Vale or Valley
The vale or valle or vally was introduced at an early period into the symbolism of Freemasonry. A catechism of the beginning of the eighteenth century says that "the Lodge stands upon holy ground, or the highest hill or lowest vale, or in the vale of Jehoshaphat, or any other secret place." And Browne, who in the beginning of the nineteenth century gave a correct version of the Prestonian lectures, says that "our ancient Brethren met on the highest hills, the lowest dales, even in the valley of Jehoshaphat, or some such secret place."
Hutchinson (see Spirit of Masonry, page 94) has dilated on this Subject, but with a mistaken view of the true import of the symbol. He says: " We place the spiritual Lodge in the vale of Jehoshaphat, implying thereby that the principles of Masonry are derived from the knowledge of God, and are established in the judgment of the Lord." And he adds: "The highest hills and lowest valleys were from the earliest times esteemed sacred, and it was supposed the spirit of God was peculiarly diffusive in those places . " It is true that worship in high places was an ancient idolatrous usage. But there is no evidence that the superstition extended to valleys. Hutchinson's subsequent reference to the Druidical and Oriental worship in groves has no bearing on the subject, for groves are not necessarily valleys. The particular reference to the valley of Jehoshaphat would seem in that case to carry an allusion to the peculiar sanctity of that, spot, as meaning, in the original, the valley of the judgment of God. But the fact is that the old Freemasons did not derive their idea that the Lodge was situated in a valley from any idolatrous practice of the ancients.
Valleys in our Freemasonry, is a symbol of secrecy. And although we are not disposed to believe that the use of the word in this sense was borrowed from any meaning which it had in Hebrew, yet it is a singular coincidence that the Hebrew word for valley, gnemeth, Signifies also deep, or, as Bate (Critica Hebraea) defines it, "whatever lies remote from sight, as counsels and designs which are deep or close." This very word is used in Job (xii, 22) where it is said that God "discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death."
The Lodge, therefore, is said to he placed in a valley because, the valley being the symbol of secrecy, it is intended to indicate the secrecy in which the acts of the Lodge should be concealed. And this interpretation agrees precisely with what is said in the passages already cited, where the Lodge is said to stand in the lowest vale "or any secret place." It is Supported also by the present instructions in the United States. the ideas of which at least Webb derived from Preston. It is there taught that our ancient brethren met on the highest hills and lowest vales, the better to observe the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, and to guard against surprise (see Valley).
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