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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance in the Fellowship of Friends

"qwertyuiop" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, March 31, 2011:
Cognitive dissonance explains a lot.

The Fellowship of Friends isn’t “all bad”. What we learned with the so-called fourth way was not “all bad.” Our experiences with Robert Burton were not “all bad.” Just as many abusive relationships are not “all bad.” Something was learned, maybe similar to the way a prisoner can learn something in the state pen, or a beaten wife or abused husband can learn something and move on. They learn, for one, that hugs and affection were not the problem in the abusive relationship — and they finally see that they can hug again, and be affectionate again in a new and loving, healthy relationship. They no longer associate the positive, beautiful aspects of marriage to the abuse and pain of the old.

There’s something relevant in the way Burton keeps trying out different names for his cult. He knows that certain words resonate with people and will draw them in. Whether they studied the fourth way or not, a lot of people sense that “being present” and “being here now” are ideas that have power in them (“the power of now”). The idea of paying attention to your life and not going through the motions — it makes sense. We somehow know it to be true.

Where, however, did we start believing that this was unattainable out “here”? Was it simply the fear of hell? Was it that we just wouldn’t have anyone to tell us that we were ok?

(Forgetting somehow that we have that capacity — to know we are “ok” — within ourselves?)

Classical music, art, the study of history, literature, philosophy, pondering the meaning of life, making olive oil, building amphitheaters and chateaus and wineries… What can be wrong in that?

Nothing at all… until you add everything else that comes with it, and until one lives one’s life “being present” only to what is comfortable to be present to, getting by on the cognitive dissonance… and ironically, casually talking about the idea of “buffering” on an almost daily basis without a clue how we ourselves are swimming in it.

"qwertyuiop" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 2, 2011:
[Quoting Panorea:]
“He has worked and still works with people who had been in a cult but the Fellowship seems to be quite refined in its methods of deceit. Robert is a charismatic charlatan and there are many people who cannot protect their boundaries and are after an authority to tell them what to do.”
No, there’s no magic in it, and at all, and seeing that may be the first step in snapping out of the trance.

There’s no refinement, and there’s no charisma — at least there’s no charisma that has a wide appeal. Note how Burton always would explain away the lack of a wide appeal by saying it’s because his “teaching” doesn’t flatter people, and that “life” is asleep, so of course they don’t follow him, and so forth.

There’s nothing special about it at all, nothing magical, nothing “alluring”. If we feel that way about it, we’re still trying to shake ourselves loose from that trance.

His approach just resonated with us, that’s all. Most people would listen to Burton and/or read his comments, and simply roll their eyes or laugh, or they would immediately see the deception and bullshit in it. Unlike us, they could see it from a mile away. So they didn’t join. THEY JUST KNEW AND UNDERSTOOD THAT IT WAS A CULT.
Part of the key to his deception is that he believes some of what he tells people. Or he is able to shift his thoughts into believing it. This is a sales technique. First, you find an inner attitude where you believe in the product, and then SELLING the product is a whole lot easier — even if it’s an absurdly useless, worthless, and dangerous product.

"qwertyuiop" continued:

No, there’s no magic in it at all, and seeing that may be the first step in snapping out of the trance.

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