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, October 1, 2007

"Old FOF" discusses Robert's secret

"Old FOF" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 1, 2007 at 12:12 a.m.:
Ames (21/603)
I almost always agree with your posts, Ames. And fully respect your take.
But in my view one of your the recent posts needs an addition to be more fully true. It is probably true that most students in a position of responsibility for the past 10-12 years were as you described – in on “it.” Though even until recently – perhaps even now? – I doubt if most students, even those in positions of responsibility, understood the shockingly large scale of Robert Burton’s sexual impropriety.
I write to correct this as inadvertently the idea that everyone knew – may even now further wound those who were wounded. Also, to bear witness as accurately as possible. The proposition that “everyone knew” was decidedly NOT the case in the earlier days of the Fellowship of Friends.
For example, when I found out in the very late 70s, it was because Robert Burton had sent a troublesome student (read: one who knew the truth – and had to be sent away because of it) from The Property to an outlying center where I was in a position of responsibility. The memory is still clear – being in the dining room with this poor student as he explained patiently to me (again and again) the ridiculous idea that The Teacher was a homosexual who had relations with students.
By the way, this student was a homosexual and had not had relations with Robert Burton. But he indicated that he had a sense about people who were as he was – and had gotten a story from another young non-homosexual man who had had reluctant relations with Robert Burton.
The homosexual student indicated that his “research” had confirmed his suspicion that Robert Burton tended to a passive (receptive) role in sexual activities, and further indicated that like a certain subset of homosexuals Robert Burton preferred to have sex with heterosexuals. He told me that Robert Burton had found out about his “research” and this was the reason that he had been sent away from The Property.
In my innocence (the depth of which is a measure of how deeply Robert’s behaviors were hidden), I thought that this student was quite LITERALLY crazy – and I was humoring him along for the better part of an evening trying to figure out what to do about him. Well into the evening it suddenly came in a flash and penetrated that he might be telling the truth. This was a jolt that shook me to the quick. It would be hard to overstate this effect.
Later that night I called Robert Burton on the phone and asked him about this. He said (verbatim) about himself, “you have to play the hand you’re dealt.” Then he asked me to “release” the student from the Fellowship of Friends. I told Robert Burton that I could not do this – as the person had confided this information to me in sincerity and as a part my effort of trying to figure out why he was sent here. Robert got very angry and then calmed down and indicated that it was a weakness of my body type – that later I would learn to be more ruthless. And that for now he would honor my decision.
I spent the next few weeks trying to find out what was going on – and who knew what. I found that, with one exception, all of the “older students” queried (in a non-revealing manner) did not know. This highly focused effort on my part included Joel F and Sandra C and many others. Inevitably they gave the accepted wisdom: that Robert Burton had indicated and seemed to be fully celibate – and saved his sex energies for higher states.
Finally, one meeting-night at the Skyline Community Church in Oakland, California (where the big weekly meetings were held) I spoke privately with Miles B. He said yes Robert Burton was having homosexual relations with students. That he did not know what to think of it – but that he (Miles) had been reading up on homosexuality and generally trying to study on it and think about it. Miles then told me in a straight forward manner that he really didn’t understand it, but it did NOT seem right or good; it seemed very wrong for a teacher to engage in such activity with his students.
It took me a little while, but as soon as possible I removed myself from any and all positions of responsibility or prominence in the Fellowship of Friends. It took longer to leave. By the way, on next seeing Robert Burton he gave me a big wet sloppy kiss on the mouth — I was privately disgusted. And from that time on, when looking around I could see the signs and encouragements to homosexuality (a funnel directed toward Robert Burton) in many aspects of the physical school and teaching. It had always been there but I did not have the non-naïve eyes to see until then.
It was a terrible thing to no longer be able to indulge the luxury of being naïve. During the years long process of processing – which was one of deep loss – really of grieving (what, innocence lost, amputation of a spiritual limb?) – I was better able to understand things somewhat more clearly. Though it wasn’t until actually leaving the Fellowship of Friends and time gone by that the understanding grew more certain – and surprisingly now the blog …
Robert Burton had designed a form whereby largely the people in responsibility did NOT know his crimes. They (read: we) welcomed vulnerable students into the fold. The blowback that you sometimes heard from people returning from The Property to your center – did not compute. We didn’t know. And the vulnerable students, in retrospect, based on our dull responses must have assumed that we knew and were in on it, or that we didn’t know and wouldn’t believe them. So they were very effectively isolated.
It is ludicrous to think that Robert Burton “believes” or understands the idea of C-Influence that he promotes. If he did, it would be impossible for him to act in these ways. My present understanding is that Robert Burton is a spiritual criminal. His enablers have terrible karma. And Robert Burton’s karma is far worse – with the final payment having not yet been fully rendered.
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The form of the Fellowship of Friends was a thoughtful systematic construction of great cunning and wickedness – designed and controlled by Robert Burton. The “older” students, leaders, good students and regular students all – were beards for Robert Burton. Our role, my role, was one of naïve attraction and naïve concealment. And the activity which involved great shame for the violated and isolated went hidden or unbelieved for years if not decades (and for some will likely never be revealed).
Of course, there were students who knew back then. But it is my belief and educated sense that the great majority did not. I would like to note here in passing and acknowledge with respect that of the reputed “conscious beings” that I personally knew in the Fellowship of Friends, Miles B had the most integrity and Donald McD, not short on integrity either, easily had the most panache.

"Ames Gilbert" responded to the above on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 1, 2007 at 9:39 p.m.:
Dear Old FOF,
You are quite right, I took out the house painting brush to do a portrait, and so my message lacked precision and nuance.
I was coming from the point of view of learning, a few weeks after I got the boot, that the center director when I joined in London, Peter B_sh_p., had been ‘insincere’ when I asked about Burton’s celibacy at that time. He sold me the line that Burton was celibate and ‘used this energy to maintain higher centers and states’; in fact, according to what he personally admitted to me in 1994, Burton and he had had a prior sexual relationship, and it was ongoing (from time to time) when I asked the question in 1978.
I agree with your point generally. I had several long conversations with Stella after I left, and she described her journey of discovery; in the essentials, the same as yours, including disbelieving accounts from those who, in hindsight, surely knew the truth. She disbelieved for over five years, and actually stepped up her efforts to protect Burton in response to the stories; a strong part of this was probably to defend her own worldview and investment in her belief system. I did the same, so it is safe to assume the possibility for everyone else.
Thanks for pointing out that surprisingly few members and directors knew much for many years, and for sharing the details of your personal story.
And thanks, David, for setting me right about Milton as the source of my quote. Hopefully, that error didn’t distract from the message.
Thank you, Sheik, for ‘keeping at it’, despite your present difficulties, and thanks to all the contributors to this fascinating conversation. I’m learning a lot.
With love to you all,

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