The image of the valley carries with it the promise of fertile lands, exaggerated activity and a safe haven for human life. Furthermore, this sanctified geographical womb implies an invitation into sexuality, love and ultimately, family. All in all, we seem to be witnessing a desirable and secure plain of existence. However, the reality of the valley is divided by the mountain dwellers who were perhaps removed from the fertile plain or simply denied unmolested entry, due to a lack of force or social standing. In this sense, we find the archetype of the valley of shadows and the biblical terminology of the valley of death (into which 600 men rode and alas, never returned).
In the dream interpretation, we may need to determine whether or not the valley is in fact desirable and/or safe for our entry. In turn, we find the complexity of this dualistic dream image narrowing down to its minute individual components. As such, every tree, fruit and resource in general obtained in the dale, glen or vale, may be beneficial and fulfilling to our well being, or conversely, poisonous, rotten or barren of any prospect of vitality, whatsoever. Hence the term, ‘How green is your valley?’
While in Sufism valleys are the equivalent of spiritual ways or means of passage, as in Attar’s Seven Valleys, they were above all familiar symbols to Taoists. In the first place, valleys are empty and open to receive celestial influences from above (Tao: 15). Valleys are hollows and channels into which the waters streaming down their sides must of necessity flow. To become a point of convergence, the ‘Valley of the Empire’, the ruler and sage must adopt a lower level in humility and non-action (Tao: 28, 66). The ‘Spirit of the Valley’ (kuchen, ibid. 6) provides an inexhaustible subject for interpretation. Wieger regards it as the spirit in the Celestial Valley, ‘an expansive, transcendent power in middle space’, the world between Heaven and Earth. It may also be the primordial vibration in the cavern of the heart, where emptiness makes its home. It is also the descent of the spirit into the ‘lower fields of cinnabar’ in which the Embryo of Immortality (Yang Chang) is conceived through the process of internal alchemy. On the other hand, esoteric recipes for longevity regard it as the life-giving spirit which must be derived from the ‘deep valley’ of the female partner (liesien chuang). Whatever the precise explanation, each interpretation embraces the same notion of receptacle, hollow and void. The ‘Deep Valley’ is also the pass which Yin Hi guarded and through which Lao Tzu went to reach the primordial spiritual centre.
In Ancient China, it was believed that at the eastern and western extremities of the Earth there were valleys from which the Sun rose and into which it set at either end of its visible transit.
Valleys are the symbolic complements of mountains, just as the yin is the complement of the yang. Richard of St Victor remarks that the Ark of the Covenant was revealed to Moses first upon a mountain-top and then in a valley, where the extraordinary revelation given on the peak became a familar part of normality. The heights of contemplation give place to the descent of the divine presence.
The Valley of the Kings, to the northwest of Thebes, with its cliffs, screes and wadis, may be taken as ‘symbolising the Egyptian conception of universal harmony, which vibrates but does not move’. The valley with its closely guarded tombs stood for the royal road to immortality.
Valleys are and symbolize the places for fecundating change, where Earth and the waters of Heaven come together to provide rich harvests and where the human soul and God’s grace unite to produce mystic revelation and ecstasy.
However, he or she who ‘glories in the valleys’, forgetting that their wealth is due to God, should beware (Jeremiah 49: 4). Such a casual attitude is like the soil saying it no longer needs watering. All valley symbolism concentrates upon this fecundating marriage of opposing forces in the synthesis of opposites at the heart of the integrated personality.