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.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Up close with "the brightest light in 2,000 years"

Fellowship of Friends cult leader Robert Earl Burton Apollo Renaissance Vineyard and Winery The brightest light in 2,000 years!
Robert Earl Burton 2016 (from Awakening)
[ed. - "I am the brightest light in 2,000 years" was a statement Burton often used to keep followers in their proper place. James Battaglia recorded one such instance. See also, Vignettes of a "Conscious Being".]


"Arthur Brooks" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 17, 2017:
Is the brightest light in 2000 years still alive?

"Insider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 24, 2017:
1. Arthur Brooks [above].

Yes, “The brightest light in 2000 years,” “The avatar of this age,” the only “conscious being” on planet Earth, is still alive and keeping the dream going for some 1500 followers, nearly all of whom choose to remain in a hypnotic sleep, because it really is quite a pleasant dream, despite the glaring contradictions between what Robert Burton says about himself, and his actions and behavior. The dream of being chosen, out of 7 billion people, to find a “conscious school;” the dream of 44+ angels guiding one’s “evolution;” the dream of going to “paradise” at the conclusion of one’s “ninth life.”

"knoti" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 8, 2018:
Warning to Prospective and Current Members of FOF.

Robert Burton has no interest in helping anybody to do anything, except himself.
He is 100% selfish and very persuasive.

I understood this only after being with him off-stage a lot when his guard was down.

"Insider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 14, 2018:
93. knoti [above]

Can you share any details about what Burton is like when his guard is down?

"knoti" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 29, 2018: 
Down Time with Robert

Travel with Robert was purely a moving instinctive experience. We would often be in a rush but spent many an hour resting in various Starbucks. We would eat in sports bars and Denny’s. Very often there was a TV blaring at dinner. There was never any elevated or emotional discussion. Robert would often ask Sasha about how much we owed each student and how little we could get away with paying them back. “Try to pay them back with an art object.” How much could we borrow? Robert would talk about his health problems but not allow me to comment on them. For example he had severe shoulder pain and he would move his arm from the elbow to try to alleviate the pain. I tried to explain that he must raise his elbow to use his shoulder muscles but he could not understand even this and he shut me down.

He often spoke about changing the meeting time at the last minute in the most off hand and cavalier way as if he enjoyed the fact that he was so important and powerful that compared to his whims the inconvenience to 150 people meant nothing.

There was no teaching but he did speak of the lower self when he wanted to control someone. He demanded that we massage his shoulder for so long and so hard that it was quite unpleasant. Still it did seem like an honor to be with him in this special way. He gave us cookies and frozen yogurt and showed tremendous valuation for these things. Once I felt quite humiliated when he fed me a spoonful of yogurt like a baby in a coffee shop.

Conversation was often about where to find the best weather or the cost of various hotels along the way. Nobody could ever introduce a topic that was not a direct repetition of something Robert had previously talked about. We often stopped at a store where Robert could spend hours shopping for a $200 shirt or tennis shoes. There were also many long hours spent shopping for “art” and antiques. His home is filled with art objects to the point that there is not room for another object. He is clearly hording art as opposed to appreciating art. I find that he has no taste in art. These objects are merely symbols of his assumed elevated status.

We spent long hours in coffee shops and made short visits to museums. There was often a visit to one good hotel but we would often arrive late and leave early. In a rush. To his credit he spends a lot of time at a truly nice garden coffee shop in Palm Springs, but it might be about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.

Robert spends much of his free time watching Americas Funniest Videos, which is primarily about people getting hurt or looking foolish, or watching football. There is never any kind of elevated or emotion talk. Intimate contact with Robert does not include the right to speak without being spoken to. More than once I was put in my place with a reference to the lower self when I tried to address Robert. Once I tried to address him and he told me that he was too excited by the dinner he had just come from to be able to listen to me. Eventually it appeared to me that he was not able to understand even simple concepts and he did not want to seem out of control or stupid even among his servants.

I remember well the shock I experienced at different moments of disillusionment. The first time was when someone told me that Robert eats breakfast at Denny’s. At the time I thought that the he must be doing it to deliver some message. Another disillusionment that I remember was Robert choosing an extremely noisy sports bar for a dinner before a ballet. I was sure that it was not his nature that made him choose it but something else. Eventually after many very consistent repetitions of this experience I came to see that this was his nature and preference. There is a King of Hearts playing card in the top drawer of his bathroom dresser. I saw it once and he quickly hid it from my view. It seemed that it was there to remind him of how he is supposed act.

In my opinion Robert is instinctively centered and not Gold alchemy.

As requested one account of being with Robert when his guard is down.

"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 18, 2019:
I was reading through page 16 of the blog (lots of good stuff there from back in 2007!) and I came across this classic, from “Life Person”.

IMHO it’s a perfect summary, so I’m going to post the whole darn thing instead as well as the link above.
 
___________________________

After months of periodically reading and contributing to the blog, what most amazes me is the enormity of the disconnect between what is observed and what some people choose to believe.
Once the emotional charge created by the resurgence of memories that had drifted around for decades dissipated somewhat, and I had for some weeks left off reading the blog, which seemed to perpetuate that charge, and then came back to it, I find myself stunned and incredulous.

Taking away those things that he has said about himself, and those things that others have said about him, and looking only at the evidence before us, we see a man who, before he announced himself as a Teacher, was most easily described as a loser. Fired from his modest teaching position, kicked out of his brief stint in an abusive cult for the most pedestrian reason–being unable to keep his hands off the other guys–living with his mommy or in his van long past the age when we’d expect a man to have a halfway decent job. A man with modest formal education from a white trash background, with the middle name of Earl. Had never accomplished anything of note. Cannot write, paint, dance, or sing. Oh yes–he could play tennis, at the level of the average high school varsity player.

A man who has since lived an entirely parasitic existence, having declined to lift a finger on his own behalf since he was thirty, beyond walking, sitting, lifting fork and glass, talking, and having sex; a man whose muscles have atrophied from disuse. A man who cannot be bothered to pay his own bills, or drive his own car, or fix his own faucet. Can you imagine your father, or your neighbor, let alone Socrates, telling people to do manual labor, including labor that benefits only himself, year after year, decade after decade, while he simply shuffles around in thousand–dollar slacks and five hundred–dollar shoes, without ever contributing anything? Jesus was a carpenter. Dante wrote fantastic works of literature. Leonardo painted masterpieces. Others make shoes, grow food. Here’s a man who jots down notes and sayings at the level of a precocious junior high schooler, and gives others instructions in between efforts to satisfy his physical urges. We find the model for this in, say, Henry VIII, or more accurately, a pinheaded, inbred pharaoh.

Here is a man who has not, in at least 37 years, and most likely in his entire life, had an intimate emotional relationship with another man, woman, cat or turtle that would be recognized by anyone as normal, let alone mature.


Whose “teachings” are almost entirely unoriginal, having been cobbled together, first from the works of Gurdjieff and his disciples, a little later from quotes copied like a lazy freshman from the Harvard Classics, and now from a hodgepodge of sources that does not rise to the level of solid “B Influence”–stuff that, thirty years ago, you wouldn’t have picked out of the trash, like Chariots of the Gods and Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. He even tried his hand at National Enquirer–style prophecy, and was so spectacularly unsuccessful that he now claims he never meant any of it.

A man who fancies himself an aesthete, of impeccable taste, yet whose taste is classic nouveau riche, reflecting once again the lack of any originality, let alone artistic flair. Everything is copied, taken from others, like the pile of statues in the basement of Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu. Who considers a Greek temple plopped down in the Sierra foothills very classy, and cannot see that it is pathetic kitsch, like Las Vegas casinos featuring recreations of pyramids and Venice.

In any other circumstance, this man would be considered ridiculous. A buffoon. Laughed at.
And this, of course, does not address a level of greed and financial manipulation that would seem eye–rollingly incredible in a made–for–TV–movie about a New Age Guru. Who would believe a character who did all the running after cufflinks, the wine–guzzling, the pouring of rich food down his gullet, the endless supply of suits, shirts, shoes, Rolls Royces and Mercedes, watches, paintings, furniture, and on and on and on, while continually demanding more money from his followers, some of whom make extraordinary sacrifices, destroy themselves financially, to keep the man in silk, cashmere, and the umpteenth performance of Giselle. We’d turn it off in disgust, exclaiming that the movie showed an obvious intent to slander all nontraditional religious organizations and make their adherents seem imbecilic.

And then there’s the fellow’s peculiar sexual habits, which also are no laughing matter. His need to have his various orifices continually filled, not by people with whom he shares a deep emotional bond, but by desperate or naive people he has cajoled with pathetic fairy tales, who hide their faces in shame as he grunts and pants before showing them the door and calling in the next one. People who carry the diseases he has passed on to them, and perhaps their partners, for the rest of their lives, along with the burning resentment and humiliation of having allowed themselves to be so callously and pitifully used by someone they trusted. This sort of behavior is generally accepted everywhere as demonstrating a profound emotional disturbance.

And none of this even touches on the man’s treatment of others when they’re not coming in his mouth, his disregard of what would be considered decent, principled behavior in any culture, under any ethical or religious creed. His complete lack of genuine interest in the well–being of anyone who does not give him, or procure for him, money or sex, his willingness to act, without regret, as though a person he has known for twenty years or more, a person who has given him everything they have, has never existed the moment the individual stops giving him money or sex.

But, I suppose, none of this precludes his being the Light of the World, the Greatest Being Since Christ, and worthy of the highest lifelong devotion. And why? Because he says he is “conscious.” So that’s what being “conscious” means, does it? How could I have missed it? But some say they have “verified” that he is “conscious.” Oh, that changes everything. For quite a while everyone on earth was convinced the world was flat.

“But he teaches people to be present.” Indeed. Being present to eating too much, drinking too much, having sex with people who don’t want to have sex with you. Present to enjoying the fruits of others’ labors. Present to the sycophantic bowing and scraping of people without any self–respect or discernment. He teaches, by example, how to be present to treating others like shit.

How to account for his success? If a person without any useful abilities of his own sat down and decided to develop a way to allow himself to have all the money, sex, food, travel, power, fancy clothes, adulation, and sheer self–indulgent luxury an adolescent could possibly imagine–if a man embarrassed by his own sexuality and humble social status wanted to be treated like a god–what might he come up with?

And why is it that so many people whose wisdom is so much more easily observed, who are truly kind and compassionate, who genuinely value others simply for their inherent humanity, who find delight in simple pleasures and do not need to be continually praised, obeyed, fucked, fed, entertained, clothed, and carted about, who enjoy being useful, who serve others instead of claiming to serve disembodied spirits while leaving a trail of pain in their wake–why is it that such people do not have as many people trying to learn from them?

Might it be that some people actually want what they see this man has, rather than true wisdom, true compassion?

Might it be that some people cannot bear the thought that what is so obvious might actually be the simple truth, which would make them gullible fools?

"knoti" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, February 18, 2019:
Thanks for the repost of “life Person”. It is a very good account of what I experienced.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Today's "Fourth Way" teaching according to Robert Burton

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends Fourth Way cult leader Apollo
Robert Earl Burton leads a Fellowship of Friends meeting at the Apollo Grand Pavilion.

[ed. - A person within the Fellowship community provided this description of the current Fellowship meetings at Apollo. The meetings take place three times a week, with Robert Burton leading them. As described below, the format is far different than the early days, when members freely asked questions of Robert Burton and in response received "angles of thought" from Burton and fellow students. An abrupt turning point occurred after members at a meeting in Saint Petersburg challenged the increasingly faith-based, religious nature of Burton's teaching, embarrassing "The Teacher" with uncomfortable questions. As with an earlier insurrection, the Saint Petersburg meeting resulted in expulsions from the Fellowship.]
...around 20 quotes have been pre-selected, printed on cards, and entered into the meeting computer to be shown on the (really) big monitor.

Then 20 people are selected to read these quotes, when that quote is displayed, but to make no further comments.

[Robert Burton] then makes predictable comments triggered by the quote and the accompanying picture. His comments are generally in one of two categories: omens pointing to the next disaster, or indicating the circles (6s) and squares (4s) in the image. This is the “teaching” these days.

But, mainly, no one asks questions, gives “angles,” or speaks in any way whatsoever, except for those who get to read a quote.