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 most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

According to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish while, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci), Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new and more perfect civilization. Read more about the blog.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Under the influence

"if memory serves" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 13, 2007 at 1:07 a.m.:
I’ve been thinking of attending the gathering over Memorial Day Weekend. While there is a positive anticipation of seeing some of the people I knew in the FOF, there is also some uncomfortable feelings about such a gathering. While I enjoy a cool drink on a hot day, it occurred to me that it almost might be a relief and even possibly intriguing if the North Columbia Cultural Center did not allow any alcohol. It hasn’t been mentioned enough on this blog, but I think alcohol has been a factor in many situations taking place on the dark underbelly of the FOF. Inhibitions-releasing, conscience-numbing, appetite-enhancing, memory-fogging. Some is fun, is more, more fun? When we were members, we couldn’t smoke, we couldn’t use drugs, does anyone remember any exercises concerning drinking? Why is that? Try this thought on. What would it be like to do an event like this sober, or even under the self-controlled limit of only one or two glasses of wine for those who can’t imagine it.
Mainly, I’d be interested to hear how others have thought generally about the subject of alcohol and the FOF.

"Laughing Love" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 13, 2007 at 5:36 a.m.:
To: if memory serves (52)[above]
I did mention alcohol in one of my previous posts and am also surprised that it hasn’t come up more frequently.
After every meeting, wine was served. I don’t think everyone indulged too much, but I’d say that most enjoyed this ritual with verve. It is an entirely acceptable drug in the Fellowship.
Many who I became close to over-indulged with me on a regular basis. (So, yes, I’m including myself in this observation.)
Alcohol is a clear component in the entire equation. It allows one to tell the “truth”, softens perceptions, blurs vision, heightens emotion, breeds dreamy thinking, allows one to
behave indiscreetly, exhausts the body and skews reality.
As we all know, alcohol is a potent drug. It is, obviously, the last substance on earth that encourages consciousness.
In my observation, many members could not resist over-indulgence. It seemed that it was such a relief to have a glass of wine after hearing “angles”. Drinking alcohol was an acceptable form of good old-fashioned fun that the Fellowship allowed unequivocally.
Wine numbs the Fellowship members.

"More Rumors & Lies" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 17, 2007 at 6:56 p.m.:
Brian S. [who committed suicide] Many tried to help him in many ways, he was an incurable alcoholic and although was given a task not to drink, simply refused to stop. This may not explain all that happened to him, but many tried to counsel him, tell him to stop drinking, etc.

[ed. - The following is cached on the internet under the heading "Arkansas Bob's Squeal Like a Pig Cult". The letters in question were apparently removed from personal mailboxes by a representative of Robert Burton.]
BBS: Toad Hall BBS
Date: 11-15-94 (01:54) Number: 44873
Subj: The next letter. COPY

November 1994

Dear friend,

In an attempt to prevent me from talking to others about my experiences with him, Robert has forbidden me to come to Renaissance (or Apollo). I write this letter for those who are interested.

When I came to Renaissance in the spring of 1986 I had been in the school for one year. In the center I had been told numerous stories by the center directors as to how a great, almost saintly person the Teacher was. Having come to the Fellowship needy of emotional and spiritual support I was willing to believe these reports at face value.

After a few weeks of living at Renaissance, following a heavy drinking 'symposium', Robert took me inside of one of the Academy rooms and wanted to have sex with me.

When I told him that I did not want this because I had no homosexual feelings, nor did I want to see myself assume those practices, Robert dismissed my arguments by saying that I should externally consider him as my teacher.

Partly out of fear for this 'all powerful' being, partly not to want to feel guilty or judged, but largely because of the energy with which Robert approached me, I was left with the feeling I had no choice.

While Robert went about his business of trying to stimulate an orgasm from me which he was going to receive orally I pointed out to him that I was covering my face with my hands out of shame. Robert retorted that this was a good opportunity for work for me.

This was the beginning of my functioning as a sexual servant which lasted for several years.

In order to bear my plight I kept on telling myself that it was my play to transform this kind of suffering and that learning selfless servitude might eventually benefit my soul. I also tried to stimulate in me the belief that since Robert was conscious, being in his presence had to basically be a good thing.

Robert tried to assure me that what was going on between us was the wish of C-Influence, and that the worst thing I could do was to resist their plans. He also explained his attraction to men not as homosexuality but as the result of his being an angel and a cosmos above men, just like men's attraction to women stemmed, he would add,from men being in a cosmos above women.

It was when I eventually met a woman (soon to become my wife) who cared enough to point out to me that it was up to me to take responsibility for my life, that I found the third force needed to let Robert know that I did not want to continue serving him in this fashion.

He got very upset over this and from one day to the other what he had called 'love' turned into hostility, resentment, and a total ignoring of us as his students. It was here that it became really clear to me that I had never been a 'friend' or a 'student' but had been used for one sole purpose: Robert's sexual gratification. There had been no love, let alone conscious love.

In the five years that followed we have never been allowed to have dinner with our 'Teacher', nor were we given consideration when we asked for help during great medical expenses while working on salary at Renaissance.

During this period Robert did, however, call me numerous times on the phone asking me if I would again 'come in his mouth' (his words), for which he would, among other things, offer to pay my voice lessons, knowing that these were important to me and that I had a hard time finding funding for them. Needless to say, at this point I never as much responded to his requests or 'offers'.

Much effort has been directed towards covering up information such as which is disclosed in this letter. There has also been a collective buffering among Fellowship members as regards Robert's practices.

How can people who pride themselves in having evolved levels of being tolerate this? I am convinced that many of the prevailing attitudes in the Fellowship are based on religious faith, such as those regarding unverifiable issues like Robert's consciousness; the Fellowship being an arc [sic] for a new civilization; the division of humanity into 'students' and 'life people', and the alleged spiritual
superiority of Fellowship members over non-members.

I hope that you will have the courage to challenge your attitudes and see them for what they are. For the sake of your evolution.

Your friend,

(*name withheld by request)


[Following was first distributed in October 1994. All addresses hereon have changed since then, and this piece not updated with new address information.]

Hello all, (sent by Stella to email list of ex-FOF members)

Here's a guy who is going to need friends to communicate with him and he certainly will discover who is friends *are*. Please respond to him if you wish. Here is what I received from him in snail mail today (October 13, 1994):

Mailed to Stella on Oct. 11, 1994 - Marysville, CA postmark

From Richard Laurel (Richard Buzbee, legal name)
Oregon House, CA 95962

[A hand-written letter of introduction was attached atop a small pile
of papers, below:]

Hi Stella,

I don't know if you can remember me. Richard Buzbee is my legal name. I came from the Dallas, Texas center with my son back in 1977. Reddish face, blonde hair and carrying around a lot of fear back then, most of which I unloaded over time.

Here [enclosed] is a letter and two chapters that I sent out to all people in the Fellowship that I knew. I was removed from the school for sending it out, of course, and am now watching to see the response, and to proceed to the next step which should make itself clear hopefully. A group of students here at Renaissance is forming and want to take steps to remove Robert. An obvious step is the legal one but I would like to see what can be done by the group themselves.

If you have some ideas then please contact me. My phone # is 916-692-xxxx and my address is on the envelope. [see above]

I have read several books -"The Wrong Way Home," "Captive Hearts - Captive Minds," "Combatting Cult Mind Control," but the best by far seems to be "The Guru Papers." It has led me into the light and helped me to take back my dignity as a human being - not a "chosen" human being, not special, not lucky - just a human being trying to make my way through this experience of life on planet earth. So from one human being to another, I send you these things because I thought you would be interested.


[The following letter enclosed with the above hand-written message, and, as Richard wrote, was sent to everyone he knew in FOF:]

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you and several others because I value your friendship and regard you as someone with whom I can be honest and open. I decided to write to you because there have been some stories spreading through the school about myself and Robert, and I would like to clarify the situation. Also, I'm afraid that what happened to me is already being covered up and may soon disappear, like many things that have happened to others before.

I was asked by Robert to buy a gun and become night guard at his house. I accepted because I considered this to be an opportunity to learn from him, and to protect him from harm. I went with complete trust in Robert and a desire to serve. After accepting the position, I was informed that one of the duties required of all guards was to give Robert massages when he asked for them.

One morning, as I massaged Robert's back, without saying a word he sat me at the head of his bed on my knees. He then pulled down my pants, began sucking my penis, and asked me to come in his mouth. This was all done without my consent, very impersonally, without concern for me as a human being (married with a family), and without concern for me as a student wishing guidance to evolve. I felt betrayed and used by the man who I thought was my spiritual father. I quit the job and went off salary.

You might imagine that having sex with Robert is different from having sex with other people, that Robert somehow uses sex for teaching, or that it would make you more emotional, closer to the miraculous. But it wasn't emotional, and involved no teaching. While Robert was using me for sex, I was nothing more than an object, something to be used to satisfy his own sexual desires. Afterward, when I began discussing this experience with some of my closest friends, I discovered that many of them had been used by Robert for sex in a similar way. However, the greatest shock came from my son Troy, who told me that Robert had been actively pursuing him for sex from the time he entered the school--at age seventeen. While he was growing up, I taught Troy that Robert was like a God, someone he could trust fully in every regard. I thus unknowingly set him up to be used by Robert for sex.

Robert had told Troy (and many others with whom I have subsequently spoken), that C Influence wanted Troy to have sex with him. Robert also offered money and privileges in exchange for sex. During sex, Robert uses no protection against AIDS, herpes, or any other sexually transmitted disease, despite the fact that he has sex with many partners. On many of the nights I was a guard at his house, there was a succession of male students coming and going from his room.

If Robert removes me from the Fellowship because I have distributed this letter, I want you to know that I will still consider myself a member, and will support the school in any way I can. This our school--we have built it and paid for it. As a group, we have accumulated so much being; some people have been working on themselves for twenty years or more. To walk away from the school after learning about Robert's actions is to say that the school is his, and that we are powerless. But this is not true. We just need to trust ourselves and have the courage to come together and say no to actions that harm us. We not only have the right to do this, we also have the responsibility to bring the facts about Robert's activities into the open, where they can be fairly considered by all of his students.

Since this experience with Robert, I have been given several books by other people who have had similar experiences with him, and who were trying to understand the reasons for it. With this letter, I am enclosing chapters from two books that speak directly to our situation in the Fellowship. [Chapters not included here.]

Please feel free to share my letter and these chapters with other students. I would be interested in receiving a note or letter from you as to your thoughts and suggestions about what I've written here. Perhaps a plan of action will evolve through our efforts together. I sincerely hope this letter will encourage others to speak openly about Robert, the school, and their experiences. If the school is healthy, it should stand up under any honest inquiry.

In friendship,

Richard Laurel (a.k.a. Richard Buzbee)
October 1994


[As I understand it, Richard Buzbee was given "medical leave" to seek help from a psychiatrist. Typical FOF effort is to attempt to discredit what he had written in his letter by casting doubts on his mental condition. He did NOT need a psychiatrist.]

"Ellen" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 3, 2008:
#75, Walter Tanner, [blog post and blogger]
Nice post, thanks for that.
WT: It just made me think that Robert is as hopelessly clinging to the “present” as the rest of us.
Just think about what that statement really means, and how the Fellowship’s practice of Self Remembering has panned out over these 38 years. Look at it as objectively as possible? To my perception, there is a large element of what I call “spiritual masturbation”. It’s masturbation because “you” try to stimulate “your self”, and even though various higher states may orgasmically appear, they disappear once again. So, like Pavlov’s dogs a member learns to salivate at every spiritual opportunity, though the reward may be increasingly infrequent.

Thus, there is the widespread – yet undercover – dependency on sexual stimulation, alcohol, and prescription drugs (Hydrogen 12!!!) amongst the “inner circle teachers” (old and young), and sensory stimulation in general within the Fellowship. Over time, the use of impressions to create a higher state, has turned the servant into the master. It’s a bit like they say in New England, “come ta think of it, ya can’t get thea from hea…”

Where did we go wrong? (please pardon the “we”, it is intended as a generic one) Is this what the practice of Self Remembering was intended to produce? The only answer I can find is that we forgot one very important thing: each other in the greater space within which we all exist, and no holds barred, no fear. No man is an island. No School is an island. We got the consciousness part right but the connection part terribly wrong, therefore, we got it wrong. Big time. Instead of unitive presence we got judgement and polarity.

We “forgot” that higher centers already exist (according to Gurdjieff!). And we misunderstood the relative truth that “machines they are born, machines they die” and took it to be absolute. It is not. It was merely an allegorical tool that Gurdjieff used to explain the structure of the body/mind to Westerners, who at that time, were unaccustomed to the wisdom of the East. An allegory of limited use, and to be discarded when the Openness of the Self began to more clearly manifest and integrate with the body/mind, creating the possibility of a living realization that will forever elude the dualistic masturbations of the Fellowship.

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