Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

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).

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