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.

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.

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