The Red Cross of Babylon was one of the four Ceremonies which the Grand Council originally took under its control. This, the most profoundly mystical of the Allied Masonic Degrees, is of considerable antiquity. Its three Parts or Points have descended from three of the degrees of Rites worked in the mid-eighteenth century. The Tragedy at the building of King Solomon's Temple, described in the Third Degree of the Craft, had inspired the compilers of all those Rites to include a series of degrees connected with the building of the Second Temple as an allegory of life. In each series the scene is set partly in Babylon and partly in Jerusalem, but, wherever the series begins or ends, there is in the middle a short but important episode of crossing a bridge over a river.
The old title of this Degree under the Chapter of Clermont was "Knight of the Eagle". The members were afterwards known as "Knights of the Sword" and as "Knights of the Red Cross of Palestine". In the Baldwyn Rite at Bristol the Degree is worked under the title "Knights of the East, Sword and Eagle".
As now worked, the Degree is in some
respects similar to, but separate and distinct from, the 15th, 16th and 17th Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, which does not include the Royal Arch. It is akin to
the 33rd Degree of the Irish Early Grand Rite (Prince Mason), which incidentally is placed after the Knight Templar Degree, except that in the Irish Rite Zerubbabel
returns to Jerusalem for investiture: this points to the Degree having been regarded as a Masonic Order of Knighthood.
In Ireland also, except in the Early Grand Rite, the Red Cross of Babylon was at one time worked as a preliminary to the Knight Templar Degree, sometimes under the title "Red Cross of Daniel". Possibly owing to competition with the Early Grand Rite the Degree became almost extinct, but it was revived in 1925 by the Grand Council of Knight Masons. The Degree of the Red Cross of Babylon teaches us to keep inviolate our Masonic secrets and to withstand all temptations to reveal them, however profitable those temptations may be. It emphasises the importance of Fidelity, Integrity and Truth. Esoterically it is symbolic of the passage of an upright man from struggles overcome in this world to well-earned honour in the next. A candidate in this Degree is said to be "constituted and created a Knight of the Red Cross of Babylon.
The Regalia traditionally worn in this Degree consists only of a Jewel, in the form of a seven-pointed star having in the centre gold crossed swords on a green enamel circle. In modern practice this jewel is worn on the breast suspended by a green ribbon.