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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sandra's story: coming to terms with one's complicity

"SandraC" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 9, 2007:
I want to voice my appreciation for the posts by [bloggers and post numbers:] WhaleRider #262 and Joseph G #360 and #304 Dick Moron (and many others I have not noted) and share my sadness as others have done that you have had such traumatic experiences at so impressionable an age with someone you trusted and believed in. Your courage in coming forth with your stories inspires me.

As I have mentioned, I left FoF in 1992 after 20 years, 10 years of which I played a ‘leadership’ role, and I am JUST NOW actually beginning to come to terms with the personal impact of RB’s [Robert Burton's] sexual behavior.

It has taken this long, I believe, to have the strength to bear it. And these heart-rending stories are helping. As I read them, I feel a heavy sadness and wonderment at the lingering power of ‘the trance’ to protect from unwanted truths.

I have been surprised also by how much has been stirred in me by the humanity coming through this exchange. I have been gripped with an achey grief about it all, something I thought I had thoroughly worked through long ago, but now it goes deeper.

I have been away awhile here, catching up, I want to share with you a few things that have happened in the past two weeks since I first encountered this site.

1) For the first time, I actually felt the kick-in-the-gut wrenching of having been lied to the first ten years. Not that I haven’t known about the lies, not that I haven’t been furious with myself and raged at Robert –in group, in therapy, to myself about so many things, especially in the early days after leaving — not that others here haven’t stated the same things I am about to say with more passion and eloquence, but after the way it has hit me this time, I just want to express my outrage to Robert here for this record:

How dare you lie to us? I believed you, I trusted you, I listened to you, I worked for you, I supported you, I influenced others on your behalf — I represented you to my shame, you, the celibate, heterosexual, loving, conscious being.

How dare you lie to me and other mere children in the name of ‘God’. Why? to have your way, to satisfy your appetites — mostly, I am afraid, to fuel your delusions. I have a 21-year old daughter now, and know how young, how green, how impressionable we are in the early 20′s.

2) With this has also come a wave of intense self-hatred: The voice goes: How could I be so blind, so naive, so susceptible to narcissistic manipulation? How could I waste my life, throw away the most productive years and misuse my talents and gifts? How could I let myself be used for a corrupt, even criminal enterprise, supporting addictive, harmful behavior and helping to keep the whole thing going with my energy, my money and my work, how could I not have noticed what was going on, how could I have unknowingly continued to procure new student victims with a smile on my face (any Portland, Paris, NY students who are still in FoF, it pains me to hear your names mentioned and to realize you are still there), all along imagining myself to be something special, evolved, turning away from whisperings of sexual misconduct, continuing to look only at the ‘work’, and never, never at Robert, allowing myself to be enthralled to the charisma, the thrill of contact and attention from ‘the teacher’.

3) I have also felt more deeply, as reconnections are made here with old familiar names and voices, the extent of the loss involved in having been ex-communicated from people I had known for 20 years of my life, how stifling it has been to a huge part of myself to be involved in a gag-order of the first degree, to have a small army of old friends holding me as ‘fallen, moon food’. The cruelty involved hits me more fully now.

4) Meanwhile, I have recalled some things that have helped me make sense of it all along the way. Things that have helped me to forgive myself and other victims, even to experience compassion for the predator side of RB, to realize I have both predator and victim in myself, and so on.

I pulled out “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman again. While published in 1992, I still find it helpful in understanding how the experience in FoF was an experience of psychological captivity (See Cpt 6 and the chapter on child/domestic abuse, the similarities to closed religious environments are striking. The sections on rape I believe could be helpful to those who were/are involved with him). Peter Levine’s “Waking the Tiger” also may be helpful in understanding and resolving the mental/ neurological/emotional aftermath of long-term FoF membership.

The explanation of symptoms concomitant with complex chronic trauma (denial, numbing/ dissociation,and intrusion of traumatic memory) have helped me understand the state of mind that allowed me and so many others to remain in this scarey environment for as long as we did and still not be able to SEE what are now the most obvious things.

5) I also have found myself asking again: what was my part? Soul-searching, asking, who in me attracted Robert Burton? And as of today here is what I come up with: an innocent, trusting, dependent, child-like part of myself, a powerless someone who is afraid of the big world, insecure in herself, someone who wants to believe somebody out there knows the answers, is powerful and can shelter me.

I don’t recall who said it, (and not that I believe in ‘evil’), but the saying makes a point that I begin to understand: Innocence attracts evil, perhaps needs evil to grow into maturity, into wisdom. The ignorance of naivete seems to me now only a part human state, for which we cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility. Apparently some of us need the RBs of the world to shake us out of this innocence into a fuller humanity. (In no way does this possibility absolve him of his responsibility, of course).

Thank you to [blogger and post number:] Susan K (hello, Susan!) for #192 and your suggestion there for anyone leaving now, and I would say any long-time members, to get help in dealing with the trauma aspects of FoF. The effects do linger.

Bruce [blogger], your postings make me laugh, they contain what I always have enjoyed about you — a blunt certainty, saying it like it is, that seems completely congruent with who you are, special appreciation for #344 [post number].

To whomever is the PAIN BODY proponent, I think that the idea (explicated in “Power of Now”) is one of the most amazingly useful I have ever encountered, so helpful for disempoweing an entire range of habitual, draining emotional states. I LOVE the idea, pure genius, I believe.

Thank you for reading.


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