Recently, an excerpt from Surak’s teachings appeared in a publication commemorating the first 150 years of the United Federation of Planets. The selection is included as a sample of Vulcan philosophy and as an artifact of interest from one of the founding worlds. While the translation into Federation Standard English is satisfactory, the opening commentary is insufficient in detail to adequately introduce non-Vulcans to Surak’s writings. I would like to expand on and clarify that introduction here.
The journal entry featured in Federation: The First 150 Years is from a selection of writings typically referred to as The Logic of the The Forge, dating to the year 312 when Surak was 33 standard Vulcan years old. The entry is part of the Awakening phase of his life, after his family was killed and he lost his best friend Senet in the Sudocian Wars. While he took refuge in various part of Shi’Kahr, he was captured and tortured – not behind enemy lines – but by Shi’alan officials who believed he possessed military intelligence that would aid them in pinpointing the location of the mindlord Sudoc. Sudoc’s strikes on the region of Shi’al, and in particular the city of Shi’Kahr were Surak lived, were vicious and unrelenting. Shi’alan military officials sought to end the war by infiltrating Sudoc’s compound and executing the warlord. Sudoc knew they were getting close. Days earlier, his mind-controlled assassins penetrated Shi’Kahr and slaughtered several of its top-ranking officers, including General Solek, Surak’s father, and their households.
When they brought Surak in for questioning, they found him wandering the streets in a state of shock. He’d been out with his friends – one of whom was Senet – when Surak’s family was murdered. His confusion only increased when officials began interrogating him about his defection from the army. They accused him of desertion and, therefore, treason. They accused him of orchestrating his family’s murder. Surak, they said, deserted his position in the Shi’alan army and killed his own family because he was under the influence of Sudoc’s psychic powers. Stunned, Surak invoked the right of privilege. In those days, the sons and daughters of the wealthy were spared from the draft. Only a handful these young people freely chose to enter military service, preferring instead days of leisure. Surak was no exception and spent his youth enjoying games of strategy and debating the finer points of philosophy with a close circle of friends.
General Solek was so embarrassed by Surak’s lack of patriotism that he created a complete forgery of records detailing his son’s distinguished career in the army. Hence, the officials’ confusion and the comment in the aforementioned introduction: “The Vulcan philosopher Surak grew up in a world plagued by war and on the edge of self-destruction. As a young man, he fought in those wars in the infantry; he attributed much of his later philosophy to the changes he underwent during his ordeal.”
This last statement is undeniably true. In his journal, Surak wrote: “Vesht nam-tor nash-veh has-bosh fna’mesh; Nekal nash-veh agreibaya t’au, vesht tan-tor na’au ek’ro’fori ik psal au. I was sick over my humiliation; I had succumbed to their torture, given them all the information they had sought….” In passages preceding the one quoted here, Surak described the nature of the information he had given the authorities and how that revelation affected him.
“I did have the information they sought,” he wrote, “for I had touched my father as he lay dying and saw it in his mind. I saw his hopes and his fears. I knew where Sudoc hid. I knew where all his wives and children were. I knew where his generals were, and all their wives and children. My father had learned their location through his operatives, who were also killed that night – before any of that intelligence could be utilized. With a few cowardly words, I sentenced them all to death.”
Later, when Surak began teaching peace and compassion in the crowded markets, he was often asked, “Why did you not rejoice at this information and give it eagerly? Here was your chance to destroy the man who destroyed your family and countless others.” Surak replied, “Does the destruction of the man who destroyed my family elevate me above him? Does the destruction of innocents for the sake of his execution absolve my conscience of the blood that has been spilled due to my words? Will not the survivors in his compound wish to retaliate? When will it end?”
Although Sudoc escaped the storming of his compound, the majority of his family was killed. During the raid, Surak managed to flee his cell and escaped through a series of tunnels into the neighboring kingdom of Lhai where he wandered the Forge for days until the search parties thought him dead.
In this journal entry, Surak wrote, “Katal nahp pa’svik mesh, heh vesht fai-tor hash-veh ta worla kupi hal-tor nash-veh na’ha-kel. The thought of my betrayal brought guilt, and I knew I could never go home.” The betrayal he speaks of here is not only the betrayal of his close circle of friends but also the betrayal of self. At that point in his life, his friends had become his family, and during his incarceration, he had revealed their whereabouts through the pain of torture. They were all charged with sedition and wanted for questioning. But most of all, Surak was troubled by his betrayal of his own morals. By giving into his emotions and the pain, he failed to stand by his convictions, he later said.
One of the most interesting segments of this entry is Surak’s confession that he broke one of Vulcan’s ancient taboos. After he had wandered in the Forge for several days without food and water, he was awoken by a scout craft flying dangerously low overhead. Moments later, he witnessed its crash and ran to the crumpled fuselage to check for survivors. He pulled the bodies of two pilots – both dead – from the wreckage and searched the craft for survival rations and water but found none. “Thirst was overcoming me,” he wrote, “and I thought…I could drink their blood. It would allow me to survive. My religious upbringing considered this a violation of sacred law. If I did this and was discovered, I would be an outcast, I would be tried and executed.”
Surak sat with the bodies for a long time, thirst and uncertainty gnawing at his mind. He thought of his home and his family of friends. He struggled to find meaning in his life and why he even might want to continue living. He thought of all the emotional states that had brought him to this place, that had brought all of Vulcan to this place, and began to formulate his renowned treatise on fear. The elimination of fear, he believed, was the key. He concluded, “Vesht pla-ash-tor nash-veh s’riklopaya; u’samu-esh, khal ozhika eh vesht var-tor ozhika nash-veh rish-tor. Vesht mon-tor nash-veh plak, visolektal nash-veh vukhutlar heh fa’lefator nash-veh. I stepped back from my indecision; like a cool breath, logic took over and told me to survive. I drank the blood, buried the bodies, and continued on.”
Surak’s treatise on fear remains to this day one of the most influential pieces of Vulcan literature.
While copyright restrictions prevent me from posting the FSE translation of Surak’s journal entry, here is the original in Traditional Golic Vulcan: Ozhika t’ah’Hrak