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, September 7, 2009

More Sequence Gems

Asaf Braverman and Robert Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult leaders
Asaf Braverman and Robert Burton, the duo who gave us "The Sequence"

"Purchasing awakening" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 30, 2007 at 5:53 p.m.:
Aren’t students sick already of Bob’s [Robert Burton] compulsive counting and keying madness? He seems to be totally obsessed with counting everything. He turns simple objects into sequence, Be’s [sic] and nine of hearts in his sick mind. This is imagination at it’s worst – when simple reality cannot be seen for what it is anymore and instead is substituted with contrived and distorted subjective concepts and meanings…
Don’t you see that the guy has really lost his mind?
Does anyone still takes his progressing insanity as “sacred teaching”?
Please. Open your eyes.
This is from the recent meeting [ed. - assumed quotations from Robert Burton]:
“The Madonna represents the nine of hearts. … Mary holds the Christ child with four fingers on each side, representing the four wordless breaths. They are looking into each other’s eyes, which signifies that the nine of hearts and the sequence are remaining in touch. … Mary’s blue “garment of virtue” extends beyond the frame of the composition, which means that the sequence has passed outside of time with the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths. The Christ child is in white because he has completed a sequence.”
‘The two figures blowing trumpets at the top represent long BE and short Be. Starting from right to left, the six figures beneath them to the left of the groom represent Be, Hold, Look, and then the furthest figure to the back, Back, followed by long BE in blue on the end, with his ten fingers representing the Ten Commandments. The groom represents the steward, the bride represents the nine of hearts, while in the middle stands God the Father. Together they form the Holy Trinity. At the top, the three Italian stone pines represent the three Be’s. There are four windows on the right, below which are four maidens, representing the four wordless breaths. The two pots beneath the trees represent short Be and long BE. Fra Angelico is very organized. In schools we must count the numbers because the artists counted them before they painted their works.”

"Purchasing awakening" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 30, 2007 at 6:14 p.m.:
He was counting poops, cocks and breasts, and now he’s into feet [ed. - assumed quotations from Robert Burton]:
“The woman above the vase shows five toes on one foot and three toes on the other. Renaissance artists often did this rather than show four toes on each foot. It signifies the nine of hearts engaging the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths.”
“The five toes of the man’s inner right foot are facing us, while the big toe on his left foot, representing long BE, is outside of time.”
“Washing the feet” means purifying the nine of hearts of imagination.”

"Lateral Drift" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 11, 2007 at 9:46 p.m.:

[ed. - Note: a number of bloggers felt "Lateral Drift" was a Fellowship shill, who represented their self as a prospective member, and finally a new student.]
‘The Sequence’ is a relatively recent – and very practical – Burton contribution to the 4th Way school of thought. It involves using the 30 work ‘I’s to practice being present or self-remembering in daily life. Students are encouraged to start out doing 20 or so sequences per day in groups of 3. Each step lasts about one breath (3 seconds) for a total time of about 30 seconds.
During Robert’s travels in Egypt, following practical observation, there was a refinement to the sequence of six work I’s which bring presence.
The current format for the sequence is:
1. Be— 2. Hold— 3. Theme— 4. Back— 5. Theme again— 6. long BE – followed by the four wordless breaths (steps 7-10).
Theme is the appropriate work ‘I’ in the moment.
It makes the sequence more effective as there is one less work ‘I’ to remember and draw our attention away. For example during a concert the sequence would be: Be—Hold—Hear—Back —Hear—long BE.
The work ‘I’ ‘Back’ –called the middle coming – is an invitation for the steward to come forward and a command to the lower self to go ‘back’ to its rightful place.
Another way to look at it, is that the fourth work ‘I’ in the sequence, actually reaffirms the short ‘Be’ and prepares for the Long BE. ‘Back’, therefore, represents another form of ‘Be’.
The Thirty Work ‘I’s
1. Be (Be present)
2. Hold (Hold the sequence with Presence)
3. Pray (Choose the theme of the sequence; i.e. Look, Hear)
4. Back (Watch the lower self)
5. Turn (Return to the theme of the sequence; i.e. Look, Hear)
6. Long BE (Prolong Presence)
7. Act (Engage Presence)
8. Peace [Pax] (Avoid the entire spectrum of negative emotions)
9. Leave (Avoid identification)
10. Kneel (Do not resent friction)
11. Drop (Do not judge or keep accounts)
12. Use (Use voluntary suffering)
13. Wit (Avoid wit)
14. Now (Think neither of the past nor of the future)
15. Look (Look with presence)
16. Move (Move with presence)
17. Taste (Taste with presence)
18. Hear (Listen with presence)
19. Feel (Feel with presence)
20. Smell (Smell with presence)
21. Talk (Speak with presence)
22. Think (Think with presence)
23. Read (Read with presence)
24. Write (Write with presence)
25. Child (Remain in essence; avoid false personality revolving around chief feature)
26. Serve (Do not inner consider, externally consider)
27. Scale (Use scale and relativity)
28. Aim (Keep aim and complete octaves; be aware of third forces)
29. Time (Remember the brevity of life)
30. Gods (Remember the gods)

[ed. - Lateral Drift's post below could hardly be expressed better by Fellowship recruiters. It does make one wonder.]
"Lateral Drift" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 11, 2007 at 9:47 p.m.:

Greetings all – I am scheduled to begin ‘Work’ with the FOF at a center in a major city in the next few weeks. I am only interested in being present and I’ve found working with others with similar aims to be most beneficial. There is a lot of esoteric-sounding nonsense surrounding the 4th Way school of thought and I can really only go on what I’ve been able to verify for myself; namely, trying to awaken seems like a better quality of being than sleepwalking through life. What appeals most to me about FOF is the idea of drawing from all the esoteric traditions to create a sort of super-non-denominational religion. In theory, the idea of taking the core truths and cutting away all the extraneous hogwash sounds like exactly what I’ve always felt was right. At first, the negative press coverage of FOF actually piqued my curiosity. I figured that we men numbers 1-6 may not be in a position to judge a man no. 7, self-proclaimed though he may be, and I was willing to suspend disbelief until I had a reason to do otherwise. They ask for 150 a month for the first year – quite reasonable if they deliver as promised. I’ve been assured that it is most important that I verify everything for myself – to determine if this is the right school environment for me – and that no question is off-limits. I revel in creating social dissonance, so they won’t get to me by applying that kind of pressure. I don’t give a damn about being thrown out and shunned – unless I’m losing something of real value that I cannot get anywhere else. I’m one to tempt fate, and I am quite curious, but I if I’m going to go through with this I want you all to ‘go with me’ in spirit and counsel me along the way. I am open to your comments, questions, suggesting and I’d like you to coach me through this experience. Tell me how to get the most out of it, without getting used and abused. Thanks.
P.S. Are there other 4th Way groups out there that aren’t as cult-like as the FOF? I’d really like to be involved in the work with others and study the esoteric traditions of all the major religions without getting conned.

"Purchasing awakening" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 11, 2007 at 2:03 a.m.:
Lateral Drift 205 (on joining FOF):
Tell me how to get the most out of it, without getting used and abused.”
Assuming it’s a genuine question, here’s my advice:
Don’t join.
You will get used and abused, and brainwashed. There is nothing to get and a lot to loose. It takes years to heal. It has happened to too many sincere seekers, so – learn!
The leader is lustful, selfish and tremendously greedy, and he has nothing beautiful to teach you. He promotes fear, judgment, fake behavior and delusion in his followers. Unable himself to simply love and care for others, he brings up coldness and cruelty in his followers.
There are better places and much better teachers out there, keep looking if you must. Good luck.
FOF is a trap, and a bad one.
Look, here’s some very recent “thoughts” from insane Teacher “decoding” old renaissance paintings. This is exactly what you’ll read out loud and study at every single meeting and pay for it too. At Isis each weekly meeting costs $50-$100, so forget your “reasonable” $150 a month…
The Teacher has no doubt – he is so absolutely sure in his mad interpretations. Any normal thinking human being will tell you this is totally insane – except for his poor brainwashed followers.
Does it sound like 4th Way teaching to you? Ask yourself this.
[ed. - assumed quotations from Robert Burton:]
“The Christ child is in white because he has completed a sequence.”
“The child opens the garment at Mary’s breast, signifying that the sequence is acting – it is going in. The garment itself is red, symbolizing combustion. The hair of the Christ child is also red. The image depicts the nine of hearts and the sequence engaging the four wordless breaths by controlling the passions, represented by the thirty-six white lilies. ”
“Woman has laid aside a blue vase, signifying that the nine of hearts has completed its sequence. The gold rim on the bottom of the vase represents short Be, while the gold rim at the top represents long BE. The vase itself is lapis lazuli, representing prolonged presence. The woman above the vase shows five toes on one foot and three toes on the other. Renaissance artists often did this rather than show four toes on each foot. It signifies the nine of hearts engaging the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths.”
“A fresco by Giotto in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi depicts the Crucifixion (1310). Here Giotto uses the four angels on either side of the cross to convey the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths. Although there are several figures below the cross, only eight of them have halos, again referring to the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths. The two standing figures to the right of the cross are shown together as one. They represent the nine of hearts on the left and the steward on the right, and indicate that the nine of hearts and the sequence share the same body. As is often the case for the nine of hearts, the woman on the left wears a red dress. Although they should have four hands, only two hands with five fingers each are pictured, representing the Ten Commandments. Mary wears a red robe, symbolizing combustion, and kisses Christ’s small toe without touching his four other toes, representing the four wordless breaths. Together with the five fingers on her right hand, these nine digits symbolize the four wordless breaths controlling the passions. It is merely the nine of hearts, the sequence, and the four wordless breaths.
Interestingly, the middle kneeling figure on the right is a duplicate machine of one of our students."

"Bares Reposting" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 13, 2007 at 11:12 p.m.:
[Fellowship of Friends] Daily Card, Saturday , October 13, 2007:
It is difficult to reach the four wordless breaths, and equally difficult to remain there. When I am by myself and I reach long BE, I sometimes put my hands up on the wall, like a child, in order to remain present during the four
wordless breaths.
Love, Robert

[ed. - The following are assumed to be "quotations" ("angles of thought" in Fellowship lingo) followed by the comments of Robert Burton. Numbers in parentheses likely indicate pertain to projected images.]

"Wondering" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 4, 2008:
Here’s some fresh words from the big man [Robert Burton] himself (FOF meeting 11/26/07) [ed. - emphasis added:] Whereas all the current members are free to discuss these words, none of them are allowed to question them.  We can. There’s more if you want…………..
Good evening, my dears. We are truly the luckiest people in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries because we have so much outside help.
“Do not remember the past, remember the present.”
Rumi said, “Can you remember the present?” It was a huge step for us when we heard this thought, for it began our study of the Sufis. “Can you remember the present?” It is music to our ears. (105) Here are five of us looking at the ruins of Palenque.
[After inquiring about a book a student was reading] [ed. - no doubt Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now:]
Schools have been practicing the ‘power of now’ for thousands of years. They have perfected a scientific method for awakening—the sequence. Schools are the source, and the rest is a byproduct of their work.
(124) A rock painting from Lascaux, dating from 30,000 -15,000 BP, depicts five stags crossing the Vézère River, which was their Nile. Here we see the message already perfected by the prehistoric school. The Kabbalah says, “The first five commandments imply the second five.” Together the five stags have seventy-two antlers. It looks chaotic, but it has the same meaning as the pyramid of Yucatan—seventy-two—the control of the passions. (224) The great stag from Lascaux is easier to understand. He has five points on the top of each antler, and eight points together on the bottom of his antlers, representing the inhalation and exhalation of the four wordless breaths. At the bottom of the image are a narrow gate, and thirteen dots, representing the first Bar Mitzvah.
“One has to be willing to relinquish negative emotions, and the sequence enables one to do that.”
BE stops the lion from roaring. Ouspensky said that the last thing one would give up is one’s negativity. For the lower self, to eliminate the negativity means to eliminate him.
(119) Six lions support the columns of a pulpit in the cathedral of Sessa Arunca. Starting with the lion in the left-hand corner, they represent Be, Hold, Look, Back (the only one facing in the other direction), Look, and BE. It is very nice, is it not?
“If one speaks too quickly, one does not even know that one is talking. Once one begins,  the lower self will bring as many words as quickly as it can to displace presence.”
This is true if one speaks too quickly or for too long. With every word one says it is a chance to fall asleep, and with every word one does not say it is an opportunity to be present. What we do not say is more important than what we do say. (179) A sculpture from Chartres depicts a devil overthrowing a woman. The nine of hearts is being controlled by the black queen in prolonged imagination. The serpent has her by the ear.
“To the lower self, presence is an irrelevant issue; only imagination has any importance for it.” (135) A detail of a painting by Jacopo Tintoretto depicts Tarquin and Lucretia. Lucretia’s necklace of sequential pearls, with six pearls on one side, and four on the other, represents a broken sequence. It is like Eve about to fall from Paradise.
“When we are together, we form a beautiful, mystical body of presence.” [Michael Malloy, Apollo]
I do not think there can be a better description of these events. (147) Here is a group of us in Palenque. [During lunch, Robert gave an exercise to the students at the adjacent table. One student was to observe silence throughout the lunch, while the others were to speak no more than six sentences. After observing the effect of this exercise, Robert said:] “Now we are all in the same state. Remember this state and try to be this person at all times, whether we are together or not, with or without the exercise.” Gujduvani said, “Remember yourself always and anywhere.” (207) Here we are at a Thai restaurant in Mexico.
“It is much more difficult to be beautiful within than without.”
The state we are in never fades, while of course, the physical body disintegrates. (216) The St. Petersburg Jacobson Ballet company was performing in Merida when we were there. They danced the full-length Swan Lake and they were actually quite good. (116) This jester was as good as any dancer you would see at the Bolshoi or Kirov. It was a wonderful treat. It is a very serious company.
“One thing that can be said of me after I complete my role is that I never stopped trying to lift you up, away from the lower self.”
Tiramisú—“lift me up”—is the favorite dessert at Apollo d’Oro. I rarely become tired of reminding you to be present. Walt Whitman said, “I carry my old delicious burdens . . . I carry them with me wherever I go”—the sequence. (121) Here I am reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets with a little heart on my nose.
“It is a privilege to use one’s entire energy to assist Influence C, one’s school, one’s fellow students, and one’s self. In our own little way we are helping the Absolute, but I am afraid that we are more work than help.”
(112) Here we are atop the pyramid at Chichén Itzá, above the jungle—the ten thousand ‘I’s. It was quite a privilege to reach the top, because very few people are allowed to go up.
We may have been the only ones to do so in October. It was quite nice to be able to finally go up after looking at the images and speaking about it many times. (212) This is a bird’s-eye view from the top. (213) Here I am bowing.
“In a sense, our entire mental world is a bull-fighting ring. This is the real arena—one must slay the bull internally.”
As we were flying into Mexico City, I saw a bullfighting ring from the airplane. (111) This marvelous image shows a bullfighter slaying an upside-down bull. It symbolizes card twenty-one slaying the lower self. It requires courage to use the sequence and be present. “Be whisks us into the present.”
Mohammed called Be the “piercing star,” because it pierces imagination. Plautus said, “Easier said than done.” It is easier to say Be than to appear with Be. (104) This fierce-looking warrior on the left has four divisions under his mouth, and nine plumes at the top.

"somebody" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 6, 2008:
Wondering, you missed these gems from The Call of the Loon:
“Even though we are making maximum effort, it is Influence C who control most of our ‘I’s, including work ‘I’s.”
The stock market closed at 444 yesterday. It was Influence C signing their work.
This is a license plate we encountered in Mexico saying “RB-44-371.” Why does it not say 365? Because it means using the sequence every day of the year – 365+6. That is how Influence C work.
“It is an obvious absurdity to be conspicuous with Influence C hovering invisibly around us.”
If we could only remember this, then we might not engage so freely in unnecessary talk. I very much like Gregory of Nissa’s thought: “If evil was presented to us as it really is, unadorned with some semblance of good, we would not fly to it so easily.” If imagination was presented to us as it really is – a very deceptive, shadowy figure trying to break our presence – we would not listen to it so easily. It is a very beautiful angle. *Here is a group of us in Palenque. I am making a heart with my fingers. I detected Leonid fifty to seventy-five meters away from me taking the photograph.
“We are all children dealing with the bully of lower self.”
Fortunately, Influence C are on our side. *Here we see a young boy in Palenque with the number ‘seventy-two’ on his t-shirt, representing the control of passions. Palenque was a place to control the passions, as Apollo is for us. Influence C give us many names and numbers wherever we go.
“When we use the sequence or one of the thirty work ‘I’s and succeed in reaching presence, it is because the third eye emerged in response to our effort.”
Guerric of Igny said, “He who created you, is created in you.” * A Mexican magazine cover features a lady with one eye. She reminds me of Diana Vishneva, the Russian Ballet dancer. I had a dream last week in which Leonardo [ed. - Leonardo da Vinci, whom Burton claims as his guiding angel.] was pleading for my help, and I used it today to remind me to do everything I could to assist his efforts to help me to be present. Influence C plead for our help because it makes their job a little easier, and certainly more effective.
“Our best friend is our own presence.” [Myriam Borges, Valencia]
Hafiz said, “You are with the friend now. Learn what actions of yours delight him” – long BE. With the sequence one is never alone – one has one’s self for a companion. *Here are Asaf and I drinking coconut juice.
"A useful aim is not to toss to other people. It brings out something unrelated to control of centers.”
The jacks of centers like to casually toss things around to promote sleep. *Here I am feeding one of our water buffaloes. I visit them every evening at 4:30. Kenneth Wygal and I call them the ‘girls”. On Monday we will have fifty of them here, all less than two years old.
“Presence does not have to die.”
That is why Influence C is here – so that we will never die. *Here I am at a teaching event in Mexico City. *Here I am in Tulim [ed. - Tulum?]. I seem to be showing four teeth!

"Panoritsa" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 7, 2009:
A fairly recent little story… Saturday evening I was with another ex-member I had not seen since we both left the madhouse { AKA Fellowship of Friends, Pathway to Presence (or hell…) }. We were at a party with other people who had no past with the FOF and even though we tried to not always come back to what a trip all those years (have known each other for at least 17 years…), we kept on talking about the odd experience…. Then my friend was reminded of that meeting (about 2-2.5 years ago) where we were all silenced and only reading out of the outrageous interpretations in the form of quotations and looking at mainly art works projected on a wall. Burton was into the caves (meaning prehistoric art…). Next to counting poop in order to show us how the sequence and the four wordless breaths were there for ever, he abused any image with a female body on it. So, here we are, a prehistoric image of a naked female with two large breasts… And yes, yes… one breast is larger than the other…And then the quotation reads about the Long BE (long breast…) and the Short BE (slightly smaller breast…). My friend and I stared at each other with our eyes wide open, trying desperately but with no result to suppress an outburst of laughter… There was no way back, we kept on laughing like schoolchildren…had to leave the room… The odd thing is that after that and all the other humiliations we had to undergo during meetings and events and dinners… we kept on trying to understand the non-sense. But that’s another story…

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