Life of Surak

From Shupal’s Preface…

War Child

Much of what we know of Surak’s existence comes to us from legend and conjecture. Even the birth record of the child born to chemist and mathematician T’Leia and consultant Stef is missing from the Vulcan archives. While he was known to have lived with his parents in de’Khriv, the capital of the Lhai nation (Duane, 1988, p. 240), many citizens of Shi’Kahr claim he was born there. Since Surak was said to have been delivered via surgery, this claim is logical. At the time, de’Khriv was not known for its medical facilities, and it is likely that T’Leia would have travelled the short distance from the north to deliver her child under the care of a skilled surgeon. The journey would have necessitated crossing the border – one that was not in dispute but nonetheless frequently under attack.

Another legend that grew up around Surak’s birth is that da’Nikhirch – the Eye of Fire – blazed in the sky the night he was born and was visible beyond the curvature of T’Khut (Duane, 1988, p. 239). If this was indeed supernova K523.844, as scholars now believe, then Surak’s birth can be dated to 279 (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 19).

Few images of Surak survive but his likeness has been refined in countless artistic renderings. Physical descriptions of Surak vary, but all agree he stood out from the crowd. Karatek recognized him from “the cropped hair, lighter than the Vulcan norm; the thoughtful eyes that were the color of still water, deep-set in a face pale despite its exposure to the deep-desert sun, the fine features so in contrast with a warrior’s frame” (Sherman & Shwartz, 2004, p. 27). Another records, “He was a striking figure, even then, so young: very much the typical ‘Vulcan’ somatype, tall and lean and dark haired, with an unusually delicate face for the raw-boned body, and deepset eyes” (Duane, 1988, p. 241). Still others say that when Surak spent time in the desert sun, his hair would lighten and be threaded through with stands of gold.

One contradiction not easily reconciled is that of Surak’s paternity. He is recorded as being the son of both the consultant Stef of de’Khriv (Duane, 1998, p. 240) and of General Solek of Shi’Kahr (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 21). Some speculate that Surak was the son of Stef – a product of his mother T’Leia’s first bonding – but that Stef perished in the wars and T’Leia later bonded with Solek. Others will argue that he was the true son of Solek and that T’Leia later married Stef. What is known of Surak’s family life is that Surak and his father were estranged.

The Last War (258-331)

In 212, the warlord Sudoc rose to power in the city-state of Dzhaleyl (sometimes spelled Jaleyl in Federation Standard English), and his reign was a cruel one. Using mind-melds, he was able to control the tribes of his fanatic followers, until Dzhaleyl’s boarders stretched across the province of Na’nam to the gates of Shi’Kahr. Those who did not submit to Sudoc were slaughtered. Following the overthrow of each city, Sudoc would leave “a single survivor to travel to the next town with the following message: ‘Your rulers are responsible. They would rather see you dead than out of their control. Only they can stop this” (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 21).

It was into this environment of internecine war that Surak was born, lived, and died. The nation of Lhai was spared the brunt of Sudoc’s attacks, as his attention was drawn to Shi’Kahr. Whether Stef worked out of da’Khriv or Shi’Kahr is not known, but it is recorded that Surak worked as an accountant in his father’s firm until the age of 46, although some say he was only 33 when he left and that mathematics was his worst subject at the collegiums (Duane, 1988, p. 240).

As a young man, he was also something of a computer scientist and, being born to a family of privilege, was spared from participating in the military draft. After competing against the finest minds in Shi’Kahr, he was admitted to the collegiums of T’Plana-Hath, where he met and befriended Dzharok (or Jarok), who would become his greatest opponent in debate (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 15). He spent his time with a close group of friends in Shi’Kahr studying, debating philosophy, and engaging in traditional sports. Among his circle of friends were also Senet, Nirak, T’Mor, and Vethek. Dzharok, Nirak, and T’Mor – after many years of study with Surak – went on to found schools of their own, all based on Surak’s principles of logic but with modifications. It was Senet, however, who was the deepest of his friends and the greatest influence on his life.

On a night in 312, Surak’s life changed from one of privilege to one of reflection and later, service. Both his family and the family of Senet were slaughtered in an assassin’s raid on their homes. Senet was also the son of a general, a target of Sudoc’s terrorist attacks. Both Senet and Surak escaped the violence while they were out enjoying the company of their friends. Senet vowed revenge and enlisted in the army. He became a deadly commando operative but soon was killed in an ambush.

“The death of Senet was like an awakening call to Surak’s mind. He began to realize the futility of his rage and by extension the futility of this unending war. He began to write. As he wrote, his theories expanded – Surak began to realize that the sorrows endured by the Vulcan people were all due to excesses of emotion: rage, anguish, hatred” (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 21-22).

That same night, a test of a matter-antimatter weapon ravaged T’Khut as the planetoid rose to loom over war-torn Vulcan. Surak fled Shi’Kahr in an aircar and spent a night and day flying over the desert, lost to the anguish in his soul. “Death, it was all death…” he wrote. “Mount Seleya stood there dividing T’Khut’s brightness and darkness, one from the other. The image, or perhaps the mountain, seemed to say: Here is your choice. The light, or the darkness with its fires. It has always been your choice. It is late. Choose now” (Duane, 1988, p. 246).

He left the city for good and spent the next five years wandering in the desert by the shores of the sea before he returned to dwell in a small apartment not far from his parents’ house. It was then that he started to write for the Nets, slowly gathering a readership and a following. His debates with Dzharok were highly anticipated and drew the most comments. Surak soon proved himself to be not just a rebel philosopher but something of a poet. “When the first volume of his Analects had been published, it had sparked three riots and won two literary awards” (Sherman & Shwartz, 2004, p. 135).

At that time, Dzharok left Surak’s circle to meditate in the desert, but Surak and his followers continued their message of logic and emotional abstinence in the streets. Although 33.64 percent of the population stopped to listen, Surak’s group was heckled by many, pelted with spoiled fruit, and at one point, mobbed. Surak and several others were injured. While he recuperated, many came to see him – this “astonishing philosopher…a good listener with an unpredictable sense of humor…[who] conducted himself with such secret, joyful calm, as if he knew something that they didn’t, a delightful secret. Some of them later wrote that there was often a feeling about Surak as if someone else was in the room with him, even when he seemed alone” (Duane, 1988, p. 252).

Other Vulcans, like his father, were disgusted by Surak’s non-action and avoidance of the military service while thousands in Shi’Kahr died during his lifetime defending the city. How dare he advocate peace, they said, when he didn’t know what war was? Surak realized that words would not suffice. He would have to lead by example.

Four hundred and four Vulcans, over the course of seven years, followed his example, slipping behind enemy lines to deliver their message of peace and a better way of life. “Time after time a mysterious figure would appear in Sudoc’s camp and propose peace. Time after time, Sudoc ordered the speaker’s execution. Other followers of Surak spread out across the planet, preaching the new way. Vulcan legends speak of the Four Hundred and Four who died for peace, and many Masters still memorize the death speech of each one” (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 23).

It was at this time that Surak was said to have paid a visit to the Vulcan Space Initiative, which was then building warships for the Northeastern Alliance (Sherman & Shwartz, 2004, p. 63-77). He had hoped to persuade them to repurpose their research and production for peaceful means. In the end, the warships became generational ships that carried 85,974 Vulcans – the Sundered – into exile. The year of their exodus had been recorded as 369 (The Way of Kolinahr, 1998, p. 19).

The Circle is Broken

As with Surak’s life, the details of the end of his days are to be found in seemingly conflicting reports. The Father of Vulcan Logic is reported in one account to have died of radiation sickness during the final wars that led to Vulcan’s mass exodus (Bormanis, 2004) – being killed in the last battle (Enterprise: The Forge) – and, alternatively, to have been executed on the bloodstone of T’lingShar where thousands were executed and “the stone is always damp due to the amount of blood shed there” (Bonanno, 1985 p. 38-39). Surak’s execution was said to have been carried out by the Yhri faction. “Three-quarters of the nations had united thus far and asked Surak to deal peace with the Yhri faction, an international terrorist group that saw its business of pitting nation against nation being destroyed. They welcomed Surak graciously, then killed him. Over the next year, emissaries of various nations tried to deal peace with them and many died. Then the Yhri’s heart went out of them and they crumbled. They could not shake Surak’s influence or his forgiveness” (Duane, 1988, p. 256).

Depending on the time of these events, and assuming any took place, each account could potentially hold true without contradiction. The end of the Last War finally came with the death of Sudoc and his mind control in 331, with the Exodus of the Sundered following over the course of the next 38 years. Surak’s teaching gained widespread popularity but were vehemently opposed by the te-Vikram priest-kings, who clung to their ancient warrior ways (Sherman & Shwartz, 2004).


Bonanno, M. W. (1985). Dwellers in the crucible. New York: Pocket Books.

Bormanis, A. (Writer), & Dawson, R. (Director). (2004). Awakening [Television series episode]. In Star Trek: Enterprise. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures.

Duane, D. (1988). Spock’s world. New York: Pocket Books.

Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (2004). Exodus. New York: Pocket Books. (Star Trek: Vulcan’s Soul, Book 1).

Reeves-Stevens, J. & Reeves-Stevens, G. (Writers), & Grossman, M. (Director). (2004). The Forge [Television series episode]. In Star Trek: Enterprise. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures.

The Way of Kolinahr: the Vulcans. (1998). Culver City, CA: Last Unicorn Games.

Star Trek is owned by CBS/Paramount. Text Copyright Kerry A. FitzGerald 2011.

3 responses to “Life of Surak

  1. oSidzhan,
    I found this fascinating. I was wondering about the year referances. In one book it’s a six digit year like 133499, in Diane’s referance it’s three. How do VUlcans time keep, is there a specific period in history it “starts” like Terran B.C.E. and A.D. or merely starting from when writen langaue came about to present?
    pardon the question, I’m curious.

    dif tor-heh smusma

    • oT’Mynn,

      Time-keeping is a most fascinating subject, and yes, many cultures base their time-keeping on a specific “unifying” event in their history. It’s tempting to think that Vulcans might base their year references on the birth of Surak, but that’s not the case. And of course, like Earth, Vulcan consists of many different cultures, which undoubtedly use different time-keeping systems. This is the subject of an upcoming post, so I won’t spoil it by answering your question here — or, in other words, I’m still researching this. 😉

      Sochya eh dif,

      • oSidzhan,
        Makes logical sense. I’d figure the timereferancing would start after his teachings ‘took hold’. Since they’d caused a great deal of up heavel at the time. He must have really upset some people if there where riots. Fiesty people.

        Dif tor-heh smusma

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