After I got home, I opened The Book of Fire again, but I couldn’t seem to concentrate on the text. As the saying goes, old stories are like flat champagne, but I guess there’s an exception to prove every rule. My mind wandered back in time to a tiny room on the tenth floor of the Moscow University student hostel, on the Lenin Hills. A lamp with a green shade lit up the space - it was the only attractive object in that bare, functional interior. On the desk, piled high with books and papers pushed to one side, lay an old manuscript. It was bound in brown leather and fastened with brass plates - four at the corners, and one in the middle. The two hundred year-old manuscript was part of the State Cultural and Historical Archive collection, which is where it should have been. It was called the Revelation of Fire.
That tiny room was mine, and I sat there at that desk, the manuscript before me - Bert Renes, a Slavonic scholar from Amsterdam, just arrived in Moscow to work on my dissertation. It was 1982, the old Soviet Union, with Brezhnev still in power, and as far as anyone knew, political control, censorship, locked archives, would endure forever in this country. This "Cenergite" manuscript had also been kept in special archives, first by the Church, then by the Soviets. It had been written by a member of a mysterious order of hermit-monks, living in a Zakharine hermitage near Ryazan, apparently known as Cenergites. During all that time, only a few people had managed to see it. Among them, moreover, no one who could be termed a specialist. I was the first.