Introduction


Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and most recently the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.")

But according to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish, while through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the Internet Archive, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, the (ill-fated 2007) Fellowship of Friends Wikipedia page, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship. Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fellowship of Friends recruiting in Rajkot, India

[ed. - Recruiting advertisement for the Fellowship's Rajkot center. See Facebook. (Whatever happened to "The Sequence"?)]

Fellowship of Friends Fourth Way School Living Presence recruiting in Rajkot India


[ed. - Fellowship India centers advertisement]

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Fellowship of Friends (alone) teaches "the greatest miracle in the universe"

[ed. - The Fellowship of Friends once again assumes a disguise ("Fourth Way School - Northern California") to recruit unsuspecting spiritual seekers. The Fellowship is well-known in Northern California, and not necessarily in a good way. Historically, Robert Burton's name would not be shared with prospective members, but the Introductory Meeting actors (and they are indeed actors) would simply state "we have a conscious teacher."

Claims that the Fellowship is the present-day manifestation of a sacred "esoteric tradition" is fantasy, an imagined mantle of legitimacy for Burton's endlessly "evolving" and increasingly bizarre "teaching." The Fellowship long ago severed the (at best) tenuous link it had to the Fourth Way lineage of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.]


Fellowship of Friends-Fourth Way cult, Robert Earl Burton, R. E. Burton, recruiting

You are invited to join us on Saturday March 25, at 10:30 for a 1 hour introduction to the Fourth Way, a system of inner development based on the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky. We will discuss the practice of being present and the possibility of Man’s Psychological Evolution. This meeting is open to the public but you must call to reserve a space (530) 701-8842.

“To reach divine presence is the greatest miracle in the universe; every esoteric tradition offers its unique expression of this ultimate truth.”

Fellowship of Friends - Fourth Way School Northern California Facebook recruiting site
Fellowship of Friends-designated "conscious beings": G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Rodney Collin, and Alex Horn

Fourth Way School - Northern California

Community

We are students of the Fourth Way living in Northern California. Our school is practical in nature and designed to produce consciousness in its members.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Apollo Beautiful



The photography of longtime Fellowship of Friends member Jonathan Beth captures many charming aspects of life at The Fellowship of Friends' Apollo compound. Among the many profound contradictions of the Fellowship, the focus on the arts introduces great beauty into the lives of its members, while blind obedience and the task of "avoiding the expression of negative emotions" serve to hide the dark underbelly that Robert Burton and his officers long concealed from the flock. A casual observer of the cult and its leader will marvel at the group's artistic achievements.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

"The Art That Is Galleria Apollo"

[ed. - The Fellowship of Friends releases "The Art That is Galleria Apollo", a promotional/recruiting video showing scenes from a musical performance and dinner at the Galleria Apollo, (aka The Galleria, Accademia Leonardo, formerly The Goethe Academy.) The following sequence from the video allows us to eavesdrop on Robert Burton teaching, then share a call to presence during the dinner:]

View entire video on Vimeo

[ed. - A screen grab from the video shows the venue for Robert Burton's "teaching dinners" at the Galleria Apollo.]

Fellowship of Friends Galleria Apollo dining room - Oregon House, CA

Monday, February 6, 2017

The dominant Fellowship of Friends myth


Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton (R. E. Burton)
Robert Earl Burton in the early 1970s
"jomopinata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 6, 2017:
[ed. - Responding to "Crossroads". Links added.]

The dominant myth is that the Fellowship was something true and beautiful but became corrupted. I understand the appeal of that myth and bought into it myself at one time. My experience is that a more thorough and searching look yields a huge trove of historical data that just doesn’t square with that account, even though that account seems at least initially to be true. The appeal to idealism and aesthetics is what helped to hook us into something which looked glorious and appealed to our narcissism, reflected back to us something we wanted to believe about ourselves. I think this is true of Burton also: a successful elementary school teacher who was forced to resign from his job because, according to him, there were claims that he “hugged the kids too much.” He had the misfortune to be picked up hitchhiking by Alexander Horn [ed. - or, in another account, "a doctor"], who abused virtually everyone with whom he came into contact, and then to have an auto accident in Modesto in 1968 in which he apparently suffered brain damage that led to “acquired sociopathy.” On New Year’s Eve 1969-70 he met Bonita, who was tripping on mescaline while alcohol further loosened his inhibitions, and he manipulated her relentlessly into believing that he was a deeply mysterious higher being. Soon he monopolized her time, even though she was married and a mother with young children, all the while extracting money from her. Think about it. It’s dishonorable by any moral standard. Within about eighteen months he seduced her and immediately thereafter told lies about it (claiming celibacy) which were published in the Via Del Sol newsletter Meg Gwynne (later called Stella Wirk) had taken to publish regularly. Once a small core group was established, deliberate efforts were undertaken to recruit new members who were friends and acquaintances of current members. (“How would you like to change your life?” recruits such as Doris Mack were asked.) Contemporaneous documents from 1971 indicate that the group could only be reached “by invitation.” A concerted effort was made to recruit wealthy professionals, such as physicians, because the group needed them to provide a veneer of respectability, as a means to obtain money. Burton himself was buying gold coins. He pronounced himself “The Avatar of the Age” and announced that young men could avoid the draft (during the Vietnam War) by becoming ministers in his church. Pretty sweet deal, eh? During this time a family of four had become involved with the group and then left. Shortly thereafter the mother of the family committed suicide, leaving a suicide note which talked about Burton and the school. Burton cautioned members not to help anyone who was suicidal, because “they will drag you down and they will strangle you just as some drowning people drown someone who tries to help them.” He remarked, on a piece of paper used to communicate during his “period of silence,” that “it is good when weak students leave as they are weight; it used to bother me but now it’s like a useless object being gone.” Think about it. Don’t help suicidal people. People who are weak students are like useless objects. You can’t manipulate them as effectively. Good, true, and noble. Deeply spiritual. 1971. Another person who left in 1971 told me that during the “period of silence” Burton used to blow kisses to people. He indicated that Burton was apparently envious of this person’s influence within the group, and when Burton blew him kisses “they were contemptuous.” Good, true, and noble. 1971. The person further reflected that his take on Burton was that he was sociopathic. After this person left, Meg Gwynne’s Via Del Sol Journal included a question posed to Burton about why this person left. Burton’s answer was, “He cannot take responsibility.” Knowing what you now know about Burton, reflect on that explanation and let me know how that sits with you. Later the gold coin octave yielded to the purchase, not only of the land in Oregon House, but of a Cessna aircraft. Understand, Burton went, in the span of less than two years, from a part-time tennis instructor and substitute teacher in Emeryville , who lived at home with his mom and didn’t have decent wheels, to a guy who lived in a new Volkswagen bus and who was being flown between LA and Northern California to “teach.” A young male student had the job of flying him back and forth. At least one student walked in on Burton and caught him in flagrante delicto with the pilot. This is 1972, the same year that Burton offered an account, at a meeting either in Oakland or Los Angeles, of how he slit the throat of a goat and the sound the goat made. Good, true, and noble. Many people don’t know that Burton renewed his California public elementary teaching credential in 1975. If you are the Avatar of the Age, the torch having been passed to you upon Meher Baba’s death, what do you need with a license to teach elementary school? The natural explanation is, he thought the scam might fall apart, and he might have to go back to teaching elementary school. I could go on and on but I’m not sure for my purposes it’s necessary. Many people take the dominant myth as a given. But a little digging shows that it’s just bullshit. It’s what people want to believe. But it’s false.

"jomopinata" added:
Most of us here did choose The 4th Way in our Search for The Miraculous, The Mystery School. We “found Robert’s School” which was based on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Many of us shared the same sense of miracle when we “found the School.” Here’s the difficulty with this piece of the account: it states that we chose, but it leaves out the context of the choice. First, many people found a bookmark. Those bookmarks illicitly harvested the reader’s engagement with a book; engagement with a book can be a very powerful thing. The bookmarks strongly implied a connection with the book’s authors when there was no such connection. Most of us assumed the connection. I remember asking, “when do we learn the movements?” And that sense of miracle? It was engineered. Did you know that the FOF registered a copyright on the prospective student meetings as a dramatic work? That’s right. You thought they were meetings, but in fact it was a performance with you as the audience. The target. The mark. That “studied indifference” about whether or not you joined? It was part of the act and it was designed to intensify your desire for acceptance. You too could become a member of the elite, through your own efforts and the payment of regular “donations” (how do you like that oxymoron, “compulsory donations”). Those weird coincidences? That’s proof the angels are working with the School and that you are on the way. If you lose the School, better for you if you had not been born. Would you like a Milano biscuit?