The chapter degrees of the Rose Croix are not only consistent in teaching absolute truths to all those who receive them, but also reinforces the very notion of universality itself in its underlying themes:
All the emblems, forms and ceremonies of Masonry are symbolical of great primitive truths, which each one is at liberty to interpret in accordance with his own faith. (Pike, 1857)
Here in the Southern Jurisdiction, good men of every race and every religious faith can receive all the Degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry. All our Degrees illuminate the mind and inculcate the virtues with but one object in view: the fraternal union of all good men working together for the benefit of the human race. (Hoyos, 2009)
In the 15th degree, King Cyrus frees Zerubbabel and the Hebrews from their Babylonian captivity, and grants them liberty of passage to the West so they may rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. The bridge with the initials L.D.P. represent this, but also symbolizes freedom of thought and religion (liberté de penser), which a Knight of the East should always defend.
To freedom of thought, freedom of the conscience, political, and religious liberty, the Knights of the East of old were devoted. The eagle is the symbol of liberty as the bridge spanning the stream is a symbol of the passage of an individual or a people from slavery to freedom, from servitude and subjugation to independence and nationality, from spiritual bondage to spiritual liberty. (Hoyos, 2009)
In the 16th degree, the temple is completed, but not without its frustrations. As Princes of Jerusalem, we’re not building a physical temple, but rather a symbolic one, not only in our hearts but also throughout the world as a universal philosophy.
WE no longer expect to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. To us it has become but a symbol. To us the whole world is God’s Temple, as is every upright heart. To establish all over the world the New Law and Reign of Love, Peace, Charity, and Toleration, is to build that Temple, most acceptable to God, in erecting which Masonry is now engaged. (Pike, 1872)
The pursuit of Masonry is to build the Symbolic Temple all over the world. To follow the path of Masonic Truth is to understand that the action of life is the arena for spiritual and moral improvement because all of life and the world is spiritual and moral. (Hutchens, 2006)
The remaining chapter degrees are less historical and more philosophical.
In the 17th degree, the candidate, who is weary of existing philosophies, repents and is baptized as a Knight of the East and West in order to prepare for the apocalypse, and in the end conquers and triumphs over evil. We are taught that the ancient religions of the East and West all contain the same basic truths: God is great, and good will ultimately prevail.
All the barriers that had formerly kept the nations apart, were thrown down; and while the People of the West readily connected their faith with those of the East, those of the Orient hastened to learn the traditions of Rome and the legends of Athens.
The Apocalypse or Revelations, by whomever written, belongs to the Orient and to extreme antiquity. It reproduces what is far older than itself. It paints, with the strongest colors that the Oriental genius ever employed, the closing scenes of the great struggle of Light, and Truth, and Good, against Darkness, Error, and Evil; personified in that between the New Religion on one side, and Paganism and Judaism on the other. The ideas and imagery are borrowed from every quarter; and allusions are found in it to the doctrines of all ages. (Pike, 1872)
The great truths comes from the Zend – Avesta of the Persians, the Vedas of the Hindus, the writings of Plato and Pythagoras, from the ancient countries of Phoenicia, Syria, Greece and Egypt and from the Holy Books of the Jews. Masonry gleaned the truth from the error in these ancient doctrines and continues to pass it on. They are very simple and sublime lessons: God is one, immutable, unchangeable, infinitely just and good; light will finally overcome darkness, good conquer evil, and truth be victor over error. (Hutchens, 2006)
Finally, in the 18th degree, in searching for the Lost Word, the candidate ponders how to reconcile the existence of evil, and discovers the New Law of Love. At this particular juncture, we already understand that the symbols and lessons presented to us are not only truths to those who originally perceived them, but as absolute truths can also be applied to our own beliefs. We are also reminded of those universal virtues first introduced to us as Entered Apprentices; that faith begins where reason ends, that hope enables us to overcome evil, and that charity teaches us to be tolerant of other’s beliefs.
If anywhere brethren of a particular religious belief have been excluded from this degree, it merely shows how gravely the plans and purposes of Masonry may be misunderstood; for whenever the door of any one degree is closed against him who believes in one God and the soul’s immortality, on account of the other tenets of his faith, that degree is no longer Masonry, which is universal, but some other thing, that is exclusive, and accordingly Intolerant. (McClenachan, 1884)
If any see in it a type of the peculiar mysteries of any faith or creed, or an allusion to any past occurrences, it is their right to do so. Let each apply its symbols as he pleases. To all of us they typify the universal rule of Masonry,–of its three chief virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity; of brotherly love and universal benevolence. We labor here to no other end. These symbols need no other interpretation.
When, lo, a voice, in the inconsiderable Roman Province of Judea proclaims a new Gospel–a new “God’s Word,” to crushed, suffering, bleeding humanity. Liberty of Thought, Equality of all men in the eye of God, universal Fraternity! a new doctrine, a new religion; the old Primitive Truth uttered once again! (Pike, 1872)
Men of all creeds can be accepted as Knights of the Rose Croix, equipped with these universal truths, to practice virtue in order to defeat evil.
Alleau, René: La science des symboles, Payot, 1976.
Arturo de Hoyos, Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide, 2nd ed., 2009
Rex R. Hutchens, A Bridge to Light: A Study in Masonic Ritual & Philosophy, 3rd edition, 2006
Koltko-Rivera, Mark E. (2009). Clue #18: The Christogram “INRI”. New York.
Kulshrestha, Abhijita. (2013). The Mystical Tetractys. Karnataka, India
Lindgren, Carl Edwin, The way of the Rose Cross; A Historical Perception, 1614–1620. Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, Volume 18, Number 3:141–48. 1995.
McClenachan, Charles T. (1884). Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. New York: Masonic Publishing Co.
Pike, Albert: The Magnum Opus or Great Work, 1857 (reprint by Kessinger, Kila, MT, USA 1992).
Pike, Albert. (1872). Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Charleston, SC.
The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century 1590-1710, by David Stevenson (Cambridge University Press, 1988) xvii, 246 pages, index.
Zeldis, Leon. (2008). An Esoteric View of the Rose-Croix Degree. Herzliya, Israel.