Why the High Degrees?

After joining the fraternity, a Master Mason soon discovers the amazing wealth of additional opportunities to learn about and to participate in Freemasonry. While there is no Masonic degree more important than that of Master Mason, there is a long tradition—almost as old as Freemasonry—of “high degrees” that expand upon and elaborate the teachings and lessons of the first three degrees. Enthusiastic Masons eager to learn and to participate more are prime candidates for Masonry beyond the Third Degree.
The Beginnings of “High Degree” Masonry
When the premier Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717, Freemasonry had only two degrees: Apprentice and Fellow/Master. It was not until some eight years later, in 1725, that we have evidence from a minute book of a distinct Third Degree, that of Master Mason—the first “high degree” added to the basic Masonic ceremonies. This addition to Masonic ritual was absolutely confirmed in 1730 with the publi- cation of Samuel Prichard’s exposé, Masonry Dissected, which gives the Master Mason Degree in full with many recognizable features. Thus the Master Mason Degree began a tradition of “high degrees” that expanded upon the legends of and added greater philosophical depth to Masonry 

Like so much early Masonic history, the origins of degrees beyond the Third are hidden...