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.

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
[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

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

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


"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. (

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

[The following, from the July 11, 1977 "Mount Carmel Journal", was posted by "Veronicapoe" 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

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