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 most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

But according to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish, while through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers shall 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 Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, 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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Robert Burton on the art of interpreting license plates

[ed. - In this video, Robert Earl Burton interprets the message sent by the gods via a common license plate. (Any state will do.) But it should be noted that, contrary to Burton's assertion, it was the California DMV, not "Influence C", that denied them "complete Men Number 7" status, as the license plate had already reached the maximum character limit.

Describing it as "a perfect summary", Ames Gilbert re-posted the following powerful essay on the most recent page of the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog. The juxtaposition of video and essay, should give the reader just a taste of Robert Burton's dysfunctional world. And, finally, an ex-member has a bit of fun at Robert Burton's expense: R3 ANGL7/Toaster mashup.]

"Life Person's" Study of the Man posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:

After months of periodically reading and contributing to the blog, what most amazes me is the enormity of the disconnect between what is observed and what some people choose to believe.

Once the emotional charge created by the resurgence of memories that had drifted around for decades dissipated somewhat, and I had for some weeks left off reading the blog, which seemed to perpetuate that charge, and then came back to it, I find myself stunned and incredulous.

Taking away those things that he has said about himself, and those things that others have said about him, and looking only at the evidence before us, we see a man who, before he announced himself as a Teacher, was most easily described as a loser. Fired from his modest teaching position, kicked out of his brief stint in an abusive cult for the most pedestrian reason–being unable to keep his hands off the other guys–living with his mommy or in his van long past the age when we’d expect a man to have a halfway decent job. A man with modest formal education from a white trash background, with the middle name of Earl. Had never accomplished anything of note. Cannot write, paint, dance, or sing. Oh yes–he could play tennis, at the level of the average high school varsity player.

A man who has since lived an entirely parasitic existence, having declined to lift a finger on his own behalf since he was thirty, beyond walking, sitting, lifting fork and glass, talking, and having sex; a man whose muscles have atrophied from disuse. A man who cannot be bothered to pay his own bills, or drive his own car, or fix his own faucet. Can you imagine your father, or your neighbor, let alone Socrates, telling people to do manual labor, including labor that benefits only himself, year after year, decade after decade, while he simply shuffles around in thousand-dollar slacks and five hundred-dollar shoes, without ever contributing anything? Jesus was a carpenter. Dante wrote fantastic works of literature. Leonardo painted masterpieces. Others make shoes, grow food. Here’s a man who jots down notes and sayings at the level of a precocious junior high schooler, and gives others instructions in between efforts to satisfy his physical urges. We find the model for this in, say, Henry VIII, or more accurately, a pinheaded, inbred pharaoh.

Here is a man who has not, in at least 37 years, and most likely in his entire life, had an intimate emotional relationship with another man, woman, cat or turtle that would be recognized by anyone as normal, let alone mature.
Whose “teachings” are almost entirely unoriginal, having been cobbled together, first from the works of Gurdjieff and his disciples, a little later from quotes copied like a lazy freshman from the Harvard Classics, and now from a hodgepodge of sources that does not rise to the level of solid “B Influence”–stuff that, thirty years ago, you wouldn’t have picked out of the trash, like Chariots of the Gods and Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. He even tried his hand at National Enquirer-style prophecy, and was so spectacularly unsuccessful that he now claims he never meant any of it.

A man who fancies himself an aesthete, of impeccable taste, yet whose taste is classic nouveau riche, reflecting once again the lack of any originality, let alone artistic flair. Everything is copied, taken from others, like the pile of statues in the basement of Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu. Who considers a Greek temple plopped down in the Sierra foothills very classy, and cannot see that it is pathetic kitsch, like Las Vegas casinos featuring recreations of pyramids and Venice.

In any other circumstance, this man would be considered ridiculous. A buffoon. Laughed at.

And this, of course, does not address a level of greed and financial manipulation that would seem eye-rollingly incredible in a made-for-TV-movie about a New Age Guru. Who would believe a character who did all the running after cufflinks, the wine-guzzling, the pouring of rich food down his gullet, the endless supply of suits, shirts, shoes, Rolls Royces and Mercedes, watches, paintings, furniture, and on and on and on, while continually demanding more money from his followers, some of whom make extraordinary sacrifices, destroy themselves financially, to keep the man in silk, cashmere, and the umpteenth performance of Giselle. We’d turn it off in disgust, exclaiming that the movie showed an obvious intent to slander all nontraditional religious organizations and make their adherents seem imbecilic.

And then there’s the fellow’s peculiar sexual habits, which also are no laughing matter. His need to have his various orifices continually filled, not by people with whom he shares a deep emotional bond, but by desperate or naive people he has cajoled with pathetic fairy tales, who hide their faces in shame as he grunts and pants before showing them the door and calling in the next one. People who carry the diseases he has passed on to them, and perhaps their partners, for the rest of their lives, along with the burning resentment and humiliation of having allowed themselves to be so callously and pitifully used by someone they trusted. This sort of behavior is generally accepted everywhere as demonstrating a profound emotional disturbance.

And none of this even touches on the man’s treatment of others when they’re not coming in his mouth, his disregard of what would be considered decent, principled behavior in any culture, under any ethical or religious creed. His complete lack of genuine interest in the well-being of anyone who does not give him, or procure for him, money or sex, his willingness to act, without regret, as though a person he has known for twenty years or more, a person who has given him everything they have, has never existed the moment the individual stops giving him money or sex.

But, I suppose, none of this precludes his being the Light of the World, the Greatest Being Since Christ, and worthy of the highest lifelong devotion. And why? Because he says he is “conscious.” So that’s what being “conscious” means, does it? How could I have missed it. But some say they have “verified” that he is “conscious.” Oh, that changes everything.

For quite a while everyone on earth was convinced the world was flat.

“But he teaches people to be present.” Indeed. Being present to eating too much, drinking too much, having sex with people who don’t want to have sex with you. Present to enjoying the fruits of others’ labors. Present to the sycophantic bowing and scraping of people without any self-respect or discernment. He teaches, by example, how to be present to treating others like shit.

How to account for his success? If a person without any useful abilities of his own sat down and decided to develop a way to allow himself to have all the money, sex, food, travel, power, fancy clothes, adulation, and sheer self-indulgent luxury an adolescent could possibly imagine–if a man embarrassed by his own sexuality and humble social status wanted to be treated like a god–what might he come up with?

And why is it that so many people whose wisdom is so much more easily observed, who are truly kind and compassionate, who genuinely value others simply for their inherent humanity, who find delight in simple pleasures and do not need to be continually praised, obeyed, fucked, fed, entertained, clothed, and carted about, who enjoy being useful, who serve others instead of claiming to serve disembodied spirits while leaving a trail of pain in their wake–why is it that such people do not have as many people trying to learn from them?

Might it be that some people actually want what they see this man has, rather than true wisdom, true compassion?

Might it be that some people cannot bear the thought that what is so obvious might actually be the simple truth, which would make them gullible fools?

[ed. - And for more "yucks", as Ames might say...]

"Ames Gilbert wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 15, 2011:
I have in my hands a collection of dozens of thoughts from Burton that specifically focus on license plates, sent in by alert readers. All of these are apparently fairly recent, and I thought I’d share a few choice ones. As you can see, he has still not given up on California falling into the sea, and is very big on the Mayan 2012 thing. The present form of meetings/indoctrination/group meme reinforcement seems to be this: an image from the collection assembled by researchers is projected, and a quote, most often by Burton, but sometimes from some other notable in history, is produced (read aloud?). Then Burton adds his insights, interpretations and wisdom while the audience laps it all up. I’m sure more recent escapees can correct me if I’m wrong.
“Life’s situation is getting tighter. It does not matter what man is planning – what matters is what Influence C are planning.” - Robert Burton

Robert’s comment: It is interesting to observe how the oil situation is beginning to cause havoc. Oil is blood for the modern age. I was at the airport in Houston yesterday on my way to San Francisco and they interrupted a television program to announce that oil had gone over $110 a barrel. Today it closed almost three dollars higher. The high oil prices will affect everything. A license plate says “911-MGR” – 9/11 Major. In fact, 9/11 was a true shock that was heard around the world. This is a map indicating recent earthquake activity. It is quite interesting. In the upper left is Japan, where the earthquake and tsunami occurred in March. Beneath it is New Zealand, where the Christchurch earthquake struck a few months ago. In the lower right-hand corner is Chile, which suffered an earthquake in 2010. If you go straight up you reach San Francisco and the west coast of California. It makes a square. California is the likeliest place of all for a cataclysmic disaster.
“The only real freedom is freedom from imagination.” - Robert Burton

Robert’s comment: Of course, there cannot be freedom without presence, can there? This is a license plate we saw in Mexico City saying “777WNH.” It is three ‘sevens.’ “WNH” is the way you would say “winner” in New York. We saw this man at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City with a tee-shirt saying “Xscape.” He was walking around us, meaning that we are escaping. This was my room at the Hilton Hotel. It is interesting, because when Leonid checked in they gave us a complimentary upgrade to a suite, which was room 2121. It means card twenty-one for all of us, compliments of Influence C. Influence C do quite a lot with license plates around the world. It is always a lifesaver when a message from Influence C passes by as you are driving.
“The Last Judgment is nothing to wish for, but something to watch for.” - Robert Burton

Robert’s comment: Shakespeare said, “Some must watch, while some must sleep” – life. We are the people who are watching. We saw this interesting license plate saying “239 WWT.” I was born in 1939. It may mean that I will go to 39 – 2039, or that I came to the earth in ’39. We will have to wait to understand it. However, “WWT” refers to World War Three. When we entered the restaurant, we decided to have the attendants clean our car. We saw this license plate when we returned, meaning that it is a clean omen, without imagination.
“The sequence channels suffering into presence.” - a student

Robert’s comment: It is quite profound. We do not suppress suffering – we transform it. Incredibly, a photograph shows a plume of smoke over Apollo during the fire that occurred one week ago. This is a wonderful image of the fire behind the god Mercury. It looks like Influence C leading us through the Last Judgment. During the fire, I found a coin on the top of Mount Apollo. It was minted in 1965, making it forty-four years old. Late last year as I was entering San Diego, a license plate in front of us said “US SAFE” – meaning perhaps that we will be safe from hydrogen warfare. Yesterday I put a new license plate on my van saying “12 DEC 21,” referring to December 21, 2012, the date given on the Mayan calendar as the end of the fifth cycle. In all the Mayan world only one object gives this date.
“The noble pledge to produce presence is the highest resolve man can aspire to.” - Robert Burton

Roberts comment: Shakespeare called this the “noble pledge” to produce conscious nobility. The royal couple will be married in England next week, but it is all outward show. There is no nobility without presence, only an imitation of nobility. I am not judging, merely observing. Geraldine Reid found this license plate in Grass Valley saying “2BFLYN.” It is a Mercedes with the three-Be logo. This is the Rucellai Madonna by Duccio di Buoninsegna in the Uffizi, Florence (ca. 1285). Here we see six angels, three on either side. Around the edge of the frame are thirty medallions of the saints – the thirty great work ‘I’s. The Christ child is making the noble pledge with his hand. He has red hair for combustion. Mary has four fingers over her stomach, controlling the lower self.

"Opus 111" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 4, 2008:
Ames #369 [blogger and post number]

I do not recall specific examples of license plates, but I am sure someone will.

What I found interesting was that, at the beginning, actual photographs someone had taken of a license plate (often one of the boys, they travel all the times) were shown and even passed along the rows of the audience. Later, this morphed into “license plates” shown on a big poster held up by another boy at the meetings and waved right, then left and center, then again right, left, center. The interesting thing was that it was no longer an actual photograph being reproduced and enlarged, but rather a photoshop template with the “new message”. Whether these “new messages” had ever been seen, let alone photographed, is anyone’s guess. I never bothered to verify on the DMV website that the plate indeed existed. The routine rapidly got old and stale, and replaced by art pictures meant to support the concepts of keys and sequence. Here it is for you, RB’s way, circa 2003.

"Rear View Mirror" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 7, 2008:
Breaking news:

I saw a license plate today with the word “angel” on it. I’m not kidding. And yes, I know — that’s not supposed to happen to those of us who have lost the way. Supposedly we “former members” who “lose the school” also “lose the gods,” and I presume that would mean they would stop giving us such wonderful shocks to help us to remember ourselves. Because what’s the point in giving us shocks since we have stopped having sex with Robert, have left the FOF, and have therefore lost all possibilities by denying the will of the gods (which apparently is to obey Robert Burtons and give him pleasure).

Of course, the explanation would be that it was just a coincidence that I happened to see a license plate with the word “angel” on it. And that the word “angel” was simply on the license plate because the driver was a beautiful woman (that’s actually true), and that it was bound to happen at some point or another, or that I saw it only because I would say something about it here, and cause a shock for some student who happens to tune into the blog. But when that very student sees the same license plate, it is not “just a coincidence” but it is a message from The Angels, and if RB sees it, an image is presented at a meeting, and Robert makes some sort of comment about it to show how the gods are working with him closely (as described in the posts above).

It takes a lot of work to think in circles like that. But you current member who does happen to tune into the blog to read this… What an odd twist to this little play of ours if the gods (assuming they are not a part of our imagination) are actually with each of us out here, helping us, caring for us, and assisting us just the same.
And maybe all along, just helping us… to leave.
Fellowship of Friends leader Robert Earl Burton divines message from the gods in a license plate
Robert Earl Burton divines the esoteric message in a license plate

"My4bits" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 4, 2008:
Ames Gilbert, 369. [Above]

I haven’t been able to recall any of the specific vanity plates or interpretations, Ames. Hopefully, other bloggers will be able to provide some good examples.

To get the general idea, the plate “C HEART U” would mean “Influence C loves you.”

Occasionally, an actual photo of a car vanity plate was shown, but more often, the plate’s “message” would be Photoshop’d onto a blank California license plate, and then printed for display at a meeting.

RB and his boys would keep an eye out for these “messages from the gods” whenever they were traveling. Sometimes, students would offer up their own finds for interpretation.

The point was to identify an alphanumeric “shock” — which Influence C caused to be stamped onto vanity plates, and then miraculously to be injected into our play (e.g., while driving to Las Vegas…) — and which addressed in some way the teaching, school direction, or prophesies.

I always cringed during these vanity plate demonstrations, feeling rather embarrassed for RB, and of course, blatantly manipulated.

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