Introduction


Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970.

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

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws
on official Fellowship publications and websites,
news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The "angelic" face of The Fellowship of Friends

Raphael cherubs used in Fellowship of Friends cult promotional materials
Raphael's Cherubs, that appeared in Fellowship of Friends publications

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 3, 2009:
Here are some thoughts about why being in the Fellowship felt so nice.
*
I joined at twenty one and was still very uneasy socially. In the Fellowship we were told that the ability to be socially fluent and the capacity for small talk were properties of the ‘Jack of Hearts’, and that manifesting from there was relatively undesirable.
This was all very convenient. Instead of fidgeting nervously, or being witty in a way which not many people seemed to get, and instead of rushing off when there wasn’t much to say, I could just stand still, say nothing at all, and wait for or invite someone to begin ‘teaching’ me.
I could pre-plan what to say and leave long pauses, and the other party would wait patiently- understanding that I was using ‘Kings of Centres’ to formulate.
There was clearly loads that I didn’t know. Ouspensky’s system which was still in vogue in 1984, was really complicated and mysterious and promising. Everything spoken about was new and interesting and meaningful and deep… it seemed to lead somewhere.
I could talk with men and have long walks with them, without anyone getting the wrong idea; there was no menacing flirting because that would be ‘infra sex’, our interests were ‘enlightenment’ our ambitions spiritual and lofty.
Students seemed more beautiful than other people: they were ‘wide eyed’ because they were dividing attention. They looked shiny and clean because ‘impressions’ were very important. They were picturesque, angelic even.
People hugged me lightly yet meaningfully. They weren’t allowed to be ‘negative’. I was welcomed, encouraged.
It was all bliss.
*
Now I realise the limitations of that paradise… even for newer students. First of all we kept each other superficial by our insistence on showing only our ‘angelic’ faces. Our darker, dirtier sides were part of the ‘persona non grata’; we did not delve constructively into these less digestible bits, or attempt to integrate them, but briskly wrote them off as the King of Clubs, or the Queen of Hearts, Infra-Sex, Chief Feature and so on.
Many students came to the Fellowship bleeding: they had wounds but these were categorised as the soil for ‘magnetic centre’ and we were instructed to leave them behind, to focus on higher non-human things; a kind of disembodied phenomena we called ‘soul’. In a way we were being asked to close our eyes to our human-ness. I see this now as active promotion of sleep.
But those parts of ourselves that we rejected, did not just go away. In fact unattended to they festered and grew. In private many students succumbed in secret to obsessive compulsive behaviours, were vicious, pathologically fearful, addictive, violent or depressive.
*
I loved the ‘angelic’ face of the Fellowship. It seemed worth paying for. In 1990 when I worked in the office and saw for myself that most of our teaching payments were spent by Robert Burton on his personal life I did not mind because I felt I was getting so much and because I believed him to be conscious and to be acting from a higher rationale.
Right until the very end I loved that face.
*
But now I realize just how harmful that admiration was. Even if Burton had been honest and he hadn’t been cheating us all, even if there hadn’t been the sexual exploitation, we would still have lost. Because any teaching which divides a man into ‘good and bad’ and trashes the latter, must ultimately harm him.
So if we had not invested so much in Burton’s angelic seeming group; if instead we had struggled to come to terms with our personal trauma’s, to awaken to all parts of ourselves, to acknowledge how our parents had shaped us, and then to stop blaming them, had struggled to take responsibility for our own weird behaviours, had become adults… we might slowly and painstakingly have developed our own more real communities of friends, our own families, our own professions, our own tastes.
It wouldn’t have been as easy, or as instantly ‘sweet’ as that ‘angelic’ kick we got from membership of the Fellowship, but it might have been more lasting, more true.

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