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 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 6, 2007

The Fellowship didn't fail. I did.

[ed. - This rather hilarious testimonial supposedly comes from a former member taking complete responsibility for their actions. Their failure - and Burton considers anyone who leaves his group a failure - was entirely their fault. Laziness, old age, lack of will. Whatever personal weakness caused their departure, certainly Burton and the Fellowship shall be held harmless. It's a fine recruiting piece written by an understanding, clear-eyed failure. Enjoy.]

"Another former student" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 6, 2007:
Boy am I glad I was in the school for many years or I would think from these postings that it was closer to a concentration camp than a place of spiritual work!

I left the school several years back, but I never experienced what many of the posters are describing. Whatever happened between Robert and his lovers, the general atmosphere of Renaissance-Apollo (now Isis) was one of depth, intentionality, sincerity, and efforts. There was a great emphasis on beauty and on the arts, on events and meetings, on friendship and creating higher states, and for a long time I found it a magical place to be and work. I never had the intention of staying all my life – it seems like a strange idea – I couldn’t even stay in college for four years – but I am grateful to the students I met and to Robert for the time I was there. The sincerity of the teacher and many of the students was beyond question. His methods were very unorthodox, but I have to admit that is part of what attracted me. They seemed original, bold, and completely out of the box. From the first moment of meeting him (having no preconceptions), I never had any doubt that he was a “conscious being” and someone of a different order. Although I never thought that the Fellowship was the only place to work, I felt it was a very valid place for me.

So I am a little embarrassed by the rantings and ravings of so many former students. I know some of them and they had a great time just as I did. What is the sense now of spending so much energy on justification and outrage and demoralizing those who are still there? No one twisted our arms to stay. In fact, we paid dearly both financially and otherwise to remain. We traveled around the world, met so many extraordinary people, had such deep and powerful experiences we wouldn’t have had, how can we now just turn around and demonize it? If we didn’t want to, we didn’t have to believe a single word Robert said.

As for myself, I never believed: the Fellowship was the only school, Robert was the only conscious teacher, California was going to fall, that we would lose the “Gods” if we left the school, that there were 44 angels in the room (well, maybe I did believe that one for a while. It sure felt like it!) It was possible to work and stay without getting into any of that. I was mostly interested in Robert’s ideas about how to remember myself, something he could very clearly do, and this is what I focused on. All we had to do to stay was make our monthly payment. If we stopped paying, we left the school. Other than that there were no exercises or suggestions we had to follow, no events we had to participate in, no ideas we had to believe if we did not want to. It was not 100% fair or perfect, but what is? I did not feel like a victim while I was in the Fellowship, and I don’t feel like one now, despite the crybaby letters. This is my life and I am responsible for it.

So why did I leave? Because the magic went out for me, not only from the school, but for the whole concept of awakening. I just stopped wanting to devote myself so singlemindedly to this one aim. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m old, maybe I’m not what was called “school material.” Sure I would like to live in the present, but I would like a lot of other things too. I definitely am not looking for another teacher. What could he or she tell me that is new? What I read here in these postings, and in the latest books, are just different, less practical, and less precise reworkings of the same ideas we worked with in the fourth way. I am the same person I have always been, with the same problems as I’ve always had, and no one else can give me the will to do the work. I guess I don’t seem to have too much of it.

Anyway, I’m no more or less happy than I was in the school, and my life is interesting and full, partially because of all I learned during my time in the Fellowship, and I do not regret one moment I spent there, nor all the wonderful people whom I met.

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