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.")

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. Read more about the blog.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fellowship of Friends land and growers targeted by DEA

[ed. - To my knowledge, Jewers, Domingo, and Stefani are all current Fellowship members. This enterprise is clearly one way to meet Robert Burton's high-pressure "donation" demands. UPDATE: A September 4, 2014 Appeal-Democrat story tells of the arrest of former Fellowship of Friends member Jonathan Fairoaks in the Oregon House-Dobbins area. It's a bit ironic that the Fellowship-backed Yuba Environmental Science Charter Academy is known as YESCA. "Yesca" is slang for marijuana.]
Feds raid 8 Yuba foothills properties in pot bust

By Rob Parsons/ADcrimebeat

2012-09-21 15:47:11

Federal marijuana raids Thursday in Yuba County were the result of two five-month investigations headed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court in Sacramento.

Andreas Jewers, 47, Juan Jose Domingo, 47, and Elizabeth E. Stefani, 43, all of Oregon House, were arrested and booked into the Yuba County Jail on suspicion of conspiracy and cultivation of marijuana for sale, DEA spokeswoman Casey Rettig said.

All three posted $100,000 bail bonds and were released a short time later, authorities said. They are set for arraignment Oct. 23 in Yuba County Superior Court.

Attempts to reach them by phone were unsuccessful.

They were not named in the affidavit. Cultivators frequently list fictitious names on property paperwork to help avoid detection, according to the affidavit.

One of the investigations started in April when Yuba County sheriff's Deputy Mark Heath met with DEA officials to discuss multiple properties in the foothills believed to be growing marijuana commercially for the last several years, according to the search warrant.


Aerial surveillance of properties, conducted several times between April and August, confirmed the location and size of multiple marijuana gardens, records state.

Agents used a California Highway Patrol helicopter to take aerial photographs of the grow sites.

Ground surveillance was not possible because of each site's remote location, according to the affidavit.

At least eight properties were searched in Oregon House and Smartsville on Thursday on Loretta Lane, Begonia Way, Wildflower Way and Leafwood Way. Agents said between 50 and more than 100 plants were seen at each location over several months, according to the affidavit.

Several other area properties were also raided Thursday, but details on those investigations were not available.

It was not clear how many warrants were served or if anybody was else was taken into custody.
Sheriff's departments from Yuba, Nevada, and Butte counties assisted the DEA, along with NET-5 task force agents, US Homeland Security, and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators, Rettig said.

Agents said they hoped to find other evidence indicating a sales conspiracy, but have been mum about what was actually found during Thursday's raids.

[ed. - Andreas appears in this video titled apollo.mpg.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At Robert Burton's command, a child is sacrificed

Frances Thomson, one of Burton's "messengers"

[ed. - This is one of the coerced abortions reported to have been carried out in the Fellowship of Friends.]

"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 15, 2012:

what follows is a brief factual account of events in my life, this account involves other people named and otherwise, and as it relates to actual events and experiences, it is written into ‘the karmic record.’
i moved to mt. renaissance [ed. - currently Apollo] with my “high school sweetheart” M.

we were both on salary and living in a tent in the woods when burton approached me about moving into the blake cottage [Robert Burton's residence at the time]. being young, naive, vain and foolish, i thought it an honor to be asked. i imagined it would be a way to accelerate my ‘evolution.’ it was difficult to separate from M but we both agreed that it was a ‘rare opportunity,’ we both believed that burton was ‘the only conscious being’ on the planet, and ‘the brightest light in 2000 years.’ M and i agreed to continue seeing each other but we moved out of our tent and i moved into the blake cottage.

i soon discovered burton’s shennanigans behind closed doors in the blake cottage — i had unwittingly become part [of] burton’s male harem. i extracted myself from that situation and moved back in with M, we rented a room in a house off property and soon thereafter we had a fellowship marriage. M became pregnant — when burton found out he gave me the ‘task’* of telling M to abort our unborn child. the ‘rationale’ from him was that ‘the child would not be born onto the ark’ — the child would be born before the predicted calamities befell humanity. my ‘instinctive’ gut-reaction to this directive from burton was that it came of jealousy and a desire for revenge… ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…’ i had moved out of ‘goddess’ burton’s ‘harem’ and returned to what i felt to be my ‘true love’ — i believe he hated seeing that.

i went to miles b for counsel… i told him my concerns about burton’s motives, i told him that M and i wanted the child and that we were both having a great deal of difficulty with this ‘task’ given by ‘the teacher.’ miles said in effect: “the teacher knows what’s best for the ark…” and he reassured me that burton knew what he was doing. and so with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, M and i were shipped off for a few days to the LA teaching house… the unborn child was aborted at a local hospital there and burton’s jealous vengeance was slaked by the sacrifice.

it was never the same between M and i afterward… i left the school within a year. realizing my complicity in this horrible act, my betrayal of M’s trust and love, i literally lost the will to live. when i left the ranch i didn’t have anywhere to go — contact and connection to family and friends had been systematically cut off by fof programming — so when i left the ranch i lived on the mean streets of san francisco for a time. (it was there i ran into kimo beech, shared a bottle of whisky with he and his companion… he’d left the cult sometime prior and had already been living on the streets for a long time by then — he looked it. i heard he died sometime later. i think that would have been my fate as well, i had given up… but fate intervened and so this cautionary tale).

it’s no wonder that miles tried to drown himself by crawling into a bottle of booze…. the pain must run deep in realizing his own complicity in the ruination of lives while working as a shill and yes-man for burton.
 [*ed. -  A "task" was considered a mandate from the "Teacher". Failure could result in fines or excommunication.]

"Purchasing awakening" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 25, 2007:

Another story.

I learned that earlier in his reign Robert asked married women not to have kids and if they already did to give them away. Many apparently listened and obeyed. Apparently Linda [Kaplan/Rockwood/Tulisso] was persuading pregnant women to have an abortion “to follow the will of the Teacher.” Gently ask older female students in FOF what happened to their kids.

Also teacher gave a task to students to euthanise or give away their non-pedigree canine companions. Many obeyed and killed or abandoned their dogs. Please read Stella’s story.

Then not so long ago he ordered to kill all black cats around the property because of his superstitions (apparently he thought black cats bring bad luck and are connected to the devil).

These are acts of a conscious being #7 (or higher), the teacher.

"Bruce" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 25, 2007:
There was also a time where hysterectomies were being suggested to women for birth control because once it’s done, that’s it, no more problem.

To my understanding some even took the advice.

"vera.mente" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 25, 2007:
Little story/testimony:

When I got pregnant I was living at Renaissance and my husband was on salary. We did not have the money to go to a doctor and were worried about future hospital bills.

My husband called Robert, but not until years later did he tell me what the teacher had said in response to a request for financial help for the birth, namely, that we had missed an opportunity to oppose our catholic upbringing by not having an abortion.

A student on salary with family later suggested we go to County Health Services. Fortunately I had excellent care.

BTW our child is an absolute delight, a gift beyond measure.

Thanks anyway for the advice, Bob.

"A former female student from long ago" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 25, 2007:
Re: Purchasing Awakening 273 & Bruce 276 “Women & Bearing Children”

I never understood the few, lovely, women I met who had left their children in the care of others at the behest of the FOF leaders. Please note that the directives may have come from Robert after Center Directors told him of situations that might threaten the student’s devotion and or payments. (Darn those silly outside influences.)

I had an abortion before joining the FOF and emotionally and physically, it is not a simple procedure. I have since had difficulty in giving birth to my children because of scar tissue from the first abortion and had complications that have resulted in several surgeries. The results of my own decision have caused life threatening hospital procedures and months away from my newborn children. Enough said, it was my decision but what about the women who followed orders from FOF headquarters?

I knew of a visit from Fran, an older woman, who was sent to escort a happily married woman to a hospital for a late term abortion of healthy twins. Why was this married student in a happy relationship guided to go to the hospital to abort two healthy fetuses? Robert loved the beautiful, handsome husband and it was during the mid/late 70s when the School could not afford to have students be distracted by the emotional or expensive aspects of children.

This potential mother and father were in pain but followed Robert’s directives – it was not a pretty situation. Years later Robert got his guy back and the wife was left to earn money outside of Renaissance while her husband was on salary.
[ed. - Also see: The abortion solution and Robert's Fellowship family planning .]

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Our ark will be composed of ten thousand people in the year 2006, and then the doors will close."

[ed. - As we approach December 21, 2012, Robert Earl Burton's latest predicted date for Armageddon (borrowing a page from the Mayans' book), let us look back on his teaching of thirty years ago. His dire prophecies then sound little different than those Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite fed their followers before the tragic ends of their cults.

From the Wikipedia links:
"Jones claimed that the world would be engulfed in a nuclear war on July 15, 1967, that would then create a new socialist Eden on earth, and that the Temple must move to Northern California for safety."
"Applewhite began to emphasize a strict hierarchy, teaching that his students needed his guidance, as he needed the guidance of the Next Level...A relationship with Applewhite was said to be the only way to salvation; he encouraged his followers to see him as Christ"
It should be noted that none of Burton's many prophecies have ever come to pass, and today The Fellowship of Friends membership numbers fewer than 1,500 worldwide. The following Burton quotations come from the now-inactive Fellowship of Friends Wiki Space.]

Robert Burton's 1980s thoughts on Armageddon, The Fellowship of Friends as an Ark and the end of the world
Robert Burton interprets a license plate
Humanity as an organism does not have an immunity to a synthetic poison such as the neutron bomb.

Taking influence C for granted is an unpardonable offence.

The school will make elaborate plans to retrieve objects of art for posterity after Armageddon occurs during September, 2006. The gods work openly with us, and this is the theory they have transmitted to me.

This type of suffering may be intended to prepare one for the trial of being huddled together within a fall-out shelter after Armageddon.

Higher forces give us inconceivable shocks to prepare us for the unimaginable experience of surviving Armageddon.

From one angle, Armageddon, the supreme battle at the end of the world, is only being postponed until we are prepared.

The school is larger than the Teacher. What a huge task we have – to think that Armageddon is going to occur. So many wonderful men and women have laboured for humanity.

All the cities of the world are on the same time now: they all have twenty four years left before Armageddon occurs in 2006.

The United Sates is a brilliant nation, but it will never grow old as a nation. It will die a young death, like Mozart.

This year (1983) signifies the beginning of the depression and the chain of events that will eventually lead to Armageddon. First in this chain will be the depression, which will require a war in the Middle East to lift us from it; then will come the fall of California, and finally, 2006. The Last Judgment (Armageddon). I have, to an extent, laid my role as a prophet on the line by predicting these events in the years 1984, 1997, 1998 and 2006.

Armageddon will be the biggest tragedy humanity has ever experienced.

We are a people who shall endure the Last Judgment; imagine it is only twenty-three years away.

Armageddon will occur in a flash, and in a flash our new civilization shall rise.

The most dire events in history are brewing and will take place in the next twenty three years. Humanity will be destroyed by a volley of devastating events.

We are all that is real in the world when we are present, and we shall be the only reality after Armageddon.

The phrase, Last judgment means that humanity has been judged unfit to continue.

Russia and the United States are on a collision course that is not to be averted.

All of the world’s great cities are on the same time now; all will perish one way or another in 2006.

We are people destined to survive the Last Judgment, and so we cannot be naïve.

To identify with the tragedy of life reduces our chances as well as posterity’s.

Student: After Armageddon will Jesus’s life still play a prominent role in our lives?

Teacher: Yes. In posterity, it will be impossible to relegate Christ, humanity’s greatest achievement, to a less prominent role in our lives.

The Fellowship of Friends is a mysterious play whose author is an unknown angel. We understand the script as each day is completed. We are being bred to survive a nuclear holocaust. History affords us no examples of major powers disarming themselves, and so it would be naïve to expect disarmament in our age. We have little time left. An ark is designed to withstand the destruction of humanity and to become life again.

One tries to anticipate influence C’s wishes. In a centre a co-director may try to provide in advance what may be needed for a meeting. So it is within our school: one tries to anticipate the needs of the school. Rodney Collin said that higher forces will stage a demonstration of their power. That is our school, which will survive Armageddon. We are not the first ark formed to protect humanity. But we are the first that had a Beethoven, a Bach, a Michelangelo and a Leonardo to protect. Noah’s ark was more for biological survival.

Students must learn that the school is their school. It is their duty to protect humanity and to build a school and an ark. Someday no one will leave Renaissance as there will be no place to go.

Our school is what it is and it is designed by influence C to form an ark and protect religion and the arts.

It appears as if the essence of the school will be philosophy, that is, literature. Mr. Nicoll said that new scriptures were being written, which is a possibility. It will not be as important as our role of preserving culture. It is probably more profitable to pursue something that affects the essence of the ark. Possibly we would add books to the Old and New Testaments.

We are forming an ark and will rescue art, but before that occurs, we have to develop a citizenry that appreciates art.

The Fellowship is going to surpass all of our expectations. It is interesting that we will keep building even after my task is complete. There will be a long series of conscious beings that follow me: Miles, Girard, and four not yet here. Late within my life I will work with students of twenty who will live to celebrate the one-hundredth and perhaps the one-hundred-tenth anniversary of Renaissance. The United States only recently was two hundred years old, so it is no small achievement that a student of mine will have seen me and the one-hundredth anniversary of Renaissance.

We are located near the town of Rough and Ready. It will be rough, and we will be ready. It shows how incredibly practical influence C is.

We are the phoenix rising from the ashes of humanity.

Our school is the fulfillment of the scriptures and is designed to survive Armageddon.

The Fellowship has a tremendous rendezvous with fate; we are on a collision course.

We are preparing for a non-electrical age. We could perpetuate electricity, but it is not the wish of higher forces to retain that advancement.

A nuclear holocaust will be coming, and a difficult trial will be asked of all of us, yet it is a trial that we will submit to with understanding. In the Bible, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son and then higher forces spared him; we will be asked to release our life families, for they will not be spared. The main reason is that they are not prepared people, and this would defeat the purpose of the ark.

Non-violence is a characteristic we are trying to breed into our new people.

As Armageddon occurs, events will gradually reveal the scale of our task and my station. The first participants of Christ’s school were given to lions. Our school is the only school to appear on that ladder. One can see the parallel of suffering between our school and Christ’s.
Everything will be understood eventually, and not on faith but through verification. When Mr. Ouspensky first met Mr Gurdjieff, he said he wanted some facts, and Mr Gurdjieff said, ‘There will be facts.’

Our ark will be composed of ten thousand people in the year 2006, and then the doors will close.

We are a new people being born: a holy family.

The Fellowship is on a collision course with tragic events, and yet we shall prevail.

Our task is so huge that sometimes one can hardly believe it. Difficult events are coming, and we will be ready.

I expect not to be martyred, but to die a passive death. I will have eight years after the destruction of humanity to assist in rebuilding a civilization. I am immortal, and death does not exist for me.

When my task is complete I will continue to work with our school, and communicate to my students the wishes of higher forces for our new civilization.
Influence C is preparing an ark for Renaissance; if they do not educate us, we cannot conserve for posterity.

We must move rapidly to make Renaissance as European as we can in the time that we have.

Humanity’s end is near. There could be no greater tragedy to bear from life’s viewpoint since it will be expunged. Only we few shall be left. We have self-remembering, and our hearts can bear the great emotional upheavals.

We are people destined to survive the last Judgment, and so we cannot be naïve.

The ark could not be cast into greater denying force than the Last Judgment.

Influence C has established a network of centres around the world for the people of the world to board the ark.

(In reference to the Spring of Moses on Mount Renaissance:)
The spring is bountifully flowing. After 2006, the spring will be necessary, as it is a natural source of water. Moses struck the rock and it gave forth water. Esoterically, that means that he struck the inaccessible emotional centre (the rock) and it gave forth water, the symbol for truth.

Noah was laughed at when he built his ark. No one is laughing these days because many people believe that hydrogen warfare is probable.

We have a great responsibility to posterity. To posterity, we are everything; to present humanity, we are nothing.

Influence C wants something for us, a soul, and they want something from us, an ark. We are being educated in the arts so that we may preserve the best of mankind for mankind. With self-remembering, one can pursue one’s self and one’s art, and do both better.

California is a magical place, especially since influence C is making its stand here. The state which has always represented home will fulfill its promise. There are more Angels hovering around Renaissance than any place on earth.

Student: As a man number six, do you find that you are teaching less?
Teacher: No. I am far from having reached my prime. In addition to working for our School in the present, much of my work is to prepare for civilizations to come.

What is the point of having children if one is going to lose oneself in them? In right order, however, they bring another dimension to one’s life. How wonderful it will be to be able to give the ark to our successors.

Most of the Angels who are assisting us played the role of an artist. Thus, the artistic essence of our outside help has dictated the form of the ark. Virtually all that remains of past civilizations are the conscious beings who evolved within their environment and the timeless works of art that they themselves left or that were produced somehow as a result of their influence. We will try to preserve what is best from all ages. We must learn to measure the scale of the visual arts and literature by the standard achieved by the ancient Greeks.

Some paintings do not deserve a place on the wall. One goes from the Dutch section of the Metropolitan Museum in New York to the section for modern art and one sees how people have spent millions for a building so they can put insanity on the wall. Kenneth Clark asked, ‘What will men of the future think when they look at our art?’ What they will then understand is what men are like when they have lost their minds and are expunged by higher forces. Plato said the affairs of the citizens of Atlantis had reached a pitiable position before they were destroyed.

(In reference to a picture of a man in Poldi Pezzoli Museum, receiving divine inspiration:)
People flatter themselves in thinking they are inspired from above.
[ed. - I guess this does not apply to Robert Earl Burton?]

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 23, 2012:
At 42 years of age, The Fellowship of Friends has roughly 1,450 members, about 100 more than it had at 10 years of age. This, despite a “worldwide expansion” of centers and the advent of the internet, which should have greatly facilitated recruitment. Nearly 20% of current members joined in the first decade and, if the cult persists, will likely go to their grave as members.

Since the creation of this blog in 2006, Fellowship membership has declined by a third.

We don’t have the data to draw a direct correlation, but it would be foolish to dismiss the blog as irrelevant.

Robert Burton, Girard Haven, Linda Tulisso [Linda Kaplan], Asaf Braverman, Benjamin Yudin and the rest are merely peddling a product, and it’s a fraud.

Customer reviews are now on-line for the world to see. And it’s not good news for the con men, and women. Their enterprise is bankrupt.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog:

I would add that the 20% True Believers are now probably also the main source of income. There are less than 60 American followers other than those who live at The Farm/Mt Carmel/Renaissance/ Isis/ Apollo¬–again. The majority of these are aging, retired or close to it. Their income and energy must inevitably diminish. The number of members in Western Europe is also dramatically reduced, hence income. Most followers from the rest of the world cannot afford the high payments.

The blog played, and continues to play a part in that, for sure.

Linda Kaplan/Tulisso/Rockwood (and other former names), at times President, Board member, enforcer, editor, collector and inventor of quotations (and many other roles as a chief enabler to Burton), is reliably reported to have said, "The blog is the worst thing that ever happened to the Fellowship."

That is good enough for me!

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 9, 2012:
I in the sky wrote:
The exodus you referred to [beginning in 2006] took the numbers from around 2000 to 1320 [in 2007 or 2008, according to "I in the sky"] or so and that happened over the course of around 18 to 24 months. If there has been a consistent membership decline over the last 6 years the numbers would be much lower today than 1500 or even 1458.
Here’s the data I have:
Mid-2005: 2,200
February 2007: 2,085
April 2007: 2,035
May 21, 2007: 1,726
August 2007: 1,639
September 1, 2009: 1,578
October 29, 2009: 1,570
May 8, 2010: 1,540
January 1, 2011: 1,516
June 15, 2012: 1,458
The June 15, 2012 census is 34% lower than the 2,200 “high water mark” for The Fellowship of Friends.
In light of the trend since 2005, your narrative, that membership dropped to 1,320 in 2007 or 2008 and that it has since recovered by 200, appears highly unlikely. Not inconceivable (and you seem to be quite good at imagining the possibilities), just improbable.
You also neglected to mention that the oppressive Spring and Fall mandatory “donations” of 2007 were triggers that sent many members packing.

[ed. - And what would an ark be without animals...]

"Panoritsa" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 24, 2009:

And I thought the blog was turning a bit funny…
This from a new post on the GF [Greater Fellowship forum]! Burton turns 70 on May 12 (which in itself is a lie…)
“…Robert wishes to (in his words) ‘paint the landscape of Apollo with camels, llamas, water buffalo and elephants(?)’… Already gracing our fields as one enters Apollo are llamas and water buffalo.

Pictured here are the two camels he wants to add to the scenery; they are both 14 month old females:

Jasmin & Valentine…”
Hoera! Welcome Jasmin and Valentine!

What’s going on with those people in the Fellowship? How many humiliations are they going to endure?

[ed. - At one of the East Coast meetings in 1977, Burton expressed the notion that "Mount Carmel" would someday have elephants and giraffes, and that the first elephant would be named "Dee-etta," in honor of the D-8 bulldozer. He said that people also laughed at Noah.]

"ollie" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 14, 2010:

Robert Burton on September 8, 2010:
“About three years ago I was dining in a restaurant in Puebla called Santa Clarita. I looked out the window and saw two camels passing by; they were advertising for a local zoo. Shortly thereafter, I was dining in Santa Clarita, a city just north of Los Angeles. Ken_ Wyg_ was on the way back from San Diego with two camels he was bringing to Apollo, and he stopped by to show them to me. I stepped out of the restaurant and looked at them. Then, last week as we were driving to Los Angeles, near Santa Clarita we saw a car in flames on the side of the road. It was a four-lane highway and Leonid was driving in the fast lane. The Highway Patrol stepped out and stopped all cars from passing, except for us. Leonid drove through – we were the last car. We immediately had the eerie feeling that the Fellowship would escape the Last Judgment… That is why we have the camels – as preparation for the Last Judgment. In forty-three years of working with Influence C, this is one of the strongest omens I have received.”

"qwertyuiop" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 22, 2011:
Despite failed prophecies for 1984, 1998, and 2006, Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Burton continues to hint that the Fellowship of Friends is an “ark” for a new civilization, and he has hinted that some undefined catastrophe may occur in 2012.

“Theoretically, we will survive it unharmed,” Burton said in recent months.
When Doomsday Isn’t, Believers Struggle to Cope
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Sat May 21, 10:31 pm ET

If you’re reading this, Harold Camping’s predictions that the end of the world would start Saturday (May 21) failed to pan out.

That’s good news for most of us, but Camping and his followers were looking forward to the end. After all, they believed that they were likely to be among the 200 million souls sent to live in paradise forever. So how do believers cope when their doomsday predictions fail?

It depends, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the history of doomsday predictions.

“If you have a strong leader, the group survives,” DiTommaso told LiveScience. “Sometimes the group falls apart. Most often, the answer given by the group is that the prophecy is true, but the interpretation was wrong.” [Read: Why People Look Forward to the End]

In 1994, Camping predicted a September doomsday, but hedged his bets with a question mark. On his FamilyRadio website, Camping wrote that he had misunderstood a key biblical passage, but since that time, biblical evidence for a 2011 end had “greatly solidified.”

Doomsdays without doom

The classic study of “doomsdays gone bad” took place in 1954. A Chicago woman named Dorothy Martin predicted a cataclysmic flood from which a few true believers would be saved by aliens. Martin and her cult, The Seekers, gathered the night before the expected flood to await the flying saucer. Unbeknown to them, however, their group had been infiltrated by psychologist Leon Festinger, who hoped to find out what happens when the rug of people’s beliefs is pulled out from under them.

Festinger’s study, which became the basis of the book “When Prophecy Fails” (Harper-Torchbooks 1956), revealed that as the appointed time passed with no alien visitors, the group sat stunned. But a few hours before dawn, Martin suddenly received a new prophecy, stating that The Seekers had been so devout that God had called off the apocalypse. At that, the group rejoiced — and started calling newspapers to boast of what they’d done.

Eventually, the group fell apart. Martin later changed her name to “Sister Thedra” and continued her prophecies.

Other failed doomsday prophets have struggled to keep their followers in line. One self-proclaimed prophet, Mariana Andrada (later known as Mariana La Loca), preached to a gang of followers in the 1880s in the San Joaquin Valley of California, predicting doomsday by 1886. But Andrada was not consistent with her predictions, and believers began to defect. Trying to keep one family from leaving, Andrada told them one of them would die on the journey. Sure enough, the family’s young son soon fell violently ill and passed away. The family accused Andrada of poisoning him. She was arrested and found not guilty, but never returned to preach to her followers.

Searching for explanations

How Camping’s followers will cope with a failed doomsday prediction depends on the structure of the group, said Steve Hassan, a counseling psychologist and cult expert who runs the online Freedom of Mind Resource Center.

“The more people have connections outside of the group, the more likely it is that they’re going to stop looking to [Camping] as the mouth of God on Earth,” Hassan told LiveScience. “Information control is one of the most important features of mind control.”

In his experience, Hassan said, about a third of believers become disillusioned after a failed prediction, while another third find reason to believe more strongly. The remaining group members fall somewhere in between, he said.

Doomsday groups in history have run a gamut of responses after failed predictions, said Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies new and alternative religions. On occasion, a leader will admit he or she was wrong (Note from qwertyuiop: Burton occasionally would quietly admit that he was a failure as a predictor of doom. But did he really have any other choice? It was a huge elephant in the room for several years.)

Other groups will come up with a face-saving explanation. Some groups may blame themselves, rationalizing that their lack of faith caused the failure, Kent told LiveScience. Other groups blame outside forces and redouble their efforts.

“One of the options is for the group to say, ‘Society wasn’t ready, Jesus felt there weren’t enough people worthy of rapturing. Hence, we’ve got to go out and convert more people,’” Kent said.

After the apocalypse

Often, a failed prediction leads to splinter groups and re-entrenchment. After Baptist preacher William Miller predicted the end of the world on Oct. 22, 1844 — a date thereafter known as “The Great Disappointment” when nothing happened — his followers struggled to explain their mistake. One subset decided that on that date, Jesus had shifted his location in heaven in preparation to return to Earth. This group later became the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Sociologists and doomsday experts agree that Camping is likely convinced of doomsday rather than perpetuating a hoax or running a scam. A con artist, Hassan said, would never set himself up for failure by giving a firm date.

[Note from qwertyuiop: In Camping’s case, that may be true, but I have my doubts that Burton really believed in his numerous predictions.]

A belief in doomsday gives followers a clear sense of the world and their place in it, Kent said. Those comforting beliefs are difficult to maintain after the world fails to end.

“This could be a fairly sad day for these people,” Kent said. “There will be some greatly disheartened people who may be terribly confused about what didn’t happen."