I’d like to publicly call out the viral sickness of Women’s Wisdom Circle Culture as well as directly acknowledge its innermost workings from a first person perspective. I am offering the following information as a way of standing for the compassionate dismantling that could happen if enough women wake up in true acknowledgment and choose to step back from it.
This article is in no way meant to create separation or cause harm to any groups or individuals. I am not in any way against acts of true giving or circles of sisterhood. The purpose of this post is to provide education to the public on the currently unsustainable structure of this particular “Gifting Culture,” so that people can feel supported in making informed decisions. Because much of the language around this is either shrouded in secrecy or new age thought, this post may come off as one-sided; however it is intended to cut through the conditioning and get right to the heart of what is happening.
If you are not yet familiar with The Women’s Wisdom Circle Culture Pyramid Scheme, please refer to the following articles and diagram before continuing. They each describe the same type of scheme under different names. The one I am calling attention to uses the dinner party positions to signify your place in the three-sided-circle. Regardless of how women feel during their involvement, or what arguments people make for the continuation of it in the community, I think you will find after reading this article that aside from the psychological manipulation that can be used to keep it going, like all pyramid schemes, this all boils down to simple math.
At the end of this article, Scott Malis has clearly written out the math so that everyone can see why this is not healthy to get involved in, and has little to do with empowerment or unconditional gifting. Generally, people get in hoping for an 800% return. Even if gifting language is used, and women are inspired to gift into the circle with good intentions, it is still considered a form of investing.
The image below shows the Positions in the Circle-Pyramid from beginning to completion: Appetizer — Soup & Salad — Entrée — Dessert (where you expect-without expecting, to receive financial gifts.)
I’d like to stand on behalf of women who are considering joining or have recently joined, in the hopes of educating and giving them back the capacity to truly make a free decision that is not heavily weighted by the psychic gravity of a sisterhood involved in sacred ritual practice, counter-cultural momentum, the outright abuse of social ranking systems, the amplification of and worship of new age spiritual “group think programming” and the blinding heart quake that can happen during the invitation process where you are told of an empowerment bridge designed to forge the way for womankind to rise up and shine in all her glory.
It is not easy to write this, nor sign my name to it, but I intend to complete my full disclosure in a good way. I’m clear that there is a high likelihood that this will result in a number of both direct and indirect assaults on my character and name, however, since I already feel alienated from those who I thought were my closest friends and community, it seems like an adequate conclusion to give the best possible information that I can while bowing and departing. I am hoping that the arc of experience illustrated in this post will give women adequate reason to reflect on their own decisions.
I am clear in my own heart that this has broken enough relationships in my life, and caused a cascade of shattering in all kinds of ways. This process has been illuminating and awakening in ways that I am in no way regretting. Regardless of how many friends or community illusions I am losing, I see this powerful step forward as the silver lining.
I left the Circle as soon as I was capable of going. It wasn’t easy. I sincerely didn’t know when I joined that it is a pyramid scheme. Once I found out, it drove me crazy, and I didn’t feel I had many people I could talk about it with. I joined through one of my very dear friends, and cried upon receiving the invitation, thinking it would truly help me pull myself out of a significant amount of difficulty, as well as help me find my voice in the community.
The knowledge of the truth came months later, after a succession of events, one of which happened after inviting an elder in my life to join. She directed me towards a life coach and wealthy real estate executive friend who had also won big and then woke up out of his own network-marketing web. He has coached women out for over a decade. We spoke for three hours.
I then spoke with one of my close girlfriends about that meeting, and over the course of our conversation allowed my subconscious hopes and fears, and her prompting and convincing perspective to again convince me that it was not a pyramid scheme. She reflected to me the size of the gray area I was standing in. A gray area that is bolstered in the circle documents, and reinforced by the community. She encouraged me to work through my blocks around receiving and to continue in my process of elevating into “abundance consciousness,” and into the circle’s version of empowerment.
I stayed a while longer but my soul really fought it, and so after ceremony, meditation, I Ching readings, isolating myself for weeks, driving myself crazy, praying, etc, I finally managed to both messily confront the friend who had initially invited me, and as diplomatically as I was able, I left the two circles I was in.
I left one about a month before stepping into Dessert, and one after several months in. My conscience wouldn’t let me keep going, despite all the outward encouragement and mirroring from my circle and other women to stay and complete it. There is a lot of pressure while in Dessert to uphold a certain kind of scripted rhetoric, and the women I was supporting, women I had grown to care deeply about, kept projecting their positive concepts of leadership on me, while trying to work for the health of the circle.
In truth I had a genuine desire to be of service to my own and their empowerment, but once I realized that I had no way of ensuring their successful completion, or anyone’s, and amidst acknowledging the size of my own internal struggle, it became very clear that it was time go, and I hoped to at least try to do it in a good way.
This process also showed me that my “friends” in other “circles” had no interest in seeing me or others blossom with our dreams through true community support and empowerment. Their priorities were still wholeheartedly on bailing water enough to serve their own advancing and winning, and to keep their own circles going.
This is where actions speak much louder than words. It became very difficult during the last couple of months for women to have a lot of success with inviting because of how greedy many women in the community became with the lightning and fire circles (strategically designed to pump women through all of the stages in between 24 hours – one week, depending on the circle).
The overall worldwide expansion this all caused, I’m told, gave birth to at least 200 new circles a day. How many women do you suspect are needed just to keep those 200 circles going, month after month?
This level of need for new invites can and I believe did create a huge amount of unspoken competition in the communities where circle culture is now at saturation.
I hope by now I am painting a lovingly packaged picture of the new age thought, fear, and greed that is essential for this structure’s survival. The more I reflect on it, the more it becomes apparent that pyramid schemes are just a microcosm of the conditioning of the world economic system, but as far as I’m concerned, this does not justify their existence. These structures are designed for the profiting of a few, while failing and stealing from the many. Not very conscious, empowering, or easily justifiable, and yet it continues.
It also isn’t set up to properly educate women when they are getting in. Upon joining and after traveling through the honeymoon initiation phases of being an Appetizer, I noticed that the Senior Sisters started making regular amendments to the documents. You could be months into circle, and suddenly under new guidelines, and offered new twisted perspectives on “Law of Attraction” principles and inviting as a way of keeping it propped up and going.
It’s almost impossible to get in touch with the main leadership council besides one woman I know of who calls herself a Senior Sister. Everyone else hides behind a bulk email list and email address with no actual names or contacts given.
I got very tired of almost every woman I know calling to invite me, and making a show of pretending to care about what was happening in my life. I got calls from women I had not heard from in months and even years in some cases. It became impossible for me to discern the real reasons people were calling me, feel good about participating, inviting, receiving gifts, celebrating what beauty there is on the calls, etc. Everyone in my circle began feeling my reactivity, disenchantment and disengagement. Of course this is not good for “the health of the circle. ” It was incredibly relieving and liberating once I got out.
At one point while I was still in it, my “Circle” reached out to some of the higher up women in our community for their help when the entire circle culture seemed to be struggling. I then directly confronted the friend who had invited me; I mentioned I’d realized it was a pyramid scheme.
She was one of my closest friends. She wasn’t willing or capable of taking any responsibility, amidst seeing some of her good friends struggling. We asked for her help and guidance but none of it seemed to influence her or wake her up to what was really happening, although she did her best to lovingly hear our concerns.
Everyone we turned to for help and understanding either evaded communication or gave us more pep talks and loads of sympathy. One of the women who calls herself a Senior Sister gave a bunch of new age posturing, “understanding” positive lip service, and more “coaching” but no real action, and other influential friends either didn’t respond, or backed out from helping.
Within my experience of circle culture it’s really a big unspoken “no no” and taboo to wake up and call out that it’s actually a ” Pyramid Scheme.” If you do, people will basically tell you that you are wrong, it’s a circle, or tell you that you are in your head and not your heart, and that you’re just in poverty consciousness or shouldn’t get involved. You’re considered not conscious or intelligent enough and afraid to evolve if you think of it like that.
If you bring forward what you find online about it, you’re told that it’s put there to disempower you (as I will go into later). Most women who wake up to this reality end up leaving circle through an excuse such as that they just don’t have time for it, or it doesn’t feel right for them personally, or that they can’t handle the leadership responsibility.
I realize in writing this I could simply let go, hope to educate women one on one not to join, and understand that everyone is going to live and learn in whatever way in this is right for them. I think Andrew Jones makes a very important point though that this could very well destroy a lot of relationships and communities. I know there is a lot of trust now shattered between myself and many of the women I called friends. Many people are contacting me reflecting that more than half of the women they know are now involved, and others saying that they see relationships ending, and many people feeling outcast from relationships and groups they once thought of as core to their life.
I’m sure each woman who is still continuing involvement is having her own process. In that regard I cannot begin to understand. I know many women who had sincere desires to be part of what they thought was a container for empowerment and a sustainable gifting economy when joining. I’ve also overheard many women continually excited to get through as many circles as they possibly can in the hopes of grabbing tons of cash with no real willingness or capacity to see the effects of their actions on the exponential growth factor.
Clearly in a widening demographic of women, the motives and intentions behind each person’s participation are varied and complex. I’m currently researching the psychological and cultural dynamics that keep things like this going, and am realizing that it goes beyond the desire to gift, create community, or gullibility and greed, although those are significant factors. I think that many people sincerely feel a need for a sustainable form of community resource sharing and jump at the chance to get into this when it is presents itself without really seeing it for what it truly is. As you can see by the chart above, its design makes it easy to ignore that it’s actually a pyramid.
Upon further research I discovered this article, which points to some other culturally influenced factors that contribute to the schemes’ desirability.
I’d like to describe some of the reasons I feel that the invitation process is so intoxicating, as well as shed light on some of the gravity and socially (and mentally) indoctrinated constructs that make it feel like such a good idea to join.
I’m hoping to paint an accurate portrait of the spiritual smokescreen that gets created around circle culture. You may come to see clearly why this is so well protected by many women, as well as how it could become so difficult to cut chords with it once you begin to see what is really happening.
The Role of Rank
Have you ever considered your rank socially? Most people consider rank a bad word. It’s not actually. It’s a fact of living in a “modern day” civilization. We all live with, consciously or unconsciously, some forms of rank. One thing to recognize is that conscious use of rank can be used to empower and elevate, whereas unconscious rank can become abusive and oppressive pretty quickly. It is also like a drug. Sometimes the more you have of it, the more you find yourself trying to get, even while denying it. You can have rank in some specific ways and not realize that you are using it unconsciously, and be completely oblivious to any harm it may be causing. Even the best-intentioned most amazing people can use rank unconsciously from time to time.
If you are a woman in the world with a considerable amount of societal rank — whether it be from your financial status, the color of your skin, fame or public accolades, level of youth or health, beauty, body type, sexual orientation, connections, educational background, cultural influence or popularity, because of a reputation for being evolved spiritually, or because people just generally respect what you do and think — this would be a good time to make a list of all of the ways in which you simply just have natural-born or accumulated rank.
A teacher recently reflected to me that unconscious rank is the great destroyer of intimacy. If there is a lack of equality in any relationship, it will be very difficult to connect authentically and derive meaning, sustenance and true empowerment from it, until true common ground is found.
Pyramid schemes perpetuate and feed off of rank, or at least the illusion of rank. This is how Scott explained it to me. When you are setting up an info or invite call with a new potential woman or “recruit”, you will most likely do everything you can to be on the same level as that person during your conversation. Because you are selling them the circle, this is the time to create a feeling of equality, understanding and connection with them.
Then you try to edify or talk up the circle by using what is called your upline. Your upline are the people you’ve seen or heard go through this thing multiple times successfully. They’ve rocked it. You’ve seen or heard it working for them, or maybe some famous and respected people you know, and so you’re building those individuals up as the authority figures and the experts in the mind of the new recruit.
Maybe your upline is your current Dessert, so by the time the new invite is on the phone with them they view them as an authority, with higher rank, whose time and energy is very valuable. This puts the new recruit in the position of having to respect their view. In some ways you are subtly making your Dessert or the Senior Sisters in the circle culture Guru figures or something of a similar flavoring of having a high status you can automatically trust and respect.
If you are a card-carrying member of any combination of the above forms of rank, as well as live on the West Coast (and are also cycling back again and again into this thing), consider the implications of compounding this unspoken force of gravity with being in a circle community in which the governing body is generating a constant need to find new women because of how saturated circle culture now is. There is currently at this juncture no solution to quicken its sustainability.
In fact, because of the pyramid’s exponential nature, there is nothing you can do to make it sustainable. So you must now spread the inviting process into a widening demographic which includes those of lower levels of personal resources and rank, just to keep the thing going, or, in the case that we’ve seen happen and basically begin destroying our community, you get a bunch of highly resourced women with a lot of rank together to all agree to power through some fire and lightning circles, without any regard for the success of the innocent and still learning young initiates who are having their first circle “empowerment” experience.
Whether or not I just completely offended you, I can’t help but ask, at what point do we call a spade a spade? The truth is, in most cases you don’t know half of the women you are circling with, and by the time they reach Dessert, you will be long gone, in another universe, another circle and another dream, because your unconscious rank makes it nearly impossible to see how easy it has become for you to do certain things.
So you make your way through circle, possibly over and over again, while many dozens, hundreds, and potentially thousands are now struggling and afraid deep down they could wind up losing their money — people you will never get a chance to meet. You might as well pretend they don’t exist. But now you’ve completed another Dessert and you’ve got other priorities, and you’ve potentially even forgotten about the dreams those Appetizers you were traveling with shared, or some of their names. There is absolutely no way of knowing if the good friends you have been traveling with are going to have a positive experience toward completing it. Your investment in their well-being ended when your circle split, and you completed yet another round in Dessert.
The thorn however is this. The hitch in the rigged game involving rank is actually quite simple with regards to a pyramid scheme, or a Circle, as we can from this point on affectionately call it. The thorn is that no matter how much rank you have, eventually you’re not going to make it (unless you pull a Tesla Coil out of the sky that spins in ancient unison with the Grandmother rhythm of the Tauroidal field and get it to do your bidding for you and no one else).
It breaks my heart to know this. Many of those who I considered my really close friends are still in it. I know that while I was in Dessert some friends did all they could to help things happen in a good way, including for the whole circle and for me before I left. It breaks my heart that writing this letter could fuel their loss but I can’t stand by and consider the implications of being quiet about what is clearly going to be a losing game for many women. In the last months I have had to deeply confront my own conditioning, and how easily I give into community phases and peer pressuring, and the desire to be included, participating, liked, loved, and supported.
The “Circle Journey”
So what makes this Invitation into Circle so compelling that you would want to come up with giving an “unconditional” gift of $5,000? And what is it actually like once you are “circling.”
It’s a story that paints a picture of exactly what you have most deeply ached for and needed as a woman, including hope, a woven sense of community, and a feeling of massively answered prayers. The pitch includes a story which cuts right into the heart of the archetypal journey as a woman, involving a historical context that gives a sense of rising up in solidarity out of past traumatic experiences, dis-empowered identities and oppression, and into a new life of expansion into true potential.
It is said that circle was started back in the 80?s as a way to fund women’s shelters for those in the process of leaving abusive relationships, and that the current lineages were born from their vision in designing it.
You are invited by someone you think you know very well, who you love, adore and quite possibly look up to. She and other important voices mirror that you are special and ready for the next step in life. You feel an ancient soul memory of Rites of Passage, and this invitation feels something like it.
You are a Chosen One. It is an invitation into something that you are told is only for the “right woman,” who is ready for true financial sovereignty. You are mirrored brightly as being very special, already on a spiritual path, good enough, smart, strong, intelligent, socially resourced, capable and abundant enough to take the next big step in life.
You are encouraged to respect yours and the circle’s right to Privacy and to especially never discuss your circle activity with men, unless it is your partner, or a potential backer.
The truth is, if you start discussing it with men, you are going to find that many of them are freaked out by it and some will recognize it as a pyramid scheme. Their adamant resistance to your joining is going to fuel your insistence that you are right, and that it’s for women’s empowerment. It will give you a feeling of having proof that even in 2013 men want to keep women oppressed and don’t respect their intelligence. So you keep it a secret from them if you can (and anyone else that might question it’s validity) or insist on their supporting you, creating a greater unconscious rift between your real life relationship dynamics and furthering your need for your new circle sisters to give you the emotional (and possibly financial) support you are needing to complete it. You are now leading a double life, split between people you can and can’t safely discuss your circle activity with.
You are given a Road Map and the promise of Elders. A system of “historically successful” documents and protocols that are shrouded in secrecy are passed to you, and you are encouraged to get an encrypted email account. They assure you that you can complete it successfully, and that you have an elder group of women, regarded as a High Council, who will be there to protect and guide you should anything out of the ordinary happen. Circle assures you that while you are having your process and feelings with your sisters, a council of Super Moms and Grandmothers have totally got your back.
The promise of true sisterhood and empowerment: Amidst very sweet weekly call gatherings that expound upon group visualization techniques, meditations and Law of Attraction exercises, you are encouraged to engage with and share about your greatest hopes and dreams in life. The bond that this builds each week generates energy towards each woman’s inviting process. The power of your group sharing experiences also becomes yet another emotionally charged platform to sell new women on.
You are told you will be given the keys to effective leadership. During your initiations, you are offered — through those higher up than you as well as in the documents that you will gain — a tremendous amount of leadership training and empowerment, and go on to elevate, uplift, and inspire others.
Part of this training asserts to you that it would be the most enlightened act to give a very large gift, and to do it freely with no expectation, as a spiritual exercise. Because, as an already enlightened enough woman, who is obviously capable now to take the next step in life, you are expected to pull the rabbit of $5,000 out of your magic hat relatively “ease-fully and gracefully” as a way of devoting yourself to this hand-picked collection of exceptional women. (You most likely borrow it from someone or get backed by a woman who is sick of being in Dessert.)
You are then encouraged through months of group process and training to work as much as is required to make sure that you have absolutely no blocks to receiving or negative thought processes involving money, empowerment, the other women in circle, potential women who could be “just magically out there waiting to come in” or circle culture.
Your leadership training by the time you get to Dessert involves coaching women on their inviting and how to view their life circumstances more positively. You are encouraged to keep conversations with the other women on your team related to circle within a short time-frame, and to teach that circle is not about therapy. You are given a workload of organizational tasks and communications to keep every single week, taking up the time and psychic energy equivalent to a high level part-time job, though one in which you will most likely not be getting paid.
During your Dessert everyone in the circle automatically falls in love with you and praises your efforts, and the new women you are screening for inviting are so impressed as you describe the empowering aspects of your experience that they jump at the chance to get in, in the hopes of one day becoming like you.
The unspoken circle journey becomes a fascinating host ground of ghost projections, both positive and negative, on the woman who is now seated in this position. It is assumed that as Dessert you are now “empowered and well-trained enough” to magnetize to you the equivalent of 8 times your original gift as well as new highly qualified women, to have both your spiritual and financial cake as Dessert (which while you are in Appetizer sounds like an opportunity to have a massive orgasm in outer space to the tune of $40,000 magically falling in your lap while trumpeting angels sing your praises and tell you that you’ve finally reached the promise land of your dreams) and to then move through quickly enough so that you keep the circle splitting at a “good pace.”
You have also now received an additional packet of documents which contain even more detailed information about protocols as well as knowledge of ways that this has gotten fucked up in the past, some of which you were never made aware of or bothered investigating upon your first invitation, because you were told that everything on the net related to circle was left there to dis-empower women and create a glass ceiling around your potential avenue to expansion. But this new document is buried in a large pile of digital documents spouting new age rhetoric with the most gorgeous words in the English language around it. Your heart is in your throat and yet you set it aside. By this point you have taught yourself to regard this kind of thing as baggage that belongs to someone else.
You are now up to your ears in an ocean of new-age exercises that may or may not be working, and Legalese gray area through which you are swimming along now as the fearless leader of your lineage. You have been successfully trained both directly and indirectly on how to regard information, how to communicate, how much to emphasize and leave out of certain documents while inviting, and how to handle the doubts and fears that other less experienced new invites may come with. You are also now incredibly wise and compassionate with the women you are traveling with, capable of hearing everyone’s stories of suffering, and sharing yours, but now from a well pruned seat of entitlement in which you are given full permission to candidly bitch every now and then to your Entrees (the two women who support Dessert) about when the next gift is coming in.
Yikes! It all happened so quickly. You have arrived at true leadership.
Below is Andrew Jones’s amazing painting, illuminating his take on Circle Culture and the Pyramid structure’s exponential growth. Here is a link to his blog post on the same subject.
I feel that if those who have become very successful at this in the last years would like to take a courageous and humble step forward now, this would be a good time to give as many women back their original gifting money as possible. It will save a lot of relationships, needless blame, heartache and personal debt, and I’m sure much more, as this pyramid scheme continues unfolding and ultimately crumbling.
If we are going to repair our real circles of community and rebuild trust, I feel that it would be best to not blame any particular person, and begin grounding into an awareness of the ways social sicknesses like this go viral and get completely out of hand. I sincerely hope we can discover ways to co-exist that do not require a foundation of secrecy and group think programming.
Note From Scott Malis
Aloha everyone. ?I wanted to take a moment and share the math of why this circle or pyramid schemes don’t work…math has always been a gift to me…?So you sign up your 8 people (women), and then If those 8 people (women) get 8 people that is now 64 people. If 64 people get 8 people that is 512 people…now lets play this out…?
1 getting 8 = 8 people?
8 getting 8 = 64 people?
64 getting 8 = 512 people?
512 getting 8 = 4096 people?
4096 getting 8 = 32,768 people?
32,768 getting 8 = 262,144 people?
262,144 getting 8 = 2,097,152 people?
2,097,152 getting 8 = 16,777,216 people?
16,777,216 getting 8 = 134,217,728 people?
134,217,728 getting 8 = 1,073,741,824 people (over 1 billion people)?1,073,741,824 getting 8 = 8,589,934,592 people (8 billion people!)
This is now more people than on planet earth, let alone just women…in the 10th and 11th generations, it passes the entire earth population if allowed to play out…
Even if 2 get 2, in the 32nd generation it passes the entire earth population.
So ask yourself…even if you get paid in this scheme, how would you feel as the numbers approach the deeper levels knowing an exponential amount of people will lose at some point due to your gain. How loving and conscious is that? I get the community aspect and women seeking self empowerment. But this is not it!”
Android Jones images are used by permission.