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.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Old FOF's story

"old FOF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 7, 2007 at 4:02 a.m.:
This is primarily Whale Rider and Clara Elena [bloggers] related.
About two hours after reading your post, Whale Rider, going along about my regular day – I unexpectedly burst into tears. I cried for you, for all of “Robert’s boys” and maybe a little for my old lost innocence.
It was a process so long ago. For the longest time I hadn’t known about Robert’s behavior, despite my leading centers. It was only later – and after many dropped buffers – in retrospect, that scales dropped from my eyes.
I then “saw” what had happened, sensed the flow of vulnerable young men — and realized what people returning from Renaissance (called then), again in retrospect, had been trying to say to an uncomprehending me.
I remembered the breakdowns – one young solar required his father to come from the East Coast to the Property to pick him up; another going back from the Property to Europe was found wandering in the subways of New York in a psychotic condition and had been committed to Belleview psychiatric hospital. He was later medicated and shipped back to Europe.
In my mind, based on experiences in two small centers I later guessed that Robert may have had sex with as many as 25% of the male students. I’m not sure if this number would hold if generalized over time and geography. But, it floored me. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if the number of students thus compromised were in the hundreds, and possibly more than a couple thousand.
Some of these young seekers, to my deepest regret bordering on self-disgust, were people whom I helped bring into the Fellowship.
The other thing I later realized was that there was a largely hidden (to many of us) homo-erotic subtext to the school. The 44 were sprinkled with homosexuals. Plus many of the sculptures, some of the paintings, and etc. etc..
Also, the isolation of the young men should be noted. In the earlier days at least, many of the “older students” like me were in the dark. So, who could they get reasoned advice from? Robert had a very closed and secreted system. Any problems, they were asked to leave the school. And shame must have been a terrible cement.
I also want to confess that – in classic blame the victim style – for a short time after discovering these facts, I thought these young men chose their path – it was consensual. Fortunately, that buffer fell in short order. And I quickly removed myself from any leadership role – and found my way out. Not particularly noble, but there it is.
I thought that I personally gained a great deal from my experience in the Fellowship of Friends. But, at what cost? I’m still tallying.
This blog is very dynamic to my perception – in strange way. It seems to provide the means to leave the Fellowship at a higher and better level. And also, somewhat oddly and disconcertingly, to provide a more comprehensive personal narrative – that doesn’t just note the gains. But hints at one’s past personal deficits and what they might mean. Overall, it’s positive, but it scares me a little.
Whale Rider, I am so deeply sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for your story and for your courage.
Clara Elena, if my aim were to stop the Fellowship, I would also (and perhaps even initially primarily) utilize the California State Franchise Board.
The Fellowship is basically a church; and this is reflected in its IRS status and the past major challenge. Fair enough. Where it is likely most vulnerable is in the area of private gain – meaning that no one may privately financially profit off of a church.
Its strength is its greatest weakness.
The financial dealings of the Fellowship will likely be of great interest to the tax collecting body of the State of California – the Franchise Tax Board. My experience with them is that they are like a pit bull compared to the IRS poodle.
In the mid-90s Robert was buying houses in Palm Springs and Graeagle (California), and other places. Did I say buying? Actually, he was trying to get students to put these houses in their names – and I think some Fellowship funds were planned to be diverted to help pay for these houses. I’m not sure what happened here, if anything, but it is definitely worth pursuing.
Also, at one point earlier, Abraham Goldman may have been in charge of a somewhat secret fund whose aim was to buy Robert things. I’m not fully sure of this, but I did hear something to this effect. I’m not sure what happened, if anything, to this possible slush fund. It may not be true, but is definitely be worth exploring.
You should also check out the Swiss bank account angle.
Others (on this blog – or later) may know of other possible financial impropriety. I suspect that many here believe – deep in their hearts – that there was financial impropriety.
If the California State Franchise Board acts, then – based on findings during discovery – the IRS could later be brought in again, possibly with a very different outcome than in the past.
There’s a sequence for you.
Robert Burton’s deplorable and egregious behavior and abuse of power over these many years, coupled with those of his long-standing enablers, has finally created a wellspring of second force – that could likely bury the current form with a very small intelligently placed push.
Finally Clara, could be wrong here – possibly real programmers on this blog who might know more, but I’m not sure that a side channel of THIS blog is the right instrument to create the document that I imagine that you may have in mind. May need more of a “semi-private” wiki – or other appliance for social publishing.
Plus, if you want to hit the Fellowship hard, you may want some privacy at the beginning to attack in ways not fully anticipated. You might as well utilize that primary lesson courtesy Robert Earl Burton.
By the way, his birthday is actually May 13th. Scratch a liar, find a thief.

"Critical Mass" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 26, 2007:

It’s the stories that make the difference. We can never guarantee complete accuracy, but there’s no smoke without fire.

One rumor that is doing the rounds is that the property is now in AG’s name. It seems unlikely, but Graeagle (Robert’s old Sierra Nevada apartment) and the Palm Springs apartment are/were in the name of Abe G. [Abraham Goldman].

"unoanimo" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 28, 2007:

Hello 428/16 ~ [responding to above]

So far as the Greaeagle apartment; not sure how old your information is, but that place was sold a very long time ago and was always in Goldman’s name. So far as the property being put in AG’s name; that sort of Jimmy Cricket sort of dancing around is not going to save the Fellowship of Friends from loosing it in a class action lawsuit, particularly when AG will be listed as one of the party’s being sued, alongside the Fellowship itself; think of class action lawsuits as ‘blind nets’, they drag the bottom of the whole lake, bringing up stuff that the fisherman may never have aimed to ‘catch’, though nevertheless is right there for the consideration.
If I were E. (Anna’s sister) and C., I’d be changing the co-signer on their house loan from Robert Burton to someone outside the inner circle; and rearrange the free land Robert Burton gave them to be something more profoundly ‘right looking’… Just a suggestion; that can also go for S.D. [Steven Dambeck] and M.D. across the street. 

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