The traditional character for Kolinahr in the Zun script. For more info, visit korsaya.org.
Offworlders, especially humans, have always been curious about Vulcan ritual, discipline, and emotional control. Questions come in many forms but invariably culminate in the same topic – Tu-Kolinahr, “The Way of Kolinahr.” Those who aren’t familiar with the discipline ask, “What is Kolinahr?” Others who have read or heard about it wonder, “Why would you want to purge yourself of all emotion? How is that even possible?”
Although I cannot claim to have achieved this enlightened state, I shall do my best to answer these questions here.
Kolinahr is an advanced Vulcan discipline that results in a state of complete emotional stability. More specifically, the need to control one’s emotions no longer exists because one has learned to block all emotional reactions to both external and internal stimuli. The greatest threat from external stimuli comes from the volatile emotions of others. Vulcans are empathic and therefore highly sensitive to the emotions of others, particularly other Vulcans. The depth and range of emotions that Vulcans feel are far greater that that of any other known species, even humans. Vulcans also have a very low threshold to pain due to highly developed neural pathways. It is for these reasons that the Vulcan child is taught from a very early age techniques to control the emotions and to develop a high tolerance to pain. As Surak has taught us, these steps are necessary to ensure the survival of the species. Surak nearly witnessed the extinction of the Vulcan species by its own hands but was able to instigate an awakening, a gradual enlightenment, through mindfulness and logic. But Surak did not create the Way of Kolinahr. That distinction belongs to a man named Sanshiin, who lived from 319-596, and was one of the first Kolinahru mindlords to accept the teachings of Surak. “While other paths seek to repress emotion, Kolinahr attempts to rid the mind and soul of every passion, be it joyful or wrathful, one by one, using the process known as t’san s’at, every emotion is mentally deconstructed and purged from the psyche, leaving only the Vulcan’s intellect.”1
Sanshiin is often quoted as saying, “I shall become as the stone.” What did he mean by this? When he was a cruel mindlord, he was preoccupied with the attainment of immortality. He noted that millions of Vulcans were born, lived, and died while the rocks of Mount Kolinahr remained unchanged over thousands of years. Later, as a follower of Surak, he remembered the strength and endurance of the stone in withstanding the tide of time. He built a demanding discipline for the Vulcan to withstand the tide of emotion. It is interesting to note that the Terran duo Simon and Garfunkel expressed this sentiment in the song I Am a Rock: “A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” Regrettably, the protagonist of the song would not be admitted to the discipline of Kolinahr, for it is not used to dull the senses or to escape unpleasant feelings. Kolinahr is not the building up of walls but rather it is concerned with breaking them down until there is no need for walls.
For many, the life of a Kolinahr master seems like a lonely existence – cold and flat, devoid of the color and richness of feeling. “One might as well be dead,” an Andorian once said to me. Although the analysis is crude, it is not entirely inaccurate. “Sanshiin taught that all emotion was a trick to keep us from seeing the universe as it truly was. Once emotion was cast away, a Vulcan would be one with all creation.”2 To achieve Kolinahr, one must essentially die and be reborn. This of course is not a physical death of the body or mind but of what Surak called pach-te. “To explain pach-te as ‘selfishness’ is simplifying Surak’s philosophy, but it’s a good start. Once the student has freed himself from pach-te, his will cease to be concerned with himself, focusing all of his concern on the welfare of others.”3
Kolinahr, then, is the ceasing of all distinctions between the self and the outside world. Because emotion is a form of expression, the Kolinahr master has no need of it. Instead, s/he has established an interconnectedness with the universe – an understanding that goes beyond words, feeling, and even thought. Very few Vulcans reach this state, except in death, when the katra is released from the body.
At present, there are three places on Vulcan where one may petition the elders to enter the Way of Kolinahr: The Kolinahru Monastery in Gol, the Akrelt Refuge in Gol, and the Riakin Sanctuary in Zhial. Of those who petition, very few are admitted. Those who are devote years to special training and ritual instruction to prepare themselves for a new way of life.
The following dialogue demonstrates the ritual words of petition and acceptance or denial:
Trensu: Bai’ra lof sarlah du na’[Kolinahru, Akrelt, Riakin].
Orensu: Sarlah nash-veh vaya’akas-tor vikal na’ Kolinahr. [Fi’oslauvoskaf nam-tor kihsev t’Kol-Ut-Shan, sehtebihk t’Kolinahr, oshi t’katra, eh ha’fek].
Trensu: [i’shitau ha’gel na’ha’fek] Ne’limuk-saudaya t’T’Klass, vesht nam-tor veh wuh’rak t’trensular t’Kolinahr, svi’la’es t’aifa-za-vellar vokau ik vesht vuhrgwauk t’ek’Vuhlkansular, svi’nash-shi puabru-tor s’orfikkel svi’ma’os-wak, tan’voh na’nash-veh vaya’akas.
Orensu: Fi’mazhiv t’panu t’etek, vesht dakh orfikkel aushfamaluhr shau-kaush heh korsoval vun-koshtri bai’aktaibuhl t’kolinahr. Nam-tor ish-veh ik psau nash-veh. Tor nash-veh vaya’akas na’tu eh ya’akash t’du kakhartau nash-veh du’psthan.
Trensu: Zhu-tor nash-veh ra ya’akash du.
Master: For what purpose do you come to [Kolinahru, Akrelt, Riakin]?
Aspirant: I come to petition for my admission to the Kolinahr. [Upon the altar are an IDIC pendant, a symbol of Kolinahr, a katric ark, and a candle].
Master: [lighting the candle] Beneath the visage of T’Klass, one of the first Kolinahr masters, in the presence of these relics that recall the shared past of all Vulcans, in this place raised by our forbearers in antiquity, make your petition.
Aspirant: On the sands of our world, our ancestors cast out their animal passions, saving our race by the attainment of Kolinahr. It is that which I seek. I make my petition to you, asking you to guide me in my quest.
Master: I hear what you ask.4
As mentioned previously, more often than not, the aspirant will be denied, deemed unready for admittance. S/he, then, will hear these words:
Trensu: [i’sayonotau ha’fek fi’oslauvoskaf] [Ahm t’orensu], kan t’[ahm t’sa-mekh], kan t’[ahm t’sa-mekh t’sa’mekh], puwafau vaya’akas t’du na’Kolinahr.
Master: [extinguishing the candle on the altar] [Name of aspirant], child of [name of father], child of [name of father’s father], your petition for the Kolinahr is denied.5
If the applicant is considered ready to enter the Kolinahr, the aspirant is taken to the cell that will serve as his/her quarters and asked to light the wall sconce within. The following exchange occurs as part of the ritual:
Trensu: [Ahm t’orensu], kan t’[ahm t’sa-mekh], kan t’[ahm t’sa-mekh t’sa’mekh],punar-tor vaya’akas t’du na’kolinahr.
Orensu: Pudorlik nash-veh.
Trensu: Na’palikaya t’fa’gad, fa-wak ha’au tu la abi’veh-il-vath navau il vravshau tu svi’psthan. Fa-wak palikau ish-veh fa-gad na’gad-keshtan. Lau-katau tu ra fisai-tor du eh wuh-rubah t’sai-vel. Fa-wak putanilau ek’vath-vellar na’tu.
Master: [Name of aspirant], child of [name of father], child of [name of father’s father], your petition for the Kolinahr is accepted.
Aspirant: I am honored.
Master: Beginning tomorrow, you will live here until either you succeed or you fail in your quest. It will commence tomorrow at dawn. You may bring what you wear and a single change of clothing. All else will be provided for you.6
If after an intense regimen of training, discipline, and tests, the aspirant is able to transcend all emotions to a heightened state of understanding, the final ceremony is conducted by the master and two other elders, who act as witnesses. Since it is a private matter, there is no audience in attendance, and the ritual is conducted on sacred ground – in a place of stone, water, and fire. The applicant descends steps—carved out of stone and bearing ancient glyphs – and kneels upon the stone in a designated place. S/he waits, head down, with hands folded in meditation. At last the master speaks from the steps above.
Trensu: Shahtau la halovaya ta ki’nem-tor etek teretuhr, fulagan nash-orensu, fi’mazhiv wilat vesht dakh orfikkel aushfamaluhr shau-kaush. Na’nash-wadan, fi’nash-gad, psau etek rom’lasha orensu silau etek svi’panu t’ozhika. Panu svi’ik ki’pufoshuhl zherka, eh spanakau drom-ozhika ek ta nam-tor etek heh ek ta tor etek. [na’dahr-trensu] Trensu [ahm t’trensu], fa-wak to-go-rasathau wuh’rak tu.
Dahr-Trensu: Fa-wak to-go-rasathau wuh’rak nash-veh, Trensu [ahm t’trensu]. [Afer-tor dahr-trensu kash-nohv k’orensu. Na’shahtaya t’kash-nohv, fun-tor dahr-trensu nem-tor shi na’vla los-rak t’Trensu].
Trensu: [na’rehr-trensu] Trensu [ahm t’trensu], fa-wak to-go-rasathau thurai tu.
Rehr-Trensu: Fa-wak to-go-rasathau thurai nash-veh, Trensu [ahm t’trensu]. [Afer-tor rehr-trensu kash-nohv k’orensu. Na’shahtaya t’kash-nohv, fun-tor rehr-trensu nem-tor shi na’vla gas-rak t’Trensu].
Trensu: I’fa-wak to-go-rasathau nash-veh. [na’orensu] [Ahm t’orensu], shahtau la halovaya ta ki’nem-tor etek teretuhr. Ki’nam-tor du orensu tevun-yonuklar aifa-wehk, hi fa-wak shahtau ish isha. Nash-gad fa-wak srasha tu kolinahr il fa-wak ri srasha tu. Rinatyan na’kim-pavek, fa-wak trasha tu [ahm t’fmak] fa-gad heh fun-tor du na’ha’kiv rik’aifa-haishayalar ta ki’ya’akash du t’du-shai eh ta ki’khartal nash-veh.
Orensu: Ken-tor nash-veh, oTrensu. Pudator nash-veh.
Trensu: Nahp t’du i. Tan’voh au na’nash-veh. Kashek t’nash-veh na’kashek t’du. Nahp t’nash-veh na’nahp t’du. [Puashiv-tor torek t’kash-nohv. Lu pushahtau torek, fun-tor trensu na’shi fi’kaiden. She-tor orensu eh zahal-tor. Ashenau trensu el’ru gas-rak spo’ta’al. Fun-tor orensu ta’al heh sarlah lam-tor fa’trensu. Svi’vath-el’ru meskarau trensu eku t’khlop-thon-shidlar pukur-tor ik pununau teretuhr shidorau sehtebihk vuhlkansu t’drom-ozhika. Pa’talular fisai-tor trensular nash-sehtebihk fi’naf-elakh]. Vesht dakh orfikkel aushfamaluhr shau-kaush la fi’aifa-mazhiv.Pukorsau vuhn-koshtri bai’akteibhuhl t’kolinahr.
Rehr-Trensu: Kolinahr, bai’ik ek’zherka pufoshuhl t’forti.
Trensu: Ki’zup-tor du akarshif, [ahm t’orensu]. I’poprah’voh s’etek nash-sehtebihk t’ovsotuhl-ozhika. [Namal-nefau orensu eh shitau trensu naf-elakh leshan sehtebihk t’kolinahr pa’talu t’orensu]. Rom’lasha etek du vi’panu t’etek, [ahm t’orensu].
Oresnu: [na’ek’trensular] Naglanshau nash-veh tanlar ta ki’tor ek’dular na’nash-srashiv.
Master: The journey we have taken together, leading this aspirant, ends here, on the sands where our ancestors cast out their animal passions. At this hour, on this day, we seek to invite the aspirant to join us in a world of reason. A world in which emotion has been shed, and where pure logic dictates all that we are and all that we do. [to the Second Elder] Elder [name of elder], you will judge first.
Second Elder: I will judge first, Master [name of master]. [The Second Elder establishes a mind-meld with the aspirant. Upon the completion of the meld, the Second Elder returns to take his/her place at the Master’s left side].
Master: [to Third Elder] Elder [name of elder], you will judge next.
Third Elder: I will judge next, Master [name of master]. [The Third Elder establishes a mind-meld with the aspirant. Upon the completion of the meld, the Third Elder returns to take his/her place at the Master’s right side].
Master: I will now judge. [to the aspirant] [Name of aspirant], the journey we have taken together ends here. You have been an aspirant these many seasons, but that too will end. Today you will achieve the Kolinahr or you will not. Regardless of the outcome, you will depart [name of sanctuary] tomorrow and return to a life without these demands that you have asked of yourself and that I have directed.
Aspirant: I understand, Master. I am prepared.
Master: Your thoughts, then. Give them to me. My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts.7[The mind-meld process is repeated. When the process is finished, the master returns to the place on the stairs. The aspirant rises and follows. The master raises his/her right hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting. The aspirant returns the gesture and comes to stand before the master. In the other hand, the master holds a set of colored geometric shapes fitted together to form the Vulcan symbol of pure logic. Around their necks, the elders wear this symbol on a chain]. Our ancestors cast out their animal passions here on these sands. Our race was saved by the attainment of Kolinahr.
Third Elder: Kolinahr, through which all emotion is finally shed.
Master: You have labored long, [name of aspirant]. Now receive from us this symbol of total logic. [The aspirant kneels and the master places the chain bearing the Kolinahr symbol around the aspirant’s neck]. We welcome you into our world, [name of aspirant].
Aspirant:[to all the elders] I recognize the contributions all of you have made to this accomplishment.8
This is merely a fleeting glimpse at the private ritual surrounding the petition for and the attainment of Kolinahr. In future posts, we’ll consider the various practices and disciplines some individuals have followed along the path to Kolinahr.
1The way of Kolinahr: The Vulcans. (1998). Culver City, CA: Last Unicorn Games, p. 17.
3ibid, p. 15.
4George, David R. III (2006). The fire and the rose. (Crucible: Spock). New York: Pocket Books, p. 172-177.
5ibid, p. 177.
6ibid, p. 208.
7ibid, p. 315-137.
8ibid, p. 320-321.