Fellowship of Friends

A wealthy self-improvement cult accused of infiltrating Google and other businesses for personal gain

1970 - present

Robert Earl Burton (founder) (via Wikipedia)

The Fellowship of Friends is a group that has stirred up quite a bit of talk over the years, capturing attention for its unusual beliefs and controversial actions. Founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton in California, this group presents itself as a spiritual organization, seeking enlightenment through the teachings of Fourth Way philosophy. This philosophy is a blend of various spiritual ideas, focusing on self-awareness and higher states of consciousness.

Burton, who claims to be a divine being in contact with higher forces, leads the Fellowship with an iron grip, and his followers believe he has a direct connection to the divine. Members are taught that the pursuit of beauty and culture, through art, music, and fine wine, will lead to a higher spiritual plane. But beneath this cultured veneer lies a darker side that has led many to label the Fellowship of Friends as a cult.

Critics and former members paint a different picture, one of manipulation and control. They claim that Burton exercises immense power over his followers, dictating not just their spiritual lives but personal ones too, including intimate relationships and financial matters. Allegations of psychological abuse and exploitation have surfaced over the years, with ex-members revealing how the group's elitist mindset and fear tactics trapped them in a cycle of dependency and obedience.

Perhaps most disturbing are the allegations of sexual abuse against Burton himself. Several lawsuits have been filed by former members, accusing him of using his spiritual authority to coerce them into unwanted sexual relationships. These accusations have cast a long shadow over the Fellowship, raising serious questions about the abuse of power and the potential dangers lurking within closed, authoritarian groups.

Despite the controversies, the Fellowship of Friends continues to operate, with several thousand members worldwide who remain devoted to Burton's teachings. The group maintains a luxurious headquarters in Oregon House, California, known as Apollo, where they continue to host concerts, art shows, and wine tastings. To outsiders, it might look like a paradise for the cultured elite, but for those who have seen its inner workings, it's a world of strict discipline, strange rituals, and broken spirits.

Religion: Fourth Way

Founder: Robert Earl Burton

Founded: 1970

Size: 1,500 members

Location: California, USA

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