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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry

Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry

By Robert Jay Lifton
Available October 15, 2019

Amazon's synopsis:
A definitive account of the psychology of zealotry, from a National Book Award winner and a leading authority on the nature of cults, political absolutism, and mind control

In this unique and timely volume Robert Jay Lifton, the National Book Award–winning psychiatrist, historian, and public intellectual proposes a radical idea: that the psychological relationship between extremist political movements and fanatical religious cults may be much closer than anyone thought. Exploring the most extreme manifestations of human zealotry, Lifton highlights an array of leaders—from Mao to Hitler to the Japanese apocalyptic cult leader Shōkō Asahara to Donald Trump—who have sought the control of human minds and the ownership of reality.

Lifton has spent decades exploring psychological extremism. His pioneering concept of the “Eight Deadly Sins” of ideological totalism—originally devised to identify “brainwashing” (or “thought reform”) in political movements—has been widely quoted in writings about cults, and embraced by members and former members of religious cults seeking to understand their experiences.

In Losing Reality Lifton makes clear that the apocalyptic impulse—that of destroying the world in order to remake it in purified form—is not limited to religious groups but is prominent in extremist political movements such as Nazism and Chinese Communism, and also in groups surrounding Donald Trump. Lifton applies his concept of “malignant normality” to Trump’s efforts to render his destructive falsehoods a routine part of American life. But Lifton sees the human species as capable of “regaining reality” by means of our “protean” psychological capacities and our ethical and political commitments as “witnessing professionals.”

Lifton weaves together some of his finest work with extensive new commentary to provide vital understanding of our struggle with mental predators. Losing Reality is a book not only of stunning scholarship, but also of huge relevance for these troubled times.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"Take It From a Former Moonie: Trump Is a Cult Leader"

Steven Hassan's upcoming book
[ed. - Steve Hassan operates the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and has included The Fellowship of Friends among the many cults he has profiled.]
By Steven Hassan

The Daily Beast
Updated 10.13.19 7:18PM ET / Published 10.13.19 5:11AM ET

[Excerpt]

"When I was in the Moonies, I was so indoctrinated that I was prepared to take up arms and die for the cause. I wasn’t alone. My fear is that Trump might order his followers to take their weapons to the streets if he is not re-elected. In a recent tweet, he quoted his Christian Right ally, Robert Jeffress, that his removal from office 'will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.' Worse still is the possibility that, if feeling sufficiently threatened, Trump might, like Jones, try to take others everyone with him, using his access to the nuclear codes. It’s a dark scenario, but not entirely outlandish.

"The good news is, I woke up and got out of a cult, as have millions of people. What I have learned in working with cult members, as I describe in my book, is that attacking their beliefs is doomed to fail. To help them recover their critical faculties, it is essential to develop a warm and positive relationship before teaching them about how mind control works. I often do that by showing how it operates in other groups, like the Jonestown cult or Scientology. We might use the same approach to heal the 'us versus them' mindset of Trump’s followers—and also of some of their more rabid opponents. Ultimately, the goal is to educate and inspire people to regain their capacity for critical thinking, and to free their own minds.

"I have seen people throw off the mental and emotional shackles of many years—even a lifetime—of destructive conditioning. I believe that love is stronger than fear and that truth is stronger than mind control. But I also believe that the dangers of mind control are greater now than ever due to the digital world we are so plugged into. We ignore the lessons of history—of Jonestown and other destructive groups—at our own peril."
Read more at Daily Beast. Also see Steven Hassan interviewed on CNN.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Recruiting in Ahmedabad

[ed. - An ad from the October 5, 2019 online version of the Ahmedabad Mirror. The meeting is led by David Tuttle, contributor to the Fellowship's Fourth Way Today website. David began following Robert Burton 45 years ago, when he was just 19.]