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, June 22, 2012

How will it end?

Robert Earl Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult leader by square stone

[ed. - A September 2014 update: it is rumored that Robert Burton is currently working on a plan to retire to Mexico.]

"Tempus Fugit" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 22, 2012:
Several recent posts have suggested that Asaf Braverman is possibly being used as a front for the FOF or even groomed as Burton’s successor.
To me this raises the question of how the FOF will end.
One blogger recently recalled, and I also heard Burton say personally, that he would die at age 72[*], his current age.  However, we know that Burton’s predictions are meaningless, and I believe he will continue his current ways as long as he can.
That said let us consider the possibilities. Burton is now old and of unknown health status. Thus it is not unreasonable to think he may die at anytime.
So what will be the final act in this tragedy? How will Burton die and how will his death affect others?
1) Burton could die suddenly, leaving the governance of the FOF and disposition of its assets to whatever legal structures are currently in place. True believers might then stay on while those more loosely attached might leave.
If Braverman or someone else has already been installed as the new leader this could support a more stable transition.
2) Realizing death is near Burton could choose a grandiose exit with special ceremonies, last pronouncements, and enshrinement in a special mausoleum with speeches by his chosen successor. The importance of continued membership and spiritual connection to Burton would be emphasized.
In my opinion Burton is highly narcissistic, and the image of a “church” in his name might make this ending an attractive choice.
(If anyone knows of any funeral plans made by Burton, or plans to build a mausoleum or shrine in advance of his death please share this information.)
In this scenario true believers might continue to live out their lives in fantasy of eventual reunification with Burton, while, again, those less attached would tend to drift away.
3) But what of the possibility of a true horror ending?
As Burton gets older and his body ages the pleasures of the flesh will weaken. Serious illness, if it comes, will only accelerate that process. Unlimited sex, the best wine and food, and the enjoyment of power over others will lose their appeal. Envy may arise as he sees those close to him, healthy and vigorous, continuing to enjoy what he cannot.
I remember 1978. I was at the Farm (aka Apollo) when we heard about the mass murder orchestrated by Jim Jones of the People’s Temple cult in Guyana. Over 900 people were killed, including more than 300 children.
I was standing on the patio of the Lincoln Lodge with Burton and several others when someone asked Burton if this could happen in the FOF.
Burton said “no” because (approximate quote) “we are a real school and C influence would not allow such a thing to happen to us.”
Well, in my opinion the FOF is not a real school, and mass murder-suicide could certainly be the final act of the FOF. Just like Jim Jones, in bitterness and failure, Burton could decide to destroy himself and what he has created.
Here are words from a transcript of an audio tape recovered by the FBI at Jonestown []. This part of the tape records Jones exhorting followers to poison their children and themselves (punctuation is from the transcript as given):
“Jones: … Must trust, you have to step across … We used to sing: “this world, this world’s not our home.” Well, it sure isn’t. … We were saying, it sure wasn’t … Really doesn’t want, you’re telling me. All he’s doing is what we’ll tell him. Assure these … Can some people assure these children of the relaxation of stepping over to the next plane? That’d set an example for others. You set 1,000 people who say, “We don’t like the way the world is ….
Crowd: That’s right, that’s right)
Jones: … (unintelligible words) … take our life from us, we laid it down, we got tired. We didn’t commit suicide. We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.. …”
Although the story and belief systems are different I can see parallels in the lives of Jones and Burton. I can imagine a time when Burton, perhaps realizing his life is ending in frustration and disgrace, chooses a similar path.
On page 113 of this blog, comment 135 recounts words allegedly spoken by Robert Burton on 09/21/2011:
“We are destined for immortality – eternal life – and this is what makes Paradise so sweet: it is a deathless place. Also, everyone is conscious and immortal there. Here everyone is mortal and unconscious, except for us.”
If you are reading this as a current member of the FOF, please don’t dismiss the possibility of a “Jonestown ending” as unthinkable because all around you seems beautiful.
Isn’t is possible the brightly polished apple is rotten at the core?
[*ed. -  If any of the five birth dates he has claimed as his own are indeed correct, he is now 73. So, his Prophecy Realization Rate - PRR in spiritual circles - remains a dismal .000.]

"Toby" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 23, 2012:
96. Tempus Fugit [post number and blogger]

Some sort of shocking and negative ending, whatever form that might take, is not unthinkable. It hasn’t been useful over the years to think about the FOF as though it’s a benign entity. That sort of naive thinking is partly what got many of us in trouble from the start: thinking and believing that Burton was benign and incapable of hurting anyone.
Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach for the Penn State football program, was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. Right up to the end, his supporters continue to be in denial. “I think he’s innocent,” one supporter said this week. “Think of all the good he’s done for all of those kids over the years.”

* * *

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 24, 2012:
Toby (#121-98 or thereabouts)[blogger, blog page and post number], yesterday was a bad day for pedophiles:
(CBS News) PHILADELPHIA – For the first time, a senior member of the Catholic Church in the United States has been convicted of concealing sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests. Sixty-one-year old Monsignor William Lynn was the secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has 1.5 million members.
Lynn was found guilty on one count of child endangerment. He was found not guilty of a separate child endangerment count and not guilty on a conspiracy charge.The jury came back in the afternoon after 13 days of deliberations.
Lynn was taken into custody and seen weeping when he left the courthouse. Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams said the verdict sent a clear message that anyone who protects pedophiles would be held accountable.
“What happened here was unspeakable,” said Williams. “People knew that these were predators — who were much more concerned with the institution than the victims of sexual assault.”
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I was part of a group of folks who met from time to time to discuss the issues; we called ourselves “The Furry Insects Society”, and one of the stipulations was that anything could be discussed. We had some heated moments during the furor over the Troy Buzbee case. Half of us left within the next few days, the other half stayed. One of the more amazing moments was when fellow participant Mary Carlisle/Hinrichs told us that “everyone knew that Robert was having sex with Troy Buzbee”. I asked her when she knew. She replied, “From when it started, it was obvious to everyone around”. I was amazed, I actually caught myself with my jaw hanging open. Since my wife and I had not been living at Apollo/Renaissance/Isis at that time, after I had recovered somewhat, I pressed on. I asked, “So you knew that Robert was having sex with Troy when he was underage?” “Yes, I knew, and everyone around knew as well” “Did it occur to you to intervene?” “What could I do? Robert is my teacher, his sex life is none of my business, and Troy was very mature for his age, as far as I could see he was able to handle it”.
Here’s the kicker. Mary Carlisle/Hinrichs was a Center Director at Renaissance at the time she was speaking of (not when I had this conversation). I believe she had a duty to those under her in the hierarchy. Maybe not a clear, ‘strictly legal’ obligation like the members of the Board of the Fellowship of Friends had and have, but surely something, not to mention common humanity? I don’t know if she was also on the “Spiritual Council” as well, but whatever, like the quote above, she and others, Center Directors, members of the Council, every member of the Board, every follower who stayed, “were much more concerned with the institution than the victims of sexual assault”, and very protective of Burton, the “brightest light in two thousand years”.
None of the people that stayed cared a damn, obviously, whether they had power/authority/obligations within the organization, or not. And part of the self-justification, the self-calming was and is, “Burton/The Fellowship have never been convicted of anything, so he/we must be innocent”. Yes, it is true that cases did not come to trial, but only because the Fellowship settled the cases (and had the records sealed as part of the settlement). But the actual truth is, Robert Earl Burton is a pedophile (and this also means, a rapist), and would surely have been convicted had I and Mary Carlisle/Hinrichs and dozens of other witnesses been called to court and simply told the truth to a jury. And, after a long prison term, he would be on a permanent sexual offenders list.

"brucelevy" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 24, 2012:
Ames, you know that almost all of the members who had “positions” somewhere in the hierarchy used the exact same argument. “What can I do?” “He’s my teacher”. “It’s nobodies business.” ad nauseum. Until they’re ready to leave, then all of a sudden they get indignant, shocked and hurt at the shit they knowingly and conveniently accepted all along. For me, that’s the height of hypocrisy, and pure bull shit. They leave, and then seek sympathy from those already out, to help heal their emotional wounds. They can go fuck themselves, collectively. They too are sociopaths, narcissists and manipulators.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 24, 2012:
Bruce, (#121-105 or thereabouts)[responding to above]
you are right, that is indeed sometimes the case.
You yourself told anyone who would listen about Burton and his abuse, what, in 1980? That included me, I hung around at the edge of a crowd, and I heard. I believed you, and thought you were right to leave, but only because it was right for you personally. I simply was not mature enough to extrapolate, to see that the harm done to you was harm done to all of us. And to see that by not getting to the bottom of it by ruthless questioning, by not speaking out on your behalf, by not acknowledging that condoning Burton’s behavior by any pretext or disguise, coruscated my soul and diminished me. I didn’t trust my conscience, and actually at that time couldn’t tell its voice from all the others internally arguing for and against. I stayed for sixteen years, after all, didn’t I? So, what you say about those who were in authority is true, but it was equally true for me and those like me, who happened to never attract such a position. As more information became available over the next fourteen years, I had further chances to act for myself and others. I didn’t take those chances. Little by little I became comfortable; the latest revelation was not that so much different in degree or detail than the previous one. But it sure all added up, didn’t it? I did the whole round, “It doesn’t affect me personally, it’s the teacher’s private business, they are adults, they can take care of themselves, it’s not my responsibility, I don’t know enough, the lower cannot see the higher, crazy wisdom, the good outweighs the bad . . .”, and on and on.
That is one of the reasons why I spend the time I do trying to put what I see as the truth in front of anyone who chances on this blog. The fact is, I was so self-unaware, I was able to join an organization supposedly for the purpose of ‘waking up’ but which actually made me more asleep. I was so unaware that I devolved instead of evolved in every important sense. And what got me out were not any particular efforts, but grace. So, one of the ways I can show gratitude for an unearned and undeserved reprieve is to try to warn others, here and now.
And I apologize for not valuing your gift when you tried to warn us. You paid a very high price for direct knowledge of Burton’s criminal behavior, and had the rare courage to tell us, but I spurned the gift, not recognizing its value at the time. But you did plant a seed . . . thank you so very, very much!

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