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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Fellowship of Friends Membership 1970 to 2019

[ed. - As of 2022, official Fellowship of Friends websites report a membership "over 1,500" worldwide, suggesting membership has plateaued over the past dozen years. At the end of its first decade, the average age was 32. Now it is over 60 and, increasingly, senior members are "completing their tasks" (as Burton euphemistically refers to death.)]

Fellowship of Friends membership tracking from 1970 through 2019
Fellowship of Friends membership from 1970 to 2019

For the first dozen years, the Fellowship routinely published membership censuses which proudly demonstrated the success of early recruiting efforts. However, by 1980 growth had slowed and subsequently showed a slight decline. In November 1981, it was announced  census numbers would no longer be published. From 1982 until 2007, membership figures are drawn from articles published in the media, and occasionally found in legal documents. Typically, a Fellowship spokesperson provided an approximate population (giving rise to plateaus in the chart.) From 2007 to 2019, official Fellowship rosters were often "shared" with non-members, resulting in fairly transparent membership counts.

In 2006, a blog article published by The Esoteric Sheik of Inner Confusion generated a public dialog that eventually contributed to the Fellowship's decline. It remains unclear whether the Fellowship ever reached the peak of 2,200 active members "officially" reported between 2005 and 2007.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A lineage of profound deception continues

Asaf Braverman's BePeriod spin-off from Robert Earl Burton's Fellowship of Friends Fourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky cult
From BePeriod on Facebook

"amesgilbert1" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 14, 2019:
This coming Sunday, December 15th, Asaf Braverman is hosting another workshop on his site, The subject this time is:
Transitioning from searching for a teaching to practicing one

Introductory workshop hosted by BePeriod students
When is the right time to stop searching and begin practicing a teaching? What are the obstacles in this transition? Join us for an introductory workshop hosted by BePeriod students aimed at opening a window into this process.
Readers who have found this site for the first time while searching for more information about and its founder, Asaf Braverman, might be puzzled as to the connection between Braverman and Robert Earl Burton, founder of the Fellowship of Friends. There is a simple answer: Braverman was Burton’s faithful, obedient follower and appointed successor for two decades. They had a falling out, and now Braverman seeks to apply what he was taught to you, a sincere seeker who is doing due diligence.

When you read through these pages, as you learn more about Burton’s depravity, his greed, his insatiable sexual appetites, his enormous lies, his lust for absolute control over every aspect of the lives of his followers—keep this in mind: Burton was Asaf Braverman’s teacher. In fact, for many years, Burton was training Braverman to take over the organization, both materially and spiritually. Braverman joined the Fellowship of Friends shortly after completing his Israeli army training, and was in his forties when he left. Think of how you were or are at the various stages of life, and thus how central to his life the Fellowship became, how much space his indoctrination into Burton’s fantasy took.

Now, Asaf’s defenders may say, “He finally realized the truth about Burton”, or, “He has gone back to a purer Fourth Way, only updated”, or any number of rationalizations about his history and present actions. I, of course, have no way of finding my way through such a minefield, nor am I interested. But, I’d say to any seeker, beware. And ask yourself, how likely is it that somehow he can slough off twenty years of mental conditioning, of being Burton’s right–hand man, of being adored and looked up to by thousands, of being assured of and accepting a luxurious lifestyle courtesy of those thousands? And how exactly does that qualify him to teach anybody anything? Except as an object lesson, of course.

No, Asaf Braverman was central to Burton’s con for two decades. And Burton was central to Asaf’s life for twenty years. It is not enough for Braverman to slough off any enquiries into his past relationship with Burton with, “It is like a bad marriage, one doesn’t talk about such things”.

I strongly advise you to look elsewhere, if indeed you believe that guidance from others is somehow vital to your spiritual well–being.

"Cult Survivor" posted on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 14, 2019:

[ed. - "Cult Survivor" has taken down the original video he posted. In its place, I've substituted a clip from that video. Together, the three videos below are examples of the Fellowship's damage control efforts following Asaf Braverman's departure in 2016. In November 2021, it was reported that "Cult Survivor" rejoined the Fellowship. Perhaps they'll adopt the new moniker, "Cult Advisor."] 

"amesgilbert1" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 14, 2019:
Thanks for posting that video, CS, above, a useful reminder of Burton’s shallowness and lack of gratitude.

Those who are looking into Asaf Braverman’s ‘school’ will want to know that this is Braverman’s ‘teacher’, Robert Earl Burton, lecturing his followers about how Braverman went wrong. Have a good look at this caricature, and listen to his words. Assuming you can make any sense of his mumblings…

Think about it. Asaf Braverman learned pretty much all he knows about spiritual matters from this man, over the course of two decades. Of course, Braverman had his own unique experiences before, during, and after his stay in the Fellowship of Friends, but certainly Burton was at the core of his psyche for most of his adult life. Further, Asaf Braverman’s knowledge of the “Fourth Way” consists entirely of the bastardized version taught by Burton, plus what he has gleaned from books that are freely available to anyone. So, why would you place your trust in Braverman? Not to mention, there is no legitimate lineage, a requirement of the Fourth Way, if that is what you are interested in. Recall that Burton’s ‘teacher’ was also a vicious conscienceless charlatan, the infamous Alex Horn.

Furthermore, in this intimate relationship lasting twenty years, Asaf Braverman was the apple of Burton’s eye, designated by Burton to be a ‘future conscious being’, one of the splendid supposed fruits of Burton’s ‘school’. Yet Burton only discovered that Asaf was a ‘snake in the grass’ at the end of the relationship. That doesn’t say much for Burton's perspicacity or powers of observation, let alone ‘consciousness’, does it? And vice versa, Asaf only discovered that Burton was not what he claimed after two decades of constant contact.

Remember also, that though Burton claims his organization is a ‘school’, there is no graduation. Over the last fifty years, not a single person has left with Burton’s approval. Fifty years! (that doesn’t say much for his skills as a ‘teacher’ or the the efficiency of his method, does it?) This list includes Asaf Braverman. The parting was acrimonious; see the video above for a small sample. Asaf had to be forced out, he did not leave on his own initiative (full disclosure, I was also ‘given the boot’ rather than walking out under my own steam, but not for setting myself up in competition as a ‘teacher’). So, if Asaf has a conscience, and it was stirred, it was not enough to lead to action. This is who you would want as a teacher?

Regarding this, it is worth recalling that Burton said, in 1994,
“Conscience is just a collection of I’s. Anyone accumulating too much should leave the school”.
The exact opposite of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky or Bennett or Pentland or Nicol or Salzmann, whose teachings claim conscience is as important as, and inseparable from, consciousness, and as strong an indicator as any that Burton doesn’t have conscience—and hence, consciousness—himself. This is the teaching that Asaf Braverman absorbed for twenty years (ditto all the other followers, some for as much as fifty years!)—conscience is just a bothersome collection of ‘I’s.

You will also be interested to know that Burton and his followers discarded the Fourth Way for a decade or more, until declining membership and funds made it necessary to bring out that particular bait again. In the meantime, Asaf Braverman and Burton filled the gap with an invention of their own, the so–called “Sequence”, a sort of mantra that they claimed they had ‘rediscovered’ and refined by study of ancient schools going back to caveman philosophers of 150 centuries ago. You will notice that Braverman still claims the rare talent of being able to discern traces of these ‘ancient schools’ and talk about them in the most convincing way!

Now Braverman has returned to the Fourth Way (that is, to the distortions he learned from Burton and books, plus his own ‘improvements’ and observations made while jetting around the world during the time he was banned from entering the U.S. due to being married to two people at once), using it as bait to attract followers plus plenty of moolah and adoration for himself.

Ironically, Burton has given up the “Sequence” and replaced it with some new mixture of superstitious goobledegook and outright lies, which his followers are lapping up with their usual enthusiasm. And, he has anointed other ‘future conscious beings’ that will take over after his demise to replace Asaf. Hey, easy come, easy go. Although I do feel sorry for those ‘conscious’ cavemen, who apparently labored to produce drawings of rhino poop laden with esoteric messages for Burton and Braverman to interpret 150 millennia later—all that effort, wasted!

"A.Z." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2019:
Video from 65 [above]: “When you talk about as many things as I do, you don’t even have any thoughts about getting them all right.”

"A.Z." wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2019:
An outsider’s view of that video: – A lot of bitterness, anger, and pure insanity in those eyes. – The person on his left doesn’t believe a word. He thinks there’s an opportunity and is waiting things out. Delusional, like so many cult followers are, but also opportunistic. – Similar to the rally of a deranged authoritarian. He can say nothing wrong, do nothing wrong.

"John Harmer" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2019:
#65 [video above] So Abraham Lincoln is the special FoF patron saint of leavers, huh? 🙂

"Cult Survivor" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2019:
71. A.Z. [above] The person on REB’s left is Alexandr “Sasha” Shalapanov — according to REB he is one of the 2 people in the FoF that “is on the ninth lifetime” and will become a conscious being (the other one is Dorian Matei). Asaf Braverman was the third one before he fell from grace. 72. John Harmer [above] Brilliant.

"Cult Survivor" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 16, 2019:
Here is a rare opportunity to see the 2 future conscious beings in action:

[ed. - Again, "Cult Survivor" removed the original videos from his YouTube page. Below I provide clips from those videos.]

Alexandr “Sasha” Shalapanov (above), future "conscious being"