To Understand without Knowing

Art by Jonliza Velox

Art by Jonliza Velox

Ken-tor rik’faiyan. The phrase comes from Dahr-Krus, or Part Two, of Surak’s Analects. In it, Surak considers the subject of epistemology, or how we know what we know. He wrestles through the systems of knowledge prominent on Vulcan in his day, including: 1) empiricism – the insistence that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience; 2) rationalism – the doctrine that knowledge (and ultimately, truth) must be tested by intellect and deductive reasoning ; 3) the scientific method – the rigorous discipline which combines and utilizes both empiricism and rationalism in the pursuit of knowledge and truth; and authoritarianism – the acceptance of knowledge and the truth of ideas asserted by an unquestionable authority.

He concludes that all these systems have their place in the daily quest for knowledge but that none are satisfactory for developing understanding. “Wide experience increases wisdom,” he said, “but to know the ultimate truth, we must transcend knowledge.” It was this assertion that won him favor with the priests of the Suta Temple in Shi’Kahr, and it was there on the ancient steps that he first began to teach a new philosophy to a wide audience. Before the Awakening, Vulcan monasteries were institutions of peace, as they remain today, but they were closed to all but the initiated. Before Surak, holy men and women practiced isolationism, removing themselves from the violence of the day behind thick walls. They had little hope the average Vulcan could live in peace, but when Surak began to advocate the strict control of emotions, the priests of the Suta Temple thought he was onto something.

Since that time, Vulcan philosophers, priests, linguists, scientists, and educators continued to debate what the phrase “to understand without knowing” means. One renowned voice in the debate was Professor Aravik who taught music and psychology at the Vulcan Science Academy. He was particularly interested in how the brain processes, stores, and retrieves information. He recognized that the unconsciousness stored a vast amount of information that was more readily retrieved when paired with a musical phrase, which acted as a trigger. Working with psychologists and musicians at the VSA, he developed a musical style call tumaun-ralash-tanaf, or “programming music.”  The technique involves creating a meaningful word-phrase that embodies a concept, construct, lesson, method, or any subject matter the student wishes to master. The word-phrase is then paired with a simple but memorable musical phrase, which is repeated at predetermined intervals in the learning process. Dr. Aravik discovered that his subjects – students who were required to master vast sequences of equations or to recall lengthy passages of scientific theorem or legal doctrine – improved their recall ability on exams by 96.78% when the material was paired with tumaun-ralash-tanaf. The musical phrase alone (without what he termed the “word-crutch”) became for the student a key that unlocked the unconscious mind where a large amount of the memorized information was stored. “Music,” he wrote in one of his reports, “enters the brains at a deeper level than language. Music acts as a trigger for our deepest memories and can access that part of the brain where information once thought to be irretrievable by normal methods of recall is easily, quickly, and precisely brought into the conscious mind.” (Aravik, 2423, p. 16)

Modern Vulcan education employs tumaun-ralash-tanaf at all levels, from the primary learning pods through the doctoral dissertation. To this day, the Vulcan ability of extraordinary recall continues to amaze non-Vulcans throughout the galaxy. Many species have requested the use of the technique for their own educational programs. Vulcan scientists, however, are reluctant to share the procedure since the Vulcan mind does not exhibit the same structure as the brains of similar humanoid species. Even other Vulcanoids, such as Romulans, have a remarkably different brain structure from modern Vulcans. The teachings of Surak and the discipline adhered to for the last two millennia are partly responsible for the development of the modern Vulcan mind.

The following is a sample of tumaun-ralash-tanaf in a song composed and sung by T’Prion. The phrase ken-tor rik’faiyan, “to understand without knowing,” is used by followers of Surak, often with the guidance of a priestess or other instructor, to reach a deeper level of consciousness in meditation and to commit Surak’s teachings to memory.

Ken-tor rik’faiyan video

Here are the lyrics in Modern Golic Vulcan and in Federation Standard English:

Ken-tor rik’faiyan lyrics  (Art by Jonliza Velox)

SOURCES

Aravik & Sern. (2422). Learning and the control of behavior: principles, theories, and application of operant conditioning. Shi’Kahr: Vulcan Science Academy Press.

Aravik. (2423). Learning in a new key: a study in the application of music and its effect on cognitive processing and recall. Journal of Vulcan Cognition, 45(2), 12-36.

To read a selection of Aravik’s work, click on this link:

http://korsaya.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Tumaun-ralash-tanaf.pdf

Join the Forum at Korsaya.org to discuss this work and many other topics regarding Vulcan culture and language.

 

 

From War to Knowledge: The Vulcan Science Academy

In Surak’s youth, there were centers of learning, but the Vulcan VSA Shi'KahrScience Academy did not yet exist. In its place stood a massive fortress complex known as Pelasht, named for the Phelsh’t, the ancient tribe which occupied the basalt cave and defended the oasis that became the city of Shi’Kahr.1  Vulcan education was centered in nearby temples and led by a pyllora, a word usually translated into Federation Standard English (FSE) as “mentor” or “guide.” One such pyllora was T’Plana-hath, whose dictum, “Logic is the cement of our civilization, with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide,” shaped the philosophy of Surak and the future of Vulcan.2 Surak was one of her prized pupils.

Surak himself became a pyllora at the Suta Temple, where he could be found on the steps spreading his message of logic and emotional restraint to a curious audience in the plaza below.3 Before a formal collegium developed around his school of thought, most of his early lectures were given in the open air in the shade of the temple. Eventually, his lectures became so popular that the old fortress was repurposed into vast halls to hold audiences of thousands. In 399, when Surak was 120 years old, it became the heart of the new Vulcan Science Academy. While he lived, Surak encouraged the study of all subjects and the application of logic to learning in order to reach a heightened understanding of the universe and its infinite possibilities. This ultimate quest for knowledge and truth led to the birth of the concept of IDIC, a leading dictum of the Academy to this day.4

It wasn’t long after Surak’s death in 481 that the campus of the VSA spread beyond the walls of Pelasht. Today this central core of the earliest building houses the administrative complex, along with the lecture halls, the archives, and visitors’ center. The silver-white domes and spires of ancient temples contain labs, classrooms, and offices, and blend with clusters of new facilities devoted to specific disciplines.5 Beyond the fortress complex, where public lectures and performances are held, only two other areas are open to the general public: the Archives and the Medical Center. The Medical Center serves as the main hospital for the city as well as a state-of-the-art research facility. Above its bronze gates on a plaque in flowing calligraphy is its simple mission statement, which reads: “Nam-tor hakaya svi’la na’fan-veh ma vi bolaya. (There is healing within for any who have need.)”6 The databases of the Archives serve as a repository of knowledge on a planetary scale, housing over 164 billion volumes. Offworld, the VSA Archives are often referred to as simply the Vulcan Archives. A few documents remain classified by the Minister of Defense, but the vast majority of the archival files are accessible to any who wish to do research.

In most cases, it is not difficult to gain access to other areas of the VSA. All visitors are asked to stop at the Visitors’ Center to gain admission. Tours of various colleges, labs, and research centers are easily arranged. A special stop on any tour of Pelasht is the stone building annexed on the west side. Archaeologists believe it originally served as an armory. Here T’Pau’s office is located, situated close to the bubbling spring. Outside the entrance one can find an interactive plaque featuring recordings in over 400 languages welcoming visitors and giving a brief history of the VSA. Here is an excerpt in FSE, recorded by Amanda Greyson:  “To this oasis in the desert, Surak came five thousand years ago with a small band of followers, to practice a new philosophy of nonviolence. It is said that when warrior bands approached, seeking to seize control of the precious source of water, Surak welcomed them and bid them drink their fill while he spoke to them of logic, and the peace found through emotional control…..The Academy grew up around the philosophers who followed Surak. Disciples came here to learn from them, and the first buildings are the ones clustered here about the spring. Over many centuries the Vulcan Academy of Sciences grew from this center into the huge complex you see today.”7

There are a few rooms, such as private offices, which are not open to the public and they are marked with signs only in Vulcan. All public spaces, including a small museum displaying some of Surak’s personal belongings, are marked with signs in multiple offworld languages.8 T’Pau often keeps a few relics from the museum in her office for study. At present these include scrolls written in Surak’s own hand.9 Offworlders are often puzzled as to why these writings were committed to a papyrus-like paper and the words hand-written in an ancient script when Surak had digital technology at his disposal and communicated with the masses through the nets. These scrolls were specifically created for the monks of the Kolinahru Monastery, who to this day lead an austere life and use no advanced or automated technology. The scrolls are currently on loan from the monastery for three more years and are displayed in the museum every tenth day.

Offworlders are surprised to find that classrooms, laboratories, dorm rooms, and other nonpublic areas of the campus are not marked with any signage. Instead, the Vulcan tradition is to use variations in texture and shades of color as cues to function and location.10

Following traditional Vulcan architecture, all interior rooms throughout the Academy complexes receive natural light through an elaborate system of skylights, even at ground-level and sub-surface locations in multistory buildings. The thick stone walls and minimalist transparent steel windows keep the interiors naturally cool. The acoustics of the lecture halls are such that no amplification is needed at the lectern or during theatrical or concert performances. The largest hall of the fortress complex, simply known as the Hall of Pelasht, is noted in many guidebooks as “one of the largest room in the known worlds – nearly half a mile long, a quarter mile across, five hundred feet up to the roof, and all carved out of the living stone, an ancient volcanic basalt.”11 Thousands of lamps recessed into the walls often remind visitors of distant stars.

Another of the Academy’s grand lecture hall complexes lies off campus on the other side of Shi’Kahr. Originally known as va’ne’meLakht (Hiding from the Rage), it was built as a place of refuge from sunstorms and was large enough to hold the entire population of the city and its environs just prior to Surak’s time – a time when there was a resurgence of solar activity. Today it is known as the Halls of the Voice and is constructed out of a smooth blue-grey stone known as bureki. The majority of the halls in this complex are located several hundred feet underground. They are cool in temperature and light but far from dark. Shafts, cut through the vaulted ceilings, allow sunlight to stream in slanting columns from ground level. The halls are mostly used today for the biggest lectures, debates, and meetings, in addition to many ceremonial occasions.12

The main campus, tucked away in Shi’Kahr’s oldest quarter is laid out so that its buildings, walkways, and green space make maximum use of the small plot of land. All VSA buildings are multi-story both above and below ground and are positioned so that the pedestrian has a view of most facilities from any one point on the carefully groomed pathways. The meditation gardens are open to all and no permission is needed to stroll or sit within their quiet beauty. Most species of trees planted on the grounds, such as lhm’ta and mah’ta, are actually giant herb specimens, according to their botanical classification. Other trees include the ancient flame-leaved induku, clustered near the fortress complex. The carpet-like blue-green groundcover is a plant known as kh’aa and may be walked upon. Unlike Earth’s lawn grass, it never needs cutting. The various fountains are programmed to display an endless variety of cones, parabolas, and hyperbolas through their water jets.13

The visitor is reminded that there are no parking facilities for vehicles of any kind. The closest structures are located in the adjacent government quarter. Shuttle services and grav-chairs are available for the non-ambulatory, and all campus buildings are connected through underground tunnels where it is always possible to escape the extreme heat of the day. There one will find cafés and full cafeteria services.

When attending lectures and other performances, it is important to remember that at the end of the presentation, there is no applause. It is customary to wait a few moments – to show respect to the speaker – before asking questions.14

It is hoped that your visit to the Vulcan Science Academy will be an enlightening and meaningful one. Below is a list of colleges and their corresponding departments, along with a map of the campus. Please direct your questions and requests for tour arrangements to Stepn, Head of Visitor Services.

Vulcan Science Academy: Shi’Kahr Campus

Vulcan Science Academy Map (click here)

College of Agriculture

  • Dept. of Agroforestry
  • Dept. of Conservation Biology
  • Dept. of Horticulture
  • Dept. of Hydroponics
  • Dept. of Soil Science
  • Dept. of Veterinary Science

College of Chemistry

  • Dept. of Analytical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Photochemistry
  • Dept. of Physical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Quantum Chemistry
  • Dept. of Theoretical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Thermochemistry

College of Computer Science

  • Dept. of Artificial Intelligence
  • Dept. of Computer Architecture
  • Dept. of Cryptology
  • Dept. of Holography and Optics
  • Dept. of Medical Imaging
  • Dept. of Network Engineering
  • Dept. of Plasma Engineering and Diagnostics
  • Dept. of Robotics
  • Dept. of Sensor Technology
  • Dept. of Software Engineering

College of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Dept. of Aerospace Engineering
  • Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences
  • Dept. of Chemical Engineering
  • Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dept. of Electrical Engineering
  • Dept. of Industrial Science
  • Dept. of Macromolecular Science
  • Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
  • Dept. of Nanotechnology
  • Dept. of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences
  • Dept. of Photonics

College of Geophysics

  • Dept. of Aquatic Sciences
  • Dept. of Ecology
  • Dept. of Geochemistry
  • Dept. of Geology
  • Dept. of Geophysics and Seismology
  • Dept. of Meteorology
  • Dept. of Volcanology

College of Historical Studies

  • Dept. of Archaeology
  • Dept. of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Dept. of Art and Music
  • Dept. of History
  • Dept. of Language and Linguistics
  • Dept. of Literature
  • Dept. of Museum Studies
  • Dept. of Paleontology
  • Dept. of Political Science
  • Dept. of Religion
  • Dept. of Sociology

College of Information Technology

  • Dept. of Archival Sciences
  • Dept. of Communications Engineering
  • Dept. of Infomatics and Information Theory
  • Dept. of Information Analysis and Retrieval
  • Dept. of Information Services

College of Mathematics

  • Dept. of Adaptive Systems
  • Dept. of Analysis
  • Dept. of Applied Mathematics
  • Dept. of Fluid Dynamics
  • Dept. of Mathematical Logic
  • Dept. of Probability Science
  • Dept. of Topology

College of Medicine and Life Sciences

  • Dept. of Biochemistry
  • Dept. of Biology
  • Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
  • Dept. of Biophysics
  • Dept. of Cardiology
  • Dept. of Dentistry
  • Dept. of Dietetics
  • Dept. of Endocrinology
  • Dept. of Experimental Medicine
  • Dept. of Genetics
  • Dept. of Geriatrics
  • Dept. of Internal Medicine and General Surgery
  • Dept. of Kinesiology
  • Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Dept. of Pediatrics
  • Dept. of Pathology and Toxicology
  • Dept. of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

College of Physics

  • Dept. of Applied Physics
  • Dept. of Astrophysics
  • Dept. of Nuclear and Subatomic Physics
  • Dept. of Quantum Physics
  • Dept. of Theoretical Physics

College of Thought

  • Dept. of Mental Disciplines
  • Dept. of Philosophy
  • Dept. of Psionics
  • Dept. of Psychology

College of Xenology

  • Dept. of Xenobiology
  • Dept. of Xenolinguistics
  • Dept. of Xenopsychology
  • Dept. of Xenosociology

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SOURCES

1 Duane, D. (1988). Spock’s  World. New York: Pocket Books, pp. 117, 126.

2 The Way of Kolinahr: The Vulcans. (1998). Culver City, CA: Last Unicorn Games, p. 15.

3 ibid, p. 55.

4 ibid, p. 56.

5 ibid, p. 57.

6 Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (1999). Vulcan’s Heart. New York: Pocket Books, p. 366.

7 Lorrah, J. (1984). The Vulcan Academy Murders. New York: Pocket Books, p. 183.

8 ibid, p. 185.

9 ibid, pp. 187-188.

10 Strickland, B. & B. (1996). Crisis on Vulcan. (Starfleet Academy). New York: Pocket Books, p. 57.

11 Duane, D. (1988). Spock’s  World. New York: Pocket Books, p. 117.

12 ibid., pp. 184-185.

13 Strickland, B. & B. (1996). Crisis on Vulcan. (Starfleet Academy). New York: Pocket Books, pp. 55-57.

14 Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (2004). Exodus. (Star Trek: Vucan’s Soul, Book 1). New York: Pocket Books, p. 143.

Archaeological Find Linked to Surak

The Vulcan Science Academy has gained access to a section of tunnel deep beneath the city of Surak's Mug 1Shi’Kahr during an excavation sponsored by the T’Planna-Hath Historical Society. When the Society announced that it expected to link the tunnel to Surak, the excavation was funded in part by House Sekir, the dynastic family to which Surak belonged. While it has long been thought that the 2,567.83 kilometers of tunnels beneath Shi’al’s capital city had all been mapped, a previously unknown section, 15.91 km in length, was revealed to structural engineers after the T’keKhuti Quake. For millennia, the tunnels served as drainage conduits in rare but devastating floods, as well as escape routs and sally ports in times of war. They were places of refuge for the homeless, petty thieves, and smugglers. During Surak’s time, the tunnels had a dark and lawless life of their own. The Shi’Kahran government was too preoccupied with repelling the Sudocian invasion to patrol the seedy underground. In fact, officials had a mutual understanding with the gangs that prowled the tunnels, who efficiently defended these networks of caverns against foreign commando strikes and infiltration.

Although Surak never wrote about his experience in the tunnels, a few who encountered him there did. On more than one occasion, he used the tunnels to escape angry mobs in the city streets when impromptu gatherings and lectures drew violent opposition. As his popularity grew, civilian authorities considered his public teachings such a nuisance that they sought to arrest him for inciting riots, but they always lost his trail in the sprawling labyrinth of tunnels. There Surak and his followers found an enclave of supporters who could quickly smuggle them to a safe haven and cover their tracks.

Years later, upon his death, 5,786,411 people signed the online remembrance book, jamming the nets for 3.71 days. In that guestbook, preserved in the Academy archives, is an entry by T’Vei who wrote, “I shall never forget the day Surak suddenly appeared among us. I had previously seen him from afar and was familiar with his image posted on the nets, but he was much smaller than I’d imagined, and at first I didn’t believe it was him. He was very thin, for he was constantly on the move in those days. He had come through the tunnel leading to the storage chamber beneath my studio. My family mostly used it as a shelter from air strikes during the war.

“The day Surak came, I was preparing glazes for a series of firepots commissioned by the Suta Temple. He inclined his head and said, ‘I ask forgiveness. My days are not mine and I have no wish to disturb yours.’ He was not hurt, but one of his two companions had a cut over one eye. They had escaped a disagreeable crowd that corned them in the market. ‘We lost the fruit and bread we had purchased,’ the one with the cut said, ‘but not our honor.’

“I gave them fire and water in the custom of old and we shared a meal of mashya and fire-fruit. When they left in the middle of the night, I gave Surak a cup I had designed for the temple priests. Again, he inclined his head, and accepting the cup, he said, ‘What we begin here will alter the face of our world. Live long and prosper, t’hy’la.’”

T’Vei went on to write, “Surak and his companions carried very little with them, obtaining what they needed in exchange for their teachings. But Surak tied the cup to his belt with a scrap of cloth and it went everywhere with him. Every time I caught a glimpse of him on the nets, it was either cradled in his hands or tied to his belt. I was told later that he would drink from no other vessel – to minimize the risk of being poisoned.”

Surak's Mug 2T’Vei became one of Vulcan’s most famous potters, and much of her work can now be seen in the T’Sar Museum. The Suta Temple kept careful records of the work commissioned from her, and because of these records, the fragments of the cup found in the recent excavation have been identified as originated from her studio. DNA analysis of the residual protein molecules adhering to the glaze has revealed that the cup had been used by Surak and handled to a lesser degree by T’Vei. In a journal entry made accessible by T’Vei’s estate, she noted that the cup was returned to her following the death of Surak and kept as a prized possession on a shelf in her studio. The cup was presumed lost when the studio was destroyed in an earthquake. Although she had the means to hire a salvage crew, she allowed the city to fill in the area and retired from her craft. “Surak always said, ‘Kaiidth – what is, is,’ she wrote, ending her journal entry.

Surak’s cup, along with several other artifacts currently under study at the VSA, will arrive later this year as part of a special exhibit at the T’Sar Museum entitled: Surak: The Tunnel Years.

The Varith Tablet

Image of the Varith Tablet during excavation.

The electrical storm that recently ravaged the coast of Gol did more than damage the Engineering Quad on the T’Paal Campus of the Vulcan Science Academy and run the freighter Sadikh aground. When the dust settled, crews clearing coastal roadways of sand-drifts noticed what appeared to be the hull of a ship thrusting from the dunes. Authorities quickly verified that the shipwreck was not of the modern age, and the ruins were turned over to the Academy for study. Although the excavation began only a month ago, of particular interest in this find so far is the oldest surviving sample of the Dzhaleyl script in what archaeologists have termed Kitau-Krizhiv t’Varith, or the Varith Tablet in Federation Standard English (FSE).

The tablet, made from the red clay of the Na’Ri Valley, is estimated to be over 8,000 years old and appears to be a portion of the ship manifest or an early trade agreement. The script, in Traditional Golic Vulcan of the Dzhaleyl dialect, is read top to bottom, right to left: Na’kelek t’Varith, keh-leh dah subok mut…nau subok hirat, dah-leh steh kak mah’t[a]….s’kelek t’Sern. Na’kelek t’…reh chasulh zul-makh, sheh chasul[h]….This can be translated into FSE, “To the House of Varith, forty-two barrels [of] grain…nine barrels [of] hirat (a grape-like fruit), twenty-seven jars [of] mah’ta (an herb)…from the House of Sern. To the House of…three chests [of] obsidian, six chests….”

 The VSA has concluded a thorough study of fingerprint patterns still evident on some artifacts of the excavation. “The fingerprints pressed into the clay of the tablet fragment are consistent with the genome of the House of Sern,” said Dr. T’Prea, Chair of the Archaeological Department. “From what we know of ancient Dzhaleyl sea-trade, each merchant household had their own scribe, who was usually a family member. It was a great honor to be promoted to the position, and a good deal of wealth was expended to ensure a chosen son or daughter’s skills in the written language — in a time when very few could read and fewer could write.”

 Dr. T’Prea went on to explain that the script was originally scratched into wet clay with a stylus shaped from a reed, but as trade flourished and cargo holds swelled, stamps for commonly used words were used. “They needed a faster way to produce trade agreements and contracts,” said Dr. T’Prea. “Based on modern experiments with Dzhaleyl clay, documents can be produced 10.23 times faster with stamps and rolled cylinders than the hand can inscribe individual letters using a stylus. The Varith Tablet was produced with a stylus and is, therefore, of especially great interest.”

The Varith Tablet revealed.

The tablet is also remarkable in that it is the largest fragment to be found to date. The scale shown in the accompanying photographs is in the Vulcan decimal system. Translated in to Federation equivalents, the tablet measures 12.4 cm in width and 25.1 cm in height. At its thickest, the tablet is 0.6 cm. Smaller clay shards were found in proximity to the tablet, but none bore any inscriptions. “Although there is no clear evidence,” said Dr. T’Prea, “these fragments may have formed the backside of a tamper-proof envelope in which the tablet was sealed. To ensure that no one altered the document before the clay had dried, it was encased in two slightly larger and thinner pieces of clay sealed along the edges, and the entire document was reproduced on the cover. If there were any discrepancies as to the verbiage of the contract, an arbitrator would carefully slice the seal, remove the original, and compare the two.”

As the excavation proceeds, there are likely to be other small windows into ancient Vulcan life.

 

_____________________

NOTE: The Vulcan font depicted in these images was created by Briht’uhn. For more information about the Zun font, please visit korsaya.org.