That word is “Enlightenment Economy”!
What… You want to know the definition?
Well, first some context.
You’ve heard of the healthcare industry and its subsidiary, the mental health care economy. You know about the self-improvement market, wellness industry, and last but certainly the most notable of the bunch, the religious industrial complex.
A rather well-dissected and diagrammed global economy you might think, but there’s another marketplace in the mix that isn’t recognized yet. And that is… you guessed it, The Enlightenment Economy.
What isn’t the Enlightenment Economy?
But Spencer… WTF is the Enlightenment Economy? Patient, my friend, patient. You must listen to the entire backstory of how we got here.
Healthcare Industry: Selling physically sick people goods and services to get their body working. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, surgeons, physical therapists.
Mental Care Economy: Selling mentally sick people goods and services to get well. Therapists, psychiatrists, stress reduction techniques.
Wellness Industry: Selling healthy people goods and services to increase their physical and mental health further. Gyms, personal trainers, life coaches, boutique mushroom supplements.
Self Improvement Economy: Selling mostly functional people goods and services to perform better at their goal. Mostly in the money-making space. Motivational speakers, self-help books, biohacking gizmos.
Religious Industrial Complex: Selling people lacking meaning, stability, and structure mostly services but the odd amulet here and there to help them feel better about the pain in their life.
And to the little voice in my head screaming: “That’s reductionistic, overly simplified, snarky, and demonstrates a lack of nuance…” Yes… Yes it is, but it’s what I got for now. And the editors can take care of that. Oh wait, there are no editors? Fuck… Sorry readers, it’s just me.
The Enlightenment Economy is an Overlap Economy
So now you know what the Enlightenment Economy is not. It’s not all of those other economies. Except it is a fractional part of those economies with lots of overlap on the Venn diagram. Here’s what I mean: where does psychedelic-assisted guided journeys undertaken not to resolve a medical diagnosis or to connect with a religious god but to engage with the more effervescent sides of life to become a more whole person?
And what about a yoga practice done not to burn calories, keep flexibility as you get older, or to gain mindfulness over ADHD, but with the goal of connecting with something greater outside of a specific religious guru or lineage?
What about the breath-work instructors who talk not just about increased mental agility at work, improved athletic performance at the gym, and increased lung capacity on your next medical exam, but also as a pathway to the divine in a vague undefined non-religious way?
Then there is meditation instruction, not taken as a stress reduction practice within the corporate setting or as a prescription from your psychiatrist to help with your chronic anxiety, or at the direction of a religious guru that you are an acolyte of, but the secular meditation instruction done to connect with the intrinsic underlying ineffable parts of life.
What economy, marketplace, or industry are these business models in?
I think the Enlightenment Economy includes fragments of the healthcare, mental health, self-improvement, wellness, and religious industrial complexes but also go beyond them. But I think that these business models in the Enlightenment Economy are so genre-bending they deserve their own economy. I’d like to propose a name for that economy. And that’s the “Enlightenment Economy.”
Checking in with Mr. FTC
So, have I sold you yet, Mr. Federal Trade Commission, that the “enlightenment economy” should be added to the vocabulary flashcard deck for new hires at the FTC?
Yeah, I’m talking to you, the old white guys sitting in a cubicle with your soul bleached out of you by the fluorescent lights, wearing pleated khakis from Banana Republic, doing the same safe, stable, predictable, good job for 40 years after you graduated from Purdue and married to your trophy wife Karen who you’ve had two lacrosse-playing boys with that infuriate you because they want this stuff called “meaning,” “joy,” “purpose,” and worst of all a sense of adventure and refuse to just shut up and follow the pathway to get good grades so they can get into a good school followed by a good internship and then a good job at a Fortune 500 in middle management where they meet their good wife and live a good life devoid of meaning, joy, purpose, and adventure all while the world is imploding around their good little life!
Well, Mr. FTC… What do you say?
No. I haven’t… Well I shall continue ranting then.
The Nuances of the Enlightenment Economy
The enlightenment economy is a smorgasbord of services and physical products, serving a wide variety of clients in many different ways. Really, the only thing they have in common is that the consumer is looking to move towards “enlightenment” outside the bounds of explicit religious lineages.
The enlightenment economy is primarily about motivation and less about modality.
If the motivation of the client and the instructor is to engage with the ineffable nature of reality outside of a religious institution, and with an economic exchange, then it’s probably part of the enlightenment economy.
If the motivation is to resolve:
- High blood pressure from chronic stress — then it’s likely part of the healthcare economy.
- Address treatment-resistant depression — then it’s likely part of the mental health economy.
- To lose 15 lbs. so you look better in a bathing suit — Then it’s part of the wellness industry.
- To upgrade your mental performance through biohacking to get more sales at work — then it’s part of the self-improvement marketplace.
- Connect with “the one true God” who divinely anointed you and is sending the rest of the infidels/heathens/democrats to hell — then it’s part of the religious industrial complex.
Now, I’m not claiming any of these are in any way bad, wrong, unevolved, devoid of value. I have a primary care doctor, therapist, yoga teacher, direct transcranial stimulation gizmo, and lived in several Buddhist temples. But they are not the Enlightenment Economy.
Here’s the really tricky part which has kept me from writing this blog for a few months…
You can go to a yoga class as part of the healthcare economy, the mental health economy, the self-improvement economy, the wellness industry, or the religious industrial complex, and you’re still doing yoga. The only thing that shifts is your motivation for attending, and the motivation of the studio and the teacher for teaching. Motivation is the defining factor of the enlightenment economy.
This is further complicated by the entanglement of enlightenment and religion. Which further gets tied in knots when we try to split apart religion and spirituality. And let’s not forget the ever more confusing lines between spirituality and the hard physical sciences.
But a growing wave of non-dual practitioners keeps pointing to some inexpressible bit of reality which includes but transcends the limitations of religion, spirituality, and the physical sciences… And when pursued as part of an economic undertaking to generate income in the form of a business, that’s the enlightenment economy.
One Last Check-in with Mr. FTC
Well, there you go, Mr. Federal Trade Commission chairman, I hope I’ve made my case well and that the term Enlightenment Economy will be added to the next edition of the FTC vocabulary flashcard deck given to all the good little interns who are starting their good internships on their way to getting good jobs.
Wait… While this is a valid term, it will not be included in the next vocabulary flashcard deck because if we admit the existence of this economy, it might hasten the fall of the patriarchy, late-stage capitalism, and generally destabilize the good way we’ve been doing things.
Fuck! There I go being too much again…
The Enlightenment Economy is a new economic sector arising, which is defined by buyers motivated to reach a non-religious and vague form of enlightenment, and sellers of products and services who share the same motivation. It is similar to but not the same as the healthcare, mental health, wellness, self-improvement economies, and is also different from the religious industrial complex.
Spencer Website: https://spencerfield.me/blog/spencer-field-blog/the-enlightenment-economy-a-new-psychedelic-assisted-economic-sector-arises-as-told-by-a-no-name-snarky-business-wonk Medium: https://medium.com/@SpencerField/the-enlightenment-economy-a-new-psychedelic-assisted-economic-sector-arises-as-told-by-a-c43ce0277e0c
Morning Ted, I hope the morning is behaving appropriately.
You'll find my newest blog/rant interesting to read over a coffee… I’ve already got a part two planned which I will also send you.
Intentionally chose joy today when that rough spot hits.
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