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.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Simon's Story

The "anonymous" avatar
"Simon" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 20, 2007:
Hello. My assumed name is Simon. I began posting near the inception of this blog (page 1)[FOF Discussion blog]. In fact I stumbled across this forum by chance, as I searched for a former close friend who I heard had recently left the Fellowship of Friends. I found him eventually via the blog (thank you for that Sheik) plus another friend in the bargain. Though I continued to post for a time as Simon and then for a while longer under another alias, I felt my posts were becoming very cynical and sarcastic in tune – largely in response to the plethora of irrational and immature posts that were being placed by those who I can only assume were current students defending their corner. (I understand this behaviour – I did it too at one time.)
As a result I stopped posting, though have continued to read the forum with mixed emotions – at least that’s what it has evoked in me. Meanwhile I continue to communicate with my lost “friends” and it is a result of these exchanges that I’ve been prompted to add the following:
Hi C,
As mentioned on the blog, the frightening part is that no matter what is stated in regards to Robert’s excesses, it doesn’t seem to shock me either. He conducts himself above the law in the spirit of: “do as I say, not what I do”. The law I am referring to here is the law of humanity and it [is] the flaunting of this law which was probably the most painful part of the Fellowship of Friends experience. Not the sex, the drunkenness, the misogyny – all of which I found distasteful and like many was willing to put up with for far too long. But what really swayed it for me was the utter lack of humanity this unnatural lifestyle finally induced. In the Fellowship of Friends we become for the most part dehumanised. Why do I know this? I didn’t until I left. But one only has to read half a dozen of the posts on this forum to be able to differentiate between what I would regard as a “human” comment and one that is void of what I call soul. Of course what we deem as human behaviour might be interpreted differently depending on circumstances, though I don’t think anyone would argue that it involves what we know as the three lines of work to a greater or lesser extent. However, in order to undertake these lines in their truest sense, one has to have a conscience which is functioning properly – that is, for the most part is free from delusion (Ego with a big “E”) and all that this implies: a willingness to listen to others, show a modicum of humility, refrain from unjustifed and venomous criticism of fellow souls etc. etc.
When I read some of the stories on this blog, it evokes all the memories of the sordidness which many of us including myself were happy to brush under the carpet for so many years. Having been a party to Burton’s excesses and dare I say “victim” – I say this with hesitation as I know some of you out there feel the need to question if it was as one sided as many of us make out. I myself know where the power lay / lied! Irrespective of this, one cannot deny that on this blog we have merely touched a large tip of the iceberg. During my time, I was in a position to talk to several young lads who were subject to Robert’s advances and as a result became very confused. (Some may remember young C. the Brazilian lad who went through a trial by fire as he struggled with his moral conscience, or H. the gardener with whom I travelled around Italy and who one night poured out his heart and all the contradictions which Robert’s actions evoked in him. Then there was J. who almost died after breaking his neck and who I would visit quite regularly in hospital and whose main concern was not the x-rays of his body, but getting an aids test. These are just a three instances of many.
In the beginning I too tried to justify Robert’s actions to others – I had to – if only to convince myself that what I was supporting was useful to my evolution and my existence within the FOF. However later, as I began to wake up [to] the dangerous game Robert (and myself) was playing, I was less willing to tag along. On the contrary, I began to resist at first and finally rebel, which didn’t amuse Robert. You don’t joke with Robert unless he gives you permission.
My own story concluded in a major stand off with Burton after I refused his will / sexual advances one more time. It’s only when you catch him at a moment when he doesn’t get his way, you begin to see the true colours of this man. The coldness behind the “conscious” persona (the mask of presence he puts on before the students at his dinners and meetings and public appearances). I will never forget that look in his eye – the momentary glimpse of contempt (it’s the only way I can describe it) of someone who is not getting his way (someone who is used to getting his way all the time!) and realising that his power is being undermined. Then the subsequent stratagems he employs to try and work you round to his way of thinking. The offer of gifts is an obvious one, but if that doesn’t work, the subtle nudges from feminine dominance, reminding you that he is your teacher and should be obeyed. Finally there are threats he invokes using the weaponry of higher forces, and that by going against the will of the teacher there is a serious risk of terminating any possibilities of becoming conscious and endangering your soul in the process.
Though by this time I had seen through this facade and nothing could change my overwhelming desire to escape the oppression / depression that was overcoming me, it was a heavy trip all the same. That said, the more he ranted (yes, Robert does rant!) the more I knew I was correct in my actions and I believe something in him probably knew it too, because after that episode his attitude toward me consisted of either token efforts of reconciliation, or mild threats to remind me that by abandoning him / the school the only option I had was life (death) / food for the moon and all that detritus we were so willing to accept. In a word, anything to make you feel small, insignificant, helpless and fearful. It worked, for upon leaving the Fellowship Of Friends shortly after, it resulted in many years of extreme low self-self esteem, doubt and fear.
This is just part of my story and I’m sure there are many similar in nature. But the question which continues to intrigue me is: what is it that draws us to a place like the Fellowship Of Friends, which on hindsight is so obviously a cult? More than that, what duped us into remaining for so long – in some cases half our natural life time. Okay, Burton is the charismatic instigator and figurehead behind the Fellowship Of Friends, but he is like many leaders throughout history who have presided over some morally dubious and corrupt regimes. Such groups are made up of people, so there is a continuing collusion between its members to ensure its existence. Often this is done “voluntarily”. Being a member of the Fellowship Of Friends is something all of us here share in common, except the Sheik and possibly one or two posters who ended up here by accident, so in a way we each shoulder a portion of the responsibility, I suppose. At least we must always ask, when pointing the finger of blame, what part we played in this. Only then perhaps can we help others.
Finally, I though I vowed (so much for vows) that I would not contribute to this blog again unless it was under my real name. I feel I now have said all I can under an assumed name. Even though I have the utmost respect for those who have the courage to do use their real names, I could not have said what I have here had I used mine.
That said I am willing to post an e-mail address should anyone feel they would like to ask me about anything I’ve said. The only condition is that I ask that you reveal who you are, just as I will do the same (I promise to keep true identities confidential.) I do not have the time for the likes of the cold, impersonal reasoning of H Carter, or the vitriolic rants of Rumours & Lies.
In the meantime let us celebrate our freedom,

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