Soon after organised Speculative Masonry appeared in the eighteenth century as a three degrees Craft, some members started to think about additional degrees. The French Masons were very imaginative in this field. They had received Speculative Masonry from England and returned it, later on, with many innovations and additions. They invented new rites, allegedly of Scottish origin, that were well received in England. Some of the innovations were interesting and told attractive stories, replete with rich symbolism and with clear Christian references. The “Moderns” did not approve these innovations at first but the “Antients” adopted them without hesitation. As a result most British Knight Templar or Chevalier Rose-Croix were generally scions of “Antients” Craft Masonry.
The additional degrees are known as the “higher degrees” but this is not really fair to the pure, ancient Masonry, since the highest should be those that are the oldest. The Grand Lodge of England, and of all English speaking countries, recognises the three Craft Degrees and, generally, the Royal Arch and Mark Masonry. All the other degrees are classified as “additional or side” degrees, the Knights Templar and the Rose-Croix occupying honoured and exceptional places.
Brethren, in general, agree that most better known and important additional degrees possess special and peculiar value, and that they contain elements that throw a revealing light on the symbolic content of the fundamental Craft degrees. (12)