The term Caliph is the Latin version of the Arabic Khalīfah, which can be loosely translated as "successor", or more specifically, the successor to the prophet Muhammad. It can also mean "stewardship". Within the Islamic tradition, it refers to a temporal successor to the Sunnis, and a spiritual one to the Shi'ites. Generally, to Muslims the Caliph is the leader of the Islamic nation, although no individual has held this title since Abdul Mejid II when the Turkish Grand National Assembly, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, abolished the title in 1924.
The Sunnis identify the first four Caliphs, all close associates of Muhammad, as the Rashidun or '"rightly guided" caliphs: Abu Bakr (the first Caliph), Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib. It is important to understand, however, that the Sunnis and Shi'as differ profoundly on the critical question of who the first Caliph of Islam should have been, and the subsequent legitimacy all later office holders. Although the Caliph had temporal and spiritual authority, he did not have phophetic power, which was reserved for Muhammad.
Within Ordo Templi Orientis, the Outer Head of the Order (OHO) has been referred to as the Caliph since Hymenaeus Alpha (Grady McMurtry) took that title in 1969 when he assumed leadership of the Order as Karl Germer's successor, chosen by Aleister Crowley.
The Caliphate of O.T.O.
Within the context of O.T.O., the term was used by Crowley in correspondence to Grady McMurtry in the 1940's. On Sept. 28, 1944, Crowley wrote to him, "I hope you will prefer my plan for your career as my Fides Achates, alter ego, Caliph, & so on." On November 21, 1944, he wrote to McMurtry again:
- "The Caliphate." You must realize that no matter how closely we see eye-to-eye on any objective subject, I have to think on totally different premises where the Order is concerned. One of the (startling few) commands given to me was this: 'Trust not a stranger: fail not of an heir.' This has been the very devil for me. Fr. [Saturnus] [Karl Germer] is, of course, the natural Caliph; but there are many details concerning the actual policy or working which hit his blind spots. In any case, he can only be a stopgap, because of his age; I have to look for his successor. It has been Hell; so many have come up with amazing promise, only to go on the rocks. ... But—now here is where you have missed my point altogether—I do not think of you as lying on a grassy hillside with a lot of dear sweet lovely woolly lambs, capering to your flute! On the contrary. Your actual life, or 'blooding,' is the sort of initiation which I regard as the first essential for a Caliph. For—say 20 years hence the Outer Head of the Order must, among other things, have had the experience of war as it is in actual fact to-day.
No evidence has been found that Crowley referred to any other person as Caliph other than Germer and McMurtry. After the passing of McMurtry in 1985, the next and current Caliph is Hymenaeus Beta.
Because of this title, many refer to Ordo Templi Orientis as the "Caliphate O.T.O." to draw a distinction from other organizations who are not successors of Aleister Crowley's Order, but who have taken the name "O.T.O."
- Graeb, James. (2000). Caliph or Khalifa—Spelling is Defunct? (http://www.rahoorkhuit.net/ota/jgraeb/caliph_or_khalifa.html). Retrieved July 19, 2005.
- Wikipedia. (2005). Caliph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliph). Retrieved July 19, 2005.
- Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. (2005). Caliphate (http://www.bartleby.com/65/ca/caliphat.html).