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, August 23, 2007

"ton's" Story

Image from Dead Can Dance
"Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book"

"ton" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 23, 2007:
Being new to this, I hope it’s not coming too much from ‘left field’ and as for protocol I’m not sure why this is mostly anonymous/pseudonymous but I’ll follow those examples for now. I’ve looked at some of the postings here and have to wonder about the aim of this…everyone is unique, different. But we share experience. I’ve spent some time looking at the faces and names in the members section and many of you I remember but there are more that I don’t know. I have some time before returning to work, it’s an unusual day for August in Phila(delphia), overcast, cool, raining, a good day for nostalgia and memories.

It seems that Robert Burton to some degree still has an affect/effect on those who write here and this is partly a way of processing.

The word ‘processing’ implies progression or at least some movement…where does ‘the work’ (in this case the conversation) get stuck and how to MOVE ON positively is a question. (On the other hand, there are those who claim to live on hate alone).

I moved to Renaissance [ed. - Mt. Carmel, Isis, Apollo] with ‘M’ my high school sweetheart in 1977. We ate, showered and slept at the Lincoln Lodge, then lived for a while in a tent in the woods next to a stream. I was asked to move to the Blake Cottage [ed. - Robert Burton's residence] and followed the course laid out in many of the previous posts, I won’t go into the sordid details. (the ‘Academy’ was under construction at the time although I might still be considered a “cadamite” – or catamite – is the beneficiary/victim of an older, powerful, homosexual predator-pederast who is constantly recruiting a succession of adolescents, and showering affection, preferences, professional opportunities and material goods in return for sexual favors. my question is whether conscious bob was aware of the rich pun involved in naming his house the ‘academy’ and the definition of a ‘cadamite’ ? Probably not.)

After I woke up to what was going on, M and I got back together, we were married at Renaissance, she became pregnant, RB [Robert Burton] asked that the fetus be aborted, his rationale was that the child would not be born onto ‘the ark.’ My gut feeling was that this was revenge for moving out of the Blake Cottage. I asked Miles Barth for counsel, in so-many-words he said ‘teacher knows best.’ M had to be persuaded by the heavyweights surrounding RB at the time, despite her tears and protests she had the abortion. I still feel guilt and complicity over this, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it.
I left the FOF [Fellowship of Friends] in ’83, a year before one of the predicted cataclysms. M stayed, remarried and I think still remains. (Does anyone know?) I lived in SF [San Francisco] after leaving, it was difficult, I lived for a time on the street, I bumped into and shared a bottle with Kimo Beech [ed. - another Fellowship outcast] who had apparently suffered similar circumstances, he’d been ‘down-and-out’ for some time. I slept and ate in church shelters, and later managed to rent an apartment in The Tenderloin, right next door to the Glide Memorial on Ellis Street. There is much I am leaving out here.
A minion for Samuel Sanders, his name was Robert I believe, a Venusian from Vancouver(?) he said he had worked with counseling prisoners after certain experiences…whatever, he wanted to get me involved in the lawsuit – I declined, never did hear about the outcome. Where to go from here in my story? To ‘move on’ was the idea then, that’s why I didn’t want to get involved in the lawsuit, I was trying to put the past behind. But one doesn’t forget the past…what to do with these memories? Share them? Where do they go? If there is a moral here, I guess it’s about moving on, recognizing the importance of memory, reflection, individuation and community.

"ton" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 4, 2007:
bruce 119 [blogger and post number]

when m & i lived at kevin kelly’s house we were your “next-door” neighbors. i know that m developed a friendship with you and your wife during that phase but didn’t know that she had confided in you about the terror of her situation… it makes sense that she would turn to you and “your m” with the problem she faced.
“my m” fought valiantly against the power that was forcing her to act against her will. she fought it the only way she could, mostly with tears and verbal protestations. but there was little sympathy for her plight since it was the will of “the teacher” that she abort the pregnancy. Sharon s, linda, and other rb puppets were brought in to arrange the operation in L.A. and to try to convince m that the abortion was the right thing to do…

the explanation from the horse’s ass had something to do with the timing of the pregnancy, that the child would not be born on “the ark.” what outrageous bullshit!!! “the teacher” rationalized the whole thing based on the dire “prophecies” which at the time i believed… now i see that the predictions were nothing more than fear-mongering and another means of mind-control.

i’m not a “right-to-lifer” by any means, i believe it’s a woman’s right to choose what to do in the case of pregnancy. but given the situation and circumstances, m had no choice! she was coerced from the beginning, and i blame myself for this…. we should have just fled the scene then and there, but i was deeply brain-washed.

I’ve written previously that my “suspicion” at the time concerning the motivation behind the whole thing was jealous revenge… i left the academy and married m (you took the pictures of our wedding there at renaissance). i mentioned in a previous post that i went to miles with my concerns and suspicions — the next “conscious being” and already almost man # 5… what absolute rubbish!! i found no support from him, he backed “the teacher.” as a “task” from the teacher, i thought it was essential to convince m that it was the right thing to do…. i was just another “little eichman.”

this is stuff that’s been buried for a long time and it’s heart-rending to re-live… it makes me feel physically ill.
I was there at the hospital holding her hand after the abortion, trying to console her… (what a colossal fool i am), she could not be consoled, any words i might have uttered went unheard. the intent of the abortion worked as planned — by siding with “the teacher” i destroyed my wife’s trust in me and too, the marriage. I’ve written before, that my complicity in this criminal act is personally THE most damning event of my fof experience. it’s a sin i’ve lived with for many years and i’ll go to my grave with it… there’s hell to pay. i loathe myself for my part in it and i have to wonder how a human being responsible for this situation many times over can possibly live with “itself” ?!? it’s completely monstrous!

in other posts, i’ve briefly sketched my difficulties when i left the fof… i lived a dissolute and self-destructive life, i slept on the pavement at night and aimlessly wandered the streets by day, like “wind along the waste.” later i realized that this was the manifestation of a strong death-wish, the humiliation of that kick-in-the balls courtesy of “the teacher” completely destroyed my will to live and i can say now, “but for the grace of god” and the loving support of a few earth-angels, i should be already, a long time in the grave.
thank you for listening to my story.

"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 30, 2015:
[Quoting] 36 Nigel

“I do not know why it has to be for some… as others have ‘a cruise’ through life.”

After sleeping in homeless shelters in SF and working odd jobs for a while, I managed to scrape together enough money to rent a room in a fleabag hotel in the skid-row neighborhood called ‘The Tenderloin.’ The room I rented was on Ellis Street, the place was right next to Glide Memorial Church, a homeless shelter and a place I used to go to occasionally for a warm meal. The Tenderloin was / is a notoriously seedy / dangerous neighborhood – not a place to be walking around after dark which I found out the hard way. I was mugged one night while walking back to my room from the bus stop after work. It was 1983, I’d recently left the school… and this was getting back on my feet ?!

It was around that time I was surprised one afternoon by a couple of ex-students who showed up at my door, they had somehow managed to track me down, I have no idea how, but they were in league with Sam Sanders, and in the process of rounding up and recruiting participating witnesses for the lawsuit Cathie L mentioned @ 51. These ex-students were ‘dressed to the 9’s’ like real upper-crusters, all suits & ties, cuff-links, gucci shoes and smelling of givenchy…. (tricks they’d no doubt learned from burton). Anyway, these two were indeed an anomalous sight in that skid-row neighborhood.

They bought me lunch in a nice restaurant uptown in order to talk ‘business’ – their motive was to persuade me to take part in the Sam Sanders lawsuit. But I refused, I was trying very hard to forget and move on with my life in the only way I knew how… trying to put a horrible episode behind me, and I thought, now to try to seek some type of retribution and revenge on burton was not the way for me to get over it.

With hindsight, now I think that taking part in the lawsuit would have been a good way to process what had just happened in the FOF and it might have brought a sense of resolution and closure to the episode. I think now that reluctance to participate in the suit was a type of denial on my part, I wanted to go on with life as if the FOF hadn’t entered into it…. but it had.

I wish that I could have ‘cruised’ through the FOF undamaged, unscathed, like Cathie L, Bob S and many others… and I know there are those who even feel they benefitted from their time in the FOF. I wish I could have managed to avoid the consequences some of the less fortunate were forced to endure…. and I know there are those who fared worse, much worse than I… life’s funny that way… and not funny as in ‘ha, ha.’ The choices that are made have a lot to do with it… and it seems sometimes ‘choices’ are made for us… some call it ‘fate’ or ‘fortune’ – in any case there are the unforeseen consequences that enter in. Life’s indeed a mystery.

[From Dead Can Dance's "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book":]

Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book
Fortune presents gifts not according to the book
Fortune presents gifts not according to the book
When you expect whistles it’s flutes
When you expect flutes it’s whistles
What various paths are followed in distributing honours and possessions
She gives awards to some and penitent’s cloaks to others
When you expect whistles it’s flutes
When you expect flutes it’s whistles
Sometimes she robs the chief goatherd of his cottage and goat pen
And to whomever she fancies the lamest goat has born two kids
When you expect whistles it’s flutes
When you expect flutes it’s whistles
Because in a village a poor lad has stolen one egg
He swings in the sun and another gets away with a thousand crimes
When you expect whistles it’s flutes
When you expect flutes it’s whistles,_San_Francisco


"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 4, 2022:

[Quoting] Jomo @ 75

“To think critically implicates the ability to call bullshit by its true name. Try doing that in the context of ‘organized Work’ and see how far it gets you.”

Of course not all ‘organized work’ is created equally – “context is everything.” Sometime prior to physically leaving the FOF version of ‘organized work’ – a year or more prior – I had already left… I hung on for as long as I did because of emotional attachments formed over the years therein.

As related previously in these pages, leaving was the most difficult thing I’ve done in this life, the decision didn’t come easily – the actual circumstances of exiting and adjusting to life outside the cult, with no social support, I can say with hindsight that I barely made it out alive.

I wrote an exit letter to Burton explaining why I was leaving, I don’t remember all it contained but the gist was that the flaw in the day-to-day organizational operation of the FOF was that there was (is) no semblance of a democratic process. I objected to (among other things), the dictatorial direction of the organization. I suggested that although a more inclusive decision-making process may be “messy” and present certain organizational challenges, it would help the members to feel more a part of the program and direction of the “ark”

I gave the letter to my then-wife M, she passed it along to Burton. I was still in contact with M for some time after physically leaving the FOF – she remained a member. I subsequently heard from her that Burton’s only comment to her about the letter was that I didn’t understand “the system.”

To your point, in so many (more) words, in my own way I called “bullshit” on Burton’s “organized work” by challenging his way of thinking about the organization… I did this with the naive hope of changing his mind and attitude toward members and their participation… how far did it get me? It did manage to get me out of the confines of the cult, it opened a door to whole new possibilities.

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