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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Defenders

"Old FOF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog October 14, 2007 at 6:22 p.m.:
Fat boy 551
Lateral Drift 557
Vinnie the Fish 294 and posts various [bloggers and post numbers]
12 observations on the present FOF defenders
or, Tips For Better Playwriting
1). Funny how, going all the way back, it always eventually seems to be three, in phases of new names.
2). Not sure if it is one person with three personas, or three useful idiots.
3). Please note how they come in waves. Coordinated on whose orders? Certainly not Robert Burtons’s; after all – they told us so.
4). Interesting that they all present themselves as male heterosexuals.
5). It is suspicious that they are all very articulate – in the same way. And how they mostly point out bloggers’ faults, but do not substantively address issues raised.
6). Fascinating how they have become more refined in their arguments (since the beginning of the blog where they were mostly denying, dull, threatening or insulting) – now the underlying message of all three is conceding what has to be conceded – but minimizing it and saying – hey look at me: you can still work on yourself in the Fellowship of Friends. And by the way, (by citing phantom or real insults) look how mean, low-down, and bitter (or old) these terrible ex-students have become …. Philistines really, who are anti-sex, or anti-homosexual, or who, in any case, no longer or ever understood the rarified beauty of the male bonding experience.
7). They kind of feel like constructs that a (poor) playwright might create: Vinnie is the happy-go-lucky tramp in London (inconsistently using American english) hitting on KA (so, supposedly hetero); “fat boy” is the married hetero twit with the “no biggie” butt-fucking the “Avatar of the Age” is good-for-my-evolution attitude – and certainly carries no emotional or spiritual downside or baggage for me or others; Lateral Drift is the on-the-fence pondering putative possible future good student who doesn’t see what the fuss is about as it might be good for his (future) work – as he slips up here-and-there and speaks in “mature” work language.
8). It is also odd how superficial they all are.
9). It is troubling how little conscience is involved in their presentation. Only passing regard for the certainly hundreds and possibly thousands who have been wounded by Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends.
10). It is telling how they casually dismiss or DO NOT ADDRESS the financial impropriety, the new sophomoric allurement direction away from the fourth way of the “teaching,” or the fundamental underlying issues related to abuse of students. Or engage in meaningful revelation about their personal struggles.
11). My suspicion is, given how far the aspirations and moral understandings of the current leadership have clearly fallen, this is the best that the current Fellowship of Friends can do: completely ignore virtue as an aim, and present iniquity as a neutral value. And this is supposed to be attractive?
12). It is terrible if these personas have been created by one clever salaried student – as a current (and may I interject: poor, ineffectual and self-defeating) “ad” to help stem the tide of students leaving – and precious few joining. But, purely in terms of virtue, it would so much worse if these vicious amoral “students” are actually real.

"Old FOF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 13, 2007 at 8:36 p.m.:
And on reflection after your posts I too hope if they are actual persons [official Fellowship bloggers], that they are just young. And yes, maybe many of us were versions of the Vinnies as younger seekers. The defenders do indicate they want respect, but it seems like they mostly want shelf space.
And it is a PR problem – but a REAL public relations problem. And serious PR professionals know that the first rule is: you have to fix the real underlying problem.
This is going to sound na├»ve, but there is a precedent from my first “school.”
The Fellowship of Friends membership – meaning probably the existing leadership or maybe serious older students – has to get Robert Burton under control. They need to UNDERSTAND That they have the power and the moral and legal obligation to stop or at least isolate the sexual and financial impropriety.
The Farm in Tennessee staged a revolt from leader Stephen Gaskin (St. Stephen) who too was hijacked by power and similarly abused his role. The resolution was a serious mediation that left the main group and property still functioning – and Stephen was provided an area nearby to live and write.
The Farm was a kind of more organic version of the FOF Property started by a big group of ex-hippies out of San Francisco (and others who joined) under the practice of trying to live in the now
Nick S really ought to call off the bloggers again – who are doing the Fellowship no favors (Nick?). And if there are any other adults still left in the Fellowship of Friends, they ought to start figuring out how to begin to address the corruption. Maybe even a joint committee of select ex-students and students? – to begin to try to figure out how to begin.
There may not be much to save, but something is better than nothing – and if virtue is injected into the vicious cycle – the surprises may begin to be on the upside. One good outcome of The Farm situation is what didn’t happen. It did not have a violent or unusually strange ending.
Offered in good faith.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 13, 2007 at 9:12 p.m.:
Re: WasKathleenW, post #572, and to others…
Some months ago, I was privy to a meeting where possible countermeasures to the blog were being discussed. One such countermeasure was to introduce counter-bloggers, to disrupt or discredit the bloggers, and thereby to lessen the potentially destructive influence of the blog. I don’t know if “professional” blog-busters have been brought on board, but I would not be surprised.
So, I would advise all consistent posters to not be naive about this ‘actively monitoring presence’. (Also, to not be intimidated by it.) Some bloggers obviously have pieced things together for themselves and are not naive, but there is still a lot of distracting “buzz” related to this topic.
To counteract the FoF countermeasures, the best course of action might be simply to not “go for the bait” that is thrown out by blog imposters. “Chumming” is a prime tactic, and unfortunately I see many of you spending your (and the blog’s) time and energy chasing the bait around and around like schools of hungry minnows.
Practice a bit of indifference and restraint, folks. You don’t have to swim up to, and nibble on, every f***ing post! Focus on useful goals, and let these imposters fall away like the shills and shadows they are.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 13, 2007 at 11:05 p.m.:
Re: post #584, from KA [blogger]

Thanks for your post, KA. I appreciate the balance that you offer to the topic of how best to deal with counter-bloggers.
Yes, it is quite right to be swift in pointing out glaring un-truths and misconceptions, and yes, it’s fine and proper to have fun poking at these guys/gals!
My point in post #579 was to recommend against our spending an undue amount of time and energy reacting to posts from suspected counter-bloggers, thereby enabling them to succeed in diluting the blog’s force and usefulness.

"Old FOF" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 15, 2007 at 11:08 p.m.:
Re: recent posts of the Defenders
If you lean back just a bit and think, it’s apparent that likely without meaning to the recent posts by the Fellowship of Friends Defenders (the newly pepped-up “Vinnie” and “fat boy”) are effectively making the case AGAINST the Fellowship.
Have to laugh a little – I think the Persona-Master has been wrong-footed and is off his game. Or maybe it is just hard to defend the indefensible.
This is a win-win debate to have.
In any case, the admissions and concessions are breath-taking. They are so astoundingly mind-bogglingly jaded.
In their trying to define a new normal they are making the case that behavior that is below the level of life is OK. Why would seekers who aspire to the highest accept this pathology as inspiration for their goals?
Do they really think this school for sociopathy, sodomy and human bondage that they are presenting is attractive? I would expect that most of the rank-and-file membership is horrified by these admissions.
Further, it seems to me that one outcome of all this finally bubbling up – and being admitted to by Fellowship members – is that there should now be a requirement (as enforced by the threat of or real civil lawsuits) that not only should every existing member of the Fellowship of Friends be informed in writing as to Robert Burton’s behaviors, but every prospective member should be informed in writing of such behaviors prior to joining.
Keep making your sad case, guys. You’re in so far, that you seem to have no idea how damaging it is.

"Laughing Love" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 16, 2007 at 4:12 a.m.:
Hello All.
I’ve been away for awhile, but still care deeply about this blog and the important information, dialogues and monologues that are expressed.
Of late, there appears to be a resurgence of fundamentalist members arrogantly flaunting their filthy feathers. As usual, they provide any prospective member who is reading here with all the information they need about the absolute fact that the fellowship is an absolutely typical cult in which the members are brainwashed to believe that they are, mysteriously, chosen as the elite.
They are chosen by a vaguely “magnetic” god and are blinded by their delight in their supposed superiority. Sadly, I know this because I was in that position and precisely fell into that false lap of dim, miserably lonely luxury.
(There is no question that “Lateral Drift” [blogger]was a complete fake. Who would knowingly join a corrupt cult willingly? None of us knew it was a cult. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have joined. It’s sheer folly and there are so many choices!)
We’ve all been who they are and where they are. We all know exactly what it is like to twist logic in order to justify anything, anybody and, most importantly, our own sense of superiority.
We all know exactly what it feels like to poo-poo morals because we were above those “ridiculous” human values. We all know how it feels to feel superior to the human race and its myriad experience, foibles and knowledge in its entirety. We all know how it feels to wish we were not human.
Personally, I’m deeply embarrassed by my idiocy in joining this silly group and it has given me a great deal of information about my ability to be in denial, to strut about arrogantly and to feel highly superior and above basic human morals, which are, in part, the basis of civilization. My strains of narcissism still need to be monitored. I know this because I believed, somehow, that I was “chosen”.
The recent posts by, i.e. Vinnie [blogger], which tend to attempt to justify clearly abnormal behavior in the name of “morals are stupid”, is just ridiculous and clearly makes apparent the absolute insanity of cult think. Critical thinking skills, otherwise known as common sense, exit stage left when it is convenient. Intuition also disappears in the context of cult think. Perhaps most importantly, real emotion is absolutely extinct. Who would not feel outrage toward the idea of any human’s expression of their experience of abuse, sexual or otherwise? Why would someone sneer at feelings? It’s so cold. My best guess is that those persons are abusers themselves and revel in meting out pain.
Apparently, one is expected to become inhuman in order to become “conscious”.
I reject this irrational, damaging and insane thought process entirely.
Finally, I know how futile it is to communicate with a cult member because I know it was impossible to communicate with me when I was in that position. I was so convinced that I was unique and held an understanding that the millions of generations before me and in the present could not fathom. I was that great!
If one believes they have transcended the human experience and has several pat answers to the human experience, there is no way to get through.
Therefore, although any may try, I think it is very important to recognize that they will not hear the truth from any aside from themselves. They are not elite, don’t hold special knowledge and are as run of the mill as just about anyone. I certainly know that I had to verify that for myself.
Genius is rare and, although these fundamentalist members seem to propose that they are unique geniuses who have miraculously discovered the secret to life, it is clear, even in their grammatical errors, that they are far from inspiring beauty, intelligence and/or love.

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