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

Fellowship meetings "evolve"

[ed. - It is a long road since the first informal Fellowship meetings in a coffee shop, or someone's kitchen. The changes may have been precipitated by "The Trouble in St. Petersburg" in 2001. Here, "No Person" describes the present form of "the teaching".]

"No Person" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 9, 2007:
Dear Ames and others who left a while ago,

Yes the meetings have changed very strongly since you left. They change to the worst. Slowly, the life was choked out of them.

First (about 2 years ago or so) in the centers we were given paper quotes to read at meetings, to mix in with personal angles. Some quotes were beautiful sayings from prominent beings. Soon quotes started to have “Robert’s comment” added, often unnecessary, bizarre and kind of made fit… Then images from various sources were added, also with “Robert’s comments” and often some Photoshop editing, also to make them fit his point. Personal angles were reduced to almost nothing – questions and personal observations were not encouraged. (to prevent law of accident, I guess, or – independent thinking). In some centers personal angles were completely banned for a while (in Russia, for example). The meetings become lifeless and uninspiring.

Then we were asked to maintain a steady eye contact with the speaker. Those who didn’t or forgot to do so were “photographed”. The reason for staring – to promote presence, of course. So the meetings turned into very rigid quote-interpretations readings with staring in each other eyes and passing the weird images around… It became very heavy and serious – no more laughing at meetings, no jokes, no “personal anecdotes” (observations, that is). It became really, really bad. No, it honestly did not promote presence, or any thinking, any exchange of thought – it was really sleep inducing, and very difficult to bear. It used to make one rather upset and frustrated more than anything else. Often students would confess, that this was a painful part to endure, but at least it was relatively quick and after the meeting you can have a glass of wine, relax and chat with a friend. But our “believers” really thought this was the best meeting format we ever had – totally controlled, serious, no fun allowed.. “We never had it so good!” Right, guys? ;)

Lots and lots of students all over the world were unhappy with a “new form” and were complaining about it.
Soon in Isis the big meetings were completely stopped and instead not 1 but 2 Galleria meetings per week were introduced, both led by RB and Asaf. It was pre-staged quote-image-interpretation ping-pong exchange between two of them, with everyone staring in their eyes. No personal angles were allowed. Oh yes, these meetings also cost money, they are not free. The prices used to be $50 for standing, $100 for seated. Every performance gets filmed and then sold again in centers as a “Teaching video” for $10 per watching. You do the math.

Once when I was at Isis meeting something unexpected and funny happened, and everyone relaxed and started to laugh, even Asaf. It felt as if the “spell” was broken for a second and everyone became alive, like a breath of fresh air came to a stuffy room. And it was shocking to see how RB without any smile on his face suddenly got very intense and almost yelled: “Let’s continue, let’s continue! Look at me! Asaf!” His face was scary and very unkind in this moment – not his usual “nice” face. Within seconds everyone was quiet, glued to the next bizarre image and the hypnotic show continued. This was the first time I considered these meetings to have a hypnotic element, where everyone gets “inoculated” with new teaching no matter how mad and absurd… Before this episode I strongly rejected any notion of hypnosis or brainwashing during meetings.

It is amazing that people can tolerate this much crap force-fed to them AND pay money for this. How can anyone still believe in it – is a mystery. It’s not even esoteric ideas anymore, not a system, not anything one can possibly verify. RB counts and interprets or “keys” painted stuff like hairs in giraffe tails, 6 poops, penises, breasts, hands, mating scenes, counts wordless breaths, imagines endless battles between Steward and the devils, engages in weird numbers games that make no common sense.

This is all RB talks about these days, prolifically, at every meeting, and people go there and pay to hear this. It’s not 4th Way, not Gourjieff-Ouspensky [sic], it’s RB’s own mad creation that requires faith, obedience and loss of critical thinking. Faithful “researchers” supply him with more material to decode and regurgitate, so the meetings “show” can go on. It’s like some strange decoding machine – everything it encounters is supposed to have deep meaning, and it’s all related to the sacred Sequence (this time around).

Please have some respect for yourselves, dear friends! When will you really see that this is only selfish madness, decadent and excessive, and quit supporting it? Open your eyes.

If you are generous – please donate to charity, help your neighbor, or a friend in need, or our environment, or local community – do something truly good, something kind, selfless, beautiful. Do not support a false teaching by an abusive dishonest leader – no matter how sweet he looks when he smiles to you.

Sincerely wishing everyone inner freedom and courage to see things as they truly are.

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