Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970.

Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws
on official Fellowship publications and websites,
news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

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

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:
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, 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 leaders Asaf Braverman and Robert Burton
Asaf Braverman and Robert Burton toast their "outrageous good fortune."

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