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.")

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. Read more about the blog.

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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fencerider's story

"Fencerider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 27, 2007 at 9:17 p.m.:
To Just Observing [blogger]:

re: #304 Fencerider
I just want to be simple, honest, unpretentious, loving.
Your response:
 Of course nothing in the Fellowship is contrary to those qualities, rather they are always strengthened and not opposed. In fact, it is of course our false personality that is making matters complex, false, difficult for ourself and others.
Let’s explore together for a moment the concept that nothing in the Fellowship is contrary to those qualities. First, I agree that it is possible to be simple, honest and unpretentious in the FOF and that in many ways these traits are supported. I believe that I have made some progress in this area in the last 31 years and I am thankful to all of you for helping me with that.
I think it is a huge stretch to say that “nothing in the Fellowship is contrary to those qualities”.
Robert continually teaches that the members of the FOF have a special fate and that those not in the FOF are of little worth. Yes, he occasionally contradicts this but the overriding message is one of superiority. I heard him say something to that effect just a few weeks ago. I find the attitude of superiority (even if it is true in some minor ways) to be a rather dangerous concept and one that promotes an insidious type of false personality that isolates one from some of life’s most beautiful opportunities. Perhaps this attitude can be avoided but I would offer the observation that many students are to some degree caught in this illusion and the ones in the so-called inner circle are deeply under this spell. This is not an honest attitude.
Also, Roberts “life style” may help to free one from life’s feminine dominance by bringing into question the foundations of our attitudes towards right and wrong, but it also authorizes behaviors and attitudes that are contrary to simplicity, honesty and unpretentiousness. It is my observation that he risks everything that we work for to support his excesses. Would you say he is simple, honest and unpretentious? I personally would have a lot of trouble honestly explaining to my boss (if I had one) the value for the Fellowship of Robert’s true life style. I would have to leave out many details. Not that we would want to talk about these things – but the perceived need to keep this side of our life hidden is less than open and honest. The Fellowship clearly feels a strong need to keep this information protected as evidenced by the warnings from the Council and from the lawyers. This is not open and honest, nor is it simple. The contradictions foster complexity, justifications and dissonance.
There are also rather large financial requirements for being in the FOF and the pressure to participate in events is relentless. It is difficult to avoid feeling some shame when one is unable to do half of what is suggested. For those with families the pressures in multiple directions leads to, if nothing else, a complex, hurried life with a number of contradictions and in general a feeling of inadequacy. You might extol the merits of such a life – I think it has its purpose but that this purpose is time-bound and is destructive if it goes on too long.
I could go on with other examples of how simplicity, honesty and unpretentiousness are NOT supported in the FOF and I am sure others could also and probably do a better job than I have. For me, after so many years, I just want to try on a self image that is free from some of the attitudes of the FOF. I want to see just how simple and honest and unpretentious I can get and see how that affects my ability to be present. I want to feel free to explore sides of my essence that are not supported in the FoF.
I expect, based on my own experiences and the writings here, that there is something to be gained by freeing myself from some unnecessary laws. I also do not want to be saddled with the problems that I think the FoF will encounter at some point, based on its inability to use good judgment in planning for the future. Many that represent the FOF foundation are growing old and the young are not very supportive of them.
Finally I see no attitudes from Fellowship leaders that show a desire to change or any hope that ANYTHING of consequence can change in the FoF. It is all about accepting it as it is and understanding the value of all the silliness. This is not honest.
I want to try to think for myself, somewhat free from FOF dogma. If I find that I cannot find presence, simplicity, unpretentiousness and honesty outside, I guess you would let me back in, but I think we both know deep down that this is unlikely. I already know that I can find presence for myself and it is deepest when it does not come from any prodding or “shoulds” but evolves out of my own desire for that simple, honest state.

Homosexuality as a "feature"

"Living the Questions" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 27, 2007 at 8:39 p.m.:
Some thoughts on Innernaut’s [blogger] post, #290, regarding RB’s apparent inability to accept his own homosexuality:
I think sharing some of ‘my little story’ and my observations on this subject may be illuminating. Let me preface this by saying a couple of things:
1) In my opinion, human sexuality is a very complex subject, and what I am offering is my experience and my opinions only.
2) I see human sexual preferences as far as male-female, male-male, and female-female attractions as a continuum, rather than as an AC-DC type of wiring. The majority of adult folks appear to be heterosexual in orientation, some are in the bi-sexual range, some are completely homosexual, and some go so far as to feel that they are in the wrong body (RB perhaps?), hence they may choose to cross dress or have their gender altered with surgery and hormone treatments. I view it as a sliding scale and we are all somewhere on the continuum. We are where we are partly due to our physical nature and our essence, and partly due to our conditioning and childhood/adolescent experiences.
When I joined the FOF back in 1976, I was in a loving relationship with a woman. We moved together to the West coast to be near the heart of the school and were greeted by a small group of older students from the inner circle, including our center directors, who informed us that we would have to end our relationship since homosexual relationships were not allowed in the FOF. We agreed to the task, as we both felt we had found a ‘real school’. It was a very painful and difficult situation for us both, especially since neither of us understood nor actually felt this exercise made much sense. I decided to go the Renaissance and see if I could speak directly with the teacher since he was offering one- on -one question/answer sessions at the Lodge at this time. I took my place in the line, and eventually got to ask Robert my question: “Why are homosexual relationships banned in the FOF? “ Robert answered in a very soft voice that homosexuality is cosmically wrong wiring and that it is a feature. He told me that homosexuality was my chief feature. I was in shock, as I had never heard of anyone working with homosexuality as a feature and I had been photographed by many older students as having a fear feature. I told him I did not understand and he told me just to work with it and we would speak more about the subject at a future time (we never did speak of it again, however).
I decided to do my best to work with it and so set the aim to make this a great study, both of my own and others sexuality. I began to observe myself and everyone else and it was quite fascinating to sit in concerts, meetings, etc. and just watch peoples’ sex centers manifesting and to observe my attractions, repulsions etc. Meanwhile, my partner and I worked very hard to transform our relationship into a deeper friendship, minus any overt sexuality.
About six months later, I became very attracted to a male FOF student and, when it became clear that the feelings were mutual, we became sexually involved with one another. After a few months, my new lover confided some very disturbing information to me about Robert’s sexual life. He said that Robert had made very strong and overt sexual advances towards him even though he had not actually had sex with Robert. He also told me that Robert was sexually involved with FOF male students fairly regularly. I could clearly see that he was tormented by the contradictions and pressure of his situation. Eventually he introduced me to one of the young men who was involved sexually with Robert; I listened to his story, which was quite disturbing and convoluted, as there was an apparent power struggle going on between Robert and the woman this student was involved with at the time. I was struck with how much integrity this student possessed and how much pain and confusion he was in, as he struggled to understand and take right action. I was stunned once again and could not believe that the Teacher would do this to any of his students, and I could not see how this situation could possibly further a students’ spiritual evolution.
As it turned out, both these young men left the FOF, both deeply wounded and in pain. Oddly enough, I stayed in the FOF, even though it was very painful for me to lose my relationship with this man. All I can say is, at that time I needed the FOF more than I needed to love a genuine human being. I was ‘in love’ with the idea of being in a real Fourth Way School and the FOF was offering me so much that I considered good and higher, that I simply could not deal with the contradictions at this time. So, I ‘put the issue on the back burner. I continued, over the years, to encounter strange stories of goings on with Robert’s sex life, and heard vague rumors of deeply wounded young men. I was invited to the Birell’s home to participate in a discussion on homosexuality, and I hesitantly agreed to attend, as I was curious and felt maybe I could open a few minds. I was shocked that they and others knew of my past sexual experiences, since I spoke of this to almost no one, and I also was angry that I had been conveniently branded as homosexual. It was a very strange meeting, and it was clear to me that everyone there except me regarded homosexuality as a ‘problem’. All of this madness I continued to buffer by saying that I was placing it on the back burner for further verification…yeah, I know, pretty lame! Like Sandra mentioned in post #289, I needed the security, special ness and the certainty offered by the Fourth Way via the FOF to bolster/buffer my weak sense of self and my fear of life, but it would be many, many years before I would be ready to come to grips with this aspect of my relationship to the FOF.
Finally, in the mid 90’s, the Troy and Richard Buzbee revelations lead me into a real, deep personal crisis and questioning of my involvement with the FOF. I entered a long ‘dark night of the soul’. I walked around the FOF property like a visitor from another planet, now seeing things in a new and more sinister light. I realized at a dinner with Robert that he was no longer my teacher and I had not trusted him for many years. As I left the dinner, he put his arm around me and told me that “He loved me”, which was quite bizarre since we had never had much contact during my twenty years in the FOF (I was one of the more low-vis students). I realized I was being manipulated, as my staying in the FOF was politically advantageous for him at this time.
I began reading many other spiritual writings and re-reading the Fourth Way workbooks, this time with a much more focused awareness. I went back to “In Search of the Miraculous” and discovered information that really cleared my mind (pp. 256-259.). This was the key, the missing information that I needed. It was Gurdjieff’s teaching on the nature and right work of the sex center as well as his explanation of what constituted ‘abuse of sex’. G explains that the sex center, like higher emotional and intellectual centers (all working with hydrogen 12), has no negative half. If there is anything negative connected to sex, then it must be wrong work of centers. G states: “ everything connected with sex should be either pleasant or indifferent. Unpleasant feelings and sensations all come from the emotional center or the instinctive center…. You must understand where lies the chief evil and what makes for slavery. It is not in sex itself but in the abuse of sex”… Abuse of sex means “the wrong work of centers in relation to sex, that is, the functioning of the sex center with energy borrowed from other centers and the functioning of other centers with energy borrowed from the sex center.”
I got it! This giant pain body that was accruing among so many young men around their sexual relationship with Robert was, by definition, “Abuse of sex”.
There can be nothing higher or ascending in this situation. It is cosmically wrong, not because of the homosexuality, which is actually quite cosmically neutral, but because of the ‘pain being inflicted and experienced’.
From this point forward, I was free to leave, and I did leave shortly thereafter. Thank Heaven. I now see Robert as being a pathological narcissist and one who has deep shame about his sexuality. I do not hold out much hope for his reformation, but I pray that the abuse will end one day soon, and the healing will begin in earnest.

"Living the Questions" added the following comments:
Regarding my last post, I would like to add a couple of clarifications. One, I am a woman, which is not entirely clear. Secondly, I have been happily married for over twenty-five years to a man I met in the Fellowship, and we have one lovely daughter, who is now an adult. He is and has always been aware of my sexual orientation and my ‘play’ in the FOF; he is totally supportive. I think this added information creates a clearer perspective to my post.
I also want to add that shame is one of the most debilitating of negative emotions if it is not acknowledged, processed and let go, and shame can cause terrible consequences such as severe depression and even suicide (adolescent homosexuals have one of the highest suicide rates). I would love to hear from some of the gay, lesbian and bi-sexual current students and former FOF’ers as far as what they have experienced and learned on this subject. The fact that none seem to have posted thus far may be indicative of the shame that is still so prevalent in our culture. It takes a lot of guts and inner work to go against Mother Culture and become who you really are without guilt or shame.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Charles R.'s Story

Charles R.'s Story posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Again I want to thank the Sheik for his efforts and this very useful blog for all of us members and former members of the FOF.

I am in awe of many of the posts that have been created. Ames G. is very insightful and profound, in my opinion, and I really didn’t know he had so much to share before this. Sandra C. brings a depth of emotion that is always pretty amazing, and now, additionally she brings a broad understanding of psychological issues that are very pertinent to what we are all facing. Joel I have known since 1973 and I always appreciate what he has to say. I could go on and on but maybe more of that in later posts. Hi Bruce, Cathie, Don Juan, Mark H. Dick Moron, Mifis, Inner Jewels, Wake up little Susie, and all of my anonymous friends. I’m happy you’re here and I’m happy to be here, too.

Mark H. and later Chimes have asked to hear about how some of us experienced the period of time between when we first became aware of Robert’s “little secret” and finally leaving. It’s an interesting question and probably one that I should process through therapy, but I’ll give it a try as I am.

I found out about the fact that Robert was having sex with men in the Fellowship on January 13, 1982. Carl M., the FOF lawyer, and I were talking that day about a former student who was reported to have accosted some students in Marysville and said to them that Robert was a homosexual and was seducing young men in the school to have sex with him. We both, believing that this was a lie, and a continuation of the false rumors that many former students seemed to like to spread (this wasn’t the first we had heard about it, but we thought it was just more “false personality” trying to undermine the “school”) decided to report it to Miles. At this time I was the Treasurer and CFO of the Fellowship, Chairman of the Board, and met with and saw Miles every day. Before we met with Miles, Carl spoke to another student, who was also a lawyer, and said we were considering a libel and defamation suit against the former student for spreading lies. The lawyer student told Carl, “Well, truth is an absolute defense against libel.” Carl was incredulous and asked, “What do you mean?” whereupon he was told that we better talk to Miles about it.

For reference, Robert, at this time, and for many years, had been telling students that he was celibate and that he had given up sex for his students. I took that to be a rock solid fact along the lines of “Robert said it, I believe it, and that settles it!” (Howard Carter had nothing on me!) Carl M. was likewise convinced. Many people here have expressed how they were fully dedicated to the Fellowship, and I can see they were. I was, too, as much as I could possibly muster. At this point I had been in the FOF for almost 9 years. I had served in many centers, been a director, made teaching payments, gone on salary and been selected for a key position in the school. I was very happy with my life at this point. In 1979 after the death of my mother I had refused to go to her funeral (at the great consternation of my loving family, may they be blessed for not hating me, but instead, for lovingly accepting me back when I had finally escaped the FOF) because my brother, who was a former member would be attending. I was proud internally to be able to “hold my work” in such a trying circumstance.

We went to Miles’s caravan that evening before going to dinner at the Lodge. He and his wife Susan invited us in and we were served a good cabernet, as I recall (in my mind I’m there as I type this). We recounted the day’s story and asked him what he knew. He said the allegations were true, that Robert had had affairs with a number of young men, and that he, Miles had been working for some time with talking to the young men when they needed counseling. Miles and Susan seemed relieved to be able to talk openly with Carl and me after we brought the subject up. We had all been working together for months or years, with them knowing and Carl and me not knowing, but it took our asking to finally have the subject broached.

I was personally stunned. I just couldn’t believe it. Carl and I went up to the Lincoln Lodge for dinner. At that time there was a practice of having Margaritas with dinner. I had several. The dinner happened and people talked, but I was in my head. I somehow drove home to the trailer park on Rice’s Texas Hill where I had recently moved into a room in a mobile home.

In the morning I awoke with a strong hangover and called into the Ouspensky office to say I wasn’t coming in. Carl M. lived across the driveway in his own mobile home and I went over to talk with him. I said to him that I guess it’s all over and the whole thing has been a lie. He didn’t agree. He thought we should think about it. We began rationalizing how such a thing could possibly be. I remember that he had a little music box toy that had a clown on pins that danced to the tune of “Here Come the Clowns”. We were still inebriated from the night before and we were laughing sadly while watching the clown dance. “What the hell is going on?”

Then, somehow, the day passed. And then more days.

I came to realize that there was a secret “inner circle” of people who already knew about Robert. Some had known for years. They wouldn’t tell anyone, but, if you let them know that you knew, then they would talk about it openly. I told my closest friends about it, if they didn’t know. Soon there was a larger circle of people I could talk to about it. I went to many people and talked with them – I told them I didn’t like what I’d found out, that I didn’t understand it, and that Robert had been lying to us. Almost everyone I talked with said that they didn’t understand it either, but that they valued the school and what Robert was giving us, and that “in time we would know more.” In a way we all talked each other into believing that we couldn’t understand the obvious, that there “must be” a higher understanding that we would come to later, in our work.

I developed a kind of neurosis, whereby my “work personality” redoubled efforts to be a better and better student, while my “old personality” took on the role of provocateur by seeing and voicing the rational flaws in the Fellowship. I sought out students who were willing to question the school, but only to a point. When people actually would leave, I pulled back. Like poor Hamlet, I kept trying to find the perfect proof before I could pull the trigger.

Looking at it now I would compare it to those science fiction films where the all-powerful computer or robot is disabled by tricking it into processing an unsolvable puzzle. I was trying to understand a corrupt situation using the tools provided by the corrupt situation.

This went on for many years, through numerous twists and turns -the IRS audit of the Fellowship, the Sanders case, Miles leaving, etc. etc.

I would say the turning point for me was in the early 90’s when I read all the Meher Baba books. I found a system of ideas that were even more complete than the Gurdjieff one (not that I’m following that system – just that it is a beautiful exposition. I didn’t “interpret” it through Fellowship concepts, I saw its completeness unto itself.). Somehow that freed my mind to see that the Fellowship was not the pinnacle of anything, but just another system – and not a good one, as you can see by reading this blog. Also, more of my friends were starting to question and some to leave. I finally knew it was time to go. What a relief!

From that point it was just a matter of arranging my life to make it happen, which took another year.

I don’t know if these ramblings are of much use, but that was my experience, for what it’s worth. I hope it helps someone who’s trying to solve the puzzle – just remember that you can’t solve it by using the FOF concepts. You have to step away and look back to see the truth.

Love to you all,

Charles R.
[ed. - Also see the Charles Randall Letter to Robert.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Comfortably numb in the best of times

"butterfly" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 22, 2007:
Hello, my name is butterfly and I am a FOF member.

Many of my years in the school were very rewarding. Some of the most memorable experiences were with other students, some of whom I found to be amazing people. The Sunday morning meetings at Apollo D’Oro, held outside when the winter passed, were some of the best moments.Listening to Jonathan Parks describe the last movie he had seen and draw parallels with some work idea and to Harry Chrisakis who always said something wise and worthwhile. The blue sky, the birds, sitting under the trees. It was springtime for Robert and FoFland.

There was and are a lot of intelligent people and some could speak eloquently, delivering great points. At the Wednesday night meetings there would always be some good angles. I remember Peter Ingle tell us how his hangers in his closet were all ’facing’ the same way, but he could also say things that made great sense.
Then onto Apollo D’Oro. And dinner too. And then home.

These were the times I could best be at peace and self remember. But things changed, for reasons I came to accept, as I accepted many other things.I did not like change but I understood it was good for my development.

There used to be an on-line FOF list/discussion that helped, amongst other things, students in outlaying centres stay connected. It was closed down after a student told Robert of a perceived slight. The freedom to discuss together publicly, were taken away.

This blog gives us that freedom again. Freedom to see what I accepted in the past, from a different perspective. Perhaps Robert did not take away the meetings for my own best development, but just for more money. This blog is giving me the freedom to see how I was comfortably numb.

I am awakening in other ways. Some students are still ignoring Roberts behaviour arguing that it does not affect them personally, and that they can still get the benefits of the system. Self Remembering at any cost.
We believe in 9 lifetimes but make no mention of Karma. Are we not damning the very souls we are trying to make eternal. Conscience is ignored, its Christian feminine dominance. But is not Christ one of the 44, Buddha too? Is everything they said to be ignored.

I can see us now as a school of selfishness, emulating our teacher.

Honour seems like an old fashioned word, but with memories and no honour, how will we be judged?

The Fellowship of Friends Discussion's "game aspect"

[ed. - The names used would suggest this post is from Martin Courbet of the Fellowship's London center, however the Sheik implies someone is simply playing games here. The Fellowship Discussion blog has indeed seen its share of impostors and false flag attacks. This may be such a case.]

"HigherM" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 22, 2007:
Dear Sheik,

I suspect that you are only publishing 1% of the letters that you receive in praise of the FoF. I hope that you will at least begin to re-balance your blog by publishing this.


As an advanced member of the FoF i must redress the balance that the weaker people who use your site have created.

The problem with so MANY small thinkers who write to you is that quite simply, they do NOT understand the FACT that Robert IS AN ANGEL and therefore far removed from the silly ideas of ‘good’/’bad”right’/’wrong’ ‘truth’/’lie.’

Robert simply can do no wrong. It was many years ago that Robert ‘opened’ me, both physically and spiritually. YES, he has enabled me to build my soul and truly appreciate how dead are the poor lost souls around me. How the rest of the world outside The Fellowship is a nightmare full of dreaming people living in their imagination.

If Robert called me to turn myself inside out and follow him into the fiery furnace I would gladly follow, knowing that he could save me.

SO MUCH complaining about sexual encounters! I was happy to share my body with Robert. Fourteen years ago he gave me his higher love, causing me to awaken with his beautiful conscious energy, just as I now share myself with the many women who are grateful for my spiritual fluid, my divine energy to help them awaken, divinity created by Roberts own divine energy still inside me. His golden fuel for eternity inside my soul.

Robert guides us to live with delightful presence. How can all those life people complain? They know NOTHING!

YES Robert shows us sexual and other excess but, ‘THE ROAD OF EXCESS LEADS TO THE PALACE OF WISDOM!’ An angel CANNOT spread disease.

Every day as I cycle to work, in and out of the zombies, past all those dead faces and eyes living in their imagination, 99.9% of the population just bags of bones that jostle around this ant hill of London, soulless people as in all the other cities around the globe, I give thanks! I sing a hymn of light for the Crouch End Teaching House and all the other Teaching Houses that ROBERT has founded around the globe.

Praise the Gods! Thank God for Robert!

If you care enough to repent your negativity, then email me and i will reply, once only, to help you back onto the true path, the path that leads to salvation of the soul, away from the bag of bones that is you! You have your chance, be strong!

"the Esoteric Sheik of Inner Confusion" [blog moderator] wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 22, 2007:

One thing that we haven’t touched upon yet is the game aspect of this discussion.

HigherM (92) and NudaVeritas (106) come from the keyboard of the same author, yet the voices tell a different story.

We can have a normal, sane discussion for a week, then all in one day come new (slightly surreal) voices of LoL, Robert and the above-mentioned. Strange.

First one to develop a Dissociative identity disorder (split personality) is the winner.

"the Esoteric Sheik of Inner Confusion" [blog moderator] wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 23, 2007:
I fully appreciate that there may be more people using the same computer, yet, when two new voices enter the scene at the same day (coming from the same IP address), I become suspicious. Don’t worry, such comments will not be deleted.

I think that it is painfully obvious that some of the people writing here are taking the piss, or using other people’s names, or adopting fake personas with the aim of creating a negative image for the other side. While I do all I can to keep this minimal, a lot of it still gets through. So I am sorry to all those of you whose names have been used by other people, without your consent, against your wishes. I will try to battle this (and if you make me aware of any such behaviour, I will make other readers aware of it). BTW, HigherM is another one of those jokers (he isn’t who he is implying he is).

On the one hand, it’s a real bitch to those whose names get dragged around here (a lot of us are very glad for our anonymity, me included), on the other hand it creates a lot of fun (and detective work), trying to figure out who’s real and who’s not (eg. John, or Howard Carter). I guess that you will have to start having some fun, and take it all a bit less seriously. I will do my upmost [sic] to keep the discussion name-free, stress-free, and anonymous. I won’t always get it right. BTW, HigherM is another one of those jokers.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A cult is a cult is a cult

Joe Average wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
I am forwarding an old letter from an ex-student, as valid now as then. Be warned – I have trimmed it a bit where you see …, but it is still long.
Dear Friends,
Of late, my friends and I have been labelled “dissidents”, and worse, by FOF’s leadership. While reading this letter it would be helpful if you could simply consider me an old friend.
… Please permit yourself the clear space to receive these thoughts and feelings in order to work with them as completely as possible. Given the current situation, I understand that this will not be easy for you. It certainly has been a disturbing process for me as well. However, I have been overwhelmed by the weight of my observations and feel duty bound to share them with you.
This letter is not intended to serve as the last word on REB [Robert Earl Burton] or the FOF. Nor is it written to prove or establish a particular point of view. Instead, I hope that it will create a balance to the information you have received from FOF, and act as a springboard from which you may begin a long overdue reappraisal of your own feelings and presumptions. Many of you are mired in a way of life which, for myself and many other ex-members, was neither happy nor enlightening, but instead offered little more than tedium, suppression, exclusivity and debilitating dependency.
Of late, FOF has required all of you to believe that certain ex-members, as “dissidents”, are “bad” simply because criticism of REB and FOF is not now and never has been permitted. These people have been described as “vindictive”, “crazy”, or “liars” … Apparently it is unthinkable to FOF that anyone could sincerely believe (or know) that the allegations directed at REB are true. But given a history of intense involvement with REB, do you really believe that ex-members would turn around and speak this way unless they really felt that something was wrong? From FOF’s narrow point of view, one would have to be fallen, dark, and just plain wrong to criticize their “guru”. I implore you to remain open to the possibility that your old friends are none of the above.
The author of this letter has over the past year spoken with approximately 40 ex-members who have uniquely personal and varied perceptions of REB and FOF. Among these people are a number of former high-ranking FOF officials and board of directors members, as well as personal and sexual intimates of REB. …
They are all united in the belief that accurate information, dialogue, real consideration and anything remotely like discrimination have never been offered or encouraged by REB or FOF. Therefore, they would like to see a free, full, and honest discussion occur. Such a discussion would benefit everyone, except for those who desire only the maintenance of their status and claim. Everyone, especially the “rank and file” FOF membership, must be set free in order to find their own true way through this controversy.
It is obvious however that as long as ex-member “dissidents” are seen as negative, dark, angry, unspiritual “others”–and “you” in FOF remain the righteous, holy lovers of god, unjustly criticized, god’s army fighting off the heathen masses and demonic media–as long as this contrived dichotomy persists there can be no clarity. …Do not permit the FOF leadership to call you to a false, childish, and simplistic understanding of this controversy. It is a complex, personal and deeply emotional matter that cannot be resolved or dismissed through name-calling and character assassination. … This matter cannot be reduced to a battle between good and evil…
Instead of encouraging an open discussion, FOF has used the same tactics that any political organization would use. They have created a “cause” for you to rally around and feel emotionally committed to and identified with, so that you won’t stare the accusations against REB straight in the eye. They would rather hook you into a fight to protect “the right to freely practice religion”, a right which they claim ex-members have tried to deprive you of. But in what way has anyone actually done this?
Let’s take a little closer look at the constitutional protections afforded to “religions” such as the FOF. The right to believe whatever you want is protected absolutely. However, the right to do whatever you want is not afforded the same absolute protection at all. Many of the things which REB has been accused of do not fall into the category of actions which are protected. Additionally, is it not reasonable as a common citizen to ask why people who have been involved in illegal activities should be granted the privilege of tax-exempt religious status, as claimed by FOF? And if, in fact, abuses of people have occurred (through actions which are commonly recognized as abuses in our society) shouldn’t the victims have a right to address them in all the forums available? How then does this amount to an attack on religious freedom?
…The difficulty for many of you is that it has been so long since you entered into an examination other than one created for you by REB and FOF that to do so on your own and to examine “the authorities themselves” is a very difficult task indeed. And yet it must be done if there is to be any clarity or passage through this controversy.
All I ask then is that this process of unfettered examination be permitted and actually encouraged by FOF. Ask yourself how it is that you are now “advocates”, burdened by belief and fixed presumptions. Why hasn’t REB and FOF welcomed and seen the necessity for an open airing of issues? Why have you all been programmed and “educated” by the FOF propagandists on their way to whitewashing the so-called “FOF sacred history”? How does spiritual practice properly lead to all this manipulation and defense? Who and what is requiring that you become politicized rather than clear? And how well do you really understand that which you are being called upon to defend?
I invite you to regain the discrimination and inquisitiveness many of you have unconsciously chosen to relinquish in order to associate with REB and the myth he has drawn you into (both as to who he is and the necessity of turning to him for your liberation). If we assume for the moment that REB began his “teaching work” by speaking to our desire for liberation, apart from excess dogmatic baggage and entanglements, it is evident that he has now “moved on” and is at work merely cultivating in his students a yearning for salvation in a system where only he can do the saving.
… And if we accept that REB’s writings carry a credible message, they do so only insofar as they release the reader into his or her own inherent sense of “being” and “truth”, free of the game of “the search”. It appears impossible for this to occur in the midst of all the medieval, dogmatic, exclusive, ritualized form beneath which direct, unmediated truth has been buried by REB and FOF. After all these years, where is the real evidence that any type of “spiritual process” is uniquely occurring within your community? People are just growing older. The greatness of god has been subordinated to the glory, of REB and his hierarchical empire. Needing to be nurtured and fathered, and being naive as to true spiritual culture and to the game of spiritual authority, most of us never even noticed the light go out.
This is a large part of what ex-members are trying to address. You are part of a highly ambitious and politicized “machine of seeking” where you no longer own your own perceptions. Ideological dogma coupled with the edited information of the group dominates and molds your life. You are required to adapt to a complex, sophisticated technology of mind and emotion, through which you understand yourself and upon which you view the world; it is a hierarchical scheme with REB as the head, reigning above and beyond the world of man, as external savior or father. We have all been too much in need of an external mediator to serve the participation in and awareness of our own true condition. We must grow beyond the childish and incapacitating dependency bonds which are everywhere propagated by REB and FOF.
In many ex-members’ experience, the first doubts and questions about their lives as devotees centered around the observations they had regarding the “community” and “institution” of FOF. But they found it much harder to take the obvious next step and look directly at REB, the source and creator of every aspect of the “culture”, institutional structure, and spiritual life of those in FOF. These ex-members, like many of you, dared not break the great taboo of seriously questioning or doubting REB; either their comparative lack of in-depth or prolonged personal experience with him or their incapacity to break through the indoctrination prevented them from seeing him clearly. But finally, in the face of what is now obvious, their relationship to the mythology and imagery which is REB has broken down. These people have “discovered” the man Bubbles Burton, and now know that “the emperor wears no clothes.”
At this point it would be good to examine the specific activities of REB that many people are concerned about. Some of the information recently brought to light will be recounted here for those who are unfamiliar with what has been said, or for those who have been confused and distracted by FOF…
To begin with, REB has historically had control over the finances, properties, and other assets of FOF as if he personally and solely “owned” FOF, in stark contrast to the purposes and laws governing non-profit religious organizations. He has personally made all key decisions and has gratified his every whim, caring not for the financial strains he has placed on others. There are serious questions regarding whether REB has over the years abused the tax-exempt status of the FOF corporation for his own personal gain. Perhaps this is why FOF officials in the past few years have strategically destroyed documents that tended to reveal that REB was actually “running the show.”
REB has always demanded that people “go beyond themselves” to give him more money than they could afford, and then has spent the money on whatever he wanted to create or consume in that moment. Like a child, he has demanded the immediate gratification of his material desires, and then has often abandoned what he has been given in search of a new and more expensive “toy”. … In private, REB has laughed at those who have shown any concern about his financial exploitation of others. This is purportedly an example of the fact that REB is “free of conventional morality.”
…REB has participated in and required others to perform in sexual and related acts of a highly degrading and demeaning nature which have caused psychological and/or physical damage to those participating. FOF has recently admitted to examples of these types of activity, which many people believe are a reflection of the perversion of REB, rather than anything like enlightened “spiritual instruction.” … These sexual excesses of REB are not a thing of the distant past….. And it is the firm belief of many people that the inordinate amount of time and attention REB spends on sexuality reflects nothing more than his own obsession and desires.
The vast discrepancy between what REB claims and says, versus what he does and intends must be thoroughly examined and understood before one can make an informed response to the man. What should be clear to everyone is that no one in FOF is given the opportunity to “cast the light” directly on REB. Why is he so estranged and hidden from you, really? Apart from your child-like fantasies and subtle beliefs about “who he is” and “how he works”, how much and how privately have you observed him and then tested your observations? The fact is, apart from what you have read and are told, intermixed with a variety of contacts with REB years ago, most of you know very little about your teacher. You have therefore been called to relate to only the most superficial imagery about who REB is, and at the same time you have become steeped in an officially prescribed method for relating to him which permits only subservience and fawning devotion. And those of you who have been close to him should ask yourselves to what degree you own hopes, needs, and self-generated projections and expectations, coupled with the mythology about how REB’s “unconventional behavior” has been designed to teach you, has colored your perceptions of him. Ex-members know from their own experience that many of you are paying a heavy price in terms of emotional suppression, confusion, and self-delusion in order to maintain the false conclusion that you have actually been served by this “crazy-wise” madness.
Another disturbing matter regarding REB is the ritual of secrecy and deception surrounding him. Some of the things described about REB’s life would not in themselves be worthy of any real concern if they did not stand in complete contradiction to an idealized image which has been used to exploit the people who have supported the whole affair. … It was on the basis of this lie that so many accepted the notion that his past behavior was in fact a “teaching demonstration”, and went on to give their lives, minds, hearts, and money to this man. However, upon discovering this deception, many were understandably outraged. …
You may ask yourself why those who know all of these secrets have always withheld them from you. But we already know the answer. How glamorous to be associated with the ultimate matter and the ultimate master! But what a conceit and what a foundation for the pursuit of power. Through the screening mechanisms of the so-called “culture”, only the few “mature” or “committed” members are given access to REB based upon a paranoid and patriarchal mentality of obedience. The demonstrated signs of your “maturity” (i.e. submission and obedience) gauge the level of your “status” and regulated, controlled access to events, places and people on the political (not spiritual but political) pecking order… REB’s behavior is a reflection of his own character and motivations, just like everyone else’s, and he should rightfully take responsibility for the problems his shortcomings have created in his own life and the lives of others. He is anything but free of ego. He has his own strengths and weaknesses. Yet through the process of indoctrination and manipulation, coupled with the weaknesses of those around him, he has been successful at keeping himself invulnerable and unquestioned. In so doing, he has become afflicted in all the ways that any man would be corrupted and deluded by excessive power and isolation from critical feedback. He has also thus imprisoned himself within the expectations he created in others and the torment of pretending to be something he is not. …
…Nor is it any longer accepted that “the world” is a terrible place full of terrible people, and that spiritual life ends when one leaves FOF. People now know better than to become ensnared in the tentacles of this argument. And where there was only “one” worthy of love and respect, all others became unworthy and worthless. This is what happened in FOF, for as we were all divested of our own selfworth and simultaneously invested in REB, we were rendered nothing rather than “no-thing.” Can you feel this?
We have all (current and ex-members), along with REB, cooperated in constructing this insane empire. It is a classic and perverted play on what might have been. And it is nothing like what most of us signed up for or thought we were choosing. But so long as you are exposed to the “system” which life in FOF represents, there is no space within which to understand this and be set free.
…those who serve critical functions in your “culture” adapt to a profoundly dependent form of relating to REB and a resulting righteous, exclusive, self-glorifying, self-protective and politically charged “life of service.” You are all aware of the institutional mentality of those who lead you at FOF. They are part of a machine and priesthood of aberrated spiritual seeking and corruption, an exclusive club, reigning in association with the “enlightened” source or “goodie” who is offered as a reward to those giving over their center, discrimination, and direct unmediated ability to live the truth of their own condition. In this process many of you have lost yourselves, your power and your way. And for REB to hide behind a claim of “blamelessness and divinity” while placing all the blame on the immaturity of his devotees, those very people who depend on him for their spiritual guidance, is not only irresponsible and cowardly, but the perfect vision of a perfectly narcissistic megalomaniac. Surely there was a time before you came to FOF where you could have simply recognized this to be so.
But can you now? It is so hard from where you are. I know, for it has taken many people years, even after leaving FOF, to wake up from the sleep which had settled into every corner of their mind’s eye. Although discrimination is spoken about in the teaching, it is nowhere present in the lives of devotees. Many of you have, through non-use, lost your own personal, instinctual feeling for life, having been conditioned to believe that it represents recoil from the divine. You have become good at obeying without reflection. Your blank agreement is applauded as “equanimity” and the transcendence of reactivity.
Those who are in the FOF hierarchy have the most to lose. And they are among the most corrupt and in need of help. These people are relieved of the ordinary responsibilities of life and live instead a bizarre fantasy life. To do the bidding of their teacher they have become proficient at selectively withholding and releasing edited information, and have made the poor choice of abandoning their native sense of human decency in exchange for power and prestige.
Many of these same people are the most seriously ambitious in their “search.” It is as if they have not yet adapted to the rudiments of the practice as it relates to the “search” and yet are influential simply because they are “submitted.” Having made such a heavy investment of time and energy in gaining their status and position, they are now banking on their “personal” relationship with REB to save them. In this way there is a tremendous amount of manipulation around the poles of hope and fear. You spin and turn but rarely find a seat from which to observe the play. … The shocking news that thousands of people see this “master” of yours as a tyrannical and deluded power broker never quite reaches your ears or cannot penetrate your rehearsed belief.
When finally pressed up against this blunt observation from “the world” outside, you hold up “the teaching” like a crucifix to stave off the heathen hordes. You retreat into the “certainty” that nothing like “the teaching” could ever have been written by a charlatan. But many believe that REB’s, or anyone else’s ability to artfully synthesize, categorize, and recapitulate ideas and insights does not bear any necessary relation to spiritual realization and maturity. Aside from his particular style of presentation and arrangement of things, there is nothing uniquely described in REB’s literature that does not appear elsewhere. … he has borrowed from or been heavily influenced by numerous others to whom he has given no credit at all. The fact that he has been able to articulate the free and transcendent relationship to life that we all instinctively feel in moments, coupled with the fact that he writes and speaks about many things which are beyond the realm of your personal experience, is offered as “proof” that he is spiritually superior to you.
Many of you have apparently forgotten the simple truth that actions speak louder than words, and that insights which are not practiced are meaningless, if not dangerous. Your distraction with a complexity of abstractions and a sophisticated, “pre-packaged” context within which to interpret everything has left you “incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.” “By their fruits shall ye know them”, said one spiritual teacher nearly 2,000 years ago. And it is on this basis that each one of us must draw our own conclusions regarding the spiritual status of Robert Burton.
I am so glad to no longer be where many of you are, and I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you why. In many respects it would have been far easier to write this entire matter off as just another set of experiences. But I have felt too much passion and serious caring to have made that choice.
Should any of you meander out beyond the fences and psychological barriers of FOF, you will find that there is “unavoidably” only god outside your temple walls. Your spiritual life may change in form, but it will continue. And there are many people who have been through what you have experienced and can thus offer help. Many have needed and received support in order to make the critical transition back to a measure of self-respectability.
…It would have been preferable for all of you to have done the work of provoking this discussion. But I understand why this could not be so and trust that you will soon recognize the benefits which will ultimately come from what has been started. If in the end there is a bit more openness and honesty in FOF, a degree of self-critical inspection, or a drop less arrogance and exclusivity on the part of Robert Burton, we will have all been served…
Mark D. Miller Sausalito, California USA

Now, before you dig too deep in your memories trying to remember that name, I should let you know that I needed to make a few small changes to the letter. Do the following substitutions, and you have the original letter:
Bubbles Burton = Franklin Jones
Robert Burton = Da Free John
FOF = JDC (Johannine Daist Communion)
The idea is obvious, hopefully. Just change the names and the rest of the text, despite its length, complexity and level of detail, is a near perfect fit – word for word, point for point. Would Margaret Singer just smile and nod knowingly at this point Joel?
Nothing unique in REB’s approach, nor in its results in his students.

Kosta Dmitriev's Story

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Officers visit Fellowship compound

Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Officers, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, visit Apollo compound of Fellowship of Friends in Oregon House to investigate reports of religious R-1 Visas serving the purpose of sexual exploitation.

[See: Report of Site Visit to Fellowship of Friends Compound by Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Department of Homeland Security, on April 13, 2007 (June 6, 2007) on Internet Archive.]

Comrade, on predictions

"Comrade" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 13, 2007:
Hello everyone,

None of this is breaking news, but I felt someone had to say it.

Today, April 12, 2007, is the 9th Anniversary of an interesting date in the history of the Fellowship: Robert Burton predicted a cataclysmic earthquake would occur on April 12, 1998. He said California would fall into the Pacific Ocean.

Because of this predicted cataclysm, RB stated that Renaissance (Apollo, Isis), which is located approximately 1,500 feet above sea level, would become near ocean-front property. He began making these statements approximately 20 years earlier, and the prediction became an integral part of his idea that the Fellowship would become an “ark” — a safe haven for esoteric knowledge, the sciences, and fine art. A new civilization would spring up from the ashes. RB said the “fall of California” would be a precursor to a much larger event that would have occurred about five months ago on November 11, 2006 — a nuclear war that would destroy civilization.

The date of November 11th, 2006 was such a central part of RB’s comments for so many years, it would have been hard to imagine that the date would pass with barely any mention. But the date has passed, and the predictions are a distant memory.

However, I think it’s very difficult for outside observers to really understand what’s occurring in the Fellowship without emphasizing the significance of these predictions. In 1984, there would be a stock market crash that would lead to a depression. In 1987, there would be a war in the Middle East that would get us out of the depression. In 1998, California would fall. In 2006, nuclear war. The ark, in the meantime, would be built year-by-year in preparation for these big events. The ark would be self-sustaining, and a new civilization would begin where the small town of Oregon House, Calif., now rests.

People have had very different experiences with these predictions. Some may have rolled their eyes. Some may have tolerated it, but really didn’t care. Or maybe they tried not to think of it. When the stock market didn’t crash in 1984 as predicted, RB said that his teaching was always about self-remembering, and that his teaching was still about self-remembering even after the failed prediction. On occasion, he even joked about his poor track record as a prophet.

But his teaching WAS very much about the predictions. For many, many years, it was part of the dogma. Despite the failed prediction in 1984, RB never backed down from his prediction of the fall of California, and for nuclear war in 2006. Many of his comments for several years were focused on these predicted events, and how the Fellowship needed to prepare for it, and how these events were related to the Fellowship’s connection to Higher Forces. Not only was he predicting these events, but these events were to occur to fulfill the destiny of the Fellowship.

As 1998 drew closer, a considerable amount of pressure was placed on members to move away from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, and to start new lives at Apollo. Some resisted and left the Fellowship. Others did not leave but still resisted the idea. Many members quit their jobs along the coastal cities and began new businesses from home offices in Oregon House. Some of them joined the Fellowship or RVW payroll, while some retired prematurely from their careers and simply waited for the event to occur. When it didn’t occur, many people were able to find a new life in Oregon House, while others suffered serious financial consequences. Overall, the prediction contributed to a population increase in the area, and the number of local members grew to over 700.

There’s much more to tell, but that’s the basic history of these predictions as I recall it.

Now for some editorial commentary:

It’s hard for most of us to deny the possibility of nuclear war — it could happen. When or if it will happen, we don’t know. We hope not. We hope there is a growing global consciousness that many of us have been speaking of, and that we can contribute to that in our own ways, and that a catastrophic war with the unimaginable suffering that would accompany it could be avoided. Even then, we know the power of Nature, and the power of the Earth. So we know that cataclysmic earthquakes are not out of the question either — although most geologists would doubt the likelihood of anything on the scale that RB predicted.

I never rolled my eyes, though. I for one, always believed that RB’s predictions were possible, and the anticipation of such events produced an odd sort of presence at times. It reminded me of the precious little time that I have, and the precious little time that I have with the ones I love.

I have always sensed that RB believed what he was predicting. On the other hand, I can’t deny that such predictions are the stuff that cults are made of. It’s typical: see the infamous YouTube videos in earlier posts.
When RB said his teaching was always about self-remembering I took that to heart. I truly believed that, and part of me still does.

But many of us are afraid that another possibility is post 6/112 by Don Juan.

Could both be true? Is the Fellowship suffering from a type of “double crystallization”? On the one hand, we have a beautiful and perfect teaching that has given us so much. On the other hand, we have failed prophecies and destructive cult behavior. Cognitive dissonance indeed.