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, May 25, 2007

"P's" story

[ed. - At the writer's request, I have concealed their name throughout this post.]

"P" posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 25, 2007:
Hello everybody,
I have been a consistently grateful spectator of this blog since March and I decided I was not going to write anything before I was able to do so under my own name: ‘thank you’ Kiran for giving me the third force to finally open my story to the public, as I believe it does belong to everybody.
I guess I should start from the simple facts that have been molded and changed and distorted, partly because the reality was unknown to many, who never bothered to question the accuracy of the voices spreading out. It took me one day to write this: I am sorry about its length, but I wanted to be thorough and to convey at least part of my experience.
Well: I joined the school on September 17, 2000 in New York City – that was the day when Girard had his stroke. A couple of years later I moved to Apollo, following a growing desire to plunge into the very heart of what I had found.
Once in Apollo I started – after ending my relationship with A. – a little fling with a Russian guy V., back then part of Robert’s entourage: I was – and still am – very naïve and had no idea about the rules and the dangers of getting close to R. in that sense – even after being warned. In that occasion R. seemed not to mind and to actually approve of what was happening.
During a trip to NYC for a ballet with Robert, Asaf [Asaf Braverman] gently approached me and we became friends; he seemed not preoccupied about my current relationship. Back in Apollo, during the first Russian ballet at the Theatron, V. started to court M. Alexandrova (one of the prima ballerinas in the Bolshoi) before my very eyes and completely forgot about me… R. seemed to approve of his change of mind, as he was very happy to build a strong bound with Masha and the Bolshoi; at the same time Asaf ‘s friendship was growing deeper and stronger; we met, he told me about his feelings and that he wanted to start a relationship with me: he went and asked Robert’s permission. That’s when it all started.
Robert said: NO, Asaf said: YES and for the first time they disagreed and had an argument. RT [Rowena Taylor] invited me for tea where she asked me if my relationship with V. was over (well, he went off with Masha!) and then told me Robert was giving me 6 months non-dating exercise. Asaf was asked not to contact me and I was asked to refuse his calls.
During these 6 months (which are still a precious memory), distance made our feelings for one another grow, but we both agreed that we were going to transform them for a higher right … I was not to know until much later that Robert had presented another suggestion to Asaf: given the magnitude of his role, C Influence was preparing a woman for him, who was probably going to be X [ed. - assumed to be Ansley, now Asaf's wife] – who at that time was 13 years old. X and I happened to be very close and actually quite similar (she still is one of my best friends). Asaf took this suggestion very seriously and obviously he felt flattered to have such a special role. We kept crossing each others at X’s house and I started to notice an unusual change in Asaf’s behavior… I kicked that thought aside as it seemed just coming from my Q of hearts [ed. - "queen of hearts", part of the "emotional center"].
My task ended and our friendship continued: A. would come over often for tea and we would just share our Work. One night (it was his birthday) everything changed: we became lovers … what to do now? We knew it could not come out! And then he told me about X, but she was only 13… and Asaf (who was then still Robert’s lover) needed desperately some support and love to be able to continue leaving at the Galleria and fulfill his duties; the internal conflict was overwhelming in us both: we couldn’t lie to the teacher, we couldn’t go against his will, but C Influence was weaving us closer and closer; I felt like Joan of Arc – sort of – and vainly and naively I thought: I can do it! I can serve the school and C Influence by offering my support, even knowing that he is destined to somebody else. I will even help him in his pursue of X. That was what the moment required. It all made perfect sense.
I had to fight my Q of hearts (for whoever is not familiar with the term: jealousy, envy, insecurity, anger…) as it was extremely hard to live the – most of the times partial – intimacy with him and seeing him the next day flirting with X in the agora. Plus we both were heavy, carrying the burden of secrecy and of hiding from the teacher on our conscience; we tried many times to stop our intimacy and just pursue our friendship. The Work was strong, though, and was drawing us closer; we both knew that the play was giving us an amazing opportunity to transform all the friction into higher states: we were both very passionate about the school and sincerely wanted to do our best to serve a higher right. Slowly Asaf’s role was changing: he was no longer Robert’s lover, he started to be involved in the preparation of events and had the responsibility to record all Robert’s thoughts during travels, breakfasts, afternoons… His name was even indicative of this: it means ‘the collector’ in Hebrew. Again, everything made perfect sense: the play was unfolding as expected; Asaf was slowly walking toward his ‘seat’. His need for emotional support and warmth – at least until X would become of age and join the school and finally be his girlfriend – was covered by me.
Our ‘companionship’ lasted two and half years, during which the love and support and understanding we shared, despite or because of the circumstances, was completely unformatory [unconventional] and without equal to this day. It was totally worth it, even though extremely hard at times and emotionally painful: as a result of this during the first year my period stopped altogether, partly due to the stress of living a forbidden love, trying to fight it all the time; I became almost sexually numb. Many times I hoped to find somebody else whom I could have a normal and open relationship with, breaking this triangle in which I was stuck; I also could not bear anymore lying to X, too young and unaware of it all. I was not strong enough to face my buffers and take responsibility for what was happening – I was not ready – and the shock I was meant to receive had to be of a different magnitude and much later.
I moved to the Ming House next door to Benjamin [Benjamin Yudin], right when the Bible Keys began to appear: it was the beginning of the transformation of the form of the school. It was an exciting time and Asaf and I and Benjamin shared the steps toward it. There was our chance: we finally understood why we were brought so close, even thou ‘illegally’ … working together for the teaching was finally going to stop our intimacy for good, which was going to be transformed into what it had always meant to be; Asaf was finally able to declare his love to X and fulfill Robert’s and C Influence plan. What a relief we felt! Filled with new energy, happy about not having to hide anymore and with a renovated purpose as a student I start using my – limited – savings to travel to be close to Robert and the developing of the new teaching; I always paid for my trips and events, thanks also to the generosity of E. who, involved with another student around Robert, was at times inviting me to share hotel rooms; sometimes Asaf would invite me standing at events – together with other researchers and/or friends – but when I sat it was always with my own money – I still have the receipts. When my ‘role’ became more public as one of Asaf’s assistants, the Fellowship sponsored me in Egypt and Turkey.
And here we get to the core of the story, which led to the explosion: during one of the times in which Asaf and I had stopped our intimacy (for two/three months) M and D [Mihai Algiu and Dorian Matei] – both Asaf’s roommates – approach me with the idea of a ménage a trois … my hormonal balance had just gone back to fairly normal and I was ‘free’; they (M and D) were also ‘free’ at that point – which is not a good excuse for what happened next – so D went to Asaf to ask him if he minded if he were to ‘spend time’ with me. Asaf’s answer was: no, I don’t mind; I am just worried for her to get hurt. When I was reported the answer I thought: well, then if HE does not care why should I? It means it is meant to be!
On a side note: this blog thoroughly painted the level of sexual freedom which was and is present in the Fellowship of Friends; starting from Robert’s entourage outward, the encounters and parties are innumerable, and absolutely boundless, inclusive of people of all ages. There was a whole group of Robert’s Russian guys who were having parties with a good number of friends of mine, we were all living in a surreal atmosphere where everything was possible and where the voice of our conscience had been overruled and buffered by ‘work I’s’; I know now that my emotional center was so anesthetized that I had no idea of what I was doing, neither of the consequences of my actions. I did not believe in suffering, nor in emotional pain: I thought it was just ‘the machine’, and therefore not worth of attention. I thought transformation was about being ‘above’ the machine, identifications were to be despised. I don’t hold anybody else but myself responsible for my lack of conscience. My play was about to teach me that.
Back to the explosion: my encounters with the two ended fairly quickly (btw, Kiran: I never had sex in Robert’s bedroom – ! – that was somebody else; and I never organized any orgy for anybody), but they found the experience worth expanding and started to look for other ladies who could have been interested: they obviously found a few. I honestly do not know about the voucher deal in exchange for sexual encounters, they never mentioned it to me; plus, there were plenty of ladies who did not need that incentive to accept the offer. I warned them to be careful, but they were too naïve themselves and too powerful to be aware of it.
Plus, as I said before, they were not the only ones and definitely not the first ones! Once M told me that the experience they were having with Robert showed them how formatorily life people were seeing sex in general …
Anyways, at a certain point people were starting to talk about them, but nobody had the courage to speak up; some ladies hypocritically pretended to be offended by the request, right after being flattered. A few people asked me if I knew anything about it: I said yes, I did, but then lied and denied my personal involvement… again, no courage to take responsibility.
Well, finally it came out: I will never forget it, it was during the first or second ballet of the season (in July) when M called me and told me that Asaf knew … with me, two other ladies were exposed, and I smiled thinking about all the rest of the community who stayed quietly silent … apparently my role was to be the scapegoat – and I was not without guilt. As I am writing I feel shot back to re-live the state I was filled with that night: I told M: we will take responsibility for our actions – this is the play. Robert did not know yet, and I was sitting right in front of him in the Theatron, helping Frederick to film the show. Robert told me how beautiful the level of the dancers was and that interestingly enough the machine would try to slip into imagination even in front of such an impression. I answered – filled with third state – that C Influence designs amazing plays to keep us out of imagination.
Then I thought: this is the last time I will ever speak to him. X was sitting next to me.
Then Asaf told Robert, who gave me and the other two ladies a 2 weeks out of the property sentence. A warning round of phone calls by the high quarters was made to some of the people not yet exposed; all the others were trembling, afraid to be discovered.
M and D were secluded into a house in the property, waiting for the big smoke to die out.
Last chapter: during the two and half years of ["P"] and Asaf, Robert was unaware, or better did not want to acknowledge, the fact that we were close. Actually, many times if he spotted a wink or a look between us, he would react quite extremely; that’s why with time Asaf learned to calm him down, reassuring him that he kept pursuing X and giving him accounts of their growing friendship. That maintained our guilt alive and well. We could not be seen together in front of Robert, even though sometimes we did show up together at Apollo d’Oro, especially after we started to work together in the octave.
This is why when the explosion went off, Robert seemed quite surprised at Asaf’s reaction: he asked him, why are you so upset? Asaf answered, because I finally understand how much she means to me… When I was told this, my heart fell apart (remember, Benjamin?) I realized that for all that time I was buffering, buffering, buffering my emotions because I was afraid, under the constant menace of being excommunicated, of offending and disobeying Robert. I felt like my whole being was melting, after a long time of refrigeration. I cried and cried. Asaf called me and we spoke at length and explained ourselves, I thought another era was about to begin, without lies, without hiding… So I asked him what Robert said when he told him about us … Asaf said he did not tell him … what? He did not? … … … Well, I thought, I cannot keep this secret anymore: if A was not ready to speak, then I had to do it. It was my chance: I was already completely covered with mud, my reputation was pretty damn low, I have nothing to lose: if I miss this one there would be no other…So I took pen and paper and write the following:
Dear Robert,
This is the first time that I have the courage to write to you openly, as if the play of the last few months occurred just to make this moment possible.
I have been Asaf’s lover and friend for the last two years, during which time I knew about X and your wish to one day see them together.
Not a day has passed without my gratitude for being close to such a friend, growing through and with him.
My queen of hearts has eaten several times the beauty of our unusual friendship; this happened also few months ago, when we agreed again to keep the intimacy out of the doors and to concentrate on a Work-based relationship: my king of clubs decided to burn down the whole house, just to cover a scar; this showed the self-destructive nature of this terrible brain, it thinks that freedom means being able to do whatever it wants, where instead real freedom is the courage not to lie.
What an opportunity to be real this is.
I was not able to take responsibility for my feelings and actions, not able to be direct and sincere with you, beloved Teacher, with Asaf and with myself.
I realize we are only ponds [pawns?], moved by the loving hands of the Gods: you once said that a man number four silently agrees to be crucified several times in his life: the play had to go on until this point.
I apologize for having kept all of this hidden from you, and I am now ready to accept the consequences.
I love Asaf dearly, I am sorry for the pain I caused him.
Next time we meet there will be more of Us,
My deepest gratitude and love to you, dear Teacher/Influence C.
When the words stop and you can endure the silence, that is the moment to listen to what the Eye of the Beloved most wants to say. - Hafiz
I mail it. It was, to this day, the highest moment of my life: the first time I was true to myself.
Up to that point my sentence was pretty mild: I was to take off for three months, go to Egypt with Cassandra and Kiran to help them open the center and then come back to Isis when everything quieted down.
It was a Saturday and I was in Sacramento to with Kiran and H and T and others to help out during one of the inergetix [Kiran's business] seminar. I get a phone call from Brian: Robert received my letter, he was really upset: he wanted me to take a leave of absence for one year, and then if I managed not to have sex with anybody he might reconsider, that I was worse than alcohol and I had 4 days to get out of the way.
So much for my highest moment.
Well, the world span and span [sic] … in four days I bought my one way ticket to NY, gathered my stuff, some friends helped me (thank you for that) and I was history.
I had no contacts anymore ‘in life’; all I knew at that point was linked to the Fellowship. There are no words to describe what that felt like. It took a year just to digest the shock itself. I remember Judith saying once: C Influence took 35 years to build up and give me this shock. I understood a little better what she had meant.
My deepest regret and the heaviest burden was and is the betrayal of two of my dearest friends: I am deeply sorry for my behavior and for the pain my complete lack of conscience caused. I hope at some point we will be able to meet again: I think of you every day.
I already took a lot of space here, but please allow me a couple more words.
The wildest aspect of all this is that … it worked! I do not know if outside of the school I would have had an experience of this intensity, but surely I would not have had the tools to deal with it. I am grateful to the Fellowship for being the theater for how much of myself it allowed me to see.
A year after my leave of absence was over, I wrote a letter to Robert: it took him 4 months to reply that he is not sure about what to do with me. To try back in a while. I could not find any other word for him so far, although I know that it is not over yet. Just before leaving for Buenos Aires Linda [Linda Kaplan] approached X saying that Robert is evaluating my situation and how was I doing: I found that quite inappropriate as she is not even a student. This is the first time I expose myself publicly (I did share my story with a few students, the other’s q of hearts were just too busy with the scandal).
Siddiq [blog poster]: I agree with you –  “Some people incur debt they are not able to pay for–that is probably the case here–their time to pay is probably still coming… But not one of us is spotless, probably far from it…”
Kiran [blog poster]: that evening with you Cassandra and Benjamin [Benjamin Yudin] was lovely, there was no sex, just cuddling and it was to me an unusual way to get close to her – even though you wanted more.
Your accident happened on my 30th birthday. I was speechless.

"Hava Nagillah" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 27, 2007:

I know that what I am about to write here might be unpleasant to your lower self and in particular to your Seven of Hearts. Yet, it might be of help if the part in you that is interested in the work can listen clearly.

Your post is an expression of the Seven of Hearts and so is your letter to Robert.

The Seven of Hearts emotions resemble in content to the Nine of Hearts emotions. I think you do not fully realize that it in yourself, therefore your Seven of Hearts is taking over.

The Seven of Hearts is selfish in the sense that it wants to satisfy its passions and it wants an emotional reward. In your lower self’s psychology the reward the Seven of Hearts is eager to receive is emotional attention and affection. It can be regarded as what we used to call a Feature.

If you read the reactions here in the forum you can see how it worked: you got responses like “Oh, P.” with lots of sympathy. This is what that part in you wished for and it is a pattern.

I am not saying that you do not have parts in you, who used to work on consciousness, I am sure you did. Yet, the lower self is ambushing those precious moments in various ways, and that is how your lower self has tricked you. That is how it eventually managed to take you out of the school.

It is very much related to imagination. Your imaginary picture of yourself is that close intimacy and romantic emotions, including romantic “sacrifices” are good substitutes for the real emotions required for engaging presence. Even the letter you wrote to Robert is carrying the same kind of emotional energy.

That is the difference between the Seven of Hearts and the Nine of Hearts. The Nine of Hearts emotions are derived from presence itself and not from anything else, not even from beautiful impressions. The Nine of Hearts is firm in its eagerness to reach prolonged presence, yet it is not selfish and it does not have this “I, I, I” thing the Seven of Hearts has.

The Seven of Hearts can often have ‘I’s to be present, but it has a Queeny taste and it cannot engage presence.

This is the level of the school has reach nowadays; the entire focus is on prolonging presence.

I assume Robert wanted to give you time to become mature enough so you are able to realize that you cannot be in the school and base your work on the Seven of Hearts as you used to.

If you can take that in, and you want your work to start again on a new level, you can find a way to return to the school.

You do not owe anything to your lower self, nor do you need to consider you post here. It is feminine dominance. If you are sincere to return as a different person you will find your way to do it.

And finally! You and/or I might get some reactions here after this post. Some might be, as usual, slandering the school and its members. It is your choice where to put your attention.

I wish you good luck.

"Traveler" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 27, 2007:
Dear Siddiq (10/89), since you seem like a reasonable person who is able to have an intelligent conversation, I would like to take this discussion of P’s play a little further, if you agree. Sorry P. for “dissecting” you, nothing personal, you are just a good example in a larger picture.

Siddiq, I’m trying to understand your response to my statement: “He does not express an opinion about Robert’s other actions, such as scripting the personal lives of his followers and even the future of non-students. I can only guess that Siddiq sees this as just action and totally necessary to fulfill the “wishes of Influence C”, to be part of a great glorious play that is more important than our individual lives.” You respond that this is absolutely not how you see it but that you like to remember that each of us needs to go through different experiences.

Each of us having to go through different experiences in our lives sounds like a convenient truism. But could you please address the issue here, namely, how do you personally feel about Robert deciding who is to marry who? Do you see it as his prerogative of a conscious being? Or do you see Robert’s directions to students as some impersonal force majeure acting on us, not as the actions of a human but as some inevitable consequence, like a building collapsing if it is not structurally sound? It seems you view it in these impersonal terms when you use the passive voice: “a leave of absence is given to a student… coming from the Gods”. You say that a lot of human involvement does lead to it but again you seem to restrict human involvement to P. and Asaf and other students, as if Robert were not a human factor at all.

The rest of your letter, summarized, basically says: if P. and Asaf hadn’t tried to keep their relationship secret, it wouldn’t have turned out as such a big deal. If people had only acted differently, Robert wouldn’t have responded the way he did. People need to stand up for their principles and not let Robert interfere beyond suggestions and advice.

You don’t have a naivete feature by any chance? Out there in “life”, in the 21st century, things do work the way you describe. The US, at least in principle, is founded on the belief that all people are equal, and this can be legally enforced. However, this is the Fellowship of Friends and Robert is king. Not only king, he is a conscious being and he knows the will of the Gods. The Gods! That is what you believe if you are a sincere student. Why do you think P. and Asaf felt so bad about their love and suffered in honestly trying to mold their plays the way Robert wanted? Was it just their weird misunderstanding of how things really are, when everyone else around them knew that things would be OK if they had just came forward and announced that they had decided to go against the will of the teacher? Do you remember what happened when it first started: Asaf told Robert, and Robert disagreed because he had other plans for Asaf. They were told not to have any contact with each other for 6 months, and that she should not date anybody. But this is just Robert’s suggestion and advice, right Siddiq? We don’t need to let Robert interfere in our personal lives. What he really meant to say was, give it a try, but if you realize that you actually want to stand up for your own principles, you’re always welcome to do that. That’s the Robert we know and love, isn’t it? Nothing serious here, just that immortal Gods have indicated that because of the magnitude of Asaf’s role he should eventually marry X when she comes of age. But you know, if Asaf decided to follow his own heart instead, Robert would be, like, totally cool with that.

Do you see any pattern here, Siddiq? This is a tough one, but I’ll ask you to try and lay aside for just a few moments the belief that Robert is an immortal conscious being and a pure instrument of influence C. Try to just see him as a human being, observe neutrally, you know, like we were taught in the fourth way. Try to let go of the belief that he is an angel in his actions and a god in his apprehension. Just for a few moments, try to see his actions as the actions of a human, the way you would see any other human being on this planet if you did not already have a preconceived notion of their magnanimity.

Now, where is the pattern? This human being tells young men who glorify him: You are to have sex with me because Influence C want us to be together. Then he tells his former lover: You are to marry X because the gods are preparing her to be your wife. Then he tells his students: You are to use the sequence because all ancient civilizations before us have used it.

Question for discussion: Without judgment, what does that tell us about the human being making these statements, and about the people who consider them true?

"Rabbi Burns" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 27, 2007:
I guess there’ll be several responses to Hava Nagillah (193) [above] and Howard Carter (199).

P.’s posting (141) [above] clearly described the weird, corrupt world created by Robert Burton, where lying to one’s friends and “teacher” is commonplace, and all is justified by the meaningless jargon exemplified by HN in #193. Rather than responding to the content of P.’s posting, HN gives her a lecture on “the seven of hearts”, thus deflecting attention from what is actually being said, a common Fellowship of Friends method for quashing inconvenient truths.

So what can we deduce from P.’s posting? She describes some personal events in her own life, but they are significant in that they display the way Robert Burton behaves most of the time. P.’s story is typical, not unusual. We can see that Robert Burton is obsessed with controlling the behaviour of those around him, from the minutest details to the major events in their lives. As a result he surrounds himself with fear and deception.

What was behind his decision to throw P. out of the school after reading her positive, indeed worshipful, letter describing her relationship with Asaf? Clearly he was upset because he wanted Asaf to be with X, and he viewed P. as interfering with his plans. OK, so I’ve written that down, and it looks somewhat logical. But think about it – it’s actually completely insane. Why do these people submit to this interference, even regard it as “helping their evolution”? And why on earth is Robert Burton concerned about these things? Why does he get viciously upset when one of his boys chooses to be with one girl rather than another? And what’s even more amazing is that HN and HC actually think this is normal, a sign of higher consciousness, true connection with “influence C”, etc!!!
So why is Robert Burton so controlling? Most likely because he’s afraid. He knows he’s a fraud and he’s terrified of being seen as he really is. So he surrounds himself with people who would not dream of questioning his behaviour in any way. Then, with all restraints removed, naturally enough he starts behaving more and more strangely.

HC: “The real Robert is hidden from all of life, I would deduce, as well as from a good many current students.”

Thankfully this blog is making him a good deal less hidden.

cheers, RB

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