November 2, 2011

The spiritual billionaire who gave away all his money.

Human life is ultimately about a search for meaning, a path to enlightenment–to discovering our true transcendent nature. ~Templeton

I go through phases with my spiritual reading, in recent years perusing everything from the Gnostic Gospels to the Kabbalah, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Shirley MacLaine. But I always return to the philosophies that keep me most grounded, including the works of Napolean Hill, Thomas Moore and John M. Templeton.

I recently wrote about Templeton in a post titled The Most Impressive Rich White Guy Obituary Ever. There, I detailed how Templeton lived a simple and frugal life—while making hundreds of millions in the stock market. He then set up a foundation to give it all away with goals like improving the world’s “spiritual wealth” and honoring those who “affirm life’s spiritual dimension”.

At least one loyal EJ reader questioned the moral authority of Templeton for making his fortune on Wall Street. But in an interview conducted late in his life, I think he more than adequately explained himself by saying: “The more you have, the more you can give away.”

Now a closer look at Templeton’s personal philosophy.

Templeton is a power-of-positive-thinking guy, a straight shooter who often wrote in simple declarative phrases. He believed in “helping yourself by helping others” and “finding the positive in every negative”, and that you should “expect the best, your positive outlook opens the door to opportunity”.  He also sprinkled in fresh insights that can get you looking at life in a new way or remind you of important ideas you had forgotten.

If we desire peace, the first place to look is within ourselves. Peace isn’t an external condition so much as an internal context. ~Templeton

Templeton believed that the world operates on spiritual principles, just as it operates on the laws of physics and gravity, and that these “laws” were the keys to finding success and happiness. He wrote about them in his masterwork The Worldwide Laws of Life, which he considered a guide to life much like the Tao Te Ching.

Loneliness cannot be overcome by getting something; it must be overcome by giving something. ~Templeton

The cool thing about Templeton’s philosophy is that it’s culled from virtually every major religion and from philosophers from all walks of life. Because Templeton was convinced that “all religions are becoming obsolete, clinging to ancient concepts“, he kept the parts of each religion/philosophy he found relevant and tossed out the rest, in the process creating something new and universal.

Templeton on our “One-ness” with God.

The question is not is there a God, but is there anything else except God? ~Templeton

One of Templeton’s core beliefs was that we were all a part of God, and God a part of us. This in turn, linked us to every other person and thing on the planet. He called it our “one-ness” and I’ve paraphrased the key points here:

*We all have the ability to achieve a oneness with God, because everything that exists in the universe is God right down to the smallest particle.
*Nothing can be separate from God. Everything that touches you, everything that touches every individual is a part of God. It’s all a manifestation of God.
*If we realize this truth and bring ourselves into oneness with God, we then will have “a clear channel” to God’s purpose for our own life.

Templeton on Prayer.

Prayer is not a way to turn on the light in God, but it is a way to turn on the light in yourself…and God is that light. ~Templeton

Templeton believed that daily prayer was essential to achieving success and happiness. He recommended starting each day by thanking God for all the good in your life, including your loved ones, your health and anything right about your life. Here’s his advice on prayer: 

*Keep it simple, for example “Thy will be done.” Let God know that you’re willing to be a conduit for his love and wisdom.
*Pray that the words you speak and the actions you take will be in harmony with God’s purposes. Pray for wisdom and understanding.
*When facing a problem, spend more time in prayer. Before going to sleep at night, ask God to guide you in your decisions. (You’ll often awake the next morning with a solution.)
*You may receive a yes or no to your prayers—or be directed not to make a decision. In those cases, continue about your daily routine and the outcome will eventually be revealed by life itself.
*Maintain your trust and peace and your problems are more likely to be solved, sometimes in a mysterious manner, sometimes in the eleventh hour.

Templeton’s unique approach to philanthropy.

I’m only going to be on this planet once, and only for a short time. What can I do with my life that will lead to permanent benefits? ~Templeton

While some philanthropists choose to address social needs, Templeton wanted to make an impact on the “world of ideas”. In an article titled “John Templeton: God’s sugar daddy”, published a few months before his death in 2008, a writer for the London Globe and Mail compared Templeton’s philanthropic approach to another modern day benefactor, Bill Gates. Here’s an edited excerpt:

Unlike many high-profile philanthropists trying to cure the world’s ills — such as the attempt by Bill and Melinda Gates to use their Microsoft millions to eradicate malaria — Templeton prefers a more oblique approach: Help people through the power of positive thought and love. It’s a philosophy grounded in the New Thought Movement — a loose affiliation of U.S. denominations known as the Unity Church that believes people can conquer adversity and sickness through prayer and positive thinking.

According to friend Steven Post, a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University. “ John has always said to me, ‘Just love and let everything else take care of itself.’ It’s a very different approach to that of Bill Gates, but in 100 years, they’re going to look back and say, ‘Bill Gates did some great things, but John was a visionary.’ We can cure all the malaria we want, but if we’re living brutal, nasty, empty lives, it will only do so much good.”

Today, the John Templeton Foundation is run by his son, Jack. It still gives away tens of millions of dollars a year to a wide range of individuals, research studies and causes, all in the name of spiritual progress.


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