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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Elena Haven scrutinizes Robert Burton's "model of a conscious being"

[ed. - Elena refers to "alchemy," which in the Fellowship of Friends refers to both an innate sense of refinement (or lack thereof) and an acquired or learned sense of refinement. According to Burton's teaching, there are four levels of alchemy, from coarser to finer: lead, copper, silver, gold. And in Burton's view the emulation of "gold alchemy" is the objective (while remembering yourself, of course.) Early on, under the guidance of Sheila Wallace and others, teaching members (and especially Arkansas-born, butcher's son Burton) "refinement" was more akin to attending "finishing school."]

"Elena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 31, 2007:
Here are some questions for Siddiq, Howard Carter [both "officially sanctioned" Fellowship bloggers] and those still in the Fellowship who would wish to consider such things.

Robert Burton’s main activity is finding sattisfaction [sic] for his sexual identification [in this case, "obsession". His secondary activity is keeping the Fellowship of Friends running so that he can support his first activity, or main identification. Here I would like to explore why students cannot see that for what it is, what sort of mental processes have been instilled in us to accept those facts and pretend that Robert is a conscious being that should not be questioned in any way and on the contrary be supported indefinitely.

One of the reasons students accept this situation without confronting it is the fact that many of us had taken homosexuality as an acceptable condition and Robert’s private life as something one did not have a right to interfere with. A friend once wanted to tell me how wild it was at the galleria and I told him not to do so, that Robert was my teacher and I accepted his privacy or right to his own individuality.

I did this because I was at the same time struggling with so much baggage of my own, including my own homosexuality, that I thought it was human enough to simply accept that we were all struggling towards a more conscious life including Robert.

I know I at least believed in Robert’s consciousness because I highly valued the consistent focusing on presence and working with the system as a whole gave worthwhile understandings and results. Having center meetings when abroad was an interesting confrontation with other students and while a director in Colombia the interchange of experiences in the work was so fruitful that most students haven’t even left. But once in Isis Apollo, the consistent contradictions between what I thought a healthy community should be and what actually happened was so powerful that it finally got me out. What I am interested in looking at is the type of ‘Is’ or indoctrination that held me inside for so long. I know hundreds of students have similar friction with what is happening at Isis today but the knowledge of all the different ‘I’s that continue to support it is not widespread enough.

One of the major influence on students is Girard’s indoctrination which has definitely been picked up over time by the spokesmen of the Fellowship. Many have picked and adapted it to their own weaknesses and necessary justifications.

In Girard’s and now Asaf’s exposition, the main emphasis is set on the idea that Robert is so far beyond any one of us that every word he says is law that cannot be questioned. (What is worth observing is that most of this indoctrination is not even something that is said, it is an attitude that is held. Attitudes, that is where the problems are). This is Indoctrination Number One in the Fellowship of Friends. So here are some questions that may be worth considering:

Is Robert really that different from any one else? Do his good clothes make him a better man than you? Are you attracted to the fact that he made it for himself? That he lives all his lust as everybody else should live it? Is this part of the American Dream?

Does he not seem as identified or worse than you with the way he pursues young men?

With the way he spends money?

With the way he avoids you personally? And yet demands that you look at him in the eyes so that you really think he is telling the truth?

With alchemy itself as almost a fixation to have everything look “beautiful” but more than beautiful, up to the standards of a gay man’s conditioning?

Have you ever thought about what it is like to be in a gay man’s conditioning? What is the difference between Robert or another gay man in terms of his behavior?

(It is not casual that many, many, older gay men with money, have this kind of alchemy, so it is worth paying attention to it and not confusing it for consciousness, for it is not.)

Is there not something to say for the fact that Robert in his alchemy, can have no contact with nature, simple organic nature and this has been justified as the ideal of consciousness by implication so that within Isis we have all accepted to live under this conditioning?

If Robert is so badly conditioned by his own mechanics, was not the idea of consciousness that individuals would free themselves from such mechanicality? At what point did you exchange that understanding for the acceptance that Robert could continue being as subject or subjective as you and still be a man number seven?

Do you really want to be under Robert’s all encompassing rules about everything that happens in the Fellowship for the rest of your life? Is that what you call developing your consciousness? If you answer yes to this question, can I ask, Where are you? Where did you leave your alchemy? Your own inclinations? The way you yourself understood things?

What makes you think that you can give them up to someone else? Were there not four alchemys [sic] in the system and all equal? What made you adapt to somebody else’s alchemy as if it was the synonimous [sic] to consciousness? Do you really think dressing up two or three times a day to exchange from your personality to your fellowship personality is a great deal? Do you really think good clothes will do it for you? And if you don’t then why has your life being reduced to wearing good clothes to events that you cannot actively participate in, only accept somebody else’s thinking and ideas? Do you really feel that good about yourself when you go to these events? What do you like about them? Does it not matter to you that you don’t like so many things about them? What implications do you think it has on your being to give up many things that you like and accept many things that you don’t like.

You could answer, it separates me from the emotional centre and its mechanicality, therefore I can see myself more objectively. Good, then why do you think you have to be subject to Robert’s mechanicality if you are so willing to give up your own. Do you really think his mechanicality is better than yours?

If we look at the theories Robert is talking about, is it not a fact that we’ve seen him making them up as he goes along, changing, adding and removing as it suits him?

Have you ever thought that the worst indoctrination comes from simply not allowing yourself to think about anything but what Robert is saying? endlessly?

That most students feel they are not good students when they don’t do it more? That you’ve become used to accepting your self as a failure because you don’t do the sequence all the time and are not trying to remember yourself all the time? And that it is not a failure but actually the little of you that is left without indoctrination? The little of you that you keep trying to destroy so that you become a good student?

The justifications from the inner circle to swallow these very strange behavior of making things up as he goes along, in this, “last conscious being on the planet”, are: that he is exploring higher consciousness, that he is inviting us to explore with him, that he is not formatory [behaving "mechanically"], that it is very exiting to be a part of such a man’s exploration of his consciousness…

and then when you really press the point that, this is supposed to be the last conscious being on the planet then you get the answer that “Oh, nobody believes that!” and, “suppose he is not the last conscious being on the planet but one of a hundred or even a thousand in six billion people, he is still a conscious being on the planet” So there you stand, you against Girard or Asaf or all the other great inner adepts that like to stand up to these reasoning and you settle for it for years adapting to the subtle indoctrination that just happened to you without your ever thinking that you were being indoctrinated. In fact when I confront Girard with these things, he says, “I have never indoctrinated students” but I was deeply indoctrinated by him and by the other many students of his generation, older and younger, who used him, loved him perhaps, accepted him and his role to pull it all together with this very questionable reasoning, one in which, in the end, one adapts to letting go of the disonance [sic] that initiated it and accepting the dogma at the cost of the development of one’s own self and the gradual development of two personalities to put up with the dissonances. It is not just a game, it is a very dangerous game in case you haven’t realized it yet.

Can you really not see two personalities in the private life Robert leads and his teacher role?

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