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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Across the River's" Story

"Across the River's" 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

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