An international pyramid scheme is duping women from the area, say a number of locals.
The Echo reported the issue in 2013 when a group called Women’s Wisdom Circle was operating and cloaking itself in themes of new-age spirituality and women’s empowerment.
The latest incarnation is called the Lotus Circle, which The Echo understands is run by the same group of women who ran the Women’s Wisdom Circle.
Under the Australian Consumer Act 2010 [Part 3-1 Division 3], it is illegal to participate in a pyramid scheme or attempt to induce someone to join one.
Like a pyramid scheme, Lotus Circle women part with a $5,000 ‘unconditional gift’ to join as a ‘seed’ and are lured with a promise of an eventual $40,000 if they ultimately blossom into a ‘lotus’.
Recruitment is made generally through social media or face to face.
Additionally a new circle has emerged, called Fractal Circles, which encourages men to also join.
Local woman Karma Barnes says apart from a strong Byron Shire presence, the Lotus network also includes chapters in New Zealand, Bali, California, Hawaii and Canada.
‘I have seen a lot of women being sucked in around Byron Shire and New Zealand,’ she says.
‘I am really concerned for women, particularly new women to the area, that may be targeted. It’s deeply unethical and predatory. Because of the exponential growth, there will always be 88 per cent of women who will never get their money back.
‘There are many ways for women to help and support each other. There should not be a price tag on this. Also, if people want to give money, there are so many women’s charities that could benefit.
Selling blood, eggs
‘A document that promotes the scheme, called 25 Ways To Manifest Your Gift, suggests options to gain quick cash to enter, including asking for an early inheritance or getting a bank loan. Number 18 on the list suggests ‘selling your blood and eggs.’
The Secret philosophy
Another woman Jenna Snow (not her real name) said, ‘It’s deceptive because they try to trick you into believing it’s an unconditional gift.’
‘They use language like “abundance vibration, poverty mentality and fear paradigms.”
‘There’s nothing spiritual about funnelling money from the many to the few.
‘Those wanting to recruit say things like, “You would pay $5,000 for a spiritual workshop anyway so think of it like that”. You can see why people are drawn in if they are craving a connection in their life. They say the connection is primary and unconditional while the money is secondary.
‘If you suggest the maths doesn’t add up, looks unsustainable and is unethical, you get a rave on “abundance theory.”’
Additionally nine locals, calling themselves the critical thinker’s support group, also made a ‘community announcement’.
The group say they chose to remain anonymous and are local teachers, social workers, healers and professionals.
‘This scam has conflated the intention of women’s circles and appropriated it for selfish gains. It relies on the pseudo-spiritual philosophy of the Secret.
‘This is not a product; it’s unsustainable and the ultimate capitalistic con.
‘The good news is that because it’s illegal, you can get out of the ‘gift’ contract. The Lotus Circle breaches contract and consumer law. You sign a contract to say it’s a gift – but under the law it’s illegal to make a contract under false pretences.
‘There are some who have their money back,’ they say, ‘and lawyers have been involved.’
‘There is no shame in trying to get out of this,’ they said. ‘There are online lotus support groups, including the closed Facebook group, Muddy Lotus.’