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 13, 2007

Inner Jewels tells her story

"Inner Jewels" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 13, 2007:
Once more into the fray!

When I left the school (the second time) a student asked me, “so, how does it feel to fall back into sleep?” Then she smiled haughtily at me. I was stunned into silence. How can one respond to such arrogance coming from someone you once considered a friend? Surely even the die-hard FOFers can admit that awakening has nothing to do with flagrantly putting oneself above others and yet, and yet, isn’t that what the dogma of the FOF is built upon?: We are the chosen ones. This is the only conscious school, etc. etc. We all know the lines and some of us, on the inside and on the outside, say we never believed it. I experienced the untruth of that statement for myself when, after the first time I left, at 19, I had to confront the fears that tore at me from the edges of my consciousness, like some horrible Bosche painting, whispering that perhaps I had, in fact, lost my soul. And I had lost so much. I had lost the ability to be as close to my mother as I wished. I had lost so many fine friends who shared a passion for evolving. I had lost the theater, the concerts, the fine dinners, the orchard. But after the dust settled and the fears dissipated, I came to realize I had gained the most important thing: my own upward beating heart; my own capacity to meet these momentary days and joyfully add myself to the count. You see, I left the first time because my “work I’s’ had run amuck—I had become a talking head, sounding quite nice and spouting work ideas but disconnected from my heart, my body, my dreams. “Life” had mistakenly been discarded in place of my very real desire to grow internally. It took my many years, going back in and back out to come to realize that awakening is not inner vs. outer nor is it a solitary effort; That spiritual work isn’t necessarily contrary to “material” existence. I believe in my heart that when any of us raise our awareness, raise our conscious desire to speak/look/feel love in and for this moment and everything it contains, we lift the entire world with us, closer to the heart of God. I know too, the good of the FOF– I feel it in my dear mama’s heart and in her kind and strong husband. I’ve tasted the beauty of it, and I will always feel the sadness of exclusion, of being on the outside (as long as the FOF keeps the walls up;). But I was excited and even thrilled when I learned that this forum had erupted into existence. Not because I wanted to see anyone hurt or taken down –or out, but because I truly believe that we can all help each other, that we do help each other, every time we open our eyes, open our hearts and speak our truths with an intention to evolve. My truth isn’t the same as anyone else’s, and that’s the beauty of it. We are all on our own adventure, together—what joy! —and we can learn so much, if we truly allow the “other” in.

I’m sorry to say, though, that the tone here has changed. What happened? From my cursory scanning it seems a big bad cry baby heaved a cannon ball of negativity in here and lot’s of people (not toeing the line that is) scrambled. Sure I’m for the expression of differing truths but those are truths with a small “t”–not THE ALMIGHTY TRUTH WHICH I WILL BANG OVER YOUR HEAD TILL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE IT. Reading CB’s [ed. - Blogger "Cry Baby." Just one example of their posts is here.] post reproduced that sickening feeling that I discovered when I tried to explain the FOF to a friend around the second time I left. I had to ask myself: How could I be a part of something that made me feel sick to my stomach when describing the behavior of the teacher? (And don’t tell me I don’t know by personal experience a little about the suffering RB is causing; I dated some of his boys and I heard first-hand about their struggle to confront him, provoking a powerful negativity when they dared to refuse RB’s demands). I apologize for commenting on CBs post as everyone is, no doubt, a bit weary of the back and forth. But I wanted it to be pointed out simply and clearly: CB’s post reeks of precisely what is so wrong with the FOF. No, not everyone in it feels that way but if you don’t, and you’re still in it, I hope you have the courage to confront that kinds of ugliness, wherever and whenever it appears. I didn’t join the school for RB but I definitely left it because of him. And even if, as has been implied, his behavior acts as a kind of filter ensuring only the really serious ones get in and stay in, well then that is quite a dangerous little truth to build one’s life upon…Personally, I don’t want to close my eyes to what sickens me, I want to look clearly at myself and what surrounds me and do my part to lift it up and in. I have my own sexual deviancies [sic], but thank god don’t have a budget! and RB has provided a powerful lesson of where NOT TO GO.

Another student recently wrote me that if I ever get disappointed enough in “life,” she hopes I’ll return to the FOF. How subtly that sentence evoked a sickening feeling in me again—I have not been able to respond to her so perhaps I am as spineless as CB accused. But I think, rather, it is that I don’t care to respond. I am content to find my own touchstone, deep inside my own true life experience. I have come to trust my body, my heart, and my mind, to guide me where I can continue to evolve. (I had a barely English speaking Latino busboy remind me to be present in LA; clearly, the FOF has no monopoly on that!) I have found a wonderful dance work (5Rhythms, there’s a class in GV/NC if you want to dance yourself free) to practice being present IN my body, through my feelings, not by splitting off from them. I have several wonderful friends who I feel are evolving, I can see it in their eyes, I can feel it in their loving presence. And who knows, maybe someday I will rejoin the Fellowship, but that day could only come if and when RB lays down his instrument of pleasure/torture and admits he’s got a problem (hey, don’t we all?) or at least stops making his students pay royally for it, when all the spiritual tyrants like CB go bury themselves somewhere else in steaming piles of their own negativity…and I’m optimistic –or is it na├»ve?– enough to hope for that day…a day when I can walk freely with my mama again, through the orchards and the vines, around the ponds and the gravestones… and hold her hand as she holds mine, laughing and free (not that the FOF could EVER take that away from us, we have our ways—once a merc ["Mercurial body type"], always a…well you know)….

And so I leave you all with this wish, for the FOF, and for every city in this troubled nation and every town across the globe:
I dream’d in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole
of the rest of the earth,
I dream’d that was the new city of Friends
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men [and women] of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

Walt Whitman
[ed. - An oft-quoted poem in the Fellowship's early days.

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