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.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Joe Average's Story

"Joe Average" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 18, 2007 at 12:54 a.m.:
A huge part of my self-deception concerning the FOF was my projections onto students of common sense. When I was first presented with the list of “the 44” and RB’s predictions, I was devastated. I was perhaps 1 month in the school at the time and really thought I had found something extraordinary, a true path for awakening. When I heard these things, I felt it was the end right there – these people were obviously nuts. Yet an older student asked me about my reactions to this knowledge and when I told him (softening the sentiments greatly out of embarrassment), he said “Don’t think you are the first one to have such I’s”, with a mischievous half smile. I was immensely relieved. He seemed to feel these “theories” were absurd, arrogant, and embarrassing also, yet he was an older student. At that point, a central core of my relationship to the school and its more bizarre aspects was set. Oh! I get it. It is intentional insincerity. It is exactly like Gurdjieff’s wild stories that simultaneously taught by analogy and served the purpose of driving off the silly and gullible. So I went my way assured that, while there might occasionally be some complete idiot who really took these fables literally, the shocks inherent in the form of the school would weed them out so that the “serious” students could continue work on ourselves. And every time I heard something bizarre that RB did or said and perceived that some students took it on face value, I chuckled arrogantly to myself at the students’ stupidity and quietly thanked Robert in my heart for “voluntarily suffering” in playing the fool for the good of the school.
So I continued year after year defending the illusion that the people I liked felt they way I did. These were intelligent, discerning, emotionally mature people with humour and creativity. Of course they did not actually believe all these unverifiable fables! Every time I was clearly shown my delusion, I made some excuse – they are just saying that because it is the form of the school and they are trying to fit in – they are experimenting with intentional insincerity themselves, emulating their teacher- I must have misunderstood them, they can’t really believe that…etc.
I spent almost all of my time in the school outside of Oregon House. I doubt I could have maintained my delusions for so many years if my face were shoved in the middle of the manure pile year after year. Who knows. Nicely detached and distant from the whirlpools of insanity emanating from the Blake cottage/Academy/Galleria, it was much easier to ignore the depressing truth: most of these people really did buy into the whole steaming pile. The “buzz” around Robert was primarily not higher hydrogens, just the flies that such piles draw. It is a symbiotic relationship; the pile and the flies draw each other.
And yet again it was not so simple to maintain, even in distant centres. Many of the students I knew well totally expected the crash of 84, were stockpiling goods etc. A well-off couple in their late 40’s even lost quite a bit of money investing in a scheme which depended on a crash to make a profit. Then after many years of easy delusion came 1998 and again I was shown how literally people took things, how many were simply salivating for an ultimate external validation of their teacher’s divinity. Again, many people put their money where their lack of minds were, betting that the gods would make them stinking rich by murdering 30 million Californians (and much of the Pacific rim through tsunamis) on cue.
It always seemed a delicate balance; how to discourage students, particularly young students who had more of a chance, from being so pathetically credulous without crushing their beautiful hope and aspirations toward consciousness. It was made more delicate because, at some level, I knew that if I pushed too far in such efforts, my own imaginary world would start unravelling. My secret (even to “myself”) need to feel superior, not just to most of “life”, but to many of the students, would not permit it.
Only after more than two decades did I become dimly aware of the arrogance and denial that ran like a lead thread through my entire school “career”. After that, about two years of consistent work trying to dismantle the feelings of superiority served not only that end, but also dismantled much of what had seemed magical and beautiful about the school.
For some students, the excrement from Robert may have been literal and the smearing without consent. For me it was figurative, but smeared I was, and with consent. As the moral to the fable goes “if you are warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut”. I doubt that anyone is really happy once they realize where they are. Many sense that something really stinks, but they can’t seem to figure out what it is.

"Joe Average" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 21, 2007 at 5:09 a.m.:
197/389 bass-ackwards [blog post and blogger] – You are right, I did not see it. There have been a few gems like that I found later on reviewing postings bass-ackwards. We could take it as a photograph not to be so linear in our thinking or as the fulfilment of your wish expressed in the choice of the handle by an endlessly giving universe ala “The Secret”. Yes, of course that is silly, but ain’t it poetic?

Your posts raise important questions: What is a conscious school/ what is a conscious person/ what is a conscious teacher/ how do we verify that/can a teacher be extracted from his school without fatal consequences for both/ if something is kept of the school, what and how?
In order to go into this, I am afraid I must burden you with some personal history about the evolution of my “verifications”.
I never liked Robert Burton as a person. His attitudes, his pretensions, his dominance, his arrogance, his intellectual incompetence, his posturing at emotional depth while his statements, actions and tastes consistently showed someone as emotionally deep as Liberace with a hangover – basically almost everything about him turned me off. The electroplate-thin veneer of a “Renaissance man” over the reality of a butcher’s son from Arkansas, painfully aware of his shortcomings, his lack of any real experience with culture in any field whatsoever, and his desperate need to be seen as anything other than that was very obvious. Having been born in the south from a long line of southerners, the vast majority of whom never made it off the farm, I understood the psychology. When y’all commence to socializin’ with them uppity Yankees, the hayseed fallin’ out your hair and the calluses on your hands from rippin’ raw cotton like steel wool out the bud are a might embarrassin’. (yes, of course it is a caricature, lighten up, eat some okra and grits)
There was just this teensy problem – he was the “teacher” of the “conscious school” of which I was a “student”. I must now put those things in quotes as their reality for me has become tenuous at best. So it was up to me to figure out why nearly everyone else seemed to think he was the bees’ knees. For years, the experiences I had either in my personal work or while interacting with students was sufficiently rewarding to keep me in the organization. I assumed RB was primarily using the tool of “intentional insincerity” to keep people off-balance, using obvious nonsense and myths to force students back upon themselves, to keep them verifying and acting only upon their own most indisputable personal truths. Also for years, the concept of “C-influence” meant little to me as a concrete reality. For good or for ill, the FOF does tend to change peoples’ concepts of reality. First, years of increasingly bizarre and inexplicable experiences, synchronicities etc. finally overwhelmed my cynicism and I had to yield to the reality of some kind of external intelligence operant invisibly in daily reality. The routine bits, the 44’s, the wonder of hearing a passer-by by giving me “answers” to questions but yet half-formulated etc. – all these things could be written off as selectively emphasized coincidences, (for 2 months once, I looked for “22” in my environment and it was everywhere) yet the sheer preponderance and intensity of these things kept rocking my reality, setting me up for various experiences that simply could not be explained away.
Later, after more exposure to Robert, I became convinced that he really believed what he was saying. I could not find the slightest glimmer of private whimsy or “2-ness” in anything he said; he was utterly convinced, which, of course, was the source of much of his personal power and charisma. Christ, he is a total nut job. Now what does that mean?
From that point, I began to feel like the Salieri character in “Amadeus”, who was driven mad by his perception that God had chosen Mozart, “that obscene child”, as his instrument for creating beauty on Earth. If a creative intelligence beyond humans helped to shape the events of the world and had a keen, though probably not exclusive, interest in this organization, which seemed very likely, why did it put, or allow, this psycho at the helm of the organization?
The years rolled on and the accumulation of experiences with RB led irrefutably to the yanking out of the remaining leg of the tripod I sat on in the first years of the school: without exception, every time I was exposed to him, I had those types of experiences that I had long since labelled “higher states”. It is perhaps worth noting that I never lived with him, travelled with him or had sex with him. This constantly reinforced association: experiencing Robert = experiencing higher states, eventually led to another, very grudging, “verification”: it makes no sense at any level whatsoever, but this psycho must be a conscious being. Even though I still, on a personal level, continued to dislike him, I found myself respecting him and viewing him as “my teacher” in a very literal sense. The only way to live with this seeming impossibility was to put the blame on myself and my limited reality, to blame my intransigent hope that logic could somehow be made a part of this “higher reality”, to embrace the whole hydra-headed enigma of the school as it was and march forward, consistently discarding logic in favour of anything that seemed more directly related to these, so beloved, so carrot-like, “higher states”.
Some now look for other spiritual groups or sources that are less “tainted”. It was just this “lack of taintedness” that attracted me to Gurdjieff’s works. Even in childhood, it was clear to me that most organized religion was simply death appeasement wrapped up in fairy tales, a bad habit, cowardly and deeply “inauthentic”. From late childhood through my teens, I occasionally dipped into philosophical works, but usually found them to be self-indulgent, self-validating intellectual one-upsmanship, simply a mental circle jerk that never pointed at anything liberating. So the flowering of interest in “alternate realities” when it came, came rather suddenly with little real backdrop of experience. I found Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, was totally demolished by the clarity and force of the ideas. I had sensed a core of truth in some religious writings, certainly I felt their beauty, but they were always so bound up with cultural constraints/biases and political/historical compromise as to make them impenetrable. Just too tainted. But here were G&O, using logic, encouraging only self-exploration and ruthless honesty, yet pointing to higher realities, not just sterile mind games.
Other than my church, I had never been in any sort of spiritual group, had zero practical knowledge of what other groups really had to offer. It was easy to laugh at the Hare Krishnas, the levitating TM enthusiasts, the EST yuppies, be appalled at Moonies and Scientologists and of course, all traditional religions were right out etc.; easy to assume that all groups were like those. So in meeting the FOF, I really bought into that “needle in a haystack” fear meme. And I bought into the G&O concepts: states of consciousness, permanent consciousness, higher man, conscious schools, esoteric teachings, higher centres controlling lower ones, the swaying narrow bridge over the gorge of my fears to the One Real Truth…. Concepts – vague, evocative, mysterious and vaporous concepts. And of course, like everyone, I bought into the primary concept taught us by our parents, the original sin, the original “missing the mark” – “you are that (pointing at my body) and I am this (pointing at their body). You will grow and change but you will always be this separate thing called by your name, for all eternity.”
So, to your wish to discuss:
We, as members of this School, are the only ones on the planet who are gifted to know about Self-Remembering
• The 80 billion other people on the planet are sleeping machines, doomed, without Self-Remembering, to a double death
• Former students have thrown away their one chance in this lifetime to do something “conscious” with their life
• Empathizing with the suffering of others can be Feminine Dominance, and is to be avoided
• Influence C consists, among other things, of 44 angels who are dedicated to working with individual students to insure their “awakening” over the course of 9 lifetimes
• The Lower Self is actively against Self-Remembering, and to be avoided as best as one can
• All critical observations of the School or Teacher can be seen as examples of the Lower Self gaining precedence over one’s Work
• Awakening occurs when an individual has accumulated enough Hydrogen 12 to become saturated, thereby enabling crystallization of Higher Centers
• The Sequence has the power to awaken us if only we can do it passionately and often enough
From these, the following are concepts that, for me, are either partly or entirely imaginary:
School, sleeping machines, Self-Remembering, double death, one chance in this lifetime to do something “conscious”, Feminine Dominance, Influence C, awakening, 9 lifetimes, Lower Self, Teacher, one’s Work, Hydrogen 12, crystallization, Higher Centers, The Sequence, us.
Once those are extracted from the questions, what is left of them? Once RB is extracted from the myth of the Fellowship, what is left of it?
A sense of scale is real helpful. The system is a conceptual construct which can, used well, free one of some other, more hidden, more limiting concepts. Some of these concepts I cannot relate to on any scale e.g. The Sequence, 9 lifetimes. Others, like feminine dominance, or the king of hearts, are provisional tags which can help describe observed phenomena, help organize them for a time. Once that period of effective organization is over, the concepts must be dropped. This is a personal process than cannot be compared to anyone else’s. I cannot demand anyone else drop a concept any more than another can demand I retain an outgrown one. Yet if I see ripe fruit being held in place with scotch tape and chewing gum, I might be inclined to point that out. So, on one scale, the question, “Can we extract the Teacher and save the School?” is much like Ouspensky’s famous question “Will I exist forever?” to which the answer was “you don’t exist now”.
What is “the school”? What would you save? How do you envision it? Many people are ending their formal association with the Fellowship of Friends now. Some of them stay in contact with a small circle of friends, trying to understand reality as best and honestly as they can; others form larger networks via email and websites; others dedicate themselves formally to another “school”, others meet with or study under various people they find helpful or “spiritually advanced” for special occasions but are not formally students of anyone etc. I have heard some schemes for “saving the school” that envision simply ousting Mr. Burton and continuing “on our own”. The feasibility of that may well be tested, as he is 67 years old and nature may do the ousting. He could kick off next month, or live another 10 years. No way to know, but imagine what you think might happen if he did just give up his concept of his body tomorrow night. Do you imagine a fairly decent and civil transfer of control to either Asaf or Girard? Do you imagine the bulk of the current students just shrugging and going on with the sequence, the donations, the $200 dinners, the restrictions on what they may think, what they may do, who they may associate with, generally ignoring the lack of 6 feet of psycho pressed into a pink suit?
I am not trying to taunt you. You raise good, valid questions that I suspect many current students are asking themselves also. You seem to be sincerely asking yourself these questions in an attempt at formulating a reality less objectionable than the status quo of the FOF. I merely point out that the current form of the school is a house of cards that exists solely due to habit and the belief in the special place/fate/ role for or powers of Earl the Pearl Burton. Without that lynchpin of a concept, all other concepts come under immediate scrutiny – what makes a loose association of people into a “conscious school”- if everyone currently associated left tomorrow and 2000 new people replaced them, would it still be a “conscious school” and why or why not?
What is “out there”? Literally hundreds of posts from ex-members have described similar stories – that they too were “afraid of losing the golden thread” but found that to be all imaginary fear. If their truths have any real value, they continue quite unperturbed by the lack of FOF certification. Some had lost all interest in pursuing spiritual growth before departing and their life became very normal again in every sense. Nothing lost there in leaving that was not already lost. Others, very many others, found that truth was no more limited to an organization than consciousness is limited to the body.
To me, your “third choice, that of staying and disbelieving the myth” is a contradiction in terms, at best a putting off of unpleasantness. The FOF is Robert Burton; accept the whole package, prescient bison poop, satyriasis, sequence and all or let it go. Letting go of course has nothing to do with your efforts, what you find helpful or not helpful or with whom you choose to share your spiritual journey. You may find that many people in your centre do want to continue to be in association somehow and find a way forward together. Perhaps that way forward for you and them closely resembles the current form of the school, perhaps not. Great! Go for it. But those who, in the absence of Robert, would fall away themselves, must seriously ask themselves how real their bond is now.
Someone remarkably similar to the form typing this wrote “Essentially the Fellowship was only a place where people occasionally gave each other permission to exist for reasons of spiritual growth.” So – keep giving each other permission, keep honouring what is highest in each other. That is independent of form.

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

I am taking the liberty of re-posting #407 from Part 6 of this blog. Thank you again, Joe Average.

Joe Average Says:

I am forwarding an old letter from an ex-student, as valid now as then. Be warned – I have trimmed it a bit where you see …, but it is still long.
Dear Friends,

Of late, my friends and I have been labeled “dissidents”, and worse, by FOF’s leadership. While reading this letter it would be helpful if you could simply consider me an old friend.

… Please permit yourself the clear space to receive these thoughts and feelings in order to work with them as completely as possible. Given the current situation, I understand that this will not be easy for you. It certainly has been a disturbing process for me as well. However, I have been overwhelmed by the weight of my observations and feel duty bound to share them with you.

This letter is not intended to serve as the last word on REB or the FOF. Nor is it written to prove or establish a particular point of view. Instead, I hope that it will create a balance to the information you have received from FOF, and act as a springboard from which you may begin a long overdue reappraisal of your own feelings and presumptions. Many of you are mired in a way of life which, for myself and many other ex-members, was neither happy nor enlightening, but instead offered little more than tedium, suppression, exclusivity and debilitating dependency.

Of late, FOF has required all of you to believe that certain ex-members, as “dissidents”, are “bad” simply because criticism of REB and FOF is not now and never has been permitted. These people have been described as “vindictive”, “crazy”, or “liars” … Apparently it is unthinkable to FOF that anyone could sincerely believe (or know) that the allegations directed at REB are true. But given a history of intense involvement with REB, do you really believe that ex-members would turn around and speak this way unless they really felt that something was wrong? From FOF’s narrow point of view, one would have to be fallen, dark, and just plain wrong to criticize their “guru”. I implore you to remain open to the possibility that your old friends are none of the above.

The author of this letter has over the past year spoken with approximately 40 ex-members who have uniquely personal and varied perceptions of REB and FOF. Among these people are a number of former high-ranking FOF officials and board of directors members, as well as personal and sexual intimates of REB. …
They are all united in the belief that accurate information, dialogue, real consideration and anything remotely like discrimination have never been offered or encouraged by REB or FOF. Therefore, they would like to see a free, full, and honest discussion occur. Such a discussion would benefit everyone, except for those who desire only the maintenance of their status and claim. Everyone, especially the “rank and file” FOF membership, must be set free in order to find their own true way through this controversy.

It is obvious however that as long as ex-member “dissidents” are seen as negative, dark, angry, unspiritual “others”—and “you” in FOF remain the righteous, holy lovers of god, unjustly criticized, god’s army fighting off the heathen masses and demonic media—as long as this contrived dichotomy persists there can be no clarity. …Do not permit the FOF leadership to call you to a false, childish, and simplistic understanding of this controversy. It is a complex, personal and deeply emotional matter that cannot be resolved or dismissed through name-calling and character assassination.

… This matter cannot be reduced to a battle between good and evil…

Instead of encouraging an open discussion, FOF has used the same tactics that any political organization would use. They have created a “cause” for you to rally around and feel emotionally committed to and identified with, so that you won’t stare the accusations against REB straight in the eye. They would rather hook you into a fight to protect “the right to freely practice religion”, a right which they claim ex-members have tried to deprive you of. But in what way has anyone actually done this?

Let’s take a little closer look at the constitutional protections afforded to “religions” such as the FOF. The right to believe whatever you want is protected absolutely. However, the right to do whatever you want is not afforded the same absolute protection at all. Many of the things which REB has been accused of do not fall into the category of actions which are protected. Additionally, is it not reasonable as a common citizen to ask why people who have been involved in illegal activities should be granted the privilege of tax-exempt religious status, as claimed by FOF? And if, in fact, abuses of people have occurred (through actions which are commonly recognized as abuses in our society) shouldn’t the victims have a right to address them in all the forums available? How then does this amount to an attack on religious freedom?

…The difficulty for many of you is that it has been so long since you entered into an examination other than one created for you by REB and FOF that to do so on your own and to examine “the authorities themselves” is a very difficult task indeed. And yet it must be done if there is to be any clarity or passage through this controversy.

All I ask then is that this process of unfettered examination be permitted and actually encouraged by FOF. Ask yourself how it is that you are now “advocates”, burdened by belief and fixed presumptions. Why hasn’t REB and FOF welcomed and seen the necessity for an open airing of issues? Why have you all been programmed and “educated” by the FOF propagandists on their way to whitewashing the so-called “FOF sacred history”? How does spiritual practice properly lead to all this manipulation and defense? Who and what is requiring that you become politicized rather than clear? And how well do you really understand that which you are being called upon to defend?

I invite you to regain the discrimination and inquisitiveness many of you have unconsciously chosen to relinquish in order to associate with REB and the myth he has drawn you into (both as to who he is and the necessity of turning to him for your liberation). If we assume for the moment that REB began his “teaching work” by speaking to our desire for liberation, apart from excess dogmatic baggage and entanglements, it is evident that he has now “moved on” and is at work merely cultivating in his students a yearning for salvation in a system where only he can do the saving.

… And if we accept that REB’s writings carry a credible message, they do so only insofar as they release the reader into his or her own inherent sense of “being” and “truth”, free of the game of “the search”. It appears impossible for this to occur in the midst of all the medieval, dogmatic, exclusive, ritualized form beneath which direct, unmediated truth has been buried by REB and FOF. After all these years, where is the real evidence that any type of “spiritual process” is uniquely occurring within your community? People are just growing older. The greatness of god has been subordinated to the glory, of REB and his hierarchical empire. Needing to be nurtured and fathered, and being naive as to true spiritual culture and to the game of spiritual authority, most of us never even noticed the light go out.

This is a large part of what ex-members are trying to address. You are part of a highly ambitious and politicized “machine of seeking” where you no longer own your own perceptions. Ideological dogma coupled with the edited information of the group dominates and molds your life. You are required to adapt to a complex, sophisticated technology of mind and emotion, through which you understand yourself and upon which you view the world; it is a hierarchical scheme with REB as the head, reigning above and beyond the world of man, as external savior or father. We have all been too much in need of an external mediator to serve the participation in and awareness of our own true condition. We must grow beyond the childish and incapacitating dependency bonds which are everywhere propagated by REB and FOF.

In many ex-members’ experience, the first doubts and questions about their lives as devotees centered around the observations they had regarding the “community” and “institution” of FOF. But they found it much harder to take the obvious next step and look directly at REB, the source and creator of every aspect of the “culture”, institutional structure, and spiritual life of those in FOF. These ex-members, like many of you, dared not break the great taboo of seriously questioning or doubting REB; either their comparative lack of in-depth or prolonged personal experience with him or their incapacity to break through the indoctrination prevented them from seeing him clearly. But finally, in the face of what is now obvious, their relationship to the mythology and imagery which is REB has broken down. These people have “discovered” the man Bubbles Burton, and now know that “the emperor wears no clothes.”

At this point it would be good to examine the specific activities of REB that many people are concerned about. Some of the information recently brought to light will be recounted here for those who are unfamiliar with what has been said, or for those who have been confused and distracted by FOF…

To begin with, REB has historically had control over the finances, properties, and other assets of FOF as if he personally and solely “owned” FOF, in stark contrast to the purposes and laws governing non-profit religious organizations. He has personally made all key decisions and has gratified his every whim, caring not for the financial strains he has placed on others. There are serious questions regarding whether REB has over the years abused the tax-exempt status of the FOF corporation for his own personal gain. Perhaps this is why FOF officials in the past few years have strategically destroyed documents that tended to reveal that REB was actually “running the show.”

REB has always demanded that people “go beyond themselves” to give him more money than they could afford, and then has spent the money on whatever he wanted to create or consume in that moment. Like a child, he has demanded the immediate gratification of his material desires, and then has often abandoned what he has been given in search of a new and more expensive “toy”. … In private, REB has laughed at those who have shown any concern about his financial exploitation of others. This is purportedly an example of the fact that REB is “free of conventional morality.”

…REB has participated in and required others to perform in sexual and related acts of a highly degrading and demeaning nature which have caused psychological and/or physical damage to those participating. FOF has recently admitted to examples of these types of activity, which many people believe are a reflection of the perversion of REB, rather than anything like enlightened “spiritual instruction.” … These sexual excesses of REB are not a thing of the distant past…..

And it is the firm belief of many people that the inordinate amount of time and attention REB spends on sexuality reflects nothing more than his own obsession and desires.

The vast discrepancy between what REB claims and says, versus what he does and intends must be thoroughly examined and understood before one can make an informed response to the man. What should be clear to everyone is that no one in FOF is given the opportunity to “cast the light” directly on REB. Why is he so estranged and hidden from you, really? Apart from your child-like fantasies and subtle beliefs about “who he is” and “how he works”, how much and how privately have you observed him and then tested your observations?

The fact is, apart from what you have read and are told, intermixed with a variety of contacts with REB years ago, most of you know very little about your teacher. You have therefore been called to relate to only the most superficial imagery about who REB is, and at the same time you have become steeped in an officially prescribed method for relating to him which permits only subservience and fawning devotion. And those of you who have been close to him should ask yourselves to what degree you own hopes, needs, and self-generated projections and expectations, coupled with the mythology about how REB’s “unconventional behavior” has been designed to teach you, has colored your perceptions of him. Ex-members know from their own experience that many of you are paying a heavy price in terms of emotional suppression, confusion, and self-delusion in order to maintain the false conclusion that you have actually been served by this “crazy-wise” madness.

Another disturbing matter regarding REB is the ritual of secrecy and deception surrounding him. Some of the things described about REB’s life would not in themselves be worthy of any real concern if they did not stand in complete contradiction to an idealized image which has been used to exploit the people who have supported the whole affair. … It was on the basis of this lie that so many accepted the notion that his past behavior was in fact a “teaching demonstration”, and went on to give their lives, minds, hearts, and money to this man. However, upon discovering this deception, many were understandably outraged. …

You may ask yourself why those who know all of these secrets have always withheld them from you. But we already know the answer. How glamorous to be associated with the ultimate matter and the ultimate master! But what a conceit and what a foundation for the pursuit of power. Through the screening mechanisms of the so-called “culture”, only the few “mature” or “committed” members are given access to REB based upon a paranoid and patriarchal mentality of obedience. The demonstrated signs of your “maturity” (i.e. submission and obedience) gauge the level of your “status” and regulated, controlled access to events, places and people on the political (not spiritual but political) pecking order…

REB’s behavior is a reflection of his own character and motivations, just like everyone else’s, and he should rightfully take responsibility for the problems his shortcomings have created in his own life and the lives of others. He is anything but free of ego. He has his own strengths and weaknesses. Yet through the process of indoctrination and manipulation, coupled with the weaknesses of those around him, he has been successful at keeping himself invulnerable and unquestioned. In so doing, he has become afflicted in all the ways that any man would be corrupted and deluded by excessive power and isolation from critical feedback. He has also thus imprisoned himself within the expectations he created in others and the torment of pretending to be something he is not. …

…Nor is it any longer accepted that “the world” is a terrible place full of terrible people, and that spiritual life ends when one leaves FOF. People now know better than to become ensnared in the tentacles of this argument. And where there was only “one” worthy of love and respect, all others became unworthy and worthless. This is what happened in FOF, for as we were all divested of our own selfworth and simultaneously invested in REB, we were rendered nothing rather than “no-thing.” Can you feel this?

We have all (current and ex-members), along with REB, cooperated in constructing this insane empire. It is a classic and perverted play on what might have been. And it is nothing like what most of us signed up for or thought we were choosing. But so long as you are exposed to the “system” which life in FOF represents, there is no space within which to understand this and be set free.

…those who serve critical functions in your “culture” adapt to a profoundly dependent form of relating to REB and a resulting righteous, exclusive, self-glorifying, self-protective and politically charged “life of service.” You are all aware of the institutional mentality of those who lead you at FOF. They are part of a machine and priesthood of aberrated spiritual seeking and corruption, an exclusive club, reigning in association with the “enlightened” source or “goodie” who is offered as a reward to those giving over their center, discrimination, and direct unmediated ability to live the truth of their own condition.

In this process many of you have lost yourselves, your power and your way. And for REB to hide behind a claim of “blamelessness and divinity” while placing all the blame on the immaturity of his devotees, those very people who depend on him for their spiritual guidance, is not only irresponsible and cowardly, but the perfect vision of a perfectly narcissistic megalomaniac. Surely there was a time before you came to FOF where you could have simply recognized this to be so.

But can you now? It is so hard from where you are. I know, for it has taken many people years, even after leaving FOF, to wake up from the sleep which had settled into every corner of their mind’s eye. Although discrimination is spoken about in the teaching, it is nowhere present in the lives of devotees.

Many of you have, through non-use, lost your own personal, instinctual feeling for life, having been conditioned to believe that it represents recoil from the divine. You have become good at obeying without reflection. Your blank agreement is applauded as “equanimity” and the transcendence of reactivity.

Those who are in the FOF hierarchy have the most to lose. And they are among the most corrupt and in need of help. These people are relieved of the ordinary responsibilities of life and live instead a bizarre fantasy life. To do the bidding of their teacher they have become proficient at selectively withholding and releasing edited information, and have made the poor choice of abandoning their native sense of human decency in exchange for power and prestige.

Many of these same people are the most seriously ambitious in their “search.” It is as if they have not yet adapted to the rudiments of the practice as it relates to the “search” and yet are influential simply because they are “submitted.” Having made such a heavy investment of time and energy in gaining their status and position, they are now banking on their “personal” relationship with REB to save them. In this way there is a tremendous amount of manipulation around the poles of hope and fear. You spin and turn but rarely find a seat from which to observe the play. … The shocking news that thousands of people see this “master” of yours as a tyrannical and deluded power broker never quite reaches your ears or cannot penetrate your rehearsed belief.

When finally pressed up against this blunt observation from “the world” outside, you hold up “the teaching” like a crucifix to stave off the heathen hordes. You retreat into the “certainty” that nothing like “the teaching” could ever have been written by a charlatan. But many believe that REB’s, or anyone else’s ability to artfully synthesize, categorize, and recapitulate ideas and insights does not bear any necessary relation to spiritual realization and maturity. Aside from his particular style of presentation and arrangement of things, there is nothing uniquely described in REB’s literature that does not appear elsewhere. … he has borrowed from or been heavily influenced by numerous others to whom he has given no credit at all. The fact that he has been able to articulate the free and transcendent relationship to life that we all instinctively feel in moments, coupled with the fact that he writes and speaks about many things which are beyond the realm of your personal experience, is offered as “proof” that he is spiritually superior to you.

Many of you have apparently forgotten the simple truth that actions speak louder than words, and that insights which are not practiced are meaningless, if not dangerous. Your distraction with a complexity of abstractions and a sophisticated, “pre-packaged” context within which to interpret everything has left you “incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.” “By their fruits shall ye know them”, said one spiritual teacher nearly 2,000 years ago. And it is on this basis that each one of us must draw our own conclusions regarding the spiritual status of Robert Burton.

I am so glad to no longer be where many of you are, and I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you why. In many respects it would have been far easier to write this entire matter off as just another set of experiences. But I have felt too much passion and serious caring to have made that choice.

Should any of you meander out beyond the fences and psychological barriers of FOF, you will find that there is “unavoidably” only god outside your temple walls. Your spiritual life may change in form, but it will continue. And there are many people who have been through what you have experienced and can thus offer help. Many have needed and received support in order to make the critical transition back to a measure of self-respectability.

…It would have been preferable for all of you to have done the work of provoking this discussion. But I understand why this could not be so and trust that you will soon recognize the benefits which will ultimately come from what has been started. If in the end there is a bit more openness and honesty in FOF, a degree of self-critical inspection, or a drop less arrogance and exclusivity on the part of Robert Burton, we will have all been served…


Mark D. Miller Sausalito, California USA

Now, before you dig too deep in your memories trying to remember that name, I should let you know that I needed to make a few small changes to the letter. Do the following substitutions, and you have the original letter:

Bubbles Burton = Franklin Jones
Robert Burton = Da Free John
FOF = JDC (Johannine Daist Communion)

The idea is obvious, hopefully. Just change the names and the rest of the text, despite its length, complexity and level of detail, is a near perfect fit – word for word, point for point. Would Margaret Singer just smile and nod knowingly at this point, Joel?

Nothing unique in REB’s approach, nor in its results in his students.


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