Unsolved Puzzles of Ilija Savić
In its inner circle, ”Mediala” was a big metaphysical quest. Exploration of the most distant borders and the most dangerous paths. The most mysterious personality of the Mediala adventure was certainly Ilija Savić, a philosopher and psychologist, ”a mystic from the shadow”. He knew both ”med” (honey) and ”ala” (dragon), the bright and dark side of everything, the ”magic of extremes”. He had a decisive influence on Šejka, but also some other great names of Serbian art from the second half of the 20th century. He left signs on the road, but not the key for them. He left young and remained undetected

By: Dejan Đorić

Art group ”Mediala”, founded in 1958 (with beginnings in 1952), later grew into a movement, presents itself as the most significant Serbian contribution to the European culture in the 20th century. Its name is a program, key for understanding of not only the Mediala happenings. The history of ”Mediala” can be valued from the perspective of ”med” (honey) and ”ala” (dragon), unity of the opposites or, as Miro Glavurtić would say, ”magic of the extremes”.
Dolores Čaće, the black muse, a person from shadow, completely different from the exclusive Russian - Olja Ivanjicki, asked herself how and why ”Mediala” had pulled out the occult line. In the background of that question there is the mysteries life of this woman. Dolores Čaće was an expert in psychology, which is what she graduated in order to help her brother. When she was offered to, together with Marija Čudina, make a successful literary career, she chose anonymity and burnt all her poems. Only one was saved, with symbolic title ”Čimatorija” (which means cemetery), published in 1964 in magazine Delo, which was, together with Vidici, the media of Mediala theoreticians. She sand about death, cypresses and hell, like the Mannerists. Her younger brother Titko Čaće, painter-metaphysics, author of the novel about ”Mediala”, went insane and killed himself. Her name Dolores means sorrow. She died refusing the treatment.
She was the wife of philosopher Ilija Savić (born 1936), friend of Leonid Šejka, leader and one of the founders of ”Mediala”. They lived without children in a small apartment in Birčaninova Street in Belgrade. Šejka lived with them for a year, and on the corner of that building there was a clearly written sign X in white paint, or Andrija’s cross, one of the most common symbols on Šejka’s works: From the core around Ilija Savić and Leonid Šejka the occult underground of Belgrade sprouted. Šejka underwent a series of diabolical temptations that he described in his articles ”City (exploration of hell)”, ”Temptations of St. Anthony (an excerpt from the Bible of hell)” and ”Manual of a Witch”.
Miro Glavurtić arrived in Belgrade then, a mystic, demonologist, drawer and painter, eternally split between the Virgin and devil’s principle. He introduced Titko Čaće into the mysteries of Catholicism, and this, in some interpretations, triggered hallucinations in the young painter and religious insanity (although Glavurtić finds this incorrect). History of ”Mediala” is its metaphysics between two conflicting but harmonized poles.


”Mediala” and Šejka are followed by doom. The secret was scratched by Igor Vasiljev, painter, son of Russian painters-immigrants, a boy handsome like an angel, who painted the most morbid works in Serbian art. At the age of sixteen he founded a society for assassination of president Tito, and when he was twenty six he died under mysterious circumstances. His friends were Dado Đurić and architect Predrag Ristić. In those years, black aristocracy was thriving, the chthonic, black magic, occult underground of the great outcasts from the nomenclature, a circle of the doomed was created, heretics and mystics. Black prophets, from their basements and their attics, knocked on the doors of Europe and history. Glavurtić wrote: ”Underground when it comes out from the earth like from initiation cave, by the law of inversion, is raised.”
In the universe of ”Mediala” the dark side has strong affirmation. ”Mediala” has its Nightly and its nightlies. For its history, esthetics and imagination, the world of black magic is of great importance. There are doubles, imaginary meetings, agreements, lists, unexplained events and a series of coincidences. ”Mystic significance is ascribed to everything”, rites Olja Ivanjicki in Dnevnik in 1957. She says that she dreams herself ”transparent, I see blood transparent and all the veins that look like pulmonary capillaries”.
In his poem ”De mortibus”, Miro Glavurtić writes about the dead: ”The dead talk to each other in vein / rejoice sunrises like children / They cannot utter a single word / They move to butterflies; they hide in the grass”. Members of ”Mediala” are obsessed with death. Glavurtić’s pseudonym is Lobanjić. In the prologue of The Book of Teura, Olja Ivanjicki writes: ”My four personalities comprise the ego.” These are Teuta, Tetis, Kaliotis and Zeukis. In one spectacle-happening, in 1966, she burned the hyperrealist puppet-double. Šejka divided his personality into four: classifier, structuralist in charge of questions of cosmogony and physics; Reg Talbott, a photographer in charge of registrations, for the purpose of quasi-photography; Leon Leš, geologist and painter, in charge of geology; Leon van Kis (Creation beyond Synthesis), painter and poet, someone who is looking for the Castle. Glavurtić discovered that Talbot was a powerful magician from the epoch of Dr John Dee. On the pages of the manuscript about ”Mediala” Glavurtić’s double Walter Ego appears. Milić od Mačve used to give names to himself: Patriarch of patriarchs in fine arts, Heliocentric, Ice, Serbian Barbaric-Genius, Skeleton Radovanov, the Head of Serbian Vampires and Painter of Heaven and Earth. ”I like the word degenerate, because I am a kind of a degenerate. The only way to paint and the only way for a man to feel free, is to be a kind of a degenerate”, says Dado Đurić.
Who are Balthazar, Grupuleks, Yrse, Karleks, Talbot, Leon Leš, Leonard Sarap? What is the secret of doubleness and mediums, secret knowledge diabolisms?
Šejka left an agreement concluded with Grupuleks, in which he undertook to make a painting for his employer – The Infernal Altar. He then confided in Glavurtić: ”Do you know that I have an agreement with the devil?!” In the summer of 1956, Olja Ivanjicki and Šejka practiced ”remote exercises”, long before the official parapsychological experiments with extrasensory perception. Šejka classified the ”elements of diabolical attributes L. Š.: shell, structure, alchemist’s bottle, vacuum, portraits, destructors, landscapes of Hertz, clock mechanism, four fields, attributes of the night, star sky, underground water, floating, herbarium, scull tower, expansion of a stain, orbit, wall of the dusk, cover of installation dent, ruins of the well, source of Anaheront, twenty elements swimming in black space.” Each of these words centers Šejka’s life and work.


Mystic Ilija Savić was Šejka’s best friend. In him Šejka found a personality spiritually and intellectually equal to him, maybe even superior. A psychologist by education, he introduced William Blake into ”Mediala”, the idea of the tiger and a series of previously unknown philosophers, esoteric and alchemists. He regularly acquired books from Britain and he owned a big library of titles in English. As a witness and participant, Dragoš Kalajić was the only one who left some data about Šejka’s and Savić’s ultimate esotericism. We quote Kalajić in extenso:
”In that place, before generally very enigmatic personality, in many respects, of Ilija Savić, an area of problems without reliable facts opens up, area of quicksand and eve esotery; entrance into the area of esotery, according to the teachings of esoterism, can be full of danger. Ilija Savić worked n solving one fundamental, philosophical, metaphysical problem that required, as he himself used to say, entire human life. He died very young. He left behind hermetic markings of his work that, we think, are impossible to decipher, because of the lack of code books. We met Ilija Savić long time ago, almost at the same time when we met Šejka, when we were thirteen or fourteen. He seemed like a being from another planet, then; like a magician, with satanic smile, who even frightened us then. We did not manage to decipher the meaning of his sentences, and we didn’t know the names of mystics, esotericists, metaphysicists, alchemists he used to quote. Only many years later, only after the death of Ilija Savić, those sentences and those names, deeply engraved in our memory, were given their meaning through our literature or education, which is said to lead to knowledge that we don’t know anything. For now, within this premise of dedication to the work of Leonid Šejka, we can say that the problems, the basic problems of Ilija Savić and Leonid Šejka, were basically identical, although Ilija Savić understood those problems in exclusively pure, metaphysical or philosophical terms (...). After the death of Ilija Savić, Leonid Šejka had moments of his own depersonalization, i.e. identification with Ilija Savić. There is, as evidence of significance of analysis of relationship between Ilija Savić and Leonid Šejka, also a series of photographs of their initiation ritual into ’Cadis’. Both of them, like the person who took the photo, brother of Ilija Savić, are dead. There is also a strange coincidence of the date of death of all three of them. In that place, the road to knowledge should be stopped. Some seals should not be broken. We can only reference the classical warning of the esotericists: every magical ritual, since it evokes the forces of psychism, also awakes danger, because the triggered released forces may spiral out of control and turn against the person who drives them. Presence of magical element in the initiation of Leonid Šejka still cannot and could not influence the profoundly Christian (or Para-Christian, proto-Christian), moral qualification of his work. Leonid Šejka shared the conviction of Baudelaire and Genone that the shrewdness of devil consists in the fact that he has managed to convince us that he does not exist. Šejka dedicated his life not only to the path to God, but also fight against Devil. This can also explain many forms of his worldly engagements because in dominant social phenomena and organizations of the contemporary society he sensed  incarnations of the satanic principle.”


Young Ilija Savić died in 1966, followed by his brother Dušan, and shortly afterwards, on December 15, 1970, Šejka as well. Soon after Šejka’s death, his second wife also died, the art historian Ana Čolak-Antić, who used to run the Gallery ”Grafički kolektiv”, the place where the Mediala artists used to gather. It happened suddenly, as if something exploded in her head.
Dolores Čaće used to talk about the process that repeats itself when it comes to some members of ”Mediala”. On the last photograph with Kalajić, a few days before his death, Šejka has unnaturally big head. He died of cancer in the central part of his brain. In the ”Manual of a Witch”, already in the early 1950’s, he mentions ”heads in which tumor is growing”. He continuously and precisely painted this form in front of walls in his compositions, and he had taken it over from Dali. In the bottom of his paintings he would sign as Leon Leš. The true last name of his favorite philosopher Nikola Kuzanski is Krebs. We should add that Ilija and Dušan Savić, Šejka, Dolores Čaće, Svetozar Samurović, Milić od Mačve and Dragoš Kalajić died of the same illness. Kalajić discovered mathematical regularity in the date of death of Ilija Savić, his brother and Šejka but, frightened, he didn’t want to pursue this further. He was not familiar with the practical side of this death.
Just like the program name of ”Mediala”, the personality of Ilija Savić also has its bright side, probably the most spiritual in that group. That silent follower of ”Mediala”, devotee and interpreter from the background, about whom very little is known, announced as early as on May 25, 1959 (based on a record in the famous Mediala book URK) ”the basis and beginning (idea) of his central text”. Savić brought to ”Mediala” (so Kalajić thinks) the key concept of the centre, idea of a core as the stronghold and meaning of this movement. Divisions in the contemporary art and fragmentation of contemporary man are similar to explosion, Savić conceived and tried to realize the reverse process, implosion that leads toward the centre. Šejka wrote about him: ”He revealed the secret: to solve your micron situation, that is the path to exit the temporal. After too long, by today’s standards inconceivably conscientious explorations, his building was already erected on solid foundations, and it is already visible because these are not foundations but the core.”


Savić left behind only unseemly journals that confuse even further, These are several notebooks in which whiteness or blank pages are dominant, with an occasional comment on the margins, a part of a sentence, dot in the middle of the page, circles and dashes. It is the most puzzling text in the Mediala library, and ”Prosveta” was not able to publish it, although it had hired Šejka and Dolores Čaće to edit it. The manuscript contained and preserved a secret and its publishing would be reduced to personal comments of the editors and public misunderstanding. This is one of the most miraculous, Ilija-esque spiritual adventures in the recent intellectual history, inner speleology, plunging and time coding that lasted for about ten years, work on oneself worthy of the most developed – Buddhist psychology.
Those who were approaching that manuscript paid attention to its phenomenal appearance but, as Dolores Čaće warned, the presented images and words are almost irrelevant. Nothing was left behind Ilija Savić but short comments, brief expressions,  traces on the path toward great inner synthesis. It was only a reminder for something that should have happened in the future, on the other side of the material. Savić discovered Šejka’s Castle in his own way, the alchemical ”magnum opus”, the purest being of the centre of Mediala that he strove for. All that is left are visible exercises of this eccentric thinker, preparations for the existential formula that will bring together life and death, like Borges’ point Aleph. Just like with all great teachers, the invisible and unspeakable have key influence on the actual, mysterious metaphysical history of ”Mediala” finds its most comprehensive expression in Ilija Savić and his inner spiritual structure.


Glossary of Esoteric Terms
A glossary of key esoteric terms could be compiled also for other members of ”Mediala”, as Branko Kukić did for Glavurtić. ”Mediala” has its devotees and followers, some of which are researching the phenomenology of doubleness. For recording the occult Mediala activities the coincidence pointed out by Dragoš Kalajić is not insignificant. The wall of the room in which the imperial family of the Romanovs was murdered was scribbled with kabala symbols. Next to them there was inscription Balthazar, the name of the group before Glavurtić named it ”Mediala”.


Ritual, Coat, Shell
In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, Savić and Šejka (now it is impossible to establish this with certainty) participated in black magic initiation ritual, in which wearing black coats of their dead fathers had key significance. In documentation of Savić’s wife Dolores Čaće a photograph of this ritual has been preserved, and it is owned by Slobodan Šijan, her second husband. It was apparently made by the well known art photographer Miodrag Đorđević. The coat is one of the key symbols of Šejka’s paintings, he also drew it and often presented it in its reduced form, as a shell, armor or casing. Shells and husks are some of important symbols of the esthetics of Mediala, also important for the paintings of Mihailo Đoković Tikalo, Dado Đurić and Ljuba Popović.


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