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.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A happy initiate and a sober warning

"Wonderwork" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 18, 2010:
Hi there,

I am a relatively a new student – not a US citizen.

Before I joined I was reading several parts of this discussion forum. Some of it is quite interesting, but it also sounds quite indoctrinating. Anyway it has made me curious about the school. I thought of joining for a while and finally I joined less than a year ago. Recently I was visiting Apollo for six weeks – one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have met the most sincere, gentle and pleasant people I have ever met in my entire life. It is also a sort of a convent. Yet, it has a reasonable code of behavior, and I noticed that people in-charge use moderate approaches toward the rules. So far the advantages of being in the school are by far surmounting the flaws.

This school is really focusing on being present; It is a challenging and inspiring path. I have no doubts about the sincerity of students in relation to this idea no matter what some of you might say.

Though I cannot know for sure, I do believe that some of the testimonials written here might be genuine, yet I am quite positive that there is a lot of distorted and hearsay stuff written here as well. One can sense that from the way some people are expressing themselves in these discussions.

About morality and human values:

The US armed forces have been killing and torturing thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and nothing substantial has been done against these actions. Yet no one here in this discussion forum has ever mentioned it and no one is calling anyone to renounce their US citizenship and leave the US.

The fact that you are not going against these actions and send back your passports to the US state department shows that you can live with it!!!

Well I can live with some of the accusations against the teacher and enjoy the great spiritual benefits of the school.

"Ames Gilbert" responded to "Wonderwork" (above), on November 20, 2010:
Hello, Wonderwork (#97-115), and welcome to the discussion.

I still remember the sense of wonder and good fortune I had when I joined in 1978 and for the first few years, so I appreciate what you are feeling now. If you did due diligence (for example, asked yourself questions such as the list I made for prospective members on page 23-169 of this discussion, and suggestions by others in the same vein), and carry on asking yourself hard questions about the nature of verification for yourself (not Girard Haven’s idea of verification as I discussed in 86-154, and the observations of others on the same subject), then maybe this experience is right for you.

You do not state your sex, but I am curious as to what you think about Burton having sex with many of his male heterosexual followers from either a male or female viewpoint. And, if you are female, how do you feel about being told that there is zero chance that you will ‘wake up’ (whatever that means) in this lifetime? (And if you are male, what do you make of that, anyway?) What do you think about what you have been told (and this is all it can be, unless you are that rare person who can recall previous lifetimes from direct experience) about multiple lifetimes and Burton’s ideas of some kind of advancement through them?

I appreciate what you say about the nice people. They are all very earnest and helpful, aren’t they? But if you have indeed read through all these pages, surely the ideas presented have made you aware how dangerous entering such an insular, self-reinforcing system of beliefs can be, the pitfalls of isolating yourself in subtle and ever deepening ways from what is pejoratively termed ‘life’ influences, including your family and friends? What system of checks have you put in place to avoid being trapped in the bubble?

If you are like me, you are probably what is referred to as an idealist; maybe that means something to you, perhaps not. What I can tell you is that the Fellowship of Friends seemed to fulfill many dreams and needs for me. And although Burton told me that the FoF is not a community, for me it certainly was, and your words about all the nice people leads me to believe that you might feel the same. If you look up the definition of ‘community’, it would seem to fit.

I also know that for many years I was unwilling to accept the reality of the Fellowship of Friends, and when Burton’s misdeeds became known, I at first refused to face what this meant, and what I was doing to try to ‘hold everything together’. So I ask you, do you think that the huge inequality of power between Burton and any of his followers allows any kind of meaningful relationship? Do you feel awe, gratitude, or fear when around Burton? Under such conditions, do you think sexual relations between Burton and his male heterosexual followers can ever lead to anything good?

You appreciate the intense focus on ‘being present, but is not the purpose of the FoF to make people ‘conscious’? What do you believe that ‘consciousness’ means? What do you think of the fact that the only person in the FoF who believes that he has become ‘conscious’ is Girard Haven? Do you want Robert Burton or Girard Haven to teach you to become like them? What do you think about the others that Burton claimed had become ‘conscious’ over the forty years that the FoF has existed? Do you understand what Gurdjieff meant by the necessity for individuation? Do you ever envisage graduating from the ‘school’ and going off to make your path as an individual? If not, why not? And if you subscribe to Burton’s theory of ‘multiple lifetimes’, why do you do so? And if you don’t, how do you deal with the chasm between Burton’s claims and your own beliefs, in this and in other areas?

Lots of questions here, and why should you answer them? Well, you are investing a substantial amount of your time, life energy, efforts and money in this enterprise, and I’d suggest these are actually a minimum. There are people in the FoF who have been there ten, twenty, thirty, forty years and have not attained the goals they entered with. Why is that? What does it say about the efficacy of Burton’s methods?

There are many other questions, and at some point they will have to be answered in full if you are to be honest with yourself. Why not start now?

I wish you the best,

Ames Gilbert

More from "Ames Gilbert ," November 26, 2010:
I wrote this on another Thanksgiving day (as celebrated in the U.S.A.)

Today, and every day, I am thankful that I’m no longer a member of the cult called the Fellowship of Friends. I feel lucky.

Daily Cardiac [blogger, Fellowship defender] and many hundred others are thankful that they are followers of Burton. They feel lucky—and special. And so they should. They believe they have been chosen by angels from nearly 7 billion doomed humans now alive to become ‘immortal’ (whatever that means). Now, that’s special!

Thank you again, DC, for laying out your belief system so directly. Anyone interested in or considering joining the Fellowship who does due diligence will appreciate your efforts, and hopefully see them as they are. Your post #86–73 could hardly be clearer; it is a catalog of your articles of faith. If anyone who has had no connection to the FoF, but is interested in that organization reads this, I’m writing this for you.

If you want to join a group of people like DC, mostly sincere, nice, well–meaning folks, but whose entire ‘spiritual’ center of gravity is based on faith, know that in advance—and accept the consequences. Look through these pages for posts by Daily Cardiac, an excellent representative of the typical follower’s point of view. Know that many of us (I dare say, probably most) who have ‘been through the mill’ have concluded that the leader, Robert Burton, is a sexual predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that having sex with large numbers of the heterosexual young men who depend on him for spiritual guidance is his chief occupation, and has been for forty years. Know that if you are a young, even moderately good-looking young heterosexual male, you will most probably end up having sex with him. Know that your fellow followers will approve of this, encourage this, and the less than good-looking ones will envy you (though these are few, Burton’s tastes are very catholic). In other words, in their world–view, this is completely normal and expected. Know that he has no control in this matter, and has never demonstrated will or restraint. Know that his followers excuse and even justify this ‘supersex’ (as he terms it) because he is a ‘conscious being’.

Know also that Burton is a life–long misogynist. He has no use for women as women, unless they have money or influence. Moreover, he states that they cannot ‘awaken’ as women in this lifetime. This means that if you are a woman, you will (according to Burton) definitely have to wait for a ‘role in a future lifetime as a man’ (with the sole exception of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, for some reason) to be able to ‘awaken’, whatever that is.

If you happen to be here because you are interested in the Fourth Way, know that, apart from words freely borrowed from the Fourth Way, this cult has no connection with the Fourth Way whatsoever. The Fourth Way terms are bait, pure and simple. There has been no transmission of knowledge or energy from Alex Horn to Robert Burton. Nor was there a transmission from J.G. Bennett to Horn (whose entire experience of the Fourth Way in the direct line was as a three–week drop–in at the end of one of Bennett’s courses in England). Horn had no contact with Rodney Collin, whatever Burton claims or insinuates. The rest came from books or odd meetings with others interested in the Fourth Way. Whatever the level of Horn, Burton failed miserably to fulfill the task given to him, to cease his sexual pursuit of male fellow ‘students’. And, Burton himself is openly proud of the fact that he has never read any work of Gurdjieff. His quotes of Gurdjieff’s words come from his brief encounters with Ouspensky’s books and what he has picked up from his more organized or intellectual followers. He has yet to explain the vast gap between his being a self-proclaimed Man number 7.9, or whatever, and the next and only ‘conscious product’ of his organization, the infamous Girard Haven, official hagiographer, Man number 5 point something. Remember the Fourth Way idea that one has to help put someone in one’s place before one can ‘move on’?
As a particular example, the meaning of the word ‘verification’ has been turned on its head. As you inevitably reorient yourself to the Fellowship groupthink (your new friends are so nice, so helpful, so knowledgeable, and you are so eager to learn, to please, to fit in…), you will be persuaded that ‘testing’ hypotheses according to reason and the scientific method is faulty thinking, emanating from your ‘lower self’. Instead the major part of your ‘work’ is to first accept given/revealed articles of faith as true and then strive to find evidence for them. Failing that, you are to ‘observe and record’ and put any doubting thoughts ‘on the back burner’, or, as you become more advanced, dispense with them altogether because they are generated by your ‘lower self’. When the back burner is full, you will be kept so busy you won’t notice the older thoughts ‘to be worked with later’ permanently falling into oblivion. Know that the many general ‘exercises’ given out by Burton are a miraculous one–size fits all. Any individual attention that each follower may need is farmed out to one or other of the 44 angels, the discorporate remains of (mostly) white, male Europeans who have left a historical record. More than strange, huh? Almost all the personal exercises given by Dear Teacher are of the “C-Influence wishes you to internally consider me, give up your body for my pleasure’ type. Though, for variety, there are the never–ending requests for more money, gifts, favors of all kinds, or ‘You should marry this person or that’.

Know that Burton is probably the most superstitious person you will ever hear of or meet. This ‘conscious being’, having lost his own internal way, relies on external signs of every type, from chance license plate numbers to a grotesque numerology and symbology, whose significance is supported and ‘researched’ by the members themselves, and as stated above, always seeking ‘proof’ to support the pre–conceptions. One example among literally thousands: Burton interprets the number of rhino poops in prehistoric cave drawings as messages the artists intentionally left for him across tens of centuries! Based on this rare sensitivity, Burton continually makes prophecies, whose record of complete failure (including highlights such as the drowning of California in 1996, nuclear Armageddon in 2006, the production of seven ‘conscious beings’, and so on) he petulantly explains in terms such as, “C–Influence has humiliated me”. At the same time, mirabile dictu, Burton claims that every jot and title of existence is preordained, a ‘play written by the angels’. In his universe, he supplies the ‘crazy’ while his followers infer the ‘wisdom’, so all in the narcissistic dance are happy. Oh, and you’ll be glad he has made improvements to the Fourth Way apart from inventing angels whose sole welfare is those who write checks to Burton, and who will attend the complete destruction of the rest of humanity. For example, unlike Gurdjieff, Ouspensky or Bennett in whose teachings conscience is as important as, and inseparable from, consciousness, Burton has little use for the former. In fact he says, “Conscience is just a collection of I’s. Anyone accumulating too much should leave the school”. One less thing to worry about, huh? And as strong an indicator as any that he doesn’t have conscience—and hence, consciousness—himself.

If you indeed value the Fourth Way, then before you consider joining the Fellowship of Friends, you owe it to yourself to find out everything you can about them. There is much more in these pages and elsewhere. I know, it is quite an effort to go through them. But the time you invest doing this is miniscule compared to the time you will waste and the harm that may befall you if you join the cult. I’m not claiming you will learn nothing, just that you can achieve better results in far less time elsewhere, without paying the price the greedy and literally insatiable Burton demands.

So much for the Fourth Way. How about the Second Way? If you take a masochistic satisfaction in being told what to do in all areas of your life, have blind trust in authoritarian structures, have faith in revealed truths, and desperately need to cultivate obedience, you’ll certainly be interested in some form of the Second Way. But why not just join the Carthusians or some other group with a good record? For a start, they are much quicker and more efficient. You have the possibility of reaching salvation during or at the end of this lifetime. Not so Burton’s religion. He claims you will need many lifetimes of unremitting toil and devotion to counter your built–in weaknesses and achieve immortality. Meanwhile, Mr. “Do as I say, not as I do” trusts not to the future, but lives the life of a spoiled potentate right now. He will use your money to live luxuriously. He may use your body for his sexual pleasure. He will travel widely at your expense. He will dress in the finest and most expensive clothing, silken underwear, drink wine worth hundreds of dollars at every meal, drive the best cars, travel first class everywhere, and give rich gifts to his lovers—while he favors them—all from your earnings. His followers exist to hang on every word, gratify every whim, and worship him as “the brightest light in 2,000 years. Not so incidentally, he is ‘beyond Judeo–Christian morality’ (though he has yet to formulate a successor).

Why would you want to dive into the fantasy world of this twisted, lying madman, who seems to exist solely for the titillation of the nerve endings in his penis and anus—and for shopping? Rather, go join an order of nuns or monks. If you are interested in experiencing the state popularly known as consciousness, study Zen or become a Buddhist.

Otherwise, stick around back here with the rest of us and try to do the best you can for yourself and your fellow humans with love and integrity, living life in all its juicy mess, ups and downs, accepting the need for risks, facing the unknown and unknowable with all the courage you can muster.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recent photos of Robert Earl Burton

[ed. - Two of the images are obviously "photoshopped" for our amusement.]

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 19, 2010:
Meet Robert Burton:

[Images linked:]

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 23, 2010:

Pictures of Robert Burton

Further research shows that 3 very similar photos seem to have been released. Maybe the Fellowship of Friends uses each one on different occasions. And surely each one has a hidden meaning. So many fingers, so many mysteries!

[Image linked:]

"angleman" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 26, 2010:
A Letter to Robert (video)

[ed. - Membership in the Greater Fellowship may be required to access the video.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"If you would believe on me"

"Ollie" posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
[ed. - responding to post number and poster] 33. zannos. Regarding “the shoddiest bunch of claptrap imaginable”: Robert Burton in a Fellowship meeting on the subject “The Nothing that is Something” (May 09, 2010):
‘A photograph shows a boy in an airplane wearing a tee-shirt saying “Yes.” His arms are outstretched in long-BE form and he is looking up. There is a great meaning behind this simple photograph. The twenty-first Olympics just finished, but before it began there was a tragic accident in which a young athlete died, leaving the Georgian delegation with six athletes. An American athlete named Apolo Ohno won eight medals in the winter Olympics. When my B Influence teacher died on the tennis courts at fifty-seven, his last words were “Oh no!” because he knew he was having a heart attack. He said, “Oh no!” and died right there. Apollo may survive the Last Judgment – oh no – yes! All things end in yes for schools if this comes to pass. There is a formatory phrase in life, “Seeing is believing.” Jesus said, “If you would believe on me” – if you would make the sequence act, so seeing is believing.'
There you have it. Wake up everybody, this rubbish will not turn you into a “conscious being” one day, nor will a thousand sequences or a million wordless breaths! Don’t listen to it any longer. Get out of the Fellowship and take time to heal. Learn again to be quiet with yourself, away from the relentless propaganda. Don’t let the Fellowship obscure the sun of your true being. There is a silent peace, beyond all efforting, beyond all “gripping of the present”, beyond all those desperate desires to “be immortal”. Don’t be afraid. Relax. Trust it. Be silent. This silent peace is you. Has always been, will always be. Forever and ever.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Declining Fellowship of Friends membership statistics, as influenced by the blog.

"Joe Average" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 22, 2007 at 2:13 a.m.
Since the Fellowship stopped updating their beautiful graphs in December 2006 and the last overview data available is from February 2007, a more accurate picture of the population of the school is hard to get. The individual centre population counts, though often also one or two months behind reality (centre book-keepers must report people joining and leaving – Isis has no way to know otherwise, and these reports are often delayed), are more current. I added those figures up and compared them against the February 2007 “overview” figures. For Tokyo, Mediterranean” and “Miscellaneous”, stable numbers are assumed as either the February or current data are missing.

The results:

Total students in February: 2085
Total students as of 21 May 1726

35 new students joined, making the total departures since February 394. The majority of these are from Isis – 317.

Given the huge extra donation that was due 1 April, I suspect there is a substantial block of students who are currently “behind” in their donations, having either decided not to financially support the organization any more or simply trying to decide whether to remain. It is an old tradition, fully supported by comments from Robert over the years, that Renaissance/Apollo/Isis sets the pace for the rest of the school, and that other centres always react more slowly to changes. The numbers so far seem to confirm that; the wave of departures from centres is yet to come.

To save you the trouble, I will supply the RB quote myself: “Forget the numbers and just remember yourself” – Robert (number 7.x, “brightest light in two thousand years”) to HK when the latter told him he had become a man number five.

"Ames Gilbert" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 3, 2007 at 5:31 p.m.:

[ed. - The following blog stats show the growing interest in the "Sheik's" discussion concerning the Fellowship of Friends.]
Sheik posted his initial observations Sunday April 16, 2006
First comment on these observations: June 24, 2006
Part 1—First 300 comments, ending March 1, 2007
Part 2—Next 338 comments, ending March 11, total 668
Part 3—Next 333 comments, ending March 22, total 1007
Part 4—Next 312 comments, ending March 29, total 1313
Part 5—Next 391 comments, ending April 8, total 1704
Part 6—Next 408 comments, ending April 20, total 2112
Part 7—Next 397 comments, ending April 28, total 2509
Part 8—Next 453 comments, ending May 11, total 2962
Part 9—Next 452 comments, ending May 22, total 3414
Part 10—Next 534 comments, ending June 5 , total 3948
(change of format occurred here…
Part 11—Next 715, comments, ending June 13th, total 4663. Note: no moderation, numbering screws up, FoF spam attacks repelled!
Part 12—Next 647 comments, ending June 21st, total 5310
Part 13—Next 829 comments, ending July 3, total 6139

Thanks, appreciation and love to you all from Ames!

Special thanks to you, O Sheik, for all your hard work.

"Purchasing awakening" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 23, 2007 at 2:40 a.m.:
Simple Truth [blogger] – I wish it all was that simple and transparent in FOF…
No, it’s not ‘just being present and that’s all.’
There are lies and crimes and bottomless greed and ‘Be Present’ is just a cover up for devoted sheep like you. Main thing is money and sex and it has always been this way from day one. This is the only driving force behind RB and FOF. Open your damn glossy eyes already!
On a positive note FOF has already lost about 3.7 million in annual revenue due to recent exodus of wealthier students from US and Europe. It’s more than half of the annual income that comes from the teaching payments. (Usually about 6 million). Certainly there is still quite some personal RB’s income from all those ‘teaching events’.
But things are changing all by themselves and it’s not looking good for FOF. Current ‘exit rate’ is 50-80 students per month. New students seem to be a thing of the past ( btw, has anyone seen a new student join FOF lately?) It is not about the actual numbers of students who left, it’s more about the category of the people who are leaving. Teaching payment in USA is $450 per month minimum and it’s usually only around $10-$20 in less developed countries. Therefore losing American students does hurt.
Devoted salaried believers don’t bring much money to RB – they are actually mostly an expense and burden for FOF (sorry Howard)[blogger].
I think we’ll see lots of action in few months when Fall donation hits the fan… Stay tuned.
ST, make sure to complete all your sequences before the shop closes down!

Posted by "Bass Ackwards" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog August 10, 2007:
Here are the latest membership stats:
April 2007 – 2035 (from the April FOF directory)
August 2007 – 1639 (+/- 5) (from Propylaia)

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 26, 2007:

Fellowship membership figures (to my best knowledge):

Mid August 2007: around 1,940

Mid November 2007: around 1,840

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 27, 2008:
Re. 130 More history needed?

To the best of my knowledge, membership was at 1,756 on April 15, 2008. Numbers continue to decrease each month. Looking back, membership was at 1,949 on Aug 15, 2007.

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 17, 2008:

fof membership numbers:

July 17, 2008: 1,737

August 17, 2007: 1,949

Posted by "Ames Gilbert" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 2, 2009:
Re: the count of members of the Fellowship of Friends. According to the Propylaia website today (Sept 1, 2009) is 1570. To settle the argument, someone had to grind through the member names and count every single one! It would take someone who knows every member to see if they are counting folks who have left, though. But they are counting bodies; in the Task Complete section––two deceased. The rest, by ‘center’:

Apollo 578
Milan 44
Kiev 39
Moscow 74
Minsk 18
Palo Alto 11
St Petersburg 62
Novosibirsk 10
Porto Alegre 5
Athens 24
Khabarovsk 6
Bucharest 14
Buenos Aires 23
Campinas 11
Beirut 22
North Germany 12
Ahmedabad 50
Ljubljana 20
Nijny Novgorod 13
Naples 12
Santiago 14
Tel Aviv 45
Sacramento 10
London 35
Brussels 7
Naples 12
Amsterdam 24
Vilnius 8
New York 14
Rome 18
Sao Paulo 22
Shanghai 20
Venice 9
Tijuana 23
Madrid 7
Paris 24
Rajkot 19
Atlanta 3
Istanbul 7
San Francisco 7
Florence 13
San Salvador 14
Bogota 7
Los Angeles 7
Monterrey 8
Toronto 6
Petrosavodsk 11
Washington, D.C. 10
Munich 3
Mexico City 41
Mumbai 10
Valencia 7
Vienna 7
Veracruz 9
Bogota 7
Prague 5
Beijing 3
Zurich 5
Copenhagen 5
Barnaul 8
Miscellaneous 31.

Hopefully that all adds up to 1570! Some previously unknown center may have slipped through. Someone else can do the analysis. How does this break down by continent? How is the population aging? Are some of the remaining richer, older Americans nearing retirement, and will their dues go down? And so on…

"More history needed?" posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 29, 2009:
1570 members still in the fellowship of friends, including Robert Burton. 579 are mentioned of those students, as belonging to the Apollo center.

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 8, 2010:
Notwithstanding all the information that’s freely available here and elsewhere on the web, the advertising efforts of the Fellowship of Friends are still bringing some results. Here are some recent stats:
Total people joining (Jan 8 – May 8, 2010): 39
Shanghai: 4
Ahmedabad: 2
Middle East
Tel Aviv: 4
Beirut: 2
Istanbul: 2
Eastern Europe
St Petersburg: 4
Moscow: 3
Kiev: 3
Minsk: 2
Bucharest : 2
European Union
Rome: 2
Florence: 1
Milan: 1
Ljubliana: 1
London: 1
South America
Campinas: 1
Santiago de Chile: 1
Oregon House: 1
Sacramento: 1
Total people leaving (Jan 8 – May 8, 2010): 63
Total membership (May 8, 2010): 1,540

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 8, 2010:
Let’s put it in perspective:

Membership mid-2005: 2,200
Membership mid-2007: 1,950
Membership now: 1,540

Mr Burton, ever the clever businessman, would of course spin it in his usual way, saying things like: “There has been a very productive period of winnowing (separating the grain from the chaff) in the school.”

Oh dear. There are still quite a number of friends of mine stuck in the cage. Just as I, while I was a member, had deaf ears, blind eyes and a closed heart to so many obvious truths about the Fellowship of Friends, in just the same way I can now do nothing for my friends to wake them up, to give them courage to open their hearts. Until one day, one gets it… That’s just how it is. It takes time, so much time, to slowly let go of the fears and silly belief systems that one gets attached to while in there.

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 12, 2010:

164. More history needed [post and blogger]

According to the database, there are 1,519 member in the Fellowship of Friends now. Six months ago, there were 1,529. Since then, 55 left and 45 joined. Those 45 joined in the following places:

Russia and Ukraine:
Moscow: 6
Kiev: 3
Petrozavodsk: 2
Khabarovsk: 1
Mexico City: 7
Monterrey: 3
Ahmedabad: 8
Rajkot: 1
Mumbai: 1
New York: 3
Oregon House, CA: 1
Florence: 2
Athens: 1
Middle East:
Tel Aviv: 1
Istanbul: 1
Beirut: 1
Sao Paolo: 2
Beijing: 1

"Remember..." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2010:

I would advise people not take Ollie’s numbers seriously. Who knows if the numbers are correct or not? He shows up on the blog frequently with an official looking stat sheet, but it’s entirely possible that his/her task is to create the impression that the numbers remain high, and that the Greater Fellowship and blog have had little effect on Burton’s fun and games. In other words, the point is to discourage people from posting. Remember that the road to lies is paved with numbers and statistics. The numbers may be correct, but like anything else emanating from this organization, it’s wise to be skeptical.

"Joseph G" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 28, 2007:
Hi Bistro Fundraiser and Ollie [bloggers],

Regarding your posts around #253-254:

The numbers that really count are the payable amounts on checks written to FOF.

The monthly aggregate of these numbers is going down at a much faster rate than the membership tally.

Many members contribute in the negative: financially they take more than they add. Some of these poor souls seem to have become (i.e. are believed to be and believe themselves to be) incapable of “working in life.” Other members live outside the U.S. where the average donation is only $200-300 per month, or much less. Subtract these non-paying and low-paying members and what is left?

The demographics behind the numbers are more important than any superficial roster count in terms of how much negative impact the blog has had on the FOF, and by extension on Robert’s lifestyle. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, even if it’s a #4.

Joseph G

"Purchasing awakening" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 28, 2007:
Joseph G [responding to post above] – I completely agree with you. It’s not how many people left, it’s which kind of people left.

Pensate [blogger] and all,

It’s not about people in FOF – it has never been about people! it’s all about the money.

Those who make more money seem to be leaving. Why? Because if one has to pay thousands of hard earned dollars to this organization – so it better be worth it! It’s so hard to justify every monthly check written to FOF after one has read even a fraction of this blog. And it’s getting harder and harder to pay so much for such delusional bullshit that the Teacher calls “the teaching”. There is no end in sight to this BS – the Beloved Teacher seem to be firmly on his de-coding course, having a total blast… So people finally leave, sick of paying for this meaningless crap.

Many devotees are actually financially dependent on FOF and don’t contribute to it, rather they are an expense to the organization. Most devoted receive large salaries for their usefulness.

Of course there are exceptions and there are wealthy devotees as well but not that many.

People who are leaving are mostly from more developed countries where they have access to internet and free information. These are the people who contribute most money in their teaching payments. There is virtually no more new students coming from USA and Europe – because they can easily access the criticism about FOF online and make an informed decision about joining this cult.

This is different for non-english speakers from poorer countries, who don’t have access to information and are still joining here and there in small numbers.

In poorer countries the monthly payment is only 20-50 dollars (comparing to 150-1500 monthly payment in Europe and USA), so not much money is coming from those distant centers. A center of 100 people in St. Petersburg can only produce 2000 dollars monthly, and most of it is retained to pay for the rent of the teaching house…

A salaried student in Isis is receiving approximately 460 a month, so a whole large center of 100 Russian students can only support 4 salaried students each month. How many salaried students are out there? Couple hundred or more?

A shirt for Robert’s boy costs around 700-1500 dollars, don’t forget the ties, vests, scarves, rings, chains, cars and huge travel expenses for each traveling boy. As we all know, Robert never travels alone.

So all of 200+ Russian students that are in the school now cannot even pay for wardrobe and travel needs of only ONE Robert’s boy… And how many “boys” are out there? A hundred or more?

So the question is not “how many people are still in FOF”, the question is – “Who the heck is going to pay for all this?”

Fellowship collapse will most likely occur for financial reasons, when the structure is unable to pay for itself anymore.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

They say it's your birthday

Posted by "Ollie" of the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Spare change anyone? A deluded old gay guy wants to have another piece of jewelry for his collection. For God’s sake, it’s his birthday! Here it goes, a message to all members of the Fellowship of Friends:
“On Wednesday, May 12th we shall be celebrating our Beloved Teacher’s 71st birthday.
For his birthday gift a beautiful twenty dollar 22k gold coin, minted 1927, has been selected. The gold coin was designed by Augustus St. Gaudens, a Mason, and has the message: Lady Liberty walking, modeled after the statue of Liberty that in turn was modeled after Athena and Isis – card 21 (Higher Emotional). Rising sun with ’13 and 13′ rays (First wordless breath). 4 fingers on an olive branch and 4 on the torch. The wind blows to the right lifting up 4 locks of her hair.
The setting (Bezel): fabricated by R_in W_rd with 6 jewels (5 donated by a student) and the configuration was conceived by Robert. There are three white diamonds, one emerald, one ruby and one sapphire (all esoteric colors). The first diamond followed by an emerald signifies purity from imagination during the sequence (green, like green pastures). The second diamond followed by a ruby signifies the purity from imagination during Long BE, combustion. The third diamond followed by the sapphire signifies the purity from imagination during the Four Wordless Breaths. The loop that is above everything else has seven divisions (Seventh Heaven, Presence).
Jewel Box: Ivory round box, empire around 1810 with a hand painted portrait of a young lady with 6 and 4 beads on her diadem and two squares (one on the head and one on the girdle).
To commemorate his 71st birthday you may send a card to Robert, and, if you wish to enclose a gift, a check can be written to: Fellowship of Friends and note that your check is a gift. (…) If it is more convenient, you may leave a card and gift in the mail box outside the Galleria kitchen. Please remember to put your full name and your center on the card. All gifts are appreciated.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Today's Daily Card

Robert Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult daily card
Fellowship of Friends "Daily Card"

[ed. - These small printed cards containing a quotation from Robert Burton or other "noble" personality were distributed to the membership. Today, the Fellowship uses Twitter and e-mail to distribute an endless stream of aphorisms.]

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
“The pace of the School has increased, and our being has increased because of it.” - The Fellowship of Friends (from “Daily Card”, April 28, 2010)

"Why Robert Burton is a fake" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 25, 2008 at 9:48 p.m.:
These are the daily cards of today and yesterday:
We are too much under feminine dominance to awaken
by ourselves, but Influence C are not. We are not
actually supposed to awaken, but Influence C
make it possible. They do not have to answer to
anyone – they are the law.
Six and four make you present.

"Pensate un attimo" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 18, 2008 at 5:52 p.m.:
Thursday, March 13, 2008
When I yawn, I cover my mouth, in order to be different from the animals.

Love, Robert

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 29, 2008 at 12:42 a.m.:
A few recent words on eternity, arrogance and sequential dieting:
Very few people want the sequence, because it is so minimal. I thank you for wanting and embracing it. Remember, the state we are in will eventually survive the death of the physical body and be eternal. Nothing can compare to it. - Robert Burton, March 2008
Those who have difficulty with the current form are not able to take Influence C on their own divine terms. There is a lot of arrogance in that. Who are we to question them? - Robert Burton, March 2008
Influence C has put our school on a sequential diet. Those who can accept this fact will stay, and those who do not will have to go. - Robert Burton, March 2008

"Ollie" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion  blog, March 29, 2008 at 12:52 a.m.:
And, gentlemen, this one is for you:
Later many of you will have to work with younger people on all the things I have worked on with you. It requires infinite patience. - Robert Burton, March 2008

"Why Robert Burton is a fake" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 2, 2008 at 11:42 a.m.:
The lower self wants only nothing, non-existence,
imagination. Presence is not enough for the lower
self; Influence C is not enough for him.

Love, Robert

"Draco" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 2, 2008 at 9:52 p.m.:
Spring is here and its arrival is accompanied by increased sex energy. If you have difficulty in this area it may behoove you to remember the Teacher’s advice to go to bed an hour later and rise an hour earlier.

Or you could just suck off twenty cocks in a row.

"Pensate un attino" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 27, 2007:
TODAY’S daily card
The love of my students is a great stabilizing
force. It has the ability to neutralize all the
Love, Robert

Robert Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult daily card
Fellowship of Friends "Daily Card"

[ed. - Robert Burton's 40-year literary legacy consists almost entirely of such aphorisms, suggesting Burton is actually incapable of producing anything beyond short, eminently-quotable, yet trite statements. Deep analytical thought quite eludes this "teacher." From daily e-mails to subscribers, here are more gems from 2012:]
Divine wordless presence has no name. It is the nothingness that alone is somethingness.

The work is so personal. Each one of us has the responsibility to circumvent our own lower self and be present.

The only thing one can teach is being present to simple, inconspicuous moments.

The effort to remember oneself implants a desire within one’s heart to awaken and experience divine presence.

The ultimate epic voyage is to travel to the Present.

Presence halts the rapid, irretrievable passage of time and makes it last forever.

We are always on the same internal journey, no matter where we are.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Warning: no fraternization!

"It would be better one were not born than leave the School" - Robert Burton

"Ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 24, 2010:
Please do not think for a moment that the Fellowship of Friends has in any way opened up and moved away from its cult thinking. Sadly, things are as sinister as they have always been there. Here is a message to all Fellowship members from Friday, April 23, 2010:
“This is a reminder of the exercise to avoid socializing with former students. While a courteous attitude is encouraged, The Teacher has asked not to casually socialize with former students; by not spending time with students that have lost the School, one gives them the chance to experience the absence of Influence C and therefore, the opportunity to return to it. Naturally, business relationships as well as interactions with close family members are fine.
G.R. for the Apollo Directors”

"Luke" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 4, 2007 :

I’d like to share a theme which has become prevalent in many recent conversations with members, though not always made explicit. This theme deals with one of the primary difficulties in leaving the group: the fear of isolation.

To give some background: in the fellowship, we have an ongoing exercise (or task) to cease contact with members that have left the group. The more fundamentlist members of our group have deep-seated negative beliefs about ex-members, and attendant fear and discomfort at even crossing paths with these individuals. At another end of a wide spectrum of beliefs are members that have little regard to the task, albeit in most cases, maintaining their friendships with ex-members very privately. Members maintaining contact with ex-members are subject to warnings and are ultimately asked to leave the group if they are openly non compliant.

Regardless of a member’s position on this or other tasks, one underwrites the view, promoted by those in charge, that ex-members have lost the “most precious gift in the universe – the opportunity to awaken”. In general the outsider or non-member is devalued; in spiritual terms, he or she is considered only a possibility, whose true potential is dependent upon living in the fellowship. Fellowship rhetoric does, after all, frequently imply the group’s spiritual hegemony over all other groups in relation to the divine. The ex-member, then, is considered someone whose possibilities have ended. The ex-member is assigned the very particular status of being cursed. Again, it is important to mention that this is not representative of the deep-seated beliefs of all, but it is the view promoted by the leaders and is publicly accepted by many.

That said, many of us are at a turning point after 15, 23, or 30 years in the group. For a variety of reasons, the least of which may be the aforementioned dillema, we want to move on. Having arrived at this point, which may involve the undoing of financial or practical ties, we are left with one very large fear – that we will lose most of our friends.

Traditionally, long-time members leaving the group have moved away to some place where they could start a new life, especially if they have hitherto lived in or close to the community. There are however, those ex-members that have remained in the area, and to a greater or lesser extent, they exist with the stigma of being outsiders. It seems now that this is changing.

Now many members associate with the growing number of ex-members living nearby – these are after all, old friends that may have shared a good part of their lives. Beliefs are challenged by simple human facts; that members care for, and are inspired by their friends. In the recent words of one member, toward an ex-member and friend, “love and friendship are beyond all that”.

Some members have remade friendships after years of – at best – cordial hellos at the post office. Others are unable to revive lost relationships. Emotional breakdown sometimes occurs in cases where, having seen through their divisive attitudes, members are unable to repair historic divisions within friendships, marriages or family.

Five years ago, my good friend left the group, and in his case, I have privately maintained contact. For five years I have watched him flourish spiritually and emotionally, and this has subtly challenged my beliefs every step of the way. The belief that by following the task I protect my self and my ‘work’ from lower influences and deviations is melting down. An alternate view of the task is that of a device, that helps solidify the fellowship beliefs that are promulgated by the leaders. Moreover, the fear that is a product of such beliefs might mitigate the unthinkable – that I may someday find it not only acceptable, but even desirable, to leave the group.

If we reach out, we find that the concepts of inside and outside are dualistic in nature, limit understanding, and in many of us, engender fear. This serves the instinctive needs of the group while compromising the individual. To put a different spin on a oft-quoted fellowship jingle: the King of Clubs is keeping us in the school.

For many years I privately held the view that only formatory mind was capable of alienating ex-students. While underwriting the central beliefs of the group, I espoused a value system of my own. Now I am forced to consider a whole framework of school beliefs, which encompasses those aspects I still value, as well as those which I find reprehensible. I no longer enjoy the luxury of compartmentalizing concepts to make them fit inside my head. It is my good fortune that the remorse is not causing emotional breakdown, as I have seen in some cases; After all, I shared a special language and mentors – to whom I would now refer as The Great Explainers – that gave me permission. We spun contradictions variously as ‘work on attitudes’ and ‘feeding the higher self, not the lower’ and when the buffer succeeded, we called it ‘separation’. Clearly the Work ideas have practical and useful applications in our group, especially when second line and first line are healthy. What cannot be ignored however, is the growing tendency to use ideas without reference to context in the present moment. Good ideas become degraded by misapplication and by self-serving use. Self-reinforcing logic becomes the only frame of reference for many members, effectively disconnecting them from broader and deeper thought.

The so-called work in this paradigm is in many cases defined not only by superficial, but deeply psychological forms of exclusion and exclusivity. When we realize this, we are forced to confront, and perhaps to reconcile the contradiction; well-learned dissociative behavior has become the seedbed for misconception.

One of the many outcomes of this illusory construct, which develops over many years, is the fear of isolation. The cornerstone of that construct, to playfully misquote Gurdjieff, would read something like this: “Life is only real, then, when I am – in the fellowship – “.

If we are prepared and willing to bring more of what we can plainly see to bear on our psychology, a disquieting storm starts to gather, and what we thought was solid ground begins to fall away from under us.

In the words of Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”

"Skeptical Optimist" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 3, 2007 at 4:29 a.m.:
I’m grateful that the letter below recently reappeared thanks to a student who saves such things.
In 1993 Jill and I moved to California. I had “hid out” in New York since 1979, but in coming back we knew it would inevitably lead to the end of our membership. It was time to confront what had increasing looked like lunacy, it could be avoided no longer if I wanted to get on with my real life.
One of the people I had spent the most time with when in charge of the New York group and afterwards was BenjaminY, and we became friendly. He attended one of the workshops that SandraC arranged to “experiment” with the “work ideas” and ideas from contemporary bodywork and psychology.
After SandraC left the FoF Jill and I continued to attend the workshops which grew more, not less, inspiring. Eventually these workshops, which continued in a different form here in California, helped a number of people “transition” out of the FoF.
During the first year we lived in Marin I made one trip to Oregon House—despite repeated proddings—during which I seem to remember spending most of my time riding around with Jill and CharlesR talking about Captive Minds, Captive Hearts and The Guru Papers and everything that was askew in the FoF.
Right at the end of the weekend, BenjaminY told me that he had reported me to the FoF “authorities” for breaking the rule to not fraternize with ex members. It seemed he had changed since moving to the FoF property and was now quite happy in the role he was playing and the opportunities it opened for him. I was aghast at being treated that way by someone I felt I had nurtured, taught, counseled, and enjoyed as a personal friend for years. My response was this letter:
* * *
January 7, 1994
After thinking about your revelations this past Sunday, I wanted to let you know how I felt about your having “put me in” to the Fellowship authorities.
I feel strongly that your action against me is morally indefensible. While I see that the environment of the school, in which such acts of violence are seemingly rewarded, is partly to blame, there is no way to avoid personal responsibility. Conscience belongs solely to each individual and cannot be dictated by the needs of a larger entity or organization.
I reject your act of betrayal as a person, because by it you abused me, seemingly motivated by ideals of purity, but unconsciously to benefit yourself by showing those whose favor you curry in the hierarchy just how strongly you can cleave to the dictates of the school.
I reject it as a Jew, saddened that another Jew should ever feel compelled, after so many examples of misplaced authoritarianism, to inform on a fellow Jew without trying to find a solution different than the unfortunate “Gestapo” tactics used by certain other members.
I reject your action as a student of conscious evolution, because it came from a set of ideas that, no matter how lovely they sound, in the end only have the effect of destroying individuation, self-trust, and autonomy, without which there is little hope of any real personal change. During my time in the school I have also done many things for reasons that I never questioned deeply, and I have a good deal of remorse now for those actions. But I realize now how much more potent it is to attempt to act on my own, than to remain unconscious of my own motivations, denying my own conscience.
And I reject it as a friend, for no friend should ever be put in the position in which you found yourself, and no one who thinks themselves a friend ought to take the fateful, awful step that you took without first attempting to use the strong offices of friendship that we have built over the years to work out whatever difficulties arise. By rejecting personal confrontation until after the deed was done, you seem to have moved against me from fear instead of moving towards me in the hope of understanding or reconciling the situation.
So I find myself rejecting your action as a person, as a student, as a Jew and as a friend. I hope that the ramifications of your action echo deeply in the recesses of your being until you come to question the very basis on which you believed, and acted. I hope sincerely that you come to question how these acts of violence can be supported by a group that calls itself “conscious” and “loving.”
Benjamin, we have a deep connection going back almost 15 years, and through which I have learned to love you. In this instance I believe you were caught—as was often pointed out to you—between the sides of yourself that curry favor in the school, and the sides of you that relate to others purely as a warm, engaging and intelligent individual. It is this latter part that I love, but I fear it is the former that won out in this case. I do not reject you, the person whom I know and love, but this specific behavior. I sincerely hope you come to a different understanding of this incident. If you do, let me know.
* * *
The next month I left the FoF.
[ed. - Borrowing heavily from Robert Burton's playbook, Benjamin Yudin now appears to have become something of a guru himself.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Collins - Oregon House - Dobbins Community Plan" submitted

[ed. - Collins - Oregon House - Dobbins Community Plan PDF. The proposed foothill development outlined in this plan will take center stage in the 2014 Yuba County elections, as the expansions are opposed by incumbent 5th District Supervisor Hal Stocker, but supported by Randy Fletcher (who will go on to defeat Stocker.) Fletcher is a business associate of Fellowship members Charles Sharp and Steven Dambeck.)]

"The COHD Community Plan was prepared on the specific recommendation by the Board of Supervisors to the Yuba County Community Development Department (CDD - the functioning body charged with completion of the GPU on behalf of the Board of Supervisors) that CDD should work with the Collins-Oregon House-Dobbins Planning Committee and with our community as a whole to establish a process of coordinated planning. Two proposals stating our community’s wishes for limited growth and a boundary expansion (see under Section 1.5) were then submitted to CDD, who requested that such proposals should be re-submitted in the form of a Community Plan, adding that they would like to see more such community plans prepared throughout the Yuba County foothills region. Thus, our submission of this Community Plan fulfills the next step requested by the County."
Committee members from the Fellowship of Friends include Greg Holman, President of the Fellowship and of Renaissance Vineyard and Winery (the affiliation is conveniently omitted from his profile), Peter Morrow, Franca Cavallaro, and Katja Kreher. Additionally, Fellowship members Nick Spaulding, Charles Sharp, and Steven Dambeck have been actively involved lobbying county officials on behalf of the project.

The proposed expansion (dark pink area) includes large tracts owned by The Fellowship of Friends and its members

Critics argue that within in this "Trojan horse" are Fellowship-backed plans to expand Oregon House-Dobbins community boundaries (under the guise of fire protection) to promote development, reduce minimum parcel size to 5 acres within these boundaries, implement new road construction, and create high-density subdivisions, all in the interest of major landholders (including the Fellowship and member landholders, Soper-Wheeler, and Tom Richards, owner of the 7,000-acre Richards Ranch adjacent to Fellowship lands.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bruce Arvon's story

The following is excerpted from Bruce Arvon's website, 4th Way Path:
Early in my search I joined a group called the Fellowship of Friends in northern California. The leader of this group is a very charismatic man, Robert Burton, who is the most wonderful pied piper. At that time he told us he was a man number 6 , a conscious man! I was really impressed that he was so high and knew so much more than I did and could lead me to a higher plain.

I believed everything he said, he was (according to him) talking directly with the angels! Wow! I was sure lucky to be in his group. He told us that the Fellowship was an arc [sic] that was going to carry civilization through the coming Armageddon! There were 44 angels working directly with the school and he even knew their names and who they were. Past great men of history, such as Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Marcus Aurelius and 41 others who had completed their tasks on the earth and, I guess, became conscious and risen to angel status.

Robert also claimed to be a profit [sic] and made predictions about things that would happen in the future, such as California falling into the sea in 1996 [ed. - actually, 1998], and a great depression worse than the 1930s happening in 1984 and the atomic war, Armageddon in 2006. None of these events took place and I can not tell you how he coped with the misinformation the angels gave him. The Fellowship is still around and prosperous all these years later and so is the pied piper Mr. Burton. Still sending innocent, soul searching people down a path in the opposite direction of where they hope to go!

Don't believe!

The important thing is that I believed him. I believed without doubts everything he said. I believed I was one of the special, chosen ones that was on the way to consciousness. I was one of those destined to survive and help bring civilisation through Armageddon. I believed that I was superior to the rest of humanity which was asleep and not interested in awakening! I was a player who had a part in a great play being orchestrated by higher influences.  
It was many years after I left the Fellowship that I began to know that I had been duped and unfortunately I had a psychology that was easily dupable. I of course only saw myself as strong and not easily swayed by others. 
Rather than being unique and better than others, always thinking I knew the truth and they were mislead and gullible I painfully discovered that I was exactly the same as all those whom I judged.
[ed. - Also published on the blog, The Fourth Way Path.]

Monday, February 1, 2010

The 44

Robert Earl Burton has eyes for 44s (and young men)
[ed. - From the earliest days of the Fellowship, Robert Burton has claimed that 44 angels, or "conscious beings" directly work with his school. He claims to be personally guided by Leonardo da Vinci. According to Burton, these disembodied beings are the "Higher Forces", or "C Influence" directing every aspect of his work. Elizabeth I is the only woman to make the grade, and apparently the Southern Hemisphere has produced no conscious beings. With the death of Alex Horn, there should be 45 conscious beings working with the school. Or maybe Alex isn't actually working with the Fellowship, as Burton still seems obsessed with 44s.(In 2018, Burton would announce that there are now 81 angels attending to the Fellowship, including himself in the divine ranks.)]

"Wouldnt You Like To Know" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 1, 2010:
[ed. - "Wouldn't You Like To Know" lists Burton's 44 angels:]

Joseph (son of Jacob), Moses, Solon, Ezekiel, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Horace, Jesus Christ, Peter, Paul, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam, Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Hafiz, Geoffrey Chaucer, Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Michel de Montaigne, Elizabeth I, Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Rembrandt van Rijn, John Milton, Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Benjamin Franklin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Blake, Hans Christian Andersen, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Lewis Carroll, George Gurdjieff, Rainer Maria Rilke, Peter Ouspensky, Meher Baba, Rodney Collin.

"A Hundred Thousand Angels" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 12, 2011:
[Responding to blog post and blogger:] ’30. rich – August 12, 2011

I’ve thought on occasion , why did this charlatan choose 44 for his propaganda purposes ?’
Found on the internet:

Where numerology and angelology meet :

‘The 44 sequence when seen repeatedly means that angels are attempting to get the attention of the person seeing it.’

‘The 4444 number sequence when seen repeatedly means that person receiving the message is an angel incarnate.’

‘When 4’s consistently appear it indicates that your angels are all around you and with you. They are offering you support and inner-strength to enable you to get the necessary work done. They understand that you are toiling towards your goal and ask that you call upon them for help, support, guidance and the emotions of love and security.

The 44 sequence indicates that the angels are surrounding you at this time, loving and supporting you. You have a very strong and clear connection with the angelic realm and are asked to use it to your advantage, and for the benefit of others.

The message of the 444 number sequence is that you have nothing to fear … all is as it should be, and all is well. Things that you have been working on or with will be successful. 444 is an indication that you are being surrounded by angels who love and support you and their help is close at hand, always.

When the number sequence 4444 appears repeatedly, it is an indication that you are surrounded by your angels. These angels are at your side to reassure you of their presence, love and help. Your angels are watching out for you and supporting you in your work and day to day life. 4444 is a message from the angels that their help is nearby and all you need to do is ask for their assistance.’

May the fours be with you.

"Guy Grand" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 12, 2011:
I was driving North from LA on interstate 5 last week (Aug. 1) and one of the freeway information signs flashed an Amber Alert for a child abduction in the Bay Area. The license plate of the abductors vehicle was 4WAY944. It turned out the “abducted child” was a 16 year-old punk who had staged his abduction to coverup a robbery he was involved in. It was not revealed if he had a connection to The Fellowship of Friends.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 10, 2015:
Reviewing Ollie’s post of Burton’s words again (#113-135), isn’t it amazing how inefficient, how constrained, how unimaginative these supposed C-Influence characters are? Advertised as angels, mighty and powerful beyond belief, able to bend the laws of physics to make California plunge into the sea on a whim, able to bring on Armageddon, supposedly tasking Burton and the Fellowship of Friends to start a new civilization— they can’t find a better way to communicate with Burton than by arranging various license plates or mailbox numbers or T–shirts or lightning strikes or whatever–the–fuck to appear before him or his followers? And this method, beneath the dignity of an average three–year–old, has been written in the Great Play since the Beginning of Time?

Between them, these angels and Burton keep getting it all wrong anyway, they can’t even settle on a date—for anything, important or not. Plus, they seem to spend the majority of their time working out how to wrong–foot and humiliate him—him, the one–and–only Robert Earl Burton, the self–described brightest light in 2,000 years! Those mortifications have been their only successes so far, but Burton is too obtuse to take a hint.

Judging by their methods and the results to date, these 45 beings collectively don’t have the intelligence of a grasshopper.

[ed. - See also, 44 personal stories of Robert Earl Burton's abuses.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2001 Renaissance Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba

[ed. - From Vinography: a wine blog]

Every time I review a wine from some little producer whose wines I adore, I experience a pang of regret, because I know that by writing about these wineries and their wines, I only make them more expensive and harder to acquire for myself (and others). I do occasionally get e-mails from ticked off wine lovers bemoaning the fact that I've divulged one of their secret sources for great wine.

But that's just an occupational hazard for me, and doesn't outweigh the joy of being able to say things like this: Listen up people. There is some seriously amazing wine being made in a little out-of-the-way place in the northernmost part of California's Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area). At the hands of soft-spoken resident winemaker Gideon Bienstock [Beinstock], Renaissance Vineyards is making small lots of Bordeaux and Northern Rhone style wines that are pretty much unlike any other wines being made in California -- in a really good way.

Renaissance Vineyards is not some upstart young winery that is pioneering new things in a new region. Rather, they are more like a wild-eyed hermit, that disappeared into the mountains years ago to live in the valley that he believed was the promised land, showing up in town every once in a while for supplies. Some people have known about them for years, but for others, the idea of a winery out in the middle of nowhere, CA elicits the scratching of heads.

German winemaker Dr. Karl Werner discovered the vineyard potential of the steep hillsides of the North Yuba river valley in the upper reaches of what was not even yet the Sierra Foothills AVA. It was not until 1987 that the appellation of the Sierra Foothills came into existence, and by then Renaissance Vineyards had been making wine for 8 years.

Just how Renaissance Vineyards and Dr. Karl Werner starting making wine in North Yuba is quite a unique story for a California winery.

In 1971 an organization known as The Fellowship of Friends, already well established at that time, purchased nearly 1300 acres in North Yuba County in the Sierra Foothills. The Fellowship of Friends was, and continues to be, a religious organization that many regard as a cult, built around the charismatic founder Robert Earl Burton who serves as the spiritual teacher of the organization. Its members tithe 10% of their gross monthly income to the organization, which has used those funds since the mid Seventies to completely transform this land into a spiritual retreat for the organization. One that also happens to have a very large, very impressive vineyard.

The group didn't set out to have a vineyard to begin with, but one of its early disciples was a man named Dr. Karl Werner, who in addition to being a devotee of the spiritual teachings of the organization, also happened to be a very accomplished winemaker back in his home country of Germany. Apparently on his first visit to the Fellowship's property, he recognized the potential for grape growing, and his enthusiasm for the project, as well as the attraction of the craft itself, convinced the organization to undertake a vineyard development project that lasted several years -- clearing, terracing, and planting the hillsides with vines. The first harvest took place in the fall of 1979.

Today the organization continues to own the vineyard, but is perhaps less involved than it was in the past. Dr. Werner passed away in 1989, just after the winery's first commercial release, and after being run for a time by Dr. Werner's wife Diana, winemaking operations were turned over in 1994 to Gideon Bienstock who has spent the last 13 years transforming Renaissance Winery from a broad, almost experimental winery, to a more focused winery with a clearer vision of what it wants to accomplish.

Dr. Werner's vision was originally for a winery that combined the best of the Bordeaux and the German traditions, which meant that a lot of Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling were planted to start. Over time, Bienstock discovered that Rhone varietals performed particularly well, and now the winery focuses primarily on Bordeaux and Northern Rhone varietals. In addition to "learning the terroir" as he puts it, Bienstock has gradually increased the focus of the winery, reducing yields, reducing production, phasing out the use of commercial yeasts, pump-overs, fining, filtration, sulfur use, and cold stabilization. In addition he has moved the winery to 100% organic viticulture, and has introduced some Biodynamic farming techniques in the most recent vintages.

If you ask him, even after 13 years of winemaking, and nearly 20 years of experience in the Sierra Foothills, Bienstock will tell you that he is still figuring out the terroir of the area, which he believes to be quite possibly the most remarkable of any in California. But as someone who has been tasting the wines pretty regularly for the past few years, I can tell you he's had it dialed in now for some time.

"Some time" means at least since 1995, only a year after he took over as full-time winemaker, and the year of one of the winery's current releases. Not content to be the sole winery in what is now its own North Yuba AVA, under Bienstock's leadership Renaissance is defying all the common sense of traditional winery marketing and release schedules. To wit: this 2001 wine is their current release, and several other of their current releases date back into the 1990s.

The only other winery in California that I know of which approaches this sort of delayed release program is Kalin Cellars, whose current releases are typically aged about 10 to 12 years. To any normal winery, such delayed release dates would be financial suicide, but Renaissance vineyards has never operated like a normal commercial business.

Leaving aside the financial and operational considerations, such a move takes guts, and a particular vision for what your wines can be and ought to be. From Bienstock's perspective, it's a simple question -- he lets the wines tell him when they're ready. "We originally scheduled the release of our '95 Cab to be around 2004 or 2005 but the wine was still completely "dormant" and did not cooperate with that idea, so we had to postpone it until 2008," he says.

This sort of intuition and old world thinking pervades Bienstock's winemaking, resulting in wines that are strikingly unique in character and personality, not to mention long-lived. The winery currently has two sets of releases, those older wines that it has chosen this year to release, and more current vintages that follow a more traditional release schedule. Both are exceptional in quality, and worth the time and effort required to seek them out.

Most wines undergo very long fermentations, the reds in open-top oak fermenters with frequent hand punchdowns, the whites in stainless steel. Oak aging, which some of the late harvest wines receive as well, is done primarily in a combination of French and American oak between 1 and 5 years old. Some of the top reds are aged for up to 30 months in barrel before bottling.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of cherries, lilacs, and cedar aromas. In the mouth it is incredibly aromatic, with soaring flavors of cherry, cedar, floral notes and hints of darker deeper earth and leather. Muscled, suede-soft tannins hug the palate and linger as the wine finishes in a resonant way. Excellent.

Food Pairing:
Relatively low in alcohol with wonderful acidity this wine will pair well with lots of things. I'd be utterly content drinking it with slow braised beef short ribs over polenta.

Overall Score: between 9 and 9.5

How Much?: $45

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"What You Should Know About Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends"

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader New York fundraising event
Robert Earl Burton in Fellowship of Friends fundraising ad

  “In particular, if he [Robert Earl Burton] knows what he is doing and we don’t, we have no basis for judging or doubting him. Instead, we simply have to trust him, as a child trusts his parents, or a dog trusts its master. If he asks us to do things which seem to have no connection to awakening–or even to be ‘wrong’–we have no choice but to do them anyway.” - Girard Haven, Creating a Soul, page 576

"What You Should Know About Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
  • It’s a doomsday cult. 
  • The predicted doomsday never came. 
  • Burton predicted major catastrophes for 1984 and 1998, and then nuclear war for 2006. For decades, he predicted the Fellowship of Friends would become the beginning of a new civilization in 2006. 
  • Through cognitive dissonance, followers try to forget the above predictions, or downplay them. 
  • Like other cults, followers are uncomfortable with labels such as “cult,” calling it a “pejorative” term, or insisting that it’s “misleading.” But there’s no better one-word description for this organization in the English language. 
  • Burton has coerced and seduced several hundred young followers — and perhaps thousands — into having sex with him, using promises of spiritual salvation, expensive gifts, and vacations abroad. As a result, many former and current followers have suffered lasting psychological scars and emotional trauma, and a few have committed suicide. (Read the numerous personal accounts within this web log.) 
  • Burton is a sociopath and malignant narcissist who shows no concern for the welfare of his followers unless they are useful to him in some way. When they cease to be useful to him, he discards them.
  • Burton’s “public” persona is one of a gentle guru who speaks with a soft voice. This personality helps him hypnotize his followers into believing they have found the one truth path to enlightenment, salvation, and heaven.
  • Burton tells his followers that 44 angels, or gods, guide the Fellowship of Friends — and that they guide only the Fellowship of Friends. Angels, he says, do not guide anyone else on earth. 
  • Burton advances a world view that Hell exists, and that there’s only one way to avoid going to Hell when one dies: Join the Fellowship of Friends, and stay in the Fellowship of Friends until your death. All people on earth who do not join the Fellowship of Friends will go to Hell when they die. Likewise, followers are warned that they will go to Hell if they leave the cult. 
  • Followers are discouraged or forbidden from communicating with former members. Those who leave the cult will lose contact with their closest friends within the cult. 
  • Followers are forbidden to discuss any of the above. If they do discuss these facts with their friends, or question anyone about these facts, they will be expelled. This in turn fosters secrecy and lack of transparency within the cult. 
  • People outside the cult who try to provide the above information to followers within it are intimidated or threatened with legal retaliation, much like the Scientology cult. 
  • Burton charges exorbitant membership fees – anywhere from 20% to 40% of income, depending on a person’s salary. The full amount of these fees is never discussed when representatives try to sell people on joining the cult.
  • The fees have helped pay for Burton’s extravagant lifestyle, which includes expensive clothing, frequent expensive vacations, and a lavish home at the cult’s compound in Oregon House, California (between Grass Valley and Yuba City). 
  • Burton and the Fellowship of Friends have been sued by former members on multiple occasions. Most of these suits have been settled out of court, with insurance companies paying the settlement on behalf of the Fellowship of Friends. 
  • Burton founded the cult in 1970. For more than three decades, he characterized the cult as a so-called “Fourth Way school.” In recent years, the cult has virtually abandoned any discussions about the Fourth Way. 
  • Because the Fellowship of Friends (also referred to as Pathway to Presence)[ed. - now "Living Presence"] has been granted religious status, American taxpayers help pay for this cult. 
  • In the last four years, several hundred followers have left the Fellowship of Friends, and many followers continue to leave. It’s believed that slightly over 1,000 members remain worldwide, but reliable statistics are not publicly available.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Queen of the Night* moonlights in forensics

* From Mozart's much-beloved opera "The Magic Flute", of course.

[ed. - "Daily Cardiac's" instruction inspired the following video:]

[ed. - In a move reminiscent of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey anonymously trolling on Yahoo! forums to bash his competitor, former Fellowship of Friends President, Linda Kaplan , formerly Linda Tulisso, has been defending the "Church's honor" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, posting as "Daily Cardiac". Here Cardiac applies her scientific acumen to utterly demolish the damning testimonies of "ex-FOFers." The following post led to a riot of observations about not only her ignorance, but also her lack of "a certain experience." This is a true gem.]
"Daily Cardiac" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Moderator – 219: “Please share with us some of the “so many fictions”. I’m quite curious”
ton – 220: “it’s good of you to be so concerned with the welfare of ex-members… now i’ll take my tongue from my cheek and ask you a question: would you give some examples of the “many fictions and make up stro[r]ies that never took place…"
Ames – 223: “If you can indeed identify the ‘so many fictions and make up stories from direct personal knowledge’, I strongly encourage you to go right ahead.”
What’s “curious”, to quote the Moderator, or perhaps “curiouser” to quote LC [Lewis Carroll], is the interest in wanting to hear about what Someone [blog poster] has to say about “fictions” making their way to the blog.
For one thing I’d have to take the interest indicated in the above quotes as being facetious or sarcastic in nature rather than sincere; as no ex member on this blog has ever weighed (at least not over the blog) the correctness or truthfulness of any comment by anyone being remotely tolerant or supportive of the FoF/RB. Forget about agreeing with the comments, they have not been admitted on any level as being credible or even possible.
It can be assumed that in the entire 87 pages of the blog not one opponent of FoF/RB has ever admitted or acknowledged that any supporter’s comments were true or valid if the supporter’s comments were expressing something positive or favorable. I have not read every single posting, but in the many I have read I have not encountered such an occurrence. It could be further stated that all positive or favorable postings about FoF/RB have been refuted or dismissed by one or more opponents as an out right lie or a delusional comment. And out of all the negative or unfavorable postings by ex members not once has an FoF opponent ever disputed or disagreed with the findings of another opponent. [ed. - this is far from true.]
Another way of stating this is that according to ex member testimony all negative or unfavorable postings about RB are true, and all favorable or positive postings by current members or supporters are false. If one simply considers the pure mathematics of it one would conclude that the odds of this being the case are pretty slim. If anyone uncovers an exchange between opponent and supporter here that would disprove this supposition please post it.
What’s interesting in this latest instance is that Someone is also an ex member who, by his or her own account, has no interest in going back to the FoF or supporting RB but only dared to point something out to Bruce regarding the zealous nature of his comments after being out of the organization for close to 30 years, and concluding that there was a certain level of obsession going on. And actually Someone, as I read their post, was not being difficult or demeaning in any way but was coming from a place of trying to offer an honest observation.
Bruce, being Bruce, dismissed Someone’s contentions that he or she, based on Bruce’s own postings, could actually perceive legitimate insights into Bruce’s reality. But Bruce and several others make this claim on a daily basis about my reality, as well as the realities of anyone they disagree with.
So my question to others is – does this apparent contradiction bother anyone else? If as Bruce contends Someone cannot draw accurate insights from what he says how is it possible that Bruce and others claim to do precisely this on a routine basis? This seems to be the stuff of fiction to me.
But it is typical of many posters here to recoil from any hint of error in judgment or misinformation on their part; which, contrary to their beliefs, does not lend more credence to their contributions but only stamps them as being inflexible and delusional with regard to their own beliefs.
Regarding Someone’s assertions about fictions on the blog; obviously anything he or she proposes could be contested just like anything said in opposition of FoF can be contested. As I’ve said numerous times nothing written here can be either proved or disproved; this is the case for blogs in general. And any statement can be contested or sanctioned.
I would offer one example of a fiction, and a glaring one at that.
This regards a comment by A.T. some time ago. A.T. commented that she was seated next to RB at a Salon dinner and detected the smell of semen on his breath as he leaned over to speak to her. She further stated that he must have performed fellatio on a student immediately before entering the Salon.
This posting was one of the most lauded and praised comments at the time and actually it is one of the easiest to expose as being bogus in nature. The reason it is so transparently fictitious is because in order for it to be true laws of physics would have to be broken.
First of all semen is not toxic or a waste matter and hence gives off no strong odor. In fact it contains half of the Life Force and as such is the most refined fluid in the human organism. It contains no airborne aromatic properties, unlike many herbs or other plants/flowers, minerals, compounds.
If an open container of semen would have been placed on the dining table it could not have been easily detected by smell, if at all. But the real truth can be drawn from the fact that semen is immediately broken down by acids and enzymes found in saliva and any traces of it would have been dissolved within a few seconds.
Yet A. T. would have us believe that after every one was seated at the table and after a 15 minute concert was performed and the time it took for the food to arrive (which does produce strong aromas) and a toast proposed, and somewhat later, probably after a few bites of food were taken, as Robert leaned over and spoke to A she was taken aback with the undeniable smell of semen on his breath.
This is just one fiction, made evident by laws of physics. Many other examples are just as evident because they bypass laws of reason and probability, but those laws being more abstract are more easily dismissed by an unreasoned mind.
The chief fiction on the blog is that the FoF is a destructive cult and RB a charlatan. Of course it can’t be proved or disproved on this blog, and the truth or falsity of it can only be verified on a personal level.
It’s a spiritual matter and can only be known on an earthly plane by those who rise up to a state of cognition where spiritual matters can be distinguished and separated from earthly matters.
I’ll admit it’s tempting for people to think they can determine with surety just what an organization that claims to be spiritual in nature really is or is not.
But there are only two ways (that I know) to distinguish the spiritual from the earthly: By raising one’s state to the level where one can be in communion with spirit matter or by waiting until one’s death when spirit matter in us is separated from our bodies and we are shown many realities previously mysterious to us.
But in any event one day we will all know everything there is to know about RB and FoF.
[ed. - If "Daily Cardiac" can be so wrong about semen, do you think she could possibly be wrong about the other "fictions"? For more lessons from "Daily Cardiac," see "'Daily Cardiac' helps us understand consensual sex."]
Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton and Linda Kaplan top lieutenant
Since 1971, Linda Kaplan has been devoted to Robert Earl Burton. Burton calls her one of "The Three Graces."