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.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Asaf Braverman's "Be." website Terms and Conditions

Asaf Braverman's Be Period spin-off from Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends cult
Asaf Braverman from Be Period

I hereby release and discharge “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time” of and from any and all actions, causes of action, suits, losses, liabilities, rights, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, obligations, costs, expenses, liens, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, variances, trespasses, damages, judgments, extents, executions, claims, and demands, of every kind and nature whatsoever, whether now known or unknown, foreseen or unforeseen, matured or un-matured, suspected or unsuspected, in law, admiralty or equity (collectively, “Claims”), which I ever had, now have, or hereafter can, shall, or may have against “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time”...

[ed. - From Asaf Braverman's Be. website. Can you imagine if Robert Burton's "students" had to sign such a waiver upon entering the Fellowship of Friends? At least here there is a nod to accountability, or more appropriately, the lack thereof.]

WEBSITE TERMS OF USE expresses a certain psychological perspective and suggests techniques to increase self-awareness. The context used is for educational and spiritual purposes only. By paid or unpaid use, of the website or affiliated Ark In Time websites, (including but not limited to Facebook and Google + sites, webinars, seminars, videos, tutorials, apps, website interactions, suggested exercises and practices, and all other presented material), you are agreeing to enter into the terms of the General Release.


I attest that I am 18 years of age or have reached the age of majority in the country in which I reside. I agree to assume sole responsibility for the use of the website or affiliated Ark In Time websites, including Facebook and Google + sites, webinars, seminars, videos, tutorials, apps, website interactions, suggested exercises and practices, personal interactions with Asaf Braverman, his associates, paid employees of the Ark in Time company, paid contractors, or volunteers, and that, Ark In Time and other affiliated websites and its present and former, officers, directors, members, affiliates, successors, assigns, and agents (collectively, “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time”) shall not be liable for the content of the website, the material, videos, webinars, seminars, tutorials, website interactions, and suggested exercises, writings of the Fourth Way, of Asaf Braverman, George Gurdjieff, PD Ouspensky, and other suggested readings and references (collectively, “website and tutorial material”).

The Be Pyramid, “The Fourth Way” and the writings of Asaf Braverman, George Gurdjieff and PD Ouspensky, other suggested readings and references and all the context and material thereof, are not intended to diagnose or treat any psychological, emotional, physiological or physical discomforts or disorders. “Beperiod”, “Ark in Time” and all writers and contributors, named or unamed, are not licensed therapists, counselors, psychologists, physicians or psychiatrists. Any user who is currently under any form of professional psychological or other medical care is obliged to notify their counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or physician of the use of any such website and tutorial material. Under no circumstances should the user discontinue any therapy, counseling, psychotherapy or medication without first consulting their counselor, therapist, psychologist or physician.

I hereby release and discharge “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time” of and from any and all actions, causes of action, suits, losses, liabilities, rights, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, obligations, costs, expenses, liens, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, variances, trespasses, damages, judgments, extents, executions, claims, and demands, of every kind and nature whatsoever, whether now known or unknown, foreseen or unforeseen, matured or un-matured, suspected or unsuspected, in law, admiralty or equity (collectively, “Claims”), which I ever had, now have, or hereafter can, shall, or may have against “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time”, including but not limited to property damage, personal injury or death arising out of or relating to such website and tutorial material. I further agree to indemnify and hold harmless “Beperiod” and “Ark in Time” from any damages, expenses, or liabilities arising out of or relating to such Claims.

I understand that I may later discover Claims or facts that may be different than, or in addition to, those that I now know or believe to exist regarding the website and tutorial material, and which, if I had known at the time of using the Beperiod and Ark In Time, may have materially affected this release and my decision to enter into it and grant the release contained herein. Nevertheless, I intend to fully, finally and forever settle and release all Claims that now exist, may exist or previously existed, as set forth in this release whether known or unknown, foreseen or unforeseen, or suspected or unsuspected, and the release given herein is and will remain in effect as a complete release, notwithstanding the discovery or existence of such additional or different facts. I hereby waive any right or Claim that might arise as a result of such different or additional Claims or facts. I have been made aware of, and understand, the provisions of California Civil Code Section 1542 (”Section 1542”), which provides: “A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS OR HER FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM OR HER MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS OR HER SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR.” I expressly, knowingly and intentionally waive any and all rights, benefits and protections of Section 1542 and of any other state or federal statute or common law principle limiting the scope of a general release.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Boldly breaching Burton's boy barrier

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends cult leader and his male harem with Asaf Braverman
Robert Burton (here with Asaf Braverman) is perpetually surrounded by young men serving him in many ways, including protection.

"aarrgh me buckos" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 2, 2015:
The following is an excerpt from a letter and is Not My Story:
Now, on a lighter note, I recently had an encounter with Robert Burton at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. I was sitting on a bench at the far end of one of the big rooms, waiting for [name omitted] to return from one of the heads. I saw a small person turning the corner into another room, caught a part of his profile, but thought he was way too small. Then I noticed that three young men were following him with their hands in the “protect your gonads” position. Finally I decided to check it out. So, I walked through one room, not there, walked in the next room, and there they were, but the little man still had his back to me. I walked on, turned around and came back and he was facing more towards me so I could definitely see it was him. So somehow the whole thing tickled me. I started stalking him, moving towards him, and when he would turn, I would go sideways and get closer, and when he would turn again, I would keep going sideways and keep getting closer. I became aware that his three companions were aware of my movements, and were watching me closely. They were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, with their hands in position, and they looked like soccer defenders waiting for a free kick. That tickled me even more. Finally I got within about three feet of the little fellow, and he was finally alerted to my presence and looked at me. He was pale and gaunt, and his eyes looked confused and slightly maniacal. He said, “My age and my memory…”

And I said, “I’m [name omitted].”

And he said, “Yes, of course.”

I put out my arms and we had a hug. I stood back and he went into the same act that I remember from 40 years ago. He bowed his head slightly, squinted, looked off into middle-distance and said, “Conscious influence is still working with us and there’s more to be revealed.” This tickled me even more. And when he finally looked back at me, I was starting to laugh. So I put my arms out again, we had another hug, this one a little longer than comfortable, so I stepped back, turned, and walked away. He said, “Say ‘hello’ to your brother,” and without turning, I waved my hand back at him.

I went back and sat down; at about the same time that [name omitted] rejoined, and I said, “Robert Burton is in the second room there. Do you want to say, ‘Hi’?” And she said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Again, the amazing thing was how small he was, maybe 135 – 140 pounds, and I swear, I was looking down at him. End of story.

[ed. - Borrowed from "Cult Survivor's" YouTube page, the following video provides a dramatic "non-formatory" glimpse of Burton and his harem, with (in this case) Burton bringing up the rear.]

[Cult Survivor's description:]
Robert Earl Burton and his entourage of young male lovers walking backwards. The person walking next to him is Asaf Braverman, his main disciple for 20 years that was expelled from Burton's cult in 2016 and now has his own group. Burton is the founder and leader of the Fellowship of Friends (FOF), a religious organization in Oregon House (Northern California, USA) that has been labeled as a cult by several experts. Burton is always surrounded by an entourage of young men from Russia and Eastern European countries and he has been sued for sexual abuse in the past.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Moscow Officials Help Citizens Avoid the 'Moonies,' Other Cults

[ed. - This story may be relevant to The Fellowship of Friends since, over the past 25 years, Russia (and other former Soviet Bloc nations) supplied the majority of the Fellowship's new recruits worldwide. The young and naive are drawn not only by the Fellowship's (falsely-claimed) connection to the Russian Gurdjieff and Ouspensky teachings, but also by the promise of American religious visas and the prospect of "being close" to their teacher, Robert Burton. A particularly handsome young man stands a very good chance of becoming intimately involved with Burton, and joining his inner circle of "spiritual prostitutes." I don't know if the Fellowship is among the 80 cults to be listed.]

From The Moscow Times, September 28, 2015:
The Moscow city legislature plans to release a booklet warning Muscovites against unorthodox religious "cults" operating in Russia, and providing instructions on how to report such organizations to the authorities, the capital's M24 news website reported Monday.

Russia has classified about 80 organizations as "cults," the report said. Those range from domestic movements to transplants from international groups, including the Unification Church, or Moonies, Russia's "God Kuzya" movement, whose leader has been detained on swindling charges, and the Grigory Grabovsky group — whose founder proclaimed himself the second coming of Christ and offered to resuscitate the dead, but was sentenced to prison for swindling.

"Today many people are searching for spiritual calmness, while charlatans, such as the 'God Kuzya' and his likes, are exploiting that," a member of the Moscow City Council committee for public and religious organizations, Renat Laishev, was quoted by M24 as saying.

The booklets will instruct readers on how to recognize a cult, stressing that "cults do not necessarily take a traditional form, many of them are posing as lectures, personal development courses, or even yoga classes," and will provide instructions on "where to turn to, if a citizen discovers a cult," Laishev was quoted as saying.

The Moscow City Duma may discuss a draft booklet during a session this week, the report said.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Life people" say the darnedest things

The devil worshipers' Poseidon (from Associated Press.)

[ed. - Fear- and ignorance-induced tales such as this perpetuate a few of the myths surrounding The Fellowship of Friends. In the 70s, some locals (non-members, also called "life people" by the Fellowship) described the group as "devil worshipers," offering as evidence the Fellowship's large bronze sculpture of Poseidon. It is highly improbable the library described below actually contained books that were "ALL of satanic/cult subject matter." Even without satanism added to the mix, the truth about the Fellowship is horrifying enough.]

"Anonymous" wrote on the Religion and Child Abuse News blog, August 16, 2015:
I lived in Dobbins [neighboring Oregon House] for several years and I had no idea 'the fellowship' existed, until the last month I lived there. Off of Marysville Hwy, on a side road, there was a very small market/gas station that everyone went to. Every time I went there, inevitably, there would be these well dressed people, in linen clothing, wearing handmade shoes for comfort, they spoke Swedish, and other foreign languages, many were very blonde, they'd drive up in BMW's, Mercedes...and they really looked OUT OF PLACE. They looked drugged up, always seemed nervous, or paraniod [sic], and they avoided eye contact. They gave me the creeps! You could spot them instantly because 98% of the true local guys were missing teeth, wore snap button plaid shirts, that they bought at that same little store, smelled faintly of goats, wore dirty ball caps, and drove up in dirty, banged up trucks, pulling metal fishing boats.. I found out about them from a co-worker after I had invited her & her husband to come visit. She happened to tell her mom, who was retired, WAS VERY WELL READ, was an artist, and a world traveler. She and her husband decided to end their travels by driving across the entire USA, staying at all the Thousand Trails campgrounds, BUT ONE, they had missed on the catalog. The one in/near Dobbins. So, they went camping there, and saw the signs for 'the winey' [sic]. My friend's mom and husband went to visit it. They meandered through the garden, and then they went inside, and they noticed a door in one of the rooms. It wasn't locked so they went inside. It was a small library. My friend's mom started looking at the book titles, and her being so well read, could see that they were ALL of satanic/cult subject matter. It startled her, but not as much as the foreigner who caught them inside the room, and started screaming at them, at the top of his voice, for them to get out!
Screaming questions about what were they doing there, who were they, what did they want, what were they looking for...The man called for reinforcements and they all escorted them off the property, with a warning to never come back. So, my friend's mom decided to do a little research on this winery and found out quite a bit of ugly truth, like child molestation, tax evasion, physical punishment, group sex, ...the USUAL depraved cult activity. To me, they seemed like a bunch of really nerdy wall flowers, you know, like the ones in high school that were drab, self conscious, and blended into the walls, didn't go to the proms, and whenever you look at your year book you wonder who that is. Loosers [sic], who are now together with other loosers [sic], and now they finally have MANY someones they can have sex with. They have horses and dress up in their English riding costumes, and jump, build their own tennis courts, and THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE NOW COOL, and they now allow themselves to do all the dirty things they think we do, like molest children. They believe that DOBBINS [ed. - more accurately, Apollo in Oregon House] WILL BE THE LAST PLACE STANDING ON EARTH, WHEN IT'S ALL OVER EVERYWHERE ELSE...I had gotten 2 bottles of their wine, as a gift, and my friend and I poured it down the drain! ME, I just wonder why they don't use their full name: The Fellowship of Friends, of The Devil.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fletcher Gets Board Consensus

[ed. - Fellowship of Friends political operative Nick Spaulding has for years been working on behalf of Fellowship landowners (and, some say, for Oregon House rancher Tom Richards) to loosen development restrictions in Oregon House. Now, with 5th District Supervisor Randy Fletcher's sympathetic ear, prospects for the Fellowship's development plans appear brighter.]

"Nick Spaulding wrote in a letter to eTerritorial Dispatch, July 29, 2015:
Fletcher Gets Board Consensus


After the 1996 General Plan’s adoption, policy 16LUP became Yuba Ordinance 12:80:060 et al, and balanced rural property rights against Calif. Dept. of Fish & Game deer herd restrictions. Without 16LUP, the density for residences outside rural community boundaries was 1 single-family home per 20 or 40 acre parcel. With 16LUP, the density could be 1 residence per 5 acres IF half of the total parcel acreage was dedicated to open space. So, if you had 40 acres, with 16LUP you could create 8 residential lots, IF the home sites were “clustered” together and thereby leaving the rest to open space use.

The consensus of agricultural professionals then, was that 16LUP clustered housing is superior to checker boarding the foothills with big 20 and 40 acre parcels with a single house in the middle.

Rural property rights policy “16LUP” is soon to receive a public hearing promised over 4 years ago.

Just as this political football was about to be kicked down the road for another few years, Yuba County’s 5th District Supervisor, Randy Fletcher differed with Planning Director, Wendy Hartman’s version of recent events. Hartman’s staff Report stated that the Board and Planning Commission’s decision on handling 16LUP was that it would mean an Amendment to the General Plan, and it was too late to review it now, but could do so in the next General Plan Update,” still years away.

Fletcher stated at the July 21st Board meeting that the Board’s June 4th decision was actually to handle the 16LUP issue separately, so as not to slow down approval of the rest of the Draft Development Code’s provisions. The official audio recordings from Board and Planning Commission meetings appear to support Fletcher’s recollection. Both Planning Commission Chair Alyssa Lindman and Warner Phillips noted Hartman’s Staff report version of events differed from theirs.

Consensus was reached when Fletcher proposed a comprehensive review and hearing on 16LUP be scheduled before the Planning Commission in the coming months. The Commission would report back to the Board. If the Commission finds some version of 16LUP to be consistent with the 2030 General Plan, it could be presented to the Board for inclusion into the new Development Code and Ordinances. After the 1996 General Plan’s adoption, policy 16LUP became Yuba Ordinance 12:80:060 et al, and balanced rural property rights against Calif. Dept. of Fish & Game deer herd restrictions.

Without 16LUP, the density for residences outside rural community boundaries was 1 single-family home per 20 or 40 acre parcel. With 16LUP, the density could be 1 residence per 5 acres IF half of the total parcel acreage was dedicated to open space. So, if you had 40 acres, with 16LUP you could create 8 residential lots, IF the home sites were “clustered” together and thereby leaving the rest to open space use.

The consensus of agricultural professionals then, was that 16LUP clustered housing is superior to checker boarding the foothills with big 20 and 40 acre parcels with a single house in the middle.

The current controversy began when, in 2011, Planner Hartman told the Board, and the public, that 16 LUP would not be discussed during the General Plan update process, but rather later, in the structuring of the new Draft Development Code. Then there would be public input, along with Board and Commission input and review.

Now, 4 years later, the Development Code is being crafted Community Development Director Kevin Mallen stated that 16LUP is a General Plan issue, not a Development Code issue. So, the chance to get it recognized in this round of General Plan and Development Code had passed.

[ed. - Further background on the story:]

"Nick Spaulding wrote in a letter to eTerritorial Dispatch, February 9, 2015:
Deceptive Development Code from Yuba County Staff?

Deceptive politicians can be (and have been) voted out of office. But what about un-elected county staff, when they create politically motivated, utopian ordinances like those in the 500-page Draft Yuba County Development Code?

Staff’s words are deceptive when saying new policies reflect “best practices.” Best practices really means practices that the urban-slanted American Planning Association and their consultant members have decided are “best” for the rest of us, regardless of any true economic impacts on local farmers, industries, businesses, families, property owners and taxpayers.

After three years, Staff and their consultants finally presented the draft of ordinances to Supervisors. Staff’s “best practices” promoted concepts like “Number of Livestock Per Animal Unit (AU),” where Staff attempted to regulate the numbers and types of animals allowed per acre of rural property, regardless of the of property’s topography or grazing capacity. Their chart showed a formula where 20 chickens are equal to 4 goats, or 2 pigs, or 1 cow, etc., when thinking of how many AU’s would be allowed on your acreage.

Deceptive, because this level of political engineering was never mentioned in any of staff’s “public input” sessions, but when finally brought to light just two weeks ago, Supervisors acknowledged extremely negative public feedback and directed staff to eliminate the concept. Finally, real, practical public input was being considered by staff.

Oddly, back in August, 2010, Planning Dir. Wendy Hartman stated “Currently, the County does not have sufficient funding to prepare these two essential implementation measures of our 2030 General Plan.” Hartman wrote those words on the County’s application to Sacramento for the $378,000 Sustainable Communities Grant in order to pay for this Development Code and a yet-to-come Climate Action Plan.

How is it possible that Yuba County did not have sufficient funding for this “once every 25 years” update for these most basic land use authority documents? And, over the previous 25 years, was there no budget set-asides for any funding for the General Plans update that is required by law? So, our $1.25 Million General Plan was primarily paid for with liberal policy grant money, and now our new Development Code and Climate Action Plan are also being paid for with mostly grant money?

Question: When conservative Yuba County goes to liberal Sacramento and begs for a liberal “Sustainable Communities Planning Grant” what will Sacramento be expecting for their money? Answer: Something
very green?

Seems that’s how Yuba got a grant when 164 other applicants didn’t. Yuba did give Sacramento something very green. Yuba’s new General Plan recently won a green award from the Sacramento Area Assoc. of Environmental Professionals. But, Yuba County historically votes 60% conservative, while the State of California goes opposite with 60% liberal. It’s a rural versus urban situation. Supervisors had directed Staff to create a minimally green plan that would follow, but not go beyond state law. That’s not what Staff has delivered.

So, Yuba County’s Billion Dollar rural, agricultural and related industrial economy is in danger of being controlled by staff level urban designers more suited to Marin or San Francisco area counties. Deception comes in handy when trying to get a conservative county to swallow a big, liberal land use development code.

Planning and development directors are un-elected employees, and they are making north of $130,000 a year. Also, grant money not only paid for consultants, it also covered much of staff’s time to work on the code. Would less grant money have also meant less staff paid hours, and less green in the code?

Nick Spaulding
Oregon House, Ca.

Letter to eTerritorial Dispatch, March 23, 2015:
Spaulding Is On Your Side

I and many other residents of Yuba County have been interacting with Nick Spaulding, for several years now regarding the 2030 General Plan and its implementation now, through the new proposed code ordinances that are being challenged by many residents. Nick is a tireless advocate for personal liberties and property rights. We appreciate that he researches proposed local land use issues and updates concerned citizens of the codes ramifications to their property rights. Nick looks through a prism that sets aside all the nice sounding, honey- coated words, like “sustainable growth” and “environmentally friendly”. Nick will tell you what they really mean to the eroding of your property rights and freedom to use your own property. If you want an advocate, call Nick Spaulding.

Frank & Marcia Cecil
Browns Valley, Ca.

[ed. - A surprising rift between Fellowship members Steven Dambeck and Nick Spaulding?]

"Steven Dambeck" wrote in a letter to eTerritorial Dispatch, on March 9, 2015:
Doesn't Agree with Spaulding letter

To address the recent reckless and inappropriate attacks leveled by Nick Spaulding against the Yuba County Planning Director, Wendy Hartman, both in these pages and at County meetings: Mr. Spaulding paints Ms. Hartman as a woman with vast powers and evil intentions. In fact, her role is primarily that of information facilitator and problem solver; a role she plays with great professionalism. He should know that land use policy comes not from staff, but from the community's elected leadership.

Zoning ordinances are currently being revised. This is tricky business. It involves implementing local, state and federal policy, while balancing the directives of County leadership and the diverse needs of County residents. Ms. Hartman has guided this process well, actively soliciting involvement from stakeholders throughout the County, and effectively incorporating their feedback. Those of us who are actively involved in the process see that our land use needs will be more effectively met under the revised codes than they are being currently. And we see a County staff that is committed -- as never before -- to helping build a vibrant and prosperous community.

If instead of slinging mud from the sidelines, Mr. Spaulding would take the trouble to attend these events in a constructive way and to help find viable solutions to some of the thorny issues that confront us, he would find Ms. Hartman to be, as the rest of us do, a positive and collaborative partner in the process; one who is attentive and responsive to our needs, and focused on helping us find the best solutions possible.

Steven Dambeck
Oregon House, Ca.

Former Yuba County 5th District Supervisor Hal Stocker's letter published in the Appeal-Democrat, October 20, 2015:
A while back, Tom Richards complained in the local papers about rough treatment he got from Yuba County in terms of refusal to re-zone 5,000 acres in south Oregon House into smaller he could put in a big subdivision...and cash in big.

Now we have Nick Spaulding, on much the same kick, going along with Richards (as usual), with letters in the papers.

The lands they want to develop are outside the community boundary and therefore restricted to larger parcels (such as 20, or 40, or 60 aces, whereas smaller 5-acre parcels are allowed only within the community boundary).

The policy here, which has always been popular with the locals, is to build most of the new houses within the established communities, on smaller parcels (5 acres), while maintaining the rest of the area as "open space"...of larger parcels.

Through the years, a few locals have been preoccupied with development of the Dobbins-Oregon House area, such as condominiums east of Collins Lake and, later, a community water-sewer system along Rices Crossing Road. Fortunately, the community organized — with a vengeance — and shot down both items.

With our horrendous drought, it would foolhardy to consider new subdivisions in Dobbins-Oregon House, when there is not enough water to go around. And some rainy years would not solve the problem. We need to plan for, and mitigate, future water shortages.

And we must not forget the extreme danger of fires in Dobbins-Oregon House, demonstrated by catastrophic fires in 1997 and 1999 (Williams and Pendola).

And as patiently explained to me a few times by long-term fire tower manager and guru, Greg Crompton, housing projects on one-way-out roads, such as Rices Crossing Road and Dixon Hill Road, are a particularly bad idea, since residents are likely to get trapped, with no ready way out, by a north wind-driven fire. Talk about more catastrophes.

Hopefully, Spaulding's subdivision schemes fail with the county, with our new foothill supervisor leading the way. If not, it may be up to the community to put things right (such as with DOACT, in the past) and make sure Mr. Spaulding and the Fellowship are responsible community members...with all of us having a chance to enjoy, and even luxuriate in, our natural, hard-to-beat foothill country.

Hal Stocker

Before you board the Fellowship of Friends Ark, a warning

Fellowship of Friends cult Ark in Time logo by Asaf Braverman
"Ark in Time" logo
"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 28, 2015:
If anyone who has had no connection to the FoF, but is interested in that organization reads this, I’m writing just for you. And of course, the following is just my opinion.

If you want to join a group of people who mostly (but not all) started off as sincere, nice, well–meaning folks, but whose entire ‘spiritual’ center of gravity is based on faith, know that in advance—and accept the consequences. Look through earlier pages of this blog for posts by folks like ‘Daily Cardiac’, or in later pages by ‘I in the sky’ for excellent representations of the typical follower’s point of view. Know that many of us (I dare say, probably most) who have ‘been through the mill’ have concluded that the leader, Robert 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 more than forty years. Know that if you are a young, even moderately good-looking young heterosexual male who enters his orbit, 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; he is a complete slave to his lust. Know that his followers excuse and even justify this ‘supersex’ (as he terms it) because he is a ‘conscious being’.

Know also that Burton is a life–long misogynist. He has no use for women, unless they have money or influence. Moreover, he states 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 books about 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 J.G. 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 being a self-proclaimed 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’, the Devil. 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. 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 45 angels, the discorporate remains of (mostly) white, male Europeans who have left a historical record. More than strange, huh? Almost all the personal exercises given by Dear Teacher are of the “C-Influence wishes you to externally 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 “Marry this person or that”.

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 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 end of history in 2012, 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 title 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 45 angels whose sole welfare is those who write checks to Burton, and who will organize and attend the complete destruction of the rest of humanity. For example, unlike Gurdjieff, Ouspensky 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. You will also be interested to know that he and his followers discarded the Fourth Way for a few years, until declining membership made it necessary to bring out that particular bait again.

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 if you are interested in 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 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. Not so in 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. If you are a young male, he will likely 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, drive the best cars, travel first class everywhere, and give rich gifts to his lovers—while he favors them—all from your earnings. His followers exist to hang on every word, gratify every whim, and worship him as, in his own words, “the brightest light in 2,000 years”, the self–claimed equivalent and successor to Christ. Not so incidentally, he is ‘beyond Judeo–Christian morality’ (though he has yet to formulate a successor, though we do know there will be no minimum age of consent).

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? 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, please 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.

Robert Earl Burton (R. E. Burton), sexual predator in shepherd's clothing
Robert Earl Burton has lured countless young men for his own sexual gratification

Friday, July 24, 2015

It’s a labor of love on ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ at Arts Summer Festival in Oregon House


Friday, July 24, 2015 10:03 pm

By Leticia Gutierrez

William Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," with a cast of people with international backgrounds, arrives this week in a location that may not be well-known to many.

The Arts Summer Festival, presented by Apollo Arts regularly for about the past 20 years, is at the Renaissance Vineyard and Winery in Oregon House.

"We're trying to have it more open to the public," said Greg Holman, president of the Fellowship of Friends, owner of the location.

Previous productions were more for a limited community and sold out quickly.

Holman added the summer festival was also open to the general public last year.

"We like people to visit and feel welcome to attend (the plays)."

"Love's Labor's Lost" will be performed at the outdoor theater at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at 12587 Rice's Crossing Road. Tickets are $12-$35. Seating is limited.

"It's a musical and a wonderful story with very unique characters," said director Ansley Braverman. "The level of production will be quite a surprise for our area."

The cast includes actors of various ages and acting experience, she said. "It's a nice blend of experience and generations."

Though the play, very popular when written in the 16th century, has lost favor over the years, "we've tried to use (Shakespeare's) attitude and make it accessible to a modern audience," Braverman said.

"I think anyone can follow the story and be delighted."

During the intermission, French-style appetizers and wines selected to complement the play based in 18th century France will be available for purchase.

"You're not just attending a Shakespeare play, you're having a whole experience," Braverman said. "We have an incredible set. Your eyes will be pleased; your taste buds will be tickled ... the music you will hear."

All on a stage at a lake with a background of a vineyard and a setting sun.

"We try to make it a fun, light evening that anyone can enjoy."

For reservations, email or call 692-2437.

Know & Go

• What: William Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost."

• When: 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

• Where: Renaissance Vineyard and Winery, 12587 Rice's Crossing Road, Oregon House.

• Tickets: $12-$35.

• Call: 692-2437.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards"

[ed. - From A companion piece, "America's Most Peculiar Appellation," was published on (See below)]
The Fellowship of Friends' Renaissance Vineyard - Oregon House, CA

By Alder Yarrow

Soon after gold was discovered in California in 1848, and word spread east, more than 80,000 prospectors descended upon the foothills of the Sierra's in search of their fortunes. Most only found hardship and broken dreams. Almost as soon as the Gold Rush began, stories began to circulate about "lost mines," rich troves of gold that were never to be found again when their discoverers met with misfortune. Even today an occasional prospector still goes in search of these forgotten treasures.

What would you think if I told you that the legends of a massive treasure buried in the foothills were true? But instead of far up a hidden valley, this treasure lies stacked in the dusty dark corners of a building that was itself something of a failed dream. Instead of gold, this treasure takes the form of thousands of bottles of some of the most terroir-driven wine that has ever been produced in the history of California winemaking.

The story of how these amazing bottles came to be gathering dust instead of adorning the wine lists of America's finest restaurants is as strange as it is remarkable.
[ed. - Above, the interior of Renaissance Winery, which was also designed to withstand the nuclear holocaust Robert Burton predicted would take place in 2006. Fellowship members would shelter in the building, then emerge following the holocaust and found a new civilization.]
It begins with a man named Robert Earl Burton, a charismatic spiritual teacher who founded an organization known as the Fellowship of Friends. This group is registered as a non-profit religious organization in the State of California, but anyone who is no longer a member will likely describe it as a cult. Members are expected to tithe 10% of their income to the organization; like many such organizations it has found itself accused of everything from tax evasion to the sexual misconduct of its leader (those charges were settled out of court); and Burton has supposedly issued several near-Doomsday prophesies over the years as well as purportedly arranging marriages for his followers.

In 1971, Burton purchased 1300 acres of land in the heart of Yuba County just outside of a tiny town called Oregon House that once served as a rest stop for weary Gold Rush travelers after they crossed the nearby Yuba River. On this massive, undeveloped piece of land, which he christened Apollo, Burton set out to make an oasis, a sanctuary, and in the words of his followers, "a new civilization." With the help (both financial and physical) of his nearly 2000 followers, Burton constructed his vision of a Mediterranean paradise of old, with many buildings, gardens, a roman amphitheater, and even a private zoo (the property is still home to 24 camels). If you've ever been to Hearst Castle or seen Citizen Kane, just imagine something slightly less grand, and you'll get the picture.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Asaf Braverman introduces the Fellowship of Friends "Online School"

[ed. - Welcome to The Fellowship of Friends' latest makeover. "Be.: Weekly Video Tutorials on the Be. Pyramid" is a recruiting tool targeting the naive and gullible. Be.Ware. 

Asaf Braverman (who here assumes the role of teacher and role model) has for twenty years been Robert Burton's devoted companion and assistant. On the subject of ancient spiritual traditions, Braverman speaks with an air of authority, while remaining oblivious to the nature of the mind-control cult that lured him to its ranks.

Complying with Burton's wishes, he is reported to have entered a "marriage of convenience" to gain American citizenship. When he later married a young Fellowship bride, chosen for him by Burton, he was apparently still legally married to his "green card spouse." It seems Braverman, officially a bigamist, then ran afoul of both American and Israeli immigration authorities and was waylaid in Italy for a couple years while his case was resolved. He was eventually permitted re-entry into the U.S. His is but one example among many in which the Fellowship of Friends "church" willfully and blatantly violates the law in order to fulfill Burton's personal wishes and desires.]
(Click on Asaf to begin your journey...)

"The Be. Pyramid instructs those seeking to develop higher consciousness by revisiting ancient teachings from a Fourth Way perspective." (
[ed. - For more on the narcissism that characterizes both Burton and Braverman, see The Classic Narcissist. Below, "ton2u" posts the 1999 video "Mind Control Made Easy". Though the production might appear far-fetched, the Fellowship of Friends has exhibited most characteristics described in the video, even a prominent "church leader" who is reported to have said he would kill if Robert Burton asked him to do so.]

"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 2, 2015:
re: braverman’s “polished schtick” – I listened to / looked at the video link – the bullshit gauge was pegging out, dissecting particular contradictions was impossible… (thanks whalerider).
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”
A more general concern is that he’s attempting to spread this disease… it starts in the video as a kind of verbal shell game which – I know from “personal first hand experience” – is intended to turn into a long con. From Wikipedia:
In Confessions of a Confidence Man, Edward H. Smith lists the “six definite steps or stages of growth in every finely balanced and well-conceived confidence game."
"One follows the other with absolute precision. In some games one or more of these acts, to use a theatrical comparison, may be dropped out, but where that happens the game is not a model one. The reference to the stage is apt, for the fine con game has its introduction, development, climax, dénouement and close, just like any good play. And this is not the only analogy to the drama, for the scenes are often as carefully set; the background is always a vital factor. In the colorful and mirthful language of the bunko man, all these parts of the game have their special names. I give them with their definitions:
Foundation Work
The preparations, which are made before the scheme is put in motion, including the elaboration of the plan, the employment of assistants, and so forth.
The manner of getting in touch with the victim—often most elaborately and carefully prepared. (in my time it was a bookmarker in a book – the online “school” is a new and potentially more ‘effective’ vector).
Rousing and sustaining the interest of the victim, introducing the scheme to him, rousing his greed, showing him the chance of profit, and filling him with so much anticipation and cupidity that his judgment is warped and his caution thrown away.”
(“Greed” and “profit” in the case of the FOF might have to do with dangling a ‘promise’ of more ‘consciousness’ and the imagined benefits thereof – or it might have to do with seeing and desiring a piece of the ‘opulent’ lifestyle and ‘material amenities’ associated with a “conscious being,” the ring leader, who’s just another petty, malignant narcissist)."
"ton2u" added:
136 re: “just another… malignant narcissist” and “a kind of verbal shell game” – “Beneath all this he is shallow, ignorant, improvising, and fearful of being exposed as deceitful. The narcissist is a conjurer of verbosity, using sleight of mouth rather than sleight of hand.”
"ton2u" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 2, 2015:
[ed. - Fellowship of Friends member John Walz attempts to lure and possibly recruit  unsuspecting participants of the ostensibly non-Fellowship-affiliated Facebook Public Group, The 4th Way - Gurdjieff - Ouspensky.] John Walz wrote on Facebook, May 21, 2015:
Hello Friends, below is a link to website that contains an introductory video for a new online Fourth Way community called . It is an experiment in taking an online discussion forum about the Fourth Way to a new level. We have a one year curriculum worked out. Each class is 10-15 minute video on a Fourth Way topic. Each topic will have a specific exercise. This will be followed by a week of online discussion followed by a planned and moderated group chat session of one hour. There is also planned a once per month Skype or video chat session. We are interested in getting feedback from people with experience in the Fourth Way to evaluate the video. We do plan to charge a minimal fee for the online "school", so if this message is considered "advertising" I certainly will understand and please take it down. As I said, I welcome your observations [ed. - ...and donations].
[ed. -  Among Robert Burton's sycophants, Girard Haven preceded Asaf Braverman, and built a model for the younger disciples to follow. See also this discussion on Cassiopaea Forum.]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The guardian of presence

Robert Earl Burton, Fellowship of Friends cult founder and dandy
Photo source

"I'll Never Tell" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 30, 2015:
OMG! Robert Earl Burton (REB) is showing his teeth. Is there not an exercise to not show your teeth, especially when being photographed? Then, again, that is a photograph, LOL. But, REB is exempt from exercises that are imposed on everyone else in the cult, right? Here is an interesting recent story:

Fellowship Of Friends (FoF) is reported to have a role at dinners and/or meetings called ‘the guardian of presence,’ or something similar. That role has the responsibility of photographing persons who are effusing a lack of presence, for instance, when a person is speaking and simultaneously gesticulating with their hands, like some people from certain cultures are more apt to do. The role is a sort of a ‘Sergeant-at-Arms,’ if you will.

Well, there was a certain Mercurial FoF student selected for this role at an event. While REB was speaking, REB was gesticulating with his hands, and the Mercurial ‘guardian of presence’ photographed REB for such behaviour. The result from that was a leave-of-absence from FoF for the transgression.

That is about all I know about it; none of the details beyond. Perhaps the Mercurial will take it as their graduation ceremony?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cathie L.'s story

"Cathie L." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, April 9, 2015:
[Quoting] #10 Robert Stoltze
“Would any of you ever have thought twice about joining the FoF if you hadn’t experimented with psychotropic substances?”
I joined when I was 27, but my “magnetic center” or interest in things spiritual (wanting to know what was behind the veil of everyday reality, wanting to understand who I am, wanting to evolve, fulfill my human potential, etc. etc.) began long before that, and had nothing to do with drug experimentation. I did very little of that in college (none before that), only occasionally getting high when a joint was going around at parties, or hanging out with roommates after a day of classes and studying.

But the “magnetic center” was in me before all that. I remember clearly a childhood experience of being upset for some trivial reason, running to my room in tears, and sobbing into my pillow, when suddenly I was filled with a soft, glowing golden light, a presence clearly felt, a comforting feeling that I was loved and protected, and all would be well.

Whether this was something external that entered me, or something intrinsic to my own being, seems unimportant. It was there, I experienced it in a moment of spontaneous grace, and it has been with me ever since (not always so clearly!) I knew then that there was something unseen behind appearance of things, and I wanted to know more about it.

Another key turned in the lock when I was in high school, walking home one beautiful spring afternoon after hearing a talk given by an astrologer. (Heaven knows how this talk came to be presented at our straight-laced, conservative high school, but nevertheless….) As I walked down the street pondering the idea that the sun, moon and planets could affect us psychologically, it was as if a door opened up in my awareness. “Of course they can!” I realized. At that moment the sun seemed brighter, the air softer, the smell of the roses more sweet. Another spontaneous moment of expanded consciousness, having nothing to do with drugs.

So you see, I already wanted to learn more about these kinds of ideas and states. In college, I changed my major from English to Psychology. I read Freud, Jung, Adler, Perls, Ram Dass, Alan Watts, all the heavies. I joined an extracurricular “consciousness raising” discussion group. I was a seeker.

In 1978, I lived in a farmhouse in Santa Barbara with several roommates. One of them, with whom I shared an interest in astrology, mentioned casually that she was involved in a group that taught the ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, whom I had never heard of. I questioned her about the group and its ideas, and after several discussions, I was intrigued, and went to a prospective student meeting. Book titles like “The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution” and “In Search of the Miraculous” grabbed my interest right away. You know the rest. I didn’t have to think twice.

So this is why it seems such a crime for anyone to take advantage of these youthful, compelling, entirely human yearnings, and distort and pervert them to serve something else. It took me 7 years to “wake up,” but I did wake up.

And the process continues. All euphorias are temporary. No state is permanent. Enlightenment is overrated.

Here and now then, here and now.

"Cathie L." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 31, 2015:
Re: #28 “Denial of Death” article

In the fall of 1979, I was asked to move from Santa Barbara to the Chicago center, located in the small town of Ravinia, on the shore of Lake Michigan. I still remember that time in vivid flashes, now and again.

The house was spectacular, a grand old midwestern mansion with a formal dining room, gigantic kitchen, a grand staircase, library, servant’s quarters and attic. There was a vast basement with ancient plumbing and a decrepit heater that barely kept the place warm, consuming oil by the truckload (steam heat). One poor student’s sleeping quarters were down there, near the noisy beast!

The rest of us were crammed into every habitable nook and cranny of the house, from the attic to the servant’s quarters. My assigned room when I arrived was an upstairs “sun porch,” no doubt fine in summer, but a barren icebox in winter. After toughing it out for a few weeks, I begged for another room, and was offered the floor of a very large closet in the master suite’s dressing area. I gratefully unrolled my sleeping bag there each night for the duration of my stay.

Not that any of us had much time for sleeping. Most of us were working two jobs to meet the rent, utilities, food and teaching payments, as well as paying for elaborate “traveling teacher” dinners and other incidentals that arose. In the cold early mornings, some of us would walk to the train station and ride into Chicago together, often meeting up again late that night for the trip home.

I remember one train ride in particular, at the end of a long day’s work at my two jobs, as a proofreader at Ernst & Whinney, followed by a part-time night job at Northern Trust Bank, typing crop reports. I had brought a book to read with me on the train, probably inspired by one of the little “daily cards,” bearing a quotation from a “conscious being,” that were given out each week.

My book was Plato’s Five Great Dialogues, and I was reading “Phaedo.” I remember having the sensation of my mind being drawn up into a higher plane of thought, feeling the clarity and power of the ancient philosopher’s words reaching me across time and space. The existence of the soul was assumed. The light of the mind was self-evident. I felt the connection. At the time I considered it a “higher state,” and I still do.

So there’s a little gratitude story here, one of the finer moments in my life that happened as a result of the efforts of my fellow friends in the ‘ship…the ones who typeset and printed those daily cards on the hand presses, the ones who established the far-flung teaching houses and worked to “create memory” for each other, who walked with me along the snow covered streets of Ravinia in the deep winter nights….a reminiscence sing.

"Cathie L." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 29, 2015:
How I Left the School and Got a Life

In 1984-85, I was working at a law office in Marysville. One of the attorneys there was working with the FOF on defending the suit that had been been filed by Sanders et al. I had access to privileged information, depositions, by which I learned what had “allegedly” been going on at the Blake Cottage/Galleria. I put “allegedly” in quotes because it was intuitively clear to me that these allegations were true.

I had lived in the Court of the Caravans in the late 1970s, before the Blake Cottage was torn down. I remember seeing young male students walking back and forth from the cottage on the road to the Lincoln Lodge, or outside my caravan window, cutting across the field in the small hours of the morning. At the time I thought nothing of it, but when I read the depositions, one of which was by a man I personally knew, it all started to fall into place. Prior to that, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I remember thinking what a hypocrite Robert was, with all anti-infrasex exercises like “no sex before marriage” and “no relationships for one year after ending one.” I had thought he was celibate! Poor little fool, oh yeah, I was a fool, oh yeah.

I left in 1985, around the time MB [Miles Barth] left. I moved to the Bay Area where my parents had a home; I hadn’t severed all ties with them, fortunately. I got a job at a law firm in San Francisco, where another FOF student happened to work. Thank goodness for networking!

[Coincidentally with post #47 about the failed rocket launch today, I was working at this San Francisco law firm when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in January 1986. I remember the employees assembling in the conference room to watch the newscast, and the sense of deep sorrow and shock I felt, especially about Christa McAuliffe’s death. Another story….]

MB held a large meeting for former students around that time (late 1985- early 1986?) He spoke to the group about his reasons for leaving, but I can’t recall what he said. Maybe what he said was, “I’m not going to talk about my reasons for leaving.” [ed. - Exactly.]

He announced that he intended to start a series of small groups if anyone was interested, to continue discussing the Fourth Way ideas that he felt had value, whatever could be salvaged from the wreckage, I guess. He seemed to want to continue teaching. I signed up for the groups and went to several meetings at MB’s apartment in San Francisco. This was extremely valuable to me as a way of processing the departure from the cult and maintaining some kind of connection with ideas I still believed were useful, and with people who shared an interest in them. Eventually I moved on.

In the mid-1990s, Stella started an email group for former members on a listserv (some of you Internet old-timers may remember what a listserv is!) There was a lot of material “processed” there as well. One project that grew out of Stella’s list was a chapbook of poetry by list members. It was called Virtual Exposure. I still have a copy of it. In 1995, someone from the toadhall list published a directory, with names, former names, and addresses, an interesting bit of FOF history and memorabilia, which I also still have.

Ames wrote above (#24): “We also admitted that, though we had new friends, they were few and far between, and even fewer with which one could have a conversation like we were having right then and at the level of what we felt we were communicating.”

That’s true for me too. You had to be there to really understand it. The ties run deep. Maybe that’s something many former cult members, and perhaps soldiers, survivors of concentration camps and other shared trauma, have in common.

"Robert Stolzle" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 23, 2015:
I enjoyed reading Cathie L.’s post in #32 because I am personally still wanting to understand how the FoF devolved into the mess so many people posting here (and in the past) experienced. I found her historical account interesting. How do you think YOU WERE CHOSEN, Cathie? And what did you do in Ravinia besides work? The group I left still seemed to have the potential to help people. But “it is an ill wind that blows no one any good”, too. Humans are constantly trying to put a positive spin on their faults and travails. The accounts of how cancer helps people never end.

It seems postings here have covered most all the methods of creating “mystical experiences” already. That doesn’t diminish their personal relevance. Native American’s vision quests involved hunger and fatigue; isn’t it likely, Cathie, that your Plato experience came from that? I am sure that many of the FoF students’ higher experiences came from the fatigue and sleep deprivation of the “36 hour work octave”. I suspect this technique was built into the Fourth Way and the truth that, “Even a blind hog can find an acorn.” is the objective reality that has kept the FoF going all these years.

"Cathie L." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, June 1, 2015:

I wasn’t chosen, I volunteered when they asked if anyone would be willing to relocate to the Chicago center. Or did you mean how did I ever imagine I was “chosen” to receive the help of C-Influence in a conscious Fourth Way school? Someone probably told me that, and it sounded good to me, romantic dingbat that I was.

I don’t remember doing much else in Chicago besides work and sleep. Museum trips? Socializing with my fellow “slaving overpaying cult members”? Sure, probably. I was only there for one winter, then it was back to California to join the slaving, practically unpaid cult members in the Renaissance office.

You might say that fatigue and hunger were involved in my experience on the train, but that would only be part of the story. I’ve been tired and hungry before and since, and not had mystical experiences. Maybe it was the rhythmic motion of the train (“out of the cradle, endlessly rocking”), and the repetitive sound of the wheels on the tracks, like a shamanic drumbeat lulling me into a trance. Maybe it was my desire to have a mystical experience, to taste Truth and consciously participate in the Great Mystery of being, to know why I am here, the nature of the soul, what happens when we die.

Maybe it was all a dream, signifying nothing. Maybe we’re all bozos on this bus. Maybe everything you know is wrong.

Maybe I found an acorn.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

"America's Most Peculiar Appellation"

[ed. - As in most stories about the Fellowship, it's often difficult to separate myth from reality. The reference to Karl Werner "escaping the Nazis" seems a bit misleading. I recall him speaking fondly of his days as an officer in the German navy, commanding a u-boat during World War II. Also, there were many AVAs established prior to the designation of "North Yuba" in 1985. Renaissance Vineyards, which at one time reported 365 acres under vines, has reduced their estate vineyard to 45 acres (while leasing out another 15 acres to Clos Saron and Grant-Marie wineries.)]

From Vinography: a wine blog:

By Alder Yarrow
To say that the economy of California's Yuba County peaked during the Gold Rush and has been in slow decline ever since would not be much of an exaggeration. This sparsely populated area of the state has been among California's poorest regions for decades. Yet seemingly out of the blue in 1985, it became home to one of the very first few American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the country, and by then already housed the single largest vineyard in the entire state. The story of the North Yuba AVA sounds like something out of a satirical novel: a famous German winemaker who escaped the Nazis, his young American wife, a soul-searching Israeli artist, and a bona-fide religious cult that brought them all together.
Read the rest of the story on

Monday, June 8, 2015

ISIS, Cults, and Religious Extremists: How Mind Control Really Works

[ed. - Steven Hassan, considered an authority on destructive cults, is interviewed for Yahoo! Health. See also "I was a Moonie cult leader", an interview featuring Hassan. Curiously, prior to being called Apollo, the Fellowship of Friends compound was called Isis.]
Steve Hassan is an expert on cults — and a survivor of one.
Photo: Steve Hassan/Twitter)
By Cassie Shortsleeve

The power of social influence is great — and sometimes dangerous. Would you know if someone or something else was controlling your mind?

You know how the saying goes: With great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, psychology at its most powerful can be entirely stripped of responsibility.

Groups like ISIS don’t use just violence to get their messages across, they use psychological techniques to recruit and keep members. Cults and controversial religious groups gain followers and power by instilling lifestyles of fear and obedience — arguably rewiring people’s brains and manipulating their minds. Members, then, begin to act in ways unrecognizable to family and friends, leading some to wonder: Have they lost their minds?

But what is “mind control”? How does it work? And just how much are we influenced by those in our social spheres? Furthermore, is there hope for those who have fallen victim to this kind of psychological abuse?

The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Influence

Many experts argue that mind control and social influence — how much your emotions, behaviors, and even opinions are affected by other people — occurs on a continuum. It can range from good and healthy, like friendship, to negative and unhealthy, like imprisonment.

Healthy social influence respects individuality, free will, conscientiousness, honesty, integrity, and accountability, says Steve Hassan, one of the foremost experts on mind control and cults, and author of Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults: 25th Anniversary Edition. With a healthy parent-child influence, for example, the parent is influencing the child to be his or herself and grow up to be a good adult, he says.

But on the negative side, influence is destructive. It becomes “about control and obedience, cloning people in the image of the group, not encouraging individuality or creativity, regulating what people read or who they can associate with, and the installation of phobias,” he tells Yahoo Health.

How can you tell the difference? “Ethical groups tell you up front what they want and who they are,” says Hassan. There is what he calls “informed consent” among members. But with cults and groups that practice mind control, there’s “a lot of deception, a lot of lies, and people don’t know what they’re getting into.”

What is a cult, in the first place? Hassan says there are a “million definitions, from theological to sociological. I define a destructive cult as an authoritarian pyramid-structured group that uses deception in recruitments and mind control to keep people dependent and obedient.” Of course, there are benign cults, too — people who are into rock stars or musicians, for example. And cults aren’t always religious. For example, Hassan calls the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (better known as ISIS) a political cult that happens to use religion. And cults can be all sizes — one-on-one or a state with millions of people. Many are listed here.

Most cult leaders, he adds, believe what they are preaching — which makes them more dangerous. The vast majority of leaders are narcissistic, probably personality disordered, and have some antisocial characteristics, he adds.

Hassan would know. At 19, he was recruited into the Unification Church of the United States, eventually growing into a leadership position within the cult and breaking away after two-and-a-half years. In a nutshell, the church is a destructive cult whose position is that founder “Sun Myung Moon was the new Messiah and that his mission was to establish a new ‘kingdom’ on Earth,” Hassan writes in his book.

“I wasn’t looking to change religions when I was recruited,” says Hassan. “I was situationally vulnerable. I was a junior in college, my girlfriend had just dumped me, and one day, three women approached me and we started chatting. I thought they were interested in me. They didn’t tell me they were celibate. I had no idea that they were part of a cult. If they had told me what they believed, I wouldn’t have had them sit down.”

Mind-Control Tactics Explained

After that initial conversation, the women Hassan had met invited him on a weekend getaway. “I worked on weekends but happened to get that weekend off, so I thought, ‘Am I supposed to go to this?’” he remembers. Hassan attended what turned out to be a textbook recruitment weekend for the group. He was isolated, deprived of sleep, had no privacy, and had hypnotic techniques practiced on him. “Day by day, they wore me down and put ideas in my head — like that World War III was about to happen between the Soviet Union and the U.S. I wasn’t religious, but within a day, it was all about God. When I said, ‘I’m Jewish — I’m not interested in Christianity,’ they did the classic technique of trying to make me feel guilty for being close-minded. Within two weeks, they had their hooks in me. I was made a leader in the cult. I changed into a stranger.”

What Hassan knows now is that that weekend, he fell victim to the initial stages of mind control — something that, years later, he would become an expert counselor in.

Defined by Philip Zimbardo, PhD, professor emeritus at Stanford University and former president of the American Psychological Association, mind control is:

The process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles.

But don’t noncult religions and groups also have influence over us — and what we think and believe? Hassan says that if religious indoctrination is respecting people’s free will, is love-based, and allows people to leave if they want to, then it’s on the benign or constructive side of the influence spectrum.

The process of mind control includes a slew of steps, including isolating people, interrupting their information flow, doing an information overload, throwing off their balance, or creating mystical experiences. All of these, and more, are part of a set of criteria developed by renowned psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton that must be met in order for one to be mind controlled.

Hassan developed his own model, called the BITE model, based on Lifton’s criteria that determines just how much social influence a group has over someone. BITE stands for behavior control, information control, thought control, and emotional control. You can go through each of those components and size up where a group falls, he says. Hassan refers to ISIS as a mind-control cult on the extreme negative end of the spectrum.

Are Brainwashing and Mind Control the Same Thing?

An extreme version of mind control has been referred to as brainwashing, a term coined during the Korean War. Initially, it referred to prisoners of war taken by force who appeared to — over time and through enduring torture — buy into the communist point of view. Later, people began applying the term to nonforce situations, explains Hassan. But experts are divided on the use of the word — and the idea itself. Some argue that it’s outdated and specious. Others suggest it exists only to describe forceful situations.

“Brainwashing probably does, as a term, apply to the prisoners who turned in the Korean War, but it meets the criteria of decisions and changes in outlook and philosophy that occur under extreme duress,” H. Newton Malony, master of divinity, PhD, and former senior professor at the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, tells Yahoo Health. (Malony is considered a “cult apologist,” a term given to experts who — controversially — don’t automatically assume that just because someone is different or is in a cultlike group means that he or she is “brainwashed” or under mind control. Maloney has also served as a resource to the church of Scientology.)

We all disagree with ISIS and its social influence, for example. ISIS cannot be defended in the way they line people up and kill them. “Mind control and coercive persuasion occur when a person is not free to counter a thought or enter into a dialogue. And ISIS’ actions represent the ultimate duress,” says Malony.

“Brainwashing is far toward the destructive end of influence,” adds Hassan. “It implies force — kidnapping, beatings, branding, or threatening to kill.”

With mind control, on the other hand, there’s an illusion of having control over your own life, says Hassan. There’s benevolence toward teachers or respected individuals “above” you, and “taking over someone” requires a process, he says.

The Dark Side of Social Influence

Less radical groups use psychological tactics, as well. Take the homeschooling education program Advanced Training Institute, used by the reality-TV-famous Duggar family — where sexual abuse is, in a way, taught to be something that can be blamed on the immodesty of the victim.

“I have a real issue with any group where there’s no encouragement for people to have a conscience, and where a group proposes ideas like that women have to dress a certain way,” Hassan says. “That’s not on the healthy side of the continuum in my opinion.” Be wary of any group, he says, that uses ‘us versus them’ or ‘good versus evil’ simplistic ideology and can’t consider things from a different point of view.

Scientology is another group with recruitment tactics and practices that have been criticized as cultlike — particularly the practice of cutting ties with former members, and suggesting that current members to cut ties with those who don’t share their beliefs. “I’ve often felt that social shunning — where … [some religious groups] would not allow a person who left to have any contact with the group — is pretty powerful for us human beings. We are social animals and value family and people to a great degree,” says Malony.

The most powerful part of mind control, though, may come from the “t” part of Hassan’s BITE model: thought control. “Early on in my involvement with the cult, my father called and told me he read an article that Moon [founder of the Unification Church of the United States] had a gun factory,” he remembers. Normally, that would have stirred up doubt about Moon and the group. But Hassan had been trained by the group to do what he refers to as “thought stopping” to avoid critical thinking. So instead of asking his father: “How do you know that? What proof do you have?” he started chanting in his mind things like “crush Satan.”

“You become so polarized against the outside world,” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of fear that you need to do things the right way.”

The Installation of Phobias as Part of Mind Control

When the movie Jaws was released in 1975, a new phobia of sharks was born. People took their boats out of the ocean and kept their kids on the shoreline. “People became afraid,” says Hassan. “But the truth is that shark attacks are rare.” The point is, the movie led to a misfiring of our protection system — our way of safeguarding ourselves to perceive danger, says Hassan.

Similarly, mind-control groups use phobia indoctrination, says Hassan, to keep members obedient. Sometimes, these can be personalized based on what a group learns about a person. Other times, they’re broader: that you’ll get cancer, be hit by a bus, or your family will be killed if you leave the group. While Hassan was in the Unification Church of the United States, he “was drilled with the fear of evil spirits,” he says. “I didn’t even believe in spirits before I joined the group. But when The Exorcist movie came out, Moon gave a lecture saying that this is what would happen if you left the church.”

Sometimes, in extreme cases like sex trafficking or terrorism, these phobias aren’t just talked about — they are actual, possible outcomes. “Killing is not just a threat in your mind. It’s something real that happens, as seen through the way ISIS kills,” says Hassan.

So if someone is held under these mental conditions, Hassan says they can’t imagine leaving the group and being happy and fulfilled: “The moment they can, they are out the door.”

The Power of the Situation

But why don’t people just leave a mind-controlling group, you may wonder.

“The public tends to blame the victim and see people who have been mind controlled as weak or defective instead of that they were subjected to a social influence program,” says Hassan. “And what social psychology teaches is that we are very social beings — we are hardwired to conform to what we perceive to be our social group. People identify with and follow who we believe to be authority figures, and this can be taken advantage of.”

In fact, social influence is much more powerful than you may realize. Take the classic and controversial Stanford prison experiment that Zimbardo conducted in 1973. (Ethically, it would never be allowed today.) He recruited Stanford college students to participate in a two-week experiment, in which 10 students pretended to be prisoners and 11 acted as guards. But the study didn’t last two weeks; it spun out of control, and after only six days, the prisoners were showing signs of depression, anger, and anxiety. The guards harassed prisoners, acting in sadistic ways. The study — which is taught in psychology classes around the world — sheds light on the idea of the power of the situation.

It’s research and theories like this, that could explain — at least in part — high-profile cases like that of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publishing tycoon Randolph Hearst, who was abducted at age 19 by the terrorist group Symbionese Liberation Army, and went on to conduct a slew of crimes including robbing a bank.

Can Anyone Be Mind Controlled?

There’s an important distinction between people who join cults and leave a previous life, and people who were born into a situation, says Hassan. “For people born in, that’s all they know, and there’s a difference there in terms of sense of self. When I was recruited, my real identity got broken down and replaced by a cult identity.”

Take ISIS, for instance. Islam is, in itself, a peaceful religion, and most practitioners don’t agree with the extremist views of ISIS, which promotes violence in the name of the faith. But ISIS uses (and twists) concepts from Islam — concepts that may be more familiar to someone who is Muslim, who could be the target of recruitment. “You would have to say that their decision is not entirely counter to the culture around them, while it may seem incredibly counter to someone else,” Malony says.

The flipside, according to Hassan, is that people have vulnerabilities. “If someone is broken up or moving to a new city or graduating or has an illness or death, they may be more susceptible to someone new entering their life, because they’re vulnerable,” says Hassan. And people who may have trouble reading social cues correctly, or who have a very rule-bound approach to reality, can also be suggestible to cult recruitment, he adds.

Scarily enough, falling subject to mind control feels a lot like falling in love, says Hassan. “You have that strong feeling to be with someone, so you commit — that’s one slice of what it feels like,” he explains. “You feel swept up in this very intense emotional state. You have this very strong belief and hope that what you’re doing is the right thing.”

Where it differs from falling in love: There’s an “extreme dissonance between your real identity and your cult identity,” explains Hassan. For him, it was tumultuous going in and tumultuous coming out. In his pre-cult life, Hassan was a poet who read three books a week — to him, the essence of being human was being creative. But in the cult, he was told to cut his hair and wear a suit, go to bed at the same time every night, and throw out his poetry as a sign of devotion to God (which he did). “I became like the opposite of who I was before,” he says. “Life became about following orders.”

Undoing the Damage

For two-and-a-half years, Hassan followed the orders of the cult — until one day, he fell asleep at the wheel of a car and rear-ended an 18-wheeler. He wound up in the hospital, lucky be alive, and called his sister. Since she had never criticized his involvement in the cult — or accused him of being mind controlled — he was allowed to visit her in what he thought would be an opportunity to meet his new nephew. It turned into what experts call a “deprogramming” from the cult. Hassan admits that, at first, he was convinced that the deprogramming team— a group of people including ex-cult members sent to help him start over —had been “sent by Satan.” But when he agreed to listen to ex-members, “lights started switching on.”

Gregory Sammons, MEd, LPC, the executive director of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center in Athens, Ohio — a facility that offers clinical counseling, workshops, assessments, and support for survivals of spiritual abuse through high-demand churches and cults — helps people start switching the lights on for a living.

Wellspring is one of just two rehab centers in the U.S. geared toward people who have been in cults — MeadowHaven in Lakeville, Mass., is the other, says Hassan.

“The standard treatment program for cult survivors will typically last up to 10 days,” Sammons tells Yahoo Health. The program includes a minimum of 20 hours of intense one-on-one therapy with a clinician, standardized clinical assessments, and educational workshops, which help the survivor understand the cult phenomenon.

Rehabilitation is not always easy, and depends on the person’s experience in the cult. “Early in the treatment, the client and clinician will walk through a timeline of life events before, during, and after the cult,” he explains. “Recognizing what was happening in our lives before the cult can often provide a frame of reference in our recovery, which includes taking back our identity.”

In sessions, the therapist recognizes what mind control is and conveys to the survivor that it was not his or her fault for being trapped in a cult. The goal: to provide an understanding of how it happened, why it happened, and how having the right tools can prevent it from happening again, he says.

Identity confusion, phobia disorders, decision-making, sexuality, sleep, and eating issues — not to mention trust issues and trauma-related symptoms — are just some of what people struggle with in rehab, says Hassan. “When you leave a group, you’ve got all of this indoctrination in your head and sometimes you don’t know what’s true.” He adds that most people don’t rationally leave cults having researched it, but rather run away — which makes coming to terms with the change even more difficult.

“Most people operate with an incorrect notion that only weak people who are looking for someone to control them wind up in cults or mind-control scenarios,” says Hassan. “That’s simply not true.” Destructive groups don’t always look destructive at first. They also come in all shapes and sizes — therapy cults, political cults, business cults, religious cults, terrorist groups, and sex trafficking, he says. And humans are vulnerable simply by being a social species.

Education, though, about mind control, cult techniques, and psychology can help, says Hassan. And knowing how to spot unhealthy influences can help you avoid them.