He was a businessman with a name like a spiritual guru: John Marks Templeton, founder of the annual Templeton Prize, died Tuesday at age 95.
Though known as a shrewd investor and investment counselor in money circles, Templeton spent his later years trying to amplify the presence of goodwill and spiritual values in the world with a cash prize that has now ballooned to $1.6 million. Mother Teresa of Calcutta won it. So did Billy Graham. Templeton also pumped $70 million a year into a foundation whose job description was to unravel the answers to the "big questions."
Like another lion of spiritual endeavors T.S. Eliot Templeton was born in the South and later opted for British citizenship. He was knighted by the queen.
And yet perhaps Templeton's greatest contribution to the world didn't come in the prizes he awarded, but in his showcasing how a person with a knack for making millions could still keep an eye on larger concerns such as wholeness, peace and compassion. And he walked as a giant in both worlds.
In money matters he began his career by buying stock in 104 companies and seeing 100 of those turn a profit. He recognized trends before other investors. He had a sixth sense for buying low and selling high.
He later would apply that sixth sense to developing what he called "the spiritual wealth" of the world. He stressed using the scientific method for uncovering spiritual truths and spent millions of dollars on think-tanks and in genius grants, hoping to reconcile the hard evidence of science with the ethereal aspects of religion.
Detractors claim Templeton pushed too hard on "soft science" and simply supplied zealots with fodder for their causes. However, he himself worked from the premise that "No human has yet grasped 1 percent of what can be known about spiritual realities."
Yet even those who poked holes in his plans admired his earnestness and commitment. If money talks, the Templeton Prize carries one of the loudest voices in the world.
Templeton was not afraid to put his money where his mouth was, then put his mouth to work in the cause of spirituality.