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

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.

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