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 5, 2011

"my2bits"'s story of survival

"my2bits" wote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 8, 2007 at 2:57 a.m.:
Having lived in the O.H. [Oregon House] area for the last nine years or so, I supposed I can say a few things on the subject of the FoF’s relationship to those in the surrounding communities. I’ve tried doing business in the area (unsuccessfully), and have had numerous contact with locals.
The prevailing attitude is “live and let live.” You leave us alone and we’ll do the same for you. Many think that Robert is a sex offender or child molester. They see rich people taking advantage of cheap foreign labor. They grumble about the FoF’s habit of snubbing local laws, as when surreptitiously constructing the Theatron.
But as long as ‘FoF people’ and ‘Bob’ don’t directly encroach upon their turf, or threaten their families or children, there’s not much to be done, especially given the fact that the FoF has helped over the years to drive up property prices in the area, and to drive out pockets of drug-fueled poverty.
The more liberal-minded (and there are a few of them!) appreciate indirect benefits to the community, such as the Lewis Carroll School, which opens its doors to all.
A few students have found it very rewarding to open up to the communities that surround Isis, and have discovered interesting and rewarding contacts and friendships. Yes, Dorothy, there IS a world out there!
From the perspective of a hypothetical, local, non-FoF property owner, I might just enjoy envisioning the day when the FoF just quietly disappears, leaving its alchemical imprint more or less intact, with some nice and friendly people in the area, with property prices intact, with a nice selection of organic products at the Oregon House store, and with less speeding up and down the country roads.
I personally do not think it a right triad to inflame the locals against the Fellowship as a way to hasten its demise. Really bad karma, IMHO. I’m for a quiet implosion — gone with a whisper, not a bang. Then, just the sound of crickets, and maybe a few rabbits running around with a coyote or two in chase.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 8, 2007 at 6:40 a.m.:
To Joseph, your post #248:
“I think anyone needs to do whatever it is that brings them closure or absolves their conscience. When people act from conscience, the karmic repercussions are not likely to be negative even if the superficial results backfire.”
Dear Joseph,

I have admired and appreciated your posts on this blog, and send you my thanks. However, I think you are treading on thin ice with this statement of yours. Basically, you are saying that revenge is karma-free. I don’t think so. It is the act itself, and the motive behind it, that affect karma — not the result. Conscience is a tricky matter…

Still, I do appreciate your position. The idea of pickets at the gatehouse or the O.H. store fascinates me, but I basically think it’s just pissing into the wind.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 8, 2007 at 7:01 a.m.:

Hello again, Joseph.

As to property values, everyone in the area knows that there are dozens and dozens of homes for sale and no buyers. Still, folks in the area have hopes that this situation will turn around, in a year or two. It’s not just a local phenomenon, it’s regional and national. Everyone is afraid. But it is these ‘imagined’ values that provide a “cushion of imagination” for people’s instinctive centers, and it works to keep things ‘civil.’ If this cushion disappears, there will be disruption, of course.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 16, 2007 at 5:03 a.m.:

To Laughing Love, post #723.

Thank you for this massive post, LL.

I recently advocated letting Vinnie and Fat Boy hang out to dry for a while. Felt like they were wasting the energy of more sincere bloggers. But your post gave me a deeper view of the matter, and a photograph of my own Fellowship-programmed need to direct or control the discussion based on my own supposedly enlightened point of view. After being an ex-student for over a month now, I find myself wandering occasionally outside the mind-space where it seems essential to exert this kind of control to protect my own notion of reality. I’m starting to welcome the out-of-control energy of the blog… Gasp! Welcome, Chaos!

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 17, 2007 at 12:36 a.m.:

Re: Fatboy, post #730
“… But the real problem is that, which you don’t admit for reasons I don’t know, that there are alot of insincere, sarcastic and insultive posts to my posts…”
Hello, Fatboy.

When I started posting on the blog some months ago, I sometimes had similar feelings. It seemed that some folks were pelting me with overripe tomatoes for no good reason.

After a while, though, it became clear that opening myself to this online forum offered a kind of ‘tough love’ therapy that I needed very much at the time in order to work through my transition out of the Fellowship and into a ‘new life.’

After 29 years, my language and thinking was/is conditioned by “cult” programming, courtesy of Robert B. and the FoF. Now, I was freely venturing out into a cyber-room packed with ex-student B.S.-detectors. What did I expect?

I eventually saw that the only thing really being challenged by my fellow bloggers was the imaginary picture I was presenting. It also became clear that their observations were not always coming from a negative, malicious, or sarcastic place — even if they felt or sounded like it at times — but from a place of experience and caring.

Consider the blog a free, online de-programming service for current and former cult members! What a deal!

If you want to look deeper into some of the issues you address in your posts, Fatboy, from another perspective, you might benefit from reading the following book:

“Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships,” by Janja Lalich. You can find it on Amazon. The author’s approach is quite balanced, IMO. There are many kinds of cults out there, of which the Fellowship is one, and there are many reasons why sincere, intelligent, creative, and adaptable people join them.

Good luck on your path, FB.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 17, 2007 at 6:53 p.m.:

To Old FOF, re: your post #776.

I really cannot say whether Vinnie the Fish and Fat Boy are real people or virtual constructs. Perhaps it does not matter that much, as the many positive responses to their postings far outweigh any potentially negative impact they might have on the blog.

If Vinnie and FB are shills attempting to minimize the blog, I think they are effectively ‘shooting themselves in the foot,’ both personally and institutionally.
Other than the one meeting I attended where students expressed concern about the blog, and brainstormed about possible countermeasures, I have no knowledge about any steps taken by FoF management in this direction.

From what I can tell, the blog is being effectively avoided and/or buffered by a small core of loyal students. Recently, I had dinner with a student of almost 30 years who had no idea of the blog’s existence. My friend P. L—-s, who recently left the group, has never read the blog.

For all I know, FoF management (i.e. RB) may have decided to just let the blog run its natural course, for better or for worse. There still is the “inner circle” attitude that when this current period of turmoil and attrition has ended, the school will continue, and will be the better for having survived it. The “chosen ones” shall march on toward the Celestial City.

"my2bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 18, 2007 at 6:31 a.m.:
To Fat Boy, post #802:

Perhaps I do confuse you and Vinnie. After several hundred posts, it all becomes a blur.

Most, if not all, of my posts are reactions to points being made that resonate in some way with my own recent experiences. It is true that “cult” is just a label.
RB used to say that “cult” is the root word of “culture.” On the other hand, he became very irritated with me when I wrote him a letter one time offering my humble opinion that the Fellowship was “too much like a cult.”

It was an important personal milestone when I was able to test, and then successfully apply this label to the organization of which I was a member for almost 30 years.

At that point, I did some serious research, and learned quite a lot in the process — about myself, about cults, and about the very human desire for direction, guidance and certainty.

In the process, I was able to understand more clearly who and what Robert Burton is, and is not, who I am and why I attracted this experience. It was at that point that I was squarely faced with the decision to remain or to leave.

So, it’s not about the label, Fat Boy, it’s about what’s really inside the package…
You are a slow learner, but I do nevertheless wish you well.

"My2Bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 5, 2011:
As a contribution to the ongoing discussion of AG’s tragic suicide, its possible causes and import, I would like to share some of my own experiences. AG was who he was, and did what he did, and I do not see any point in disparaging the dead. As a student, I admired his dedication.

A few years ago, I left the Fellowship quietly and with a determination to not look back. I then entered a period of despair with strong suicidal undertones. Although I never for a moment regretted my decision to leave after 30 years of membership, I felt that I had lost everything. In material terms, this was quite so.

I had always been adept at “rising from the ashes” and moving on. But this time, at my age and in my dire circumstances, my chances of accomplishing this feat once again were not good. I made a number of last-ditch efforts to support myself, but found no safety net. The thought of suicide arose as a reasonable way to tidy up the mess my life had become. I sold all my belongings and began to put my affairs, or what were left of them, in order.

With what funds remained on a credit card, I spent two days at Lake Tahoe, walking and reflecting, writing good-bye letters to my remaining family, enjoying fine food and wine, and even smoking a good cigar. I then purchased some red roses for myself and drove to the place I had chosen to end my life.

I spent many hours sitting by a beautiful lake with a .45 pistol aimed at my heart. I listened on my iPod to a few of my favorite classical music pieces. I took 10 strong pain-killers, washing them down with a nice brandy. The sun traversed the sky and set; the stars were coming out. It was time. I squeezed the trigger to its first safety position, but could not pull it further. The simple thought arose — There is Love. And yes, I hate making a mess. I wondered who might hear the shot or who would discover my body. I wanted someone to find me, to rescue me. I got up, reeled a bit, packed up my things, and drove back into town where I stayed the night in a motel. The next day, my recovery began.

I won’t try to describe what my life is like now, what motivates or sustains me, or what I see my spiritual path to be. It doesn’t matter to you – it’s my dream. What I do want to tell you, dear reader, if you need to hear it, is that there is, indeed, a way out of the “small pond” called the Fellowship of Friends and into a larger and more real world. You don’t need to be as dramatic about it as I was.

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