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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The "Voucher System" and Robert Burton's underground economy

Robert Earl Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult leader, with his Russian members at the Theatron in Oregon House, CA
Robert Earl Burton with Russian members of the Fellowship of Friends at the first "Journey Forth by Day"
celebration, 2005." Image from the Fellowship of Friends Wiki

Armando's Story on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion
People on the blog frequently say the FOF was twisted and damaged, even from the beginning. For those close to RB [Robert Burton] the insanity goes way back, for sure. Hence, the accounts of Thomas E., Whale Rider, and others. The rest of us wonder why we didn’t know the gory details back then.

For many, however, participation in the FOF took place in outlying centers. Exposure to Robert was likely to have been limited to a dinner once or maybe twice a year – even less for those abroad. At Isis/Apollo, you would see him wandering around the garden or the Town Hall, opining with his intimates, but for the average student there was little personal contact. The hideous lavender jacket, etc., were outrĂ©, and the angles off-the-wall, but hey! That’s what it takes to “awaken,” right? You could keep the craziness at bay, back then.

That changed abruptly in 2000. Some say it was the sudden loss of his then-righthand man. GH’s [ed. - Girard Haven, Robert's assumed successor] stroke suddenly eliminated the backup plan and the champion most able to weave some sort of coherence out of RB’s tangled and ad hoc ideas. (He never fully recovered, and remains disabled.) Others note more darkly that insurance companies finally put the kibosh on RB’s hand in the till, demanding in return for coverage that he not have any avenues to the cash box.

I suspect it was the confluence of both events at the same time.

In any case, Burton suddenly needed to do his own self-promotion for pin-money. That’s when the bizarreness truly began for everyone. That’s when RB became unavoidable and in-your-face. That’s when the pressure to attend dinners became relentless.

That’s when FOF members began selling tickets so that you could stand and watch other people eat. Or rather, that’s the time when nobody ate, since Burton became fidgety about the dining habits of others. People might, for example, be chewing while he was emitting a pearl of wisdom. Plates of food were served and whisked away, untouched. You were advised to eat before attending.

After an unpleasant session abroad where a Russian woman asked him why he was siphoning off all the young men (another “play of crime,” I suppose), he instituted a policy of no questions at dinner. No conversation. No chewing. This is the era that launched the conversational ball game between RB and Asaf [Asaf Braverman](who for all the life of him presented like a polished television emcee, standing to the side of the table with a fancy clipboard), with the unintended punchline from Robert: “As I was saying yesterday … what was I saying yesterday, Asaf?”

That’s when RB began “teaching” again. More sales, crowded rooms full of supernumeraries, a “voucher” system for those who could only pay with manual labor on their “days off.” No questions there, either. Heavily pruned “angles” from famous men were read by privileged students, selected by RB’s intimates. (It helped if you were sleeping with one of the men, ladies.)

Then the trips to Egypt where you could hear yet more angles of thought, if you hadn’t had your fill.

While you were quietly dining at the Apollo d’Oro/Lodge with friends, you might be approached three times by a different smiling woman, urging you to buy a ticket to a reception, a lunch, a dinner, a snack. When you got home, you might have a voicemail or two for another sales person, offering you the “opportunity” for refereed time with Robert.

Eventually, cameramen were needed for this show. Videos could be sold for more revenue. Somewhere in my basement, I still have a few of these novelties. The big noise was that the FOF was finally going high-tech – but of course, there is nothing particularly high-tech about home movies. That had been going on for decades. But how would they know out there in the boonies?

Oh, and if you had to work a second job on weekends to make up for your salaried position, for a small fee ($5) you could watch one of these videos on weekday lunches, sitting upstairs at the Lodge/Apollo d’Oro. Silently sitting at a table with your friends, munching your quiche, you could watch closeups of RB babbling on a huge – and I mean huge – screen.

At least you were allowed to chew. That alone made it a bargain.

"X-ray" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 14, 2011:
79 Armando [responding to above post]

Yes, every word in his post is true. I was there at that time. I wonder if we were chewing together at the same table observing zombies going upstairs.

But let me add one more thing which some of you may not know.

Have you ever heard how ´´robert is unidentified with his instinctive center which shows in his full, almost untouched plates of food at his dinner?

Well, let me tell you a little dirty secret.

Before those dinners or sometimes after, he and his cocks are eating like a PIGS in TV room, smashing full plates of food with their hands. When you see that once, after seeing bob at his dinners where he all ´´intentional´´ you know, all illusions of the conscious bob are melts away leaving you with painful truth.

Posted by "Opus111" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Vouchers were instituted as a parallel currency, meant to muster more energy towards the needs of the leader. Once Burton shifted the core activity of the entire Fellowship towards organizing “events”, he needed and endless supply of participants as well as ancillary labor.

Such events comprised meetings, dining events (breakfast, lunch or dinners), teas and receptions. In some years, the total number of such events could exceed 400. They were usually hosted at the “Galleria” and would include anywhere from 15-20 (teas) to 25 -30 (lunches-dinners) to 60-70 (“special dinners) to >100 (meetings) participants. When hosted in private homes (obviously a special honor, a “blessing” of a kind), the premium price would go up (4 to 8k for the whole event, cash up front, up to you to find participants). The large majority was held in Oregon House, drawing on the local members and those in neighboring centers, both for participation and labor. Virtually all of them had standing participants, giving the added impression of the sold-out, standing-room only, not-to-be-missed event.

Vouchers allowed the leader to use penniless people for labor. Vouchers could then be used to attend an event (one to stand on one leg, two on two legs, 3 or 4 to sit, something like that), or traded on the black market for cash at a discount. Vouchers were earned by laboring a full day in various activities (landscaping, preparation/serving/cleaning up the mess of events, etc…). Corollary to this invention was the power endowed to those who had the privilege of signing/distributing the vouchers: a precious few indeed, Mihai and Dorian amongst them. What followed was the easy trade of sexcapades, when the cat was away, in his master bedroom no less, for a few vouchers and chosen sitting at events, when the fat cat would be back. A few amongst the wide-eyed and penniless damsels, went for the offer.

Posted by "Just the Facts Ma'am" on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
At one time (and, I do not know how it is now), for a few years, if you lived in Oregon House, there was no opportunities for a ‘teaching’ in return for your regular required teaching payment ‘donations.’ In order to make the ‘teaching’ only available from the events with REB (so that you had to pay, again, in some way to attend those), all other regular ‘teaching’ type meetings were stopped. Basically, it became a church without any circumstances to worship – in the classical or ordinary sense of a religious practice. This was REB’s strategy to transfer the cash flow engine to himself, solely, by providing the captive audience only one source of the ‘precious wisdom.’ This was the ultimate application of: ‘do not cast your pearls before swine’ maneuvers. (You could, however, earn access to the REB events by your labor in the way of voucher(s). Where vouchers represented the Fellowship of Friends alternative monetary system with REB being the sole redeemer for the vouchers. However, this ‘alternative monetary system’ lead to a significant grey market in which vouchers were used for many unauthorized purposes of commerce; like, as posted on this blog earlier, vouchers being used to pay for sex and other ‘favours.’ (When REB found sympathy and allegiance from the Romanian sociopathic inner circle, he put them to good use with some unpredictable results.)

"Magoo" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
Vouchers not only became an exchange but also a commodity. They were exchanged not only for sex but also for $$ in the local black market. First they were traded for $150, then for $100 and then for $75.

One could earn half a voucher for 4 hours of work in landscaping, or in galleria dinner preparation, washing dishes, cooking etc. A full voucher for prep, serving and cleaning package. People from all classes found ways to acquire vouchers with different services depends (sic) how close you were to RB.

With vouchers you can get access to dinners, meetings and events with RB. Cash was always preferred so when you had a table half full you will fill it with voucher holders, at meetings they [those with vouchers] will be standing rather then sitting.

A Page From Robert Burton's Creative Fundraising Manual

Ames Gilbert wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:
This reminds me of one of the many methods Burton takes to keep the followers who don’t live in Oregon House closely bound in his fantasy, that of sending “Guest Travelling Teachers” from headquarters to update the doctrines and reinforce the memes and refresh the themes. And apparently nowadays that includes fundraising.
From the Guide to Travelling Teachers (I’d guess this was about 2006):

Part 7: Center Packages and Isis Auctions


What some of the newer directors may not know is that the origin of the Center Packages is related to the Auctions at Isis. The Teacher instituted the auctions four times a year as means to beautify Isis. In exchange for emotional events with students, artwork, books, teaching materials and many other items, students could provide funds for the Teacher’s projects. Some projects include the Theatron, the Emerald Oasis, Abundance Garden, the beautiful roads, and many other smaller projects. The Teacher sets the target at each Auction to be $150,000. He asked that the students at Isis carry the burden of 93% and the centers around the world to carry 7%, or $10,000. It is the responsibility of the Teacher to set goals that seem too far to reach, if he is to help the school change its level of being.

In return, the centers would receive Teaching materials specifically selected with the aim of being current and relevant for the students around the world. The task was to spread the price of the center package around the world in a fair way. Based on many factors, including economic conditions, numbers of students and willingness to pay, the prices were established. As of May 1, 2006, new pricing for the Center Packages has been developed.

As GTT, you may help the center and the directors take advantage of the Center Packages by promoting the materials during your visit, and perhaps creating events around the materials for the centers.

“Drop by Drop fills the Ocean”

This thought from Buddha opens the way for the centers to use the Center Packages. Weekly events with the students in the center, where an additional $1 is collected and put aside, will easily provide the means for the centers to pay for the Center Packages. More importantly, it will provide time for students to be together and promote more presence. These events ideally will be showings of the materials from the center packages, other DVD’s from the Teacher, dinning (sic) events, and so on. The possibilities are endless and they increase when we are together. The Center Package are wonderful materials to be viewed more than once and together. The “Traveling with Robert” videos provide insight into the daily moments of a conscious being.

(Note the misspelling of ‘dining’ above; as spelt, one meaning is, “to instill into a person by constant repetition” . . . )

In my day, a typical scam went as follows. The centers were requested to scour antique shops looking for Meissen china. Usually these were found as individual pieces, and would be bought by the center with funds raised from followers in that center. From time to time, a collection of pieces would be shipped to Renaissance, as it was called then. There, complete sets would be assembled, and these sets would be shipped back to the various centers, who would be required to pay for them all over again at an inflated price. This method was also used with cameos when they were the fashion; cameos would be bought and sent to Renaissance, and then Burton would give them out to lucky ladies, who were expected to pay several times what they originally cost back to Burton. But that was just a preliminary warm–up to the scope and volume of present fundraising.

Whatever the method of creative fundraising, I would bet that an equally creative method of bookkeeping is involved. Probably many transfers of funds come under the heading of ‘gifts’ of one kind or another to avoid the scrutiny of the IRS. And I’d guess that most of the funds raised that Armando mentions probably go directly to Burton’s pocket to cover his enormous expenses and feed his gargantuan appetites. Clothing, feeding and shipping the cluster of individual sperm banks around the globe must be incredibly expensive.
(Also see "Nick Bishop's" comment on Egypt and Turkey travels, and Robert Burton's visits to European centres.)

Posted by "Money Talks" on the Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion blog:
Dear Friends

Here is this week’s schedule for Robert’s Dining Events.
To reserve your place you may call the Dining Events telephone number: xxx-8234.
All reservations will be confirmed.

Thank you,

Dining with Robert

Friday, March 23, 8:30 am Voucher Breakfast in the Galleria Salon

Seating: One full-day Voucher + $10.00 or Regular – $100 Special & Senior – $75
Standing: One half-day Voucher + $10.00 or Regular – $75 Special & Senior – $50

Note: Standing places are available. You may request to be placed on the Waiting List
for a seat for this and upcoming Voucher Breakfasts. Students will be contacted as spaces
become available.

Topic: The Steward: Intoning the Sequence in Imagination and Intoning the Sequence with Presence

In sleep:

Sumerian Texts, Debate between Bird and Fish: Your speech contains grave errors; you have not given it due consideration.

With Presence:

Hermes Trismegistus: Grasp the meaning of my words; for if you grasp it, that which seems to be hidden will be revealed to you.

Friday, March 23, 3:00 pm Auction Cherry Blossom Tea at the Orchard
For information and to make your reservation, please call xxx-8216

Topic: The Flower

Saturday, March 24, 8:30 am Auction Breakfast at a Student’s Home

Topic: Short Be and Long BE

Saturday, March 24, 7:00 pm Dinner in the Galleria Salon

Seating: Regular – $150 Special & Senior – $100
Standing: Regular – $100 Special & Senior – $50

Topic: Sacrifice

Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Utterance 664: Offer a sacrifice with thy hand

- For Breakfasts: Please sign up by 6:00 pm the day prior to the breakfast

- For dinners: Please sign up by 4:00 pm the day of the dinner

- A 20% discount may be used within one month of a Birthday or School anniversary.

- Couples may also use each others Birthday and School Anniversary discount.

This is for seats only.

- Special Price: students on payroll. Senior Price: students 65 years and older.

- Standing: If reserving standing, please let us know if you will need a stool.

"Susan Zannos" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 26, 2007:
I was living in Cairo during several of the trips that students took with Robert and thus involved in sundry preparations. I am as sure as I am of anything, (although could not of course provide any proof since such arrangements in other countries are impossible to document) that Robert receives enormous kickbacks from his travel agent, the hotels booked for students, the cruise ships on the Nile, the tour buses, etc. Because I lived there I know what things cost for residents, what they cost for ordinary tourists, and what the cost was for Fellowship students. The difference was almost unbelievable.

"Just the Facts Ma'am" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 23, 2008:
176. Vena – July 23, 2008

Joe Average:

Oh, by the way, you left out the sex for vouchers scheme that was dreamed up and operated in the Galleria by Mihai and Dorian when Robert was away.

177. Vena – July 23, 2008

When Asaf found out that his girlfriend was participating in the sex for vouchers orgies he blew the whistle on all of them.

- – - – - -


You left out the part about how the male perpetrators (power mongers) of this Galleria Orgies Octave were velvet glove treated as reprimand while the female victims were given leaves-of-absence from the church and made to flee their residences in Oregon House.

Just so people know what this was about: The male sex partners to the leader of the Fellowship of Friends (FoF) began to use some of the same tactics they learned from the leader’s behavior to enlist female sex partners to have orgies in the leader’s bedroom at the Galleria, home to the leader and central religious practice property in FoF, while the leader was traveling. This is how: FoF developed a means of exchange to induce volunteers to perform all manner of activities necessary to the leader’s desires. This was a voucher system which was the equivalent of a private currency system. So, volunteers were not really volunteers, they were paid with vouchers. (They were supposed to be religious workers.) These vouchers were redeemable only by using them to pay for access to the religious practices of the organization that were conducted and directed by the leader. The vouchers could be offered for anything from having sex with the leader to working as a gardener to serving at fine dining experiences, etc. Needless to say, there was a whole gray and black market for these vouchers that could not be prevented. The very people who had control over the system used the system to persuade their women targets to participate in the sex orgies in return for the vouchers that could be used to attend the religious practice of the organization. Other people had to pay hard earned dollars to attend. (A much better way to get sex than some of the ways that, say, the fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (fLDS) use: violence and subjugation – just violence and subjugation on a whole different level – covert and subtle.)

These very perpetrators were pronounced by the leader to be the successors to the FoF legacy some time in the future, if not immediately. They lived very privileged lives in the FoF community. Some came from Romania where they grew up, no doubt, under communist dictatorship (read: sociopathic society); likely a life of adversity. They were coddled by the leader and polished and refined to make silk purses out of sows’ ears – just like the leader himself. Unusual arrangements were made for some of them to get religious visas or green (greed) cards or fake marriages. Housing, transportation, clothing, etc, was arranged for them. Assets of the organization were put at their disposal. No one had access to the leader for communications except through these people. Communications became one-way dictatorship where what the leader wanted was conveyed to these intermediaries and thence to the individual members, or the whole body of FoF, as the intermediaries saw fit, or not. The leader then became untouchable – so much like a mafia organization or criminal enterprise. The official governing bodies of the organization, the hired (highered) privileged staff and the board (bored) of directors (for appearances purposes) were straw dogs at best and were powerless to do anything about the velvet revolution. All were subjugated.

So, the sin was not in the emulation of the clever methods of the leader or the actions themselves. (The leader likely was pleased as kool-aid to see how well they learned and adapted.) The sin was that they got caught and exposed which made for poor appearances of things. Take my word for it, the above is not the only examples of the type of corruption that goes on in and around this organization known as the Fellowship of Friends in Oregon House, California, and at many other places in the world that it has centers, conducts business, or the leader travels to.

1 comment:

  1. In the old days one of the techniques for generating untraceable cash was to arrange for members at various centers to have a fine dining experience. 20 or more students would meet at some fashionable restaurant where Burton would have also meal at the same time in the same place. It was so special. Afterwards one of the bagmen would go to each of those attending and tell them how much their share would be and collect the money. The entire cost of the banquet was then paid by a Fellowship credit card and chalked up to "Membership Development" for tax purposes. Voila! Several hundred dollars multiplied by however many times the scam is reenacted.