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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A 21st century facelift for the tired old Fourth Way

Former Robert Burton disciple, now Fourth Way cult leader Asaf Braverman be period sales pitch
Above, detail from Asaf Braverman's former Gurdjieff - Becoming Conscious Facebook page, showing Braverman on the threshold!

[ed. - As of November 2016, Robert Burton has personally excommunicated Asaf Braverman from The Fellowship of Friends. While he boldly adopts the mantle of Fourth Way teacher, Braverman's  autobiography acknowledges the important role of his predecessors, Alexander Francis Horn and (Braverman's own spiritual guide) Robert Earl Burton, both arguably sociopaths. Having joined the Fellowship at a young age, and followed Burton for twenty years, Braverman is clearly incapable of recognizing the taint of this corrupt lineage, and the unscrupulous and oppressive indoctrination system that has governed his life. Borrowing Burton's well-worn metaphor, Braverman is launching his own "ark."  Below are several websites that are serving to draw unsuspecting "marks" to this new Fourth Way School.]
Ark in Time Network (

Ark in Time (Twitter)

Asaf Braverman (Flickr) (Deactivated)

Asaf Braverman (YouTube)

Be. 4th Way Tweets (Twitter) (Deactivated)

Be Period Italia (Google +) (Deactivated)

Fourth Way School/Be Community (

Gurdjieff (

Gurdjieff - Becoming Conscious (Facebook) (Deactivated)

Quarta Via Oggi (Inactive)

Thirty Work I's (Flickr) (Deactivated)

Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton (R. E. Burton), Asaf Braverman's teacher
Portrait of Robert Earl Burton from Braverman's Be.

Archived copies of some of Braverman's now-defunct "Pillar" websites:


Know Thyself




"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, November 17, 2016:
Herewith a bit of free advertising for Asaf Braverman’s online Workshop on November 19th. The blurb states:
“Schools of the fourth way work on two scales: on the scale of an individual, they teach the development of consciousness; on the scale of a community, they teach harnessing that consciousness to a greater undertaking. In this workshop, we will take a forward glance at how Beperiod may grow as an online community and discuss its greater aims as a fourth way school”.
Great! Sign up, pay your $50 per month, and learn from the master. To be fair, the $50 includes (3), count them, three workshops and ‘access to the archives’.

Below the come–on, George Gurdjieff himself, or at least his spokesman, has signed in to give us a flavor of what is to come
“November 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

The fourth way is never without some work of a definite significance, is never without some undertaking around which and in connection with which it can alone exist… Schools of the fourth way exist for the needs of the work which is being carried out in connection with the proposed undertaking. They never exist by themselves as schools for the purpose of education and instruction.”
Asaf Braverman is a very certain fellow, isn’t he? One of the hallmarks of his website, through and through. This flavor of absolute certainty works very well for Burton, why change?


it looks like we can expect some guidance about the Grand Purpose™ of this 21st Century Online School™. Robert Earl Burton told us that the Grand Purpose™ of the Fellowship of Friends was to be the Seed of a New Civilization™, following the extermination of all humans on earth—except for those followers current with their ‘teaching payments’—by mighty angels that can modify the laws of physics and geology.

I don’t suppose that Asaf Braverman can beat that for sheer hubris, but, judging by his own words, he will come up with something grandiose that somehow connects the Schools of the Cave Dwellers™ of 150 centuries ago in a direct line with his own efforts (via his own teacher of 20 years, Robert Earl Burton).

If any readers learn more, do share!

"WhaleRider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 15, 2016:
I think what is at stake here in this particular thread on Asaf’s departure and online endeavor is the fourth way metaphor of the “ladder of evolution”: in order to move up the “ladder”, one must recruit others below one in the cult and push those above. (I am using “quotes” since my understanding of these terms has radically changed since I left.)

The metaphor works great in a cult; it establishes a permanent hierarchy in which the cult leader always remains on top, despite the reality that in life, a successful teacher is one who facilitates and empowers his or her students to surpass their teacher.

Even after death the cult leader remains at the top of the hierarchy, given how we revered the 44 dead guys in the FOF.

The “ladder” metaphor doesn’t seem to embrace the idea of a fourth way “teacher” stepping aside to let others advance, although that may have been exactly what Ouspensky attempted when he instructed his followers to ‘abandon the system’.

Experience tells us that having a cult following feeds the cult leader’s megalomania and grandiosity, which is evident in how burton vehemently reacts when his high profile followers leave. It is threatening to him for he treats his cash cows as his possessions. They can be stolen, and he cannot survive without them.

For me, it was the fact that burton had a following that made him appear “conscious”, more than his actions or his head twitch. I tacitly thought that if enough of his followers believed he was “conscious” then it must be so.

In retrospect, all he really seem to have was power over others; power that his followers abdicated to him through his role of gatekeeper, master exploiter and predator.

The longer I stayed in, the more I found myself becoming increasingly dependent upon his attention and approval, even through the sexual exploitation made me feel like shit about myself. I might have felt more status in the FOF being close to him, but it came at the expense of my dignity and integrity.

On the one hand we were told how lucky and special we were to find the cult, and on the other hand, the controlling Burton treated me like his sexual plaything, one of many. If anything, I felt Burton was pushing me down the “ladder” not elevating me.

So in order to reclaim my selfhood, it was absolutely necessary to leave the cult and flee from evil, as Asaf and THOUSANDS of other followers have already done, thank goodness.

Having spent the last year and a half living at the academy and traveling with burton, I believed that in order to sustain my “evolution” I had to duplicate what burton had done, which is to have a job or a role that necessitated “higher consciousness”, or at least more self-awareness…but not at the expense of others…we know that the vast majority of those followers who attempted to start their own cult often ended in dismal failure.

We also can understand that burton was able to duplicate [Alex] horn’s relative success primarily due to the social upheavals of the 1970’s and lack of information about cults in America.

So the question remains: is it necessary to help others up the ladder of “evolution” in order for one to “evolve”?

Or is it sufficient to just live life as a “conscious householder”, work hard, pay the bills, and be a good husband, son or daughter, and/or parent?

I think the crux of the issue is how one defines evolution.

Speaking for myself, my conscience informs me that my personal growth depends first and foremost upon viewing and treating others as my equal, even those with whom I disagree.

The model in which I structure my livelihood now depends upon empowering others by helping them make positive changes in their lives. Personal satisfaction is way more important to me than making money or retaining a following, and at the end of the day, I feel a whole lot better about myself now than I ever did in the cult.

IMHO, there is not much room for personal growth in a cult such as the FOF and having to recruit vulnerable and confused people to function as narcissistic objects to be exploited and abused constitutes as a spiritual crime. That is the opposite of the Golden Rule, IMHO.

Now maybe “teaching” online will temporarily shield Asaf’s followers from him personally exploiting and abusing them…we’ll see how long that lasts and how far the apple falls from the tree.

Good luck with that, Asaf. 20 years in a cult is a long time.

"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2016:
I don’t know Asaf, but I think that people who leave to teach are acting in accordance with the ideology they acquired, as “true believers” in the ideology who will tell you that Ouspensky left Gurdjieff, etc., etc. It is an intermediate step in their odyssey which I cannot condemn, because it is just the operation of the same cult ideology they will eventually need to unlearn if they want to open themselves to constructive change. They spent years “trying to acquire something for themselves” and now they get to test whether they actually achieved their goal.

Do not underestimate the power of sincere mistake as a force for reorganizing how one understands the world and how one decides to live in it. Hope exists for these would-be teachers, in my opinion, when they face up to the reality that they have not achieved what the system says they can achieve, that they are are bullshitting others and themselves, and feel shame in doing so. The fact that Burton is organized around shame avoidance doesn’t mean that everyone is. Sometimes one has to persist in folly to become wise.

"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2016:
[Quoting "jomopinata" above] “…spent years ‘trying to acquire something for themselves’ and now they get to test whether they actually achieved their goal.”
This brings to mind a term I think coined by Trungpa – “spiritual materialism.” This notion of “acquiring” and acquisition is part of our cultural conditioning… to the point of being almost an unconscious or unquestioned part of the fabric of our being and society in general. Acquisition and materialism go hand in glove, seemingly “naturally” and “unconsciously” – an osmotic transfer of this indoctrinated cultural “value” of acquisition to “spiritual matters” is not at all a stretch… in a certain sense and given the cultural context, it’s only “natural.” Being raised in a culture which values acquisition, (IMO) means that we all carry an attitude of acquisitiveness to our search for meaning and purpose in life. Furthermore, IMO acquisitiveness and narcissism are closely related, emphasizing I, ME and MINE… and despite adopting a holier-than-thou attitude / facade, the bottom line is – “what’s in it for me.”

The current case in question here seems to go a step further to include a confluence of “things $piritual” with prophet motive$… i.e. a confusion of dollars and sense (or a lack thereof)… caveat emptor; use your sense and beware false prophets.

“Conventionally, it is used to describe capitalist and spiritual narcissism, commercial efforts such as “new age” bookstores and wealthy lecturers on spirituality; it might also mean the attempt to build up a list of credentials or accumulate teachings in order to present oneself as a more realized or holy person.[2] Author Jorge Ferrer equates the terms “Spiritual materialism” and “Spiritual Narcissism”,[1] though others draw a distinction, that spiritual narcissism is believing that one deserves love and respect[3] or is better than another[4] because one has accumulated spiritual training instead of the belief that accumulating training will bring an end to suffering.”

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 19, 2016:
Many are familiar with Lord Acton’s words, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Ann Herbert updated those words a while ago to say,
Power attracts the corruptible, and absolute power attracts the absolutely corruptible.
…which are much closer to the reality, IMO. The only constraint against this happening seems to be in the brief moments of history when the Rule of Law operated. When it no longer does so, we get Maximum Leader Barack Obama, among many other prerogatives he has seized, deciding that he will be judge, jury and executioner and can kill anyone, anywhere, at anytime he chooses—or Maximum Leader Burton bypassing all constraints and deciding that his followers will get abortions, get married, dress a certain way, or provide sperm or dollars—according to his whim at any given moment.

So, here we have Asaf Braverman, on a quest to attract followers. It seems he has a strong need one way or another, and certainly he is making quite an effort to satisfy that need.

I think it is safe to say that Asaf would attract little attention if he had done this without his Fellowship of Friends background and history. It is within the FoF context that he was anointed as a Future Conscious Being™; both he and his fellow followers were appraised of his super–special qualities, hitherto invisible to all but Burton and assorted angels. And when he decided, back in 2012, to start his stable of websites and his online ‘school’, he did so with the moral authority bestowed on him by Burton, supported by his high status and important roles in the FoF. From a practical POV, he attracted lots of help from other followers, and was able to create a nice website with lots of Flash™ and a distinct brand. I’ve already pontificated about what a rotten “foundation built upon the sand” enterprise this is, so enough of that.

But now I’m pointing out that, however benign his intentions, however much of a ‘good guy’ or ‘decent fellow’ he may be in essence, nothing in his history, let alone training under Burton, has prepared him to deal with the consequences of having power over others. Rather, the opposite—Burton the Hasnamuss is an object lesson in absolute corruption and exploitation, a lesson Asaf was for practical purposes blind to for most of 20 years! And if Asaf doesn’t understand, even theoretically, that accepting spiritual power over others—the role he is assuming when he goes out and recruits followers—puts him in danger of corruption, then obviously he cannot take precautions to protect himself or his ‘students’ and so is doubly unfit to teach anyone.

All IMHO, of course!

"J.D." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 12, 2017:
It is official. Be. is presented as fourth way school, and Asaf Braverman is the teacher.

"Golden Veil" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 12, 2017:
Regarding this opening question and answer introduction on the Home page:
“What is the aim of this community?

To gather fourth way practitioners from around the world under the canopy of a practical teaching that will instruct and inspire them by revisiting ancient schools from a fourth way perspective.”
It appears that Asaf Braverman will continue to read everything from Goethe, the poetry of William Shakespeare, to ancient Egypt and Sumeria ~ as interpreted by Robert Burton’s slant of “The Fourth Way.” Asaf Braverman will be guiding seekers down the same make believe rabbit hole, won’t he?

Charlatanism is the new order ~ or maybe not, depending on your opinion of the writings of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Maurice Nicoll – and hey, what happened to Rodney Collin? No portrait medallion.
“Do I have to pay?

We aim to be inclusive and minimize barriers to participation and membership. Accordingly, almost everything here is free — this school is supported by voluntary contributions. That said, some of the more intensive activities, like online workshops and private tutoring, require payment.”
Well, of course you have to pay! I see 20 workshops that are a run down of what is taught in the Fellowship of Friends. Evidently the Fellowship of Friends teaching is not copyrighted. Still, there may be legal challenge by the Fellowship of Friends.

It is clear that the school will not include acquiring the taste for fine dining, clothing, travel, and hearing those fateful words, “The Gods want you to do this for Me.”

The “new” school includes instruction in slowing down; remember that? At times, it could be quite a strange world in the Fellowship of Friends.
“We are driven to eat quickly, move quickly, interact quickly and think quickly. In most of these instances, haste is unwarranted. It is therefore a habit that must be understood and curbed.”
There’s something about the word “curbed.” I suppose it’ll be a bit more difficult to create an atmosphere of repression ~ online.

"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 13, 2017:
I think people sometimes leave and think they’re supposed to “teach the Fourth Way.” This activity can aim at reducing dissonance by validating the work, so called, that they see themselves as having been engaged in. Everyone wants to believe that “they have acquired something for themselves,” because that’s what they think they’ve been doing and that’s what the books, and the social surround, lead them to believe. And people sometimes cling to certain beliefs for reasons that have nothing to do with whether they’re true.

Ten or fifteen years ago encountered online a person I had known slightly back in FOF days who was later involved in another 4w organization. In our virtual interaction, which I initiated in the spirit of “hi, I remember you!” he greeted me “cordially” and communicated words to the effect that he would be glad to be my point of contact for The Work.

It is hard to express the effect his response had on me. I suppose it was comparable to extending your hand to another for a handshake, only to discover that the other’s hand was made of wood. It was like everything human was absent from his response, and what was extended was stiff and without nerves.

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