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 an ominous, yet unspecified new threat late in 2018.) While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will 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
on official Fellowship publications and websites,
news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Saturday, April 8, 1978

The Blake Cottage

[ed. - The "Blake Cottage," named for poet William Blake, was acquired by the Fellowship in June of 1975 with the purchase of property adjacent to the Fellowship's "Dixon Hill" tract. The house would become Robert Burton's residence, and also accommodate a host of young men who served him. Some would sleep on the carpeted living room floor, others in the three bedrooms. It stood on the land now occupied by The Galleria.]

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 6, 2011:
I’ll Never Tell

this is nit-picking, I know, not to mention inconsequential, but just in case some nutty historian ever uses the blog as a resource—the predecessor to the Galleria/Goethe Academy/Whatever was not a mobile home, it was a regular stick-built house, the so-called “Blake Cottage”. It probably came with the property. The attached garage had been converted to the Press Room when I first saw it in 1978; that was where the Journals were first printed, along with other propaganda, on two, foot-powered Columbia [ed. - Kluge?] letterpresses. From there, one could enter the rest of the house, up some steps, to the kitchen, and from there along a corridor to other rooms.

This brings back memories . . .

I once did some work on a fountain and small pool outside, polished Dansk silver on the kitchen table, and ‘babysat’ Burton’s bedroom half–a–dozen times. I would arrive just as he left, and was directed to sit in a specific chair until he returned from dining at the Lodge; at that point he would kiss me on the forehead and tell me to go. I was never given a reason; maybe he thought I’d frighten away ghosts? I took the directions strictly, and didn’t even get up and have a look around. Just tried to remember myself, etc. I remember ornate French furniture, including a writing desk, a crystal chandelier, a Japanese–looking screen, the marble copy of the statue of Apollo Belvedere that later adorned the Town Hall stage for awhile. I think the curtains and bed covers were some heavy beige silk, but I can’t be certain after all these years. I never considered bringing my camera, though I do have 3–D stereo pictures of the outside, as well as of the process of replacing it with the faux–French thingy that is there now.

"Ill Never Tell" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 7, 2011:
Ames Gilbert [above]:

Nit-picking is OK with me.

I stand corrected. I examined some old photos that I had from that era and found the Blake Cottage there. Yes, it was a smallish ‘stick-built house’ painted yellow.

As the Academy got built, the Blake Cottage was eventually disassembled and moved to another location, in Oregon House/Dobbins, not very far from where Ames used to live, as I may remember.

Yes, I ‘recall the grasscloth wallpaper.’ Certain elements of the place had the attempt of making it Zen-like, or a tad bit ineptly oriental. Shoes had to be removed before entering so that the gold alchemy would not be tarnished by the red clay-like soils native to the area. It was a sacred relic, after all, it was the residence of ‘The Teacher.’

But the real thing worth dwelling on is not this issue of what was the Blake Cottage, but, rather, the circumstances surrounding the activities supposedly secretly going on there that the housekeepers, and others, were aware of.

[ed. - And to illustrate what "Ill Never Tell" is referring to above, I'll include just one (of many) reports from the infamous "Blake Cottage," a letter originally published on Stella Wirk's website, now captured on fourthwayschool.org:]
Letter of Discontent #3
Stella & Harold,

Don't know if you'll remember me--I was in the FOF from '74 to '84. Lived at Oregon House. Used to come over to your place for late coffee and talk on occasion. I was married to Helen Drake for a few years. The article about the FOF and Robert last, Sunday in the SF Chron., has stirred up many feelings both happy & sad. In 1980 Robert asked me to move in to the Blake cottage. Being the uninformed naive "type" that I am, I was elated to be "selected" to live with Robert.

Four days after moving in Robert came to my room one night and asked me to come with him to his bedroom. What followed still seems like a dream. He asked me to take my clothes off and lie on his bed. With a growing sense of deepening confusion but still with total trust I complied. When he said he wanted to kiss my penis I felt my world was being torn apart at the seams. I told him I felt very uncomfortable about doing this.

Remarkably, he did not press the issue and sent me back to my room. He asked me not to talk about what had transpired as other students "might not understand". Another four days later he called me into his bedroom, one afternoon, and said " Goodness, I think it would be best if you moved out of the Blake cottage". I moved out in a state of complete numbness. I was working in the kitchen at the Lincoln Lodge at the time.

I remember that other students made comments to the effect that I was not able to "take the heat" of being so close to the center of the Teaching. I said nothing. But inside I felt as though I had been raped. My, up 'till then, unquestionable trust in Robert had been stripped away and I remember feeling very lost and alone with my "Terrible Secret". I began to drink. Often quite heavily. In my twisted effort to make some sense of what had happened and to continue with my life at the vineyard I remember having feelings of being 'unworthy' and 'less than'. During all of this I had been courting Helen. We married later that year. And for the first four years of our marriage I said nothing about what had happened.--Its just incredible the depth that denial can go !!

It wasn't until the shit hit the fan with S. Sander's letter that I finally told Helen. I finally left shortly after that. Life now is clearer and good. I still live in Marin. Work as a R.N. And loosely follow a contemplative/pseudo Buddhist lifestyle. Not unsurprisingly I have trouble trusting anyone that is in a spiritual teacher role and groups of people. But I find I can more and more look at myself and the whole bowl of soup that's "me" and gently--quitely laugh. I have fond memories of you, Harold and your dogs.-------with Affection, wishing you Well--------------Richard Buckley

ps: just felt I needed to tell the above story again. thanks for listening

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