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, August 6, 2007

Wives' stories

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 6, 2007:
There have been many postings which touch on the subjects of abuse and transformation, these are area’s in which as a student I have experienced a lot of overlap and confusion. First a true story about a couple, picture this…

The point of view of the ‘abused’

The Teacher has asked your partner to dinner, you are happy and excited for him. Some friends invite you to a gathering, because he would like the car it’s decided that he will pick you up when he’s ready. At the appointed hour he does not arrive.

Knowing that he won’t want to come in you go outside and wait on the veranda. It is deep winter and snow and rain have been falling intermittently. You wait for a while and when the cold is unbearable you go back in. Some time later you hear a horn hooting in the distance. You jump up, say goodbye to your friends again, and leave. Outside the rain is falling heavily… He’s still hooting and flashing his lights. You wonder why he doesn’t seem to want to come up the drive to collect you; perhaps he doesn’t want to get the car dirty, but you would prefer not to give it much thought? You step off the veranda and the slush pours over the sides of your evening shoes and up to your ankles. It doesn’t matter you think. They are just shoes.

It’s hard to find your way to the car in the dark, the boundaries between the path and various abysses have been wiped out by eddies of mud and melting snow, and sharp shrubs tear up suddenly. As you wade and slip, the hooting and flashing continues. The panic that had set in earlier is beginning to master you. When you finally reach the car you collapse in managing to smile nervously. But the atmosphere is thick, black. He recoils from you ,your clothes are sopping wet and there’s mud and twigs up to your knees; you are concerned about soiling the car. You ask nervously:

“How was it? Did the Teacher speak to you?”
“Why did you keep me waiting so long?” he snaps.

You try to explain, your words are jumbled and at the end you manage squeak “…and why are you angry?”
He turns in the driver’s seat, the darkness of his rage is almost radiant, his fist hits you in the cheek and eye, your shoulder thuds against the car door as you crumple.

As the stars subside you wonder what will happen next. You realise the car is going very fast. He’s looking ahead unflinching. You want to get out but you don’t know where you are and it’s so black outside.

You try to divide your attention.

(Do you have a higher state? …No)

When the car stops you clamber out and go straight to the bathroom. You don’t run because you know he will then chase you. You lock the bathroom door, peel off your sodden clothes and stand there trembling. You try to divide your attention.

(Do you have a higher state? …No)

He asks to come in. He starts to beg. He says he’s sorry, he says it was a mistake, a test for our relationship.
This is the man for whom you have pined. This is the man for whom you gave up everything. This is the match made in heaven. You decide to ‘transform’.

(Do you have a higher sate? …No)

“You must tell no one” he says. “We must work this out between ourselves”. The next day you your face is blown up like a balloon and your eye hardly shows at all. It’s the Christmas holidays, you are visitors, there are many events but you stay at home in the bedroom hiding, checking in the mirror as the eye goes from red to purple to black to green, to yellow.

He is kept busy, the Teacher is giving him a lot of attention, you are glad for him and hope that it will make him better. You don’t talk about the incident… He won’t, he becomes very tense, doesn’t see the need for it.

After five days you coat your face in makeup and drive with him to the Oregon house store. You wait in the car while he goes inside. An acquaintance comes over ‘Are you alright she says?’ you look away from her and mutter ‘yes’ hoping she will go away.

You do not allow yourself any self pity. You know that others in the world have had to endure much, much worse. This is an opportunity for you to transform, to become closer to him. He will understand one day, he will learn and he will truly love you for what you have forgiven.

(Do you have a higher state? …No)

Surely you reason this is payment in advance? Or payment in retrospect?



But not the end. The story repeats again and again. Strangely but maybe not so strangely, the Teacher never helped… more about that later.

The ‘abuser’

I don’t know how it goes for the abuser. With no irony intended I can only ask: When your knuckles hit the flesh of the intended do you feel the peace and resolution that you may have hoped it would bring? Is there any lasting gratification? Do you try to divide your attention?

In the shock wave that follows, in the remorse or the lack of remorse Do you experience the longed for higher centres? That miraculous place where all that you had called by your name shrinks into insignificance, where you understand all, love all unconditionally, where God’s breath breaths through everything… weaves all together?

There is also sexual abuse. Apparently this sometimes involves more planning because your goal is to make your target do something they would not otherwise wish. Depending on their age this may also be against the law. The target may need to be groomed: grooming can take years (if you have sufficient targets in the mean time you can afford this), or sometimes only a week. The target will need to be persuaded that what you long to do with them is normal, beautiful even, and very rewarding for all those involved.

If they believe they depend on you in any way you can threaten to withdraw what they believe they need. If the person is really very small you can say to them that if they tell, they will loose the only person that they feel truly safe with… truly loved by, you can threaten that Love.

I would ask you now; once you have enacted your desire do you feel relieved? Do you feel great love for the one you have taken? Do you divide your attention? Are you afraid? Do you feel a better person? Do you experience a higher state?

Do you feel that your target enjoyed the experience, or doesn’t that matter? If it’s a little person and they weep, how do you feel? Do you feel remorse? Or are you free of that? Was it for the greater good?
Friends of the ‘abused’ and the ‘abusing’

One thing I’ve noticed about abused students is that when we discover one another, we like each other, or at least there is a certain solidarity. We can talk about what we have separated from, what we have forgiven, how we have ‘transformed suffering’. We can feel that we have worked against Feminine Dominance. We understand and may even congratulate one another. We do not judge the people who hurt us too harshly, we struggle to be grateful for our play which has offered us so much opportunity for ‘transformation’.

In my experience Students who are caught in a ‘play of suffering’ (cycle of abuse) tend to avoid speaking to those who would ‘not understand’, who would not be able to transform.

The same seems to be true for ‘abusers’. They are pleased when they discover others (who the rest of society would describe as) having similar ‘failings’… at last there is solidarity. They feel relatively safe with each other, more secure. Perhaps they will even shield each other. Create environments where secrecy is preserved. Perhaps they tell each other that they are above Feminine Dominance, that they are the ones who understand the real laws of the universe. Perhaps they dream of a post apocalyptic world in which their truer longings can be freely gratified. Their enemies are not those that they ‘abuse’, but outsiders; people who would not ‘understand’.


So what was this ‘transforming’ of suffering, which I for one had been practicing for years? And had it ever brought me to the longed for Higher centres?

I think you know my answer.

Looking back at situations where I’ve felt mistreated it is very clear that I used the expression the ‘transformation of suffering’ as a buffer. Rather than be present to what was before me: pain, hurt, anger, indignation, a broken dream, and cope with the consequences of this admission, I had applied a blindfold labelled ‘transformed’. And in this darkness the dream could remain intact.

In a way I had been groomed for abuse in childhood. Every one has their story. My father ( having him self been cruelly treated) was prone to fantastic rages and the attendant violence. Often we had no idea why he was angry with us. But in a desperate bid to placate him, to maintain our dream feeling of being a ‘happy family’, we were constantly apologising and doing penance for the crimes he accused us of. When the system handed me the tool of ‘transforming suffering’ it was as easy as pie to miss-apply it.

I only really began to touch on the fringes of this subject, as I was relinquishing Robert as my teacher. Help has come from many directions… there are so many of you out there in the greater Fellowship and even on the street who know more.

One such example was my Yoga teacher. Having paid almost no attention to the health of the dreaded ‘instinctive’ centre for its life in the school I finally dragged myself to a class. After the first lesson the instructor asked me how I found it. I answered “It was Hell” he said “No, not Hell, Earth”. I asked him what I could do about the cramp I often got during the exercises and he answered

“Don’t do anything, just really, really FEEL the pain.”

So, if now you are now what other people might ‘describe as the victim of sexual abuse’ and if you are uncertain about what is really happening, I would suggest trying the following. When the person ‘does their thing’ to you, try to be really, really PRESENT. This means not buffering.

If it’s a man and you would prefer that it was a woman, (or vice versa) don’t imagine that it’s a woman. Try to really, really feel with each of your senses who IS before you, try to feel your natural un-rationalised response to them. If you have to tell yourself that the person is a ‘higher being’ this is also a buffer (even if they are) because you are still adding something to the immediacy of experience. If you have to tell yourself that the person is an ‘angel’ this too is likely to be a buffer; unless of course you can feel the brush and whiteness of their feathered wings…

If you are what others (if they knew) might call an ‘abuser’ and it hurts you too sometimes… Go to someone on the outside. I suspect that you have nothing to lose.

Cannot we all honestly say that if we ever really loved a person that that Love remains despite the hurt, despite the change in the relationship? Doesn’t that same feeling arise in our heart when we think of them? Is not the only thing lost the dream that we had projected on them, the expectations, the mirage?

"THAT GIRL" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 25, 2007:
[Quoting blogger "Fat Boy":] “There is no doubt that even with Robert huge sex life and greed he loves his students from his heart, and guess what even loves his former students. He is very sensitive in my opinion. …., I had a sexual relationship with the teacher and because I was homophobic at first it was difficult; but in my case I set the limits with Robert and he agreed. Now with others, I understand that they may have had bad experiences, ….There is alot of morality around sex and so many of us will have our opinions of what should be right or wrong. It is really subjective.”
Dear Fat Boy

There are few stories from wives of RB [Robert Burton] boys for good reason – the shame involved is incredible. But, believe me, we are around in numbers. The shame is two fold, one at being a wife or serious girlfriend who’s beloved man is having regular sex with someone else. But the shame I most want to talk about is living with, witnessing, the man’s shame. My husband was with RB a long time ago and he is NOT homosexual and the sex was coerced (he was an ‘idiot’ type). He was shamed into it by not being a ‘high’ being as RB. After being shamed into the sex, it was incredibly shameful for him to have enjoyable physical sensations. It haunted him for years and impacted his manhood – his perception of his manhood. This is VERY IMPORTANT for a man, it goes to the very CORE OF HIS ESSENCE and has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with feminine dominance or morality. RB shit on these men a festering scum cloud deep into their core. It takes extreme measures to heal from that and clean it out. I feel very sorry for you and very sorry for a woman who loves you – your cloud is still festering.

"wake up little suzy wakeup" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 7, 2007:
I think the psychological harm done by Robert, either consciously or unconsciously, to some of his students is pretty well described by #544 brain police [post number and blogger]. His role complicates and confuses the lives of many of his students, which can last for years in the school, as well as years out of the school.

Upon leaving, one is left to pick up the pieces of one’s life and move on for better or for worse. I certainly felt anger when I left but also a sense of freedom. Freedom of choice was a big one.

In the early 80′s I was misguided to continue an abusive relationship with my husband because Robert said it was an ‘essence’ relationship. I went back to my husband hating him (because that’s what Robert asked of me).

It was destined to fail. What my husband needed was therapy. He had a pretty bad case of post traumatic stress. I recognized this in him but at the time he was unwilling and not interested in receiving the help he needed. I knew at the time he was taking his anger out on me because of his pain from the past.

I remember someone in the inner circle saying ‘We’re not here to be therapists’. We are here to become conscious’.

Had my former husband received the help he needed at the time perhaps our marriage wouldn’t have failed. And I believe with the right guidance from Robert he would have gone to get therapy. Robert was in a position to show him the way but did not. Instead our marriage dragged on for a few more months with a little more abuse.

Come on people, do you really think this man directs his students to the path of enlightenment? Do you think that you are receiving healthy guidance from your teacher?

Or like many students would you say ‘it’s not Robert’s job or the Fellowship’s job to make decisions like that. We are adults.’ Tough love maybe?

I don’t deny I was a naive girl at the time I went back to my husband upon Robert’s request. If this man is supposedly conscious maybe it would be good to ask oneself what happened to his conscience? Would a great man in a position of power throw the lamb to the wolves? How does your conscience feel when you see this happening to others in the school? Do you sit back and somehow justify his behavior by stating it’s not our job in the Fellowship to help one another? By continual non-action and by stuffing ones feelings sociopathic tendencies emerge. And that is the greatest harm Robert has done to his students. He has taught by example and this is the result.

My advice to each and every student in the Fellowship is to leave as fast as you can.

See also: "Anna's Story"

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