A Short History of the Fellowship

The Fellowship of Friends was founded by Robert Earl Burton on January 1, 1970 in the San Francisco Bay Area. From its inception the vision of the Fellowship was, and remains, to establish a practical spiritual organization and to make it available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.

On July 4, 1971, the Fellowship purchased property in the Sierra foothills that is now called Apollo. For the next five years, Robert Burton focused his efforts on establishing a network of centers throughout California, and on developing the property to serve as a central spiritual retreat for Fellowship members and as the focus for both their internal and external efforts.

By the mid-1970s the Fellowship was maintaining centers along the entire western seaboard, from Seattle to San Diego, and in Hawaii. As the membership increased, so did the intensity of efforts, both at Apollo and throughout the organization. In 1976 the decision was taken to open centers across the United States and Canada, and soon after in Western Europe. Approximately 20 centers were founded and the membership increased dramatically. This influx of new members greatly enriched individual spiritual work, and added to the development of the Fellowship.

Centers were eventually established in Asia, Australia, Central and South America, and—after the fall of the Berlin wall—in Russia and Eastern Europe. As these centers grew and developed, members were encouraged to travel around the world to transmit the practice to newer members and to study related subjects and arts. Apollo, as the main center, received visiting members from all parts of the globe, and served to instruct members in the core teaching and its application in the simple moments of daily living. By visiting and spending time at Apollo, each member was able to return to his or her center with renewed energy and understanding both for their own work and for the life of the center.

Today the Fellowship has approximately 1,500 members and maintains over 50 centers in various countries around the world. Along with the aim of making its teachings and practices available in all parts of the world, the increase in the diversity of its membership has transformed the Fellowship into an international spiritual organization that recognizes and learns from each of the esoteric traditions throughout recorded time.