Sophiarchy is a new term designed to replace the common but limited term “non-hierarchical.” The word “hierarchy” is derived from the Greek hieros, which refers to a sacred head or leader. The term “hierarchy” was originally used to describe the ranks and orders of angels and saints as well as (eventually) church prelates — the governing organizational system based on how high-up individuals were in matters of sacred knowledge and privilege.

The Ancient Greek word sophia means “wisdom.” It refers in many ancient texts to an innate wisdom available to anyone open to it, rather than to a scaled or ranked wisdom open only to initiates or those chosen by fate. Dropping the feminine ending “-a” to form the term generates the word sophiarchy. We felt it was appropriate to use a Greek term to help people from modern (“Euro-American”) culture understand the concept that every voice has value.

The term “heterarchy,” which has recently been used to refer to non-hierarchical systems, addresses the issue of diversity within the upper echelons of power but does not address the ranking or privileging of power itself. (The prefix “hetero-” means “different.” The term for which “heterarchy” would be the antonym is “homoarchy,” not “hierarchy.”)