Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

According to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish while, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci), Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new and more perfect civilization. Read more about the blog.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Call of the Loon continues

[ed. - The following are apparently notes from a meeting at Apollo led by Robert Burton and Asaf Braverman. While images are projected, Burton acknowledges the death of one of his earliest followers ("completed her task"). He then speaks about the "incredible" presence-inducing technique, The Sequence. Members (names in brackets) read "angles of thought" upon which Burton (or Braverman) comment. This is reportedly the current meeting format.]

"somebody" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 28, 2008:
Apollo, November 19, 2008

“We have arrived at the point where we are not merely trying to find the esoteric message in art, but we are looking for direct and penetrating expressions that go directly to the third eye and instruct it.”
* This is a photograph of the Mayan temple at Dzibichaltun, Mexico, taken on the spring equinox. It is an incredible image, is it not? The terracotta circle represents long BE combusting. Inside the circle is the sun – divine presence itself. The tow squares on either side represent the anatomy of the sun – the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths. The temple sits upon a cube – a Kaaba. It is Egypt in the New World.  * Here we are at the same site.
“Sustained thoughts are powerful, but thoughts sustained by the nine of hearts have an invincible power.” [Patricia Chancellor, Apollo]
Invincible power – the deathless Gods hovering in this room helping us to be present.     * A Greco-Roman statue depicts Meter Steunene, a fertility goddess, with six children in each arm, representing the inhalation and exhalation of the sequence. The square throne represents the four wordless breaths. The goddess’ toes have two squares around them and her feet pass outside of time. The pleats at the bottom of her robe represent the control of the passion.
“Worries vanish when we are present. The present is pleasant.” [Linda Wygal, Apollo]
* Here I am at a very nice restaurant in Palenque.
“The first three ‘I’s of the sequence lift one out of imagination; the second three ‘I’s deliver one to presence.”
The first three work ‘I’s life us from imagination; the second three work ‘I’s lift us to God – the divinity within us. * Here we see the temple of El Tajin, which is composed of seven levels.
“‘Better’ and 'best’ contain the word ‘be’: the better is short Be, and the best is long BE” [Marco Gismondi, Rome]
* This is the double-jaguar throne in the ruined Mayan city of Uxmal, Mexico. The two jaguars, representing short Be on the right and long BE on the left, rest upon a square base. Four steps lead up to it on each side. On the left, taking a photograph, is Ansley Pierce, who has red hair, and has combusted! * A close-up of the throne shows the jaguars with four teeth and two square paws.
“We always wanted to be more present. Now we know how to do it.” [Robert MacIsaac, Apollo]
It is a very nice angle. * A Mesoamerican sculpture depicts six figures joined in a row. It is a marvelous, playful image. The first two figures on the right represent Be and Hold, with Hold comically looking around the corner at work ‘I’ number six – long BE. The third and fifth figures, representing Theme, are the same size, and look like identical twins. The fourth figure, representing Back, is leaning back. The figures seem to be arranged in pairs, suggesting the three Be’s. They all have gold hair, acting.
“With life, we do not judge, but rather see what we can learn from it.”
* This is the German professor who was our guide to Chichen Itza, which he has been studying for over thirty years. He was an interesting person in the sense that he did not really learn anything new of value for himself. He never suspected the inner meaning of the place. I think this is what we mostly learned – the great divide between unconscious scholarship and divine presence.
“The Absolute wants very simple people. They can educate themselves in all areas later in Paradise.”
* Here we are at the Mayan archeological site of Edzna in Campeche. We made it to the top, did we not? There were more stairs to climb there than at any other site. * This is the panorama from the top of the temple. The Mayans constructed it this way in order to rise above the jungle – the ten thousand ‘I’s.
“Everywhere one goes, one sees how much people need Influence C, and how few receive their help.”
* This is the Angel of the Independence monument in Mexico City. In the 1960’s, before our school began, I climbed to the top. Less than ten years after I met Influence C, I crystallized. It was truly “American Express”, like the sign on the skyscraper behind the monument. I became quite soiled climbing up, but, like you, I made it to the top. I said on this journey, “I think I can now put on my tombstone ‘We did it.” We received the Ten Commandments from the Gods.
“The sequence channels suffering into presence.” [Ron Mohel, Tel Aviv]
* This is the entrance to one of the many structure at Uxmal, the Mayan archeological site. It offered us the most important message of our visit. On either side of the opening are sixty-four divisions, totaling one hundred twenty-eight, like the Hebrew prayer shawl, which has one hundred and twenty-eight fringes. We finally understood that one hundred twenty-eight represents the control of both the positive and negative parts of centers. It is a further understanding of the idea of sixty-four as the control of the passions. Influence C released that information for us. Each of the lattice-work panels has sixty-four divisions forming a square, traversed by fifteen diagonals, representing the thirty great work ‘I’s. It is quite a message. We have not yet understood why the Mesoamerican pyramids are all flat rather than pointed on top. Perhaps it signifies resting in presence – a place to rest. We saw another temple with a flat top and a disk, so we thought perhaps that it symbolizes the rising sun.
“We are graced that our lives have been enriched and stimulated to work through images and messages from the past.” [Solee Hampton MacIsaac, Apollo]
We have a bella vista – a “beautiful vista” – of every school that has preceded us, East and West. Of course, we have learned that there is no East and West for schools. *Here we are studying a stela at Coba, the Mayan ruined city. *It is the first stela one sees upon entering the site. It is the only existing object that shows the exact date of the Mayan calendar ending in 2012, and may be the only place on earth to contain the outer meaning of the Last Judgment. There it is, hidden away in Coba, south of Cancun. Influence C left it in one remote place. We will wait and see what occurs in 2012. January 1 will be here soon,m and then we are only three years away from 2012. This little stela is real mystery. Actually, it is not so little – it is about the size of the doors in the Galleria!
“The sequence makes presence more accessible.”
* These three ascending vessels in the museum in Xalapa were my favorite objects on the journey. The three bowls represent short BE, middle BE, and long BE – the three Wise Men. Together they have nine feet, controlling the passions. It is a very minimal message. St. Jerome said, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better, and your better is best.”
“The best thing Influence C can give any school is their work. The form the work takes is quite irrelevant to actually escaping.”
* Here we are at Chichen Itza. On the t-shirt of the young man to the left are written the words “Old School”. On the right is the old man (myself) showing the four wordless breaths. Bernard Berenson said, “We all submit to the average.”
“Be is divine intervention in our internal life.”
Is it not lovely? Truly, in schools the inner meaning of divine intervention is the sequence and the four wordless breaths. However, we have both: external divine intervention – above La Venta pyramid, and early Olmec pyramid, located in Tabasco. We found a dead rattlesnake there, and I said, “This was a really rough place for the lower self to be,” as it is in our school. The lower self is in the wrong place at the wrong time in our school because we have detected him. It is a place where the snake dies.
“We must seek impressions that lend us life and invite us to be present.”
We must seek impressions that invite us to be present. Apollo is wonderful at this, is it not? It is such a beautiful place. * Here are Dorian, Asaf, and I in Uxmal, looking for the square. * This is a detail of the square on the west side. It is a little hard to see, but the roof is right above us, and in the far distance in the temple. One can stand there and see the square.
“The biggest step is emerging from imagination.”
In many pyramids the first step is the biggest, because the hardest of all things is to emerge from imagination. * The first step is to rise above the jungle with BE. * At middle Be we are further from the jungle. * At long BE, we are above the jungle of the ten thousand ‘I’s.
“Influence C are an indispensable ingredient in awakening that is beyond anyone’s control.”
Goethe said, “The Gods have given you what they ever denied to the mortals” – Gods in your life – Influence C. The inner meaning of this is that the sequence has been given what has ever been denied to the ten thousand ‘I’s * Here I am in front of the door to my hotel room. I do not know if I have ever had room forty-four in my life, but I had it this time, and they actually left a balloon outside the door, saying “Te Amo” – I love you. The door has eight divisions.
[Regarding a student who was chewing his food while listening to another student speak]
“While eating, one cannot be present and listen at the same time. Schools have a simple formula: one plus one are two – doing one thing externally and being present at the same time; but two plus one are zero. If one is doing one thing externally and trying to be present, but then adds a third activity, it will only lead to imagination – card zero in the Tarot.”
One plus one are – unity. Two plus one is when you listen to someone speaking while chewing your food at the same time. You are veiled by the zero card. Gurdjieff said, “Do one thing at a time”. It is difficult to be present to one bite of food – it is a real victory. Other instinctive centers will try to engage your instinctive center in discussion while you are eating, and both of you descend into imagination. * Here we see twelve of us having snacks in Cuernavaca.
“The lower self wants you to think it is doing the opposite of what it is doing.”
It is an interesting insight. The lower self wants you to think it is doing the opposed of what it is is doing, especially when it whispers sweet little thoughts during our sequence. * A Flemish illustration depicts the Temptation of St. Anthony. Here we see the lower self appearing to be innocent. The black queen is pretending to be the white queen, but her feet tell another story.
… to be continued…

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Apollo's broken society

"Old Fish in the Sea" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 5, 2008:
56 Veramente

Well said. Yes, Robert has never really respected others – even his own students. Gradually his students take on his attitudes and lose their ability to respect others, particularly those that are not part of the FOF.

Robert once (I was there) spoke about how the “scholars” know so much less about ancient history than the FOF while he pointed out that the 6 poops on a cave drawing were the sequence. He consistently devalues ‘life’ (those outside of the FOF). This is partially what makes people afraid to leave.

It is easy to see the imperfections in people, but Robert’s attitudes are full of hopelessness unless you fully buy into his paradigm. He told my friend at a dinner, “You value life too much.” Only presence is worth valuing and the way he teaches it is somewhat selfish. It involves inward focus and devaluation of all else so as not to lose the state. It even involves devaluation of individual talents. This view takes away from the desire to give (except to Robert and the FOF) and the desire to develop talents and when taken seriously ultimately leads to depression and paranoia. Many students are unable to value life, paranoid that their own weaknesses and lower self will take over, and afraid that they won’t be able to “make it” in life, or that if they can ‘make it’ that this will be worthless. This kind of attitude is not what most of us wanted to develop when we joined.

Perhaps Robert’s approach makes some sense for those that are able to find a nice state where valuation and love are enhanced. I think many of us ultimately observed that this was not really happening, or if it did happen, it happened because of our own being and not because of any “teaching”.

I think the FOF would do better for itself if it could stop the harmful activities from Robert, encourage people to develop their talents, allow students to experiment with other ways, ultimately giving back what they learn, and encourage involvement in, and giving back to society. I left because all of these changes were impossible with the current structure. This was for me a strong indication of a broken society. For many of us, our best contribution to change was to leave.