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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Robert Burton continues to recruit young Russians

Fellowship of Friends Moscow Russia Open Meeting Advertisement with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

[ed. - Burton cannot seem to decide whether Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and The Fourth Way are in or out of his teaching. It appears he'll use whatever lure is necessary to maintain the flow of "fresh meat," as young male heterosexual recruits have been termed by members of Burton's inner circle. The domain for the Russian website ( was created by Fellowship member Alexander Komov in St. Petersburg. Similar campaigns were undertaken in Argentina (blog has been removed) and Brazil.]

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 28, 2012:
Familiar Fourth Way School “Non-Profit Organization” recruiting on facebook.
Upcoming open meetings in Moscow, Kiev and Nizhny Novgorod offer an opportunity for reverse bookmarking!

From the Moscow meeting announcement:
Esoteric School of the Fourth Way holds a series of introductory lectures on the principles and methods of conscious human development. Meetings will be held in Moscow on 10, 11 and 12 November 2012. Beginning at 19:00. Admission is free. Registration by phone: 8 (926) 210-9367

"Janna" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 2, 2007:
On a different note (Critical Mass) [blogger] – being Russian myself it slightly saddens me to see which role Russians played in the school… A “special” role. Most Robert’s sex toys are Russians.

Oh well. But, hey, if you ask an average American around here what do they know about Russians they’ll likely mention mail-order brides, Russian mafia, Brighton Beach and Russian prostitutes… It is what it is…

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, October 26, 2007:
Dear all,

The Fellowship of Friends “come–on” (#23-144, or thereabouts) stimulates me to offer a list of questions that a prospective student should ask, in one form or another, before joining. I started this list because a friend who has been through the Fellowship experience joined another 4th Way group (started by an ex–FoF student!) and had some second thoughts, and asked for input. I’d say that any prospective student owes it to his or her self to not only get answers (and write them down, in detail), but to have someone less partial go over the answers with them. Ideally, some one who joined would also have a “buddy” to check in with after agreed periods of time to see if pre–stated aims and directions were being adhered to, and in general provide a ‘reality check’ and grounding. Ideally!
This list can surely be improved, so I put it out there as a group project…

Some Questions to ask before making a commitment

Mechanics and set–up of group/school:
  • How are payments structured?
  • Is the group organized legally as a non–profit or church for IRS purposes?
  • How transparent is the accounting?
  • What power does any board hold?
  • Do you serve at the pleasure of the board?
  • Exactly what degree of independence does the board have?
  • Please give examples of when the board effectively countered your decisions?
  • Are board meetings open to students, or do students have access to minutes of meetings?
  • If there is no board, what steps have you taken so students can hold you accountable for your actions, including financial decisions?
Relationship with teacher:
  • How do you measure students’ abilities beforehand to undertake difficult work?
  • What methods, in detail, do you use to prevent students entering a dependent role?
  • How do you prevent infatuation?
  • How do you deal with fear?
  • How do you prevent ‘spiritual materialism’ developing in ‘your’ students?
  • Do you feel invested in the success or failure of your students?
  • What do you do with failures?
  • What value do you place on the idea and practice of personal verification?
  • Are your students required to give up their will to you, as their teacher? If so, is this permanent or for a set or limited period of time?
Sex energy:
  • Are you married?
  • Do you claim celibacy?
  • Do you undertake to never have sexual relations with your students?
  • Please give examples of tasks concerning sex energy.
  • Describe how you presently channel/use sex energy, and will you describe your history in that regard?
  • Do you give out generalized/group exercises?
  • Are any exercises individualized?
  • What are the criteria for making such exercise ‘individual’?
  • Do you fully explain the purpose of the exercises beforehand?
  • Do you have helpers, and if so, what are their qualifications, and are they permitted to set exercises themselves?
  • Are there rules or codes of behavior that must be followed by school members? If so, what are they and how are ‘infractions’ handled?
  • Is there any appeal from your decisions, and if so, how is this handled?
  • Do you and your students work with the Fourth Way idea of Good Householder, and if so, what forms does this work take?
Dynamics of student body/school/group:
  • Is there a limit to the number of students you are willing to work with?
  • Is there a hierarchy?
  • If so, what is its basis?
  • What steps do you take or intend to take to prevent the needs of the organization overtaking the needs of the students with time?
  • Are you prepared to dissolve the organization if this happen?
Measurement of progress:
  • How do you test for the necessary ‘normalcy’ required of prospective 4th Way students?
  • What do you do if mental illness manifests nevertheless?
  • How do you describe the nature of the risks necessary to face before graduation?
  • What criteria do you and the student use to measure progress?
  • How do you empower students or teach them to take back/discover their own power?
  • How do you define conscience?
  • What is the use of conscience?
  • What are your teachings regarding conscience?
  • How do you separate conscience from subjective morality?
  • At what point is there graduation?
  • What happens to graduates?
On asking questions:
  • Will there ever be any questions on any subject that are unsafe, unpalatable, or otherwise objectionable if asked in good faith?
  • Will you take personal questions, that is, questions about your path, your conduct, your history?
  • Do you make contracts with your students, specifying goals, payments, efforts, limits, and results, concerning the temporary giving up of will to the teacher apparently requested of 4th Way students, and what steps are taken to ensure that this is indeed temporary and results/goal driven?
  • Do you in any way put pressure on students to limit their contacts with non-students, family?
  • What are your policies regarding talking about the work, exercises, meetings, experiences with the teacher, with non-students?
  • With ex–students?
Group work:
  • Do you organize group projects?
  • Do you join in them yourself?
  • Do you join students in experiments whose outcome you do not know (take risks)?
  • What is the primary objective/aim of your school?
  • What are secondary objectives/aims of your school?
Your work:
  • Do you believe the ends justifies the means? Regarding awakening?
  • Do you have a sense of humor?
  • Do you encourage a sense of humor in your students?
  • Do you regard yourself as still being on a journey yourself, or do you regard yourself as in any way ‘completed’?
  • Do you believe that you can learn from students or situations as they present themselves?
  • Do you claim to be conscious or enlightened and, if so, do you classify yourself (per the Fourth Way tradition) as a man #4, 5, 6 or 8?
  • Who are/were your teachers and what is their lineage in relation to the Fourth Way or other schools of awakening?
  • Why did you decide to become a spiritual teacher?
  • What are your personal goals/aims as a spiritual teacher?
Other sources, inspirations, teachings:
  • Apart from your own book, do you use or recommend other 4th Way books?
  • Those by Gurdjieff? Ouspensky? Bennett? Orage? Nicol? Others?
  • How do you feel about other teachers, other teachings?
  • Do you ‘mix and match’, and if so, what are your criteria?
  • Do you require exclusivity? That is, can I also study/meet with other teachers/traditions?
  • Do you make specific claims about your level of being?
  • Do you claim powers?
  • What levels of obedience do you require (tasks, suggestions, orders, etc.)?
  • Does your school have a ‘task’ or aim beyond teaching paths to increased consciousness of students?
  • Do you consider your school to be a ‘Fourth Way’ school?
Access to students or graduates:
  • Are there students available who I can talk to, over a period of time, so I can judge their degree of dependence or infatuation or fear myself?
  • Who can (voluntarily, of course) speak something of results gained, states attained, exercises and tasks they have undertaken, and results gained—or are they asked to withhold this kind of information? I’d also be looking for differences between ‘resident’ and ‘non-resident’ students, including, if possible, results.
  • Do you have any objections to me asking the questions below of current students?
  • What do you think of these questions?
  • If you were asking questions of a teacher or students, what would they be?
Relationship to students who have left:
  • What is your policy regarding the relationship between current and former students?
  • If there are restrictions, what is your policy if those rules are broken?  

  • What methods, in detail, do you use to prevent becoming dependent on the teacher?
  • How do you recognize and prevent infatuation?
  • How do you recognize and deal with fear in the student–teacher relationship?
  • What limits, if any, do you place on what the teacher asks you to do in order to awaken?
  • Do you think that you have an operating conscience?
  • Do you think that conscience can be developed?
  • Do you believe the ends justifies the means? Regarding awakening?
  • Are you willing to act on your conscience if it tells you that the teacher is wrong, or is setting you wrong tasks?
  • Are you willing to leave the school if your conscience says you should or must?
  • Do you think you will be in this school for the rest of your life?
  • If not, how long is the most you will stay?
  • How do you think you will recognize that you are ready to graduate?
  • If you believe that you are ready to graduate, will you act on that, or wait for the recognition or permission of the teacher?
  • What methods do you use to prevent becoming dependent on the group?
  • Would you take a paid position with the group?
  • If so, what precautions do you or would you put in place to prevent you becoming dependent on this position a) psychologically, and b) materially?
  • Do you have a position of authority within the group? If so, please describe your role and its importance within the organization.
  • If not, would you take a position of power/responsibility with the group?
  • If so, what precautions do you or would you take to avoid becoming corrupted by the power?
  • How long would you hold such a position?
  • On what basis would you or do you hold or transmit authority within the group?
  • Please describe the chain of authority between the teacher and you.
  • How do you view the legitimacy of each person in authority of those ‘below’ the teacher and ‘above’ you?
  • What do you think of these questions?
  • If you were asking questions of your teacher or students, what would they be?
…a lot of questions to be sure, but you are putting your time, money, effort, body and even your life on the line, so why not try to make the right decision? You cannot have too much information in these circumstances.

From someone who’s Been There and Done That,


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