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Highest of Hills

In the Old York Lectures was the following passage: "Before we had the convenience of such well-formed Lodges, the Brethren used to meet on the highest of hills and in the lowest of valleys. And if they were asked why they met so high, so low, and so very secret, they replied the better to see and observe all that might ascend or descend; and in case a Cowan should appear, the Tiler might give timely notice to the Worshipful Master, by which means the Lodge might be closed, the jewels put by, thereby preventing any unlawful intrusion." In commenting on this, Doctor Oliver (Landmarks I, page 319) says: "Amongst other observances which were common to both the true and spurious Freemasonry, we find the practice of per forming commemorative rites on the highest of hills and in the lowest of valleys. This practice was in high esteem amongst all the inhabitants of the ancient world, from a fixed persuasion that the summit of mountains made a nearer approach to the celestial deities, and the valley or holy cavern to the infernal and submarine gods than the level country; and that, therefore, the prayers of mortals were more likely to be heard in such situations." Hutchinson also says: "The highest hills and the lowest valleys were from the earliest times esteemed sacred, and it was supposed that the Spirit of God was peculiarly diffusive in those places."

The sentiment was expressed in the language of the earliest lectures of the eighteenth century, and is still retained, without change of words, in the lectures of the present day. But introduced, at first, undoubtedly with special reference to the ancient worship on high places, and the celebration of the mysteries in the caverns of initiation, it is now retained for the purpose of giving warning and instruction as to the necessity of security and secrecy in the performance of our mystical rites, and this is the reason assigned in the modern lectures. And, indeed, the notion of thus expressing the necessity of secrecy seems to have been early adopted, while that of the sacredness of these places was beginning to be lost sight of; for in a lecture of the middle of the eighteenth century, or earlier, it was said that "the Lodge stands Upon holy ground, or the highest hill or lowest vale, or in the Vale of Jehosophat, or any other secret place." The sacredness of the spot is, it is true, here adverted to, but there is an emphasis given to prentices secrecy.

This custom of meeting on the "highest hills and in the lowest valleys," says Brother E. E. Cawthorne, seems to have prevailed at Aberdeen, Scotland, for they say: "We ordain that no Lodge be holden within a dwelling-house where there is people living in it, but in the open fields, except it be ill weather, and then let a house be chosen that no person shall heir or see us." Also, "We ordain lykewayes that all entering prentices be entered in our ancient outfield Lodge in the mearnes in the Parish of Negg, at the Stonnies at the point of the Ness." It is also of interest that Montandon Lodge No. 22, Grand Lodge of Chile, was consecrated in November 1927, at Potrerillos, some ten thousand feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains and named after George Montandon, the constructing engineer who lost his life in building the railroad there in 1908. The Revisor is reminded of attending the consecration of a Masonic Lodge on the top floor of the pioneer skyscraper, the old Masonic Temple, later the Capitol building, a 355 foot structure, at Chicago, Illinois.

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