Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970.

Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws
on official Fellowship publications and websites,
news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Elena's story, continued

[Elena Haven, outspoken Fellowship critic, formerly the wife of "conscious being" Girard Haven, shares a portion of her story.]

"Elena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 23, 2007:
Having read up to the third post by Jeremy.
You all make me laugh greatly, is that what they say in the fellowship since I left or what you´ve decided on this blog? That I am absolutely crazy!

What an honour. Have I met the qualifications for madness?

My goodness, I´ve finally qualified at something in the standards of the fellowship of Friends but I would sincerely enjoy hearing from you where this rumors came from.
Was it from my husband who mentioned such things to make students think that everything I was saying was just because I was mad when I started writing on the blog so that he could undermine the effects?

Or the gay people because I said being gay is the worst identification one could live with?

Or Unoanimo [blogger] who cannot decide whether I am welcomed or a hipocrite [sic] and should look for a Shaman to take the devil out of me?

Just so that you know how mad I really am I’ll tell you myself and try to be as brief as possible so that when you say or hear such things you can have some relativity.

I tried to commit suicide when I was twenty five years old by jumping from a balcony head down. I broke my skull in two places, inside, behind the eyes, had to learn to walk again and saw double after that.

I did it because I had been feeding unnecessary suffering for twenty years after my mother committed suicide when I was almost nine years old. When I survived, it was very clear to me that I had wasted twenty years feeding unnecessary suffering and that I wanted to live. I did not use those terms at the time but it was perfectly clear any way.

It took two years to keep, somewhat under control, the I that was extremely violent. I don´t know about other people who commit suicide, but the problem is very clear to me because once one has developed an I that is willing to do it, then keeping it under control is very difficult. I tried once more without results and never tried again but the I lurks around one and any thing too exciting tends to bring it out. For two years I sat under a great leaf and held myself still so that it would not show up at any turn of my emotions. I mean this emotionally. In actual practice, I married, had another child and continued to raise my children who are both two beautiful human beings without anything so extreme.

The marriage failed four years later as I had started to read the workbooks and I joined the fellowship after two months traveling to London with my two daughters to look for a school. The work worked. The non expression of negative emotions and self remembering slowly strengthened the I and depression moved away consistently. So did boredom and other similar emotions that are closely related to depression. Depression is to me an I that is hardly remembered, a “depressed” I and that is precisely why self remembering can help a great deal with depression. I have consistently spoken against the use of anti depressants for depression so common in the fellowship, when the discussion group existed.

I was intensely motivated by Robert Burton´s teaching for seventeen years and deeply greatfull sic]. I knew that practicing the work had helped me heal an enormous deal. I concentrated mostly in the non expression of negative emotions, non identification and unnecessary talk. I was on my own for two and half years with my children in London, then moved to Renaissance with them, bought a house and worked in the Lewis Carroll School, moved to Colombia and directed a tourist magazine for four years, opened a fellowship center with students who still, many, belong to the fellowship, then opened a restaurant for two and traveled back to Renaissance where I’ve been living for six years.

During those years in Colombia I much struggled with my homosexuality which I don’t believe was physical in my case, (if there is such a thing). I was brought up by maids who were thrown out every other year until at around five I swore to myself that I would never again love a maid. My mother shot herself when I was almost nine and I didn’t cry. I had stopped crying when women left, at the age of five. “Struggled” in that, after my mother´s death, women became a mystery to me and all my homosexual relationships were difficult. Much more than the heterosexual ones. I enjoyed different aspects of both. The emotionality with women, the sexuality and balance with men.

Finally I had a relationship with a woman with whom I committed in a different way to the ones before her. I had already been working on myself for eight or nine years and I made the aim to watch myself as it happened. It failed shortly after and I cried almost everyday for six months. It was wonderful! I cried for every woman that had ever left me and cried more for any one who would ever leave me, and more until the well was empty. When I got up from that bed, women were no longer a mystery to me, I never again felt attracted to them in that way.

I was very much in love with the work and the school when I went back to Isis. I actually went back with a young woman, but we separated shortly after arriving because I just couldn’t hold such a relationship any more. I had a relationship with a male student and then Girard showed up. I was not aware of there being anything wrong with Girard except that everything seemed wrong with Girard but nobody said anything about it in the fellowship. In other words, it was obvious to me that he was not well, that he talked much, repeated much and that he kept going around ideas without reaching out of his rationality but he was so willing to serve, so committed to the school and Robert that I thought that that was the level of understanding of the fellowship and that maybe I could help……. With love. After [name omitted] told me the things she told me about Girard, I was shocked but when he showed up again, I was still willing to try.

It was difficult at the beginning. In fact it was always difficult but at least he stopped hitting me and stopped watching porno after the first day in which I told him to leave immediately, that it would not work with that. He’d hit himself and the car and the table. He hit me until after a few months when I told him to leave and he knew I was very serious. But every time we came to this fights and arguments in which I would become very sad and stay in my studio for a long time, he simply waited and became calm, admitted that it wasn´t good and tried to work to make it better. I came to love him immensely because he always made it a little better. He hit himself less each time, started bringing flowers home almost every week and planting trees. We worked much for the fellowship. I loved it.

Wanted to give all that I had to him and the fellowship and I had plenty. I had not been badly depressed for years, knew how to deal with his depression and Dorothy´s Alzheimer enough to help her live a fairly decent old woman´s life. To “deal” with it at least in as much as I had had to have an enormous amount of tolerance and compassion for myself to not kill myself no matter how depressed I was and Girard´s depression or Dorothy´s Alzheimer together, were no worse than mine had been. I knew that all I had ever needed was compassion and I was willing to give it to myself because I was very clear that I did not wish to die. Girard accepted to stop taking antidepressants almost immediately and we rolled down the best we could for four years.

No regular person is willing to give or do anything for any one else unless they are identified with them. If we were all strong that would be fine because it is a pleasure for each individual to carry his own load when he is strong enough, but when we are weak, we need a great deal of help from others, a great deal of “bearing” with us without judgement. Time to “sit under the leaf” while we sort out the Is that trouble us.

Inviting Heather, a student´s daughter, to live with me was a similar situation. She’d tried to hurt herself three times and I knew she would continue if she wasn’t helped. She did not try once in the five months she lived in our place but tried again two months after she left. Even so, she was not helped to receive my help by those around her and she neglected to work on the things I offered her. Still, I dare say, overall, we love each other, know each other.

There was indeed much love between Girard and I, the progress was slow but always a little of it, only we never rested and I became increasingly tired. So very tired that I asked Robert for help and he told me he never wanted to hear from the octave again and that I was not to speak to the four ladies leading octaves in the fellowship about it. That cracked the egg in which I was living. Girard had done nothing to help no matter how tired I was and Robert said I was under feminine dominance and dismissed the issue while still accepting my requirement.

The theoretical confrontations with Girard were always there, with much love. I tried to question why he would not give himself any time to enjoy and was always working for the fellowship and why he could not give his wife time except what we shared in the daily routine of eating and sleeping together. Why we could not rest, take time off. There were deeper areas. Patterns of macho mentality that could not appreciate, I think, any woman for more than the sexuality.

This was not rare to me or something I was not willing to work with. I spent five years, from fourteen to nineteen studying the mass psychology of fascism and male authoritarian behavior and understood the obstacle fairly deeply but understanding the obstacle and having my husband understand it were two different stories. Girard did love me in his own particular way, but it was not enough to protect me or help me in the play in the fellowship of friends. His blind commitment to Robert which simply strengthened his own macho behavior were too strong to be able to help me or what I was trying to offer.

I am a proud and beautiful human being and have lived each second of my life. Specially the last twenty three years since I decided I wanted to live it. I worked and learnt, I taught and shared, I loved.

You may call me crazy but I love this madness if it is madness.

I have not always been this sane or insane, and it has taken all these years to understand that an individual is nothing on his own, his family and his community count and mad are only those who still think that they can live without being thoroughly responsible for everything in their reach.

Why the fellowship did not embrace my love is not my problem. Why they preferred to label me and have me carry the load of Girard´s pornography as if I were little more than a crazy whore, is not my problem, or why my husband left me and was unwilling to stand up for us and protect us, is again, not my problem. Even if these things are not said outwardly, they lay in the background and can be heard loudly. Why labelling me crazy makes them think that students will feel more comfortable with the madness that is going on inside the fellowship, is not my problem. The problems are yours.

I might hurt from your abandonements but if you abandon those that love you it is your problem and if I survived my self twenty three years ago, I swear, you are not a great bunch of people to die for, at least not by my own hand, so don’t worry about my sanity and start questioning your own.

I have never been anywhere close to a mental institution. My psychoanalist who had been a psychiatrist for twenty five years told me the first day I went to see him that the only thing that he had seen that ever helped people, was talking and that was why he was now a psychoanalist. We worked together for two years after I hurt myself and never looked for another one.

I talk to you without fear. I have nothing to hide from you people. You can no longer hurt me with your made up lives trying to fit everything to continue the lie in which you’ve decided to live. Your poor and antisocial lives without any compassion for your children or your old people. Your cold and degraded lives with a made up puppet disguised as a conscious barbie.

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