Introduction


Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A cult from the start?

[ed. - Many ex-members believe that The Fellowship of Friends started quite innocently as a Fourth Way study group, that gradually lost its way. Here are portions of a compelling discussion that suggests otherwise. "RB" is Robert Burton, "FOF" is Fellowship of Friends.]

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 5, 2008:
Elena

I’ve really enjoyed your last several monographs.

From 271
“People who left the Fellowship recently are in the worst spiritual limbo that people can be no matter how O.K. we might look from the outside.”
When I left the FOF there was nothing like this blog (or the internet). I was entirely on my own. I had seen the anguish and internal torture, and heard of suicides of members that took that leap. I did not seek any member out to tell them what conclusions I came to; I let them come to me. The reason was that the push through the last barrier was a passage through a sense of utter hopelessness. And while that moment only lasted a fraction of a second, it was one of the worst moments I can remember. I was not wiling to be part of pressing somebody to leave unprepared. In this blog, however, we can speak our minds and those that listen are doing so because they are seeking to know.

In contrast to what someone posted earlier, The FOF I knew was not a cult when I joined (I think there were about 30 members). There was a considerable amount of skepticism about Robert being a “#5″. His predictions were something of a joke. Gradually, what was “verification” based became faith based. It seemed like a slow progression to me. We were busy with exercises that seemed worthwhile, yet they drew us away from seeing what was really happening. It was after the expansion to many distant cities (other than Hawaii) that influx of a different kind of “student” began to show up. These were the “faithful” with dour affects and judgmental “photographs”. This was when the “old guard” like Stella were pushed aside. Was this always RB’s plan? I just can’t give him that much credit. I believe sociopath’s operate instinctively. They may be tactical but not strategic.

Paul

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
[Quoting] 304/I’ll Never Tell
"If, in 35+ years, FoF could become what it did – pretty much the opposite of what it started out to be – then what else could it become?"
This is the group myth at work. The FoF was, beginning on January 1, 1970, intended as one and only one thing, and it remains today that thing: a renewable source of narcissistic supply for the top dog.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting above] 308. veronicapoe
“The FoF was, beginning on January 1, 1970, intended as one and only one thing, and it remains today that thing: a renewable source of narcissistic supply for the top dog.”
I’ll have to assume you were there on Jan. 1 1970 and had access to RB’s brain, because otherwise your statement is pretentious bull shit posing as fact. If your above statement is true, than here is the “octave” that never deviates, and remains straight on it’s path. It’s more likely that RB actually believed one set of “stuff”, that over time became it’s opposite, or somethingorother.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
Of course, at the same time, it could also be true that RB was born to become the sociopath that he is, and that may be the likely course he took. There may be “change” for the sociopath, but I’d guess it’s rarely the change that the sociopath is “claiming” (“I’ll die a higher man than Christ…blah blah blah).

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
Without the parasitic sycophants I doubt RB would be where he now is.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Responding to above] veronicapoe (308):
“This is the group myth at work. The FoF was, beginning on January 1, 1970, intended as one and only one thing, and it remains today that thing: a renewable source of narcissistic supply for the top dog.”
The more I read the blog [and] speak with other former followers, it becomes clearer to me that it’s always been a cult. And it’s odd that I ever would have believed otherwise. I think the myth grows out of the fact that it’s more comfortable to believe that WE weren’t deceived “back then.” We were different, and the fof was different. To state the obvious: We were deceived, just as everyone is being deceived right now. About the idea further up the page that many of us are “eternal ex-students”: I have no idea what that means. Sounds like some sort of 1984 doublespeak, but if it means what I think it means, it pretty much speaks for itself in the fof-is-the-center-of-the-universe department. Good response from I’ll Never Tell: “I do not know what could be worse: eternal ex-student or eternal current student. You have to decide for your self.” And Traveler wrote about the same topic and the FOF’s dissociative thinking: “…Preferably pretend we’ve always done it this way. Preferably pretend those who dropped out along the way never existed. Preferably pretend we were never really expecting the end of the world. Leave it behind, separate from mechanical I’s. Why can’t you just be in the present? Feeding off of the buzz and excitement of new ultimate solutions. Stop thinking and end your problems. Turn from those unpleasant emotions about what you witnessed, be blissfully unaware in the sheltered ignorance of the now.” Has anyone summarized it better?

"wakeuplittlesuzywakeup" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

"The more I read the blog speak with other former followers, it becomes clearer to me that it’s always been a cult. And it’s odd that I ever would have believed otherwise. I think the myth grows out of the fact that it’s more comfortable to believe that WE weren’t deceived 'back then.' We were different, and the fof was different. To state the obvious: We were deceived, just as everyone is being deceived right now."
Who is deceiving who? I think the deception lies within ourselves.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

Bruce, yes, I think both are true. I agree with you on this topic, and I think veronicapoe is right as well. Many things are true. I don’t think we had to be there to know it was a cult in 1970, any more that we have to be with RB at all times right now to know that it’s a cult right now. For me, I’d really prefer to believe there were entirely benevolent reasons for the FOF coming into being. Unfortunately, I’m realizing that this is yet another example of denial on my part. I’m also realizing there may be quite a bit that I still don’t know about this man, and about the group that I joined, which is one of the reasons that I keep checking into the blog, and keep talking to other friends who were there. Even in the last two or three pages, I’ve become more enlightened about how he thinks and what he’s been up to… 64 in a day? Really? That’s our “beloved teacher” Holy sh–! Was I living a dream, or what?! (And when a part of me begins to think the entire ’64’ story was one big exaggeration, I immediately catch myself and realize: This, too, is more of the same denial. Not me, I couldn’t have been so stupid, could I? And a person couldn’t be so incredibly twisted and evil. could he? I doubt that Burton knew exactly what he was doing at all times, and that he somehow envisioned the future enough to know that he’d be where he is now. And you and others are correct that a lot of what the FOF has become is the result of the sycophants that have added their signature to it and enabled the guy. But I’ve been able to conclude from everything I’ve heard and seen firsthand from this person that something was seriously “off” with him long before he founded this cult. Call it lack of conscience, narcissism, multiple personalities, whatever. It’s been there, and we were somehow lured into it. Just checking in again to say hello. Again, I’m writing this for current “members” mostly. You do know, don’t you, that this man holds absolutely no feelings for you, and can discard you at a moment’s notice? What about that has anything to do with “love”?

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting above] veronicapoe (308):
“This is the group myth at work. The FoF was, beginning on January 1, 1970, intended as one and only one thing, and it remains today that thing: a renewable source of narcissistic supply for the top dog.”
If you read Bonita’s account, which was written decades after the beginning, I can see how Rear View Mirror (312) [above] would draw the conclusion: “The more I read the blog speak with other former followers, it becomes clearer to me that it’s always been a cult. And it’s odd that I ever would have believed otherwise. I think the myth grows out of the fact that it’s more comfortable to believe that WE weren’t deceived “back then.” We were different, and the fof was different. To state the obvious: We were deceived, just as everyone is being deceived right now.”

But I was there pretty early on. I started sitting in Sambo’s with Stella, Harold, and the all night group (sometimes Robert) and even went to meetings months before I actually paid my money and joined. I joined a discussion group for $35 bucks a month which gave me access to (me a 17 y/o kid) doctors, lawyers, Ph.D.s, an amazing professor of physics and really down-to-earth good folks like Rosemary MacDonald and Don Birrell. And these folks would listen to what I had to say. We were studying Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s ideas. Not Robert's. Somewhere around 72 and early 73 the meetings became more formal and RB began to concentrate on the cult stuff, weird predictions. I had one eye on the door, like most everybody else. But I got caught up in the reverie; I lost site [sic] of the door for a good while. When I found it again the FOF was a full blown dyed-in-the-wool cult. Whaappen’d??? It’s not a myth to me. I saw it happen. Did Robert always intend [to] start a cult idolizing himself and serving his extreme salacious nature? Did he calculate and patiently build his empire? Wow, you give him a great deal of credit. RB is not what I would consider the “sharpest knife in the drawer”. Here’s my opinion, and it’s only that… RB joined Alex’s group in the late sixties. Probably to gain access to sex. He got kicked out. He lost his elementary school teaching job for “hugging my kids too much”. He was out of money, didn’t have a car, and was forced to live with his mother. He was desperate for money and he saw how Alex did it. He conned Bonita for a small stipend and discovered that the method worked. He thought he’d ride the con for awhile. He didn’t actually have to read Ouspensky. Other people did that. He kept poking at the limits, and usually got away with it (not always). He’s been pushing it ever since. We made it a cult. One of the thousands of lessons I learned from the FOF experience was that when I make a decision that entails risk I acknowledge that the improbable sometimes happens and shit goes wrong. I do that upfront. That way I can take responsibility for my decisions and never again make decisions lightly. I say take responsibility for a bad decision. You bought a bag of lemons. So make lemonade.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

Well, both are true. Burton was deceiving us… and we deceived ourselves. Doesn’t need to [be] one or the other. I think this idea that we turn everything back into ourselves, by the way, was an extremely effective method to get people to change the subject within the FOF. If you objected to anything in the cult, you weren’t looking closely enough at yourself. To truly “see yourself,” you need to do both. Have your eyes open to the people around you and the world around you, and also keeping your eyes open to your own actions and reactions. Largely, that realization is what freed me from the FOF.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Responding to above] 315. Rear View Mirror
“But I’ve been able to conclude from everything I’ve heard and seen firsthand from this person that something was seriously “off” with him long before he founded this cult. Call it lack of conscience, narcissism, multiple personalities, whatever. It’s been there, and we were somehow lured into it.”
I wouldn’t disagree with that.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

Paul, so if the FOF had continued the G. and O. studies, it would not be a cult? [Quoting above] “We were studying Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s ideas. Not Roberts.” I’ll repeat what I wrote above… “I think both are true…. Many things are true. I don’t think we had to be there to know it was a cult in 1970, any more that we have to be with RB at all times right now to know that it’s a cult right now. For me, I’d really prefer to believe there were entirely benevolent reasons for the FOF coming into being. Unfortunately, I’m realizing that this is yet another example of denial on my part.” And “denial”, by the way, is an example of deceiving one’s self. But to get out of the denial, looking both inward and outward is the key. It’s that inward — “what am i doing wrong here” mentality — that keeps the FOF going strong. No one is opening their eyes to what’s happening right in front of them. We need both to truly see.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

When a sociopath believes he or she is doing something for altruistic reason, or because they “know better” that doesn’t make it less sociopathic. They can believe their “lie” fully and immediately, because there is no realistic self view, there is no “outside of one’s self, everything is self-referential. It’s a fucked up, consciousless mechanism from the start. There is no reality reference to draw upon, because they are simply not “human” in the usual accepted generalities of “being human (as in humanity).

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
 
[Quoting] 320. Rear View Mirror – June 6, 2008
"Paul, so if the FOF had continued the G. and O. studies, it would not be a cult?”
That’s not how I comprehended what Paul was saying.

"wakeuplittlesuzywakeup" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting above] #317:
"I think this idea that we turn everything back into ourselves, by the way, was an extremely effective method to get people to change the subject within the FOF. If you objected to anything in the cult, you weren’t looking closely enough at yourself."
Well put. It places people in powerless positions and effects their ability to make decisions for themselves.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

paulshabram wrote [above];
“Did Robert always intend start a cult idolizing himself and serving his extreme salacious nature. Did he calculate and patiently build his empire? Wow, you give him a great deal of credit. RB is not what I would consider the “sharpest knife in the drawer”.”
I can’t speak for anyone else, but that description doesn’t refer to my attitudes about Burton or the FOF. I never said he “calculated to patiently build his empire.” I doubt that he knew where the FOF would be in 38 years. But I now believe that his ill intentions, his illnesses, and his deceptions reach back to the very beginning of the cult. This has been a recurring topic throughout the blog… What is a cult? Is the FOF a cult? When did it become a cult? and so on. A few current and former members have stepped in to object to the use of the word at all. Some don’t like it for the year 1980. To me, it’s an interesting discussion that gets to the crux of the issue, and helps all of us see the truth about the FOF more clearly — and as wakeuplittlesuzy [above] seems to imply — the truth about ourselves. It’s a simple question… Is the FOF a cult? And when did it become one? Wouldn’t that be a great Meeting Topic at the [Apollo] Town Hall?

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

Bruce wrote, quoting me [above]:
”Paul, so if the FOF had continued the G. and O. studies, it would not be a cult?” “That’s not how I comprehended what Paul was saying.”
I did re-read it, and I still see denial — the same denial that I’ve seen in myself about this topic. Many people who were part of the FOF in the early 1980s feel the same way about the 1980s that Paul feels about the early 70s…. They had a wonderful experience in 1980, but then at some point, things changed for the worse, and so on.

"wakeuplittlesuzywakeup" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

The belief that one will lose their connections with friends or their spiritual connection if one leaves the Fellowship is reinforced within the group by current members and RB. For many this is the glue that keeps the boat from sinking. The more people leave the Fellowship but remain in the area maintaining their friendships and continuing to explore and maintain an interest in their spiritual life, the safer people will feel in leaving and trying something new.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

wakeuplittlesuzywakeup: Beautiful vision of a healthy future.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting above] 309/Bruce
I’ll have to assume you were there on Jan. 1 1970 and had access to RB’s brain, because otherwise your statement is pretentious bull shit posing as fact.
Pretty strong reaction to my opinion, but I’m not sure why. It is my opinion for sure, and it is founded upon extended factual investigation. What the participants other than the top dog thought it was is not relevant to the conclusion I reach, because there is a factual history of manipulation and manufactured consent from “day one.” By the way, I reached this view comparatively late, many years after I left FoF. It was instructive to interview some of the players who left early. Said one such player, “There was something both contemptuous and contemptible about him. I observed in him a radical lack of integrity. My take on him was ultimately sociopathic.” I do not think adults “become” sociopaths. I think they are sociopaths by the time they reach adulthood.

"Opus111" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

I heard something recently (I will paraphrase) that ”the day someone announces he is enlightened, that is the day that person becomes truly dangerous”. Robert announced in 1976 (before my time) that he had crystallized into a number 5 or whatever number. That made ground for large celebration, gifts, etc…, to be renewed on a yearly basis. If FOF was not a bona fide cult in the early 1970, it certainly had most of the ingredients and RB ready to instinctively pounce on his opportunities (it does not take a smart man to do that, but rather a driven, greedy and opportunistic one). The cultivation of phrases such as “confusion is a higher state”, “reverse what life does”, “do not believe the i’s”, “C-influence and I love you”, etc… were the mantra we fell asleep to. Friendship became the lovely mud we waddled in for years.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

I should add that the player who said that left in 1971 and had no knowledge of the group’s subsequent history. Discovering that person was like discovering an undisturbed archaeological site.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

“I do not think adults “become” sociopaths. I think they are sociopaths by the time they reach adulthood.”

I would agree with that with the caveat that sociopaths, as children, often show that tendency fairly early. I was implying that it is a progressive path that brings one to the heights (or depths) of sociopathy, and it’s effects on the scale that RB displays

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
I don’t disagree, but I don’t understand the hostility of your initial response.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting "veronicapoe"]
“It is my opinion for sure, and it is founded upon extended factual investigation.”
As accurate or inaccurate as it may be, your “factual examination” relies on others’ opinions and interpretations as seen through the persons’ own filters. I would agree that he’s a sociopath, I would agree that he’s done irreparable harm, I would agree that he’s a sociopath and has been one for most of his life, but I can’t state as fact that he calculated the depth and breadth of what now exists as the FOF based on secondhand opinion of a third party.

"wingsspread" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion/a> blog, June 6, 2008:

Back in 1995 or so, when we were studiously not investigating the Buzbee allegations and not reading anything about FoF on the web, my husband and I had several conversations about whether or not the Fellowship was a “cult”. Curiously, we concluded that WE were not in a cult, but many of our fellow members of the FoF were definitely in a cult (i.e. THEY had a cult member relationship to the FOF, but we did not because we did not follow RB’s every desire or even most of his desires, we were not “inner circle”, my husband had never had any sexual dealings with RB, etc). We had similar conversations in 1997 when our fellow members were preparing for the Fall of California – we would go along in a mild way (“after all, why not have a medical kit to hand, doesn’t do any harm”) but WE were not “believers” and only did what we did to work on “self will” and our own inner work. Looking back, of course, WE were always in a cult, but unwilling or afraid to see ourselves that way. I wonder if all cult members in all cults have the same conversations?

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
Don’t take it too hard, most of us have been pretentious at times with stating our opinions as facts. Many of us cultivated that crap attitude in the FOF, with it’s reinforcement. And none are more occasionally guilty of it than I. Pretension and bullshit…it’s what’s for dinner.

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

[Quoting above] 325. Rear View Mirror
“I did re-read it, and I still see denial — the same denial that I’ve seen in myself about this topic.”
We have essentially been saying the same thing. So what do you think we are “in denial” about? Or more specifically, what do you think I am “in denial” about? Are you telling me you know what I was thinking and feeling better than I do? There were no more than 30-40 people when I joined. A significant exodus had occurred. It was a struggle to buy into the “C Influence” crap. Some people did so easily and some people just left. The rest of us hung on… too long. Wouldn’t be something if we DID KNOW A higher being? The possibility was irresistible to some of us. We were duped. Am I in denial about that? We were the sycophants to some degree or another. Without us RB would have been bouncing from one psychiatric unit to the next. We made it a cult. You were duped. You didn’t join a cult. You became the sycophant. Wouldn’t be something if you ACTUALLY KNEW a higher being and could rub elbows with them? Wasn’t that irresistible to you? You continued the tradition and added you’re own contribution. The cycle continued. Now a bunch of people are leaving. RB will back off from the limit. People will be happier and grateful. New people will join a discussion group. They will not join a cult. They will become sycophants. They will add their own fuel. For me this is what this blog is about. To attenuate the recruitment of people who don’t think they are joining a cult. And for those inside that are looking here, to hear our stories and make up their own minds.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion June 6, 2008:
[Quoting above] 332/Bruce
I can’t state as fact that he calculated the depth and breadth of what now exists as the FOF based on secondhand opinion of a third party.
Just to be clear, I didn’t say this either. I did say, “The FoF was, beginning on January 1, 1970, intended as one and only one thing, and it remains today that thing: a renewable source of narcissistic supply for the top dog.” Individual “relationships” are sources of narcissistic supply. So are possessions. I do not claim the baroque monstrosity that exists today was foreseen by anyone in 1970.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:
Paul, here’s one of the many statements that you wrote that I do agree with (and we do agree on many things, and I’m glad you’re posting on the blog):
“For me this is what this blog is about. To attenuate the recruitment of people who don’t think they are joining a cult. And for those inside that are looking here, to hear our stories and make up their own minds.”
With that in mind, I think there’s something of value in going all the way back to the beginning and examining the attitudes that we all had about those very first years. Was there a time when the Fellowship of Friends was legit? Was Robert Burton ever legit? And related to that, do some of the positive experiences that we had in the Fellowship (whenever they happened) make it legit? And is there something of value there right now? All of these questions are related. When I hear someone say it was different in 1970, I’m a skeptic. It’s my belief that things have been sliding right from the start, so from that standpoint I agree with you and find your accounts fascinating to read. And I also believe that things could easily get noticeably worse in the coming years. But you wrote:
“I joined a discussion group for $35 bucks a month which gave me access to (me a 17 y/o kid) doctors, lawyers, Ph.D.s, an amazing professor of physics and really down-to-earth good folks like Rosemary Mac Donald and Don Burrell… We were studying Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s ideas. Not Roberts. Somewhere around 72 and early 73 the meetings became more formal and RB began to concentrate the cult stuff, weird prediction. I had one eye on the door, like most everybody else. But I got caught up in the reverie; I lost site of the door for a good while. When I found it again the FOF was a full blown dyed-in-the-wool cult. Whaappen’d???”
You’re right that I can’t know how you feel… anymore than you can know how I feel — and maybe we’re both making assumptions about what the other is thinking and feeling about these topics — but you did ask us (rhetorically or otherwise) “What happened?” My educated guess is that what happened is that you began to SEE what was happening — not that anything fundamentally changed around you. You made a number of statements:
• The payments were less.
• People were down-to-earth.
• The group was smaller back then.
• We studied ideas from Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, not ideas from Burton.
• There were doctors, lawyers, Ph.Ds, and professors.
• RB didn’t get into his predictions yet.
• It was not yet a “full blow dyed-in-the-wool cult.”
Many of us have made very similar statements about 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and so on. And when we said it, it was denial as well. Anyway, I get the feeling that many people may not give a sh– about this topic… But in my opinion, this gets to the heart of the matter. It is THE topic when it comes to the Fellowship of Friends. Denial is what makes everything possible there.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 6, 2008:

One difference back then was having someone like Donald McDonald (the supposed first conscious being to be produced in the FOF factory). Of course when he left RB said he had been wrong to say that of Donald…gee, I wonder why. He wasn’t afraid of RB, and he frequently voiced HIS view of “the work” as he understood it (from G and O’s ideas, not RB’s). He did this, I think, until he reached a point where he couldn’t support the acute change in direction. That’s how it seemed to me. I could be wrong, but back in the 70’s to early 80’s, before the actual orgies occurred, and RB was only sexually abusing one person at a time, the work “seemed” more vital and substantial, and less connected to RB himself. But after awhile one was trying to live their idea of “the work” in spite of RB, not because of him. Eventually this approach wasn’t tolerated anymore. I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong here, but that’s how it seemed.

"brucelevy" added:

Donald also had a fucking brain and conscience, something now totally lacking in the “leaders”.

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion June 6, 2008:

Rear View Mirror (340) [above] I agree and endorse your last paragraph. I appreciate this topic line very much. (I’m also having a little fun.)
“Many of us have made very similar statements about 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and so on. And when we said it, it was denial as well.”
I can tell you that it was distinctly different in the early 70’s. There was a lot of smirking about obtaining our tax exempt status because “ha ha we weren’t really a church”. There were a few kooks and wacko’s, to be sure, but when distant centers opened with people recruited having never been exposed to the main group or even RB, the “faithful” began to arrive. It was 76ish or so when the core began to think of the FOF more as a “church”. There was truly a “sea change”, no kidding. But it wasn’t homogeneous. My guess is that the outlying centers went through a similar evolution and that’s why you have heard what you’ve heard. At the same time, in late seventies, the press began to take notice. Even before Jonestown and Alanon(sp? the rattlesnakes in the journalist mailbox stuff) had occurred there were articles about the “quasi religious group” causing issues in the small community of Oregon House. In the 80’s 90’s and beyond there were articles, picked up nationally, with accounts of RB’s abusive behavior. I remember a series done in the early 90’s (remarkable because it showed a picture of “Robert” that was actually Gerard). So your first 5 bullet points I can buy for 75 and maybe 80’s, but 90’s and 00’s… people were being bald faced lied to and they just weren’t doing reasonable due diligence. The last two bullet points are just factually wrong for all the times you mentioned. I would like to repeat that I really appreciate this discussion, and I think it is a core topic for those that are more logical than emotional. I think there are other core topics and look forward to those as well. Paul

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:
[Quoting above] Paul
“I joined a discussion group for $35 bucks a month which gave me access to (me a 17 y/o kid) doctors, lawyers, Ph.D.s, an amazing professor of physics and really down-to-earth good folks like Rosemary Mac Donald and Don Burrell… We were studying Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s ideas. Not Roberts. Somewhere around 72 and early 73 the meetings became more formal and RB began to concentrate the cult stuff, weird prediction.
I have read all of the Via del Sol Journals beginning Vol. I, #1 in 1971. Top dog was announcing that he was the Avatar of the Age in 1971. [Quoting Robert Burton:]
“It simply means that I suffer consciously the most.”
“I am not Christ, but I assume that I prepare for him.”
Did you know that C Influence has indicated that Dixon Hill Road is named after the famous psychic, Jeanne Dixon? That students can receive military deferments by becoming ministers here? By the way, do not try to help people who are suicidal. They do not belong here. They will drag you down like a drowning person tries to drag down someone who tries to save them. It is good when weak students leave as they are weight. It used to bother me, but now it’s like a useless object being gone. 1971.
[ed. - The original name of the most prominent feature of the Fellowship property was Dixon Hill (and thus, Dixon Hill Road.) The name was prophetic, but not in the way Burton stated. "Dicks on hill" is closer to the truth.]


"ton" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

“Malignant narcissism is related to narcissistic regression in infancy, in which the infant sees themself as the “center of the world.” Whereas most infants grow out of this stage, the malignant narcissist is thought to be trapped in this period throughout their lifetime.”

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

351. veronicapoe [responding to above]
I remember collecting “dingbats” and different sun faces for the Via del Sol in the 72 time frame. If I was there for ’71 it would have been late in the year. For ’71 my exposure would have been limited to a small group and before I officially joined. There was more concern about the look of Via del Sol, and whether on not your “angle of thought” got published than the insidious content. For sure, the foundation for being a cult was being laid from the beginning, I am not arguing that. RB came out of a cult and patterned his livelihood after it. He was experimenting with what worked and what didn’t (I’ll bet he is still doing that). He was probably just aping Alex Horn to begin with. You also have to understand the context of the Bay Area at the end of the “Summer of Love”. Most of the members had been or were concurrently in other groups, maybe several (EST, Hare Krishnas, Zen Center in SF, or the 13 y/o”divine” kid from India whose name escapes me, and not to mention the “Jesus Freaks”). It was kinda like Myspace or Facebook is today. Gurus, Ashrams, sort of social networks. Hey the Beatles were doing it. These groups might have been considered nascent cults. But not all evolved into cults. I remember the Avatar statements and I remember the discussions about it. There were hundreds of people all over the place proclaiming themselves “Avatar” (of coarse Robert had it on the license plate of his new 350 SL). How do we know this is an Avatar? How do we know he isn’t? What the hell is an Avatar? I remember that discussion at Sambo’s and in meetings in Carmel (even before I joined). Like this blog series, it was a central question. But as I asked in a previous post: “Wouldn’t be something if we DID KNOW A higher being? The possibility was irresistible to some of us.” I guess the nickname you give RB reveals a fundamental difference in our view of him. You have come to think of him as “Top Dog” like an alpha male. I have come to think of him more as “Bottom Feeder”. A cult doesn’t develop overnight. It evolves from within. Consider this article, it really happened.
http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/when-good-people-do-evil-–-part-i/

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

A quote from Part II of the link I posted in 353:
“The most dramatic instances of directed behavior change and “mind control” are not the consequence of exotic forms of influence such as hypnosis, psychotropic drugs, or “brainwashing.” They are, rather, the systematic manipulation of the most mundane aspects of human nature over time in confining settings. Motives and needs that ordinarily serve us well can lead us astray when they are aroused, amplified, or manipulated by situational forces that we fail to recognize as potent. This is why evil is so pervasive. Its temptation is just a small turn away, a slight detour on the path of life, a blur in our sideview mirror, leading to disaster.”
[Quoted from] Philip Zimbardo Situational Sources of Evil

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

Yesri (357 and 358), Speaking of bs and pretentiousness, at one of my first meetings in the FOF, someone said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Maybe that’s an old Gurdjieff quote or whatever, or Collin, or maybe it was one of the eminent literary geniuses of the 18th century, and maybe in a different context it would make sense to me… but I never cared. I didn’t accept it or deny it. I just figured if X said it, there must be some truth to it, and I let it go. But you know… Good intentions are just good intentions. And good intentions mean everything. What a guilt trip the Fellowship of Friends is. Guilt is handy for creating fear. And fear is handy for asserting one’s control over people. And asserting one’s control over people is handy for starting a cult. And starting a cult is handy for all sorts of sexual and psychological abuse. I find it ironic that Burton suggested we avoid using the word “love,” and yet he somehow felt privileged enough to use it every day in those little cards. Pretty audacious of him. ;) ——- Paul (353), In post 351, Veronicapoe does a great job of exposing the Fellowship of Friends for what it was in 1971. She states her point very concisely and convincingly. Personal accounts from that time are always interesting and appreciated, but I find the words from Robert Burton himself even more telling. I remember mentioning to him ages ago that I found some old copies of the Via Del Sol Journals, and I mentioned how interesting they were. But rather than nod appreciatively, he was visibly embarrassed by the fact that I had found them, and he was even apologetic. Why? Because his own words exposed him for what he was, and he knew it.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

I fully appreciate Zimbardo’s perspective as to the processes at work. I also appreciate the argument that Paul is making about whether FoF “became” a cult or was a cult from its inception. Tell me what you make of this: At a New Year’s Eve party a single man, disinhibited by alcohol, mesmerizes a older woman, married with young children, while she is under the influence of psychedelic drugs. He dangles the hook before her: “I know a god who has no clay feet.” When she calls him the next day, under the influence of the spellbinding ideology of consciousness he has sketched out before her, he begins to manipulate her, meeting with her many hours a day and requiring her to pay him money. He requires long hours of her time in competition with her children and to the exclusion of her husband. He requires her to pay him money. Eventually he seduces her, lies about it to everyone, and ultimately discards her. Later still, she sues him. This is the story, reduced to its essentials, that Bonita told me. This is the core story of the inception of the Fellowship of Friends. Surely there is manipulation, a confidence game, going on from the first evening. (This is my analysis, not Bonita’s.) And while a “cult” may be many things, one thing it always is is a confidence game writ large and full of sincere and idealistic people.

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 7, 2008:

Veronicapoe (12) [responding to above]
I believe we have an accord about the con. I also think we come essentially to the same conclusions. It’s just that selecting quotes seems a little like “cherry picking”, and it it may weaken your argument. But I think I am a little confused: What is your point (I think I’m missing it), and where does it lead us? Bonita’s account is compelling and I will re-state what I make of it. Robert was broke, fired from his job, living at his mothers, didn’t even have a car, mimicked what he saw another sociopathic con-man do in order to get some scratch and maybe get laid. It worked. The initial “students” bought in, I bought into it, you bought in to it, so it kept going, so he kept going. On the flip side, do you really believe Bonita was the compete innocent victim? What about Bonita’s victims? By her own account she neglected her family. She was doing drugs. She was already having affairs when she decided to have sex with Robert (and by the way that was not a secret even though he lied about it in a meeting). “And while a “cult” may be many things, one thing it always is is a confidence game writ large and full of sincere and idealistic people.” -I believe this is so very true, but don’t think the reverse is always true, “if it’s a con it’s a cult”. So, while I look forward to more responses along this discussion line. I hope we can move the pivot point of the argument to what happened within ourselves when the discussion group became a cult. When did the exercises, that taught something about ourselves, became ritual and show? When did the FOF stop needing Robert to self sustain?

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

[Multiple quotes from "paulshabram" above] I also think we come essentially to the same conclusions. It’s just that selecting quotes seems a little like “cherry picking”, and it it may weaken your argument. But I think I am a little confused: What is your point (I think I’m missing it), and where does it lead us?
I am arguing against the “we made it a cult” perspective. People are all too ready to take blame for what was done to them and to accept responsibility for things for which they were not responsible. This is especially true, in my opinion, when people are manipulated by certain specific and identifiable techniques without their knowledge and consent. When we are able to lay blame where blame is due, the stories we tell become even truer.
On the flip side, do you really believe Bonita was the compete innocent victim? What about Bonita’s victims? By her own account she neglected her family. She was doing drugs. She was already having affairs when she decided to have sex with Robert (and by the way that was not a secret even though he lied about it in a meeting).
OK, you have my attention. You have original source material. Out with it! ;) Let me also say, we each brought certain sets of issues–“narcissistic enfeeblements” is Philip Cushman’s term–that made us vulnerable to the influence which was the group we met. We were and are “responsible” for dealing with those issues, but they were not our “fault,” if that makes any sense. Those issues made us manipulable and exploitable. Shame on the opportunists who leapt at the chance!
“And while a “cult” may be many things, one thing it always is is a confidence game writ large and full of sincere and idealistic people.” -I believe this is so very true, but don’t think the reverse is always true, “if it’s a con it’s a cult”. I’ll agree with that. So, while I look forward to more responses along this discussion line. I hope we can move the pivot point of the argument to what happened within ourselves when the discussion group became a cult.
Honoring your wish without necessarily moving that pivot point, let me say, something was sold to me as a “school” which I understood as a “discussion group,” but it was a cult in full bloom long before it recruited me. Looking at the Harold Wirk diagrams from 1970 and 1971, together with comments in the Via del Sol Journals, it is clear during the earliest period the group could “be reached only by invitation.” This is a recruitment process with a goal to bring in specific people and get them to pay money and to commit. Such an agenda distinguishes it, it seems to me, from a “discussion group.” The central agenda of a “discussion group” is discussion, not collecting money and reinforcing commitment to the group. Since when was free and open discussion ever permissible in the Fellowship? It was always ideologically blinkered, meaning it had an agenda; it consisted of value judgments in the guise of statements of fact. Discussion was teleological, meaning the conclusion to be reached directly controlled the reasoning process used to reach the conclusion. This is characteristic of thought reform environments, not discussion groups.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:
[Quoting] Veronicapoe:
“I am arguing against the “we made it a cult” perspective. People are all too ready to take blame for what was done to them and to accept responsibility for things for which they were not responsible. This is especially true, in my opinion, when people are manipulated by certain specific and identifiable techniques without their knowledge and consent. When we are able to lay blame where blame is due, the stories we tell become even truer.”
Rrrright on! For a dramatized example of this very phenomenon, watch the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. There’s a point in the movie where it becomes clear that Ricky Roma, (played by Al Pacino) was on the verge of completely screwing someone by selling him some worthless real estate. If the transaction goes through, it will completely ruin the man’s marriage and his financial life. So how did this man respond to Roma after it becomes clear what Roma was up to? “I – I – I’m sorry, Mr. Roma. I am so sorry…” This “we made it a cult” nonsense sounds strikingly similar to a “photograph” of negativity, victim mentality, self pity, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc., whenever someone criticizes anything related to the FOF or Robert Burton. It sounds quite a bit like the bs we listened to relentlessly in the FOF. Any criticism of the FOF meant we weren’t looking closely enough at ourselves. More group think. And it’s a type of thinking that served/serves Burton’s agenda very effectively.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

I’m sorry, I’m sure I missed something. Did someone say the members made it a cult?

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Veronicapoe I’ll try to find the source material. I found a precursor to this blog before I found this current blog. Do you know this source? It seems unlikely you do not, but just in case: http://www.geocities.com/stella_wirk/index2.html A quote form Stella and Harold online site: “Now in their mid-60s, Harold and Stella have had twelve years experience in a group that within three years began slowly turning into a cult. They remained another nine years working against cult-like behavior, and for seventeen years since leaving have been counseling people who ask for help leaving the same group, as well as other cults, to help make the transition to independent life once again, to find friends and family members, having lost contact with much of the “outside world” while in this group.” Stella’s opinion of whether the FOF began as “study group” “Subject: Re: RB in the beginning Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 01:36:17 -0700 From: Stella Wirk > Stella, > > >Maybe read the pages about the FOF and early years at > > the web site: > >http://www.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(OLD URL) > >(follow link “About CULTS”)/Stella > > So it started out as a kind of study group?… No. Burton said he had started a “school.” He said that someone at a party had asked him a question and that’s when he knew he was to be the teacher and the questioner was to be the student, starting the “school.” The person who asked the first question was Bonita.” Stella’s take on the origins of Cultishness: “Usually the expression is that cult members are “brainwashed.” This is a wrong term for it! At the beginning we mostly “wash our own brains.” We want to believe we have found something special. Isn’t this Camelot? Eutopia? The “safe haven” we want? If not, maybe we can imagine it is. (The Work says imagination can satisfy all parts of us.)” And was the FOF a religious church: “The small start-up group gathered a few more members around them, and then it was decided that a non-profit organization should be established, a name given the group, and that it should be registered as a “church.” Those of us who were at the meetings to establish all this knew the group was not intended to really be a church per se. The Fourth Way is not a “religion” and has nothing of the sort to be “followed,” as it is without “faith” or “belief.” The Fourth Way is not the way of the monk. The Fourth Way is a “finger, pointing.” Each person has to know this kind of work is an internal effort, not an external display, and not “pray in the street.” The work is practical only when actualized individually and personally for oneself. In a few years, however, a majority of the members liked the idea of a church, although there is no “worship” or “prayers” or hymn singing, for that matter (unless one counts the blind worship of the teacher, and praying one has enough money to keep up with the tithes)! Being a “church” encompassed the group as a group, and “belonging to something.” The members, then, become more and more separated from people who are not in the group (such as other family members, parents, and old friends “outside”). The teacher discouraged mingling with people who were not members (soon with rules against it), and certainly do not mingle with former members!”

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Paul, some of my comments above are meant for you, and some are meant for others who have come on the blog as apologists for the FOF and for Burton. I’ll take a look at your posts a little more closely and try to understand better what you’re trying to convey, but in the meantime, I do have one more thought to share on this topic… Probably the main theme in my recent posts is to point out our reluctance to use the word cult in regard to the FOF. And when we do use the word, we usually add the word “BUT” to it. For example: “We’re a cult, but we’re not the same as other cults.” –or– “We were a cult, but not in the beginning.” –or– “We were a cult, but not when I first joined.” And on and on. It’s a cult, and it was a cult. There is no BUT!

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Bruce: see Paul’s post #8 above, and previous posts. I’m curious what you think.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

OK “It has occurred to me that what I am saying, that WE made the FOF a cult, is frightening to some. It should be. We did so against our better judgment.” For me…no teacher, no cult…no “students”, no cult. The symbiosis of the two is clearly necessary to sustain any cult. You can’t inspect one side without the interplay of the other. That is separate, of course, from the discrete fact that RB is a sociopath. or…which came first, the flaming fairy or the fawning masses?

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

They came together… no pun intended, I think.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Good one, Bruce. Well, veronicapoe answered that question pretty well about “which came first”. What came first was the sociopath, and then the recruitment, and then the deception. And from Day 1, we helped with the symbiosis part. Symbiosis is a good word, but we’ve spent quite a bit of time denying — not our OWN part in that symbiotic relationship — but the part of Burton. Paul says we give him way too much credit, but sometimes I’m amazed at the skillfulness of his deceptions, and how easily we are to blame ourselves. See above: “I – I – I’m sorry, Mr. Roma. I’m so sorry…”

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

“but the part of Burton. Paul says we give him way too much credit, but sometimes I’m amazed at the skillfulness of his deceptions, and how easily we are to blame ourselves.” That’s the “street wise” of the sociopath. It’s innate. It’s comes with the lack of conscience. But I know where Paul is coming from…RB is a really is a doofus, and a hick, and has no taste or class. Liberace gone amok. And he certainly isn’t the sharpest blade in the drawer. But his intellect has little to do with his instinctive, narcissistic choices. The only part that he’s developed and nurtured is the most damaged part of his being. That’s, I think, is one thing that’s changed from the 70’s and 80’s. He’s way the fuck out there now.

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Rear View Mirror (25) I am hoping this has been a good discussion, but I don’t see how you get to: “This “we made it a cult” nonsense sounds strikingly similar to a “photograph” of negativity, victim mentality, self pity, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc., whenever someone criticizes anything related to the FOF or Robert Burton. It sounds quite a bit like the bs we listened to relentlessly in the FOF. Any criticism of the FOF meant we weren’t looking closely enough at ourselves. More group think. And it’s a type of thinking that served/serves Burton’s agenda very effectively.” I think there is something here that is really scaring the shit out of you. Veronicapoe: I am arguing that “we made it a cult” because WE FUCKING DID. “We” most certainly and emphatically and primarily includes Robert. We just didn’t know we were doing it. I do not feel a whole lot of guilt or shame about this because I have some understanding of how it happened. And once I figured out it had become a cult I thought it was a “benign” cult, just like Stella did. And we were FUCKING WRONG. The FOF has become a whole different beast. Efficiently extracting peoples lives and livelihoods. If Robert were to choke on some Russian dick and die, it will still keep doing so until its supply of human grist is cut off. It’s my sense (and I could be wrong) that the way to throw a wooden shoe in to the mill is to have a logical discourse available which includes A) exploring the vulnerabilities in all of us that allow cults to happen, and B) taking personal responsibility for bad choices. Why? Because the poor souls that are in the FOF don’t believe it’s a cult. I don’t think they will respond to jumping up and down screaming “I was a victim and you’re a victim too!” That kind of thing may serve RB’s agenda because that’s what’s expected and has been prepared for. For certain logical discourse doesn’t alway win, but it’s solid ground and it was my way out.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:
36. paulshabram Your A & B sound good to me. my first poem.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

nanohaiku

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Paul, yep, of course we made it a cult. Why would anyone disagree with that or be afraid of that idea? (well, maybe many reasons unfortunately) But you’re right, We helped Burton make it a cult. I wish you had told me I had ‘fear’ many years ago when I first joined the FOF. Quite a few years too late. :) Because it’s fear that kept me in the organization. Right now, fear is not my “issue,” shall we say. What I’m feeling is sadness more than anything — for all of the time lost in that fear. Friends lost. Time lost. Opportunities lost. And I’ve been spending quite a bit of time starting anew in recent years. Positive steps, and now I’m here, like you, trying to help people sort it out. And still trying to help myself sort it out. So launch your ideas. I ain’t afraid of them. Are you of mine? My point is: We’ve spent endless hours blaming ourselves for the cult already, and blaming ourselves for a lot of things, and doing that without assigning any responsibility to the institution, and to the leader of that institution. That, in my opinion, is partly what keeps people dependent on it, and stuck within it, and it makes the cult possible.

"hardlyanafterthought" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Bruce was a contemporary of mine, and my memory , like his was that we were looking for something outside of life’s meaningless promises. At that time the assaination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, RFK, the killings of students at Kent State, Watergate, the rise seeing through LSD, and Guru’s promised a way out for those who were seeking truth out of the chaos and emptiness of our time. We had holes in our hearts and in stepped Robert Burton and the Fellowship which promised a way out of madness, and then we further descended into it, cynical and empty leaving it up to ourselves to find a way forward. JF

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Bruce, What are you drinkin’? I think I’ll have some too If A and B sound good to you It surely isn’t brew

"whalerider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

I think what makes a cult a cult are cult leader and a handful of ardent followers who rationalize and defend the leader’s actions, and are given ‘special’ status. That starts the ball rolling. Then the ranks are filled with long wannabeeees and short wannabes that ebb and flow with the tide. The more distance the leader puts between himself and the rank and file, the longer the deception can be maintained and the indoctrination deepened.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

Paul wrote:
“It’s my sense (and I could be wrong) that the way to throw a wooden shoe in to the mill is to have a logical discourse available which A) exploring the vulnerabilities in all of us that allow cults to happen, and B) taking personal responsibility for bad choices.”
Why would you be wrong about that? Again, I don’t see how anyone would disagree with that … A or B. Very healthy and sensible attitudes. Was anyone saying something different? Maybe just saying that we should do both? Take look both inside and outside ourselves? Dudes, about the acerbic wit and sarcasm, and the inside jokes… Is this some sort of club? I’ll pass, but just wondering. Oh well, it’s a damn blog. Have fun.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

42. hardlyanafterthought That’s pretty accurate. And, for me, I had been reading a lot of G & O from the time I was about 18, when I was a dirty stinking hippy. I knew strongly even then that some time in my future these ideas would play a large part in my life. Having realized that I then let it all go. Years later in SF, while NOT looking, I came across the bookmark. As I hadn’t been investigating the possibilities I wasn’t aware of other groups, even after my first inadvertent introduction to the Theater of All Possibilities. I went and saw and joined. I thought that the ideas would be investigated at another level other than me thinking about them every once in awhile. The rest is history. I think very few if any joined for RB. Many joined because of the ideas they encountered in their lives that were connected to “4th Way” and the prevailing environment of the 60’s and 70’s, as JF described.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

And I think that that energy of desperation coupled with ideas of a different order is one thing that makes me feel that the early years in the FOF were vital and super active, that and the fact that very few people in the masses of the membership had much to do with RB. It’s when one got close to the fire that it started seeming strange. I say “seemed” because I (and I assume many other) were so shocked at what was happening to us that we had to reexamine all our previous assumptions. We done got took.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion June 8, 2008:

And I take responsibility for my choices. And I can’t help, sometimes, being pissed at myself for some of those choices. On the other hand, I’m happy with who I am today, and I can’t dismiss that who I am today is the result of ALL those choices.

"veronicapoe" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 8, 2008:

62/Paul Yes, there is a document entitled “Guidelines for Circle of Angels, 1990-1991″ If you examine the document the inference is clear that at least some aspects of their ideology and terminology are the same as in the FoF. If FoF is not a source for this group, FoF and Circle of Angels are linked to a common source. I have no other knowledge of a definite link to FoF. The document is illuminating in that it illustrates a slightly different variety of “fourth way” totalism than we encountered in FoF. Spiral of Friends, a creation of James Vincent Randazzo, a former FoF member, who was assisted by Stella and Harold Wirk as “visiting teachers,” is an offshoot of FOF. Randazzo’s sex crimes were well documented in news reports which may still be available on the web. New American Wing is an offshoot of Spiral of Friends and a site that discusses this group can be found at fourthwaycult.net. There were compulsory sex issues there as well. An extensive account at that site is illuminating for the same reason as the Circle of Angels document–it sketches out yet another variation on “fourth way” totalism. I have a written decision of the United States District Court pertaining to a sexual abuse circumstance within the Circle of Angels group. When I find some time to include it in the Esoteric History Archive, I will.

"paulshabram" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 9, 2008:
veronicapoe [above]
At least I didn’t have to eat out of a pig trough. It occurs to me that the “Circle of Angels” group, which I think preceded the FOF, may have served as a model for Robert. Since he knew about the group it may be that his “shtick” was actual source there and not Alex Horns. I didn’t know that about Jim Vincent (Randazzo), a shifty kinda creepy guy (but he was nice to me). I’m surprised about Stella and Harold even though they were pals, they seemed to think he could not be trusted. An earlier post from Stella’s recollection was being “moderated” it just showed up (28) and was particularly for you. There doesn’t seem to be any mention anywhere about one of the predicted 7 #5s. His name was Daniel Davis, I believe and he was a real treat. It was what I all the “Hand Knit Norwegian Sweater” era. Like Donald, just as he was supposed to “awaken” he bagged he whole deal. I don’t remember where I read the Bonita account, I thought it was in your hx archive, but it doesn’t look like its there. It may be in some of the ’97 material from Stella’s recollections.
Paul

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