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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Life at Apollo is one of great pressure and of equally great joy"

Fellowship of Friends cult headquarters Apollo, Oregon House, CA

[ed. - The quotation above came from the Fellowship For Intentional Community website. The following description was furnished by The Fellowship of Friends. As of October 2012, the Fellowship of Friends listing has been removed from the FIC site. This action appears to have resulted from ex-members alerting the FIC to the Fellowship's controversial history.]
The Fellowship of Friends was founded in 1970 as an esoteric school dedicated to the practice of living in the present. Our single-minded focus is on creating a connection with the Higher Self, known by many other names, such as the third eye, the witness, and the soul. Our practice to achieve this aim is in the form of active meditation, or inner yoga, used in every moment of our life.

Initially based on the Fourth Way tradition, we now incorporate the great teachings of Buddhism, Sufism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, as well as the Egyptian and Mesoamerican traditions.

The spiritual center of the Fellowship, Apollo, is located on 1200 acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California. For forty years members have worked the land, slowly transforming it into a place of orchards and vineyards, fountains and gardens. It is an international community of more than six hundred members and includes a restaurant, an outdoor theater, a fine press, a concert hall, an award-winning winery, and an art gallery.

All members of the Fellowship are invited to live at Apollo, or to visit as often as possible, and join in the daily activities. We share in the work of landscaping, cooking, office work, construction, flower-arranging, and seemingly unending dish-washing. We have an orchestra, choir, and theater group, and gather daily for meetings, study groups, dinners, concerts, and readings.

Yet, inspiring as they are, these outward forms are not our true aim or achievement. At Apollo the visible exists primarily for the invisible—everything has been created to support the inner discipline of being present. This is the reason for all our buildings and events and interactions, and life at Apollo is one of great pressure and of equally great joy.

Living at Apollo is a personal and ever-changing experience. It can be a place of intense effort and inner work, and an opportunity to share that work with others. The company of our friends, the lovingly tended environment, and the example of the teacher are constant reminders of our aim to escape imagination and enter the living present—the only place where human beings can truly be together.

[ed. - Another perspective on life within the Oregon House cult, comes not from the Marketing Department, but from Elena Haven, former wife of Fellowship leader Girard Haven:]

"Fellowship of Friends" [self-identified as Elena Haven] wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 23, 2007:
Dear Friend suffering sucotash,

Thank you for the compliments. They do feel better than the insults.

Your question is pretty straight forward. You agree with this paragraph:
“After all the blog is a kind of mass media and the described things are not that obvious in the school itself. Be sure many students pay more attention to what is going on, but to base a departure on mostly anonymous articles would be a mistake.”
“Things are not that obvious in the school itself”
That is one of the issues that needs to be looked at deeply. Why is there no transparency in a conscious school. Why is it made to look so pretty on the surface and it is so corrupt beneath?

How could it not look good when what students are allowed to do is repeat beautiful angles from great teachers, dress well making them have a good feeling about themselves and make tremendous efforts to support it? What needs to be understood is whether people are making efforts to develop or shun their spirituality. To support Robert Burton’s life-style or to support their own development within a conscious community.

If you listen to Howard Carter:
““Life”, to me meaning the main stream of humanity, the majority of which have no interest in spiritual matters. Even those who profess to be religious only put on the cloak of religion for a few hours a week, if that much, and the rest of the time are oblivious to the needs of the spirit.”
One would have to ask him what he finds spiritual about the life at Isis. Do students really think they are developing their spirituality by going to a job, making money and in their free time go to concerts, ballets and meetings? By judging the people in life they work with as dead, or sleep and not caring for the students in the Fellowship who leave or are thrown out without their even noticing? Isis is an ongoing show. Life people who go to church for an hour a week and work, rest and go to the park with their family then drink themselves out in a bar, are much more honest and have a great deal more integrity than students at Isis. Integrity in the sense that they have not had to separate themselves in different personalities to live their life. One of the problems at Isis is that people actually have to leave half of their life outside to be able to go inside and play the programmed behavior. It is not far from the truth to say that at the gate, each student puts on the student mask, drives in, collects a few things from the car and leaves, tucked beneath the sit of the car, his/her suffering, difficulties, contradictions, so that the good student act can be done with some credibility.

How can Isis not work when it is there that each student makes his/her greatest effort to bring the best part of him/herself to the rest? Do we not buy the best clothes when we are going to visit? Or if we live at Isis, is that not one of the most consistent aspects of our efforts? Does every one who work at Isis not try to do it with the best of his ability, with his utmost presence to get the job done well? But no matter how much we all try, only a few get the opportunity to actualize their need to give and participate and of those few, many, too many, get discarded after they’re talents have been used.

A human being needs to give as much as s/he needs to receive but in the Fellowship of Friends, a good part of the indoctrination tends to install the programming that we are to give, make huge effort and expect not to receive anything back. They dress this aspect of the way of the monk into our lives so that they can get away with not having to give anything in return, it is a one way street with a dead end. The first part is what works and what makes us believe that the school is working because we make the effort, it is the second part that does not work and in the long run, becomes harmful because it slowly installs in the individual the feeling that no matter how much effort s/he makes, it is not good enough. Self deprecation and depression follow and in some cases people are sound enough to leave, others, having no where to go, (because if having invested everything they had to invest, wasn’t good enough), commit suicide or go to the looney bin, and still many others, stay in the Fellowship filled with buffers and anti depressants. I was probably one of the most antisocial students in the Fellowship and hardly knew anybody. I did not know of many stories but it is clear to me that there is a whole subculture of antidepressants and alcoholism. When we got together with Girard he was taking antidepressants every day. The theory was that it was a physical thing. That after the stroke he needed them because his body was demanding them. Having been there I knew that that was a buffer and one of my conditions for continuing the relationship was: no antidepressants and no viagra. We did increasingly well without them.

One of the most striking things about students like Girard and others who I spoke with, who are in the inner circle and believe in Robert Burton’s consciousness, is something I only realized in the last few days before leaving, and it is that they sincerely believe that they are not good enough because they did not become conscious. That they deserve to be discarded, replaced, because they didn’t “make it.” They “disappointed” the teacher. They are frustrated with themselves like so many other students at Isis.

Indoctrinations such as the idea that one is not in one’s ninth lifetime does a great job in “keeping” people who then settle for being a third class citizen because they are in their “seventh” lifetime. Is this not madness? Brainwashing and absolutely sick? There are a hundred indoctrinations like this one that develop attitudes within students that make them self deprecate themselves enough to think it is legitimate of the Fellowship of Friends to treat them like third class citizens. I’ve seen more people lower themselves before Girard than I can bear. In a meeting at Sea Ranch I started crying after hearing one such angle and saying that we did not have to lower ourselves all the time saying that we were not good enough because we couldn’t hold presence consistently. Sea Ranch and symposiums with Girard were closed after that. (Any connection?) It is blatant self deprecation what is consistently going on at Isis and it works very efficiently for those who want to hear nothing from the people that are suffering, except the sound of their pay check falling in their pockets, directly or indirectly.

It is this consistent self deprecation that I find seriously damaging in the Fellowship of Friends. If I simply look at those who have given their lives to developing Isis, it is scary. Some are minding their own little business, others are minding other people’s business and still others are minding their own business and working the best they can. Between the three of them they juggle the rest of the student’s lives, indoctrinating them, making the school look legitimate or not caring at all for them. The sad thing is that those who are working most sincerely don’t realize that in the end it is they who are helping the very corrupt to abuse the rest, convinced by their own vanity that they are the chosen ones and too bad for the poor devils that didn’t get to be chosen by the establishment to participate. One of the difficulties is that as long as we are unable to look at the community or the whole of the phenomenon and limit ourselves to individuals, then it is easy to justify that this or that individual wasn’t strong enough, good enough, too ambitious, too much pretense, too many expectations, too lunar, too martial, too solar…… On and on, we can find a thousand excuses for individual failures. Then we don’t have to look at the fact that it is not the individuals who failed, they gave everything they had, each one of them, it is Robert and his personal and assisting entourages that used them and discarded them so that they themselves could keep the grip on the miserable bit of power that Robert allows them to have against other students.

Some students, those who made a living outside of the Fellowship and are willing to send in a pay cheque without looking at what is done with it, who don’t care about what else goes on as long as they themselves can hold the imaginary picture that they are developing their own very personal spirituality at no matter whose cost, what is the difference between those and the life person that goes to church once a week when s/he closes his/her eyes to the living tragedy of the students who committed more deeply or the abuse of those who didn’t have time to commit to a spirituality before they got bogged down into a role of prostitutes?
Many students think that the Fellowship of Friends has helped them a great deal because they became good householders and were able to make a decent living for themselves, their family and the Fellowship. For many it meant moving from a hippie life-style with a great deal of tramp to a hard working executive with some appreciation for art. Do these students think it is not spiritual tramp to allow for young men to be used by Robert? And are they really willing to burn their hand to vow that this “modelling act” that we call the Fellowship of Friends, in which we are expected to listen to Robert , Girard and Asaf for the rest of our lives, THE REST OF OUR LIVES, allowing them to make all the decisions in our community, is a conscious school? Or is this just the acceptance of a middle class mentality that conformed itself with a middle class spirituality?

You say:
But you have to back off on carrying out the Saint Elena Rescuer of Students stuff – this country has a first amendment, and I personally think that’s a really good thing. It means that a student can stay in the Fellowship of Friends for as long as it lasts without interference from Righteous Persons.
The Fellowship of Friends and all its leaders have interfered with my life and had me working for them for seventeen years. They have lied and kept things hidden from me that if I had known I would have left or never joined. They have used my good will to support horrible things and I have seen the extreme to which Robert and my husband Girard are damaged, physically, emotionally and mentally damaged people who divided into two personalities: A conscious role and a sick man behind the role. Don’t ask me to not turn the light on the darkness of these happenings. If you don’t find it tragic enough you’re as sick as they are. What amendment is going to heal my husband and the rest of this sick people? Keep looking at the show and paying for it if you wish, but know it is my husband’s spiritual life that is at stake and your own.

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