Introduction


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.")

But 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.

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 from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, 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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Kid Shellen" tells just a bit of his story...

"Kid Shellen" [aka "Kid Shelleen"] wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 27, 2007:
In 1999, after 15 years of working on myself, I left the FoF. I wasn’t negative at or about Robert; at that time I didn’t know a quarter of what I know now. I actually thought he might be what he professed to be, but that didn’t make any difference to me anymore. Something had been gnawing at my insides for several years and finally that fall, it erupted into my life in many ways. Leaving the fellowship was just the first of many, very “un-me” things I’d do.

What launched me out was my realization that I had become a Fundamentalist in my thinking. I went to meeting after meeting hoping to hear something that was not the same old regurgitated dogma. No luck. I couldn’t speak the truth, nor could my friends. I’d hear myself spouting angles, all the time thinking, “I don’t really know that for certain.” I thought Ouspensky said that the Fourth way was dogma-free. No luck there, either.

At the same time, unprocessed parts of my past started to haunt me. I was just to leap over them and be in the present, right? This became harder and harder to do. I had heard many times, from many students that the school was not psychotherapy. “If you have issues, take them to a therapist, do not bring them to meetings.” If you can’t share the truth of your life with your friends, who can you share it with?

So I decided it was time for something new. I knew I needed to work through a lot of my past and I knew the FoF was not going to be any help. I also knew that I needed a new way of thinking and being.

After leaving, a lot of extraordinary things happened, and I realize now what I Don’t Know. All that is a tale for another post. Glad to hear your stories; and as Bob [Dylan] said: “Don’t follow leaders/Watch your parking meters.”

A sexual slave trade for The Teacher?

Rabbi Burns posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Seems like the general trend in this blog is now acceptance and sweetness (always popular), but there’s a lot that hasn’t been said yet. So here’s another disturbing concept: white slavery.

Most of us (maybe not FOF students) are aware that there’s a trade in women from poor villages in eastern europe who are told that they will get a well paid job as a waitress if they move to, say, Austria, but when they get there they find they are compelled to work in a brothel until their expenses are paid off, and those expenses seem to increase rather than diminish. In other words they find themselves in a living hell.

In the FOF, “travelling teachers” visit FOF centers around the world and if they are truly members of the “inner circle” look around for attractive young men whom they think “the teacher” might find useful for his sexual activities. They send photos of a desirable young man to “the teacher”, thereby gaining points in his favour, and if he likes the photos he pays for the airfare of the unfortunate youth (generally from Russia these days) to California. The youth arrives in Oregon House with the belief that he has been honored by “the teacher” for his outstanding spiritual potential, but soon discovers that sexual favors are expected. So what happens then? He calls for a cab and escapes to Yuba City? Unlikely. Probably he doesn’t speak English at all, or only a little. He has a “religious visa” provided by the FOF, which does not entitle him to work outside the FOF. There’s no way he can pay his own airfare back. He becomes a sexual slave.

What goes on at the Galleria (Robert’s home) has only been hinted at here so far. The obsession with blow jobs is only the tip of the iceberg. Some very strange sexual perversions are practiced there. This is not the place to go into the disgusting specifics; just ask any current or former student who lives at “Isis” and who is well enough connected to know about these things. I was not directly involved myself in these activities, but I have spoken one on one to students who were, students who were, unsurprisingly, seriously psychologically traumatised.

All you FOF members who sit on the fence on these issues, or in some cases offer “psychological counseling” to the victims, are indirectly supporting these activities, like the Germans in WW2 who preferred to believe that atrocities were not happening in the camp down the road.

Please try not to buffer this.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Fellowship? More bang for the buck than paying taxes!

[ed. - "Alexis" enjoyed their time in the Fellowship. And that's all that mattered.]
"Alexis" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 22, 2007:

Personally I had no problems with Burton, I enjoyed being in his company. Sexual intimacy never was an issue, perhaps if he had been a she then maybe, or maybe not. I don’t believe that I would have gone to bed with either for a place at his or her table or a first class ticket around the world, nor would it have been a case of kiss and tell. Besides, I have no regret about every dollar given to the Fellowship and Robert, at least I had a great deal of fun, rather him than the bottomless coffers of the tax man.. People seem to have no qualms about handing over 30% + of their annual income to the government, no questions asked, but become hysterical when asked to give 10% of their income to the FOF.

I have, during my stay in the FOF, which lasted nearly two decades, never heard any Student voice the opinion that they had awakened or were conscious. On the contrary, most began to realize their own level of being. Whether Robert was conscious or not wasn’t an issue for me, he provided a theatre, a possibility for experimentation, and to act in a way unfamiliar and challenging to my own mechanics. There may have been some temporary mental detours in some of us, but we tried to view one another with some sense of humour rather than taking the I’s, some of them outrageous, seriously.

As Webb has written in his ‘Harmonious Circle’, there need not be any spiritual arrogance here, nobody can withstand a concerted assault on ones reality and have it rebuilt differently. What is of import is the ability to free yourself again of this new model of reality, in due time, and not remain stuck in it. And that’s the difficulty, because we cling to the familiar and the known. The question remains ‘Who are you?’

Its easy for the ES ["the Esoteric Sheik," Fellowship Discussion blog moderator] to shoot off his mouth and play private investigator, discovering the terrible truth behind the FOF, but I am not impressed. What’s the actuality? Instead of ogling the pretty young woman in the meeting, why not ask her out for dinner? Yes, all the I’s of why you shouldn’t, and why bother, and and….. at least you would have done something out of pattern, and you would have, perhaps, found out something about ‘you’. Unless, of course, you already know..

As for Student X [ed. - See X Student's post] and long term student [unknown blogger], am I to take you seriously?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cheryl's story

"Cheryl" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 21, 2007:

Hello Friends, Old and New,

I am an X Student. I was in the Fellowship for 18 years and left in 2006. It took me a long time to realize that I joined to wake up, yes, and also to be saved — from my messy life, and the terror of finding myself in this really awful situation of being embodied. The Fellowship and Robert saved me – from myself. I needed that, when I was 26. I needed the structure and rules from somewhere outside of myself, to help me learn to say NO to the Wild Child within that had pretty much always been able to get away with everything. I needed someone strong in my life that I would obey without question.

I was saved! My mantra was, “Never give up.” As long as I stayed in the School and never ever left, somehow, some lifetime, I would escape this hell called Life, wake up and get to sit around in a place called Paradise with all of you, for eternity. Thank God, Thank Robert, Thank FOF!

And I came to know where I would die and be buried, and how my funeral would be. I liked to walk up to the cemetary [sic] alone and wander through the beautiful, quiet place behind the orchard. Gradually, friends were buried there, and I saw the headstones of JK, MP, RM,PB: They Had Made It! The funerals were one of the most beautiful events we had, weren’t they? We were all so close, close to one another and close to death, it was high and rich and vivid.

It was incredibly comforting to know that as I aged, someone on an octave would bring soup to my home and help me in the bathroom. It was incredibly comforting to know that as I took my last breaths in this lifetime, a circle of old friends would most likely surround me with their presence, poetry, flowers, candlelight. You would come to my funeral and then bury me up there in that lovely cemetary [sic] with my friends.

As long as I stayed, I was assured of this salvation. My body would be taken care of,my emotional centre would be surrounded by friends, and my Soul would get to come back to the next lifetime, possibly The Ninth, The One. How irresistable [sic] is that?

In addition, the Fellowship was an extraordinary and incredible world.

We could travel and disembark in the middle of Russia/Egypt/Paris/Kiev/ETC, look out and find a Friend, the one possibly holding a work book, but more recognizably, the one with that It-ness that’s been referred to here in the blog. We see one another across the crowded chaotic room, and smile a knowing smile. In the madness of Life, we are present.

I was able to play so many different roles and learn so many different things! I was a vineyard worker, I was a waitress, I was a cook, I was a dishwasher, I was an events planner, a minister, a director, an audience, a producer, a fundraiser, a palm seed planter, a palm tree waterer, a diner, a flower arranger, a teacher, a student, a lover, a friend. and more…don’t we all have these amazing lists and memories of what we did?

I was so busy. There was no room for anything else but the events, meetings, working, meetings, receptions, dinners, octaves upon octaves.

And yes, internally something did change. I developed that It-ness, the “you are what observes, not what is being observed”. At times it was so Here that I thought, “maybe it’s happened…”, and other times it was a distant taste of something that I knew I’d had but couldn’t quite access in that moment.

But over time, I allowed myself to return to some of the questions I had always put away on a shelf, ever since I joined. That it-ness, for example, It had always been with me, it didn’t just happen once I joined FOF. But when I told older students of this Truth, they quoted, “well, Influence C was already working with your grandparents and knew you were coming here.” or, “Yes, but this Way will get you there faster.” Somehow those angles always sounded a bit weird to me, and unsatisfactory.

And Life…as I became less afraid of this Life experience, Life became a wonderful thing. Why is Life a bad word in FOF, I wondered? Is it really true that all of the other people on the entire planet earth are doomed to be driven from vessel to vessel for eternity? That we somehow have a monopoly on consciousness? That we are the only ones who are on a Way? That none of the other 44 seemed to need our particular Way to wake up, but we do?

(There was no real forum to be able to ask those questions, though. If I expressed my doubts or a unique opinion I would most likely receive a photograph. and I did the same to you.)

And about those unspeakable dark shadows, what can I say? Is it really my own limited being, formatory mind, feminine dominance, my King of clubs, my Queen of Hearts…that is disturbed by … what I came to know…? I tried as hard as I possibly could to see it that way, as a limitation of mine, a result of my being under more laws. When I felt the repressed outrage rising, I quickly signed up to attend a dinner, or wash dishes, or go to a meeting. Separate! Be! Do NOT express negative emotions! Don’t gossip! I’m sure if I was there now, I’d be using the Sequence to not allow Those I’s in, to make myself believe that it is okay.

It came down to this:

After 18 years, I am terrified of myself, still. I’m terrified that if I don’t belong to FOF, I am food for the moon, I am a lost Soul, I’m going to hell. I blew it. I’m a spiritual Loser.

It came down to this:

Maybe I’m weak, stuck under too many laws, can’t see as high as my other friends, but it’s very simple…Certain things are not okay with me.

It came down to this:

I must leave to find out who I am on my own, outside of the context of FOF. I need to know who I am if I “give up” instead of clinging and grasping and “never give up.” I need to face my fear, the Fear of me. The terror of being…the horror of not-being, of NO-THING-ness.

I left.

It turns out, for me (and I do not know how it is supposed to turn out, for you…but I do wish for you to really search and really know why you are where you are. And it’s useful to fully understand where you are.), that Leaving is as fundamentally important to my Path as the Joining FOF, and as the Belonging to FOF, phases were.

Leaving is like jumping off of a cliff, it is a death, it is a good-bye. But it turns out I’m jumping into my LIFE, feeling that I actually have two feet on the ground, on my own, I can walk, wow, I can walk! (I wasn’t sure I could)

I spend a lot of time walking on an empty beach and everything is my Teacher, the IT-ness IS, and the NOT-IT-Ness, I’m nothing, and we are all and everything. IT is not dependent on my teaching payment, my hours of FOF first, second and third line.

I entered the terror of my existence and everything is ok. There was this funny feeling in the beginning of living my life, after leaving, when I’d be driving down the road and thought, “Oh, I’m allowed to live my life? I’m allowed to be, here, making my own decisions, allowing the flow of life and the universe to guide me?” and this timid opening that widened into a huge embrace that I’m free. (free of so much…so many complicated unnecessary layers in between). It’s like jumping back up out of the rabbit hole into my life and thunk! Oh, here I am! Here I am, this is the Life I am living! How gorgeous.

I also don’t want to make Leaving sound all glossy and perfect. There was a hard part right near the begining of Leaving where a lot of the repressed stuff came up, and I felt so sick that I wanted to turn myself inside out and scrub the underbelly of every cell. So I did, and now I feel cleaner. (all kinds of methods of scrubbing are possible, from a great sobbing cry to meditation to hysterical laughing to therapy to new guides and friends who gently hold you and let you be)

another hard part is missing my friends who are still there. but it isn’t as tough these days, because so many have left. In the Leaving there is the good-bye but also a long lost “HIIII!!!!” to friends I’d abandoned once in the name of the exercise. they forgave me, they understood, they’d done it too…as I forgive you, now not calling me, I understand, I did it too.

And the new connections and friends are just as IT-tty when we bring our It-ness to our new friendships, that seed within that Zsuzsa spoke of, in all of us, in everything, it can be touched, reached, accessed.

I’m really enjoying being quiet and not busy and not too many gurus or a form, and not in charge of some unbelievable octave and not wondering what else i have to do to get some awakening for me. It’s right here, right now, and it is most abundant when I’m not so obsessed with making it mine. Isn’t that funny? I don’t actually have to push, work, disallow, not express, transform, effort effort effort effort effort myself to being. It’s like what someone said earlier about the Truth, It is, we don’t have to make The Truth into truth.

Whoever you are reading this, X or Current or Never Been FOF Student, I send my love, my smiles…

I’ve been trying to hit the “submit” button now for awhile and … what is that old, familiar, constricted feeling? Oh, that’s it: It’s the fear that grew in me over the years of expressing my own, unique angle. Fear of thinking for myself, standing on my own. Amazing how thick it is, I’m still letting go and giving up, into the layers as they come.

Cheryl

Monday, February 19, 2007

Philip's story

"Philip" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 19, 2007:
I’m a new contributor to this blog (or any blog for that matter). I’m writing to express an insight I’ve had about what keeps students in the Fellowship who sense that it may be time to leave. If you are in the school and feel stuck, I hope you will find this helpful. And if you’ve already left, I would be interested in your response to this post. First, some personal context:

I joined the Fellowship when I was 24 years old and was a devoted member for 22 years. I left a little over a year ago. During my time in the school I lived in various parts of the world to support its centers. Eventually I opened and directed two of them. I also lived at Renaissance/Apollo/Isis for 12 years. I worked in the vineyard, landscaping, and the winery, regularly gave angles at meetings (even led a couple), and participated in the performing arts. I also answered the Fellowship’s 800# for a couple of years, did tons of research for the Galleria meetings, and was a member of the Fellowship Council for a while.

Through all these years of effort, I would from time to time become disappointed with my progress toward awakening and would think about leaving the school. Then I would begin to feel disturbed about the Teacher’s personal life. What kept me in was always some version of this thought: “The reason you haven’t awakened yet isn’t because there’s something wrong with the school or the Teacher, it’s because you haven’t made enough efforts, haven’t made enough use of the opportunities that the school provides for working on yourself. After all, how can a ‘sleeping machine’ such as you know what’s right in regard to awakening, or for that matter, in regard to a conscious being’s private life?”

About 4 years ago I became disappointed again and gave myself the same answer as usual. But this time I decided that I was through with the school trying so hard to wake me up and with me failing both it and myself. I proceeded to make efforts as never before, increasing my volunteer community service to as much as 70 hours a week (which often meant only 4 or 5 hours of sleep at night), and amassing a sizable credit card debt in order to attend every meeting with the Teacher and many of the other events (including the international meetings in Greece and Egypt).

After a few years of this, the day came when I took a look at my progress toward awakening and once again felt disappointed. States? yes. Understandings? yes. Awakening? still far away (similar to post #88). This time, however, there was no doubt in my mind that I really had done all I could with the opportunities provided by the school. Why wasn’t it working? I had to admit to myself that my failure to awaken wasn’t my fault; for the first time, I wondered if it might be the school that was failing me (as in post #96). In terms of the car-in-the-garage analogy from a couple of days ago, I peeked in my garage and found a car there (thanks for those images, post #’s 97 & 99.)

I still had to deal with thoughts like, “If you’re asleep, how can you know what the problem is or whose fault it is?” But luckily, enough of a ray of light had entered my awareness that I began to realize something new. It was not so much about the school itself, as about the fourth way in general. And what follows is I hope a useful response to David’s post #66 (which brought up the point about the fourth way being introduced as only fragments).

The fourth way, as presented in Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s books, the can’t work. Why not? Because it is based on selfishness. Just look at the language: “self-remembering,” “self-observation,” “becoming immortal within the limits of the solar system,” etc. Because of this selfishness, one will always get in one’s own way. Ego can’t awaken. “Trying to awaken” is a Tantalus-game (so beware of fourth way ideas, post #101).

In the end I had to cut deeper than the school in order to get out of it– I had to find a way out of the fourth way.

I just read Keith’s post #126 about the fourth way working, and, I’m wondering, Keith, how does it work for you? Do you believe that you have “awakened”? If you’ve found it to be useful in some way, I’d really like to hear about your experience.

I appreciate very much those of you who have mentioned that resisting evil only makes it stronger. Whether it be an esoteric school, a spiritual teacher, or certain posts on this blog, challenging it only makes it bigger in your mind. As the Buddha said, “Hate never yet dispelled hate, only love dispels hate, this is the eternal law.”

Thanks too to those of us who have pointed out that it may me right for some to stay in the school for example in post #’s 108 & 112, and in particular to Ellen of post # 50 who seems to be a living example of that.

Also, someone in this blog mentioned that there are those who, though they see that the school is not what it purports to be, stay in it anyway in order to help others who are suffering there. I have heard that about some current members and was glad to hear of it again here. It sounds heroic.

And as to the pursuit of awakening, to which so many of us have dedicated a great deal of time and energy, I have been helped by something else the Buddha said: “If a man thinks he has attained Enlightenment, he has deceived himself, although he may be moving in that direction.” A contemporary spiritual teacher helped me understand this when he said, “It’s not you that wakes up; it’s reality that wakes up, the truth wakes up. You are not enlightened, enlightenment is enlightened.”

I agree with our host, the “Sheik,” who wrote earlier today that, “the only source of truth and happiness is in every each one of us.” Expanding on this, I’ve learned that everything and everyone you perceive and experience is you. So, if you think the fellowship is a cult, or evil, that’s you, and if you think it’s something else, that’s you too. Reality is all coming from you.

During the past year since I left the school I’ve learned from a number of spiritual teachers and they all seem to have one common thread of truth running between them. It is that you already have all truth, beauty, wisdom and consciousness. Just relax, practice stilling your mind (and, as post #60 says, “trust your heart”).

And to post #54, you won’t be harmed if you leave. The truth is that nothing can really harm you. Deep inside yourself, you know that.

To you and to Susan of post #125, here’s my advice: just sit quietly for a little while today, say half an hour, and let yourself be without your worries, thoughts and emotions. You will rediscover peace and truth. For a little while, let yourself be just your awareness – that’s the real you.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Former student's" Story

"Former student" wrote the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
I was a member of the Fellowship of Friends (FOF) for 12 years, though that was over 12 years ago. Yet it has only been in the last year or so that I now feel free to speak about my experience(s).
I joined when I was a full blooded, testosterone active youth of 20 years old.
My first two years were spent in a centre – a FOF outpost, where students lived together, or met up to discuss and practice the “Work”. These were times of joyful optimism, there was a sense of purpose and challenge, as I religiously read the required books and diligently performed the set exercises; all the time knowing that my attempt at Self-Remembering would produce the required results in no time at all… The only disappointment I felt was that I was stuck in this outpost of a centre. Where I really wanted to be was at the heart, where it all happened – close to the Teacher!
This desire was given extra impetus after the Teacher swept through the centre with his train of acolytes, as part of one of his exotic journeys which he was very keen on taking and of which I would partake, several years down the road. I followed everyone’s lead and bowed down in awe and made up my mind that I would up roots and move to Renaissance, as it was then called.
Indeed within a twinkling of an eye, I was soon laboring beneath a brilliant sun, building by day and burning by night! The days were long an tiring, the work hard, but the evenings were special: plenty of company, good food, lots to drink and an incredible star studded, night sky full of promise.
It wasn’t long before I got my first invitation to dine at the honored top table and soon began to feed on the attention I was being given by the Teacher. As the omnipotent, all seeing, conscious being he claimed to be, I naturally assumed everyone was the beneficiary of such cosmic affection.
So it came as a surprise when he invited me to join him on his next world tour. By this time my ego was up, I felt confident, I was definitely going somewhere. Of course I paid scant warning to the occasional asides I would receive advising me to be careful. Careful? What do I need to be careful about? I have sanctuary beneath the wings of grace.
The world tour went off without a hitch. It had it’s moments of course. Traveling with a small band of young men for eight weeks is not without it’s flash points. I for one would have certainly appreciated a bit more female company – and I don’t mean for the reasons you might be thinking. I just feel more relaxed in more balanced environment.
Anyway, after those eight weeks of high living, it was back to the vineyard by day and the wine by night. And it was probably as a result of the latter that I soon found myself proposing to a woman who I had been eyeing for awhile and had felt attracted to and which I felt was reciprocated. I suppose in a normal situation we would have simply had an affair, found out if everything worked and if we were really suited for each other. Only then made a decision about long term commitments. However, the rules stated no pre-marital sex and as I was observing the rules as this stage, there was little option; especially as there was something about this place which seemed to have the effect of boosting the sexual energy. Like the libido running on rocket fuel.
Of course marriage meant that my frequent invitations from the Teacher became less frequent. But then he had never been an open advocate of male female coupling in any form, I think he viewed it as one of the many “unnecessary necessities” that occur between the opposite sexes, children being the another. Actually I now believe women themselves fell into that category, unless they were old enough to be his mother and then he treated them like queens!
Anyway true to form I had child, after which life in the FOF became quite run of the mill, if ever it can be. Unfortunately, the marriage was not fated to last. Partly due to the artificial circumstances surrounding it’s conception, as it became evident we were not suited to each other and the child had only delayed the inevitable. Also there felt like an immense external pressure, largely due I’m sure to the active singles scene. After a long day in the field, it was sometimes too much to resist, for in spite of the rules, it was evident that students were hitting the hay left, right and centre. This was only further fuelled by a steady stream of younger, more liberally minded students making their pilgrimages from Europe and beyond.
So it was more or less back to square one. Well almost. I was now single again, eligible and yes, back on the high table!
You may be wondering what had happened to the “Work” within my life. Well I was still doing it – at least I was going to meetings, following the exercises, paying my way – if not financially, with the sweat of my brow, by working the land. But to be quite honest my main memories of this period was that I was the member of an exclusive social club, complete with all the allurements a youth in his mid-twenties could wish for.
I even fell in love again and this time decided to try out the relationship first, though I knew it involved tasting of “forbidden” fruits and liable to a hefty fine or worse. But the passionate union which followed, with its depths of intense feeling and emotion which two people encounter when trying to experience the moment, within the moment which the act of making love demands, seemed to justify my decision and still makes me shudder to this day. The only response I recall at the time was: this can’t be wrong – give me more!
In fact my wish was duly granted for it was at this point that things took a turn – not necessarily for the worse in the beginning, but certainly in another direction.
The most memorable moment occurred after one of the Teacher’s so called Symposiums, this was the name of the all male dinners he was in the habit of hosting each weekend. Indeed true to their title they mainly amounted to little more than drinking parties, taking more of the form of a Bacchanalia without the accompanying Maenads – though I was soon to discover there a sting in the tail.
After dinner it was the custom of the Teacher to retire while the rest of the young men hung around and chatted. I think I was trying to recall how much Cognac I had consumed, when the Teacher’s man servant came and whispered in my ear that the Teacher would like to speak to me. So I slipped out of the room, making my way along the hall to his study, where I knocked on his door.
When I entered he looked a little surprised, but then invited me to sit down on the couch next to him. This was all very cozy I thought. I began to wonder what words of wisdom he might impart, as I definitely felt in the mood for something insightful. So you can imagine my surprise when he reached over and started to undo my trousers. If fact, I was so taken back that I must have slipped into a kind of reverie, for the next thing I was aware of was the Teacher’s head between my legs performing fellatio.
Strangely enough I did not resist, which would have been the obvious reaction, as I had always considered myself very straight, finding the whole gay scene somewhat distasteful – at least not up my particular street! However, probably the combination of the cognac, with the fact that this was my all-knowing Teacher, plus the no doubt subconscious curiosity of what it might be like to do it with another man, permitted me to submit and allow the whole process to reach it’s natural conclusion – or unnatural conclusion, depending on which way you view it.
Anyway, obviously delighted by my apparent willingness and after taking a drink of water, the Teacher then confessed that he had not expected me to come, but another boy by the same name. So it seemed I had jumped the queue – for queue it certainly was. With my subsequent entry into the inner sanctum, not only did the concept of a “Man Number Seven” take on a whole different meaning, but I was soon to discover that I had become the member of what can only be described as a rather exclusive male harem.
As I was ushered out into the night air and mind played over what had taken place, the stars above which had once offered so much promise appeared to pale a little. Though part of me cried out violation, another part was quite frankly bewildered – almost intrigued. The sexual part wasn’t that much of a big deal, whether it’s a man or woman giving you a blow job it amounts to much the same, especially if you close your eyes, which I did. The worrying part was who was initiating it and why? It’s not as if the signals were not there. A few knowing, dare I say complicit, students had warned me, but I had either mocked them, or turned a deaf ear. Unfortunately I was unable to answer the question “why” and even if I had plucked up the courage to ask him I’m sure he would have given me some cosmic justification from higher forces. All I know is that the words and phrases he had uttered up until now and had once seemed so full of meaning and significance, had now lost their magic. For I was forced to contemplate the unthinkable: were they simply part of an insidious seduction strategy. Whatever the reason, my immediate concern was how was I going to handle this?
As it turned out, I did not have to worry, for I was quick to discover that the Teacher did all the handling for me. Indeed, the flood gates were now open and I was given a good handling at regular intervals, often without breaks in between. This man had a voracious appetite. Not only that, I was expected to put in my whole quota of daily labor at the same time.
However, far from being exhausted I also noticed that my sexual prowess toward the opposite sex began to manifest stronger than ever. It was as if the one sided clandestine rituals which were taking place within the Teacher’s study needed to be compensated by the intermingling of some good wholesome male / female energies.
And that’s what happened, for it wasn’t long before I found myself on what can only be described as a sexual rollercoaster ride. As the demands of my Teacher grew, I in turn sought refuge in the beds of willing females who would remind me of who I was, or who I thought I should be, though by this time all I felt was confusion. Worse still, I began to treat the women in the manner in which I felt I was being treated. It’s a fact that when one is seen to be close to the Teacher, one takes on a sort of reflected aura. Other students, especially newer ones, start to treat you as if you have something to offer (by proxy, as it were). This imaginary power is then yours to use, or given the quality of my immediate role model, to abuse. For a little favor on their part, I too could in turn offer them a hopeful word or two, especially if she was young and attractive!
Fortunately, I was awake enough to recognize how much I abhorred this kind of behavior. Even after many years I am still highly sensitive to this area and still regard it is one of the worst kinds of psychological abuses of power. To think it was a method that my former Teacher practiced on a daily basis, without so much as a scruple. I’m sure he still does.
So I have to pose the question once again, where had the “Work” gone in my life? Well, it had become smothered. The fire which had once driven my search for truth had all but gone out and I felt I was stumbling through a haze of thick smoke. One thing I did do was start observing the “Teacher’s actions with a new and critical eye. My proximity in his life gave me the opportunity to see things from the inside, so to speak, and often what I saw made me gasp. His outward persona was that of a powerful and charismatic leader – charisma is a quality irrespective of the person’s personality and can be found in everyone from de[s]pots through business me[n], to artists and has the power to attract, shock and awe! However, what I observed in private was an insecure, selfish man, with a raft of infantile tendencies, which were evident not only in his reactions to external events, but in his penchant for trying to predict the future – often catastrophes on a large scale. I even experienced moments where I felt sorry for this individual, as his inflated ego tried to provide an explanation for “everything and nothing”, while ascribing it to some higher force. (Much of this behavior only made sense later on when I became deeply involved with the works of Jung – part of my post FOF healing process.)
But now I sought ways out. First I tried confiding with a few close friends about what was taking place, but it was evident to see that even those people I regarded as my closest allies looked at me with disbelief, as I revealed the alter ego of their beloved Teacher. Such unsavory information was too much to swallow and they chose either not to hear, or to excuse his behavior in some fashion or other. Indeed, like I had been, they and 1500 other people were under his spell.
Next I decided to leave Renaissance and attempt to re-activate my work in some FOF outpost in the middle of no-where – at least that’s how it felt. But still the Teacher tracked me down and though I wasn’t physically with him, he made his physical presence known.
Finally there was one last recourse. I had to muster the courage to confront this man and express my feelings about the whole situation; something which I had until this point been unable to do with any conviction. I knew I had to prepare myself, as I was pretty certain what the reaction would be, having witnessed him deal with so called ‘rebellious’ students in the past.
I was not to be disappointed. In fact I only had to utter a few key words which appeared to question his behavior. At some point I must have made mention to a “moral deficiency”, which really put the cat among the pigeons. Anyway, it wasn’t long before the silent and overbearing wrath of someone who I can only describe as verging on fully fledged egomania, was threatening me with portents of hell and damnation, or words from some passage you could quite easily find in the Old Testament.
But I stood my ground, besides at this point I had little left to loose. In fact I began to grow in confidence as the initial burden fell away and a sense of relief crept over me. I began to sense the shallowness and immaturity of his words – those of a selfish child, who has been deprived of a handful of sweets. And that was that!
The days leading up to my leaving the FOF where very painful – the stars had now well and truly gone out. I just knew I had to go, but it was still the equivalent of emotional amputation. I had come to realize that I had over the years grown to become two separate persons, my work persona had gone one way, while who I really was had remained true. It was the latter which provided the chink of light through which I could make my escape. However getting my two parts to re-unite once again and work in some kind of harmony would take another twelve years of rehabilitative effort. Before this would happen, I would have to plunge very deep.
I left the FOF with nothing, or so it seemed. All my physical attachments were severed – my so called “friends”, family, home were pulled from under one’s feet, like some perverse party trick. I only had my thoughts, my recollections – which were to haunt me for years. Then there was the fear of what would happen to my during my return to “life*”. After all I had now passed beneath hell’s arch, which bore the inscription: “All hope abandon ye who enter here”.
However, this is the subject of another episode: of rebuilding, reaffirmation and re-gaining confidence and self-esteem, all of which had been pretty much knocked out of me. What I can safely say is that you only know you are brainwashed if you are fortunate to emerge from out the other side. Until then it is like a drug that slowly permeates you mind, as you become part of a small world with it’s crooked and twisted ways and utterly blind and deaf to the faces and voices of sanity on the outside.
I therefore dedicate the above to those who find the will or the way – or simply the luck – to make it out and so have the possibility of knowing what it is to taste true freedom.
* “Life” or “life people” is the name given to those outside the FOF and therefore effectively dead, or without possibilities. A wonderful piece of irony!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

B Influence virus

All esoteric schools taught and teach the same thing—how to be present to one’s life. Whether it is called mindfulness, self-remembering, meditation, inner yoga, or prayer of the heart, all real teachings—however complicated their outer forms might seem—are based on this simple effort to be present. - Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence website
[ed. - Despite this all-embracing statement, the Fellowship of Friends has a history of iron-fisted censorship and rejection of any teaching it considers "B Influence". Like many self-proclaimed gurus, Robert Burton considers other teachings competition, and a threat to his authority.]

Charles wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Yesterday Angela and I left the Fellowship. I received a call from
Linda Tulisso [Linda Kaplan] asking if we had been to see a Zen teacher in the Bay
Area. I said we had. She said that Robert considers this a
“B-influence virus” and that I had to make a choice between Robert and
the Zen teacher. I said that I chose the Zen teacher. And that was
that!

Why did I make that choice? Simply, because I want to wake up.

The background:
For the last few years I”ve felt I was getting nowhere in my efforts
to awaken. Initially the FoF was helpful in providing a framework for
learning more about “the machine”, achieving “higher states”, etc. But
Robert tells us that if we're really lucky this might be our eighth
lifetime and we might wake up next lifetime – not a concept I find
very inspiring! So I started to look around outside the FoF, thinking
that if I did find something better that would be great and if I
didn”t I would resign myself to the pleasant life at Isis and to the
form of relative awakening that is prevalent here (being “in essence”
and sometimes having “higher states”).

Angela and I started to read books about Advaita Buddhism. It's a
wonderful, simple, practical teaching. There are a number of Advaita
teachers in California who give every indication of being at a high
level of consciousness. About a month ago we went to Oakland to see
Adyashanti, one of the leading teachers. It was a total revelation.
Here was a young man, obviously at a very high level of consciousness,
explaining simply and clearly how to get there no complications or
strange additions, a clear and pure energy, lovely sense of humour,
completely open to any person asking any kind of question. The fee for
the two hour meeting was a suggested donation of $10. Last weekend we
went with a number of students to an “intensive”, spending the whole
weekend with Adyashanti. The effect was extraordinary so many
revelations for all of us.

The small group of friends who are undertaking this voyage are seeing
quick and wonderful results it really seems like it is possible to
wake up, in fact the process has already begun ..

One strand of what is happening is that old concepts are dropping
away. We're asked to look into ourselves and see what we really are.
The answer is “nothing”. The awakened state is beyond all concepts.
This includes concepts like “being present”, “not expressing negative
emotions”, etc. One sees that in fact these concepts keep one asleep.
Efforts to awaken take one further away from awakening, because they
are made by the small self, which actually doesn't exist. This
includes the steward. That's why making efforts to be present produces
only temporary, impermanent states.

Robert”s teaching contains a number of fundamental errors, which is
why after 26 years of sincere efforts I haven't really achieved much!
Nor has anyone else, at least as far as I can see!!

There are many descriptions in Indian spiritual literature about the
different possibilities for what can occur after an experience of
illumination. In many cases it takes a while for the machine to catch
up with the experience. There is a period of integration where the
machine's habits become integrated and purified by the spiritual
experience. When this happens correctly a figure like Adyashanti
appears simple, clear, clean, pure, unafraid, non-grasping, humble.
But in some cases the lower parts of the machine win the battle. The
result is a person who has some residual spiritual energy but who is
increasingly consumed by greed, vanity and power, often in the form of
sexual obsession, financial greed, exaggerated claims (“I”m higher
than Jesus”), strange prophecies, etc. Sound familiar?

So it's not surprising that Robert views Advaita Buddhism as a
“B-influence virus”. The emperor has no clothes. He probably realizes
that he is unable to do much to help people to awaken, but he wants to
retain his lifestyle with all its creature comforts and adulation, so
it's very dangerous for him when someone sees through him. The virus
could easily spread, so those people have to be removed immediately.

It was odd going up to Apollo d'Oro recently and seeing how hypnotized
people are minds closed to any other possibilities than what Robert
tells them. I was in that situation myself for 26 years, which seems
extraordinary now that I can see the FoF more clearly. Perhaps the
FoF can still have beneficial results for its students despite Robert
being a bit of a fraud, at least at the beginning, but devoting one”s
whole life to it seems to me to be a mistake, assuming one wants to
awaken.

So, a new beginning for me. I hope our friendship can transcend the
mad FoF rule about ex-students!

love,
Charles

"No Person" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 9, 2007: 
When I recently got kicked out as a part of a “B-influence virus”, I wrote this “good bye” letter and sent it to some friends. Someone suggested that I post it here.

These are the facts, as close as I could remember. Draw your own conclusions. Open your eyes and ears.
And please do yourself a favor and do go see John Wheeler and Adyashanti. As it’s been said: “Hey, you never know!” Miracles DO happen. Give it a try.

What happened (just in case you would like to know) is that about 2 months ago I was reading a text on a website, something called “pointers” by a guy called John Wheeler. (www.thenaturalstate.org).

In a way it was nothing new, all the stuff we, students, “know”. And somehow suddenly it very clearly occurred to me that the “person” I took myself to be all my life – was not real. It was a striking understanding, dawning experience, an actual seeing that there is truly no “me” in the present moment, that this “person” and all it’s past story – is a mental image, mind construction, imagination! There was no “me” to be found in the present… Not now, not ever. It was almost scary, yet – truly observable in the moment. “I” never lived, never was, she is a picture, a story, she exists in the mind only… And what is ever here, truly watching this – is silent consciousness behind the eyes…With no face, no age, no story, no borders and no opinion… It was actually truly seen, for the first time in my life.

And then things changed. At first I haven’t noticed much except for a strange new sense of ease or relaxation. And then in about a week to my amazement I realized that all judgment was gone, all negativity and even small irritations were gone by itself, boredom and impatience was gone, insecurity, fear and imagination about the future was gone… Something truly changed, with the disappearance of a sense of “me” a lot of selfish negative stuff was just simply gone…Usual things were happening, but without a personal vulnerable feeling inside, as if they were happening not to “me”.

What was left – was clear, impersonal, bright sense of now, of effortlessly being where you are, very engaging, colorful, flavorful, almost childish, playful and kind of loving, compassionate sense of being. Life is seen as a wonderful movie or a play, full of beauty and fun.

This deep joyful sense of being has not ever disappeared or stopped for a minute. For 2 months now. It’s not really a “state” happening to a “me” – which comes and goes as we all know. It’s rather a radical shift in identity. I am not this little imaginary person full of problems and suffering, as was taken for granted and believed for so long – I am actually this big presence, this seeing, this knowing, awareness looking through the eyes… The little character is watched and lived by it…

Certainly, I wanted to share this beautiful realization with my dear students-friends, since it was the most amazing thing ever happen. I was excited to share, since the understanding was so simple and possible! I wrote some letters, describing the experience, not comparing it to anything in the School and not going against anything. During recent visit to Isis I shared this positive experience with some of my friends, and had a great time re-discovering all the beauty around me, and not feeling any judgment to anyone or anything. Old accounts seem to have mysteriously disappeared.

But some friends somehow got either upset or offended by this sharing, took it very personally and defensively and secretly reported to the Council.

Kevin then called me and asked a number of strange questions, such as why am I actively going against Robert, why am I scheduling dinners with friends on meeting nights, etc. – all not true and largely distorted. I didn’t feel much negativity against Robert or anyone, wasn’t comparing or provoking, and certainly was not trying to battle anything – so I told Kevin about my real experience, and he thought at the moment that it was interesting and true. He said that he needs to think about it and will call back.

Next day he called and said that they decided with Girard that this approach is naive and not right, because it doesn’t fight the Adversary, the devil, lower self. He asked if I see the Adversary. I said that I truly don’t. (May be Gourdjief was right when he said that there is no conscious evil. May be it Adversary is given existence through the mind. Is lower self REAL? Is “me”, or machine real? Are the I’s real? So why even bother to battle the unreal… -but I didn’t say any of this in our talk, these are just present thoughts happening now).

Kevin then asked if I practice the Sequence. I honestly answered that there seem to be no need anymore, since there seem to be no problem to be where I am and simply enjoy the beautiful presence…

He said I should choose methods of work on myself. I again said very politely that there are no methods used anymore, because there seem to be no need to use methods… No negativity to battle, no identification. There was just simply being where I am, kind of effortlessly… I don’t know why. I said – Kevin, isn’t our mutual aim to be present to our lives? To be free of negativity and judgment? Why are all these questions? Aren’t we together in this? Isn’t that is why we joined the School?

He said – May be it is an aim for an individual. But as a School it’s different. We have to follow the methods given to us by the Teacher and do what he says – use Sequence and fight the Adversary.

He asked me then to choose my Teacher. I was surprised and asked – between whom and whom do you want me to choose? I am not following any additional teachers. (Does reading a text means betrayal? This is a little too controlling…)

I also said that it appears that the very belief in “person” and “choices” is gone, things just happen in a play, and consciousness is aware of it. I said that if he wants a choice to be made, why don’t he then chose for me, to the best of everybody.

He replied then that they have already chosen and decided for me, and the decision is that I should leave the School. He noted that since I haven’t actually done anything wrong, am not negative but on the contrary seem to be very positive, and also haven’t committed any crime against the School – they may review it all in few months and may be consider taking me back.

I certainly accepted this decision, although it seem a bit contradictory, since there was no clear reason stated, but it is what it is, and here we are!

Our life is so full of contradictions, which makes it a truly great movie!

The most amazing contradiction is that the very “person” who wants to wake up – is not real. We take ourselves to be a wrong thing, a mental image. And what is real – is always awake, and always been, quietly watching the play through our eyes.

I wish you too discover this, wish it from the bottom of my heart!

Don’t trust ANYONE (myself included) – trust your heart only. Too many confused lying people around… Some even teach! Trust your heart. See the truth of who you are for yourself.

Please stay in touch if you wish,

Warm hug to all

"Veronicapoe" posted the following excerpt from the July 11, 1977 Mount Carmel Journal on the Internet Archive:
"We are the only people who have a right to teach the system at this time of the Twentieth Century. A true magnetic center must find the Fellowship; and there are true magnetic centers abounding in this world. It matters little how many groups exist on the earth that bear the name Gurdjieff or Ouspensky, as these groups remain Influence B. A properly developed magnetic center will not accept these organizations because it requires the nourishment of Influence C. We are a young teaching and we have been afforded the great luxury of occupying the position of Higher School on earth. The Fellowship of Friends is the greatest mystery of the Twentieth Century, and a series of shocks is necessary in order for this statement to be verified. We carry the sacred light of consciousness, as an esoteric school is the oldest civilized heritage on the earth. Our School is a distinct descendant of the most eminent teachings in both recorded and unrecorded history." - Robert Earl Burton, second only to Jesus Christ

[ed. - The following comes from the archived fellowshipoffriends wikispace site:

B Influence Virus - 2006
As Burton’s teaching became more convoluted and confusing to many members, and there was no sign of anyone achieving the permanent higher level of consciousness that was supposed to result from consistent application of the suggested spiritual practices (it was claimed that Girard H. had done so, but this seemed unlikely to most), many long-time members began to consider the possibility that the Fellowship was not “the only real School”, as Burton claimed, and that perhaps it was time to look elsewhere. A number of members, especially in the United States, began to explore the works of the Indian teacher Nisargadatta, which lead them to attend meetings by current teachers who continue in the same line, now known loosely as Advaita Buddhism, teachers such as Adyashanti, John Wheeler and Tony Parsons.

For many it was revelatory to discover that there were easily accessible teachers giving simple and, to these FOF members, clearly effective pointers towards true spirituality, without the huge demands of cash and time required by Robert Burton, and without the need to believe in his predictions about the fall of California or the imminent destruction of the world (except Fellowship students) by nuclear holocaust. Nor did they find any hint of corruption attached to the teachers themselves.

When the Fellowship authorities became aware of this trend, observers were dispatched to Adyashanti meetings (the most popular amongst members). FOF members seen at these meetings were called by Linda T., FOF president at the time, and told they must make a choice: stop seeing “Buddhist teachers” or leave the Fellowship of Friends. Almost all chose the second option.

The Advaita teachings were described by Burton as a dangerous “B influence virus” spreading through the "school": C Influence being "true conscious influence" and Fellowship of Friends members the only people on planet Earth at this time with whom Influence C is directly working; B Influence on the other hand being a diluted, second hand version of Influence C.