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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Thirty Imperishable Stars send a 30-year veteran packing

[ed. - "The Thirty Imperishable Stars" refers to one of the tools in Burton's "new teaching." Some claim the introduction of new concepts, including The Sequence, The Bible Keys, and the Imperishable Stars, along with the move away from the writings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, precipitated the mass exodus beginning in late 2006 or early 2007. Others claim "the Sheik's blog" was the primary cause. Below, "birdsong" offers their reasons for departing.]

"birdsong" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 28, 2007:
I’ve been looking at the blog weekly for a couple of weeks now and thought I would try participating. I’m not a blogger so the form and sometimes the adversarial tone that it takes seem foreign, but I’ve been told that can happen in cyberspace. Thank you, Sheik, for making this communication possible.

I left the FOF about two months ago after almost 30 years. I tried the new form and found it intrusive to the presence that was already there. For years RB would tell us his tennis teacher told him “Don’t change a winning game out of novelty or boredom.” In my opinion, he changed a winning game by changing the form of the school so drastically.

I love RB but cannot deny that there seems to be sexual misconduct that is not congruent with being a spiritual teacher. I had to come to terms with this and my best thinking on this matter was that staying in the FOF not only condoned the sexual misconduct but enabled it.

RB taught me so much over the 30 years and he was always so very kind and so there with whatever was happening. Early in the 80’s there were occasional dinners at Anna G’s house for RB, Anna, and six other students. I was at one of the dinners and at the end of the dinner it was raining very hard. As we were leaving and he was kissing us good bye, he realized that no one else had a car, so he offered us all a ride home. We all got into his car, and he drove us to our homes in the Court of the Caravans. It was touching, and the love I have for him continues.

"SURE THING!" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 29, 2007:

Re Post 254 [above]–very sweet story about the dinner –thank you.

…rain is still falling and the teacher is still taking people for a ride…

so what has really changed? is it inside or outside?

Have you tried to embrace the change in direction of the school/teaching with the being you have build for so many years? Why would Robert not go in the direction he feels has been shown to him? (and of course, you too are doing that–can it be any different?).

I do not believe that by being a member we are necessarily condoning any wrong behavior, just as Catholics donating to their church are not supporting the many priests gone bad…

the FOF is on a smaller scale but really so far from this blog, we should recognize that all of this is just rumour mill, gossip and so far there is no one daring to come forward that says there is anything not consented to occurring anywhere. is all of this really worth this loss to you that you are clearly feeling?

Reading your post, I can almost feel your pain–remember you are not alone, wherever you go. Thank you again.

Once again, a contribution from

Sure Thing!

"member" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 29, 2007:

I am a member. Are there frictions and injustices with FOF, of course. That is the nature of living on planet earth. I do not think it will be possible to find a perfect School and have it run the way we want it. Schools are not meant to be a democracy, “thank God”.

From my stand point I am in a real School that helps me to awaken and I have not seen anything out there that comes close to it. I also have a Real Teacher, who happens to be a human and likes sex and is open on some level about it. (Consciousness is not functions, Ouspensky 101)[ed. - Yet Burton is quite obsessed with the control of others' "functions"!]

There are elements of truth and sincerity all over this blog, but there is also alot of judgement, opinions, and sarcasm. I sincerely feel that it is fine for former members to have a forum to express their grievences [sic], thoughts and even criticisms; somehow I think it should be more private, I say this for their sake for I think they would go further internally in gaining insight into questions, and problems they have had with the FOF in the past.

FOF members and others were “lured” for lack of a better word into this blog, and got spammed an email from someone saying they were from the FOF administration with this link. So on some level I would consider this improper, deceptive and juvenile, and then all this blogging that follows seems to focus on how the FOF has deceived and lured them. A little ironic! [ed. - We will not talk about how prospective members were lured...]

One other note is that most of the things written is nothing new under the sun. There is nothing sinister or cultish about the FOF [bolds added]; but it is a controlled environment, which is needed in any “School” if one wishes to “know oneself” and be more “awake” (my opinion). One is free to leave FOF at anytime.

[ed. - A postscript. The phrase, "One is free to leave FOF at anytime" has been written and spoken since the beginning of the Fellowship. Yet, everyone knows how difficult it is to walk away from your family, your friends, your investment of time, energy, and money in something you believed was genuine. Hard for you, but somehow easy for the Fellowship to let you go (unless, that is, you have considerable wealth, or are a young, naive, and attractive heterosexual male.)]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

"Be Careful" provided this official Fellowship of Friends response on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Be Careful

Since December, 2006, a variety of cyber tactics by a group of anonymous persons have been used to harass and defame the Fellowship of Friends, it’s individual members, and it’s Founder, Robert Burton. As with everything, actions have consequences, so those who are innocent of the harassment and defamation should be careful.

At some point, this blog became a platform for recent actions, which began sometime in 2006. Matters accelerated in December, 2006, with an email addressed to certain Fellowship members, from a fictitious “Issac Assimov”. This email was harassing, false and scandalous, and contained overt anti-Semitism directed against certain Fellowship members, who would later be abused or misused in further emails and in this blog: Asaf Braverman, Linda (Kaplan) Tulisso, Kevin Brown and others.

Following this December, 2006 email, a series of emails, falsely appropriating the names and identities of Mr. Braverman and Ms. Tulisso, and other Fellowship members, were sent to the Fellowship’s membership, by an unauthorized use of the Fellowship’s private, copyrighted membership list. Those contrived emails, creating the false impression of being sent by friends and respected fellow members, directed the membership to this blog.

The misuse of this blog in these matters greatly escalated on March 1, 2007, with Volume 1, # 294, anonymous “Inner Circle Facts”, describing Mr. Burton as regularly engaging in sex with as many as 6 people simultaneously, and other related remarks. This anonymous, defamatory and harassing post was challenged as false in the blog on several occasions. Post # 294 was never substantiated, the author never identified themselves, and the post was not removed.

Post #294 is false. The incidents in #294, and other extreme, anonymous, unsubstantiated posts, before and after # 294, never occurred. This has been denied by Mr. Burton and others with direct personal knowledge. In addition, Mr. Burton, at age 67, for some years now has not had the health, stamina and physical vigor to walk very far up a moderate incline without assistance. The gymnastics described in post #294, even if possible at all for a young athlete in prime condition, are impossible for Mr. Burton at his age and state of health.

By March 3, 2007, within 2 days of Post Vol. 1, #294, anonymous emailers, using stolen names of current and former Fellowship members, extracted Post #294 and republished it word for word directly to the private, copyrighted membership list, without consent by the members or the Fellowship.

The same anonymous emailers have sent at least two rounds of virus infected emails to members on the membership list.

The blog has at least twice published posts by persons using the false, misappropriated names of Asaf Braverman and Linda Tulisso.

The blog, as recently as March 24, 2007, has repeatedly published copyrighted Fellowship materials, links to copyrighted Fellowship material, and other proprietary Fellowship information.

As of this date, several of the sources of the cyber materials discussed above have been traced. It is also known who stole the identities of several members and former members. There are several likely candidates for the author of the scandalous Post #294.

A second Be Careful post will be sent tomorrow with further details and denials of other anonymous, unsubstantiated and defamatory remarks on the blog.

This is an official reply by Mr. Burton and the Fellowship of Friends.

If you have comments or information you would like to privately share, please use the following email address set up for this specific purpose. All communications will kept confidential: arjunavishnu@gmail.com

"Dare to Dream" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 27, 2007:
Dear “Be Careful:”

This email is posted to the blog and to your email address at the end of your posts.

I would like to verify that you are officially speaking on behalf of the Fellowship–how can you prove that? If you are official, why aren’t you signing your actual name to your posts? Granted, you (hopefully) don’t know know who I am, however, unless the FOF rescinds its task for students to not be in contact with ex-students, it is understandable that students and ex-students who have connected through this blog may resort to attempting to hide their identities for everyone’s protection. What’s your excuse?

Regarding your patently false assertion that post 3/140 was a criticism of Jessica Lee: If you read that post closely, you would see that the writer was retelling a story about Jessica Lee in which she explained false personality in an unforgettable and effective way. There would be no need for Jessica to defend herself against this post as there was no offense in it.

Why isn’t the FOF or Mr. Burton willing to address the real concerns and criticisms aired on this blog about the misappropriation of FOF funds to support Mr. Burton’s questionable behavior? How about addressing the assertions that an organization claiming to be the “only conscious school” on the planet, and whose members are threatened with the loss of their souls and/or their connection to higher influences if they leave, is a cult?

Thanks for taking the time to reply to me and/or to the blog.

"Be Very Careful Indeed!" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 28, 2007:
Be Very Careful Indeed!

Hey folks, please stop wasting your time on the “Be Careful” postings (nos. 131 and 221). These postings cannot possibly be an “official response” from the Fellowship of Friends and are NOTHING BUT HOAXES. Here’s why.

1. The first clue comes in the very first sentence of no. 131, where the possessive “its” is improperly spelled with an apostrophe, which instead signifies the contraction of “it” and “is.” It’s a small thing, of course, but such an error would never be allowed to pass through the undoubtedly rigorous screening that a real response would receive, a response that would undoubtedly be crafted by committee.

2. The biggest give-away that no. 131 is the work of a prankster is the nearly comical repetition of “post #294,” the now-famous post that briefly details Robert Burton’s sexual acrobatics behind closed doors. Within a few paragraphs, no. 131 refers to “post #294″ a total of NINE TIMES! It’s clear that the intention of post 131 is either sheer satire, or to make sure that anyone new to the blog who has not seen #294 (and there probably are many) immediately goes to check out #294 RIGHT AWAY! It is obvious that the writer of no. 131 wants to shine a bright light on #294, a post that is now rarely referenced on the blog (except by the writer of no. 131!)

3. Post 131 impugns Robert Burton’s “health, stamina and physical vigor,” suggesting that he can barely walk up a “moderate incline.” This attempt to hold Robert up to ridicule is an underhanded and perhaps libelous attempt to diminish a teacher in the eyes of his students.

4. If a real official response to the blog from the Fellowship were forthcoming, it is unlikely that it would single out a few minor instances of abrasive postings while failing to responding to the numerous substantive concerns and criticisms of Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends that have been voiced with honesty and intelligence on this blog. By failing to address anything of substance, and instead giving silly “refutations” and “corrections” to minor points of little consequence, the writers by their silence on any matters of significance would be giving credence to the serious criticisms voiced in the blog.

5. The legal threats that are implied in nos. 131 and 221 are obviously the work of an amateur, would-be lawyer; anyone who is at all familiar with the law would know that these are merely empty threats.

6. The lack of any attribution of nos.131 and 221, and the use of a fabricated “gmail” e-mail address, are the final give-away that the “Be Careful” posts cannot be from a real Fellowship of Friends official source. Anyone truly writing on behalf of Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends would have no need to hide behind pseudonyms in such a cowardly fashion.

So please, let’s spend our time on more important matters than being careful.

"Dare to Dream" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 28, 2007:
Friends, it’s official: Be Careful is the real thing. He responded to my personal email: he’s a lawyer at the FOF (I’ll let him reveal himself if he so chooses). Interestingly, that would seem to indicate that RB is being advised (or on his own has decided) to respond to this little ole blog. Call it egotistical but I’m kinda proud: We’re making an impact. Perhaps even, a good one, ultimately.

I had a friend (nonstudent) who killed herself after reading Meetings with Remarkable Men. Yes, it was her choice (I wanted to have her committed for her own protection) but interestingly, she had told me, a month or so prior, that ever since reading that we were all asleep and basically food for the moon, she felt: what was there to live for? Let’s not forget that these are powerful ideas –and potentially dangerous ones. And the good of the FOF is as real as the painfully “not good.” Rumi invites us to that beautiful field out “beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,” but the fact is, we’re living most of the time right here in this field where actions have consequences.

"Be Very Careful Indeed!" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 28, 2007:
Dare to Dream (no. 257): What magic words were used to convince you that “Be Careful” is the “real thing”? See my post no. 249 above as to why “Be Careful” is a hoax.

"Dare to Dream" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 29, 2007:
In response to Be Very Careful Indeed (272):

No “magic words” necessary–I knew it was “official” because the email I was sent by “Be Careful” (i.e. arjunavishnu@gmail.com) in response to mine was defined in my inbox by the name of the poor dear in the FOF. Don’t be silly, lawyers are not always the best writers! I would reveal it here but since he’s a lawyer, I should be careful;)

"Abraham Goldman" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 30, 2007:
Dear Dare to Dream:

Did we know each other? It is fine to call, whether we ever did or not.

Thank you for the kind words below, and the continued love you express for the true heart of the School.

As for some of the things you write below, I think most of it is directed to others. One thing you appear to have confused, or misunderstood, is my reference to freedom of religion. My reference, copied below, and highlighted in by [sic] original letter, says:

As for the invitation to engage the issues you mention in a free-for-all “mudfest” on the blog, I can’t speak for the Fellowship or Mr. Burton on this at the moment, but my guess is that it is not a very good place for such a thing. Just look at what happened between “innernaught” and “crybaby”! Also, the Fellowship and its members have the right to review the many allegations you mention under their own rules: freedom of religion is equal with freedom of speech in the Constitution.

This is not a response to any “charges”, but that the Fellowship has the right under the Constitution to review those “charges” under its own internal rules, as do other religious organizations. As headlines in recent days have shown, blogs can be very dangerous, even threatening, to innocent people.

Actually, as I wrote to the only other “real” person (other than spammers) who contacted Be Careful, an anonymous current student who stated he was one of my friends, the December “Issac Assimov” anonymous email prompted the review process provided for in the Fellowship Bylaws and Canons. All aspects of the First Amendment are engaged now.

I have not read the blog since sending you my reply. Hopefully, you have not misquoted or misrepresented my letter to you, which you state you did not post to the blog, even though you were posting your reply. Far too much confusion and misinformation has been created by the blog already. Even worse, it seems from reading a prior post from my good friend, Steven [ed. - It is Stephen] Simmonds, if I remember it right and understood it, that the blog may have caused current students to be fearful of someone as gentle and good hearted as Steven [sic]! What a shame!

Just to be on the safe side, and that all can see what you were replying to, I will post this entire discussion as I am sending it to you, and check the blog when I have time for recent events.

Again, please feel free to call if you wish.

Abraham Goldman

[ed. - E-mails included in Abraham's post:]

"Dare to Dream" wrote March 29, 2007:
From: Zarathustra Music Inc. [mailto:nightmarket@earthlink.net]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 10:30 AM
To: Abraham Goldman
Subject: Re: FOF blog

Dear Abraham,

Thanks for writing. (Since you invited me to do what I will with you [sic] letter –which I don’t feel inclined to post– I am posting my response to you on the blog). No, I am not Innernaught, but I’ll take that as a compliment. Also, I don’t live anywhere near Oregon House so I can’t come in to see you face to face, but thanks for inviting me.

While I agree that there are some mean voices on the blog from time to time (not all of them ex-students!), I think you are missing the point: most people are actually trying to help each other more than anything. (The blog has provided some unexpected healing for me.) Moreover, some people feel there is a grave danger within the dogma of the FOF (just read the “hell” letter for a hint of it) that needs to be confronted and eradicated, if not in the organization, then in the minds and hearts of people we’d still like to call friends. You can say that that was a long time ago or that you –or others– don’t believe that stuff but it’s undeniably there until officially acknowledged and revised by RB and/or the FOF that members are led to believe they will lose their soul/c-influence/chances at evolving, etc., if they leave the school. Using fear to psychologically entrap members is one definition of a cult.

You cite religious freedom along with freedom of expression in response to the charges of RB’s repeated sexual entanglements, to put it mildly (–the judges presiding in the several court cases about this issue in the past have no doubt used other language). Robert has a great deal of power over the men with whom he has sexual relations and to purport that it’s simply their choice to concede or leave is unconscionable. I ask you, is it not beholden for a “conscious being,” or to use less loaded language, a leader of a religious group, to not flagrantly use his powers –real or imagined– to meet his sexual needs with so many men, some of whom have been undeniably damaged by it?

I am sorry your hearing may be failing you but I trust that you still can hear the voice of your own conscience. I wish you all good things and the power to defend the true heart of the school, which yes, I and many others, have loved.

always and everywhere,

Dare to Dream

On Mar 29, 2007, at 12:39 AM, Abraham Goldman wrote:
Dear Zarathustra/Dare, (and possibly innernaught?):

Your email below was forwarded to me. I am sorry that other responsibilities took a lot of time yesterday and today, and I can only reply now.

Also, the reply was delayed because some people have been using identity theft again, stealing the names of real Fellowship members to send false messages, and a few emails with virus attached, to the special email address arjunavishnu@gmail.com set up by the people who are reviewing the messages to the blog, the replies to the Be Careful posts, and all of the other accusations that began with the scandalous “Issac Assimov” email in December, and all of the cyber activities described in the Be Careful posts. Thus the slight protection of using a new email address arjunavishnu@gmail.com

In the future, please feel free to email directly to my office address above.

“Innernaught” wrote a stinging note to “Cry Baby”, which contained the story about Jessica Lee. I’m assuming you are “innernaught”, but with all the anonymous emails and messages, I could be totally wrong on that.

I read “innernaught’s” replies to the last Be Careful post, indicating that the story was meant as a compliment to Jessica. Taking that as true, it is unfortunate that the blog has been such a negative battleground much of the time, with hard words, even fighting words. For many people reading the “innernaught” reply to “cry baby” it seemed like the “change in Jessica’s voice”, referred to in the message, and not making it clear who in the group was saying what, made a comparison of Jessica to the rather strong condemnation of “cry baby”. It is nice to know that you, or “innernaught” knew Jessica and benefited from her beautiful being.

Since you knew Jessica, and were at her funeral, as I was, we may know each other from the past. You probably recognize me as being the pro bono lawyer for the Fellowship.

That being said, yes, the letters from Linda and Kevin, the letter from Girard, and the Be Careful messages are all genuine, authorized communications by the Fellowship and Robert Burton.

As for knowing who you are, or even if you are “innernaught”, I don’t have a clue. Even if I did, though, it would not matter. I have never had a personal grudge against a former student, or wished them other than well. That even includes the two former students who sued me and the Fellowship and every other unlikely person who had ever been on the Board of Directors, such as Claire Bowen, (unfairly named in some of the blog references to the lawsuit), and who you must know as a totally sweet and innocent person. Many of the former students who have identified themselves, Charles, Phillip, Zusa, Ralph, and many others, especially Steven Simmonds, and a few not yet named, were dear friends of mine; even former clients, both individually and when they had a Fellowship role. I could not wish them ill even if I tried, and I would never want to try. Nor is there ever any need to between current and former students. I think all of the friends mentioned above will confirm this for you.

The only people I have taken umbrage with personally was the person who falsely joined the Fellowship to steal the Ming Furniture collection, and the para-military Olivehurst Gospel Assembly, quoted on the blog (Michelle Milligan, the OGA editor, somewhere on Volume 1) making death threats against Robert Burton, and me, because I had the job to protect the School you may have loved to at the time. Also, I do not think I like the people who have been stealing my friends’ names to send out false emails, blog posts, and virus infected attachments. And so, I still have the job of protecting the School and Teacher many students continue to love, from such things.

The confusion of words in a heated written exchange between “innernaught” and “cry baby” created a possible misunderstanding about the reference to Jessica? Written exchanges tend to do that, and free-for all blogs all the more so.

So, I invite you to come by my office to talk face to face about the concerns you mention. That is real communication, unlike the blog. You can also call me at my office: 530 692-2267, although, because of my deafness, face to face is much better, as well as more real. Please do come in or call. Anything we discuss can be as confidential as you desire, and you can make the appointment under any name you wish.

As for the invitation to engage the issues you mention in a free-for-all “mudfest” on the blog, I can’t speak for the Fellowship or Mr. Burton on this at the moment, but my guess is that it is not a very good place for such a thing. Just look at what happened between “innernaught” and “crybaby”! Also, the Fellowship and its members have the right to review the many allegations you mention under their own rules: freedom of religion is equal with freedom of speech in the Constitution.

My invitation to talk extends not only to you, but to anyone: my door is open. Also, please feel free to ask for copies of the false materials referred to in Be Careful.

I think the blog reply by “innernaught” mentioned that the letter below was both published on the blog and sent to arjunavishnu@gmail.com

You may send this letter to “innernaught”, or do with it what you will.

Abraham Goldman

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Donation" deadline approaches

"You-me-us-they" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 22, 2007:
The Spring Donation is due April 1rst.

What shall I do ?

Fun place to be !

Is it so that Robert started organising teaching events again when he could not longer benefit from direct access and use of the money generated by the Teaching Payments ?

Is the post Part 1, post 294 just inspired by a porno DVD ?

"ears have walls" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 22, 2007:
To: YOu,me,us, they # 21 [above]

Regarding making your April 1 donation. Hmmm, a $1000 question.

Robert B’s personal excesses and greed brought about the urgent necessity to take valuable property assets and mortgage them to survive another crises about 5 years ago. So, yes, it is my understanding that the mortgage lenders have put very tight restraints on Mr Burton’s ability to access cash flow from normal monthly teaching payments, which are now used to service that multi-million $ loan. He now raises money on the pretext that these special teaching events are used to finance and improve the beauty at Isis/Apollo. Apart from a few pathways, statues and palms, there are no impovements [sic] to physical assets (such as new buildings or improvement of existing buildings) which would increase the value of the property. Most of the money goes for his personal use(travel, delights, boys, jewellery etc, etc)

This ocmpounded [sic] with students having to pay extra for his very CLEAR teaching of interpreting ancient fertility statues with erections as long and short BE, or interpreting dung droppings of prehistoric cave paintings as the sequence of 6 makes you really question what you are paying for. Fourth Way teaching? I haven’t seen any for years. Clever? Yes! It keep students entertained at best, or at worst confused as to what the hell is going on.

Make your April 1 donation? Well, it is a personal choice , isn’t it? Ultimately, we all get what we want.


"Ears have walls" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 21, 2007:
I am a former 20 plus year FOF’r who left recently. I want to add one, directly overheard bit of info that may shed more light on the Finance theme that does indeed drive the FOF “Inner Circle” and RB, WHO DRIVES IT. I was privey [sic] to a telephone conversation between IC’s [Inner Circle's] Karen J. [Karen Johnston] and Kevin B. [Kevin Brown]
 
The conversation went something like this:

“Well Kevin, you know that now Robert can no longer access the money from teaching payments because the lenders for the mortgage loan secured by the property have put strict audit restrictions on the loan and RB can’t touch it.

"So now, we, of the Inner Circle, have to find new ways to get the money that Robert needs to do the things he wants to do.”

Within 3 months of my overhearing this conversation, Robert started his canned, rehearsed, tightly controlled “Teaching Events” with their attendant extra costs,so that one no longer got the Teaching for one’s monthly, 10% and Twice yearly $750 voluntarily forced “donations”, but now could only get through the Gate House!

Now (and for about the last 4 years)students must pay additional, substantial fees to get the Teaching. A teaching which, of course, Robert says is moving and changing faster and which he insists must be kept up with or..else! You go to the Moon, baby!

Well, RB is right about one thing. Many students can’t KEEP UP supporting his extravagant life style, his numerous boys, his travels,his pink silk suits, his jewellery etc. And for those who want to buffer this, well, yeah he is very generous with those around him- he eventually gives things away (to his favorite boys) or auctions it off to raise more money. Generous! Especially since he didn’t pay for it to begin with- you, the student did.

So for those of you that have to make that $750 April ‘forced’ donation, or the next $200 dinner with Robert, enjoy! It’s going to a good cause. RB’s lifestyle, not yours. Me? Well, I am off to a nice vacation in Europe with my money. After all “Charity begins at home”.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Keys, The Sequence, and The Thirty Imperishable Stars. Oh, my!

Fellowship of Friends Living Presence Thirty Imperishable Stars
Photo source

"Traveler" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 21, 2007:
Warning! The following may be construed as Wit, but is meant to be taken quite seriously (at least in the Fellowship).

SHORT GUIDE TO MAKING SENSE OF THIS COMPLICATED WORLD

Fill in the blanks:

When you see … of something, it means …

2 = first and second work i of the sequence, be and hold

3 = one half of the sequence; (also occurs as a triangle) – means pyramid or thirty sacred work i’s

4 = the middle of the sequence, the fourth step, the interval, the lower self trying to take away our presence – but can also mean prolonged presence, four wordless breaths, after the end of the sequence

5 = the sequence, the first five i’s of it, with the sixth one standing apart from them

6 = the sequence, obviously

7 = prolonged presence or seventh heaven, after a sequence is finished

8 = prolonged presence, four wordless breaths (in + out = 8)

9 = nine of hearts promoting presence, of course

10 = the sequence (6 + 4 = 10); but it can also mean 30 (see 30)

11 = we don’t have a key yet

12 = see 6

15 = see 30

30 (or approximately 30) = thirty sacred work i’s, the imperishable stars that all schools in the past have used

44 = not a part of the new teaching, but it used to mean influence C

more than 44, many = the ten thousand idiots, many i’s unrelated to promoting presence

These are messages for schools from C influence. All schools in the past have known this. Life is not able to see schools because it is artificially complex. We are so different from life.

Also, 12 may acquire another meaning soon. Robert has been heard dropping gleeful remarks about how a cataclysmic event may strike in 2012. (Claim is corroborated by the Mayans.) Watch another prediction in the making.

[ed. - The following exchange shows a set-up used by Fellowship members on the blog. A "seeker" or "life person" (actually, a member) expresses shock at the blog's accusations. Then a Fellowship member, possibly the very same person, steps in to assure the "seeker" of the Fellowship's legitimacy. This particular example may or may not be such a case, but there have been many on the blog, especially in its early days.

Below, a "softball" is offered up, and a long-term member, possibly Peter I., provides a lesson in applying the Sequence.]

"Seeker" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 3, 2007:
My understanding is that FOF is a Fourth Way School. I am not a member but I have read books by G and O and I found them to be difficult, challenging and yet, quite engaging. I would think that a forum on FOF would be a place where like-minded people (friends) could chat (fellowship) about how the writings of G and O have affected their thinking and how the writings of RB compare, e.g., does RB add or detract from the knowledge contained in the books of his predecessors? What knowledge has RB advanced that has enabled members to acheive [sic] higher states of self-remembering for themselves? In other words, are you getting your money’s worth…literally and figuratively? And if so, in what ways has that made your life different?

If, if fact RB is a criminal, then he should (and most likely will) be dealt with accordingly. However, I am disappointed that this forum, rather than discussing awakening, is instead become a clearing house for individual rants that border on libel at worst and emcompass [sic] the realm of self-indulgence to a point where some posters seem to sense they have become omnipotent and thereby capable of rendering final judgement on any and all who express an opinion at best.

So, if this forum is for RB bashing, then I have wasted my time, but if someone wants to submit how their membership has led them to achieve higher states, I am interested.

"almost 30" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 3, 2007:
re [63] [above] I have been a member for almost three decades. Self-remembering, along with the non-expression of negativity, have been the cornerstones of the teaching since the beginning. All the other tantalizing knowledge about types, center of gravity, alchemy, chief feature, identification pale in comparison to these two with Self-remembering being the greater.

I have used many techniques to try to remember myself and the biggest obstacle has always been imagination. It is very seldom one even remembers to make the effort because of imagination and then the effort is soon squashed by more imagination. This may seem silly but try it and see.

The techniques with which I have had the most success are the looking and listening exercises in conjunction with stopping thoughts. I’ve generally used the listening exercise while at a concert or out in nature where there is pleasant background (white) noise. The effort is to stop thoughts, hear the noise in all its complexity, and be present. The looking exercise can be used almost anytime one is not doing anything in particular and would normally be in prolonged imagination (driving a car, walking on the street, in a waiting room). You would be surprised after doing some analysis how much of one’s time is spent in prolonged imagination. The effort is to stop thoughts and then intentionally look at different objects or the scenery, shifting ones gaze every three seconds or so to thwart any associations with what one is looking at which inevitably send one back into imagination.

Although sincere efforts to remember myself always raises my state at least a little bit, prolonged presence occurs more rarely. But it *DOES* occur sometimes. I can produce a higher state at will at least sometimes and for a little while, and I’m getting better at it.

The form of the teaching started to change a couple of years ago. The emphasis on G and O was diminished, although that system is still used with newer students as that background is still incredibly important. Robert started following clues here and there from the esoteric literature where he was able to consolidate the ideas of the forth way into 30 one syllable work I’s. Each of these work I’s represent a larger idea of the system. So instead of using a phrase “I’m in imagination again, try to do the looking exercise”, one would intone internally the syllable “look”. The one syllable part makes it more clear if you are actually self remembering or just thinking about self remembering. The one syllable helps promote the stopping of thoughts better than a whole thought does. These work I’s do not replace anything. The background with the fourth way knowledge is indispensable.

Robert has finally arrived at the sequence, which has been refined through his and others use over the last several months. In its current iteration, one intones internally six of the thirty in this sequence with a space of about one breath, followed by four wordless breaths for a total of ten:

be,hold,theme,back,theme,BE,*,*,*,*

The theme is selected from a small subset of the thirty, other than the four that are fixed. The idea is to try to do as many sequences as possible in series. One would only use sequences at times when one would normally be in prolonged imagination, usually when alone or with someone you are not talking to but enjoying each others presence instead. This is why the theme comes from just a subset of the thirty. In other situations, such as a conversation, the work I talk (speak with presence) could be used individually to remind one where it would be silly in a situation where one would use a sequence. The theme I use the most is look:

be,hold,look,back,look,BE,*,*,*,*

Of course if you just try to do sequences, nothing will happen. It will not work as has been pointed out. And yet for me, this somewhat superficial reconfiguration of my efforts to remember myself, especially in conjunction with the looking and listening exercises, has been miraculous. My efforts produce more experiences with prolonged presence and I remember to make the effort more often. I can honestly say that the sequence has increased the effectiveness of my efforts by at least a magnitude. Very exciting times!

So, as you have intuitively already figured out, the omnipotent pundants [sic] do not actually speak for everyone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Across the River's" Story

"Across the River" wrote the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
It’s good to be connected here to the voices of open-hearted and uncynical souls, something most former and current FOF members still have in common. I’m a former FOF member and have been touched by many of the posts. This is my first post.

I joined the Fellowship in 1986 and left almost exactly one year ago. I don’t believe the process of unfolding a clear understanding could have occurred at a faster pace for me. My experience inside the Fellowship world was a complex mix of:

__Profound and heavenly states of being attained with the help of Robert’s influence, one way or the other,

__Judgment about the lack of compassion displayed by Robert and many students when real suffering ravaged fellow ‘friends’,

__The heady delights of intellectual exercises taught and practiced daily,

__Continuing questions about the lavish form of Robert’s school demonstrating that he may well be a mad, esthete gay man with abundant charm,

__Love and deep gratitude for old and newly found friends and their fidelity toward our common goal of presence,

__Great affection for Robert as he tirelessly expressed his own being.

For me, one of the biggest hooks was the caution that ‘keeping the school’ was our biggest challenge. I did not want to be a tragic figure lacking the being to know the gods were at work with me, that my being resonated to attract them. The states I experienced with Robert and the glorious good fortune of living in this community verified this. Wasn’t Robert and the work of this school under different laws? If this is a conscious school, doesn’t the end justify the means? Robert’s nature is as it is, and so on.

I have left because my doubts about Robert’s empire continued to stir in me and I no longer wanted to forget myself in order to quiet them. My heart wasn’t free.

I believe I observed enchantment entwined in Robert’s environment. The real purpose of Robert’s endless flow of activities became questionable. I began to understand how many students had abandoned the basic principle of good householder to follow Robert’s direction and now faced the collateral damage of financial distress or ruin, neglected and abandoned children, parents that had died without reconciliation, and alienation of other personal ‘life’ relationships by the arbitrary psychological separation required to keep themselves connected to ‘the work’. Where does one go from there?

For some struggling with doubts about the Fellowship, the worse thing is a sense of shame and regret for what has been invested, but please don’t go down that road! If you forgot yourself but know it now, then use that as a compass as you continue becoming. Take it very personally to use as grist for your mill and waste nothing. I still don’t know how to classify the experiences I had in the Fellowship, but my being knows that I gained much that is essential to my life there. The departure can be complicated but one should know when to go.

I’ll be watching for you.

Across the River

"What one gains, we all gain."

[ed. - Robert Burton is fond of using the above expression. In most cases, the "one" refers to himself. Also see Quotations from Robert Earl Burton - 2003.]

"the captain" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion  blog, March 20, 2007:
Dear Friends around the world,

Last news ?????????????

Last night at our 31st Crystallization Anniversary Dinner, Robert was touched by the toast and wished to share it with all students:

“Let us toast to our first anniversary with the four wordless breaths, which enable each of us to be conscious beings. What one gains, we all gain.

He also wished to say that he realized that the first crystallization opened the door to thousands that will follow.

In friendship,

Linda Tulisso [Linda Kaplan]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Payment is a Principle - Now and Then

Fellowship of Friends cult 2005 e-mail solicitation for Robert Earl Burton's Egypt travels (R. E. Burton, dandy)
2005 Fellowship of Friends e-mail solicitation. Source: FOF History Project

From a Fellowship of Friends website FAQ:
Is there a fee to join?

To join, in the Unites States, one pays a tithe of 10% gross monthly income. The membership donation is presented in a sliding scale, so that newer members are required to pay less than older members until they are able to verify the basic principles of awakening and sleep. Because the Fellowship of Friends is recognized by the state and federal governments as a non-profit religious organization, all membership donations are tax deductible in the U.S.
Then

Fellowship of Friends Payment Guidelines, April 1, 1984


[ed. - in the following, taken from an official Fellowship letter, note the inherent contradiction between the terms "donation" and "required".]
  • One pays a monthly tithe (ten per cent) of one's income before taxes or, $100, whichever is greater.
  • One year after becoming a member, one pays a donation equivalent to one month's gross income, or $750, whichever is greater.
  • After eighteen month's membership, an additional monthly donation, currently $165, is required.
  • After two years, a continuing semi-annual donation of $650 is required in the spring and fall.
  • The Fellowship is a church, and these donations are deductible on state and federal income tax returns, according to existing laws.
  • If one's donations are in arrears more than ten weeks, one may not attend meetings, functions, or visit Renaissance until donations are within ten weeks of being current. If one's donations are in arrears more than fourteen weeks, one is no longer a member. Reinstatement of membership requires payment of all donations in arrears at the time one left, plus a payment of $1500.
  • Exceptions to the above guidelines may be granted for hardship cases.
[ed. - now for the "hammer":]

Payment rids us at once of many useless people. Nothing shows up people so much as their attitude toward money.  - Mr. Gurdjieff

Now

Posted by "Comrade" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 19, 2007:
In this discussion group, at least a few people have mentioned the 10% payments that are required to remain in the Fellowship of Friends. However, it’s important to note that the actual amount that you contribute is much higher than 10%. If you are a “regular” member, here’s how it works: 
  • Each month, you contribute 10% of your gross income, i.e., 10% of the amount that you earn before taxes are taken out.
  • You also contribute a “special donation” of $255 each month.
  • Twice a year, Spring and Fall, you must contribute additional amounts of $775, or a total of $1,550.
  • In December, you contribute an additional $100.

For example, if your gross salary is $50,000 per year. you will pay:
  • $5,000 for the 10% monthly payment 
  • $3,060 for the monthly special donations 
  • $1,550 for the Spring and Fall donations 
  • $100 for the December donation 
  • $9,710 total

So with a salary of $50,000 per year, the actual amount that you pay is not 10% of your salary, but 19.42%.

Since approximately 30% of your gross income is taken out of your paycheck by the state and federal governments, you are left with $35,000 per year in gross income. Subtract the $9,710 that you donate to the Fellowship, and you are left with $25,290 per year, or $2,108 per month to pay rent, buy food, pay your bills, buy clothes, etc.

Tax write-offs are helpful, because over the course of the year you can essentially add another $200 per month to your available income assuming the above salary.

However, it’s good to remember that you must also pay to attend various large gatherings at the Isis property. This includes meetings, receptions, dinners, fund-raising auctions, raffles, and artistic performances. So to be an “active” member of the Fellowship who actually participates in the events and interacts with your fellow students at large gatherings, you need to pay even more than the standard donations mentioned above. These amounts can run into the hundreds of dollars per month if you truly wish to remain active.

Needless to say, making just $50,000 per year is not enough to remain in the school and keep your finances healthy — let alone make a trip to Egypt. What often occurs is that members end up using their credit cards for many of the above payments, and therefore build huge debts. Someone once said the credit card companies “are in the business of separating you from your money.” This is one way they can accomplish that — by accepting large transactions with religious organizations such as the Fellowship.

By the way, if you’re making $100,000 a year, here are the totals:
  • $10,000 for the 10% monthly payments 
  • $3,060 for the monthly special donations 
  • $1,550 for the Spring and Fall donation 
  • $100 for the December donation 
  • $14,710 total (or 14.7% of your income)
So this leaves you with about $50,000 per year to pay your bills, or over $4,000 per month. So obviously as you make more money, the easier it is to remain in the Fellowship. But contributing to your 401k account for long-term security? Even at $100,000 per year, a person needs to reduce or eliminate their 401k contribution, or use their credit cards if they wish to participate in the dinners, auctions, fundraisers, lotteries, and so on. Of course, having a large bank account to begin with will help, but tapping into your savings to remain in the Fellowship has its long-term consequences even for those who are making six figures.

The Fellowship does occasionally help people who are having trouble by reducing their payments on a temporary basis. And if you are a member of the Fellowship who falls into a certain “category,” your payments may be reduced. This includes married mothers, single parents (only one parent is eligible), disabled students, unemployed members, and full-time college students, etc.

Anyone is welcome to critique the math above… But the point is, it’s a considerable sum, and we often don’t think about the consequences of these large payments. I sense that this topic is very uncomfortable for members to discuss. It usually begins and ends with the Gurdjieff quotation related to our attitude about money. But this is one of the central issues of this entire blog – the amount of money that members are contributing to the Fellowship and the buffers that are connected to this topic.

"Big Bucks" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 5, 2007 at 3:10 p.m.:
[Quoting a blogger:] “It should be added that membership fees consist of 10% of income, two extra payments each year and payments for dinners, talks and presentations. The Fellowship of Friends is not a cheap business.”
Yes, in addition to the 10% fee, “special donations” of $255 are required each month, as well as Spring and Fall donations of $775 each, and a December donation of $100. Attending dinners, talks, and presentations usually costs a few hundred dollars each month.

"Rear View Mirror' wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 27, 2008 at 3:47 p.m.:
More history needed? [blogger] wrote:
Two more “students” leaving Apollo?
I wonder how many are still in and paying…..!
Anybody who can share some numbers, please?
————

Based on reports that I’ve heard, most people are no longer paying the usual $750 to $1,000 per month (which is an average when you include the spring and fall “donations”). If someone is having trouble making payments, all they need to do is ask for a break, and they can lower the payments indefinitely to about $100-$150 per month, and skip the spring and fall.

It’s become very lax in this regard. The intentions are obvious: Keep the membership numbers up so that it doesn’t become too obvious that public opinion is being swayed against Burton. How many people have worked out such a deal, I don’t know, but it’s an obvious effort on the part of “management” to weather the storm of negative opinion, and to keep the facade that nothing has changed, and that everything is fine.

But things have changed. And everything is not fine.

My guess is that the FOF 1) has some money set aside for such times, and 2) some of the more wealthy sycophants are helping to keep things afloat right now.

I’ve also heard that certain “assets” are currently being sold to help out.

By the way, something that I don’t believe has been mentioned on the blog yet… Robert Burton frequently would make statements such as [paraphrasing]: Make your teaching payments first, and Influence C will take care of the rest.

In other words: Sure, you may be a month behind on your rent, and a few weeks from being evicted from your apartment, but write that check for $1,545 (or thereabouts) for that Spring donation and April “teaching payment,” and everything will be fine.

Everything won’t be fine. This is one of the most underreported aspects of this cult — People do leave because of the heavy financial burden (in addition to everything else). However, people rarely will admit this because of the stigma attached to it. Rarely do we want to admit that we’re not independently wealthy and capable of buying whatever the hell we want, including a measly donation of approximately $1,500 to the Fellowship of Friends.

You hear about the people who visit Las Vegas and win $1,000 over the weekend. They share their story with everyone on Monday morning. We hear how they had a great time, and how Las Vegas is GREAT!
What you don’t hear on Monday morning is the story from that OTHER guy who LOST $1,000. The Fellowship of Friends is much like a casino. They know how to take your money. If you keep playing at the casino, eventually they will take back everything you won — if you ever did win something.

[ed. - 2013 note: In addition to Rear View Mirror's comment, it has been reported that for those who are over 60 years of age, and those who are disabled, donations have been reduced to "little or nothing." It is speculated that this was an attempt to stem the massive exodus of 2007-2008.]


"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 8, 2012:

Looking at the lies–by–omission on the website of the Fellowship of Friends, one among the many now springs out. In answering the hypothetical question, “Is there a fee to join?” (http://www.beingpresent.org/index.php?toc=FAQ), they state, “ . . . one pays a tithe of 10% gross monthly income. The membership donation is presented in a sliding scale, so that newer members are required to pay less than older members until they are able to verify the basic principles of awakening and sleep.” All tax-deductible, as befits a U.S. based religious organization or church. Sounds fairly reasonable, huh?
Potential members might want to know more details before they commit, and they aren’t going to get them from those conducting the ‘Introductory Meetings’. The basic fees below are transcribed from the February 20, 1982 Board Meeting of Directors (http://tinyurl.com/6tjawty, which I think was posted by ‘Veronica Poe’). Especially note: those days of (!) relative moderation and greed (!!) are far in the past; things have since become much worse. The ‘official’ requests may still resemble those below (allowing for inflation), though there are now mandatory additional ‘center donations’ (fairly moderate) but there is now also an unceasing pressure to supply money, day after day, week after week, year after year, for the little extras, such as seeing, listening to, dining with, or having a photograph taken with Beloved Teacher, or attending any kind of meetings, concerts, festivals or celebrations, or recordings of such. At the same time, there is intense pressure to buy gifts for Beloved Teacher, from the latest cars to jewelry, for birthday, Xmas, the anniversaries of the various degrees of consciousness he claims to have gained. But it doesn’t end there by any means. Beloved Teacher has projects, lots of glorious projects. At his whim, buildings, theatres, landscaping, avenues, wineries, vineyards, always more projects, that must also be paid for. Even after this, there are urgent requirements for objects of art, statues, fountains, religious bits and pieces pleasing to the gods.
These pressures are both invisible and visible, that is, not only are your fellow members looking you over, there are professional fundraisers to apply the constant pressure. None of these contributions is tax deductible, probably (IMO) because they are not (according to my understanding) declared income for Burton, they just go straight to his pocket.
With any money you have left, there is pressure to travel, see museums, visit countries, visit FoF centers, dress yourself nicely, acquire possessions, repay him at three times cost for little gifts he has chosen for you, all under his all–seeing and critical eye (I’m lumping his own and his informers’ eyes together here, of course). If you question these, you are presented with thought-terminating clichés, such as, “Payment is a principle”, or, “These moments are priceless”. And I haven’t even mentioned fines, such as $1500 for smoking (each offense).
So, these fees mentioned below merely entitle you to claim basic membership, nothing more. Anything else is charged for, over and over again. Lots more details on previous pages of this blog.
______________________________
. . . THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the following guidelines be adopted as the currently effective Donation Guidelines applying to members of the church:
1) Members shall pay a monthly tithe (ten per cent) of one’s income before taxes, or $100, whichever is greater; special arrangements for hardship cases may be permitted.
2) Three months after becoming a member, and additional monthly donation of $10 is required.
3) One year after becoming a member, a once-in-a-lifetime donation of ten times of a member’s average monthly payment is required.
4) After eighteen month’s membership, an additional monthly donation of $135 is required.
5) After two years, a continuing, semi-annual donation in the spring and autumn of $650 is required.
6) If a member’s donations are in arrears for more than 8 weeks, he or she may not attend meetings, centre functions, or visit Renaissance until donations are within 8 weeks of being current. If a member’s donations are in arrears more than 3 ½ months, membership shall terminate. Reinstatement of membership requires payment of all donations in arrears at the time membership is terminated, plus a payment of $2500.
7) New income from sources other than ordinary income, such as inheritances, capital gains or gifts shall be subject to a 10% donation from the total of such new money received.
. . .
__________________________
The rest of this document is worth reading, because it is also a tissue of prevarications. The most basic one is the idea that the Board regulates the Founding Minister in any way (see imaginary org chart). The reality is, Burton is dictator, and occupies the mass and space of the top 90% of an organizational pyramid, with the Board, Council of Ministers and other sycophants a thin layer below him, leaving the insignificant lumpen below that as prey. He makes every important decision (and thousands of unimportant ones). The Board is a rubber stamp, pure and simple, there to keep the authorities off his neck. The purpose of the Fellowship of Friends is to satisfy the lusts and whims of Robert Earl Burton. A huge percentage of the resources is diverted for his satisfactions and amusement, a situation the average observer would hasten to label as inurement, and thus illegal. And that is just from the official donations; the probably undeclared or underdeclared, unofficial donations provide at least as much additional income for his sole pleasure. In every way, Burton is unaccountable to anyone.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Essays from "Waking the Midnight Sun"



[ed. - "Cadeveo" writes about the Fellowship of Friends on the "Waking the Midnight Sun" Wordpress blog.]
When the Rain Comes: An Encounter with the Fellowship of Friends

Mar 18th, 2007 by cadeveo

There’s a great conversation going on here re: the Fellowship of Friends cult, a psuedo-Gurdjieffian Fourth Way School. For those who don’t know, Gurdjieff was a Russo-Armenian esoteric philosopher/magician/former Orthodox priest-in training/ spy/rascal who was responsible for introducing quite a few potentially useful and powerful esoteric concepts and techniques from the East to the West during the first half of the last century. Among some of these teachings, which still retain their ability to shock even at this late date are the idea that most of us are alseep [sic], that we have no real “I”–but lots of competing little “I”s and that we do not have a soul, but through conscious suffering and self-remembering, have the possibility of creating one. These teachings and the techniques for awakening that he disseminated have been called the Fourth Way (dinstinct [sic] from the ways of the monk, fakir and yogi).

In contrast, the Fellowship of Friends is a dubious “Fourth Way” school run by a shady man named Robert Burton (no relation to the Renaissance author of the Anatomy of Melancholy), a sociopathic character who is the subject of persistent rumors of sexual abuse of his followers. The Esoteric Sheik of Inner Confusion’s write-up of his own personal experience re-awakened me to my own encounter with the FOF in Japan and rather than clutter up what’s already a three-post-long discussion at Aminam Recro, I’ve decided to put my experience here.

Esoteric Want Ads and Bronze Dogs

I’d gone to Japan for a few reasons. I knew what I wanted to pursue, career-wise for myself (writing and the performing arts), and had a vague sense of what I wanted to pursue personally (creative arts and also inner strength, spiritual awakening and community; also, yes–development of all those siddhi powers the Buddha poo-pooed). I knew where to pursue the career stuff, but had no confidence in what I might do to make a living there (in New York or Chicago), so I took a cue from a friend who’d gone to Japan to teach English. And, knowing little, my mind made the naive leap: Japan-Buddha-spiritual, despite what a Ba’hai mentor had cautioned me about Japan, like the U.S., being very barren in terms of genuine spirituality in its mainstream culture.

So I went to Japan and worked, teaching long hours and picking up overtime whenever I could. And I spent most of the rest of my time, after a very important friend invited me to move out to his place in my third month there, reading, having long-late night conversations about life and literature, writing and fumbling my way through solitary, improvised experiments in meditation, prayer and introspection (and managed to not get to any Buddhist temples for most of life there). But it was through my personal, routine that I came across a copy of Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous at a used bookstore in Ebisu. It was my first thorough introduction to the concepts of the Fourth Way and to Gurdjieff. And upon reading ISotM, I became taken with the idea that I was playing at the idea of spiritual awakening/strenghtening [sic] due to my isolation, obvious inexperience, etc. I coined a term for myself–poseur of consciousness, taking to heart the idea, expounded by Gurdjieff as told by Ouspensky, that in order to make any real progress I needed to be part of a group, a community of people with a similar goal, led by someone who actually knew what they were doing–a guru, an enlightened person, a teacher. And drunk on the Fourth Way theories of Ouspensky’s book, I decided that whatever that group and teacher were, they’d probably have to be “Fourth Way.” (Yes, lots of unexamined assumptions there, but we were young(er) then.)

Imagine my surprise–and convenience!– when, while reading through a free, English-language/gaijin magazine I picked up in Roppongi, I found an ad, basically saying what I wanted to be said at that period in my life/mind. It informed me that a Fourth Way School in the “tradition” of Gurdjieff-Ouspensky was “now accepting new students.” And it included a phone number. I made my way to a pay phone, called the number, and spoke to a very pleasant Japanese woman who asked me my age, what I did, and then informed me that someone would be in touch with me. A few days later, I spoke to her on the phone again and an appointment was made for me to meet with members of the group by the statue of Hachiko outside Shibuya station on a Wednesday evening.

I remember arriving fifteen minutes early to the meeting spot, making sure to breathe, squinting in the dark to scrutinize the people who passed by the bronze dog, as if any of them might be a “Fourth Way”er observing me surreptitiously. After a few minutes, feeling foolish, I dispelled this thought and contented myself to just patiently wait without knowing what to expect. When they finally arrived, I found myself in the presence of the very gentle Japanese woman with whom I’d spoken on the phone, who was attractive and well-dressed. She shook my hand and then acquiesced to the two men in her company, a stalky Japanese guy about whom I remember little, save that he had a very good suit, and another well-suited Japanese man who looked young despite a salt-and pepper moustache. It was apparent that he was the man in charge.

After the introductions, I followed the three as they took me to a cafe, where we sat down, got some tea and began the formal meeting. The salt-and-pepper moustache explained that they usually conducted three introductory meetings with prospective students and that I needn’t make any decision one way or another until the third meeting. Then they began to discuss the ideas of man’s mechanical nature and how their group utilized certain exercises in order to grow aware of the machine part of themselves while separating themselves from it. The one example of such an exercise told to me by salt-and-pepper moustache was sitting with one hand on each thigh, striving to be aware of their location and making sure that the two hands did not touch each other. They would watch each other to be sure how each was doing. During the course of the conversation salt-and-pepper did happen to touch his two hands together, at which point, the stalkier man passed a hand past his face, a reminder that he’d “fallen asleep.” Salt-and pepper moustache then smiled wanly and replied, “Thank you.”

The one other notable memory of this first meeting in my mind is the fact that when salt-and-pepper moustache talked, he referred continuously to their teacher, without naming him. Except once–the name “Robert Burton” slipped out of his mouth and immediately, he stopped himself. He smiled a cipher’s smile, looked straight at me, and then continued speaking. I couldn’t really tell whether the slip had been calculated as some sort of test or if he had honestly revealed something he ought not to; but it reminded me of a passage in ISotM when Ouspensky first comes across Gurdjieff and describes the mage as very intentionally (ridiculously?) taking on the manner, garb and airs of a charlatan. In retrospect, I think that passage of Ouspensky’s book is exactly what that particular moment in that Japanese cafe was intended to remind me of.

Salt-and-pepper explained that to engage in the Work, one was required to pay for it–that this signified one’s commitment and seriousness in really waking up. The payment would be 10% of my yearly salary. I was asked if I was still interested in pursuing the group further. I said yes.

We arranged my second meeting. We left the cafe and I headed back to Shibuya station. On the way, I stopped by the statue of Hachiko and patted his side, tired, but ready to do whatever I needed to do to really pursue self-awakening and stop being a “poseur of consciousness.”

Hiyoshi Station and Back

The second meeting took place in Hiyoshi, in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. I met salt-and-pepper moustache outside Hiyoshi station, near a large, metal orb between the station entrance and the mall. We walked, mainly in silence, down various side streets, going downhill, then uphill, far past the lights of the main district of Hiyoshi, into an area that had fewer lights, wider, lonelier streets and many more trees. At one point he broke the silence to mention something about signs or coincidences that one might find during everyday life–in coversations [sic] overheard, on billboards, in movies–signs that pointed toward the Work messages from the conscious circle of humanity.

He mentioned Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life as an example.

We finally came upon a very large, white apartment complex. This was the meeting site. And I remember, as salt-and-pepper moustache buzzed for the outside elevator to take us to the proper floor, that I had a moment’s trepidation. I thought to myself, “I could so easily be jumped or killed here.”

We rode the elevator four floors up, exited and walked a few steps to an apartment. We took our shoes off and left them in the walk-way and entered the apartment proper. The place was very clean and simple, but with expensive-looking decorations in several places–a very black and heavy looking vase on a table, a beautiful painting of a woman on the wall in the living room. Inside, there was a tall, white man with white hair and a moustache, even better dressed than the three group members I’d met previously. He wore a dark gray suit and an impeccable red tie. Salt-and-pepper moustache introduced me to him, but his name eludes me now.

They offered me something to drink before we began–tea, wine or water. I opted for water, out of politeness and also out of habit. We waited for a couple of other people to arrive, which didn’t take too long. A beautiful gaijin woman and and the stalky Japanese man from the previous meeting, entered after a few minutes and both were greeted in a very familiar manner.

The full company assembled, all of us now entered a separate room, set up as for a tea ceremony. There, Tall White opened a book containing color photos of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, explaining that they were the founders of the path they journeyed and that their teacher had been the only person since then to reach the same heights of “beingness” as them. Tall White, although he seemed to be the authority in the room, brought the focus to salt-and-pepper moustache to begin the second introductory teaching.

Salt-and-pepper brought out a deck of cards and began to lay them out, explaining that originally playing cards had been designed to encode certain esoteric information about the “types” of people. He reopened the book containing the pictures of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to a page showing the Enneagram, a nine-pointed figure within a circle, that I had encountered while reading ISotM. Salt-and-pepper then showed me different cards-the Jack, the Queen, The King, and one by one explained how they corresponded to certain psychological types found on the Enneagram. He then elucidated the types by reference to certain celebrities, though at this moment I can only remember him referencing Arnold Schwartzenegger, but I suppose I wasn’t sufficiently awake because I don’t remember, all these years later, what “type” Arnold fit.

After the presentation, Tall White said that they would leave it up to me as to whether or not I wanted to have a third meeting, which would signify my intention to join the school. He said I should give it a few days to think about and then contact them, but that the time to do so was short and I was given a new telephone number, which I presumed was for the apartment where we sat.

Tall White asked me if I had any questions. In reply, I asked what had led all of them to the Fourth Way, but I would get no answer. Tall White simply said, in what was intended as a joke, but in a tone that belied some irritation, “Well, if we were to get into that we would have to order a pizza and be here until the morning, but perhaps you’ll find out for yourself.” Tall White then offered to walk me back to Hiyoshi station. I said my goodbyes, put on my shoes and we were out the door.

On the way back to the station, Tall White mentioned one method of self-remembering that I had remembered from ISotM. It involves attempting to remain in a state of thoughtlessness, while walking, until you reach a spot that your eyes have chosen. Upon reaching that spot–it could be a street sign, a tree, a mark on the street–you then choose another spot and repeat the exercise. He suggested that I make this effort as we walked back and so I did.

As we reached the lights of the central Hiyoshi, he Tall White broke the silence:

“Well, did you remember yourself?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Hmmm,” he replied.

We reached the station, he bid me a goodnight and that was that.

Less than three days later, I called the number and found myself speaking with salt-and-pepper moustache. I told him my intention to engage in The Work and we set up my third meeting, where I would give my first payment of 10% of that month’s salary.

I hung up the phone, calculated precisely the amount I’d need to take out of the bank and then waited.

When the Rain Comes, It All Washes Out

A Friday night at 7pm: I arrived back in Hiyoshi with money in my wallet to begin “The Work.” I had written down the address of the apartment complex and felt confident in taking the path back there for the meeting, which was to begin at 7:30pm. However, as I walked it began to rain, lightly at first, then a bit harder. I found myself winding around long, corners, going up and down hill, but totally unsure whether I now wound the right corners or went up or down the right path. I became terribly lost. And it began to rain harder. I looked at my watch and it was now 7:23 and I recognized nothing. There was no way that I would find the apartment complex in time. I had no cell phone and there didn’t seem to be a pay phone in sight. Feeling frustrated and angry with myself, I turned back, wandering in the rain until I finally came across a street with a ramen shop and followed it in the direction that I thought Hiyoshi Station lay. Luckily, I was right.

I reached Hiyoshi station around 8:15pm. But before entering, I remembered the name: Robert Burton. Across from the station was a building with several department stores where I had checked my e-mail on several occasions when I’d been in the area in the past. I entered, took the escalator up to the floor with the display computers and got online. I made a search for “Gurdjieff-Ouspensky” groups and the first thing I came across was this page, which states at its top:
This information is presented so that you may make informed decisions. We can not and do not make recommendations as to which groups to join.
And then the following Bible quote followed:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Matthew 7.15—20
And below that, under the heading “Some fruits by which to recognize degenerate groups,” I read certain things that made me realize the operators of this site, while not naming names, were describing the very “Fourth Way” group I’d encountered.

My next step was to do a search for “Robert Burton.” Needless to say, I found quite a lot of information on this one-time elementary school teacher that opened a big fear in my belly

My feet and my gut and the rain–they all wanted me to get lost that night. And I thank them for it.

"TmR" commented on When the Rain Comes: An Encounter with the Fellowship of Friends May 27, 2007:
I enjoyed reading this post, well written and reminds how i met the “School”…

"cadeveo" wrote on When the Rain Comes: An Encounter with the Fellowship of Friends May 27, 2007:
Glad you enjoyed the post, TmR. By the “School,” do you mean the FOF or another group? (Sometimes it’s hard to tell these things on the internet sans the tonality of spoken communication!)

Come by again!

Peace,

cadeveo

"artn" commented on When the Rain Comes: An Encounter with the Fellowship of Friends, May 29, 2007:
Hello cadeveo,

Nicely written account of your experience with the Fellowship of Friends. Thanks for posting this.

One outright lie from Salt-and-pepper was that you would need to pay 10% of your income to remain in the group. Payments are much more than that — anywhere from 15% to 25% depending upon your salary (the higher your salary, the lower the percentage).

In addition to the above, you can easily spend another $500 to $1,000 per month on dinners, receptions, meetings, concerts, and other events, which are necessary for ordinary participation (i.e., you will have very little contact with other members if you choose not to attend these events). So the costs commonly reach anywhere from 25% to 35% of your net income.

Of course, for those who believe the high cost of membership shouldn’t matter, the Sheik’s blog also reveals many disturbing facts about where the money is going — and about the leader of the group, Robert Burton, and the negative impacts of this man on the lives of members, their families, and friends.

Thanks again, and best wishes.

"artn commented on When the Rain Comes: An Encounter with the Fellowship of Friends
Hello,

As a former long-time member of the FOF, I strongly suspect that TmR [above] IS referring to the FOF when mentioning “the School.” The term has a definite hue to it, which is why he/she placed it in quotation marks.

The Fellowship of Friends has its own lingo, which unfortunately is part of the group-think. Phases such as “how I met the school” are fairly common in the Fellowship, and the phrases sometimes imply certain unspoken meanings. For example, “how I met the school” (and this is why TmR places the term in quotation marks) seems to imply that “meeting the school” is an extremely important moment in one’s life — which, by the way, is being “directed by Higher Forces.”

“One is given an opportunity” at that moment to “begin work on oneself.” As one “joins the school” and develops “valuation for the work”, “one learns to “accept one’s role” in “building an ark” and “creating a new civilization” following “the fall of California” in 1998, and nuclear war in 2006.

As members of the Fellowship of Friends, “we are not better than life, we are just luckier.” The term “life,” by the way, is referring to the entire population of the Earth other than “members of the school.” People in life are sometimes called “life people.”

Anyway, you get the point. There’s a certain acceptable method of speaking in the Fellowship of Friends, and if you use the lingo — which is usually referred to as the “work language” — you are probably a “good student.” Those who ask questions such as, “Why does Robert Burton travel around the world with an entourage of 9 or 10 young men?” are usually criticized and “photographed” for “lacking valuation.” If they continue asking those questions, they will most likely be “expelled from the school.” Another term for this is “being released from the school by Influence C.”

It goes on and on.

By the way, the idea that spiritual beings are guiding the show is not so far-fetched to me, but the difference in my attitude and the attitude of “the school” is that I believe “the school” does not own a copyright on this possibility. Whatever beauty and spirituality that exists on this planet, exists for all of us.

Cheers,

Artn

Cult-Sure: Further Thoughts about Society and The Individual, Inspired by the FoF

May 31st, 2007 by cadeveo

I recently received a new batch of thoughtful comments to an old personal essay I wrote about my own brief encounter with the Fellowship of Friends, a pseudo-Gurdjieffian cult which has spawned a very extensive on-going discussion over at Animam Recro. Among those thoughtful responses was one by a reader who goes by the handle artn.

I’ve excerpted the portion that has inspired some thoughts I have regarding cults and our Cult-Sure:
The Fellowship of Friends has its own lingo, which unfortunately is part of the group-think. Ph[r]ases such as “how I met the school” are fairly common in the Fellowship, and the phrases sometimes imply certain unspoken meanings. For example, “how I met the school” (and this is why TmR places the term in quotation marks) seems to imply that “meeting the school” is an extremely important moment in one’s life — which, by the way, is being “directed by Higher Forces.”

“One is given an opportunity” at that moment to “begin work on oneself.” As one “joins the school” and develops “valuation for the work”, “one learns to “accept one’s role” in “building an ark” and “creating a new civilization” following “the fall of California” in 1998, and nuclear war in 2006.

As members of the Fellowship of Friends, “we are not better than life, we are just luckier.” The term “life,” by the way, is referring to the entire population of the Earth other than “members of the school.” People in life are sometimes called “life people.”

Anyway, you get the point. There’s a certain acceptable method of speaking in the Fellowship of Friends, and if you use the lingo — which is usually referred to as the “work language” — you are probably a “good student.” Those who ask questions such as, “Why does Robert Burton travel around the world with an entourage of 9 or 10 young men?” are usually criticized and “photographed” for “lacking valuation.” If they continue asking those questions, they will most likely be “expelled from the school.” Another term for this is “being released from the school by Influence C.”

It goes on and on.

The Cult-Sure and Its Miniatures

In my experiences, cults often have their very special jargon, not unlike the “corporate world” or many other groups. My feeling is that, in NLP terms (a.k.a. NLP jargon!), this specialized terminology is about “reframing” someone’s reality through language to sort of trick or finesse social cohesion and unity, a.k.a. group think. That could be good and that could be bad. Words are quite literally magick (that’s why we spell them) and so certain jargon is often required in order to conjure a “group reality” into existence. Of course said “group reality” is not really any more “really real" than a zillion other group realities, although each partakes of that “really real” reality to some extent simply by existing.

These “group realities” exist via consensus, a consensus often based upon overt or covert coercion: implied or actual psychological and/or physical violence. The most basic type of this coercion can be demonstrated by the ancient practice of banishment: “Either you stay within our group reality, accepting all its obligations and performing all the actions that entails, or we will kick you out and you will starve. A variation on the theme is: “…or we will kill you outright/ ruin your standing within the group/ severely limit your ability to attain food/sex/ shelter. ” One can argue, as certain old, dead philosophers have, that this is exactly how society at large works: like a cult. Yet the larger society refuses to acknowledge the Cult in the Mirror, pretending to somehow be above such an identity.

That’s why I call it Cult-Sure.

The major difference between our Cult-Sure and all its sub-cults, the groups we faithful Cult-Sure members more easily call cults (e.g. FoF, the Reilians, the Moonies, etc.), is that the latter have more limited access to a magickal-energetic food supply. Having cut themselves off from the greater mass of individuals as magickal food-source, the “cults” tend to demonstrate the negative aspects of group cohesion in a much more concentrated and extreme way. The sub-cults are much smaller with a considerably more meager energy base upon which to feed. Thus, retaining the cult’s food source, the individual member/magickal-energetic livestock, becomes increasingly important and, in turn, a far more immediate, and desperate, need. It’s no surprise, then, that each individual is more important to the sub-cult than they ever were in the Cult-Sure at large. Every sub-cult, even the wealthiest, stands ever on the verge of disintegration, of potential famine for the feeders/leaders at the top of the cultic pyramid.  Thus, the feeders must ensure that their food source does not get away while simultaneously scrambling with increased desperation to acquire more food. In the long-term, it’s in the interest of a sub-cult’s leaders/feeders to domesticate their magickal-energetic livestock, keep it controlled and drugged literally, hypnotically or both. In this way, when the livestock breeds, the leaders will have ensured the future of their food supply via the offspring of their cattle.  And if the feeders’ efforts are pursued assiduously enough and the sub-cult grows, it may one day hope to become the Cult-Sure, with the feeders’ descendants enthroned at the top of the food chain. (In case you didn’t noticed: the “cult” has the character of the feudal/plantation model of society.) The probability for this kind of success is quite limited, but may be increased somewhat to the extent that the feeders/leaders of the sub-cult (your Robert Burtons, et.al.) perfect their ability to cast jargon spells with words, while innovating other, subtler forms of coercion and compliance.

By contrast to the most “cult leaders”, the Bushes, the Astors, DuPonts, Rockefellers and yes, that dual sub-cult and global Cult-Sure High Priest Sun Myung Moon, can totally afford to have thousands of their magickal-energetic livestock walk away, turn off and drop out. After all, the feeders at the top of the Cult-Sure (and the Archons of Power that, in turn, feed upon them) always have plenty more magickal food where the drop-out came from…so why unnecessarily turn on the overt violence?…unless that individual is particularly influential and likely to ruin their great pyramid scheme or if, in unleashing the violence, they can ensure a greater feast of energetic food. In this case, the increase in “food” is attained via the energy released by massive bloodshed, plus the increased birthrates that result when their surviving livestock’s reproductive-survival drives are kicked into high gear by the increased psychic anxiety caused by all the in-your-face death, real and/or threatened, that surrounds them.

Often, those who drop out or escape the Cult-Sure, still carrying its code within their hearts, know nothing else than to recreate its structure in miniaturein the form of a “cult,” individual founders of this new, sub-cult either taking on the role of leaders/feeders or maintaining their conditioned status as the fed-upon. This doesn’t always happen, though, sometimes those who escape the Cult-Sure retain or regain their natural, spiritual essence enough to create true conscious communities, living, vital and love-based. In either situation, though, the Cult-Sure is likely to ignore both the sub-cult and the conscious community because they do not really represent any competition, are usually little known within the Cult-Sure itself or if known, are feared for their real or imagined excesses. However, when the rate of escape or de-domestication of the livestock reaches a tipping point within the Cult-Sure wherein the entire pyramid threatens to collapse, this often results in overt violence, instigated on a mechanical level by the feeders/leaders who are, in the end, the most dependent members of the Cult-Sure.

And one last interesting thing about the Cult-Sure and all its sub-cults. As implied above, by their very nature, they ensure that some individuals will wake up, destroy the totalitarian programming within themselves, and truly get free to create living communities with true individuals. It’s a small possibility, but nevertheless exists. And if that possibility did not exist, the feeders/leaders and the Archons of the sub-cults and the greater Spectacular Cult-Sure, would have no market for their snake-oil.

Sometimes a blow to the head doesn’t knock you out, it wakes you up…

Discuss.

"artn" commented on Cult-Sure: Further Thoughts about Society and The Individual, Inspired by the FoF, May 31, 2007:
Hello Cadeveo,

Your Cult-Sure essay provides more evidence that we — i.e., the members of the Fellowship of Friends — are not immune to universal laws. This is pertinent because there’s a tendency for those of us within the FOF to believe we are somehow unique and above all of this. Both you and Sheik are doing a good job at pointing out the obvious — that we are definitely not unique.

There’s another post in Sheik’s blog that relates to your essay(although with a different emphasis). The post discusses “the divorce of words and meaning” in the Fellowship of Friends. The writer also refers to an essay by George Orwell called “Politics and the English Language”.

Here’s the post:

http://animamrecro.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/the-fellowship-of-friends-discussion-part-3/#comment-4058

Here’s Orwell’s original essay, written in 1946:

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Thanks again,

Artn

p.s. especially good ending to your essay

Once More with the Fellowship of Friends: An AntiClimax and Prelude

July 16, 2007 by cadeveo
[ed. - Link to this article, "http://wayback.archive.org/web/20110727041343/http://cadeveo.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/the-anticlimactic-prelude-once-more-with-the-fellowship-of-friends/" is now defunct.]

The rain and the world were with me when I got lost on the way to joining the Fellowship of Friends. But if one truly desires to dive into delusions, even the guidance of saints and ancestors, friends and the elements, won’t keep one from the chosen appointment.

After the FoF encounter, I ended up, through the byways of choices and fate, in the den of a gypsy “psychic” who certainly had her street hypnosis skills sharpened to a very fine point indeed. She worked me over pretty good, using false either/or dilemmas, high pressure tactics akin to the sleaziest and most successful of salesmen, repetition, reinforcement, and a whole slew of other lesser black magical tricks. I eventually found myself, after several months, a few thousand dollars poorer when I finally snapped out of it. But, of course, cons of this kind, magickal or not, all require that first act of consent from the would-be “victim”: the willingness to say “Yes.”

You’ll hear more of this at another time. It’s a long story and if I’m going to tell it, I’d prefer to craft it to engage your attention properly.

The point is that I learned a lot. Those two thousand dollars, in the end, was money well spent. The experience of falling for a street hypnosis con, coupled with my close-call with Robert Burton‘s vanity operation, and a re-read of Robert Anton Wilson’s own mystical adventures in Cosmic Trigger, led me down my own very interesting path to knowledge, if not enlightenment. (Alas, we’re still working on enlightenment with fits and starts. And I’m willing to entertain the possibility, like our man at Church of the Churchless has concluded, that the goal of enlightenment is yet another illusion.)

So it was that I arrived in New York, having missed the Big Horror by a few weeks. And two months later, I found a very familiar ad in the Village Voice about a “Fourth Way School” in the tradition of “Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.” I knew right away that it had to be the Fellowship of Friends, but wanted to confirm it physically. Not just confirm it, though: I wanted to prove that I could make a different choice this time around. Because I had already chosen to join the Fellowship of Friends back in Japan. It had been my getting lost, and the intervention of the rain that had blocked that decision, leading me to that computer inside the mall in Hiyoshi where I learned what I needed to know about the sinister aspects of the Fellowship. It might seem irrational, but I wanted to make sure that I could make the right choice again, without outside help.

So I called the number on the back of the Village Voice and waited for a “Gurdjieff-Ouspensky” school representative to pick up the line.

As I had in Japan, I spoke with a woman, with whom I set up a six-thirty meeting for the very next day at a diner in Chelsea, her suggestion.

I arrived well ahead of time and went to the poorly-lit old Catholic Church on the previous block. I looked at the statuary and stained-glass with its Passion scenes. I lost myself in the dance of the flames in rows of red votive candles in the back, incense snaking languidly. I sat down, listening to the familiar sounds of creaking pews and elderly believers clearing their throats and coughing, the echoes reverberating through the mostly empty space. I collected my thoughts and observed my breathing.

It’s amazing how timeless a breath can be.

Just as I reached a state of contented relaxation, that time-obsessed voice inside me, installed long ago I’m sure by my father’s example, told me to check the little alarm clock in my backpack. Five minutes to six-thirty. I exited the church, on my way taking a small card with St. Anthony’s image on it, and walked the half-block to the diner.

When I entered the diner no one looked up, save the hostess.

“I’m meeting some people.”

“Of course,” she said, and led me to a corner booth in the back where I ordered tea. I resumed breathing deeply, slowly, calmly. Observing. I had the best vantage point from which to see people entering the diner, so I began to watch the door.

For a second, I wondered if I might see the same individuals I’d met in Japan and began to wonder if this little excursion of mine was unwise. I shook the thought loose by telling myself that as a matter of probability, despite the Fellowship of Friend’s small numbers, it was still a very remote chance.
After about eight minutes, a tall, well-dressed white man and a woman in a conservative dress walked through the front door. Having learned a little about Fellowship members, I assumed them to be the right party. I put my hand up.

“I’m here, ” I said.

“Mike?” the man asked as they walked over.

This was the name I’d given on the phone.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, isn’t that amazing?” the woman asked, “We’re already connected! You knew who we were right away.”

“Maybe,” I replied.

“Well, we have about a half-hour, so we’re going to order something and get started,”the tall man smiled.

They ordered coffee and I continued with my tea.

The two gave me the same basic overview as I’d received from the Fellowship of Friends members in Japan: “Fourth Way school, as distinct from the ways of the faqir, the monk and the yogi”; self-remembering and The Work, “a process of waking up” and the like; the necessity of having an “authentic teacher, a person of being,” etc. They were, of course, “in touch with such a one”. My original conclusion after reading the Village Voice ad had been confirmed. I sat sipping tea in the presence of two emissaries of the FoF. Again.

Only this time around, while I smiled and played the innocent, more than anything I felt detached. I was playing a role, but not feeling it. At least, not much.

One small part of me wondered: what if I followed through? What if I joined the Fellowship, knowing what I know now? What can be gained from entering into a cult with full knowledge that it’s a cult–could one learn how the psychological tricks work and yet not get taken in by them through sheer duress?

But no, that’s not what I walked into that diner for, was it?

“Well, would you like to meet with us again?” the woman asked.

“Sure”, I said, “but I want to think about it a little first.”

“Okay, but don’t think too long!” the man laughed. “Well, anyway, you have our number, so you can call us.”

“I will,” I said.

“It was great to meet you Mike,” they each said, shaking my hand.

“Likewise,” I smiled in sincere agreement, although I had no intention of doing it again.

***

Three days later, the woman called and left me a message.

I never returned it.


What It Feels Like…for a Cult Leader

July 20, 2007 by cadeveo

Ted Heistman asks two pretty good conversation starters in the comments to the last Fellowship of Friends essay [See: "Once More with the Fellowship of Friends: An AntiClimax and Prelude" above.]

He asks:
Ever entertained the idea of becoming a cult leader? Or at least imagining what it would be like one?
Those are two great questions, not just for me but for all of us. Because it may require reflection and compassion of a very high order. At least, that’s where my initial reaction leads me, so I figured I’d address it, but also open up the conversation to see how others would answer this question for themselves.

Have I ever entertained being a cult leader? Yes, though I don’t feel I have the requisite fortitude for the kind of magickal self-and-group deception it would take. And I can’t say that it particularly appeals to me to develop it–it seems like a lot of hard work with a payoff that, ultimately, strikes me as pretty depressing. Sure, you might be able to buy an island like Adi Da/Bubba Free John/Franklin Jones, or while away your days reading all the books you want while high on laughing gas like Osho/Rajneesh, have your very own private intelligence organization like “Leon LaThule” or the late Mr. Hubbard. Then there’s all that sex and money. But ultimately, I feel these end up being so many empty toys and narcotic distractions from the utter emptiness of cult-leadership. And not the emptiness of the Zen Master, but the emptiness of the dried husk, the broken and hollow shell.

Being a cult leader is very hard, lonely and, ultimately, unsatisfying work, I suspect. Cult leaders get caught in a sad bind because, usually, they are not what their followers believe they are and need and want them to be, which is an enlightened being permanently vibrating on the purest of divine and loving frequencies: a true isht-deva worthy of the devotion, capable of elevating the disciple to similar heights.

Cult-leaders cannot be what the followers desire, cannot fulfill the promise of their own marketing, so they become caught in a trap of negative symbiosis. [ed. - Cavedeo discusses this at "https://web.archive.org/web/20080309152135/http://cadeveo.wordpress.com/2007/06/03/brothers-under-the-skin-the-trap-of-negative-symbiosis/" however the blog is private.] The result: the cult leader must constantly perpetuate the lie of his worship-worthiness by increasingly more elaborate and desperate means. While he’s doing that, he often grows to feel disdain for the followers. It is a disdain that is rooted in shock and disappointment at how easily the followers are manipulated. It is a disdain also rooted in how much the followers need the cult leader to continue to manipulate and lie to them, to sustain their artificial identities and self-delusions of privileged salvation. Even more deeply, the cult-leader disdains the followers because he needs these sad, tricked, needy people even more than they need him. He has become addicted to feeding upon their devotional energy like a junkie on pure-grade smack. Knowing his dependence on those he does not respect, the cult-leader’s disdain is tinged by self-hate, the realization of which must constantly be numbed through greater quality and quantity of the disciple drug. And like any junkie, the cult leader, in his addiction, forgets how to generate that same energy within and for himself. He’s trapped. He can’t take off the false guru-god mask even though it distorts and destroys his ability to express his potential authentic self. To take off the mask would mean going cold turkey and feeling a pain far worse than any the heroine addict locked in a bathroom for three days of puking, defecating, screaming, and clawing-detox will ever experience.

That is hell. Moreover, that is tragedy, awful and unnecessary.

Cult leaders, I suspect, are much worse tragedies than the people who get hurt by them. The victims can snap out of it, walk away and, eventually, recover from the experience having learned some very hard, valuable lessons that can make them stronger and more fully human and compassionate beings. The cult leader seldom sees the possibility of snapping out of his self-constructed world and leaving it for healthier, more beautiful and loving ones. And, ultimately, this is a fate, whether conscious or not, that the cult leader has chosen.

But maybe that’s just a story I’m telling.I welcome hearing how all of you out in the electronic-ether would answer this question, including you former, future, anti- and non-cult leaders.

***

For thoughts in the same vein, but on a different level, you might check out this essay.