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.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

It was fifty years ago today...

[ed. - Robert Earl Burton considers January 1, 1970 the day he founded The Fellowship of Friends. He met Bonita Guido at a New Years party the night before and, once they agreed to subsequent meetings, he immediately became a "teacher."]

"Tim Campion" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 31, 2019:
99. John Harmer

Fifty years ago tonight, “the grand narcissist” Robert Earl Burton lured his first follower. Thus began The Fellowship of Friends.

"Cult Survivor" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, December 31, 2019:
100. Tim Campion [above]

Fifty years ago tonight, “the grand narcissist” Robert Earl Burton lured his first follower. Thus began The Fellowship of Friends. Thus began the carnival. “Fellowship of Friends” search on Google Images:
Photo source

[ed. - In 2017, Robert Earl Burton's autobiographical Fifty Years with Angels was published. Burton asserts that on September 5, 1967 he first met the angels. On that day, he was recruited by Alex Horn's San Francisco group. Below, John Harmer offers a review of Part 1 of that story.]

"John Harmer" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, September 24, 2019:
In December 2017 a very revealing document called “Fifty Years with Angels” was published. I’ve read on this blog that Burton has decreed that all Fellowship documents before a certain date are no longer valid, and that students were asked to rid themselves of them. Still the book was issued and allows a close look at the self centered and narcissistic mindset of Burton. It shows what happens when someone lives so entirely in their own echo chamber, that they have no clue how their statements sound to unbiased listeners. The book is still on sale at amazon.com with 5 reviews so far, four give it 5 stars, one is negative with only a single star.

Here are some of the statements that caught my eye in the book:

He switches between use of the personal pronouns “I” and “we”, which strikes me as a gesture of faux modesty. For example on page one we read:
I did not know what the truth was, but I knew that I had not found it. The truth certainly was not where I was, but then we found the truth or, rather, the truth – Influence C- found us and infused the truth within us.
He continues relating various events that led to him joining Alex Horn’s group, it seems even back then he was subject to ideas of reference, if a butterfly lands on his finger, he interprets it as a sign of his special destiny. There is an interesting paragraph on page 7, where he says
In his group there was a lot of violence and bloodshed, but it did not work. I was able to verify that force cannot break the lower self. Only love can do that – the conscious love we have for one another.
I remember this being the party line when I was a member, and for years I believed it. The “no gossip” task ensured that the psychological torture that he meeted [sic] out to his many lovers was concealed, and it was not until a brave individual visited the London centre in 1989, and shared details of how he had for years felt trapped in a situation that he could not find his way out of, that I became aware of the sordid truth of the situation. This young man was a sincere spiritual seeker, and valued the disciplines of the Gurdjieff work, but he felt unable to confide in the older students who surrounded and supported Burton in his role, about how he was regularly required to submit to sodomy and being sexually used for Burton’s personal satisfaction and relief. [ed. - See “The Thomas Easley Letters”]

Burton is very clear that he rates himself as a very special person, who only has the very highest motives for what he does. He contrasts himself with Alex Horn who bought a property for his school, and put it in his own name. Burton brags
I did not have one thought of putting Apollo in my name. It belongs to the school; it is for us and for those who follow. I did not have a single ‘I’ like that; that is why we have a school. This kind of generous action, and all of the many things that you support, are making Apollo what it is and making you what you are: conscious beings.
Given the many stories of his lust for baubles and trinkets, and shamelessly demanding the return of jewellery which students thought had been given to them (and which they had paid for through obligatory “donations”), it makes me smile to hear him assess himself as “generous”. Later on, on the same page, he makes the statement
Now we are all conscious beings in this room
which must have been very flattering for those in the room, I can imagine the warm glow they would have all felt.

A few pages later he makes some statements about his failed prophetic pronouncements. He says
Revelation 10:7 says, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished”
He follows this in the next paragraph with
Sometimes the gods manifest the outer meaning, which may be hydrogen warfare – the Last Judgement. I do not need to be right about these omens; I merely pass them on as they were passed to me. Sir Walter Scott said, “I cannot tell how the truth maybe; I say the tale as it was said to me”
I see this as an extraordinary statement. No one forced him to make prophecies, but given that he makes them, and all the independently verifiable ones (Depression, California falling into the ocean, Nuclear war etc) have proved to be false, surely he has to question whether Influence C really do write the play, or whether he is confabulating these messages he thinks come from higher forces. Apparently he sees no need to do that. He hides behind his humble attitude that he passes on what he gets, and if it turns out to be false, well whatever.

We get a hint about the mechanics of the messages he gets from Influence C a few pages later.
I was by myself looking at the Airstream trailers in the Court of the Caravans, and I had an ‘I’ that they looked like the early atomic bombs. Then Leonardo said “Any fool could see that.” It was a third-state moment.
So apart from his ideas of reference – making connections with car number plates etc, he experiences voices in his head. A classic sign of a psychotic mental condition.

A few pages later he reveals an interesting anecdote from his early childhood.
I remember once, when I was about ten years old, I was gathering walnuts with my mother in Orinda, a suburb of Berkeley. The estate of Henry J. Kaiser – the wealthy industrialist – was nearby, and his son asked me to drive with him around his property. He had his own little road system and his own little car. We were the same age so my mother allowed me to go. He drove me around his estate and it was like being admitted to Paradise. That was preparation for entering Paradise when that time comes. It is not so far away, in fact
Well, it seems to me that for most of the people he names as inspiration, the concept of Paradise as being a rich man’s estate in which you have your own little road system and your own little car, would be laughed at for its brazen enviousness. He seems to have tried to create his very own version of this childhood dream in Oregon House.

At that point part one of the book concludes. I will leave my commentary there for now.