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Mitrinović, Dimitrije (1887-1953)
by Martin, Wallace
MJP Staff

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Dimitri Mitrinović (1887 - 1953)

Mitrinović was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina and was studying art history in Munich (where he is said to have known Kandinsky and Klee) when he became involved in the movement to form a united Yugoslavia separate from the Austrian Empire. Apparently, Mitrinović was the leader of one of two groups in Serbia that disagreed about the tactics that should be used to gain independence. One group, “ultra-Serbian” and revolutionary, advocated assassination and led to the formation of the infamous “Black Hand” group, whose success precipitated World War I; Mitrinović led a group that advocated a Croatian and Serbian Yugoslavia. Confirmation of this claim appears in The Road to Sarajevo (1967) , by Vladimir Dedijer (Mairet 116, 138-39). Mitrinović told Paul Selver that he had edited a Serbian literary paper, Bosanska Vila (Selver 57).

He moved to England in 1914, where the Serbian Legation in London apparently employed him to promote the national cause (Mairet 83).

In January 1915, Selver reviewed a book “on the Slav nations,” with an Epilogue by Mitrinović, in The New Age (Selver 56). Mitrinović asked to meet him, and Selver's account of their relationship appears in his book (56-60).

Late 1914 and early 1915, there was an exhibition of work by the Serbian sculptor and architect in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It included a model of a monument he had designed, named “Kosovo,” to commemorate the defeat of the Serbs by the Turks (Mairet 84-85). This project was to contribute to the formation of a "Yugoslavia" (southern Slavs), including Croatians and Slovenians (138). There was, however, a problem: the monument was too Serbian—with connections to the idea of a greater Serbia—and hence it wouldn't work (128). In these two aspects of Mitrinović's life we have a capsule history of that region, from WWI to the breakup of Yugoslavia and the recent situation in Kosovo.

From pan-Serbian peoples, Mitrinović moved on to pan-European ideals, and then pan-human aspirations (Mairet 92, 107 bottom). It was in this phase that Mairet became a (doubting) disciple and Orage took Mitrinović on as M. M. Cosmoi. Mairet mentions a wide range of mystical texts in this connection, and provides a kernal (reconstructed) quotation about the task at hand—elevating the “'I,'” as a “living center of the universe” to become “a center of the universal consciousness—which is Divine,” through anamnesis, or remembering (104). But he mentions only in passing the practices that resulted from this view. Mitrinović seems to have later turned his group in the direction of Adler's psychoanalysis (131-34) and himself wrote a book on Adler (Mairet/Sisson xv).

The place of the Jews in Mitrinović's racial plan for humanity aroused the ire of Israel Zangwill (who coined the phrase about America being a "melting-pot") (Mairet 182). Orage defended him against this charge; see the discussion of “Cosmoi” and anti-semitism in Stuart Christie's introduction to volume 29 of The New Age.

Mitrinović died ca. 1954-57 (Mairet 156).

—Wallace Martin and the MJP Staff

Works Cited and Consulted

  • Dimitrije Mitrinović and New Atlantis Foundation Library and Archive at:
  • Mairet, Philip. Autobiographical and Other Papers. Edited by C. H. Sisson. Manchester: Carcanet, 1981 .
  • New Atlantis Foundation (at a charitable group started after Mitrinović's death in 1953 to keep his ideas and writing in circulation.
  • Rigby, Andrew. Initiation and Initiative: An Exploration of the Life and Ideas of Dimitrije Mitrinović. Boulder: East European Monographs; distributed by Columbia University Press, 1984 .
  • Selver, Paul. Orage and the New Age Circle. London: G. A. Allen & Unwin, 1959 .
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