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.

Friday, September 24, 2021

"Plaza Denizen Ran 'Secret Cult' Masquerading As Study Group: Suit"

[ed. - The legacy of Alex Horn, Robert Burton's Fourth Way teacher, continues to be revealed in tabloid headlines.]

The New York Post

By Kathianne Boniello and Lee Brown

The late Odyssey Study Group leader and Plaza Hotel resident Sharon Gans allegedly forced members to clean, shop, chauffeur, and hand over hundreds in monthly fees, a new lawsuit contends.
Odyssey Study Group Christmas party 1997.

Two women claim they were duped into becoming unpaid servants for a secretive Manhattan cult, run by a one-time actress who had a bit part in “Slaughterhouse-Five”— and has long faced accusations of bilking her acolytes. 

The Odyssey Study Group was run by Sharon Gans Horn, who died in January at age 86 and had a decades-long alleged history of siphoning cash from adoring followers to support her wealthy lifestyle, including posh homes.

Stephanie Rosenberg and Marjorie Hochman said they signed up for Horn’s Odyssey Study Group in 2005 because they believed it would “help improve their lives economically, physically and spiritually,” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court class-action lawsuit they filed against the cult and its leaders.

But instead of finding enlightenment and growth, Rosenberg and Hochman shelled out $400 monthly cash “membership fees” and slaved away as cooks, cleaners and recruiters, according to their jointly filed lawsuit.

Alex Horn and Sharon Gans who ran a local theater program, are accused of running a cult.
One-time actress Sharon Gans Horn had an alleged history of siphoning cash from followers to support her wealthy lifestyle.
Hearst Newspapers via Getty Image

“All they received for their labor was trauma, emotional distress and other injuries,” they charged in court papers.

“The members of the cult made [Horn] and others very rich” — with the late leader living in “an $8 million dollar condominium in the Plaza Hotel” with other “properties around the United States and in Mexico,” the suit said.

OSG “lined its pockets” on the backs of Rosenberg and Hochman, “lying to its members that it was an honor, privilege and a step to self-improvement to serve the leaders of OSG,” charge the two women.

They are seeking unspecified damages “to recover unpaid wages for many hours of labor” — as well as reimbursement of their monthly $400 membership dues “plus interest.”

Rosenberg and Hochman showed up early for Odyssey’s twice-weekly, secret meetings to set up, cook food for fellow members that they bought with their own money, stayed to clean up, and spent hours roping in new members, they alleged in the litigation.

They even acted as “personal assistants, cooks, housekeepers, drivers, and personal shoppers” for Horn, according to the legal papers.

Odyssey Study Group Christmas party 1997. Members of Sharon Gans' so-called Theater of All Possibilities had come forward to claim they were pushed into marriages, beaten if they didn't sell tickets and had gone broke paying for classes -- while Gans lived it up in a tony home.
The Odyssey Study Group was run by Sharon Gans Horn, who died in January at age 86.

The lawsuit also noted how the cult “has been alleged to have engaged in systematic physical and mental abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, private adoptions, arranged marriages, and financial crimes.”

The two women believed if they left the group, they would be shunned, cut off from the community “that had … become his or her entire world,” the lawsuit claimed.

Members of Sharon Gans' so-called Theater of All Possibilities had come forward to claim they were pushed into marriages, beaten if they didn't sell tickets and had gone broke paying for classes.
Members of Sharon Gans’ so-called Theater of All Possibilities came forward to claim they were pushed into marriages and beaten if they didn’t sell tickets.

Rosenberg finally escaped in 2019, and Hochman got out in 2016, the lawsuit said. 

The cult was co-founded by Horn and her late husband, Alex Horn, in San Francisco in the 1970s — moving to New York in the 1980s when accusations of abuse and financial misdeeds became public, the suit said.

The suit names Minnerva Taylor, Lorraine Imlay, Greg Koch and Ken Salaz as surviving leaders to whom Horn bequeathed her interest in the cult in her will. It also names Michael Horn as a co-executor of her estate.

A number listed for the Odyssey Study Group is now out of service.

A response to the lawsuit had not been filed as of Friday morning, and it was not clear if those named had attorneys for the case. Attempts to reach those named were not immediately successful Friday.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The fourth way to nowhere is published

The fourth way to nowhere by Martin Braybrooke

The fourth way to nowhere: The search for cosmic consciousness and the triumph of the ordinary

a quest for the meaning of life, a critical analysis of the esoteric system of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky,
and my 27-years in a fourth way cult

By Martin Braybrooke

[ed. - Martin was a member of the Fellowship of Friends for 27 years. His blog can be found here.]

"44thWay" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, August 26, 2021:

My book, ‘The fourth way to nowhere’ is almost ready. Readers of this forum will probably feel that I pull some of my punches, and some may prefer that I would have performed a more overtly aggressive demolition. Certainly some of the material on this forum and on the REB blog would merit that. However I have explicitly confined my commentary to what I myself witnessed, referring readers to the blog in the footnotes, and I think in the end the demolition is quite thorough. Perhaps it will lure some current members into reading it. I have not used my real name for personal reasons, although I would not be ashamed to be associated with what I have written if that were my only concern. I hope at least some of you will buy the book and post honest reviews on Amazon, even if you hate the book.

 Author's introduction on Amazon:

My father was by turns a Quaker, a Catholic and a Buddhist, my mother an atheist, and my primary school teacher believed that her dog was the reincarnation of her previous dog. Thus I grew up a natural skeptic. It is odd, therefore, that I ended up believing a large number of the unprovable fragments of an unknown teaching that is Ouspensky and Gurdfjieff's fourth way, as embellished by the leader of a modern fourth way cult.

This book is a careful critique of a whole set of beliefs related to, but not exclusive to, the fourth way path of inner development. At the same time it is a personal history of how the author, despite a modern education, got drawn into a cult, and believed (to quote the White Queen in Alice), at least 'six impossible things before breakfast.'

Those readers already familiar with the fourth way, and perhaps even members of one or other of the organisations that have sprung up in connection with it, should find the analysis in this book useful and perhaps challenging. There are indeed ideas in the fourth way worth considering, not least the idea of self-remembering, which has a lot in common with more recent movements such as mindfulness. There are other ideas which are questionable, or remain to be proven, such as the fourth state of consciousness or the idea of recurrence: Ouspensky's version of re-incarnation. No genuine seeker after truth should be deterred from asking her- or himself, "what do I really know, what is merely provisional, and what is likely to turn out to be wrong?"

This is also a plea that one aim of any spiritual or psychological practice or movement should be kindness, if humanity is to survive the various catastrophes that now threaten it, and an assertion that aspirants to self-development can arrive, with the right efforts, at a place where it is no small achievement to be content to be ordinary.