on my deck to see if I'm in the kitchen, and then they mosey along," she said.

The dovish creatures are still considered wildlife, but in Steiner's neck of the woods, they are the closest neighbors she's got. And she likes it that way.

There's a reason why folks like Steiner choose Oregon House as home: They treasure their privacy and the pristine, simplistic, quiet rural lifestyle they have been preserving for many generations.

For the most part, they've been successful, having squashed a number of development projects over the years while resisting the growth and urbanization of valley communities such as Yuba City. But they were also unable to keep a controversial religious organization, the Fellowship of Friends, from moving into the area in the early 1970s.

Today, the struggle to maintain its rustic identity continues, but the pendulum may be shifting. Some residents believe growth is inevitable - and perhaps necessary. They may not want urbanization, but they sure would like some urban amenities.

"It seems like the biggest problem is nobody wants to see any changes," said James Givens, whose family first settled in Oregon House in 1942 when his father came up to build a lumber company. "You can't blame them, but you can't stop growth."

Having grown up in Oregon House, Givens would be the first to say the rural community is "a good place to raise your children." But now that he's grown older, he also sees one of the disadvantages of living 35 miles up the hill is not having proper medical facilities nearby.

"What we could use up here is a good gas station and coin-operated laundromat," said Richard Dahms, a resident since 1978.

The Dobbins-Oregon House Action Committee, made up of area residents, has long been instrumental in protecting the community's rural status quo, most notably by stopping a 50-unit mobile home park project in 1981, the type of development residents have long considered a threat to their rural lifestyle. Today, some wonder how long the community can hold back growth and still remain viable.

"I think we need to expand our community for jobs," said Tom Richards, a cattle rancher with 6,000 acres in Oregon House. "We need to do some development up here."

Richards ran for the Yuba County Board of Supervisors in 2002 with goals to bring money into the district by improving roads and developing recreational areas and scenic trails.

"But people didn't go for it," said Supervisor Hal Stocker, who ultimately won that race, adding that he got into politics in the early 1990s to oppose the controversial Spring Valley subdivision project near Browns Valley.

"It takes a different person to live in the foothills," said Dahms. "It's a peaceful life up here. You don't have trains going by and cars and sirens. It's just serene."

It's so serene, in fact, that Oregon House is the type of place city folks drive their RVs to so they can escape the trains and cars and sirens elsewhere.

They drive up to camp at Thousand Trails off Frenchtown Road, or down the hill at Collins Lake. Bullards Bar Reservoir, often rated as one of the best recreational man-made lakes in the country, is also up the hill past Oregon House and Dobbins.

Vacationing is one thing. Living where others vacation is another.

At 79, Steiner shares a long history with the Yuba County foothills. She is Oregon House's honorary vice mayor.

Born in Oroville, Steiner moved with her family to the Oregon House area when she was 7. During the Depression, her father was a contractor who installed concrete piping to irrigate the orchards. When he lost his business in the early 1930s, her family moved into a log cabin in the Yuba County foothills.

Where today there are roads, back then they were mere trails - lots of them, said Steiner. There were also lots of American Indians, she said. In fact, there are still signs of their habitat. She pointed to a spot on the ground where a rock had been chiseled into a mortar. The pestles were still cradled in the hollow. The Indians used to grind acorns here, Steiner said.

"During the '40s, the place sort of blossomed because people came here to work - in logging, lumbering and the dam," said Steiner. "There was also a lot of mining. Of course, most of those are gone now."

Oregon House got its start not so much as a house but as a log cabin.

In 1850, a man named Larry Young built a log cabin about 24 miles from Marysville, according to "The History of Yuba County" published in 1879. The actual Oregon House was a hotel, built two years after the cabin. It was located at the head of the valley and served as a stage and freight stop before becoming Oregon House, the community.

Today, the town is a mixture of retirees like Steiner and young urban refugees. According to the 2000 census, Oregon House has a thriving population of 1,512, a number disputed by many in the community who say the population is at least twice that number now.

Fellowship of Friends

For such a small, insulated community, Oregon House has had its share of the spotlight, thanks to the Fellowship of Friends, a religious group famous for its wine and secretive lifestyle.

"They brought something to talk about," said Richards, who lives next door to the Fellowship property.

As wine producers, the group pretty much dominates the agricultural industry in Oregon House and has been the town's main economic driving force.

Despite the clash of cultures between Friends and locals, for more than 30 years they have managed to live side by side in the same community, even though technically, the Fellowship is its own community - named Apollo - separate and often inaccessible to others. Locals say members don't like to socialize outside their group and are not the most "community-oriented" people.

"They just stay by themselves," said Givens. "They don't bother anybody, but they just don't mix with the community."

Although the society is recognized as a tax-exempt religious organization, the Fellowship has often been referred to as a cult by former members, neighbors and cult experts alike.

When the group first took up residence in Oregon House in the early 1970s, many thought they were a hippie commune, and given the times, the assumption was reasonable; cults and communes were given plenty of lip service by the likes of Charles Manson in the 1960s and Jim Jones and the mass suicides of Jonestown in the 1970s.

Cult or not, the Fellowship has its own dirty laundry. In the early 1980s and into the 1990s, there were lawsuits from former members who accused its leader, Robert Burton, of brainwashing and sexual abuse.

Fellowship officials declined to be interviewed for this story. The Fellowship has continued to maintain a low profile in recent years.

The Fellowship follows the Fourth Way tradition of spiritual development established by early 20th-century Russian philosophers George Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. Burton was a former Bay Area elementary school teacher before founding the Fellowship in 1970.

Although it is unknown how many members are left today, at one time, the group claimed it had a 2,000-member association and 60 centers around the world.

From postcards and brochures, the winery looks like a utopia in the middle of the forest.

"When you enter, it's like a totally different world," said Tony Verma, co-owner of Oregon House Grocery and Deli, which carries a number of the Fellowship's Renaissance wines.

Surrounded by perfectly sculpted landscaping and labyrinthine rose gardens, the property seems out of place among the simple life of other Oregon House hill folks.

"We're kind of the redneck group and the Fellowship," laughed Richards.

Members live in and around the compound and own a considerable amount of land within Oregon House. The organization itself is said to own about 1,250 acres. That could be why resentment and perhaps paranoia exist among residents who feel the group is trying to take over Oregon House.

Givens remembers what it was like when the Fellowship first moved in.

"They started putting in their grapes, and later closed Ponderosa Way," he said. "That was the first time the community really got upset."

Others believe the community's relationship with the Fellowship has improved over the years. Resident Gene Scheel noted the Fellowship has made community contributions and even worked with residents to devise an emergency evacuation program for the community's fire district.

"Personally, I don't have a problem with them," said Scheel. "We both know there have been some problems in the past. I think they recognized there were some things that got out of control."

He prefers to call the group a "philosophical organization" rather than a cult.

"I don't agree with their philosophy, but we've agreed to disagree," he said. "We're made up of all different denominations up here. As long as we recognize our boundaries, there's no need to get hostile."

Richards believes relations with the Fellowship are now better because "they're so integrated into the community." In such a small town, everybody runs into everybody, he said, particularly at Oregon House's only grocery store, Oregon House Grocery and Deli on Rice's Crossing.

"We're forced to mingle there," said Richards. "That forces everyone to get along with one another, and I think that's a blessing."

[Read more at Appeal-Democrat]

Oregon House hub

Oregon House Grocery and Deli is known as the town's hub, or "downtown" Oregon House, as one store employee puts it. It is an oasis of sorts because it's the only place in town that sells gas, so the store gets plenty of foot traffic from locals and vacationers alike.

"They come in here for everything," said Verma, who also runs the adjoining video and feed stores on the property.

On a typical afternoon, customers could be seen purchasing everything from multiple pints of ice cream to a single piece of fruit.

Store clerks say the store's best seller is wine. During the lunch hour, folks could be milling around the aisles or just hanging out and eating at the deli, which has its own seating area.

What makes this store unique and different from the typical stop-and-shop convenience stores are the groceries.

Yes, there's gum and candy, refrigerated drinks and all the usual stuff from the everyday convenience market. But there's also a generous selection of imported cheeses, fine wines (including a 1987 3-liter bottle of Renaissance wine with a $300 price tag), specialty teas, organic peanut butter and foreign chocolates and cookies that one would only expect to find at gourmet grocers such as Trader Joe's.

Verma credits the buying power of Fellowship members for the store's unusual stock of specialty products. He considers them some of his best customers, and not just because he can get a special deal on their wine. Because many of them hail from Europe, he said, the store will often carry items to suit their tastes.

"That's what makes it a unique store," said Verma.

Fear of fire

While Marysville and other surrounding communities down in the valley have long been plagued by floods, foothill communities such as Oregon House have had their share of raging forest fires.

"Fire is a constant threat there," said Scheel, who has installed a complicated sprinkler system on his property after two close calls that nearly destroyed his home.

The first was the fire of 1997, considered the worst Oregon House had had in 30 years. It scorched more than 5,000 acres and destroyed more than 80 buildings, most of them homes.

That year, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection rated the Yuba County foothills as high or very high hazard severity zones.

"This was really pretty country until the fire came through," said Steiner, pointing to patches of dead forest and charred remains during a drive through her community. "As you can see, it's all devastated."

One of the foothill's most devastating fires came as recently as 1999 when nearly 12,000 acres, 13 homes, 57 buildings, two commercial structures and 44 vehicles were destroyed. That blaze caused major hardships for not only community residents but Yuba County's timber industry, with companies such as The CHY Company, Siller Bros. and Soper-Wheeler Co. sustaining the biggest losses.

"It was scary, but not," said Dahms of living through the two big fires. "Our feeling is if you practice safety, you're not going to have (fires). And for years, we didn't have them. Now that we've had them, people are more aware."

Until 1977, Oregon House relied on CDF for year-round fire protection. In 1977, the Dobbins and Oregon House communities formed their own volunteer fire department, which later became the Dobbins-Oregon House Fire Protection District. Although CDF still maintained coverage of the foothills during the summer, the communities were on their own in the winter.

Cora Peterson, current member of the district's board of directors, said it was not always easy running the community's own fire district. In fact, it was a burden.

In the beginning, there was no facility to house the fire equipment and rescue vehicles. Volunteers had to keep them at their homes on a rotating basis. That meant being on call 24 hours a day, which restricted them from going anywhere or even doing round-the-house chores such as mowing the lawn for fear they wouldn't hear a call.

But thanks to volunteer labor and community donations, the district finally acquired its fire station in 1987. Constructed with lodgepole pine logs, the structure cost nearly $18,000 to build and is located at the intersection of Marysville and Texas Hill roads.

Today, the station has six bays - four to store equipment and vehicles and two to house the Dobbins-Oregon House Fire Department Auxiliary's thrift shop, which raises money to support the fire department.

"There's no such thing as idle time when you're up here," said Dahms. "There's no time to be bored."

Appeal-Democrat reporter Ching Lee can be reached at 749-4724. You may e-mail her at

Thursday, August 12, 2004

One can never be asked to give too much

[ed. - The above is a paraphrase of Robert Burton's words to a former Ranch Manager, when he asked his "teacher" whether he was too demanding of his workers. This post is slotted in the timeline when the original message was sent out. Memo author Karen Johnston is regarded by some as one of Robert Burton's chief enablers.]

"Traveler" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 5, 2007:
A search on my old email called this up. This is exactly how it was posted to members. Read it and weep.
K_r_n J_hnst_n
Date: 8.12.2004 19:45
Subject: [Students] A Dedicated Amount?
Dear Friends,
This email is to all of us, but in this case, let us separate ourselves in terms of the amount of income the Gods currently allow us to earn or that we are simply given each month to put to use at this time in our lives. For this division amoung the groups of us, there is no “life” connotation of what this means; only that for now, the Gods arranged our plays such that we have this current income.
Let us also surmise that Robert wishes us gradually to take over the building of our city (although he would continue to direct it), so that he would not have to have fund-raising events in order to “pay” for the building of Apollo, but he would be able to use the funds that he raises exactly as he wished because we had taken over the responsibility of paying for the building of our city ourselves.
For this to happen and slowly, slowly, through the auctions, it is already in the process of happening, we would need some of those with the higher levels of income at this time, to commit to themselves to spend a certain greater amount on each auction in order for us to make our goals. For example, if our total auction goal for this holiday is $188,000, how much would I as an individual need to commit? How much could I personally pay of that total amount?
If, going down in income, we each commit to that amount, even those on salary (a prize drawing ticket and one “give a gift, buy a gift”, for example), we could perhaps take over this responsibility from Robert. I am certain that we can do it if we realize we are helping him meet his task to build our city. It is even becoming very enjoyable as the beauty begins to surround us.
Can more of us come to the auctions with this in mind? I say, more of us, because many of you are already doing this.
Thank you for reading this and for thinking on what more personally each can contribute if we set our minds to it?
See you this Sunday, December 12th after the meeting for our Holiday Auction. We invite you all to come, even if you have failed to bid a hundred times. Come again, come!
Best in presence,
K_r_n J_hnst_n for the auction team
“May the glory of the two worlds stay with you” - Rumi

Monday, August 9, 2004

The Teacher Transforms Friction

[ed - Account by Asaf Braverman of  a harrowing encounter with Homeland Security.]

From the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader encounters Homeland Security
Subject: From Asaf: Our San Francisco Experience
Dear Friends,

Asaf’s computer has been stolen upon their arrival to London and with it his address book.

He asked me to send this email, regarding their experience in San Francisco Airport, to you all.

With Love,

Yoad [Rowner]
"These people are walking carelessly towards their gate. They do not suspect there is a challenge even to this moment – to be present to it."
We were making our way from the security check-point to the gate, and in this hall Robert called our attention to the dozens of passengers carelessly hurrying to their flights. We were a group of six travelers altogether; Robert, Carlos, Dorian, Mihai, Dmitry S and myself. Robert now being a senior citizen, he and I advanced to the head of the cue and pre-boarded. Our seats were almost at the back of the aircraft. The plane was scheduled to take off at 16:30, that is, in half and hour, and after working on some notes the fatigue caught up with us and we decided to rest for a while. I woke up suddenly, hearing my name being announced in the loudspeaker alongside the rest of our traveling group. We were asked to advance to the entrance of the aircraft. Dorian went first to check what the misunderstanding might be, and upon seeing that he did not return, as well as having heard our names called again, we all advanced to the front. There, we were greeted by the head stewardess, and politely asked to disembark the aircraft. We were lead to the same hallway through which we passed while boarding, but the atmosphere now swiftly changed, as we soon noticed that we were surrounded by police officers. After having been left in this peculiar position for a minute or so, the stewardess approached us and explained, ‘Our crew has discussed your group, and together we all agreed that we are unwilling to include you in our flight. Your behavior has been suspicious from the beginning, and we cannot risk flying you. We now turn you over to the police, and they will take charge of your case from this point onwards.’ ‘Miss, I understand your concern’ began Robert after stepping forward, ‘but there must be some misunderstanding. We take this flight four times a year, often using your airline. We are a religious organization based here in California, and in fact we have tickets for the Bolshoi ballet this evening in the Covent Gardens Theater.’ This last comment on Robert’s part seemed to surprise the stewardess, although to my perception she was already fixed in her decision, and events having developed to such an extreme point, it was clear that it would take a considerable effort of explanation on our part in order to clear this abrupt suspicion that had developed around us. The stewardess dismissed herself and we were now left by ourselves, surrounded by a dozen or so police officers. After five minutes had elapsed in this state of uncertainty, Robert turned towards us and said, ‘If Influence C took the time to give us this shock, we must take the time to transform it. At this point, the key is not to resent this shock.’ We gradually learned the causes of suspicion against us. First, Dorian had intentionally checked into the flight early and asked for six adjacent seats. Second, we were, indeed, a diverse group of varying nationalities and ages. Third (and this is where the hand of Influence C became more and more apparent) we unexpectedly met another student, Stepan K., who was on the same flight, although destined to continue from London to Athens. He approached us while we were on board, and this aroused the suspicion on behalf of the crew members even more. Additionally (and again, the hand of Influence C could be sensed) the upper luggage bins above our seat were broken, damaged by us (claimed the crew) while loading them with suspicious items. Finally, another two suspicious Middle-eastern looking men were detected on the plane, which naturally added to the crews paranoia. We would also learn (later) that this particular day happened to be one of a heightened terrorism alert, the flight crews nationwide having been specifically asked not to leave any stone unturned.
After perhaps fifteen minutes still standing in the hallway, we noticed that the crew was now leading all the rest of the passengers off board. Quietly we stood there, as the passengers walked by us one by one, each inquisitively looking at us and probably asking himself what exactly it was that we might have been plotting against him.
Within about half an our into this play, we were lead to a nearby large room and were seated individually (each about ten meters apart from the other). We were asked to wait patiently until the inspectors would arrive. Fortunately I was allowed to stay seated next to Robert; perhaps his being a senior aroused some kind of understanding on their part. However, I had left my notes on the plane, and did not have what to share with him as far as knowledge goes. We recalled where we had left off before all this began. Robert had posed the interesting question ‘How can one not deceive oneself?’ ‘In the second state one is deceiving oneself,’ continued Robert, answering his own earlier question ‘because one is not present. The best thing is to be present, and if that is not occurring, the second best thing is to have intellectual parts promoting presence; the most undesirable position is to be in the jacks and the queens. In the queens one does not have any option. The queens are full of doubt, not suspecting that they are the problem.’ I recalled a thought of Albert Einstein which had always been practical for me (although Einstein obviously would have been referring to something else). ‘Regarding rising from the queens to the kings’ I said ‘Einstein said that the solution is never on the same level as the problem.’ ‘Yes that is very good,’ responded Robert ‘I have heard it before, but now I understand it better. The solution is also not to be found in words, the problem is in words.’
Thus we spent three and a half hours seated in an abandoned room in the San Francisco airport, during which we were briefly investigated by the FBI, although mostly left to ourselves.
At a certain moment we recalled a story of Gurdjieff being arrested by the French police. Foreign pupils of Gurdjieff’s, especially Americans, coming over to see him after World War II would bring him gifts of money, sometimes a thousand dollars or more. By law, however, these should have been exchanged at once for francs. But Gurdjieff liked to keep the foreign bank notes. Thus, one day he was warned that the police intended to raid his flat, and he was implored to make sure that he had nothing suspicious. He replied, ‘They can never find anything in my apartment.’ The same day the police came, looked under his mattress, and found a variety of foreign currency notes. He was taken to the police station and locked up with petty criminals.
Asaf Braverman, Robert Earl Burton secretary and heir-apparent
Asaf Braverman, Burton's heir-apparent
When brought before the magistrate, Gurdjieff skillfully played the part of a poor old man who understood nothing about foreign money, and could scarcely speak French. He was, on this account, eventually discharged.
‘This is also part of having outside help–these kinds of things too’ Robert explained. ‘What I notice is that as the shock is persisting, and as the time is advancing, we have to keep reaffirming not-resenting. It is the queens that are resenting. Also, in these kind of situations I remember that now it is our turn to undergo friction. Other students each have their own turn, and at times it is the teacher’s turn. As a school, we are getting farther and farther away from the queens, and this is another opportunity to practice this. Becoming old is by no means a hedge against receiving friction, neither was I expecting it to be so.’ One of the chief police officers entered the room at 22:30 and announced that they had finished their investigation and we had proved innocent. They had searched through our luggage (both carry-on as well as check-in) and had also visited our website. The site aroused respect on their part, and the FBI officer apologized for the inconvenience caused.
‘I also read your site,’ said one of the minor officers. ‘This incident will only increase your faith in your faith,’ he said, in a fairly proud tone of voice.
‘Strange play’ remarked Robert on our way to a nearby hotel. ‘This shock was all planned even before we arrived at the airport. I marvel the Absolute scripted it for us. Compared to what he has seen, it is very little. We all stayed away from our machine’s imaginary picture of what should have happened. It is good we recently read of Gurdjieff’s arrest. He would have been in his eighties when that occurred–and I trust his shock was more difficult to handle than this one. It helped me work with this situation.’ ‘We are very lucky that it was an artificial shock rather than some kind of brutal handling which past schools have indeed experienced. During the shock I had the ‘I’ that C. Frew (who is also receiving artificially applied friction from Influence C, although in his case it is terminal) would have been grateful to undergo this if it were all that was asked of him. These are all artificial shocks–Girard’s stroke, Peter Bishop’s untimely death, and even Genevieve from one angle–Influence C have artificially applied them into their and our roles to transform. One always has to take Influence C on their own terms, and that is how they will get us to Paradise. We are very lucky Influence C take the time to help us escape; who are we that they would take the time to help us? And why we of all others?’ ‘One area you all have to watch is the group of I’s that is concerned about myself in such situations. Remember that I will be doing my work. The seven of hearts can work through these concern I’s.’ We received complementary rooms in a nearby hotel and spent the night there. Since our flight was not to leave until 16:30, we decided to have lunch in San Francisco the following day. As we arrived in Union Square, Robert remarked, ‘The machine considers yesterday as time lost. But it was not time lost because there was a lot of presence and third state to it all. The machine judges by external achievements.’ Soon, we were back in the airport undergoing exactly the same check-in procedure as in the previous day. After passing the security area, and as we were advancing towards our gate once again, I recalled Robert’s comment of how no one was suspecting there was a challenge to that moment, and pondered how curious it was that as Robert made that remark the previous day, none of us suspected that we were about to encounter a challenge that would last until 22:30! Dorian insisted that Robert and I be upgraded to upper class. Schools always make a profit, and thus our story ends happily with Robert and myself enjoying a pleasant dinner sitting across from each other. We toasted to bearing the slings and arrows of our outrageous good-fortune.
Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Burton and his secretary Asaf Braverman fly first class
Asaf Braverman and Robert Burton toast their "outrageous good fortune."

Saturday, July 10, 2004

First issue of The Fellowship Newsletter on the internet

[ed. - This is an Internet Archive capture of the Fellowship webpage.]

Presence • Awakening • Consciousness • Self-knowledge • Evolution
Vol 1, No 1 · JUNE 2004
Being Present

A publication of the Fellowship of Friends

Welcome to the first issue of this newsletter
This issue marks the beginning of our efforts to make major Fourth Way principles accessible worldwide via the internet. We appreciate so many subscribers being patient as we put the newsletter together and we look forward to getting your feedback as we go forward. Please let us hear from you.

Self-remembering "Self-remembering is by far the most important concept ever released on the earth. To be or not to be present, that is the question." Robert Burton
The central principle behind the Fourth Way is that no one is automatically aware of himself, no one is conscious of himself, no one ‘remembers’ himself. The seemingly simple fact of being aware of one’s own existence goes unnoticed. Even when a person is told about it and sincerely tries to be more conscious, they soon forget to remember to do it, to be aware of their own existence. Their consciousness unknowingly falls asleep again and everything goes on as before—in a state of dim awareness and uncontrolled attention.
Of course, everyone is aware of their existence to some degree, but it is small compared to what is possible through conscious effort. For the most part, everyone takes their existence, and awareness of their existence, for granted. No one remembers about his existence on purpose. Quite the contrary: everyone is always forgetting himself and losing himself in the task at hand, the people he is with, the troubles he is having, the plans he is making, and so on.
To remember yourself means to intentionally divide your attention and be aware of yourself in your surroundings. Through the divided attention of self-remembering you become aware of whatever you are observing in the moment while remaining aware of yourself as the observer. For instance, right now it is possible to be aware of these words on the page while also being aware of yourself reading them. It sounds simple, yet this double awareness, this divided attention, never happens by itself. It requires conscious effort every moment. Without effort, awareness always slips back into ordinary, one-way attention.
Divided attention is the chief characteristic of a higher state of consciousness—called the third state—and the effort to divide attention through self-remembering is a way of inducing the third state. This attempt to reach the third state is the main method taught in a Fourth Way school. Everything else about the school revolves around the discipline of learning to remember oneself—to be consciously present to each moment of each activity during the day.
How to practice self-remembering
Here’s a way to practice and verify the divided attention of self-remembering: As you walk down the hall or along the street, as you talk to people, as you eat, as you get dressed, and as you go about your daily work, try to see what is right in front of you. Try to notice the details. At the same time, try to be aware of yourself making this effort. In other words, be aware of the fact that you are trying to divide your attention. Then notice how the presence of divided attention imperceptibly slips away as you lapse into mental associations, daydreaming, retrospection, and planning—into what the Fourth Way calls imagination. When you suddenly ‘come back’ to the clarity of divided attention, you will see that self-remembering is the key to being more awake. Self-remembering is subtle and simple, yet hard to sustain because it always requires a conscious effort. As Johann Goethe, the German author, said, “That is most difficult which seems easiest: to be present to what is before one."

Topic for next issue
Imagination as the chief barrier to being present.

Upcoming events
Future issues will include announcements for upcoming events worldwide.

Links of interest on our web site
• See video clips of Robert Burton teaching
• Read Foundations of Real Work by Girard Haven
• Review suggested reading about the Fourth Way

Introductory lectures — monthly
We offer a series of free introductory lectures on a regular basis in cities around the world. To register for the series, call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212) or find a center nearest you.
1—The Foundation of the Fourth Way
• Self-knowledge · Levels of consciousness
• Man as a machine · Consciousness, will, and unity
• Obstacles to awakening · Three lines of work

2—The Theory of Centers (requires lecture 1)
• The 4 lower centers
• The sex center
• Higher centers
• The soul, the spirit

3—Practical Ways to Seize and Prolong Presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• How to introduce and sustain self-remembering

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is a Fourth Way school with centers worldwide. Membership is on a monthly basis. For details: find a center nearest you, or email, or call

Thoughts on self-remembering 

Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you, that is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves… Remember yourselves always and everywhere. George Gurdjieff 

Self-remembering is the beginning and the center of the system and the most important thing to understand. You cannot describe it as an intellectual action or intellectual idea. You have to begin studying what self-remembering means intellectually, but in actual fact it is not intellectual because it is a moment of will. Peter Ouspensky

Self-remembering, or the practice of divided attention—though the first glimpse of it may seem extraordinarily simple, easy and obvious—in reality requires a complete reconstruction of ones’ whole life and point of view, both towards oneself and other people… The practice of self-remembering is connected with the attempt to produce a certain phenomenon, the birth of consciousness in oneself. Rodney Collin

Self-remembering is its own reward. It is an unheralded, unsensational, immortal process. Each time you remember yourself, you have produced a flash of eternity that will not perish. We are foolish when we value the tangible above the intangible. Self-remembering must incessantly recommence throughout your life. What does the term self-remembering mean? It means that your dormant self is remembering to be awake.
Robert Burton

The present is the only reality of which a man can truly be deprived. Marcus Aurelius

It is enough to pay attention to what is before one’s eyes, that is, to the present. Dante Alighieri

As you eat, walk, or travel be there where you are, otherwise you will miss most of your life. Buddha

Man’s head and feet are rarely in the same place at the same time. Elizabeth I
Man lacks an understanding of how to know the present. Blaise Pascal
Recognize what is before you and what is hidden will be revealed. Gospel of Thomas
Blessed is the life in which there is no past, no future, in which everything belongs to the present.
Francesco Petrarca

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