Introduction


This portrait of Robert Earl Burton and his Fellowship of Friends religious cult stands in stark contrast to the Fellowship's
Living Presence website and the array of alluring sites created by
Burton disciple Asaf Braverman.

Material presented here derives from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the cult.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Fellowship of Friends/Living Presence/Fourth Way/Gurdjieff-Ouspensky/Ark in Time/Be./Ancient Wisdom/Esoteric/ (Whatever) School on the internet

Robert Earl Burton Fellowship of Friends Gurdjieff-Ouspensky cult
When asked if he thinks he is Jesus Christ, Burton stared
for a long moment into the fire flickering warmly a few feet away,
then murmured: 'Thou sayest it.'

[ed. - To lure seekers from other spiritual traditions, and to also mitigate the effects of negative publicity, the Fellowship of Friends continually re-brands itself. Recruiting sites proliferate under a myriad of titles and themes. The websites below are generally grouped according to their primary target market. The "unofficial" sites are mostly critical of Robert Burton and the Fellowship of Friends.

At the bottom are grouped English language sites critical of Burton and the Fellowship. Updated June, 2016. (Photo of Robert Earl Burton courtesy of "Robert's TweetHearts".)]

ARGENTINA
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Spanish)
Recuerdo de sí (Spanish)
Fellowship of Friends - Centro de Buenos Aires (Facebook)(Spanish)
Mystery and Civilizations (Unofficial)(Spanish)
BELGIUM
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Dutch)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (French)
Spiritualia (Unofficial)(Dutch)
BRAZIL
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Portuguese)
Gurdjieff Tornando-se Consciente (Portuguese)
PRESENÇA DIVINA (Portuguese)(Inactive)
Centro Sao Paolo on Google + (Portuguese)(Inactive)
CANADA
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (English)
Be. 4th Way Tweets (English)
Toronto Friends of Presence (Meetup led by William Scholte of the Fellowship)(Discontinued)
CHINA
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Chinese)(under construction)
The Fourth Way and Esoteric Traditions (Chinese)
The Fourth Way and Esoteric Traditions (English and Chinese)
The Great Way: Journey to the West (English and Chinese)
Journey to the West (Facebook)(English)
The Secret of the Golden Flower (English)
The Taoist I Ching
FRANCE
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (French)
Newbodying (French)(Unofficial)
Prevensectes.com (French)(Unofficial)
http://prevensectes.com/fof1.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof2.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof3.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof4.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof5.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof6.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof7.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof8.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof9.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof10.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof11.pdf
http://prevensectes.com/fof12.pdf
Rappel de Soi - Paris (Facebook)(French)
Rappel de Soi - Paris (French)
Rassemblement des Amis (Living Presence) (French)
GERMANY
Living Presence (German)
GREECE
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Greek)
HUNGARY
A JELENLÉT MŰVÉSZETE (Hungarian)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Hungarian)
Gurdjieff Tanítása Ma (Hungarian)
INDIA
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Hindi)(under construction)
ISRAEL
BeingPresent.org (Hebrew)
Fellowship of Friends | בית ספר של (Facebook)(English and Hebrew)
Jerusalem of the soul (Facebook)(English and Hebrew)
ITALY
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Italian)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Facebook)(Italian)
Dopo la Fellowship of Friends: Una libera discussione sul lavoro su di sé (Unofficial)(Italian)
Gurdjieff – Divenire coscienti (Italian)
Il Credino  ("Robert E. Burton e la Fellowship of Friends/La Presenza")(Unofficial)(Italian)
La Presenza (Italian)[Defunct]
Living Presence (Italian)
Quarta Via a Roma (Be. Italia) (Meet-Up)(Italian)
Tutto quello che avreste dovuto sapere sulla Fellowship of Friends (Unofficial)(Italian)
JAPAN
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Japanese)(under construction)
Gurdjieff (Japanese)
Gurdjieff (Facebook)(Japanese)
Symbols of Presence in the Japanese Culture (English and Japanese)
MEXICO
Alasart. Art and Time. (Facebook)(also on Ning, and fund-raising on gofundme. The goal: $44,044!)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Spanish)
Mesoarte. Data Base for Prehispanic Art (Facebook)(also on Ning)(English and Spanish)
Recordandonos (Spanish)
Fraternidad de Amigos Monterrey (Facebook)(Spanish)
Popol Vuh and other videos by David Tuttle (English and Spanish)
THE NETHERLANDS
Amsterdam Being Present (likely Fellowship Meet-Up site)(English)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Dutch)
Living Presence - Amsterdam (Dutch)
PORTUGAL
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Portuguese)
Gurdjieff Tornando-se Consciente (Facebook)(Portuguese)
Living Presence (Portuguese)
ROMANIA
Fourth Way School - Bucuresti (Facebook)(Romanian)
Living Presence (Romanian)
RUSSIA
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Russian)
Esoteric School (Russian)
"Fellowship of Fools" (Unofficial)(Russian)
Fourth Way School | Школа Четвертого пути (Facebook)(Russian)
Gurdjieff - Гурджиев Сегодня (Russian)
IKIRU a theater of awakening (Facebook)(Russian)
Living Presence (Russian)
Pathway to Presence (Russian)
Трезвый взгляд на Fellowship of Friends (Unofficial)(Russian)
SLOVENIA
Gurdjieff - pot k zavesti (Facebook)(Slovenian)
SPAIN
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Spanish)
Gurdjieff enseña hoy (Spanish)
Gurdjieff - Volverse Consciente (Facebook)(Spanish)
Living Presence (Spanish)
Cuarto Camino/FOF (Unofficial)(Spanish)
TURKEY
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (Turkish)
Be. Dördüncü Yol Okulu Türkiye (Facebook)(Turkish)
Özgür Zihin (Unofficial)(Turkish)
UNITED KINGDOM
The Art of Divine Presence [Defunct] (English)
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (English)
Be. 4th Way Tweets (Twitter)(English)
Living Presence (Twitter)(English)
UNITED STATES
Be. (The Fellowship of Friends Online School) (English)
Be. 4th Way Tweets (Twitter)(English)
Living Presence (English)
Living Presence (Facebook)(English)
The Fellowship of Friends/Living Presence/The Fourth Way on Pinterest (English)
Fellowship of Friends cult leader Asaf Braverman be period scam
Above, detail from Asaf Braverman's Gurdjieff - Becoming Conscious Facebook page, showing Braverman on the threshold!
The Fellowship of Friends' Ark in Time Network led by Asaf Braverman. The following are the English language sites:
Ancient Wisdom
As Above So Below
Awakening
Be Present First (also on Facebook)
Consciousness
Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff - Becoming Conscious (Facebook)(also in Portuguese and Spanish)
Gurdjieff-Fourth Way Discussion Group (Facebook public group exploited by Fellowship recruiters)
Gurdjieff & Ouspensky - Psychological Commentaries by Maurice Nicoll (on Facebook)
Know Thyself
Mysticism
Ouspensky
Spirituality (Brian Flynn's spooky "Spiritual Legacy of Egypt Unveiled")

Friday, January 1, 2016

Kids say the darnedest things

[ed. - For many adolescents, relationships with their parents can be strained. But when your parents are members of a cult, it is even more complicated. In these essays from over six years ago, "Masha" provides a fascinating perspective on living with parents who also happen to be Fellowship of Friends members. See also this related post: Children's Stories]

"...on the outside, the whole thing seems like a pleasant upper-class philosophical group. But that's bullshit."


"IndigoCharm" wrote on the DeviantArt website, January 16, 2009:
'The Fellowship of Friends' cult

by IndigoCharm
Jan 16, 2009, 2:58:01 AM

Journals
Personal

Having no other blog to type this on, and wanting people to know about it, I will type it here--- since I guess writing very honestly about something could be considered writerly skill, and I suppose that qualifies as art.

The Fellowship of Friends -- also known as the School -- is a "school of thought" my parents got introduced to when I was around 10 or 11. While I was not old enough to join, over the years I got pulled into it somewhat, and plenty brainwashed from even that contact, to the point where I knew a good amount of their terminology and beliefs and actually followed them somewhat, with my parents' sort of detached encouragement (I have to add, my parents are pretty detached from me and the rest of the world in the first place, and the Fellowship just enforced that).

When I first started living with my parents in third grade, I found them to be very obsessed with finding Something Higher, if that makes sense -- they read Castaneda obsessively and went to Mexico to take peyote, the [sic] such. But eventually, they got tired of this and found something new. They started talking obsessively about the Enneagram, a system for classifying people, perhaps not originally invented by the Fellowship, but elaborated and made into a strict guideline of Human Types. At 10, I thought this was something like astrology -- you know, like the Chinese zodiac -- and since I was interested, they gave me a book of theirs on the subject. We often sat in the living room identifying people we know, with my parents usually criticizing them. My parents told me I'm a Jovial-Lunar (the types were named after planets) -- Lunars were considered "doughy," pale, thin and light haired, antisocial, and morbid; Jovials were fat and flamboyant. They also had sub-types, named after card figures -- Jacks were primitive, narrow-minded personalities, Queens were dramatic and "most likely to commit murders and kill their children" (what I was classified as), and Kings were altruistic and perfect.

I soon found that my parents took this classification system quite seriously. At that age, I started getting into many fights with them -- at least 3 per day -- and when faced with me saying -- anything, really, it seems -- they would fold their arms defensively and angrily and say that I am "acting from my Queen of Hearts center". If the fight continued, it got a lot worse and I won't go into that bit. I tried running away a couple of times, but I never had the guts to, well, finish.

At that point, I think they started paying more money to the School (it was the duty of a good Student) and we got to being fairly poor. They also got obsessed with the idea of "being conscious" and "present" -- they called the regular people, ones not in the School, "Machines". As I said, I got brainwashed just as much, and since I was naive enough to want to be liked by my parents and be a Good Daughter (despite at the same time hating them), I made a strong effort to "stay present" and was full of a sort of inward sneering at the Sleeping Machines (i.e. everyone else). I, like my parents, believed in omens of good and bad, messages regarding my progress to the higher self.

They had different exercises for every week (or maybe it was month) to increase their consciousness -- sitting with feet flat on the floor, eating a certain way, not being allowed to eat certain things, listening only to Classical Music. I got really sick of hearing Mozart's "The Magic Flute" playing. [ed. - Many Fellowship members may have experienced a similar response!]
They would spend the little money we had on wine and nice food to take to Atlanta every Sunday, to the cult meetings -- they'd buy a bunch of good cheese and desserts, but I never actually got to have any, and they locked most of the remaining food up so I couldn't eat it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Moscow Officials Help Citizens Avoid the 'Moonies,' Other Cults

[ed. - This story may be relevant to The Fellowship of Friends since, over the past 25 years, Russia (and other former Soviet Bloc nations) supplied the majority of the Fellowship's new recruits worldwide. The young and naive are drawn not only by the Fellowship's (falsely-claimed) connection to the Russian Gurdjieff and Ouspensky teachings, but also by the promise of American religious visas and the prospect of "being close" to their teacher, Robert Burton. A particularly handsome young man stands a very good chance of becoming intimately involved with Burton, and joining his inner circle of "spiritual prostitutes." I don't know if the Fellowship is among the 80 cults to be listed.]

From The Moscow Times, September 28, 2015:
The Moscow city legislature plans to release a booklet warning Muscovites against unorthodox religious "cults" operating in Russia, and providing instructions on how to report such organizations to the authorities, the capital's M24 news website reported Monday.

Russia has classified about 80 organizations as "cults," the report said. Those range from domestic movements to transplants from international groups, including the Unification Church, or Moonies, Russia's "God Kuzya" movement, whose leader has been detained on swindling charges, and the Grigory Grabovsky group — whose founder proclaimed himself the second coming of Christ and offered to resuscitate the dead, but was sentenced to prison for swindling.

"Today many people are searching for spiritual calmness, while charlatans, such as the 'God Kuzya' and his likes, are exploiting that," a member of the Moscow City Council committee for public and religious organizations, Renat Laishev, was quoted by M24 as saying.

The booklets will instruct readers on how to recognize a cult, stressing that "cults do not necessarily take a traditional form, many of them are posing as lectures, personal development courses, or even yoga classes," and will provide instructions on "where to turn to, if a citizen discovers a cult," Laishev was quoted as saying.

The Moscow City Duma may discuss a draft booklet during a session this week, the report said.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Life people" say the darnedest things

The devil worshipers' Poseidon (from Associated Press.)

[ed. - Fear- and ignorance-induced tales such as this perpetuate a few of the myths surrounding The Fellowship of Friends. In the 70s, some locals (non-members, also called "life people" by the Fellowship) described the group as "devil worshipers," offering as evidence the Fellowship's large bronze sculpture of Poseidon. It is highly improbable the library described below actually contained books that were "ALL of satanic/cult subject matter." Even without satanism added to the mix, the truth about the Fellowship is horrifying enough.]

"Anonymous" wrote on the Religion and Child Abuse News blog, August 16, 2015:
I lived in Dobbins [neighboring Oregon House] for several years and I had no idea 'the fellowship' existed, until the last month I lived there. Off of Marysville Hwy, on a side road, there was a very small market/gas station that everyone went to. Every time I went there, inevitably, there would be these well dressed people, in linen clothing, wearing handmade shoes for comfort, they spoke Swedish, and other foreign languages, many were very blonde, they'd drive up in BMW's, Mercedes...and they really looked OUT OF PLACE. They looked drugged up, always seemed nervous, or paraniod [sic], and they avoided eye contact. They gave me the creeps! You could spot them instantly because 98% of the true local guys were missing teeth, wore snap button plaid shirts, that they bought at that same little store, smelled faintly of goats, wore dirty ball caps, and drove up in dirty, banged up trucks, pulling metal fishing boats.. I found out about them from a co-worker after I had invited her & her husband to come visit. She happened to tell her mom, who was retired, WAS VERY WELL READ, was an artist, and a world traveler. She and her husband decided to end their travels by driving across the entire USA, staying at all the Thousand Trails campgrounds, BUT ONE, they had missed on the catalog. The one in/near Dobbins. So, they went camping there, and saw the signs for 'the winey' [sic]. My friend's mom and husband went to visit it. They meandered through the garden, and then they went inside, and they noticed a door in one of the rooms. It wasn't locked so they went inside. It was a small library. My friend's mom started looking at the book titles, and her being so well read, could see that they were ALL of satanic/cult subject matter. It startled her, but not as much as the foreigner who caught them inside the room, and started screaming at them, at the top of his voice, for them to get out! Screaming questions about what were they doing there, who were they, what did they want, what were they looking for...The man called for reinforcements and they all escorted them off the property, with a warning to never come back. So, my friend's mom decided to do a little research on this winery and found out quite a bit of ugly truth, like child molestation, tax evasion, physical punishment, group sex, ...the USUAL depraved cult activity. To me, they seemed like a bunch of really nerdy wall flowers, you know, like the ones in high school that were drab, self conscious, and blended into the walls, didn't go to the proms, and whenever you look at your year book you wonder who that is. Loosers [sic], who are now together with other loosers [sic], and now they finally have MANY someones they can have sex with. They have horses and dress up in their English riding costumes, and jump, build their own tennis courts, and THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE NOW COOL, and they now allow themselves to do all the dirty things they think we do, like molest children. They believe that DOBBINS [ed. - more accurately, Apollo in Oregon House] WILL BE THE LAST PLACE STANDING ON EARTH, WHEN IT'S ALL OVER EVERYWHERE ELSE...I had gotten 2 bottles of their wine, as a gift, and my friend and I poured it down the drain! ME, I just wonder why they don't use their full name: The Fellowship of Friends, of The Devil.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Before you board the Fellowship of Friends Ark, a warning

Fellowship of Friends cult Ark in Time logo by Asaf Braverman
"Ark in Time" logo
"Ames Gilbert" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 28, 2015:
If anyone who has had no connection to the FoF, but is interested in that organization reads this, I’m writing just for you. And of course, the following is just my opinion.

If you want to join a group of people who mostly (but not all) started off as sincere, nice, well–meaning folks, but whose entire ‘spiritual’ center of gravity is based on faith, know that in advance—and accept the consequences. Look through earlier pages of this blog for posts by folks like ‘Daily Cardiac’, or in later pages by ‘I in the sky’ for excellent representations of the typical follower’s point of view. Know that many of us (I dare say, probably most) who have ‘been through the mill’ have concluded that the leader, Robert Burton, is a sexual predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that having sex with large numbers of the heterosexual young men who depend on him for spiritual guidance is his chief occupation—and has been for more than forty years. Know that if you are a young, even moderately good-looking young heterosexual male who enters his orbit, you will most probably end up having sex with him. Know that your fellow followers will approve of this, encourage this, and the less than good-looking ones will envy you (though these are few, Burton’s tastes are very catholic). In other words, in their world–view, this is completely normal and expected. Know that he has no control in this matter, and has never demonstrated will or restraint; he is a complete slave to his lust. Know that his followers excuse and even justify this ‘supersex’ (as he terms it) because he is a ‘conscious being’.

Know also that Burton is a life–long misogynist. He has no use for women, unless they have money or influence. Moreover, he states that they cannot ‘awaken’ as women in this lifetime. This means that if you are a woman, you will (according to Burton) definitely have to wait for a ‘role in a future lifetime as a man’ (with the sole exception of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, for some reason) to be able to ‘awaken’, whatever that is.

If you happen to be here because you are interested in the Fourth Way, know that, apart from words freely borrowed from books about the Fourth Way, this cult has no connection with the Fourth Way whatsoever.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards"

[ed. - From vinography.com. A companion piece, "America's Most Peculiar Appellation," was published on jancisrobinson.com. (See below)]
The Fellowship of Friends' Renaissance Vineyard - Oregon House, CA

By Alder Yarrow

Soon after gold was discovered in California in 1848, and word spread east, more than 80,000 prospectors descended upon the foothills of the Sierra's in search of their fortunes. Most only found hardship and broken dreams. Almost as soon as the Gold Rush began, stories began to circulate about "lost mines," rich troves of gold that were never to be found again when their discoverers met with misfortune. Even today an occasional prospector still goes in search of these forgotten treasures.

What would you think if I told you that the legends of a massive treasure buried in the foothills were true? But instead of far up a hidden valley, this treasure lies stacked in the dusty dark corners of a building that was itself something of a failed dream. Instead of gold, this treasure takes the form of thousands of bottles of some of the most terroir-driven wine that has ever been produced in the history of California winemaking.

The story of how these amazing bottles came to be gathering dust instead of adorning the wine lists of America's finest restaurants is as strange as it is remarkable.

It begins with a man named Robert Earl Burton, a charismatic spiritual teacher who founded an organization known as the Fellowship of Friends. This group is registered as a non-profit religious organization in the State of California, but anyone who is no longer a member will likely describe it as a cult. Members are expected to tithe 10% of their income to the organization; like many such organizations it has found itself accused of everything from tax evasion to the sexual misconduct of its leader (those charges were settled out of court); and Burton has supposedly issued several near-Doomsday prophesies over the years as well as purportedly arranging marriages for his followers.

In 1971, Burton purchased 1300 acres of land in the heart of Yuba County just outside of a tiny town called Oregon House that once served as a rest stop for weary Gold Rush travelers after they crossed the nearby Yuba River. On this massive, undeveloped piece of land, which he christened Apollo, Burton set out to make an oasis, a sanctuary, and in the words of his followers, "a new civilization." With the help (both financial and physical) of his nearly 2000 followers, Burton constructed his vision of a Mediterranean paradise of old, with many buildings, gardens, a roman amphitheater, and even a private zoo (the property is still home to 24 camels). If you've ever been to Hearst Castle or seen Citizen Kane, just imagine something slightly less grand, and you'll get the picture.


Read more at vinography.com

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Asaf Braverman introduces the Fellowship of Friends "Online School"

[ed. - Welcome to The Fellowship of Friends' latest makeover. "Be.: Weekly Video Tutorials on the Be. Pyramid" is a recruiting tool targeting the naive and gullible. Be.Ware. 

Asaf Braverman (who here assumes the role of teacher and role model) has for twenty years been Robert Burton's devoted companion and assistant. On the subject of ancient spiritual traditions, Braverman speaks with an air of authority, while remaining oblivious to the nature of the mind-control cult that lured him to its ranks.

Complying with Burton's wishes, he is reported to have entered a "marriage of convenience" to gain American citizenship. When he later married a young Fellowship bride, chosen for him by Burton, he was apparently still legally married to his "green card spouse." It seems Braverman, officially a bigamist, then ran afoul of both American and Israeli immigration authorities and was waylaid in Italy for a couple years while his case was resolved. He was eventually permitted re-entry into the U.S. His is but one example among many in which the Fellowship of Friends "church" willfully and blatantly violates the law in order to fulfill Burton's personal wishes and desires.]
(Click on Asaf to begin your journey...)


"The Be. Pyramid instructs those seeking to develop higher consciousness by revisiting ancient teachings from a Fourth Way perspective." (beperiod.com)
[ed. - For more on the narcissism that characterizes both Burton and Braverman, see The Classic Narcissist. Below, "ton2u" posts the 1999 video "Mind Control Made Easy". Though the production might appear far-fetched, the Fellowship of Friends has exhibited most characteristics described in the video, even a prominent "church leader" who is reported to have said he would kill if Robert Burton asked him to do so.]

"ton2u" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, May 2, 2015:
re: braverman’s “polished schtick” – I listened to / looked at the video link – the bullshit gauge was pegging out, dissecting particular contradictions was impossible… (thanks whalerider).
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”
A more general concern is that he’s attempting to spread this disease… it starts in the video as a kind of verbal shell game which – I know from “personal first hand experience” – is intended to turn into a long con. From Wikipedia:
In Confessions of a Confidence Man, Edward H. Smith lists the “six definite steps or stages of growth in every finely balanced and well-conceived confidence game."
"One follows the other with absolute precision. In some games one or more of these acts, to use a theatrical comparison, may be dropped out, but where that happens the game is not a model one. The reference to the stage is apt, for the fine con game has its introduction, development, climax, dénouement and close, just like any good play. And this is not the only analogy to the drama, for the scenes are often as carefully set; the background is always a vital factor. In the colorful and mirthful language of the bunko man, all these parts of the game have their special names. I give them with their definitions:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"America's Most Peculiar Appellation"

[ed. - As in most stories about the Fellowship, it's often difficult to separate myth from reality. The reference to Karl Werner "escaping the Nazis" seems a bit misleading. I recall him speaking fondly of his days as an officer in the German navy, commanding a u-boat during World War II. Also, there were many AVAs established prior to the designation of "North Yuba" in 1985. Renaissance Vineyards, which at one time reported 365 acres under vines, has reduced their estate vineyard to 45 acres (while leasing out another 15 acres to Clos Saron and Grant-Marie wineries.)]

From Vinography: a wine blog:

By Alder Yarrow
To say that the economy of California's Yuba County peaked during the Gold Rush and has been in slow decline ever since would not be much of an exaggeration. This sparsely populated area of the state has been among California's poorest regions for decades. Yet seemingly out of the blue in 1985, it became home to one of the very first few American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the country, and by then already housed the single largest vineyard in the entire state. The story of the North Yuba AVA sounds like something out of a satirical novel: a famous German winemaker who escaped the Nazis, his young American wife, a soul-searching Israeli artist, and a bona-fide religious cult that brought them all together.
Read the rest of the story on jancisrobinson.com.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Welcome!


[ed. - A former Fellowship of Friends member engages in a bit of satire.]

"Jomo Piñata" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, July 15, 2010:
We were “founded” forty years ago by someone who claimed to understand Fourth Way teachings of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, but who admitted early on that he had actually never read Gurdjieff’s writings.

We deceptively advertised for decades by placing bookmarks depicting oil paintings of these luminaries, together with the words, “Gurdjieff Ouspensky Centres,” in the books of these authors. For many years only the name “Gurdjieff Ouspensky Centres” appeared on the bookmarks, while “The Fellowship of Friends, Inc.,” which is the actual corporate name, did not appear.

In 1977 the founder claimed that we were the only people who had the right to teach the system at that time (http://bit.ly/byOjMf), and that our group was the greatest mystery of the Twentieth Century. However, the Twentieth Century has been succeeded by the Twenty-First, so we have recently ditched any claim to be following the Fourth Way.

In the mid-1980s we drafted canons (http://bit.ly/bpRGnj) modeled after those of the Catholic Church, in an attempt to hoodwink governmental authorities into believing that we were a genuine religion and should pay as little tax as possible. This effort was only partially successful, as California refused museum status to the founder’s residence (noting it was not a “museum,” but a “warehouse” where art [was] stored)(http://bit.ly/cXPmVc), and the neo-Catholic veneer of authenticity was abandoned as lightly as it was adopted. Later the founder commented that his new civilization would not be founded on “Judeo-Christian principles,” and that he hadn’t decided yet what principles it would be founded on.

Today we appear to embrace the practical wisdom of all great spiritual traditions, but the truth is that we have no enduring allegiance or principle except self-abasement and subordination to the founder’s sexual predations and inexhaustible need for narcissistic supply. Everything is fungible here, including each of us.

Won’t you join us?

Friday, February 6, 2015

The "art" of deception

Asaf Braverman Fellowship of Friends cult leader
Asaf Braverman
"We are a group of people in Miami who practice the methods and teachings of the Fourth Way tradition."

[ed. - This announcement from Asaf Braverman's Gurdjieff website, provides an example of the subtle deception behind virtually all Fellowship of Friends recruiting efforts since its founding in 1970. Braverman is "the brain" behind The Sequence, the Fellowship's latest trance-inducing technique purported to "create presence." In 2005, Burton abandoned the Fourth Way, as taught by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and instructed followers to dispose of "work books" by those and other Fourth Way authors. A dramatic member exodus and accompanying loss of revenue no doubt caused Burton and his lieutenants, including Braverman, to rapidly rethink this policy.]


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Apollo Symphony Orchestra

Apollo Arts logo
"In 1981, as if by fate, a young conductor named Michael Goodwin moved to Northern California from Germany and learned of this desire of a group of people to form an orchestra ‘from scratch’."
[ed. - The Fellowship of Friends is well-practiced in rewriting its history. Michael Goodwin, a conductor with an established reputation, joined The Fellowship of Friends in Munich, Germany in 1979. It was no coincidence that he later moved to the Fellowship's headquarters to work on what was then called "the orchestra octave".

That it "evolved in a most unusual, yet natural way" is an interesting way of portraying the history. In addition to known musicians, Robert Burton directed some members with no musical experience whatsoever to learn to play an instrument. (This writer's assignment was the string bass, which was after two weeks handed off to a more willing participant.)]

From the Apollo Symphony Orchestra website:
The Apollo Symphony Orchestra’s beginnings evolved in a most unusual, yet natural way, as all music does: it starts from the heart that yearns to be moved by beautiful music. This evolution started in 1977, when a group of people within a small community in Northern California, most of whom were non-professional musicians, wished to form an orchestra. Encouraging and inspiring these people was a professional musician [and Fellowship member] named Anna Gold who had early in her life established an international career as part of a three-sister trio within Russia. Although Anna, who was the pianist, left the stage to raise a family, her sister Zara Nelsova continued her career to great success. Pablo Casals once remarked about Zara: “There are only two great cellists performing today: myself and Zara Nelsova”.

Anna and Zara reached out to many famous friends to schedule a series of Chamber Concerts. The goal of this series was to educate as well as entertain. Among the artists who performed were the Beaux Arts Trio, the Guarneri Quartet, the Telluride Quartet and soloists such as Nicanor Zabaleta (harpist), Laszlo Varga (cellist), Jeffey Kahane (piano), and Richard Stolzman (clarinet). Vocalists also joined in this series such as Maureen Forrester (Canadian Contralto), Francesca Howe (Soprano) and Donna Peterson (Mezzo-soprano).

Although the desire to establish an orchestra remained, it lacked a dedicated conductor. In 1981, as if by fate, a young conductor named Michael Goodwin moved to Northern California from Germany and learned of this desire of a group of people to form an orchestra ‘from scratch’. He took on the task and established the orchestra’s concert schedule, and lent his skills to honing the talent of his musicians, often arranging Master Classes led by these famous guest performers. Within a few years, the Renaissance Orchestra (later changing its name to the Apollo Orchestra) was ready to perform Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with guest artist, Menahem Pressler, who was an early supporter of the orchestra’s formation.

The Fellowship's "Living Presence Monthly" takes a break

[ed. - The on again, off again Fellowship of Friends monthly newsletter is going on hiatus, perhaps a casualty of the Fellowship's new "Online School."]

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Robert's TweetHearts" on Twitter

Image from "Robert's TweetHearts" on Twitter

[ed. - With 615 Twitter followers worldwide (as of this date), it appears many of the Fellowship of Friends' 1,500-plus members are not particularly interested in Robert Burton's 2,201 tweets.]

And, with just 343 followers worldwide, the Fellowship's 4th Way Tweets seems to be suffering a similar lack of support.

Decades before the creation of the 140-character tweet, Robert Burton and the Fellowship had become a mind-numbing, aphorism-generating machine.]

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bryan Reynolds' story

"Bryan Reynolds" wrote on the Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog, January 19, 2015:
Hi Everyone
I have followed this blog for quite awhile. My name is Bryan Reynolds. I joined the fellowship just after my 21st birthday 1975 and stayed in for only a year and a half. Joining the school was going to fix all of my problems except that it didn't. I wanted to do something with my life that had meaning. I am not sure what I expected it to be like I had read [P.D. Ouspensky's] The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous. I lived in several teaching houses in Oakland and San Francisco. I worked hard to try to understand the teaching and I met many people who were very sincere and committed to the FOF. I washed dishes, gathered rocks in what were to become vineyards. I was working in very low paying jobs in restaurants. I can only recall speaking with the teacher on several occasions. I tried to get to the farm when ever I could. Things started to change. At the time within the FOF there was this bizarre sub-culture of 5 cent cigarettes, eating disorders, alcoholism, clandestine marijuana use, sexual liaisons, late night runs to get students who went into town to get totally trashed. The stress and disillusionment and expense drove me to leave. Several things helped to make the transition away from the school which was for me like PTSD. Being damned for eternity [anyone who left the Fellowship] and that the world was going end in 2006 [Burton's predicted date for Armageddon, though the Fellowship was to be spared] were not comforting thoughts. I read everything I could find about cults and several were very helpful. Idres Shah famous Sufi makes several statements about Gurdjieff-Ouspensky groups and student/teacher relationships which helped a lot. To paraphrase he says that the teaching of Gurdjieff was a teaching for people at a certain place and time and place and was not designed to be replicated 30 years later in the hills of California. He also explains that a teacher would evaluate students and accept and reject people based on their capacity to learn not based on whether they could pay. What stands out years later is the inner conflict that I still experience trying to reconcile things which I learned, some great people I met, the energy that was there, and the inner states the I experienced which contradict all of the negative experiences. Another source of helpful information is several lectures on how to distinguish a cult from a real spiritual organization by Arthur Diekman on you-tube.