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) Fellowship 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.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ames Gilbert summarizes his purpose

Superstitious Fellowship of Friends cult leader and dandy Robert Earl Burton (R. E. Burton)
The superstitious Robert Burton
"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 25, 2012: 
IMHO ["in my humble opinion"], the posts by ‘I in the sky’, ‘Prospective Student’ and ‘Joseph Nachumovitch’ stand out for their intellectual poverty, emptiness and general lack of meaning. Here are individuals who come to a blog called, “The Fellowship of Friend Discussion” and have yet to directly address any topic about the Fellowship of Friends; at the same time they expect engagement on their terms.

Truly pathetic.

Back to my purpose for being here on the blog . . .

Anyone landing on these pages should note that this blog provides a link to the actual FoF website at the top of every page, so that seekers can compare the respective claims for themselves, whereas the reverse is not the case.

To those doing due diligence, I reiterate:

Hundreds of members of the Fellowship of Friends are thankful that they are followers of Burton. They feel lucky—and special. And so they should. They believe they have been chosen by angels from nearly 7 billion doomed humans now alive to become ‘immortal’ (whatever that means), while the rest will be destroyed shortly (currently December 2012, following failed prophecies, outlined below) in some cataclysm. Now, that’s special!

From these pages, I’ve selected Daily Cardiac as an excellent, hard-working representative of the Fellowship worldview, someone who actually took the time and trouble to answer some points raised here (while studiously avoiding others) by those who ask questions while still members, and of course those that have left. Other reasonably articulate defenders to look out for are those from ‘Fat Boy’, ‘Siddiq’ and ‘Vinnie the Fish’, among others. Thank you again, all of you, for laying out your belief system so directly. Anyone interested in or considering joining the Fellowship who does due diligence will appreciate your efforts, and hopefully see them as they are. Daily Cardiac’s posts, for example [blog page and post number:] #86–73 could hardly be clearer; they are a catalog of his articles of faith. Readers can follow DC’s many other justifications in the blog pages before and after that example, and decide for themselves.

If anyone who has had no connection to the FoF, but is interested in that organization reads this, I’m writing this for you. And of course, this is just my opinion.

If you want to join a group of people like DC, mostly sincere, nice, well–meaning folks, but whose entire ‘spiritual’ center of gravity is based on faith in the bona fides of their leader, know that in advance—and accept the consequences. Know that many of us (I dare say, probably most) who have ‘been through the mill’ have concluded that the leader, Robert Earl Burton, is a sexual predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that having sex with large numbers of the heterosexual young men who depend on him for spiritual guidance is his chief occupation, and has been for forty years. Know that if you are a young, even moderately good-looking young heterosexual male, you will most probably end up having sex with him.

Know that your fellow followers will approve of this, encourage this, and the less than good-looking ones will envy you (though these are few, Burton’s tastes are very catholic). In other words, in their world–view, this is completely normal and expected. Know that he has no control in this matter, and has never demonstrated will or restraint; far from it, he is enslaved by his desires. Know that his followers excuse and even justify this unprotected ‘supersex’ (as Burton terms it) because he is a ‘conscious being’, and that he cannot possibly contract or pass on sexual diseases because ‘he is an angel in a man’s body’.

Know also that Burton is a life–long misogynist. He has no use for women as women, unless they have money or influence or can provide access to young men. Moreover, he claims that they cannot ‘awaken’ as women in this lifetime. This means that if you are a woman, you will (according to Burton) definitely have to wait for a ‘role in a future lifetime as a man’ (with the sole exception of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, for some reason) to be able to ‘awaken’, whatever that is.

If you happen to be here because you are interested in the Fourth Way, know that, apart from words freely borrowed from the Fourth Way, this cult has no connection with the Fourth Way whatsoever. The Fourth Way terms are bait, pure and simple. There has been no transmission of knowledge or energy from Alex Horn to Robert Burton. Nor was there a transmission from J.G. Bennett to Horn (whose entire experience of the Fourth Way in the direct line was as a three–week drop–in at the end of one of Bennett’s courses in England). Horn had no contact with Rodney Collin, whatever Burton claims or insinuates. The rest came from books or odd meetings with others interested in the Fourth Way. Whatever the level of Horn, Burton failed miserably to fulfill the task given to him, to cease his sexual pursuit of male fellow ‘students’. And, Burton himself is openly proud of the fact that he has never read any work of Gurdjieff. His quotes of Gurdjieff’s words come from his brief encounters with Ouspensky’s books and what he has picked up from his more organized or intellectual followers. He has yet to explain the vast gap between his claim of being a Man number 7.9, or whatever, and the next and only ‘conscious product’ of his organization, the infamous Girard Haven, official hagiographer, Man number 5 point something. Remember the Fourth Way idea that one has to help put someone in one’s place before one can ‘move on’?

As a particular example, the meaning of the word ‘verification’ has been turned on its head. As you inevitably reorient yourself to the Fellowship groupthink (your new friends are so nice, so helpful, so knowledgeable, and you are so eager to learn, to please, to fit in…), you will be persuaded that ‘testing’ hypotheses according to reason and the scientific method is faulty thinking, emanating from your ‘lower self’. Instead the major part of your ‘work’ is to first accept given/revealed articles of faith as true and then strive to find evidence for them (for more, see Failing that, you are to ‘observe and record’ and put any doubting thoughts ‘on the back burner’, or, as you become more ‘advanced’, dispense with them altogether because they are generated by your ‘lower self’. When the back burner is full, you will be kept so busy you won’t notice the older thoughts ‘to be worked with later’ permanently falling into oblivion. Know that the many general ‘exercises’ given out by Burton are a miraculous one–size fits all. Any individual attention that each follower may need is farmed out to one or other of the 44 angels, the discorporate remains of (mostly) white, male Europeans who have left a historical record. More than strange, huh? Almost all the personal spiritual exercises given by Dear Teacher are of the “C-Influence wishes you to internally consider me, give up your body for my pleasure’ type. Though, for variety, there are the never–ending requests for more money, gifts, favors of all kinds, or ‘You should marry this person or that’, or ‘Have an abortion’, or ‘Give up your children’.

Know that Burton is probably the most superstitious person you will ever hear of or meet. This ‘conscious being’, having lost his own internal way, relies on external signs of every type, from chance license plate numbers (example at:, bottom of page) to a grotesque numerology and symbology, whose significance is supported and ‘researched’ by the members themselves, and as stated above, always seeking ‘proof’ to support the pre–conceptions. One example among literally thousands: Burton interprets the number of rhino poops in prehistoric cave drawings as messages the artists intentionally left for him across hundreds of centuries! Based on this rare sensitivity, Burton continually makes prophecies, whose record of complete failure (including highlights such as the drowning of California in 1998, nuclear Armageddon in 2006, the production of seven ‘conscious beings’, and so on) he petulantly explains in terms such as, “C–Influence has humiliated me”. At the same time, mirabile dictu, Burton claims that every jot and tittle of existence is preordained, a ‘play written by the angels’. In his universe, he supplies the ‘crazy’ while his followers infer the ‘wisdom’, so all in the narcissistic dance are happy. Oh, and you’ll be glad he has made improvements to the Fourth Way apart from inventing angels whose sole welfare is those who write checks to Burton, and who, according to his claim, are planning the complete destruction of the rest of humanity, while saving members of the Fellowship of Friends “to start a new civilization”. For example, unlike Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Colin, Nicol, or Bennett in whose teachings conscience is as important as, and inseparable from, consciousness, Burton has little use for the former. In fact he claims:
“Conscience is just a collection of I’s. Anyone accumulating too much should leave the school”.
One less thing to worry about, huh? And as strong an indicator as any that he doesn’t have conscience—and hence, consciousness—himself. 

If you indeed value the Fourth Way, then before you consider joining the Fellowship of Friends, you owe it to yourself to find out everything you can about them. There is much more in these pages and elsewhere. I know, it is quite an effort to go through them. But the time you invest doing this is miniscule compared to the time you will waste and the harm that may befall you if you join the cult. I’m not claiming you will learn nothing if you join, just that you can achieve better results in far less time elsewhere, without paying the ludicrous price the greedy and literally insatiable Burton demands.

So much for the Fourth Way. How about the Second Way?

If you take a masochistic satisfaction in being told what to do in all areas of your life, have blind trust in authoritarian structures, have faith in revealed truths, and desperately need to cultivate obedience, you’ll certainly be interested in some form of the Second Way. But why join the Fellowship of Friends? Why not just join the Carthusians or some other group with a good record? For a start, they are much quicker and more efficient. You have the possibility of reaching salvation during or at the end of this lifetime. The leaders are subject to some system of accountability for their actions. Not so Burton’s religion. He claims you will need many lifetimes of unremitting toil and devotion to counter your built–in weaknesses and achieve immortality.

Meanwhile, Mr. “Do as I say, not as I do” trusts not to the future, but lives the life of a spoiled potentate right now. He will use your money to live luxuriously. He may use your body for his sexual pleasure. He will travel widely at your expense. He will dress in the finest and most expensive clothing, silken underwear, drink wine worth hundreds of dollars at every meal, be driven in the best cars, travel first class everywhere, and give rich gifts to his lovers—while he favors them—all from your earnings.

And he is completely unaccountable, the few protests are treated as crimes. His followers exist to hang on every word, gratify every whim, and worship him as he claims to be “the brightest light in 2,000 years”. Not so incidentally, he claims he is conveniently ‘beyond Judeo–Christian morality’ (though he has yet to formulate a successor). So, you are to abandon ethics and morality without having a replacement to guide you, other than his whim of the moment.

And if you leave, you are supposedly doomed to something worse than hell, and you will be shunned by all your former friends. Typical childish cult behavior, but none the less powerful blackmail and devastatingly hurtful emotionally (one list of cult characteristics is at:

Why would you want to dive into the fantasy world of this twisted, lying madman, who seems to exist solely for the titillation of the nerve endings in his penis and anus—and for shopping (see post #4, above, or: Rather, go join an order of nuns or monks. If you are interested in experiencing the state popularly known as consciousness, study Zen or become a Buddhist.

Otherwise, stick around back here with the rest of us and try to do the best you can for yourself and your fellow humans with love and integrity, living and enjoying life in all its juicy mess, ups and downs, accepting the need for risks, facing the unknown and unknowable with all the courage you can muster.


If you happen to be here because you are interested in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, know that, apart from words freely borrowed from his books, this cult has no connection with Eckhart Tolle whatsoever. The terms borrowed by the Fellowship of Friends are bait, pure and simple.

Search keywords I have found that the Fellowship of Friends uses as bait in their advertising are:
Self Remembering · Fourth Way · Eckhart Tolle · Spirituality · Meditation · Consciousness · Gurdjieff · Ouspensky · Nisargadatta Maharaj · Presence · Self Realization and Service to Humanity · Self Realization · Byron Katie · Adya · ET · Gangaji · Ruiz . There are probably many others.


[ed. - The following is the complete post from "Daily Cardiac", which Ames cites above:]

"Daily Cardiac" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 26, 2009: 
Golden Veil – 59 [blogger and post number]:
It must be real ignorance rather than an inconsiderate nature that leads you to continually assert to the readers here that the FACT that Robert Burton has sexually abused and misused his followers, the ’students’, time and time again, is only “opinion”.
It is neither ignorance nor lack of consideration. As I see it it is genuinely opinion. Here is why. You don’t know the motivations of RB for being intimate with any of the ones he is intimate with. You can’t say for sure if it is an aid or hindrance to the individual’s spiritual growth.

On hearing about someone’s personal account or a second hand version of an encounter you will have an opinion about it, as it is natural for men to have opinions about everything.

And you also didn’t know the motivations of any of his partners at the time of the encounter, nor were you behind closed doors to witness anything. Until you know all that; the motivations especially, which you are unlikely to ever know, it will remain an uncertainty to you, even though you may call it a certainty.

Definition of Opinion – “a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.” All civilized countries, with regard to crimes or legalities, have rejected the notion that actions can be judged or evaluated solely on the basis of appearance.

The same goes for testimony alone, because people are rarely truthful when they have a vested interest in an outcome. There is a reason for customs like taking an oath in court, not that it prevents lying, but the implication of a preponderance to lie in that setting are there.

It takes more than accounts to determine truth.

There is an interesting paradox afoot on the blog. Ex members continually critique RB/ FoF outside of a spiritual context on the basis of man’s laws or common morality yet they actually ignore the definition of those same laws instituted by men and contrive their own rendition of what constitutes sexual abuse or abuse of power (actually there is no measurable determining factor for what determines abuse of power in most private groups, family circles, especially in a spiritual teacher /aspirant relationship.

The definition by law of sexual abuse is precise. Abuse and persuasion are not the same. It is not against any law to propose that someone have sex with you (unless that someone is a minor). It is not against any law, man made or otherwise, to persuade someone to have sex (unless that someone is a minor) It is not against any law to convince someone to have sex with you.

At the same time people have different moral codes and to some consensual sex between a spiritual teacher and student is considered wrong under any circumstances.That would represent an opinion, not a truth.

If the kind of abuses documented on the blog (especially the frequency often cited) had actually occurred there would have been charges or convictions long before 40 years had transpired.There are laws of probability being ignored here which seriously tax the faculties of reason for any open minded individual.

Here is the difficult part – It’s one thing to judge an ordinary man by appearance, there are pitfalls to that also but it’s nearly impossible to judge an enlightened being by appearance because they are under less mechanical laws than others. They do not act according to some personal code of conduct but follow a universal spiritual code – that’s one of the conditions that determines whether they are enlightened or not. They have real choices whereas others react in predictable ways.

And it hasn’t been determined what RB is, charlatan or enlightened being. A minuscule percent of the whole of ex members, who also happen to visit this blog, say that he is a charlatan. Most of those still in the FoF would more than likely say enlightened being. It has not been determined which one he is, regardless of how fervently anyone proclaims otherwise. It simply has not been determined in any real sense.

There undoubtedly are those who know Robert Burton, know him for what he is, but it has not been established whether that is more likely to be you or I.
[Golden Veil:] Lately I am finding that the terms “spiritual” and “spirituality” have less significance to me. They seem to affect me emotionally in a way similar to the words “religious” and “religion”.
What term would you use to describe “of the spirit?” What would you call an entity composed of matter too rarefied to distinguish through our senses, but one that can nevertheless be experienced or known?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ames,
    I'm flattered you include me in your list of articulate, wise and erudite posters from the FOF side.

    I've since left mind you, but consider my time in the FOF as well spent. I came and went of my own free will, learned a lot, and didn't lose anything except the minimum monthly payments.
    I still hold the position that if you allow another person to dictate your important actions in life, like giving up children, having abortions, moving house, or giving up careers, you'd better be prepared to take responsibility for them yourself, because there's nobody else to blame on your deathbed.

    - Vinnie The Fish