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, August 30, 2011

"One does not take another teacher's students..."

[ed. - Robert Burton directed the above rebuke at Miles Barth upon Miles' departure from the Fellowship. While perhaps not taking another teacher's students, Burton's Fellowship of Friends is not above diverting seekers with a little misleading advertising. 

A series of Living Presence/Fellowship of Friends YouTube videos includes this one, titled "Study Eckhart Tolle Power of Now." Former Fellowship members have termed this a "bait-and-switch." To help draw unsuspecting souls, The Fellowship also routinely uses "Eckhart Tolle" and "Power of Now" in website keywords and meta tags.]

[ed. - May 1, 2014 update: It now appears that Fellowship members who created a number of Eckhart Tolle Power of Now Meetups have largely abandoned the effort, probably because it was not a forum they could easily dominate and control, thus not productive for recruiting purposes. Consequently, most of the links in the posts below no longer direct us to the Fellowship's original Meetups. A couple sites still in existence are Alex Ayuli's ("Al Martini") Power of Now Meetup in Las Vegas, and William Scholte's Toronto Friends of Presence Meetup. January 1, 2015 update: The Meetup sites now appear defunct.]

"J. D." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 31, 2011:
A friend of mine sent me these links a while ago. The Fellowship of Friends and its henchmen are using ‘meetup’ groups (see links below) as a launchpad, they are using the “power of now” and its popularity to lure and recruit for the FoF. Check out a ‘meetup’ group near you.
[ed. - This San Francisco group was operated by the same organizers. As of 2016, the Fellowship appears no longer involved:]

[ed. - Former Fellowship member Ames Gilbert takes on the Power of Now "impostors":]

"Ames Gilbert" Posted the following on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 30, 2011:
Tim, Both Abdullah Samaha and Peter Morrow are members of the Fellowship of Friends / Pathway to Presence / Living Presence / Being / Church of Robert Earl Burton organization. Thanks for pointing out a new recruitment tool.
The ‘hook’ for the San Jose group: Practical discussions, tools and tips for accessing the Power of Now and living in Presence. Based on the teaching of Eckhart Tolle, the Fourth Way / Gurdjieff and other mystical tradition (sic). The ‘hook’ for the Sacramento group: The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle provides a modern exposition of the ancient 4th Way system taught by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. This group seeks to go beyond Eckhart’s book into the actual day to day practice of being Present. Using the knowledge, methods and practical tools provide by the 4th Way. A good place to start is with the book called The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution . . . etc, etc. I joined both groups just now, and posted this message:
This group is founded on a lie of omission. Abdullah Samaha and Peter Morrow will not tell you that they are members of the “Fellowship of Friends” cult, and have formed this group to recruit new members. Other names of this group are/have been: Fellowship of Friends / Pathway to Presence / Living Presence / Being / Church of Robert Earl Burton. For your own sakes, google these names and find out for yourselves. The ‘hook’ is Eckhart Tolle; the claim that he is linked in any way to the Fourth Way is a lie. In actual fact, the FoF ‘teaching’ is that ET is ‘B-Influence’, and that ‘C-Influence’ works exclusively with Burton and the Fellowship of Friends; typical cult claims. Burton claims to be a ‘man number 8′ and equal to Christ, and that mankind will be expunged while his followers are left to form a new civilization centered on the property known as Apollo (Oregon House, CA 95962). And, if you are a good-looking male, Burton is likely to ask you for sex. So, beware!

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 31, 2011:
Well, Abdallah Samaha removed me from the San Jose group, including my review of the group. So we now know he is a coward as well as a liar. The automated Meetup e-mail included a contact address, so I sent him the following message:
Hello Abdallah, It appears you have removed me from your list. That is an abuse of your power, and a blow against the truth. Be assured I will continue to try to tell that truth to all potential members of the Fellowship of Friends, and inform folks that you, Peter Morrow, Alex Ayuli, and any other followers of Burton that you are not what you seem. You know perfectly well that Burton considers any other teachings as B-Influence, and that he has thrown out followers who have shown any abiding interest in other spiritual paths. So for you to use the bait of Eckhart Tolle to lure people to your cult is disingenuous as well as hypocritical, an outrage in spiritual terms. Burton, and by extension you and your fellows, may preach and act as if the ends justifies the means, that your ‘intentional insincerity’ in these matters is a valid way of trapping the unwary, but I assure you it is not. You and your fellows have never seriously studied the Fourth Way, and have little idea of the application of the Law of Three and the Law of Seven, but even a brief initial study will show you that deception at the start of an octave corrupts the entire octave. Common sense, really, but corruption is at the heart of the Fellowship, and you are yourself corrupted as a result, so you are normalized to corruption. I hope one day you come to your senses, but this will probably not be soon if this is how you act in the world now. Ames Gilbert, former member.

The following was posted on The Power of Now San Jose Meet-Up site August 31, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.:
There was an attempt from an individual to join our group with the intention to bring his/her personal negative agenda to disturb what we are set to do. Simply being in the moment. That individual was removed form our meetup. This message is being communicated: There's been a recent discussion on the board about whether this meetup group is affiliated with or a recruiting platform for the Fellowship of Friends - a 4th way organization. It is not. This is a personal endeavor by Peter, Alex and myself to bring our understanding of Being Present to people who are interested. In the year we've been facilitating this meetup, no one has ever been approached about becoming a member of any group. This meetup is solely about being Present inspired by the writings of Eckhart Tolle and augmented by the depth and detailed knowledge of the 4th Way; an ancient system that predates Tolle, FOF and most other spiritual teachings. For this reason we'd like to keep this board solely for discussions and questions about being Present. Thanks, Peter and Abdallah
[ed. - Curiously, Peter is not even listed as a member or organizer of the group. Peter Morrow has been an active spokesperson for the Fellowship of Friends. Subsequent Meet-Ups focused on Center of Gravity, The Enneagram and Body Types, all subjects taught in the Fellowship of Friends, not in the Power of Now.]

"2011" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 31, 2011:
Just to offer a little history; sometime around 2005 (as I recall) Robert started talking about the Power Of Now and that he considered it to be something akin to what the Fellowship was aspiring to. My recollection was that he did not ban the book or forbid it but rather we were encouraged to bookmark this particular book. Remember, Burton always said; “why change a winning hand?” and since bookmarks had worked so well in the past, it wasn’t the bookmarks that weren’t working- it was the books! He realized that this book could serve as a new vehicle in which to recruit new members.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 31, 2011:
And now I’ve been removed from the Sacramento group, but not before two people took me up on the offer to find out more. I replied to “all”, e.g., the whole group and told them something about Burton and the Fellowship of Friends (and aliases). So at least that is out there, and they have my e-mail if they want to ask more questions. I notice that there is another Power of Now group in San Francisco ( Same photo of Eckhart Tolle in the header. Until last night, it was run by Gregory Dixon [current Fellowship member], but has now changed to Peter Morrow [current Fellowship member] and someone called Alex (Ayuli?). Although it was announced last year, and about 57 people expressed interest, there have been no meetups as yet. I’m sure I’m preemptively banned there as well, so someone else will have to keep an eye on that situation, as well as any others around the country. Incidentally, there are meetup groups for “The Academy of European Arts and Culture”, a spinoff of the FoF started by Melvin Brady (deceased), a former member of the Fellowship. He has a “In Memoriam”page on GF. More at:

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 31, 2011:
From the Sacramento Penetrating the Power of Now meet-up site:
“Hello everyone, my name is Peter Morrow…I have been practicing the power of now for over 35 years – well before Eckhart’s wonderful book was even a gleam in his eye. I hope to meet you all soon to share practical knowledge about living in the Now.”

[ed. - There is plenty of further discussion on this topic at the Fellowship of Friends blog. I'll terminate this post with these comments from Ames and Former American Student.]

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 1, 2011:
To my great surprise, I received a reply to my letter to Abdullah Samaha (#111-6 or thereabouts). According to him, he and Peter Morrow, Mario Fantoni, Gregory Dixon and Alex Ayuli, are organizing these Meetup groups for completely altruistic reasons. So, it is in the realms of possibility that I’ve completely misjudged them and the Fellowship of Friends. Here is the e-mail without further commentary from me:
Hello Ames, I do not know about your experience with the FOF and how you ended up with so much hate for this organization, and I do not which to enter in any discussion with you about it; therefore to protect my group from exposure to the negativity in your message, I removed you from our meetup.
The truth is that since the conception of the meetup idea, it was always being presented as an opportunity bringing forth our understanding of being present and combine them with other people experiences, in an open discussion.
Fourth Way material as well as Eckhart, and other sources are discussed and used to enhance and support our endeavor to be in the moment.
Fact; no one has been approached about becoming a member of any group including the FOF. And no one to best of my knowledge, became a member of the FOF from the meetup groups.
It has been a collective effort, between Peter, Alex and myself to bring our understanding of the 4th Way, Sufism, FOF and other spiritual teaching to people who share the same goal, and have fun while doing it.
Intentionally the FOF has not been mentioned in our discussion, for the reason of keeping the meetup group open to other spiritual teaching.
Ames, I hope I managed to have presented few facts about what these meetup are all about, and at this point, I will attempt to clasify your e-mail as spam, I do not wish to receive any further replies from you; pardon my rudeness but it is necessary.

"Former American Student" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 4, 2007:
Re post 105 R [Robert Burton] expressively forbid students from reading Tolle and emails were sent to the students from the [Fellowship of Friends] council. The logic was that by reading it you would lose the work.

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