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.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Dorian Matei involved in fatal Browns Valley crash

Dorian Matei to Robert Earl Burton - You might want to check your zipper
Dorian Matei counsels the effete Robert Earl Burton

[ed. - I have placed this post in the timeline on the date the accident occurred. The following article comes from the Johnson Attorney Group.]

YUBA COUNTY, Calif. (July 26, 2021) — A Browns Valley Road motorcycle accident happened Monday afternoon at Marysville Road.

The collision happened about 1:02 p.m. on July 26th on road also known as State Highway 20, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Two motorcycle riders and a white Toyota Sienna minivan collided due to unknown circumstances at the intersection. The two-way roadway has double yellow lines and there is a stop sign for motorists on Marysville Road, but not on the highway. Also, there is a 76 Service Station at the corner of the intersection. It’s unknown what actually led to the collision at this time.

Tow trucks removed all three vehicles from the crash scene including the Harley-Davidson Road King and a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, the report said.

Paramedics responded due to at least one person suffering major injuries. The CHP report [below] did not provide any further details about the collision at this time.

However, this article will be updated as more information is made available. 

Investigators seek to determine liability for the Browns Valley motorcycle accident.


[ed. - Dorian Matei, Robert Earl Burton's presumed successor, was driving the Fellowship of Friends-owned Toyota Sienna minivan involved in this collision with two motorcycles. While we have few details about the accident, a Washington State law firm representing the two motorcyclists injured in the collision has assigned a private investigator to the case. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched by the couple's daughter: Mike and Sherri's Medical Fund. The following statements appear on that campaign's webpage:]

Mike and Sherri were involved in a motorcycle accident on July 26 2021 while on a road trip. They were traveling to their next destination along Highway 20 in California when they were struck by a van. Both Mike and Sherri have sustained substantial injuries.

Sherri is in Sacramento, CA, where she is continuing to receive care from the trauma team in the ICU for her critical injuries.

Mike is in Marysville, CA recovering from a head injury and awaiting surgery to repair a shattered leg along with other injuries.

All contributions will go towards medical costs for Mike and Sherri and to assist the family's ability to be by their side during this time. We appreciate your help and keep us in your thoughts.

Thank you.

Venmo can be used as an alternative.
@devonbaxter (link defunct)



August 11, 2021 by Shannon TomakOrganizer
My family and I would like to say thank you to all who have donated and helped share our story, we are truly grateful.

Mike is being released from the hospital after a series of successful surgeries to repair his leg. He will be continuing to recover with physical and cognitive therapy over the next several months.

Sherri is continuing to receive care in the ICU to regain consciousness. This will be an extremely long road to recovery over the next several months to years. Our goal is get Sherri back to Washington where she can be with her family as soon as possible.

This is an extremely difficult time for our family. We will continue to do our best to update as we learn more in the weeks and months to come.
[ed. - On August 14th, Mike Tomak's sisters, Ang and Amy launched a second GoFundMe campaign, Friends of Mike and Sherri Tomak. The following statements appear on the campaign's webpage:]
Hello our names are Ang and Amy (Hughes) Tomak. We are raising money for our brother and sister-in-law Mike & Sherri Tomak.

Mike and his wife Sherri were involved in a motorcycle accident while visiting California on July 26th of this year. They were riding on Highway 20 when a van pulled out in front of them. Both Mike & Sherri have sustained multiple injuries. Mike's injuries include head trauma and a shattered leg. He endured several surgeries to repair his leg. As of now he is going through both cognitive & physical therapy.
Sherri has been unconscious since the accident. She continues to receive ICU care in the hospital in the hope that she will regain consciousness. They are back home in the state of Washington. Mike grew up in Johnstown and attended Saint Andrews School and Greater Johnstown Vo-Tech. We know there are many people locally who remember growing up with him.

The funds raised will be used for Mike & Sherri's personal expenses since they are unable to work due to their injuries. This has been a very trying time for Mike and both of
their families. We ask that you please pray for their recovery and for strength to help them through this painful time.


[On November 4th, Ang and Amy Tomak posted the following:]
It is with a heavy heart that I share this update. Sherri passed away. Asking for prayers for Mike and family.

[ed. - Below is a transcript of the California Highway Patrol radio communications following the collision. Source:]

"Sarah Allen" wrote on the Yuba Sutter Accidents Crimes Idiots Facebook page, July 29, 2021:
We (my husband and I) were waiting at the stop sign in Browns Valley next to the 76 station for a line of maybe 15/20 cars to go pass so we could make a right turn onto 20 and a white van (who was turning left on the hwy) pulled out into the middle of the line of cars and slammed right into the 2 motorcycles. I know for a fact that both rider were serious hurt, the man had visible injuries but he was talking, I held the gentlemen hand to calm him down. I helped him after I helped the more criticality injured one, the other rider a woman was in critical condition, I did all I could to help stabilize her while the EMT worked to free her from under her bike AND the van that hit her, I just pray that she's alright, I haven't stopped thinking of her or him since it happened. Here is the link if you can help even a share will help get this couples story out.

"Shannon Tomak" wrote on the Mike and Sherri's Medical Fund page, November 8, 2021:

It is with a heavy heart and from a deep state of grief that we share the passing of our beloved Sherri.

We thank you all for all of your thoughts, prayers, photos and memories. Please continue to share as this is how we keep her spirit alive.

To know Sherri was to love Sherri. The pain of losing her will remain for all the years we have left. We are truly grateful for each and every year of love, laughter and friendship that we have shared, it is a true blessing.

Sher, you are forever in our hearts, we love you!


Sherri and Mike Tomak  (Photo: Shannon Tomak)


[ed. - Sherri Lin Tomack's obituary was published in the Statesman Examiner Newspaper February 8 - 9, 2022.]


An anonymous source in Oregon House reported, June 21, 2022:

FYI, a few months ago, Burton was spreading the message that, due to the accident and investigation, Dorian was being '"persecuted" (by the “gods,” of course, just like Christ). No personal responsibility, no remorse; just a “play” the “gods” arranged for Dorian’s evolution.

Monday, July 12, 2021

"What Makes a Cult a Cult?"

[ed. - The following is from The New Yorker July 12 & 19, 2021 issue. The New Yorker podcast of this story is also available.]

All of us hold some beliefs for which there is no compelling evidence.Illustration by Cristiana Couceiro; 
Source photographs from Corbis / Getty; Ferd Kaufman / AP (Children of God); Haruyoshi Yamaguchi /
 Alamy (Aum); Frédéric Soltan / Corbis / Getty (Auroville); Sandhi Satria Graha / EyeEm / Getty
 (mountain); Keiko Hiromi / Alamy (flag)

What Makes a Cult a Cult?

The line between delusion and what the rest of us believe may be blurrier than we think.

Male cult leaders sometimes claim droit du seigneur over female followers or use physical violence to sexually exploit them. But, on the whole, they find it more efficient to dress up the exploitation as some sort of gift or therapy: an opportunity to serve God, an exorcism of “hangups,” a fast track to spiritual enlightenment. One stratagem favored by Keith Raniere, the leader of the New York-based self-help cult NXIVM, was to tell the female disciples in his inner circle that they had been high-ranking Nazis in their former lives, and that having yogic sex with him was a way to shift the residual bad energy lurking in their systems.

According to Sarah Berman, whose book “Don’t Call It a Cult” (Steerforth) focusses on the experiences of NXIVM’s women members, Raniere was especially alert to the manipulative uses of shame and guilt. When he eventually retired his Nazi story—surmising, perhaps, that there were limits to how many reincarnated S.S. officers one group could plausibly contain—he replaced it with another narrative designed to stimulate self-loathing. He told the women that the privileges of their gender had weakened them, turned them into prideful “princesses,” and that, in order to be freed from the prison of their mewling femininity, they needed to submit to a program of discipline and suffering. This became the sales spiel for the NXIVM subgroup DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium, dog Latin for “Master of the Obedient Sisterhood”), a pyramid scheme of sexual slavery in which members underwrote their vow of obedience to Raniere by having his initials branded on their groins and handing over collateral in the form of compromising personal information and nude photos. At the time of Raniere’s arrest, in 2018, on charges of sex trafficking, racketeering, and other crimes, DOS was estimated to have more than a hundred members and it had been acquiring equipment for a B.D.S.M. dungeon. Among the orders: a steel puppy cage, for those members “most committed to growth.”

Given that NXIVM has already been the subject of two TV documentary series, a podcast, four memoirs, and a Lifetime movie, it would be unfair to expect Berman’s book to present much in the way of new insights about the cult. Berman provides some interesting details about Raniere’s background in multilevel-marketing scams and interviews one of Raniere’s old schoolmates, who remembers him, unsurprisingly, as an insecure bully. However, to the central question of how “normal” women wound up participating in Raniere’s sadistic fantasies, she offers essentially the same answer as everyone else. They were lured in by Raniere’s purportedly life-changing self-actualization “tech” (a salad of borrowings from est, Scientology, and Ayn Rand) and then whacked with a raft of brainwashing techniques. They were gaslit, demoralized, sleep-deprived, put on starvation diets, isolated from their friends and families, and subjected to a scientifically dubious form of psychotherapy known as neurolinguistic programming. Raniere was, as the U.S. Attorney whose office prosecuted the case put it, “a modern-day Svengali” and his followers were mesmerized pawns.

Until very recently, Berman argues, we would not have recognized the victimhood of women who consented to their own abuse: “It has taken the #MeToo movement, and with it a paradigm shift in our understanding of sexual abuse, to even begin to realize that this kind of ‘complicity’ does not disqualify women . . . from seeking justice.” This rather overstates the case, perhaps. Certainly, the F.B.I. had been sluggish in responding to complaints about NXIVM, and prosecutors were keener to pursue the cult in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, but, with or without #MeToo, the legal argument against a man who used the threat of blackmail to keep women as his branded sex slaves would have been clear. In fact, Berman and others, in framing the NXIVM story as a #MeToo morality tale about coerced consent, are prone to exaggerate Raniere’s mind-controlling powers. The fact that Raniere collected kompromat from DOS members strongly suggests that his psychological coercion techniques were not, by themselves, sufficient to keep women acquiescent. A great many people were, after all, able to resist his spiral-eyed ministrations: they met him, saw a sinister little twerp with a center part who insisted on being addressed as “Vanguard,” and, sooner or later, walked away.

It is also striking that the degree of agency attributed to NXIVM members seems to differ depending on how reprehensible their behavior in the cult was. While brainwashing is seen to have nullified the consent of Raniere’s DOS “slaves,” it is generally not felt to have diminished the moral or legal responsibility of women who committed crimes at his behest. Lauren Salzman and the former television actor Allison Mack, two of the five NXIVM women who have pleaded guilty to crimes committed while in the cult, were both DOS members, and arguably more deeply in Raniere’s thrall than most. Yet the media have consistently portrayed them as wicked “lieutenants” who cast themselves beyond the pale of sympathy by “choosing” to deceive and harm other women.

The term “brainwashing” was originally used to describe the thought-reform techniques developed by the Maoist government in China. Its usage in connection with cults began in the early seventies. Stories of young people being transformed into “Manchurian Candidate”-style zombies stoked the paranoia of the era and, for a time, encouraged the practice of kidnapping and “deprogramming” cult members. Yet, despite the lasting hold of brainwashing on the public imagination, the scientific community has always regarded the term with some skepticism. Civil-rights organizations and scholars of religion have strenuously objected to using an unproven—and unprovable—hypothesis to discredit the self-determination of competent adults. Attempts by former cult members to use the “brainwashing defense” to avoid conviction for crimes have repeatedly failed. Methods of coercive persuasion undoubtedly exist, but the notion of a foolproof method for destroying free will and reducing people to robots is now rejected by almost all cult experts. Even the historian and psychiatrist Robert Lifton, whose book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” (1961) provided one of the earliest and most influential accounts of coercive persuasion, has been careful to point out that brainwashing is neither “all-powerful” nor “irresistible.” In a recent volume of essays, “Losing Reality” (2019), he writes that cultic conversion generally involves an element of “voluntary self-surrender.”

If we accept that cult members have some degree of volition, the job of distinguishing cults from other belief-based organizations becomes a good deal more difficult. We may recoil from Keith Raniere’s brand of malevolent claptrap, but, if he hadn’t physically abused followers and committed crimes, would we be able to explain why NXIVM is inherently more coercive or exploitative than any of the “high demand” religions we tolerate? For this reason, many scholars choose to avoid the term “cult” altogether. Raniere may have set himself up as an unerring source of wisdom and sought to shut his minions off from outside influence, but apparently so did Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel of Luke records him saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Religion, as the old joke has it, is just “a cult plus time.”

Acknowledging that joining a cult requires an element of voluntary self-surrender also obliges us to consider whether the very relinquishment of control isn’t a significant part of the appeal. In HBO’s NXIVM documentary, “The Vow,” a seemingly sadder and wiser former member says, “Nobody joins a cult. Nobody. They join a good thing, and then they realize they were fucked.” The force of this statement is somewhat undermined when you discover that the man speaking is a veteran not only of NXIVM but also of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, a group in the Pacific Northwest led by a woman who claims to channel the wisdom of a “Lemurian warrior” from thirty-five thousand years ago. To join one cult may be considered a misfortune; to join two looks like a predilection for the cult experience.

Friday, July 9, 2021

"outsidelookingin" and "Phutatorious" tell their stories

"outsidelookingin" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 7, 2021:

My first post.

I want to thank the contributors to the robertearlburton blogspot and this discussion. The blogspot has the best description of the history of the FoF I could find on the internet.

I look at the FoF description of itself as a narrative, and I look at the blogspot and discussion as a counter-narrative. It is only by looking at the FoF history, the narrative, and the counter-narrative as a whole that I have a chance of understanding what I was involved in. Without the blog and discussion I wouldn’t have access to the history and the personal experiences of all kinds of people. Thanks again to all that made a wholistic understanding of the FoF possible.

It isn’t hard to see that the fellowship is religious in nature. A basic overview of primitive religion from the perspective of anthropology shows that the FoF is a religious organization. But I was explicitly looking for a fourth way school and had been reading fourth way material for a few years before joining the FoF. I liked the way the fourth way emphasized verification and warned against blind belief.

When I now look at both narrative and counter-narrative, it seems like the FoF was a strange source of permanent vacation funding and sex for one person, wrapped in the outward appearance of a religion which can be called “Burtonism”. All this was wrapped in the outward appearance of a fourth way school.

That is quite a burrito!

Now it appears the FoF has come out of the closet when it shed its outer fourth way skin altogether and revealed itself openly as a type of religion. To me it seems to have become something that I would be embarrassed to admit I ever joined. It really looks like some kind of joke.

So when I look back at my experiences in the FoF I ask myself how I ended up in what is essentially a religious cult?

When I recall my earliest experiences in the FoF (joined in Chicago) the group presented itself as a fourth way school. It was just me and many “older students”. The Muellers and the Goldmans and the Rudders and the Thiels and Sarah and John Trezevant, Joseph and Genevieve Granados were there. These people were very friendly and helpful. They let me stay in their homes for the weekend. The perspective student meetings presented the FoF as consisting of fourth way principles. It appeared like a very serious group. From there I went to Renaissance.

What strikes me looking back is how nobody there presented the FoF in religious terms. Nobody warned me or mentioned anything about what I might be facing at Renaissance.

It seems I ended up joining a cult because it had a strong fourth way veneer and presented itself completely as a fourth way school. They even target fourth way books using bookmarks. I answered an advertisement in a newspaper that said “fourth way school now accepting students”. There can be no doubt that the FoF used the public attraction to fourth way ideas as its key magnet.

If many other people were drawn for similar reasons, it means that the early FoF “piggybacks” on fourth way literature. That is how it drew the original organization together. That is how it attracted me. And the story of the FoF is how a religious anti-intellectualism and a total breakdown of healthy skepticism can emerge surrounded and protected by a fourth way shell.

When looking at the early history of the FoF I can see how a “c-influence” religious cult emerged directly from FoF application of fourth way ideas. It appears Stella Wirk recognized this very early.

The FoF from the mid 1980s when I joined seemed to be actively trying to hide the religious-vacation-sexual nature of “Burtonism” behind a strong fourth way mask.


"WhaleRider" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 7, 2021:

Welcome outsidelookingin [above]. Thanks for your post.

Your narrative reminded me of the first meeting at Renaissance after some kind of IRS audit was in play…that I was dimly aware was going on behind the scenes…when the seating arrangement at the Town Hall was abruptly changed sometime around 1984-5, I believe.

Instead of solid rows of chairs in the audience as was the seating arrangement since forever, we followers arrived on that particular night to find there were two columns of chairs in rows with a wide aisle down the middle of the room, and from then on, that’s the way it was going to be.

Looking back, the change might have been due to a fire code violation which would have been fine by me, however, I remember specifically being told at the time that the new seating arrangement was to make the meetings appear to look more like a church service (rather than a town hall community meeting) in order to secure the non-profit status of the FOF as a religion.

At that moment a red flag went off in my head. That too, was not what I had signed up for in joining a so-called “fourth way school”. I certainly was not there to worship anything or anyone, and no way was I going to volunteer to pretend to do so for tax purposes. I remember having the thought (in cultspeak), “Is this the point when the school becomes B-influence as a tax write-off?”

I left shortly after that, but for many other reasons.


"Phutatorius" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 7, 2021:

@86 outsidelookingin [above]: Your experience matches my own pretty well, I, too, joined in Chicago, around the same time as Abe Goldman. We were even room-mates, briefly, in Chicago. Rudder was there; (I believe he is now deceased.) He always reminded me of Rasputin, the mad monk! Springman was there too: he was a high end car salesman but I doubt that “Springman” was his real name. He burned Baker on a used Mercedes, pretty badly. She wasn’t happy. Baker, Lipson and Maddox were centre directors when I was there I moved to northern California within about a year. It appears that I left the FoF well before you joined. I had wrestled with the cult aspect of “the school” for quite a while before I finally pulled the plug. I didn’t know for certain about R’s “predations,” but I really should have known by that time; I think I suspected it but I continued giving him “the benefit of the doubt,” until I began seeing reports of lawsuits brought by former students in the NORCAL newspapers. Goldman’s defense of R, that it “was all consensual” was enough of an admission of guilt to finally satisfy me. But how naive I had been! I should have listened to my instincts! (While visiting Renaissance, I had seen and heard a couple of things that “didn’t look right,” but convinced myself to ignore them.) Ironically, the last 80 page section of Robert Burton’s “Anatomy of Melancholy” was a big factor in my actual decision to leave. That’s the section on “religious melancholy.” I wonder how many other FoFers have ever read that?! I joined a couple of “real” Gurdjieff groups in the following years. I ran into a few other former “students” in those groups. In the FoF I liked the music, the wine, the dinners, some attractive women who appeared untouchable (as well as some who appeared otherwise) — but at what a price! (As an aside, I made no progress with “self-remembering.”) Looking back, I think/hope the main damage was to my bank account. But that was repaired quickly enough after I got out.

"outsidelookingin" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 8, 2021:

@88 [Phutatorius above] I’ll talk about Abe in a future post. My guess is he was living a contradiction. I try to explain the nature of that contradiction a bit farther down in this post.

Trying to figure out why the hell I joined what basically became a religious cult led me to this general list of questions about the FoF:

What is it that originally attracts people to the FoF?

About what percentage of those joining are aware of the religious nature of the FoF?

What happens as a person becomes aware there is a religion embedded within the FoF which is distinct from fourth way concepts?

How do fourth way ideas based on personal verification and critique devolve into “c influence wants you to come in my mouth”?

(and quite frankly, that is a rather tacky pick-up line)

How can such a one-way power-sex relationship which manipulates religious beliefs to induce submission from many people who are heterosexual be understood as being based on “mutual consent”?

These questions suggest that there are two fundamental contradictions at the heart of the Fellowship of Friends. They are:

1) FoF conceptual architecture was based on a fourth way shell hiding a religious interior.

2) The illusion of “mutual consent”

Concerning the first, people were not allowed to openly question the religious interior of the FoF in active discussion. They were not allowed to openly, publicly distinguish fourth way concepts from a strange, fuzzy religion forming in the interior of the FoF.

This will obviously lead to the collapse of critical thinking (as witnessed). This kills the capacity to think and talk openly about a wide range of issues, including the true nature of the FoF itself and the true relationship of the FoF with the rest of the world.

The illusion of “mutual consent” allowed for a strange type of exploitation to happen almost in plain sight.

I agree with Abraham Goldman that a person has the right to privacy concerning their sex life. But the situation around the Academy in the FoF seemed to artistically walk a tightrope of what could sometimes barely pass for mutual consent in any legal or ethical sense. The stories on the blog demonstrate this beyond doubt. People were actively pursued that did not wish to willingly participate – and it was that “religious glue”, to not “perturb” influence “c”, to “please” the guiding spirits, that contributed to the judgement to submit.

That is not mutual consent. It has nothing to do with any fourth way concept. Many of these cases seem to be classic examples of religious manipulation feeding on the weakness of another. It is the effect of that strange, fuzzy religion at the heart of the FoF.

To keep this in historical perspective, Robert isn’t doing much more than what the Catholic Church has been perfecting for more than 1,500 years. In fact, he probably uses some of their pick-up lines and moves for young men and boys. Even the Boy Scouts have developed their own system.


"amesgilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 8, 2021:

I think Burton took ruthless advantage of the central Fourth Way principle, “Give up your will to the Teacher”. Ouspensky stressed this necessity. The student must temporarily place him/herself under the power of the person who has already escaped and knows the way forward. Sounds good in principle, but he neglected to define ‘temporarily’ and state any limitations or precautions. I’m one of those who don’t think Ouspensky really broke through into some other realm of consciousness, just was given some temporary insights like we all are. But he sure could talk up a storm…

Without those limitations, Burton can have free reign to do whatever he wants with anyone who has ‘given up his will’. Giving up one’s will obviously includes dispensing with plain old common sense. And when you add his dismissal of the role of conscience (“Conscience is just a collection of I’s”), then that leaves the hapless follower with no defenses at all.
Since Burton has never graduated anyone from his organization in five decades, the giving up of will becomes permanent. Any protests withstanding emanate from the ‘lower self’. Neat.

All this backed up with the support and approval of the rest of the flock. That is pretty powerful reinforcement, making it even harder to go against the flow.

So, this is a basic, bedrock deficiency of what we have been told is the ‘Fourth Way’. Defer to those in the authoritarian hierarchy who know better, see further and more clearly. Who will tell you when you have arrived. And, of course, who always have your best interests at heart.


"amesgilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 8, 2021: 

As to the references to “consensual”, that is purest baloney, mere propaganda. Of course, this is overt in regard to the façade presented to the outside world, but it also applies internally. I well remember Burton claiming that all his relationships were consensual, even loving. This was backed up by some who came forward publically to claim the same, including in a special meeting devoted to just that one subject, shortly before I left in 1994.

But this simply cannot be true, due to the grossly unequal power between Burton and anyone he wanted. The requirement to “give up one’s will to the teacher” coupled with the intense pressure from one’s peers to conform, plus the active grooming by previous inductees to the harem is practically irresistible. The grooming is particularly nauseating. In my day, Burton told me and other potential victims to ‘have breakfast with Shiela Grunwaldt’. I am told (I refused the opportunity, so I rely on what others have told me) that this is where Shiela, a trusted ‘older student’, with her perfectly coiffed silver hair and refined deportment, would gently introduce the victim to the facts of the situation, and wax eloquent about the amazing spiritual opportunities that would invariably follow if the victim acquiesced to Burton’s wishes. Lots of messaging along the lines of releasing the norms and morality of mere sleeping machines, and the unique opportunities to go against ‘mechanical inclinations’.

In later years, one could actually observe and overhear previous victims grooming new recruits at La Cucina, using the same arguments. I guess that there were some complex psychological currents within the groomers, a mixture of adding another link to the ‘chain of pain’, plus maybe a sort of advertisement of one’s closeness to Burton and trying to impress the newbie, or sometimes a deep cynicism, I don’t know. And on the part of the naïve victim, busy trying to find a path to the ‘highest right’, confusion and dismay mixed with eagerness to “accelerate his evolution” and the idea that no price would be too high. But the unrelenting pressure from one’s “new best friends” and Burton himself, combined with much flattery and gifts, is pretty damn compelling.

What a total fuckup!


"outsidelookingin" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 9, 2021:

My guess is the religion emerges from these fourth way terms:

Giving up will
c influence

To research this I open a copy of “The Fourth Way” for the first time in over 2 decades. I turn to the table of contents and I see literally hundreds of fourth way expressions in 16 chapters. I immediately remember why I liked this book when I first found it. It is raw, direct and is completely void of appeals to religious faith.

Only the last chapter deals with a religious issue: Eternal recurrence. But the first item in the chapter is, “The idea of recurrence can only be regarded as a theory”. Also, readers of Ouspensky will know that he was writing about this before he met Gurdjeiff. It was his pet interest in an earlier book. He is careful to separate it into the last chapter and clearly labels it as something he cannot personally verify.

I am a bit relieved to see I wasn’t such a dip-shit after all for ending up in a religious cult. I was actually tricked. I joined the FoF because of my interest in looking deeper into these very non-religious ideas based on human psychology with other people.

But the mystery does deepen. How does this book devolve into “c influence wants you to come in my mouth”? The only doorway I can see for an emerging religion is

Giving up will
c influence

I read the table of contents over and over and I can’t find anything that is religious rather than psychological. Can anyone find any dirt in this book that leads to a religion being formed from these ideas?


"outsidelookingin" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 9, 2021: 

FoF concepts that lead to a fundamentally religious world-view:

c influence
44 helpers

Physical environment being altered by disembodied conscious beings in order to communicate with you personally through symbolism on an hourly basis


Manichean concept of school vs life

Manichean, fundamentally religious concept of “former students” as rotting in a Dante type Hell

The concept of man number 1 through 7 is also used to establish a sharp religious hierarchy. Pretty much everyone is seen as a #4 while he is a #7, which is (by fourth way theory) 3 distinct levels of development higher than his students.

This claim of a massive gap in development is used to make claims with an air of certainty that clearly cannot be verified by anyone and are religious in nature.

These seem to be the basic levers that are used in the FoF to turn application of fourth way ideas into a religious project.