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, May 25, 2014

Appeal-Democrat reports on election issues

[Editorial comments follow]

Excerpted from the Appeal-Democrat:
By Eric Vodden/Appeal-Democrat
the race for 5th District supervisor in Yuba County took an unexpected turn with incumbent Hal Stocker running an ad trying to connect opponent Randy Fletcher to the Fellowship of Friends. That ad included a story published on an Oregon-based website that called the Fellowship, followers of Mystical Fourth-Way Christianity, a "cult."

5th District Y.C. supervisor

A political ad that appeared last week generated some new attention in the five-candidate race for 5th District Yuba County supervisor.

The question is whether the paid ad that ran in the Appeal-Democrat brought to the voters a legitimate issue or is a case of dirty politics.

"It didn't bother me," said incumbent Hal Stocker, who purchased the ad that ran May 18. "As far as I am concerned it was factual. I don't see any reason to criticize it."

The ad links opponent Randy Fletcher with the Fellowship of Friends organization. It includes an article by Eric Salerno of Browns Valley that appeared on the Oregon-based website

Salerno, listed as a contributor to the website, said Thursday he received no payment from the Stocker campaign, but that he gave permission for its use. He noted that Fletcher had first agreed to be interviewed and then backed out.

"I had interviewed three of the candidates previously and he was next on the list," Salerno said. "My motivation is to get the candidate's story and print it."

A Marysville insurance agent who lives in Browns Valley, Fletcher is one of four candidates seeking to oust Stocker, who is seeking a sixth term. Others running are former supervisor Don Schrader, Jenny Cavaliere and Kathie Thelen.

Fletcher said he preferred to not respond directly to the ad. However, he emphasized he is not a Fellowship member and that any connections he has with members are through his business or in helping organize community events.

"I don't want to go there," Fletcher said of the ad. "It's not healthy for the community."

Stocker said Thursday he has concerns about somebody being on the board who would support what he claims is the Fellowship's goal to develop its 1,000 foothills acres. He called the Fellowship a "special interest group" whose desires are out of step with the rest of the district.

"I am interested in land use," said Stocker. "I am interested in what happens to the countryside."

Stocker noted that Fellowship member Steven Dambeck and Fletcher work together on North Yuba Grown, an organization formed to promote foothills farm products. And he said North Yuba Grown events are being held on Chestnut Grove property owned by Fletcher.

"He (Fletcher) would do whatever they want," Stocker said. "As it relates to land use, you have to have concerns he would vote for their projects. That's where his political base is."

Fletcher said he has no knowledge of any developments the Fellowship might have planned. And he said that he and Dambeck, along with Fellowship president Greg Holman, are "business associates with interest in the community."

Dambeck, who supports Fletcher, said he expects "politicians to overstate what their opponents' position is."

"Nobody wants large development," he said. "The economy doesn't bear it."

The ad, which refers to the Fellowship as a "cult," also includes photos of Fletcher with Dambeck and Holman. It identifies Dambeck as president of Fellowship-connected Apollo Olive Oil, though Dambeck said he sold his interest in the company "seven or eight years ago."

Fletcher said the photo with Dambeck was taken during a Yuba County Alliance for Development meeting in which Dambeck won a door prize. The other with Holman, he said, was taken during an Italian Night event sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Marysville.

Dambeck, recently hired as the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce's director of tourism, called the ad "a pretty cheap shot." He said he has no "leadership role" with the group.

"We are business people who have a spiritual direction," he said.

[ed. - One obvious reason why Randy Fletcher has been able to run such a positive campaign, and avoid "going there" with "unhealthy" attacks, is that he has people like Fellowship members Nick Spaulding and Charles Sharp to do his dirty work.

While it is good to see Steven Dambeck and Randy Fletcher publicly comment on alleged conflicts of interest, they each in their own way manage to sidestep issues. Salerno's article (cited in the A-D story) contained obvious errors, two being the statement that Apollo Olive Oil is a Fellowship of Friends-owned business and Dambeck its President. Dambeck's LinkedIn profile states he was with Apollo Olive Oil from 1999-2009. Still, he seems to employ the association when convenient, and avoid it when inconvenient.

Dambeck clearly understates his "leadership role." As a prominent member of the Fellowship community for over 35 years, he has served the Fellowship in various official roles, and as an organizer of businesses and local community projects involving the group, he is certainly a "Fellowship leader." But Dambeck's strategy is often to "lead from behind," as an adviser or consultant.

Fletcher neglected to mention Charles Sharp, so Sharp's status in the business partnership remains unclear. The Fellowship organization may not be seeking development of lands, but individual members certainly are. Nicholas Spaulding has for years been representing Fellowship interests during county planning processes that might promote or restrict development in Oregon House.]
Steven Dambeck responds, Letter to the Editor, Appeal-Democrat [ed. - Link now defunct]
Letter: Re: Hal Stocker
Sunday, May 25, 2014 12:01 am

Permit me a few words about Hal Stocker's paid advertisement in last Sunday's paper.

In his campaign ad, Mr. Stocker said two things about me and Apollo Olive Oil, both of them wrong. I am not in any business role connected to Apollo Olive Oil, and neither is the Fellowship of Friends.

It should be a cause for concern for all of us that an elected official would spread misinformation about things so easily verifiable on public record. But much more important is the question: Why isn't he simply proud to have Apollo — one of the most highly regarded olive oils in the world — up in our neck of the woods?

Why, rather than celebrating a true local success story, does he instead attempt to throw mud on it, based simply on the religious beliefs of its owner? Nothing could be more un-American. And nothing could be less suitable in the character of a supervisor for Yuba County.

Steven Dambeck
Oregon House
[ed. - The moral outrage Dambeck expresses above, serves to distract attention from substantive allegations, and to counterattack Stocker. After all, Fletcher’s opponent is by definition Dambeck’s opponent. In his attack, Stocker irresponsibly used an article with obvious mistakes.

In response, Dambeck again chooses his words carefully. The Fellowship does not own Apollo Olive Oil, as the article states, but there is indeed a business relationship between the two parties involving use of olive trees and facilities located on Fellowship property. (All the Apollo Olive Oil videos in this series appear to be on location at the Fellowship compound: Also notice the video of Dambeck walking the Fellowship's Renaissance vineyard.)

Update May 27, 2014: An interesting article appears in this morning's Territorial Dispatch: "Fletcher's business permits in question". If the report is accurate, it would be rather curious that two experienced entrepreneurs such as Randy Fletcher and Steven Dambeck would simply overlook this basic business requirement.]

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