Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On surviving in Oregon House, the "Heart of the Fellowship of Friends"

Asaf Braverman and Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leaders in Egypt
Asaf Braverman with Robert Burton in Egypt. Source: FOF History Project

"Joseph G" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 3, 2007:
There are about 15,000 former members worldwide, and current membership is estimated at 1600. The influence of this church is documented to have had damaging results on the lives of many members, leaving them in a state of poor physical or mental health, financial ruin and moral confusion.

Over the last 37 years, the property belonging to the Fellowship of Friends, including the vineyard and commercial winery producing Renaissance wines, has in part been developed and maintained by the labor of members who are in this country with religious visas. This fact has been intentionally hidden from authorities. Workers are required to donate back to the church the largest portion of their salary, leaving an average monthly living wage of about $460.00.

"Traveler" responded on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 3, 2007:
As far as I know, as of 2007 the grunts are paid exactly $405 per month* . When you start work for the FoF you are paid legal minimum wage for CA but you also have to sign a statement authorizing the FoF to automatically take your “charitable contributions” out of your wages, leaving you with the above meager salary. People working in offices or at the LC school [Lewis Carroll School] are paid around $1000 per month, and “higher-ups” are given “real salaries” – no guesses as to how much that might be. I have heard that maintaining the workforce costs the Fellowship $120,000 per month.

[*ed. - That's about $2.34/hour, assuming a 40-hour work-week, 52 weeks a year. But, historically, members employed at the Oregon House headquarters worked considerably more than 40 hours per week, sometimes 6 and 7 days per week, with additional hours expected to be "volunteered" in service to the community. In the early years, meals (and sometimes, accommodations) were included in the arrangement. Contrast this with Burton's nominal $250,000 annual salary, with virtually all expenses paid.]

"Truth Be Told" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
'The claim on the previous page that FOF workers were allowed to go hungry is among the more serious charges against the Fellowship of Friends/Living Presence/Power of Now/Pathway to Presence/Whatever, based in Mount Carmel/Via del Sol/Renaissance/Apollo/Isis/Apollo.
Some background: Until the late 1990s, everyone was fed at a common trough. Free food was one of the benefits of being “on salary.”
Management decided, during a round of budget cuts, that this was encouraging “tramp.” People should take responsibility for themselves.
A fancy restaurant, Apollo d’Oro, was created, and members were expected to pay for their meals.
Someone told me, about 2003 or 2005 I think, that some students were actually going hungry in the wake of this plan.
I took the matter to El1zabeth Blak3, a psychologist who was then a member of the “Fellowship Council.” As I recall, I suggested the extra food at the Galleria could be distributed, or at least something to do with the food being wasted.
She asked me to name names. Of course I didn’t have any. This had been described to me as a general reality, not the complaint of an isolated person or two. It seemed believable enough.
She floored me when said anyone who was hungry should come forward. In other words, the beggars would have to identify themselves to get help.
“Please, sir, may I have some more?”
I guess the Council was the “spiritual wing” of the FOF. They didn’t do compassion.
They were too busy tracking down Adyashanti followers and discussing the candidates for center directors. (Pardon the snark.)
“For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink … Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.” Matt. 25: 42, 45.

"Wondering Who’s Watching" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
4. Truth Be Told [Blog post number and blogger] – August 31, 2011:
‘Some background: Until the late 1990s, everyone was fed at a common trough. Free food was one of the benefits of being “on salary.”’
Not quite the truth as I saw it. Until the mid 1990′s, the main dining facility for the Fellowship of Friends (FoF),, Living Presence, Power of Now, Pathway to Presence, Church of Robert Earl Burton (REB), based in Oregon House, California and also called: The Farm, Via del Sol, Mount Carmel, Renaissance (Renaissance Vineyard and Winery), Apollo, Isis, then Apollo again, and possibly other names, was the Lincoln Lodge. Yes, the people who were ‘on salary’ dined collectively at this place – others paid. But ‘common trough’ for all would be pushing it. REB and his chosen were always treated in a special manner. Segregated dining room, Meissen Room or Mozart Deck for a time, for example, was where REB and mostly the ‘high rollers’ (people of significant importance and, especially, money) would be served significantly different food and treated in a different manner. Other significant players in the FoF hierarchy were also given special treatment. The common folk did dine in-common and uncommonly well as ‘intentional dining’ was an FoF ‘exercise’ and a hallmark of its civilized feeding. But, this came to a sudden screeching halt when Yuba County declared the Lincoln Lodge facility to be in violation of several building and/or health codes. It appeared that REB squandered much of FoF capital on the acquisition of Classical Chinese Furniture and pretty much ignored infrastructure and longterm maintenance – mostly interested in putting on a good show. Then there was the $5 million out-of-court settlement of the TB underage sex lawsuit REB incurred. By then, REB dined at his residence, at the restaurant on FoF property that was open to the public, or at the FoF member owned restaurant in the neighborhood, when he was in Oregon House. The employed people that were dependent on the Lincoln Lodge had no place to eat. This was prelude to the 1998 prediction of California falling into the Pacific Ocean disaster. After a considerable period of time, a food distribution method was developed where the raw ingredients were supplied to people to prepare meals at their homes and organize common dinners there. Much of this was accomplished by trading Renaissance Vineyard and Winery wine to the suppliers. A lot of the food was really great but consistency and balanced diet was a bit difficult to achieve by this method. Meanwhile, REB was living off the FoF property in the ‘Ming Museum’ while his residence on the FoF property was trying to get special county tax treatment as being ‘officially’ a museum. Special dining happened at the Ming, too. Also, some fairly wild parties. REB was not ‘actively’ or ‘formally’ teaching during this period. (He returned to teaching again mostly due to GH having a stroke.) Eventully, REB started having Friday night receptions, that typically fed 300 people buffet style, as the designated fundraiser for the tens of thousands of dollars that were needed to return the Lincoln Lodge back to operation via renovation. It then became Apollo d’Oro where mostly everyone had to pay for their meals. (REB, and company, did not have to pay.) The last thing I knew was, if you wanted to survive ‘on salary,’ you had to have one, or more, side jobs that became as important, if not more important, than your main job. Or, you became adept at wheeling and dealing in vouchers on the grey market. Or, other creative financing – like creating your own winery. Other possibilities were to have your significant other be employed with a job in the real world. Then, there was the issue of providing yourself with adaquate health services – MediCal (impoverished persons public health benefit) was the main strategy. Oregon House Clinic came into existence to cover basic needs, somehow. All of this fueled very interesting money management matters – not all of which were legitimate.

‘Fellowship Council,’ as is the board of directors, are mere tools and puppets to accomplish what REB wants.
Galleria uneaten food was typically thrown out, composted (if possible), or salvaged by the workers behind the scenes, so that they could take it home as a side benefit of their ‘third line of work.’ Most was not suitable to take home, though – do you want to eat someone else’s partly eaten food?. Living off the crumbs from REB’s table was tricky business.
The inability of persons to survive was a sure means to cycle these indentured servants back to their countries of origin by the time their visas ran out. Those that were well-to-do or got by, by hook or by crook, lived to go on at the ‘heart of the school.’ Pimping for REB, for example, was a way to make yourself useful. Kissing ass, and other parts of anatomy, works, too. Clearing the endlessly overgrown landscape for private parties would be another. (Do not confuse that with ‘bush whacking.’) How about a buttons or ribbons business? Petrarch (Pyramid) Press anyone? How about growing, nurturing, harvesting and selling crops from the FoF property for personal profit? Clandestine Jubaea chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm) sales could be lucrative. Want some palm jelly?

Wondering Who’s Watching

"silentpurr" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 11, 2009:
While living at Renaissance years ago, at the lower house, before the air stream era, RB asked me to take my small daughter to Marysville/Yuba City and apply for foodstamps and benefits. A humiliating experience. He said that it would be good for my ‘vanity’ feature………I think that others were asked to do the same.
When other students began joining with children, we founded the ‘children’s house’. Parents kept their Fellowship work schedules while taking turns minding the children. I was never paid a penny for my work for RB, But was expected to use the gov. money and food stamps to maintain my daughter’s needs.

"I know" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 11, 2009:
282. silentpurr [blogger above]
I once had a similar experience with food-stamps only for real. I left because I exhausted all my financial resources to the last dime while being in the FOF. No one has ever asked me for money because I never had any and during 85% of the time I have been on salary. During these years I fell into the trap of NOT ‘going back to life’. I thought it would be the worst choice I could make. Only the worst choice of course was staying in OH and becoming extremely poor. I still have this anger inside because I allowed myself to arrive to such poverty. Part of it is definitely due the atmosphere in OH, but there were others who took care of themselves very well. So it’s the FOF, but also my belief that I could live there simple life with no money. I know I am not a typical participant of this blog. I do not hate the FOF or RB. I do think that there is a great deal of naivety amongst many students, especially those who are completely broke. I still have good friends there, with whom I keep contacts.

"vera.mente" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 10, 2007:
113 Arthur

Dear Arthur,

Yes it would be wonderful to be repaid back from the time and efforts lost to RB.
But I doubt there is a way to make this possible.

Indsight is always 20/20, if I could change something of the past I would have put a big stink about moving to Renaissance because my spouse was needed.

I would have said NO!instead I obeyed and got sick for a change.

Then when I got sick I had no medical insurance and a minimum wage of maybe 700 dollars a month for a family of 3.

Poverty settled in even deeper: visits to the Health and Welfare Department, in Yuba City or Marysville (I forgot)…

I had a brief vacation from making teaching payments, later the “sweet” F…ces Th…son harrassing me and with cultish stupidity I made a few payments with credit cards, in the meantime there was no money to pay the rent. This is what happens to the people who were sucked in on salary without previous assets.

Bad choices, you pay for almost a lifetime.

Yes, I want RB to go, his students to go and get a piece of property on slope 19, 5 or more acres for all the physical and moral damages sustained. What do you think?

(I know these words will create an fof stink!)

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