The Fifteenth Degree is the first Degree of the Rose Croix, and the leading lesson is fidelity to obligations and constancy under difficulty. Masonry carries on a war against ignorance, intolerance and error. The chief stumbling blocks on the way to success in this crusade are the indifference of its own members and the world. Masonry teaches that God is paternal, having concern for each individual, for each individual soul is an emanation from Him, made for good and not for evil. We must, therefore, persevere even as the ancient Brethren have done, notwithstanding all obstacles. We must resist temptation and be upright and virtuous, assisting in God's great plan for the eternal salvation of the universe. We must pass through the darkness to reach the Light.
The story of the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem is of peculiar interest to Masons, and while we no longer plan to rebuild it, yet its story ever conveys to us the thought that the world and every noble heart is God's Temple, and we should labor to establish the reign of love and peace, thus building a lasting temple to God. The trowel is the emblem of this Degree, teaching Masons the ennobling effect of honest labor. The work of the soul, developing the virtue of patience and gentleness ought to be as important to us as earning our daily bread. The beauty of Love, charm of Friendship, the sacredness of Sorrow, the heroism of Patience, the nobleness of Sacrifice, make life to be life indeed, and we are its grandeur and power. They are the priceless treasures and glory of humanity.
The story of Cyrus and the adventures of Darius form one of the most interesting and fascinating chapters in the history of the Persian Empire. They are rich in tradition and clouded in fable, and yet Scriptural and historical reference to their deeds and exploits entitle them to a position among the empire builders of Persia - men with vision and foresight, whose efforts at conquest and attempts at the liberation of oppressed peoples seem to have been divinely authorized. It is upon these epochs in Persian history that the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Degrees are founded, and the lessons in the ritual are drawn from events that transpired during the lives of Cyrus and Darius.
This is the first of the Philosophical Degrees which penetrate the inner mysteries of Masonry. In all times truth has been concealed in symbols. At the time of John the Baptist, all the ancient philosophical and religious doctrines became intermingled on account of the various conquests which brought the nations together. John, who taught some creed older than Christianity, must have belonged to a sect of the Essenes, which was very similar to Christianity. It is from the Essenes that this Degree is sprung. The Essenes believed that Truth was scattered throughout the world among different sects. They believed it the duty of every man to gather these fragments of divine revelation into a harmonious whole to be used in spreading the right thinking and right living among mankind. Thus, they combine the thought of the Orient and the Occident, from which fact we draw the name of this Degree.
The ceremonies of this Degree are interpreted by each individual according to his own faith for in no other way can Masonry retain its universal character. To all antiquity, Light was the type of Good while Darkness was Evil. Evil was a principle represented in demons and fallen angels, who first having fallen themselves, tempted others to do so, thus bringing sin into the world. The future life was to be obtained by purification and suffering, through the Redeemer who would overcome Evil. The belief was general that He was to be born of a virgin and suffer death. The Cross has been a sacred symbol of earliest antiquity among many nations, with various meanings. In this degree its interpretation was taken from the Egyptian hieroglyphic for life emananting from Deity, the eternal life for which we all hope. The Rose is the symbol of dawn, of the resurrection of life. Together the Rose and Cross represent the dawn of eternal life. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is a pure Morality. All that teaches the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere. Masonry also has her mission to perform. With her traditions reaching back to the earliest times, and her symbols dating further back than even the monumental history of Egypt extends, she invites all men of all religions to enlist under her banners and to war against evil, ignorance and wrong.