Why Math Matters…

Math matters because these circles, in addition to having a beautiful and rich community culture, also have a lot of numbers involved. 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 5,000, 40,000, all in specific relationship to each other. Math matters in this situation because there are mathematical risks and consequences involved and thus understanding the math becomes necessary for true empowerment. A central pillar of empowerment is understanding what our choices are, understanding the risks and consequences, and then making a decision from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance. So, since we’re dealing in numbers, big numbers that affect lives, it’s important to understand them.

In the past weeks I’ve spoken with a few women about the structure of these circles and I’ve encountered a pervasive lack of understanding about the math behind how it works. I was in the same place when I said yes and joined a circle. I didn’t spend a lot of time investigating the structure, I took the word of the women who invited me. When it came time for me to find a backer and recruit a friend I started to try to resolve my doubts and questions in order to go into those conversations prepared. What I found precluded me from ever having those conversations.

I don’t think that the women who invited me knew either. Having experienced the way this circle is held and the quality of energy that is being extended from woman to woman via the invitation from a trusted voice I believe a vast majority of those participating took it on faith that something coming through in that way would have been vetted already. All but those who started it. For those who started it were in a creative moment. What do we want to create? What structure would serve what we want to create? Why would one choose a pyramid structure if one wanted to create a woman’s circle? Hard for me to see how you could reinvent a structure like this based on the stated intentions that were shared with me (empowerment, community, wisdom, personal growth, etc.).

Anyway, it is this person to person invitation via a trusted relationship that keeps pyramids continuing to this day even though there is plenty of information online about why they aren’t sustainable, empowering, enduring, or… legal. We want to believe it’s different because someone we really trust is presenting it to us. I’ve personally received a BIG lesson from that experience, and it’s not distrust of women or people in general. Though I fear that may be the lesson that some women will take from this experience. My lesson is to listen to my own questions when I have them and to more deeply trust my own inner knowing. It’s also to exercise my discernment more athletically when considering signing my name to something.

Anyway, I believe the lack of time or focus spent on explaining the mathematical structure itself and how it unfolds over time is the primary reason why wonderful people with good intentions are involved with these circles. There is much to draw one in, and while I was in it I met truly wonderful people and really gained a lot personally from the community aspect.

AND… It’s possible to have all of that, community and good relationships based on mutual support, personal growth, even financial empowerment, etc, in forms that are far more beautiful, egalitarian, connected to earth systems, and functional (i.e., sustainable).

It actually seems deceptive in the worst way possible, insidious and tragically ironic, to have such good spiritual people with such full hearts promoting a system that is literally incapable of producing results better than a 13% success rate.

If the spiritual, progressive, altruistic, powerful and heart-ful women I knew in these circles truly understood, (not just heard or were told, but understood) that receiving gifts in this way would perpetuate a system where 87% of all involved would give their gift and not receive in return, I don’t think most of those people would still choose to do it, not without there being full-disclosure of that eventuality from the beginning. No, most of those signing up and participating just don’t understand the underlying structure.

Unfortunately it’s not just money at risk though. It’s everything that goes along with the money. We risk betraying trust, we risk giving other’s negative and exploitative experiences in the name of abundance, we risk affirming people’s distrust of other people, we risk the sisterhood that we are striving so hard to replace competition with, we risk a lot. I don’t think these are risks that many of the people in these “circles” believe they are taking, specifically because they don’t understand the structure and the math underlying it. That’s why math matters.

For those that do understand the mathematical structure and its implications I can only see one way for them to continue to participate; they must be willing to profit off the ignorance of others.


In the conversations I’ve had with women where I try and explain the math and why it is the single reason why no one should participate in these “circles” (they’re not circles, they’re pyramids) many of them leave the conversation either still not completely understanding or not believing that it could be true. It’s really difficult to believe that when you are in a group that has actually served you in amazing ways that there could be a pretty big shadow in it. Those relationships seem so much more tangible, and beautiful, than the abstraction of numbers. The resistance to being grounded in and aware of the earthly, tangible, structures that support all we depend on for life is the shadow of our current civilization, other civilizations in the past, and certainly of this pyramid movement. We just hate to admit that what we want to believe, or what is/has been convenient for our lives, isn’t sustainable. This is surely part of why people are still reluctant to believe facts and statistics that are the basis for Global Climate Change and other such earthly phenomenon that our systems are tangibly affecting.

The responses I’ve been met with reflect this lack of groundedness. “If we all just believe, trust and do our work, it’ll work out,” “But money isn’t limited, it’s just a form of energy,” “You’re thinking in terms of scarcity, not abundance. This is all about the abundance of the universe not the limits of the current system”, etc.

Let’s explore these responses:

“If we all just believe, trust and do our work, it’ll work out.” This is akin to spiritual bypass, where we just want to stay in the bliss state and not get to know the shadow. If we just don’t look at it, or deny that it exists, it’ll go away/we won’t have to deal with it/it simply won’t exist! This is also a great way to discourage dissent. The implication is that questioning, i.e. not having trust, undermines the viability. That’s true if it isn’t viable! If a system is truly viable you can question it all you want and your real faith will deepen, because the answers you find will continue to affirm your understanding of how it works. Questioning is a good thing- blind faith in a human-created system is a characteristic of denial. Blind faith in creator? I have that. Blind faith in our government? No. Blind faith in a religion? No. Blind faith in circle? No. Blind faith that the arc of justice is long but it leans towards justice? Yes. See the difference? When a human tells you that rainbow and unicorns wait on the other side if you just don’t question it and work hard I hope your ears perk up and you develop a furrow on your brow to indicate that you have begun to ask questions and consider the answers you receive with an engaged mind.

“You’re thinking in terms of scarcity, not abundance. This is all about the abundance of the universe not the limits of the current system” There’s a difference between a limit in a system and scarcity. Ever heard that saying “There’s enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed”? Recognizing a limit is not the same thing as scarcity. Scarcity consciousness refers to an emotional reaction to a perceived lack. Recognizing a limit can help us be in relationship with what is in a good way. All natural systems have limits. Understanding and being in relationship with limits means you can make educated and empowered decisions about how to be a good steward and make sure everyone get’s something, or balance is maintained, etc.  Not understanding, acknowledging or honoring the limits of a system results in us running out of oil, desertification, the rainforest being cut down, etc. It results in waste, greed, poor decisions, ignorance, conflict, extinction, and other forms of imbalance. In thinking about abundance and manifestation we can’t conflate it with just getting what we want. We need to ask if what it is we are manifesting is sustainable, if our desires need to be brought in line with what the earth can sustain. I hope abundance doesn’t mean that we all think we get to have 3 homes and not work…

Our minds and egos are powerful and if there’s an opportunity for them to get involved in our spiritual activities, they will. We need to keep that in check by looking critically at things that seem to be too good to be true or that seem to make us feel like we deserve something more than to wake up in the morning and praise the day, work with people we love to tend the gift of this earth that we’ve been given.

So… everyone puts in $5000, and everyone get’s out $40,000. How does that work? Simple math will tell you that that simply isn’t possible. Still, when someone says we’re channeling the universe’s abundance and you just need to say yes to receiving it and everyone wins, then maybe the ego jumps on board and says “Yeah, you deserve it!” and the mind goes “I sure could use $40,000…”

“But money isn’t limited, it’s just a form of energy.”

But money isn’t limited in this crazy economic system right? We can all have as much as we want! However true that may be in our current financial system (yet another reason why our current economic system is also destined for failure at the expense of future generations) in the “circle” structure we’re discussing it isn’t a lack of money that eventually crashes the system. It’s the system’s need for an ever increasing number of women and the reality of a finite number of women on earth (in our webs, who are willing, etc). The money may be imaginary and just a form of energy – but the women holding the places in the “circles” are real, and are not reproducing themselves at the same exponential growth rate as the circles, even when the circles are moving slow. Perhaps when the circles start taking 20 years to split this system will be sustainable. Until then, or unless we start filling the circles with our imaginary energetic friends, spirit guides, stuffed animals, as well as our ancestors and unborn children, we cannot continue to split circles indefinitely.

It doesn’t matter that women can be in multiple circles, that the money can come from backers, etc. None of this does anything but actually promote more women losing money over time. It simply prolongs the process of reaching the crash point and means that when it does crash there will have been more splits and thus more circles and more women in those circles who will end up having truly gifted their $5000 (i.e. won’t receive a gift in return other than the friendships or wisdom they gained).

Let me explain this point mathematically. Let’s say for the purpose of playing with the loosest restriction that a woman who has gifted in one circle can now join another circle. Okay- here’s how it goes:

When around 1000 women are involved, for example 127 of them will have received, 1016 will have given (some twice), and 1024 are needed for the circles to split one more time (not for everyone to get paid mind you, there are still two more splits necessary for everyone currently in a circle to receive, and with each of those splits even more women are needed to join/gift). We are using a set number, 1000, to demonstrate, but really you can pick any number and we can work this out. The reason for a set number is that there is only a set number of eligible humans (women, adults, alive, willing).

In this example when we get close to our numeric limit there are 896 women involved, and 104 available who aren’t in circle. For the current circles to split we need 1024 women to continue (128 circles each bringing on 8 women). If all 104 available women join we’ll still need 920 current circle participants to join existing circles in order for it to split again. But there are only 896 involved so already more are needed than exist for all circles to split. Let’s say some do that and other circles “slow down.” After those women have gifted in second circles they actually join third circles in order to make sure that all the circles split again. That’s all of the women in circle joining 2nd and 3rd circles in order to fund another split. It’s possible, though I don’t think likely. But let’s say that happens.  We’ve reached all the women we can, everyone’s involved, and now women are going to join multiple circles in order to keep it going.

Now we’re at 256 circles which each need 8 more women to join. There are currently 1792 spots occupied by 1000 women. 104 just joined and are now in 1 circle, 792 women are in 2 circles, and 106 are in 3 circles. We need 2048 more spots to be filled for these 256 circles to split. We just had 128 women finish receiving in one circle and maybe they will all choose to join up again! Maybe you can see where this is going. For the circles to continue to split women will have to join more and more circle until they are gifting as much as, and eventually more than, they are receiving!

I suspect most women aren’t doing that though. Many women are not reinvesting every bit that they receive, they are siphoning it off to their projects, which may very well be beautiful.

Anyway, if we are in a circle on this earth, hand in hand with every other human, and we each put $5,000 in the pot, how many people can take out $40,000? When there’s no one else to put in, those who are last in line will have nothing to take out. We can talk a lot about math and modeling but what it comes down to is the difference between a real circle and a pyramid. A pyramid is designed to channel energy upward, a circle is designed to circulate it in a closed loop. A circle growth is one calorie in = one calorie out, like in permaculture. A pyramid of growth is grow, grow, grow, grow, crash, like in large scale agriculture, put in inputs from somewhere else, continue to take more out than you put in, and the soil erodes, dries out, and eventually won’t sustain life.

When we stand in a circle facing each other and a number of people take out 8 times what we put in, and then there’s nothing left, it’s really obvious that something has happened inequitably. Unfortunately those who profited have stepped out of the circle with their money and don’t have to witness the consequence. It reminds me of this civilization, you know? Many of us won’t be here when it all falls down and so we go along, comfortable in our lives “doing the best we can” but not really holding ourselves accountable to where we are outsourcing the consequences to, not really using our discernment to see if something is truly energetically aligned with our prayers.

Whether we understand it or not, we are in a circle with every other human on earth. There are not mystery humans outside of the circle who are funding these pyramids, they are real people who are lower on the pyramid and when we reach the limit, whenever that is, the bottom of the pyramid will not receive. Please don’t lie to yourself about this being the lesser of two evils when compared to our current economic system. It is the same system, with some fancy words put to it to make us feel better about it. Real abundance comes from the earth and from the loving labor of our hands.


“Joyous work honors the vision.”


Fake money, energy money, money that we assign a value that is not linked to the physical world, has led to systems that are precarious, unjust and straight up ridiculous. So we need to create systems where the money is related to food, or to something real. Giving a gift of $40,000 in exchange for a debt of $320,000 owed by future women who are yet to be committed is not linked to what the earth can sustain. It’s actually not linked to anything real. It’s system that runs entirely on faith and ultimately our delusion, getting women to give gifts in exchange for a debt held by women we don’t even know yet. A gift for a multiplied debt. That’s how we’re pulling abundance out of these circles. A growing debt held by the future, and by future women who will only give and won’t receive. Does that sound like the system your heart most wants to create or be involved in? What if we were to imagine that it is your own daughter, grown up and taking it on faith that the woman inviting her has her best interests in mind but is really borrowing from her in disguise?

A debt that grows and grows and grows until it’s demands for growth can no longer be supported by the number of women that exist within a community/the world; is this the revolutionary, better, abundant system we’re talking about? Is this even the lesser of two evils?


Here is a post from a friend:

“For those who believe this is sustainable, check out the math provided by Scott Malis. Sorry to bear the bad news as I know good people that get involved in this:


“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!”

– Scott Malis

The main argument most women, and men, I know have with this is that people can be in more than one circle at once


8 thoughts on “Why Math Matters…

  1. Creating a new *working* paradigm a la Buckminster Fuller is what we need. This pyramid scheme doesn’t fit that bill. I know people (these women, for instance) are trying to think outside the box, yet they aren’t aware that all they’ve done is built another box. It’s sad, yet, it’s also a bit of a healthy wake up call.

    How about a “circle” using bitcoin? Or a barter or gifting “circle”? Kinda like the playa.
    Or, better yet, how about everyone with this disposable income focusing on something of real merit? Why are we incapable of using this “energy” to do the hard work of creating sustainable livelihoods and community relationships? How about a real framework where this “energy” can be put into renewable energy, for instance.

    How about an investment class for these women instead of investing in bullshit?

    It baffles the mind, yet then seems plainly obvious, how this is Marin County naivety suckered by itself. This is really quite revealing and even indicting of NorCal culture; while it is full of beautiful ideals, it often lacks a grounded and honest interface with the “nasty real world”. Or, it’s afraid! Conspiracy theory laden rhetoric about how evil the system is doesn’t help. Blaming the system is easy. It also detracts from the hard look in the mirror that our culture of “abundance” needs. These issues are such a drag, aren’t they?

    You are all lucky and pampered Americans living off the postwar Baby Boomer kharmic reality. You’re lucky you’re not in the Ukraine or somewhere, half the country lost their shirts in a similar scheme. You’re living in a state of abundance already, you just forgot. The system is crumbling, sure, but don’t forget your wheatgrass shot from Whole Foods.

  2. Can you point out exactly where the math portion you are talking about is explained? Where in your article you explain your thesis?

    • Sure Sarah- I will add more about the math specifically, thanks for asking! For now here is a graphic some people have been working on to show it visually. http://michaelrienstra.com/8ball/

      In this example which works on a population of 250. Notice how the number of people in it when it reaches saturation is 224, but the number of people required for it to split again is 256. What this means is that as it grows (splitting) at a mathematical ratio of 2 the number required to keep it going continues to be greater than the number of women in it. This means that the idea that women joining multiple groups at once could make this work is false. But I’ll get some better explanation up soon!

  3. Pingback: Women’s Gifting Circles — Secret Scam or Saving Grace?

    • Timing is an issue if a circle splitting at the pace of a lifetime were an option, but even then we reach the limits of growth eventually. When I was in circle I hoped that time, and the fact that women could join multiple times, would help the math work out better. When I looked into that I found that exponential growth is never sustainable in the material, physical world. It will always reach the limit of the system because nothing can double forever. I consulted a mathematician about this actually, because I was curious to see if there was a way to make it sustainable, and it’s called a ratio of 2, and there is no way to make something that divides in this way, something that never does anything but grow, there is no way for it to be sustained indefinitely. I’ll ask her to write more about this and add it up here- stay posted!

  4. Are there even any examples of anything other than living with nature which are truly sustainable in the long term? Or as humans in society are many just biding time, keeping to the grinding stone, sustaining as best we can, practicing learning our life’s lessons & staying positive so we can continually “attract” the next lifestyle upgrade? These circles appear as a huge help and upgrade for women seeking co-ops & support which extend from spiritual to financial. I’m certain there must be better options out there which are more sustainable and not “get rich quick at the eventual expense of others” schemes. I can’t help but think of the bank bail outs in this instance. There is hope that all the women who have so many needs to be met can find it in a truly open-hearted structure. It simply needs to be found and brought into creation.

  5. Excellent blog. Thank you so much for this!! It has helped me a great deal in deciding that circle is not for me and it does not mean that I am saying no to abudance

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