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Fellowship of Friends

Fellowship of Friends Still Active, Centered on Winery
The Fellowship of Friends community, called a “cult” by ex-members, neighbors, and cult experts, today produces award-winning renaissance-label wines on its 1,300-acre property in Oregon House, CA. The group now has about 2,000 members, a third of whom live in or near the settlement called Apollo where, according to Boston cult expert Steve Hassan, they follow the “Fourth Way” tradition of spiritual growth developed by turn-of-the-20th-century Russians George Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. This “way,” according to Hassan, teaches that people are asleep and can only awake through a series of extreme exercises and observations that break down the old personality and develop a higher consciousness.[csr 1.3 2002]

Former members have sued Fellowship founder Robert Burton, claiming that they were brainwashed, and even sexually abused. A 1996 sexual exploitation suit for $5 million — which was settled within 6 months — claimed that the Fellowship was being used to satisfy Burton’s “voracious appetite for perverted sexual pleasure and elegant lifestyle.” It portrayed Burton as a leader who considers himself “an angel in a man’s body” who communicates with up to 44 other angels, including Benjamin Franklin, and is second in spiritual power only to Jesus Christ, according to former members and experts. (StefanieFrith, AP, Sacramento Bee, Internet, 8/17/02)[csr 1.3 2002]

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