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Sir John Templeton: Mixing Science, Religion, and Humility

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To encourage progress in religious thought in 1971 Sir John Templeton set up the annual Templeton Prize, $1 million for whoever makes the most substantial innovation in religion each year. But his larger goal is making people get over the concept that they’ve got the total proof. To get them to feel, “Gee, I want to learn more.”

“If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.” -- Sir John Templeton

This inside report appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of Spirituality & Health. Humility, in the life of the legendary international money genius Sir John Templeton, is not a passive attitude but a rigorous method of thought and action that has taken me four years to begin to understand. Not that Sir John achieves humility (how could one be humble with a cacophony of people calling you “Sir John” all the time?). Instead, his imperative to “work at being an humble person” has made him super-rich, put 22 honorary degrees in the trophy room of his Nassau home, won him his knighthood, and drives his Templeton Foundation to spend more than $30 million a year to forge an alliance between the great spiritual traditions and the skeptical, searching approach of science. What I have come to realize is that behind those brown spaniel eyes, this international money genius hungers for ideas the way a boy loves ice cream. “Would you write me a letter, George, on what we might do on creativity?” he said last year, after an afternoon chat in London. Convinced that spiritual wisdom is collected in ordinary folk sayi …

T George Harris (1924-2013) spent 17 years as a bureau chief for Time-Life-Fortune before becoming editor in chief of Psychology Today. He was later the founding editor of American Health and editor of The Harvard Business Review and the preview issue of Spirituality & Health. In 2001, his pursuits included research into innovation and creativity and writing a column for Beliefnet.com.


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