The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Created by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life’s biggest questions, ranging from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe, to questions on love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity.
Established in 1972, the Prize aims, in Sir John’s words, to identify “entrepreneurs of the spirit” – outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality. The Prize celebrates no particular faith tradition or notion of Divinity, but rather the quest for progress in humanity’s efforts to comprehend the many and diverse manifestations of the timeless Spiritual Realities of Existence.
For forty years, the Templeton Prize has sought to foster new insights into the limitless potentialities in the realm of the spiritual. Following Sir John’s spiritual and philosophical world views, the Templeton Prize affirms that there are “Spiritual Realities” including that humans have a spiritual dimension, in addition to their physical/material one. This timeless belief is shared by the overwhelming majority of people, past and present. But what do spiritual realities encompass? In addition to a number of religious concepts associated with the spirit, (i.e. prayer, thanksgiving, love and the divine), there are other important spiritual realities, such as creativity, purpose and infinity.
From the Prize’s inauguration 40 years ago, Sir John advanced a motivating vision of: “How little we know; how eager to learn” in the fullest scope of “Spiritual Realities”. Therefore, his vision for the Prize has been an eager pursuit of more discovery, and also appreciations of discoveries for the benefit of others. Thus, in raising concepts like creativity and purpose in its pursuit of spiritual progress, it is hoped that the Prize might recognize and honor those who make advances and discoveries by undertaking spiritually relevant research using tools that science and philosophy have given us; and by opening our minds to being humble in our approaches.
Sir John stressed that humility causes an open mind, which in turn makes it possible for us to learn from each other. An open mind contributes to progress. One of the purposes of the Prize program, therefore, is to contribute to a spirit of humility and helping people of nations learn about the rich variety of ways that other men and women love and understand a supreme spirit. Thereby, we hope that all religions may become more progressive, dynamic and inspirational. Thus, the Prize does not seek a unity of denominations or a unity of world religions; but rather, it seeks to encourage understanding of the benefits of religion and spiritual progress.
Furthermore, Sir John asks: can new information from science research on basic spiritual realities reduce conflict if people come to recognize from science research limitless spiritual information that is universal to all people?
Since the beginning of the Templeton Prize, each year’s prize winner has been determined by a team of nine judges who are outstanding individuals from around the world with a diversity of religions and careers. After a review committee of ten outstanding and diverse world thinkers evaluates the top fifty candidates, a short list of twenty or so candidates is sent to the judges with supporting materials. These judges are advised to independently evaluate each of the candidate’s merits and direct or indirect contributions to “spiritual progress” without consulting anyone, not even each other. After each judge completes a full review of each candidate, she or he submits his or her rankings to the Prize office. The candidate with the best numerical total count of votes is then identified as that year’s winner. Through this independent body of judges, the Templeton Prize remains an autonomous process separate from the John Templeton Foundation’s own unique different processes.
The Templeton Prize is open to everyone, and anyone in the world can be a nominator. Nominations are based on originality of the person’s works and whether their contributions resulted in a greater increase of humankind's understanding of spiritual realities and thus measurably contribute to “spiritual progress”. This is the purpose of the Templeton Prize: to encourage progress in religion and in the spiritual realm more broadly by calling attention to the wonderful new research and new insights arising from investigating life’s spiritual dimensions.
Finally, Sir John earnestly envisioned that as the work of contributors of each winner becomes better known-- such a recognition award for notable past achievements will give rise to diverse and visionary inspiration for others to advance and pursue new avenues of spiritual progress, or even to find and to prosper fresh new approaches in advancing frontiers of spiritual discovery.