Introduction


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

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

But 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.

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 from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, 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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Apollo Olive Oil sales benefit The Fellowship of Friends

Apollo Olive Oil owners, Fellowship of Friends cult members, Oregon House, CA
Fellowship of Friends members and Apollo Olive Oil  principals.
Apollo's olive orchards are atop the mountain in the  background,
 on Fellowship of Friends property. Photo from Sierra Culture

[ed. - Robert Burton inculcated in his followers a disregard for "life people" (non-members) whom he regarded as mere "sleeping machines." Burton has often stated that he is above man-made laws and this attitude manifests itself in a disrespect for society's rules, attempts to avoid compliance, misrepresentation, and outright dishonesty in dealings with the world outside Apollo. Burton has in the past instructed members to walk away from debts and commitments, especially in the face of calamities he prophesied (such as a 1984 depression, the 1998 Fall of California and 2006 Armageddon.)

The "errors of omission" in promoting Apollo Olive Oil appear to be an example of this culture of dishonesty.

A brochure from the Fellowship's Renaissance Vineyard and Winery, which also promotes Apollo Olive Oil, states: "Apollo Olive Oil grows their organic olives on the vineyard slopes that are best known for the award-winning Renaissance Wines." 

This January 2004 Appeal-Democrat article  fails to mention that most Apollo "growers and processors" are Fellowship members, and that trees are on both private and Fellowship-owned parcels.

This February 2010 Appeal-Democrat article, authored by Salim Ben-Mami, also a Fellowship member, conveniently avoids mention of Robert Burton and the Fellowship.

April 2014: Filmed on location at The Fellowship of Friends Apollo compound: Apollo Olive Oil, Pt. 1, Apollo Olive Oil, Pt. 2, Apollo Olive Oil, Pt. 3.]


"Tim Campion" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 2, 2011:
[Responding to] Page 115, Post 98 – Shirley

Regarding Apollo Olive Oil:

From the Yuba-Sutter Wiki article on Fellowship of Friends [ed. - bolds are mine]:
Apollo Olive Oil, which is also headquartered in Oregon House, states, “While some of the Apollo Olive Oil owners may be members, there is no connection” between Apollo Olive Oil and Fellowship of Friends.
All the Apollo Olive Oil employees mentioned on their website appear to be current [Fellowship of Friends] members. We can assume these members pay a tithe [minimum 10%, but more likely over 20% of gross income] to (or perhaps barter with) the Fellowship of Friends. Aren’t some (or all?) of the olive orchards on “church property”? If the land is leased, doesn’t the Fellowship benefit?
Reportedly, Fellowship labor has been used for Apollo Olive Oil operations. No connection? Wouldn’t that be somewhat untruthful? [ed. - Oh, and by the way, the Fellowship of Friends calls its Oregon House property "Apollo". Merely coincidence?]
For anyone inclined to encourage their local Apollo Olive Oil buyers to question the source of that oil:
Store accounts
Restaurant accounts

"veramente" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 22, 2011:

"Tim Campion" commented on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 23, 2011:
42. veramente [post number and blogger]

Thanks for posting the Apollo Olive Oil video. Clearly, there’s no connection between A.O.O. and the Fellowship of Friends – even though the olive groves shown are on top of Dixon Hill (Fellowship of Friends property.) And aren’t they processing those olives inside the Fellowship’s winery? Sure looks like it to me!

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 17, 2011:
Submitted today:
TO: Mr. Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
Dear Mr. Mueller,
I have enjoyed hearing your recent interviews on WHYY’s “Fresh Air” and on APM’s “Marketplace”.
I write this with some hesitancy, as I am loathe to condemn a product with a fine reputation. However, you should know that one of the acclaimed olive oils from California is indeed intimately connected with a cult of dubious moral standing.
The Fellowship of Friends, an authoritarian cult, began the undertaking that would become “Apollo Olive Oil”. The Fellowship of Friends headquarters in Oregon House, CA is called Apollo, and all personnel listed on Apollo Olive Oil’s website are (or were until recently) members of the cult. (Stephen [sic] Dambeck has in fact been a Fellowship of Friends officer and minister.)
[ed. - Here Steven Dambeck performs a wedding at Apollo.]
According to accounts (please see the below websites for further discussion), the leader of the Fellowship of Friends, Robert Earl Burton has been charged on a number of occasions with sexual abuse, and at least in one instance, the alleged abuse involved a minor. I can speak with some authority about the nature of the cult and the leader’s abuses, as I was a member for thirteen years.
I was their Purchasing Manager, and went on to become Purchasing Manager for Chateau St. Jean Vineyards and Winery and subsequently Director of Corporate Purchasing for the Robert Mondavi Corporation. (My profile is on LinkedIn.)
As my career in purchasing developed, business ethics became a paramount concern. It was essential that I develop an understanding of those with whom I dealt and hold both myself and them to the highest ethical standards. Only then could I endorse a supplier or product, and encourage others to trust them.
Apollo Olive Oil is using the occasion of your new book release to promote their own products, and at the same time deny any connection with the Fellowship of Friends, which has been recognized as an inconvenient liability in the marketplace.
In the spirit of your investigation into corruption in the olive oil industry, if the occasion should arise for you to endorse, or otherwise speak favorably of Apollo Olive Oil, I hope that you will have first done some research into their story, and have asked the difficult questions about their true affiliations, exact location of their orchards, source of their labor, organizations which they support, etc.
Thank you for your attention.
Tim Campion
Santa Rosa, CA
Further Reading:

Robert Earl Burton: An Unauthorized Blogography


Fellowship of Friends Discussion

"For the record" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 8, 2011:
There are hundreds of olive trees on the fof [Fellowship of Friends] estate — assuming they haven’t been cut down for firewood. And presumably Apollo Olive Oil harvests from those trees. And then it makes you wonder if “salaried” labor is doing the picking, and if they are the ones caring for those trees.
So again, just asking: Does the FOF receive money for the harvest? Is free olive oil provided for Burton’s dinners? Does a percentage of proceeds from the sales go to the FOF?
I appreciate the labor of love involved (it’s an excellent product).
But even if the money is relatively small, it’s just something to think about. I sometimes thought my teaching payments were fairly small, too, until I gained a better understanding of what they were paying for…

"For the record" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 9, 2011:
63. Tempus Fugit [blog post number and blogger]:
“Of course buying olive oil . . . provides direct support to all of Burton’s activities. Vote with your money.”
There’s plenty of quality olive oil to be found everywhere — I’ve never even considered buying the “Apollo” brand. But while you and I are voting “No” with our wallets, hundreds of people are buying this olive oil from store shelves without realizing that they are voting “Yes.” There’s no transparency about who is running the operation, and where the money is going from revenues. If most people knew, they would vote “No” as well. But they don’t know.
So my questions are: Is the money significant? Or is it providing little or no support to Burton? I haven’t heard any details about this operation regarding how much money it makes and whether it’s funding Burton. If it IS funding Burton’s activities in significant amounts, or if it has that potential, then this is something that we should share with the public more directly. That was the spirit of my questions earlier.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 27, 2009:
Dr Pangloss (# 80-85) [blogger, blog page and post],

Steven Dambeck helped found Apollo Olive Oil. He and the other owners/managers offer brief biographies under the “Our Story” tab on the main page of their website. The list on that page includes Gianni Stefanini, Diana Stefanini (used to be married to Karl Werner, the FoF/Renaissance Vineyards and Winery winemaster, and herself the successor to Karl as winemaster for a time), Pablo Voitzuk, Andreas Ponoysyan, Juan Jose Domingo, and Steve McCulley. As far as I know, they are all members of the Fellowship of Friends.
They sell their oil at about $20 for 375ml (about 12 ½ oz), and also sell the mozarella cheese from the famous water buffalo herd at a similarly upscale price. They claim the oil is organic and extra-virgin (but I’d bear in mind the idea of “intentional insincerity” as it pertains to ‘life people’). I have no idea if part of his crop comes from trees on the FoF property planted on Burton’s orders, but if it does, that raises the question of inurement.
I remember Steven Dambeck up on the stage leading a meeting a few weeks after Richard Buzbee’s letter was distributed in 1994. That was the letter telling of his sexual encounter with Burton, and detailing how he’d just found out that Burton had been having sex with his son Troy from a young age. Steven Dambeck, Wayne Mott, Gunter Weninger and others on stage all admitted that they had had sex with Burton, and proceeded to tell us that what a great thing it was for them and their ‘evolution’. Maybe it was, how would I know? What I do know is that it was a major distraction from what many in the audience wanted to discuss, which was, how can a relationship between a ‘teacher’ and a ‘student’ possibly be considered consensual when Burton has all the power and his ‘partners’ are relatively powerless? All the questions along these lines were ignored or marked as ‘negative’ in some way, and Dambeck just kept on asking for questions until he found ones that suited his purposes. He was hunting for questions about morality, with special emphasis on the inapplicability of ‘life’ morality to these situations. There were also plenty of appeals for us to respect Burton’s private life, claims that his private life should be of no concern to us, and so on.
Around that time (1994), I also heard that Dambeck had stated that he would be willing to kill for Burton. I thought that unlikely, and also heard that he vehemently denied it, so that’s what I used to say when the subject came up. Since then, however, I have spoken to two people who swear that they heard him say those words, and they seem very sincere. So, without putting everyone concerned through a polygraph, we may never know for sure if he said that, and if so, if he meant it.

"Richard M." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 6, 2008:
32. steve lang [blog post and blogger]
“Speaking of olive oil, I don’t know how it is now, but when Steven first opened his oil business, he was using unpaid help (I was one of them) to pick his harvest from the trees that were located on Fellowship property. How did he manage to use Fellowship property to make a private profit?”
Here is an interesting quote from the Apollo Olive Oil web site (capital letters added by me for emphasis):
Steven planted HIS first 600 olive trees in 1979, on steep slopes adjacent to HIS fruit orchard. And, after traveling extensively through the Mediterranean during the 1980’s, he knew he wanted to make olive oil.
So every FOF member who contributed their personal time laboring in the orchard/olive grove at Apollo since 1979, thinking they were working for THEIR church’s orchard and olive grove, were apparently working free for Mr. Dumb**k and HIS for-profit olive oil company. Guess who paid for his extensive travel through the Mediterranean during the 1980s. This certainly poses legal and, at least, ethical questions about personal inurement from a non-profit organization. By the way, if any olive oilers are reading this, the use of “1980′s” in your text is a grammatical error.

"Associated Press" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 7, 2008:
35. steve lang [blog post and blogger] – July 6, 2008:
How did he [Steven D*mb*ck] manage to use Fellowship property to make a private profit?
Answer: Private inurement. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service: ‘Churches and religious organizations, like all exempt organizations under IRC [Internal Revenue Code] section 501(c)(3), are prohibited from engaging in activities that result in inurement of the church’s or organization’s income or assets to insiders (i.e., persons having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization). Insiders could include the minister, church board members, officers, and in certain circumstances, employees. Examples of prohibited inurement include the payment of dividends, the payment of unreasonable compensation to insiders, and transferring property to insiders for less than fair market value. The prohibition against inurement to insiders is absolute; therefore, any amount of inurement is, potentially, grounds for loss of tax-exempt status.’ [Steven D*mb*ck possibly is, or possibly was, a minister of the Fellowship of Friends church. Steven D*mb*ck possibly was the recipient of the gift of real property from the assets of the Fellowship of Friends church. That would be the property where his home now stands. Steven D*mb*ck, according to Elena in her recent account above, possibly claims to own property that belongs to an homeowners' association and is owned as 'community property.' Steven D*mb*ck possibly is, or possibly was, the recipient of favourable, no-bid, business arrangements with the Fellowship of Friends church (likely directed by the head hauncho himself). The Ap*ll* Ol*v* O*l company may be likewise favourably treated. Benefits may extend beyond just the olives - i.e. to other agricultural areas and materials. Steven D*mb*ck possibly is 'person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization.' The practices of Steven D*mb*ck and Ap*ll* Ol*v* O*l may be worthy of investigation for exploitation of workers (both legal and illegal workers, as well as possibly using Fellowship of Friends' religious workers for the benefit of these private interests; both in the past and possibly now.] ‘An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization’s activities must be directed exclusively toward charitable, educational, religious, or other exempt purposes. Such an organization’s activities may not serve the private interests of any individual or organization. Rather, beneficiaries of an organization’s activities must be recognized objects of charity (such as the poor or the distressed) or the community at large (for example, through the conduct of religious services or the promotion of religion). Private benefit is different from inurement to insiders. Private benefit may occur even if the persons benefited are not insiders. Also, private benefit must be substantial in order to jeopardize tax-exempt status.’ [Perhaps Steven D*mb*ck is a charity case. But to single one out in that manner may constitute 'private benefit.' And, likely, 'substantial' at that.] - – - – - - To all: The lessons of love taught by the Fellowship of Friends are primarily ‘tough love.’ That is what abusers primarily understand and that is why they deliver it upon others.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 16, 2008 at 9:10 p.m.:
CVB [blogger]: “Fellowship is unable to pay the insurance on at least some of it’s vehicles. They can no longer be driven off the property.”

LOL. I didn’t realize RVW/FOF [Renaissance Vineyard and Winery/Fellowship of Friends] actually cared about insurance and vehicle safety, etc. Maybe a few bad experiences over the years have changed their thinking.
Thanks for that report. Some of the more devoted followers with larger bank accounts must be keeping the ship afloat?

By the way, for those who don’t know… Apollo Olive Oil is intimately affiliated with the Fellowship of Friends. It’s interesting that the company takes great pains to distance itself from the cult.

Unless I missed an obscure reference buried somewhere within their pages, there’s not one mention of the FOF on their website.

And here’s some irony: At the very top of their home page, they link a New Yorker article about fraud in the olive oil business. I’m not sure what they’re suggesting… that somehow Apollo Olive Oil and the Fellowship of Friends are above fraud?

http://apollooliveoil.com/

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 16, 2008 at 9:15 p.m.:
Here’s the text of the link and the link itself:

“Recent article in the New Yorker exposes fraud in the Italian olive oil business. ‘Fraud is so widespread that few growers can make an honest living,’ one expert says.”

Unbelievable. “Make an honest living,” is not a phrase you’d expect on any website affiliated with the Fellowship of Friends.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller

"Vena" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 17, 2008 at 4:03 a.m.:
Rear View Mirror [responding to blogger above]:

I was told about a food co-op in Oregon that became aware of the connection between Apollo Olive Oil and the Fellowship of Friends. They were disgusted by the story and said they would not be ordering anymore.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 17, 2008 at 4:18 p.m.:
Vena (509)[blogger and blog post number], That’s good news. I’m glad the Oregon co-op became aware of it.
Just a suggestion for those who happen to notice Apollo Olive Oil on the shelves… Many store owners may appreciate hearing the truth about it. 
==============

Regarding Apollo Olive Oil’s home page announcement that fraud is running rampant in the Italian olive oil business… I have just one word:
hypocrite
Main Entry: hyp·o·crite
Pronunciation: \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English ypocrite, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokritēs actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai
Date: 13th century
1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

Ok, more than one word. I do have a friendly note to our olive oil enthusiasts, many of whom I know from many years ago, and still love…

I also was a hypocrite. I also was mired in an illusion. I also believed it, and then later saw myself believing a lie.

What will it take for you?

"KA" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 6, 2007 at 3:05 a.m.:
 [Quoting a blogger:]
Let Apollo Arts become self sufficient. Let Apollo Olive Oil, the orchard, the reduced vineyard….
Hi Sharon and all,

Actually these are private enterprises. The olive oil and organic cherry orchards are very successful– I would guess because the products are *wonderful* and are smartly marketed. I think a lease is paid to the fof [Fellowship of Friends] for the space to grow/make the products. (Has everyone tasted the olive oil? I am in awe. Finally, a good product from that landscape that has a taste that reflects the good parts.)

Current members are not dummies. Some of us (current and former) have never fit in completely, but that does not mean that we can’t find a niche. That is what California was invented for. (well, maybe the whole west coast…)

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 19, 2014:
Apollo Olive Oil is prominently featured in this photo from an Associated Press article published nationally yesterday. Unfortunately, organizations such as All Things Olive, the American Olive Oil Producers Association, and the California Olive Oil Council unwittingly serve Robert Burton’s Fellowship of Friends by promoting the cult’s products.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elena's criticism of this blog

[ed. - On her blog, The Public Square, Elena published the following commentary concerning this blog.]
The new blog and it's shortsightedness

Elena: It's funny or at least ironic how people manipulate history to make it look the way they would have liked it to be!

There are so many important issues missing in this blog, one would have to think of it as shortsighted as the Fellowship cult is about life.
[ed. - While it is difficult to respond to charges of historical manipulation (the very act of selecting material is an unavoidable manipulation), it should be obvious this blog offers a very incomplete sketch of the Fellowship of Friends and Robert Earl Burton. The Fellowship's own promotional material adequately presents the organization and its leader in a beneficent light. This blog's purpose is to help illuminate the darker, suppressed aspects of the cult. To do so, it relies almost entirely on testimonies published in "the public square". But many important issues are not openly discussed, and most individuals with first hand knowledge of these topics (especially former Fellowship officers, ministers, aides to Robert Burton, and Burton's victims) are, for personal reasons, reluctant to speak out. Until they do, this blog will only offer a suggestion of what lies hidden.]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Robert Burton's grooming of young men

Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton with one of his boys
Robert Burton with one of his conquests

[ed. - Robert Burton no doubt considers the biblical Commandments "quaint". According to his rules, coveting another's husband is fair game. Like many Fellowship of Friends wives and girlfriends "sea" got much more than she bargained for when she entered a relationship and marriage with a handsome young man. She would have to compete with Robert's insatiable lust.]

"sea" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 8:44 p.m.:
Robert Burton uses manipulation. Over time his followers are groomed for this experience: he continually tells them that their lower selves will resist any thing that will bring them closer to awakening, he plies the males with luxury and ‘beauty’ has them floating in an unreal bubble, in which conscience and personal integrity are gradually dissolved and rejected as ‘feminine dominance’.

Women are groomed to allow their husbands to comply.

Eventually Robert pounces. If the follower rejects him he will threaten them with having to work out doors in the serf roles that those he is not having ‘sex’ with generally perform. Or he will tell them that they have to return to their home-lands which are often impoverished. He is prone to extreme jealousy and has been known to banish current ‘sexual’ partners simply for falling in love. He railed at my dear friend his most devoted and loyal follower for half an hour with out stopping and then banished her from his sight at events.

The sexual activity has been very unpleasant for most males that I have spoken with. The ‘loving’ experience is a myth. I did once meet a follower who applauded the experience briefly; but he suffered years of disgust and despair afterwards. The degradation is very difficult to absorb. You make excuses for it: it is so weird and ugly and cold and bewildering, and you are so desperate to believe that Robert holds the key to your higher centres that you re-describe what is happening to you in terms which make it bearable.

I know one follower who has been close to Robert for years, and who says that Robert is very ‘gentle’. But he has to do this… saying anything else would mean facing the full tragedy of his situation, facing himself.

One of the characteristics that enables Robert is that he does not mind if his boys absolutely hate the experience, as long as they comply. They have asked him about this but he somehow shakes their questions off. He sometimes makes their orifices bruised swollen and bleeding and mildly insists that they are being forced to let go of their lower selves. He tells them that it’s only their bodies, their ‘King of Clubses’ that reject it.

In the beginning Robert also manipulated his female followers in to having sex… there is testimony about this on the esoteric archives. It was disturbing reading: he had no interest what so ever in their pleasure. [ed. - see Bonita Hightower's "History of the Fellowship of Friends"]

I do not judge the students who submit to this: I know that they comply because their hope and longing is so desperate. I am so sad though that this ghoul has exploited (and necessarily obstructed) their search.

The sick reality only began to press against the boundaries of my bubble when Robert told a follower that he did not enjoy the teaching events and meetings, the follower had to press him to continue, reminding him of the money they made; so Robert did continue but reluctantly, saying “I only do it for you boys…”

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 8:52 p.m.:
295 sea [blog post and blogger]

I didn’t know RB before 1974. He told me he had sex with one woman in his life (and he didn’t like it), so I don’t know about it being more than once (I read the excerpt so I don’t know if that’s the woman).

But yes, he has a whole list of standard arguments that eventually work. Think about this, other than males with ambiguous sexuality (whether they know it or not) do you think RB gets to fuck with straight men because he’s attractive, intelligent, disarming, pitiable? It’s pure psychological and spiritual manipulation of a psychopath.

"brucelevy" added:
296 brucelevy

Have to add a caveat:

The boys are also either naive idiots, or whores for power, greed, attention and the benefits of access. We’ve all been one or the other, sometimes both. That part is our responsibility to a greater or lesser extent. But the crime is still the crime.

"somebody" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:07 p.m.:
296 Can you say more about males with ambiguous sexuality? What do you mean?

Also, how can a person be so stuck in sex? Is it all Robert thinks about – his boys and “techniques” day after day?

"brucelevy" responded:
298 somebody

No it’s not the only thing he thinks about. The other two are money and bright shiny objects.

Ambiguous sexuality…meaning people who don’t know that they are inclined to gay or bisexual sexuality. One joins under the self misguided, or outer misguided (like parent’s wishes) assumption that they’re straight and find a convenient excuse to go the other way. I don’t think that specifically is bad. It’s better for one’s happiness to find out. But to call it something else is being dishonest with one’s self.

"somebody" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:29 p.m.:
295 sea

Thank you!

In the documentary I saw a few days ago “Inside the Cult” one thing made me particularly sensitive. When the secretary of the cult leader told that the “God made this horrible thing – he FORCED Michael to sleep with my wife” It was so touching to see a man refusing to see the truth. One can only imagine that if something would destroy this buffer in him that his wife and his teacher were ‘forced’ against their will into an intercourse – he would probably kill them both!

But with RB’s boys it is not so obvious. So many times I heard “they like it, many of them are bisexual, or have extra sex energy, they would not do it if they did not want to, it improved them as men, nobody forces them!” And of coarse the guys themselves look happy, excited, on the mission and – well dressed… I know a few ‘boys’ who preferred relationship with Robert and left their wives and children to be with the teacher and to travel with him.

And at the end people get tired to worry about those strange guys, and focus on the rose garden. Or the sequence.

"Anna" ("sea") wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:30 p.m.:
M and D get such bad press

In my experience they are very sincere seekers. They are also smart. M was horrified to discover about Robert Burton’s proclivities and he almost left the school. But he also felt that there was something ‘wrong’ with himself; Robert exploited this vulnerability by telling him again and again that his King of Clubs was holding him back, whilst simultaneously wooing him with wealth and compliments. The grooming took two years, and then Robert demurely led his conquest into the bedchamber.

I think that M’s disgust at the sex was part of the key to his compliance. The experience was so bizarre so ‘illogical’ so unknown… that he persuaded himself that it could be the product of something ‘other’. Having submitted he literally prayed that it was consciousness.

It was a relief for him that his equally logical friend D was drawn into the web: it must have bolstered his hope that ‘there was something to it’. He has continued supporting it, I suspect, because the more other people that comply, surely, the more ‘right’ it must be…

M has lied brutally to females in order to satisfy his personal whims; however he is most definitely under the influence of that shimmering and morality-free ‘bubble’ in which the inner circle are enclosed.

And he’s not a sneak; he doesn’t report on Fence-sitters. Nor is he a jelly brain he will give you a rigorous debate about his doubts and yours… he’s discretely and honestly curious.

Like us he is most definitely a product of the Fellowship of Friends: A cult for (relative)intellectuals.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:40 p.m.:
301 somebody

“I know a few ‘boys’ who preferred relationship with Robert and left their wives and children to be with the teacher and to travel with him”.

He frequently creates situations where one is forced to decide between their wives and toys, travel and access. Some people willingly or unwillingly succumb to being smacked on the nose with a rolled newspaper while hearing “put out or get out”. Or “Your marriage is interfering with the desire of higher forces to have me work with you more closely goodness”.

"Sea" ("Anna") wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:43 p.m.:
Bruce,

I have heard two other versions of ‘the truth’ from different boys: Robert Burton was married to a student who was actually in the school in the 1990′s; He had a girlfriend, who he left and who then committed suicide. He seems to tell different things to different people.

I suspect that he may actually thrive on the fact that the boys don’t like it. And that his choice is less to do with homo-sexuality and more to do with the depth of his manipulation; seeing how far he can push, and then how much further: in other words with his psychopathy…

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:45 p.m.:
Conscience does not exist at the top of the FOF hierarchy. There may have been a spark, but it’s put out by one’s weaknesses (greed, power,lust, avarice and vanity). Once it’s gone, there’s no limit to the shit one will do to others, regardless of how altruistic they once were. Reinforcing and promoting the status quo is as criminal as the original crime.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:51 p.m.:
304 Sea

You’re right about his ever changing stories, but in my experience the stories you related are pure bull shit, probably to reinforce the idea that he’s not REALLY gay, he’s just an angel or princess trapped in a male body.

As far as him liking it because the boys don’t like it, I think it’s more that he just doesn’t give a shit. He’s a sociopath. This kind of self reflection, even unconsciously, just doesn’t exist in these people. Like him dismissing valid questions…it doesn’t matter, so it won’t be dealt with. I wouldn’t attribute any kind of “external consideration” or normal human elements to this pariah.

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 9:56 p.m.:
301 Somebody

“I know a few ‘boys’ who preferred relationship with Robert and left their wives and children to be with the teacher and to travel with him”.

303 Bruce

Also as wife, you DO become ‘a pain’ you are nervous agitated and afraid. You cannot sooth him when he comes home, there’s no bubble, especially if you have a child.

Actually you are the one who needs the support; his dim conscience may recognise this but in his by now distorted perception he may reconfigure this as a ‘demand’.

Also Robert Burton has informed all followers that Women are a denying force to Men, and that children are a denying force to women…

And that women represent the queen of hearts etc etc.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 10:06 p.m.:
307 Anna

Need one say more?

"somebody" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2008 at 11:37 p.m.:
307 Anna

I appreciate your truthful letter and your postings. Why do you think Robert wanted you to come to Isis? If he is so jealous of his boys – why would he invite such a beautiful woman any near?

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 30, 2008 at 4:01 a.m.:
Another Name: “GRRRRRRRRRRR”

Well, if it makes you feel any better, the women of the fof were by far more interesting to me than anything Robert had to offer. :) And I’m sure I speak for many other men.

Robert didn’t succeed in all of his of his manipulations, and I’m sure he still doesn’t succeed in all of them. And I’m sure this is a constant source of frustration for him. One hundred thousand orgies with 20-year-old men would not soothe his frustrations. This is his curse, and one of the reasons that he doesn’t let up.

"Just Another Voice Out Here" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 30, 2008 at 8:25 p.m.:
on [the expression] “Robert has asked”

Do you remember what the Wizard of Oz says when he dismisses Dorothy and the others after their first audience with him? Not “Goodbye,” not “Remember what I’ve told you,” but “The Great Oz has spoken!”

“Does anyone have any suggestions for addressing the question of Robert’s GREED and LUST to current members in a way that it could be heard and acknowledged?”

Kill one man and you are an assassin. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god. ~ Beilby Porteus

People are offended by the small acts of greed and lust they see others commit in their daily lives, and (occasionally) are shamed by those they observe in themselves. But when they see greed and lust on an enormous scale, they view it as something else entirely, and even as its opposite. RB knows this and uses it intentionally.

People join the Fellowship because they want something they imagine they don’t possess–call it consciousness, awakening, salvation, purity, whatever. That creates from the outset a problem that becomes obvious only in retrospect. Then they imbue the Dear Leader with magical powers because they want so badly to believe that he can give them that which they believe they lack–which only a magician could possibly do. From then on, they do not interpret his words and behavior as those of a mere mortal, with the same implications, but as those of a god, with whatever implications he ascribes to them.

In RB’s case, he even said, many, many years ago, that his chief feature was greed, but people choose to see his greed as something other than greed.

How to persuade someone that a person is greedy when they have already seen, over a period of years, that person do everything possible to surround himself with every imaginable form of material object and bauble, stuff his gullet with food and drink like Henry VIII, collect inordinate sums of money for every imaginable service, no matter how trivial, and generally act in a way that would cause any rational person immediately to roll their eyes in disgust at his absurd greed?

How to persuade someone that a person is filled with lust after they already know he cannot stop himself from having his every orifice rubbed every few hours? When they already know he is obsessed with trolling the world for new meat?

RB brags about his lust–that it cannot be satisfied by dozens of boys. He makes his inadequacy into its opposite, calls it “heroic.” And people believe him, because the alternative is too painful for them.

People who will pay large sums of money to dress up in clothes they cannot afford to sit slack-jawed while a simple-minded man mumbles incoherently about the esoteric significance of the number of toes on a puti are really not capable of processing information in a rational manner–they want that Something they believe they lack, and they will believe anything rather than accept that they already have it, or that Big Daddy cannot give them anything of real value.

I know because I was there.

Something I remember was when I looked in RB’s medicine cabinet and noticed that he had new containers of toiletries–deodorant, cologne, toothpaste–stacked one behind the other, three or four deep, so that as soon as one had been used up, there was another right there, ready to be opened, and he wouldn’t have to take the trouble to walk to the store, or even ask someone else to bring him a new tube of toothpaste. It was a small thing, but the impression of greed somehow impressed me more than all of the fancy cars, fancy furniture, wasted food, etc., I already saw everywhere around me.

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 30, 2008 at 8:40 p.m.:
Somebody (342)

A couple of Robert Burtons’s insightful photographs:

here’s one he gave me, via of course a boy follower, was “Robert sends you his love and wishes you to know that he’s noticed you’ve put on weight”.

The first challenge of course was to turn this in to something ‘esoteric’ I spent about a year on that.

~

Oh yes… he asked my husband to “only wear black underpants from now on.”

~

Of the fifteen thousand students who have left the school quite a number have already described their experience on the blog. Many had been in ‘denial’ about it for years. You would get statistically more accurate descriptions from here. It is terribly difficult to confront the awareness that you have participated in something degrading…

One of my ex-husbands told me that he loathed it. He said it was totally unemotional and unpleasant. That Robert would just wait there for him with the lower half of his face covered with KY. He could not even arouse himself by closing his eyes and imagining women, so Robert insisted that he took Viagra.

Around Robert you enter this strange world in which heartfelt reposes become very confused. Disgust is translated into ‘third state’ It is very difficult to admit that you are disappointed, or repelled especially when you have sacrificed so much, dignity, your family’s happiness, and ultimately perhaps your soul…

How many ‘events’ have you paid dearly for and then nothing really happens; you don’t have the fourth states and verifications you have craved. So what do you say when asked “how was it?” How do you elaborate…

"Bares Reposting" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 13, 2011:
Look, my friends, here is the scenario:

REB lives under his own different laws. There is no male child that REB lays eyes on that does not fall under his spell to groom and have sex with as soon as they are capable of ejaculating into REB’s mouth. Does it happen at a very early age? That is anybody’s quess. (Someone care to fess up here?) But this I can tell you: There are many parents that have precautionarily kept their male children at a distance, and out of sight of, REB.

Do you remember that the Lewis Carroll Elementary School used to be on the property of the Fellowship of Friends (Pathway to Presence – Living Presence – Church of Robert Earl Burton) directly across Hans Christian Andersen Way from the residence of REB? Hans Christian Andersen Way was the name of the main entry road to the FoF property at the time, where the residence of REB was #44 – O! so make believe a fairy tale. From REB’s location, with or without binoculars, the children could be watched.

In the early 1990′s, around when AG first arrived to live longterm in Oregon House and to become the Fellowship of Friends main lawyer, there was the T.B. underaged sex abuse lawsuit brought by Ford Greene. AG was to defend REB against this case, in a ‘no holds barred’ (no maneuvers prohibited) sort of fashion.

At about the same time, there was a lawsuit that AG was working, where some fellowship members were denied access to the property where they lived by the Olivehurst Gospel Assembly (OGA), whose property the access road passed first. The direct quote from REB on how to treat this case was: ‘Go for the jugular,’ as in jugular vein, that is, go for the kill. The case was won but not without significant strife for the Fellowship of Friends and REB. OGA became a thorn in the side of FoF for awhile. But that is a side story.

T.B. did not attend that elementary school, that I am aware of; he was too old. But several departments (octaves) of the Fellowship of Friends were the grounds to employ all sorts of ‘darlings’ of REB’s so that the young men were indentured servants (slaves) and were nearby for quick access for sex. T.B. was one of those.

The message from AG to REB after the TB case was: I cannot defend you against this sort of thing. (The case was settled out of court for a reported $5 million.) So, stop doing that – make sure the sex is with adaquate aged persons and consentual. Would this stop REB? Hell no! He must have his cake and eat it, too.

The way to prevent backlashes from sex partners is to compromise their ability to attack in the TB fashion. So, grooming male children of fellowship members from the time of birth, is a way to grow your own. Example: E.T. and C.C. (an REB personal secretary) had 3 children. They were considered the ‘Royal Family’ as REB doted upon them big time. Their first born male child had REB as godfather. Ownership had been established – except for the tattoo of ‘this property belongs to REB’ on the child’s buttocks. C.C. probably, eventually woke up to where this was leading. E.T. and C.C. split from Oregon House and went to live in Europe. They gave up a new home (which was across Rice’s Crossing Road from REB’s residence) that was virtually given to them along with a life where their needs were ever met by REB. E.T., likely, still is wide-eyed and naive about this from what I know – she still loves REB like a father, god, and teacher – still in a fairyland.

So, is it plausible that AG’s son could come under such perdition? What irony would that be? Defend REB under these circumstances and then have your own flesh and blood exposed? REB can plan and conive and wait patiently for years to get what he wants. The longer he waits, the more tantalizing the prey becomes. Meanwhile, what AG wanted for his child, did that matter? REB has the magic wand in one hand and a club in the other – just like REB describes of Influence C.

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 21, 2009:

Hello Yesri

Actually I don’t find the contradictions in the boys statements surprising. Common sense and a little self reflection were precisely what we were taught to avoid.

Before being drawn into Robert Burton's machinations, Tatiana’s young friend had probably been appalled at what adult life turned out to be like. He was desperate to escape it. When he found out about this phenomenon called ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’ or ‘consciousness’ there was a sparkle of hope at last. If he could awaken he could escape honourably, without becoming lost in life’s corruptions.

Then he discovered the Fellowship of Friends, and he was warned that there was a price to pay for this consciousness. He trusted the Fellowship because he had for as long as he could remember been desperate to trust someone, but everyone and every thing had failed him. But this system and these students seemed so plausible, so sincere; it was easy to pin his dreams on to them. He was told that ‘awakening’ was very difficult and that the more he paid and suffered the more likely he was to achieve it.

He was told from the start that Robert Burton was conscious. He hoped desperately that this was true. He had longed for someone who he could respect and trust enough to lead him in to the light. Burton suggested to him that he was special and that he had rare potential.

Burton pampered him as he began to believe that he deserved. The boy was told that it was his ‘play’ his fate, to be part of the elite. He also learned that if he didn’t want or value the patronage of the earth’s greatest ever conscious being, he could go and work long hours in the vineyard or return penniless to Siberia. These understandings caused twinges of fear which luckily dissolved at the glorious sunny potager lunches, and other events.

Finally Robert Burton asked the boy to do something that for him was unimaginably disgusting and that would accelerate his chances proportionately; he persuaded him to do what ‘Inner circle Facts’ described on this blog [see "Inner circle facts," below].

During these hellish orgies he would sometimes experience what I have now learned is called psychosis. His consciousness would leave his body, or a strange peace would overwhelm him and transport him away from the agony that his body was experiencing. He would tell himself that these experiences were ‘higher states’.

In the wake of these nightmarish orgies, he felt again the twinges of fear and doubt. Sometimes he would even be carried away with paranoia: what if he were expelled? What about the guns people carried around here? How could he go anywhere without money and qualifications or even a visa?
But above all he WANTED to believe, he was desperate to believe that Robert and his promises were genuine. It was a belief that he was already paying for dearly… he couldn’t afford to be wrong.

When his friend Tatiana asked him about the truth of Inner Circle’s expose, he admitted that the post was about him that, that he had been
“… chosen to urinate on RB” that he had been “asked to sh…t on RB” he said “I don’t know how people write and do not afraid that they will be run over buy a bus!”

But in the light of his great hope, and of more sunny potager lunches, and the support of his plausible fellow students, often his instinctive fears and repulsions would dwindle.

I guess instinctive fears and repulsions are what balanced folk call ‘common sense’

"Anna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 21, 2009:
[Reposting from March 1, 2007, "Inner circle facts" wrote:]

Are you ready for some brutal facts?

Who would like to know how its really happening in his bad room? OK folks,fasten your sit belts,the Kansas going Bye Bye…

Did you know that usual orgies are formed from 4 to 6 student?.Usually two of them are SIMULTANEOUSLY entering Burton’s anus.Third person is laying on his back while Mr.Burton is providing him an oral sex while two from both sides are subject to the masturbation by MR.Burton with his two hands.

Some time there is one more student who’s role is to hold Burton’s testicles in his mouth during the whole time.Prior to all, by Burton’s request Viagra pills are shared and swallowed between all members of the orgy which are constantly provided by Mr.G.

Some time you can hear Burton’s words during the sexual activities “How incredible! We are getting closer,aren’t we?”

Some of them are asked to suck his nipples and his toes.All sperm gets swallowed by Mr.Burton at the end of the act.But that is not all yet.

There are two students who had the most terrifying and most humiliating role to play (in my opinion).They have to enter with their hands by their elbows into the Burton’s anus.(Looking for Consciousness perhaps)..both students are Russians.One of them had left the school and the other has been “shipped” back to Russia for disobedience.

And now get this:

Beside those depraved scenes there is another one which going to shake you all:

There is another act that Burton is preforming with a specific student of his own “inner circle”.This act of Humiliation is performed in his bath room while Burton is laying down and 3 students are urinating right on him!

And on the next morning,like nothing happened Mr.Burton is leading the meeting on Love?

How cynical indeed!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From the Italian blog "Il Credino"

"J.D." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog today:
Robert Earl Burton (R. E. Burton) Fellowship of Friends cult leader and dandy
Robert Burton, from "Il Credino"
A friend of mine sent me this revised translation of the post on Robert Burton and the FoF from "Il Credino".
“Il credino” is a play on words, a cross between a cretin and his creed: a “creedin”.
“In September 1967, through his first spiritual teacher, Robert Earl Burton met Influence C, the direct influence of divine aware beings, without physical body, which later would have worked exclusively with paying members of the Fellowship of Friends (FoF) to ensure their awakening.
After being expelled from the group for sexual harassment in regards to other members, the Angels began to speak openly and directly with Robert Earl Burton and this event marked the beginning of a long and profitable dialogue between him and the gods. Sometime later another event would mark the bright future of such spiritual master: his crystallization (the process by which psychological characteristics become stable and permanent).
Based on those fateful, sudden and accidental revelations, Robert E. Burton established the basis for exercising his official authority, from crystallizing a man number 5 to evolving into a man number 7.8. For the record a man number 7 is a person who has achieved everything possible for a human being (Jesus Christ is a man number 8!) Men number 7 are completely united and have the will and knowledge that are independent from all their functions and, as demonstrated by Robert E. Burton, still slaves to their uncontrollable sexual voracity toward the members of his members, and subdued to gluttony for total sovereignty and riches.
Incessantly pouring into the ears of his own members sermons based on his certified experiences, leaving out the superfluous practical example, for years Robert E. Burton has created around him a true “Spiritual Militia.” His teaching started with his own version of the Fourth Way of G. I. Gurdjieff ending in the creation of his own personal gem: the sequence, a nursery rhyme composed of English monosyllables that should evoke presence. According to the testimony of the first Neanderthal murals appeared on the planet, this practice it’s truly ancient.
The center of his operations is in California, in a hole lost in the mountains, but the FoF boasts centers all over the world where believers helplessly still take the bait of awakening. There are also centers in Italy with creedin-members throughout the territory.
Curiously, the crystallization of Robert Earl Burton outlined above represented, among all the improbable predictions made by him, incidentally the only one to come true. In fact, he predicted the fall of California in 1998 as a result of a cataclysm in which the only survivors would be him and his member-servants. He also predicted the end of the world in 2006 due to hydrogen warfare. The next end of the world will come in December 2012, according to the Mayan calendar, and possibly another one in 2018.
Among Robert Burton’s boldest statements: he had been visited by the Vice-God (or “number two” as he casually calls him; he took a shower with Jesus Christ and the fact that he is constantly prodded by Leonardo da Vinci, responsible, among others, for his awakening.
All of Robert Burton’s charisma, wisdom, knowledge derived from these milestones of his direct and recognized experience, lived first-hand, mind you, not without responsibility. His commitment is dedicated to helping his creedin-servant-members to keep him as the true and only divinity. By his own admission, Robert E. Burton is a “goddess trapped in a man’s body” (a favorite phrase to justify administering fellatio to his members, and it will be his onerous responsibilities to welcome the aforementioned creedin-members in Paradise.
Robert E. Burton maintains his kingdom under strict control by giving “exercises” and assigning roles to his creedin-servant-members:
There are members who participate in nightly orgies set-up by Robert E. Burton (six members, each with a task, or rather a very specific duty: positions and functions are practiced and rehearsed to perfection).
There are members who urinate and defecate on to their teacher Robert Burton. (One of the most unique justifications is that there is a tribe in India where it is considered a spiritual practice. Even Hitler had lovers defecate on him, he also suffered from the same morbid and incurable dissatisfaction, and dementia)
There are members who in the morning go to clean Robert Burton’s bedroom/den, washing the towels impregnated with any kind of bodily fluid, and replace the various toys bought with donations from the rest of the members, leaving the room spotless for the admiration of visitors.
There are doctor-members who write prescriptions for the medications needed by Robert Burton. (When he is seen wandering around his property looking humble and submissive, is just fucked up by psycho-drugs)
There are doctor-members who write prescriptions for Viagra pills to increase the performance of the members. (Not easy to get an erection in front of a flabby old body)
There are members shopping for those pills.
There are members who administer those pills to the other unfortunate members who are due up.
There are members with drug problems to whom Robert Burton gives permission to use but only with their pants down and in his presence.
There are professional-musician-members to whom the pack leader has asked to play their instrument while he was playing their ‘instrument’.
There are members-explorers employed to recruit new members at home and abroad, taking photographs and compiling catalogs where Robert Burton can pick and choose who to order for an exotic spiritual interview.
There are members who bought fake passports in order to deliver the above mentioned items to Robert Burton. (Not without pride we announce that these passports are made in Italy, purchased in Naples)
There are garbage-collector-members in charge of hiding and laundering the money put at Robert Burton’s disposal.
There are members who donate their identities, providing a front for the illegal actions of master Burton (as a Church, and a Pope himself, he cannot legally receive or use money for personal purposes).
There are lawyer-members who continually take care of Robert Burton’s dirty laundry.
There are members that on their deathbed were convinced by Robert Burton and his lawyer-members to donate their properties and with them their dream of preserving their heritage.
There are members who in their youth the leader of the pack had forbidden the pleasure of a companion. Now in their old age they find themselves alone, but they will die full of the love that their teacher Burton once shared with them.
Within the herd of the Fellowship of Friends there are members there are more or less close to Robert Burton, who are more or less aware of most of what has been described above. For various reasons, they do not say, nor do anything.
These are the different reasons:
Some members have no specific reasons other than their own stupidity.
Some members do not know what is really happening. They may have vaguely heard of, but they stuffed their ears with ham. As the worst deaf, they prefer not to hear. As good-students-members they obey the rules of Robert Burton and do not read blogs.
Some members do not feel judging Robert Burton’s private actions, for he is a superior being. As good-students-members, they do not read blogs.
Some members are aware of most that has been listed above, but have built a niche in which they live undisturbed, and which they have no intention of leaving. They have flipped through blogs and have received information, but talking would mean the destruction of the niche and expulsion from the cult.
Some members live the delusion that they have reached a pure friendship with Robert Burton, their mission is submission, and serve at any cost. As good-students-members they do not read blogs.
Some members are trapped, with a resident visa issued by the FoF. Talking would mean not only expulsion from the cult FOF but also from the country. Their only entertainment is to participate in blogs.
Some members even managed to escape from the cage of the FOF. They are self-proclaimed “feather in the wind,” or even “beautiful butterflies”. These former-members-but-still-creedins are unable to escape from the psychology of the cult FoF; they mind their own business and do not care about those left behind.
It’s certainly not enough to get out of a cult in order to cease being a creedin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A look back at Lady B's story

[ed. - This sounds like such a typical Fellowship of Friends story.]

"Lady B" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 29, 2007 at 10:57 p.m.:
I am still in the school but I am not a student anymore.
I joined the school 20 years ago with all my heart.
I survived several of the school’s big intervals, when Influence C was “shaking the tree.”
When other students left, I never wanted to know the reason. Each time, some “good student” or center director would act as a filter, saying that the student left because their instinctive center didn’t want to pay any more or because their American puritanical morality made Robert’s sex life into an excuse for leaving.
After a year in the school, a friend of mine left, and before she did she told me that her friend had a relationship with Robert. It was a bad experience, and he left in shock. I was actually relieved to hear that Robert was gay. I’d already been in a group where the teacher was gay. In a second group, where the teacher was straight, and very interested in women, his “wife” had me kicked out because she imagined I was having an affair with him.
In the FOF, I lost a husband, a house, and a lot of money that I didn’t have and don’t have, but none of that bothered me enough to make me leave. Robert has never spoken to me directly — I don’t have money, I’m not rich, I’m a woman. I’m not an artist or actor. I don’t have blue blood or a name of noble origin. So, my role in the school — according to other students — is to pay. That’s my role and for many years I’ve been paying my teaching payment.
I began reading this blog and the letters sent to me by ex-students. I told myself that I’ve been in the school so long that I wouldn’t hear anything bad enough to change my mind, my desire, or my love for Robert.
It didn’t take long to realize that I hadn’t been aware of the level of suffering that many students endured. When Elena wrote, it was as if she read my heart. Now I understand why friends who became Robert’s lovers are so depressed and unable to have a full emotional life. I’ve seen mothers who are happy that their sons were chosen to be Robert’s lovers, and encouraged them not to lose the opportunity to experience higher levels with an angel.
At Isis [Apollo, Renaissance, etc.], children are the last concern. In fact, a friend who doesn’t have children told me, “I think that Isis needs an orphanage.” I was shocked and offended.
I believed that I was helping to build a new civilization, not supporting and paying for all this suffering. I can’t be an accomplice any more. This isn’t the school I was looking for. I’ve learned a lot, but at a very high price. I have a conscience — someone might call it feminine dominance, but I don’t care. All those years I’ve pushed down that inner screaming voice, and had — as many others have — health consequences.
I want to leave the school without a fuss, the way I came, but I want to give a warning to potential students so they have an idea of what they’re getting into. If this blog was available to me 20 years ago, I probably would have made a different decision.
Someone said — I wish I could remember who — that you can see the level of civilization in a country by looking at the way they treat children and old people. Elena, you’re right: I don’t recognize the same Ark that I boarded 20 years old.
During these 20 years, I’ve met some wonderful people, and leaving those friends is going to be a much bigger payment than I’ve ever made. I’m sorry, and I love you.

[ed. - Siddiq, a sincere Fellowship supporter, responds. The more you read this blog, the more you will see Siddiq's protestations ring hollow.]

"Siddiq" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 30, 2007 at 12:27 a.m.:
To Lady B who wrote:
So, my role in the school — according to other students — is to pay. That’s my role and for many years I’ve been paying my teaching payment.
I am very sorry for you (no doubt many on this blog will applaud your decision to leave but not me) as you have apparently for many years accepted what you believed your fate should be–I hope for you that your experience included more than just being somebody who pays.
You see, I do not know any mothers who applaud their sons being Robert’s lovers (there are very few mothers in the Fellowship whose sons are Robert’s lovers–this cannot possibly be more than a handful, at most as there are few such families in the School).
I also do not see the depressed students and people unable to have an emotional life (I assume you do, so there must be more than just paying money in your life) any more so than anywhere else outside of Isis or the Fellowship.
I also do not know of anyone of nobility, blue blood, or artistic talent here that gets special treatment. The artists here pay, in many ways, as all do, and as the universe exacts from us, whether we are in or out of the School.
Finally, children appear to me healthy and well adjusted, not mistreated, not in any danger. There are hundreds and their parents (of which I am one and I assume you are too, which makes me wonder why we have never connected or if we did why you never spoke out against the abuse you perceived). Do you believe they are worse off here than let’s say in some big city with all its problems?
Good luck to you.
Siddiq

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why did you leave The Fellowship of Friends?

[ed. - Originally written in January of 2008, "Traveler's" words below were published on the Wordpress blog "Lea in space or some or no place..." (now defunct) and also on the Greater Fellowship website.]

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 19, 2009:
Some of you probably remember Traveler’s many wise words here on previous pages of the blog. I’ve been given permission to pass on some recent writings, which I think are some of the most useful yet.
____________________________________________________________________
["Traveler" wrote:]
Why did you leave the School?

What do you say when someone you knew inside the organization, and not even too well, calls you one day from another continent and asks you to please explain why did you decide to leave the School? A brave step actually, because such direct questions are not normally voiced by current members.
It’s not an easy answer, mostly because the question is phrased in a way I would not phrase it now. When you’re inside, you hear claims that people leave because they become “negative” about the money or sex or some other external issue, and because of such a trifle, they fail to look beyond to a “higher aim” that the organization is ostensibly serving.
Not to diminish the sexual manipulations and misuse of funds: they are no trifles. But they have been rationalized before and can always be rationalized again, in the name of the cause. That is what keeps people in: as long as they believe in the essential goodness of the cause of an “esoteric school”, any irregularities can be explained away and swept under the carpet, a carpet that I think would be several inches off the floor by now, after 37 years of the FoF.
But current members say external issues are never the real reason: it’s that people “lose the work”. Well, what can I say – they are right. If by “work” they mean perpetual self-monitoring for manifestations of thoughts and actions not in line with RB’s wishes; repetition of a magical formula that is to assist me in reaching the ever elusive Divine Presence, with a view to create an astral identity that will survive physical death – then yes, I have thoroughly lost any interest in the “work”. Whether you view that as a tragic failure or not depends on which side of the fence you are looking from.
I say I never decided to leave because leaving eventually happened just as naturally as opening my eyes after waking up in the morning.
It’s not “I left when I saw that RB [Robert Burton] was wrong,” or “I left when I saw that GH [Girard Heven] was wrong.” Not even “I left when I saw that PDO [Peter Demianovich Ouspensky] and GIG [George Ivanovich Gurdjieff] were wrong.”
That all pales in light of the realization that I personally had been spectacularly, mind-bogglingly, fabulously WRONG.
I was wrong to take on faith so many statements of belief just because they sounded good and I wanted them to be true.

I was wrong to feel special.

I was wrong to believe in a hierarchy of more and less enlightened individuals.

I was wrong to assume that others can accurately tell me what I am thinking, feeling or what state I am in.

I was wrong to think that just because some aspects of the teaching make sense, all of it should make sense, even if I don’t yet understand it.

I was wrong to grasp at the slightest bit of teaching that seemed reasonable while dismissing massive evidence to the contrary.

I was wrong to want to be told what to do.
I was wrong to suppress my own dissenting questions because of peer pressure.
I was wrong to want to get others to express support for our beliefs.

I was wrong to make myself feel guilty for being non-compliant.

I was wrong to want to make others feel guilty for being non-compliant.

I was wrong to continue supporting what I no longer believed in.
I was wrong to value security and familiarity over my conscience.
I was wrong to feel that all this was normal.

I was wrong to feel that I had no choice.

I was wrong to think that I would assure any real friendships just by belonging to an organization together.

And above all, I was wrong to not trust myself and my own better judgment.
I left because that period of my life was irrevocably over.
But the really interesting question for me right now is not “Why did you leave?”
Much more fascinating and perplexing is “Why did I stay so long?"

"Don Juan" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 21, 2007:
After finding this discussion recently and reading so many incisive, candid and heart-felt posts, I was inspired to write a few words myself.
I wonder what it is that compels someone finally to leave the Fellowship of Friends after being a member for ten, twenty, thirty years. I’m particularly curious what it takes for someone who doesn’t buy the party line, who long ago stopped believing that the FOF was the “only way” and other such patent nonsense, but who nevertheless has found reasons to stay for all these years. There is much that is beautiful and much that is odious in the FOF, and I suppose one somehow manages to embrace the former and overlook the latter. (I know there must be many in this position, having been such a one myself.) Why one stays is one question, but for me the more interesting question is what propels someone to finally cut the cord and leave.
For a cult, you have to admit that the FOF is relatively benign and non-intrusive. At least in my day, as long as you paid your money, you could pretty much lead your own life, even living at Renaissance (I suppose that dates me!): there was nothing that was compulsory, you could study what and how you wished, you could think for yourself, you could even study with other teachers (so long as you didn’t spread it around!). If you had a group of like-minded friends around you, and didn’t mind keeping your true feelings to yourself, you could find reasons to stay, even if the school’s actual teachings were no longer serving you (if they ever really did, but that’s another story). Of course, sheer inertia and fear of an unknown world out there played their part in keeping you where you were.
(As I write this, I’m suddenly reminded of the story of Mullah Nasruddin, who, having lost his keys in the bushes, looks for them under the lamppost down the street simply because the light is better there.)
So what is it that pushes someone over the edge after putting up with so much for so long? Robert’s sex addiction? No news there (although the gymnastics described by inner circle facts, part 1 [post] no. 294 are quite impressive). New whacko teachings from Big Bob (“the rhinoceros excreting the sequence”)? Nothing new there either! The incessant monetary demands? Unlikely that money would be enough on its own, for if you could swing the finances for this long, you probably could continue to do so if something else didn’t light a fire under you.
I left the FOF some twelve years ago after nearly twenty years of membership. I was actually quite enjoying myself there (painful contradictions notwithstanding), and it took having the truth rubbed in my face again and again to ignite my conscience and give me no choice but to depart.
First and foremost, I had the opportunity to see Robert up close when his comfort, his lifestyle, and his obsessive control over his empire were being threatened by an earlier round of students asking too many questions and seeking a more open dialog about how the Fellowship functions. It became all too clear to me that, whatever may have been the case in the past, Robert had little or no genuine interest in the spiritual development of his students. His priority first and foremost was the maintenance and feeding of his lifestyle, and he would do almost anything to protect it. This should have come as no surprise to me, having known him for some time, but it took seeing up close his cold, paranoiac and entirely self-serving reaction to pressure – pressure from well-meaning students – to awaken me from my dream of life in the Fellowship. It became no longer possible to pretend that he was any kind of teacher for me.
Robert has a most convincing act when he is on stage, and he is on stage almost all the time. If you want to see what he really is, don’t look to touching little set-pieces such as that of the arrest in the airport [post](no. 272), where he’s performing for a little audience (who publish every word for all to admire, photos and all), and indeed he has no choice anyway but to sit and wait (and pontificate). Look instead to how he acts when he believes he should be in control, and in particular to how he handles even the most gentle challenge to his authority. Part of that is seeing what kind of actions he instigates or at least tolerates on behalf of the minions who do his bidding.
Second, and perhaps more important, was that I could no longer justify my association with a teaching that had become apparent to me was so severely lacking once I had experienced the depth of other spiritual traditions and indeed the depth of an open heart. Much of what went on at the FOF was fear-based, notwithstanding the false patina of emotion that coated it. Divided attention, self-remembering and all of the subsidiary exercises used in the FOF are great tools, but frankly these would be considered preliminary exercises in attention in a complete system such as that presented in Tibetan Buddhism, as one example. Moreover, tools of attention when used in the absence of any real compassion and any understanding of the empty nature of existence seem to solidify the ego, rather than lead to liberation. Others have written here on what is missing in the Fourth Way or the FOF teachings at length and far more eloquently than can I.
Looking back, it’s difficult to understand how I can still feel gratitude for all that I learned and all of the beautiful times that I shared through this strange vehicle that Robert Burton created (or more accurately, that Robert Burton and his students created), and yet I do feel gratitude. I suppose it’s one of the painful contradictions that so many of us, in or out, feel. I wish everyone well, in or out, here or there. And if you’re still in and thinking about packing your bags, a few words from the old geezer poet, for old time’s sake:
AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

"Charles T" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 17, 2007:
WHY I DON”T FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FOF

I was a member for 27 years. I joined in London, quickly moved into the teaching house, did everything I could to enable myself to move to the U.S. Married an FoF student. Moved to Apollo/Isis after a few years. Built a large house there, designed by a FoF architect. At different times I was a center director, council member, traveling teacher, led prospective student meetings at which people joined the FoF. In other words, the whole disaster including the postage.
I was never involved in Burton’s inner circle and had only a sketchy knowledge of what went on there. I read Troy Busbee’s letter and heard some strange rumours, but I was reassured by people I respected that it was all OK, the rumours were exaggerated, everything was consensual, there was a lot of love involved, and I believed what I was told, and in turn reassured others.

I was very committed to awakening. I sincerely believed that Burton was a conscious being. I did pretty much everything that was suggested (couldn’t give up rock music though!). I tried very hard to remember myself year after year. When I was leading meetings I tried to be honest and only describe what I’d actually experienced, or make it clear if I was speaking theoretically.

I admired the FoF leaders very much: Peter B, Girard, Collin, they all seemed wonderful, spiritually advanced people. In fact pretty much everyone I met was sincere, thoughtful, kind, admirable.

After Peter’s death and Girard’s stroke a new set of leaders took over, much more harsh and intolerant, people for whom I had little respect. I began to withdraw. Around the same time Alison became influential and the emphasis on collecting money, money, ever more money became overwhelming. Burton’s teaching became more and more bizarre. The Fourth Way was abandoned. Nothing of any substance took its place.

Eventually I left, principally because it became clear to me that Burton is not a conscious being, in fact he’s no different from you or me, and his teaching is a sham. I didn’t leave because of his private life, though the stories became increasingly disturbing and believable.

So am I a bad person because I supported the FoF for so long? Personally I don’t think so. I did the best I could. I was mistaken about Burton but it was a genuine mistake. I learned a lot in the FoF and I’ve moved on. It’s happening to hundreds of us now. Personally I don’t think we have any reason to look back and wring our hands.

"Just Another Voice Out Here" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 1, 2008:
151 lostandfound

“And this is the enigma: How is it that there are approximately 1700 members currently experiencing higher states, and receiving very fine and unique knowledge. While at the same time, there were approximately 15,000 who have entered and left with a deep sense of fraudulence and regret?”

This is not an “enigma.” It’s “formatory thinking” and it’s “lying.” No one can know how many other people are experiencing anything–only the person herself. That applies to the people who left, too. Based on their comments, there are plenty of former members who didn’t leave with a “deep sense of fraudulence and regret.” I didn’t leave with such a sense.

I left with a sense that RB was a person of very modest learning, with nothing to offer intellectually beyond quoting Ouspensky and the authors of the Harvard Classics, nothing to offer emotionally beyond a false modesty overlaying a very obvious and unapologetic lack of genuine affection for anyone who didn’t contribute to satisfying his various appetites.

I left with a sense that he had serious sexual hangups, and, much worse, had no interest at all in outgrowing them, or even in acknowledging that they were weaknesses rather than strengths, and a sense that such a person was of limited value to me.

I left with a sense that the members who were joining increasingly were naive people with a limited command of the English language. Make of that what you will.

I left with a sense that what may first have reflected my sincere interest in awakening was becoming little more than a crutch that allowed me to maintain a sense of being special, along with other ego-boosting illusions, while also allowing me to believe I was doing everything I could to awaken. But I knew better.

I left with a sense that the financial cost of participation was exhorbitant [sic] and out of all proportion to benefits offered, in a common-sense way, and it would only become more so.

I left with a disinclination to be a part of any group that prided itself on looking down on five billion people as worthless shit.

I left with a sense that the vanity of the group had crystalized [sic], and that this vanity was contagious.

I left with a sense that I was bored with the routine of gatherings, arranging “biscuits” on pretty platters, bored with hearing the same recycled “angles,” bored with the strain of pretending that any of the activities were actually enjoyable.

I left with the sense that there was much more to maturity in any sense of the word than dressing up in grandpa’s clothes, overindulging in alcohol, and acting “intentional.”

I had no regrets, and as for fraudulent, well, if you believe RB sincerely believes that he is the highest being since Jesus, that the Fellowship is not only a “conscious school” but the only such thing on earth, that allowing him to suck your penis is the best possible choice you can make in your life, that God speaks directly to Robert Earl Burton and only to him, making him infallible, that artists throughout history and prehistory have transmitted their knowledge of the Sequence and the Four Wordless Breaths in their works, etc., then no, I would not call it fraudulent. Just delusional and pretty silly.

"Just Another Voice Out Here" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 8, 2008:
More from John Knapp relevant to grieving the loss of a cult
FAQ ABOUT RECOVERING FROM CULTS

Why do people leave? How do people leave?

Members typically:

walkaway (“walkaways”),
are thrown out (“castaways”),
lose their leader to death or their group to dissolution,
or are counseled out —

in roughly that numerical order.

Walkaways may leave gradually because of love for family or friends or what is called “cognitive dissonance” — a growing realization that the ideals of the group are at odds with their actions. They may float into new groups or eventually return to their original group. Frequently they do not face the damage that they have endured, and they experience reduced functionality for many, many years.

Castaways are tossed out by their leaders or groups for real or imagined offenses — or to keep other members in line. This group may experience the most traumatic reentrance into mainstream society. They usually have not rejected the beliefs or leader of their group and have the added guilt and shame of having been rejected.

Someone involved in the disbandment of their group may experience an ego-strengthening sense of power and control. If the group disbanded against their wishes or their leader died, they may experience a depth of despair similar to a castaway.

Those who are counseled out, through therapy, exit counseling, in-residence programs, or the like, usually experience the smoothest and quickest recovery.

What should a recovering cult member expect?

I’m not usually like this. I pride myself on being organized, and punctual, getting done what I say I will get done. Before “therapy” I set up a business of my own…. After the “therapy” I was just barely able to stay out of bed more then three days a week. That has gotten better and I rarely stay in bed and may nap once in a great while, as I am extremely tired all the time. I wonder if that is ever going to go away.

Don’t make any commitments for awhile. Take it easy. Think of yourself as recovering from a heart attack or a stroke. Set some time aside in your mind for recovery — at least a few months.

Many people experience “triggering.” You may find that anything associated with your group or any of its practices will cause sudden, unexpected discomfort — even panic. Honor it! It’s like the Vietnam vet being triggered by backfiring cars or other load noises. It’s a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s real. Others have gone through it. And recovered.

Sometimes you may be triggered for no discernible reason whatsoever. After time educating yourself about your group, you may find those triggers and how these suggestions work to keep you from thinking and growing emotionally.

The trick is to keep in mind that you can and will recover. Don’t allow yourself to identify with being a victim or abused. You have survived some of the worst life will ever dish out to you. Like a hero returning from a concentration camp during war, you are one tough SOB.

Another analogy: Some people after a heart attack go back to work too soon. They never really recover. Some people slide into depression or don’t work toward recovery. They never really recover. Some people acknowledge that they’ve taken a serious blow and work toward recovery — setting aside a reasonable amount of time to recover their faculties. These people do more than survive — they can be stronger after the heart attack than before.

I believe that recovery from high-control groups and trance abuse are very similar.

As hard as it may be for you to trust a therapist or doctor, it would be very wise to work with a “dispensing psychiatrist” and therapist familiar with cult survivors, battered spouses, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Tobias and Lalich’s Take Back Your Life has a thorough list of questions you should ask your potential therapist before deciding to work with him or her.

The pain of recovery comes and goes. It gets better over time. You must have heard about Kubler-Ross’s steps of grief recovery? Shock, denial, bargaining, anger, acceptance?

As a cult veteran, you are in a grief process for the time, money, love, and life that was stolen from you. You can’t skip any of the tasks of the grieving process. If a parent or loved one died, you’d give yourself a year to recover wouldn’t you?

Part of you has died. Give yourself the same respect you would if you had lost your most intimate loved one.

Some therapists insist that you can have a full recovery from cult trauma. But I suspect this isn’t exactly true.

Cult veterans have had an enormous life-changing experience. One that is shared by relatively few people in the world. Many of us feel that we have been changed forever by time in the cults.

Like all things in life, there is good and bad about this. Our lives may never be the same, nor even similar to what we once envisioned, but we can experience joy, fulfilling work, and deep, satisfying relationships again. We can have great lives.

We are stronger emotionally for what happened. Only a strong person survives a cult. We’ve been to Hell and back. We lived and our lives are fuller and richer for it. We may still have much healing to do. But we’re on our way up and getting on with our lives.

I have a lot of problems sleeping.

Yes, it gets better. It may last a few months.

Many cult veterans continue to tire easily — some for a few years — sometimes because of dissociation, sometimes depression. But we’ve found many ways to deal with it.
 
At the first sign of trouble focusing, try taking a short nap or walk. Aversion therapy, snapping a rubber band on your wrist when you notice you’re fading, works for some people.

Sleeping too much may induce, prolong, or intensify depression. Some psychiatric research indicates that people prone to depression should sleep no more than 7 hours a day. The trick is to relearn allowing your mind/body to tell you when it is really tired without sliding into depression. Try setting your alarm for 20 or 30 minutes and taking a nap every time you start fogging over.

Some people find some medications or a sleep clinic are helpful, too, under a doctor’s direction.
Many of us who went through high-control situations react with extreme aversion against order, scheduling, working, and so forth. It’s quite natural. You’ve been “brainwashed.” Allow yourself to be pissed off! And know that you may not feel like dancing to anyone else’s tune for awhile.

But if at all possible, try to maintain regular sleep times: when you go to bed, when you get up, and a set number of hours a day. Cult veterans appear to be at great risk for depression and other mood disturbances.

If you have trouble getting to bed at a fixed time, try setting an alarm clock to wake you at the same time every morning. You’ll naturally tend to get drowsy at the same time every night.

Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer suspects that many, many former cult members suffer from sleep disturbances and sleep deprivation. One common-sense way to test for these conditions is to take an over-the-counter sleep aid, such as Sominex or Excedrin PM. If after 3 days you have begun to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in all likelihood you do not have a serious sleep disturbance and can cease taking the sleep aid. If, however, you notice a surprising new depth to the quality of your sleep, continue needing naps during the day, and begin to have trouble falling asleep without sleeping aids, you may be well advised to explore this situation with your doctor.

Is every cult member severely damaged for life?

Definitely, not.

Many things can affect the aftereffects you experience: your physical and psychological constitution before entering, the severity of your group’s practices, and most importantly the length of time you were involved.

Conway and Siegelman’s research indicates that the number of months meditating, for instance, correspond directly to the number and severity of the side effects cult veterans experience.

"Just Another Voice Out Here" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 8, 2008:
And one last offering from Knapp:
FAIRY-TALE THINKING THAT HARMS FORMER CULT MEMBERS

I have found many former cult members continue to be influenced by beliefs and mores of their group — even years after they have left. This is certainly true for me, even though I underwent exit counseling in 1995. Whether it’s fear of nonmeditators’ “impurity,” fear that I will age more quickly if I don’t meditate, or the belief that enlightenment brings human perfection, I have stumbled on dozens of concepts and behaviors strewn throughout my consciousness like “alien artifacts” from my decades in the Eastern Meditation Group I belonged to.

Today, as a psychotherapist, I have found cognitive therapy useful to help my clients discover and rid themselves of unwanted, unproductive beliefs. The theory behind CT is simple: How we think about ourselves, our world, and our future affects our feelings and actions. The method consists of noticing uncomfortable feelings, examining the thoughts we had just before the onset of the feelings, and consciously undertaking “cognitive restructuring” — replacing the dysfunctional belief or thought with a balanced, rational understanding. People are taught a formal process of journaling, known as “thought records,” that makes cognitive restructuring a habit fairly quickly — usually in 12 to 20 sessions.

In the 1960s Aaron T. Beck developed cognitive therapy — one of the most thoroughly researched forms of psychotherapy to date. Cognitive therapy has been found to be effective for many problems including depression, anxiety, panic, substance abuse, and personality disorders. Researchers today are studying its value for treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, inpatient depression, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and relationship problems, among others. I am extending its use to the aftereffects of cult-induced trauma.

A key concept of CT is “cognitive distortion.” These are “fairy tale” ways of thinking that contain some logic, but they are not rational ways of looking at the world. They distort our understanding of the world — and cause us pain.
Below are ten common distortions, explained in Beck’s words, with examples I’ve added, paraphrased from former members that I have counseled. (These examples are based on Eastern Meditation Group members. You can read examples more useful for the general population here.) You can rate yourself by giving yourself a point for each distortion that you use, with one being low and ten being high. Then you might ask yourself if you can stop using the distortions and think in a different way.

ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your, or someone else’s, performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself or others as total failures. Examples: I worked with one group member who saw any concept different than the his leader’s “perfect teaching” as wrong, or at least less than perfect. He explained he left the religion he was brought up in because “they believe life is suffering.” Another example: Many former members go through a period after they leave the group where they now believe everything the leader teaches is “bad,” where once they believed everything was “good.”

OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Phrases like “You always…” or “You never…” exemplify overgeneralization. Example: One former member told me that nothing had gone right for her since she ceased meditating. “I just know that all my bad karma is coming home to roost.”

MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and obsess on it so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors an entire glass of water. Example: A former meditation teacher, who had left the group 6 years previously, told me, “I just can’t get used to working with nonmeditators. They’re just not refined. I mean some of them smoke! How can you work with people so stressed out?”

DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. Often this manifests as making excuses or minimizing when somebody pays you a compliment. Example: A very successful businessman once told me that he couldn’t take pleasure in his accomplishments. “I feel like my success is due to my time in my group. I can’t shake the feeling that if I hadn’t put worked full-time for the group [earning "good karma"], I just wouldn’t be successful today.”

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion — often a “wait and see” attitude is called for in these situations. Example: A elementary school teacher, who had belonged to a meditation group, explained to me, “I’m very intuitive. Maybe it was the advanced meditation or something. I can ‘read’ people. I know what they are thinking before they say it.”

MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude (usually by personalizing their behavior) that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out. She went on to tell me that she “knew” many people in her school were “against” her — although she could provide no proof that this was the case.

THE FORTUNETELLER ERROR: You often anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact. A former advanced meditator explained, “I can tell when it’s going to be a tough day at work. There’s just something in the air that I can detect when I walk through the door. Maybe my leader wasn’t so wrong when he talked about stress in the atmosphere.”

MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your achievements or someone else’s goof up), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own character defects or other people’s acceptable behavior). This is also called the “binocular trick.” Example: I corresponded with a meditation teacher who left the group and married a nonmeditator. “Sometimes I feel like the only reason my wife is doing so well with her business is because we’re together. I mean all those months of long meditations, I figure she’s getting the benefit because she’s near me all the time.”

EMOTIONAL REASONING: You allow your negative emotions to color how you see the world with an “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” Example: A long-term meditator who had left the TM Org some 3 years earlier confided in me, “I still feel like I can tell when I’m “purifying.” When I feel rocky, the people around me are so negative!”

SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself or others with “should” and “shouldn’t,” as if needing to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct “should” statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment — as do they! Example: “I still follow the old ayurvedic diet [Indian alternative medical diet],” one woman told me. “I feel it’s something I should do for myself. Who can trust doctors? There all tied into the drug companies. They’re just in it for the money. When I slip up and eat junk food, I feel terrible, I mean more than usual. I think ayurveda made my physiology more refined. I really feel I must keep to the diet or I pay for it.”

LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a dumb jerk!” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded — and generally not factually descriptive. Example: Talking about nonmeditators, one former meditation teacher told me, “They’re all so gross! They’re so negative! Everyone is so stressed out.”

PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for. Example: A friend from my meditation teacher training course told me, “I just know that the trouble in the Middle East right now is because I haven’t been regular in my meditation program lately.”