“The Lamp” was the first Theosophical magazine published in Canada. Its first number appeared in August, 1894, three and a half years after the first Canadian branch of the Theosophical Society had been chartered in Toronto.
Although this early journal was the brainchild and effort of Toronto members, it was not an organ of the Toronto Theosophical Society except for the first three issues.
Largely financed by Samuel Beckett, the voluntary Editor/Publisher was Albert E.S. Smythe. Several early contributors were among the pioneers of Theosophy in Canada, but much of the content was from Smythe’s own pen.
Smythe had first come to learn of Theosophy in 1884 when he met William Judge onboard the ship on which he was immigrating to the United States. In 1891 he started the Theosophical branch in Toronto and later he followed William Judge when conflicts split the Theosophy Society into two separate organizations in 1895.
From the beginning, The Lamp had what today seems an incredibly large press run of 5,000 copies. In those years were published a dozen or more Theosophical magazines in various countries, and some were excellent journals. In spite of this competition, however, The Lamp must have had a special appeal, because before long it had an international circulation.
Perhaps this was due not so much to the quality of the articles, but rather because discerning students of Theosophy everywhere could recognize its unique value. That is to say, its columns were open to all views — a Smythe hallmark.
Monthly publication continued until the issue of January 1897. It was suspended when Smythe left to spend a year and a half recuperating (in his native Ireland) from a breakdown.
On his return he was kept busy on lecture tours across America on behalf of the break off Theosophical Society in America then under the leadership of Katharine Tingley.
After his expulsion from that organization in 1899, Smythe returned to Toronto and his former activities.
Publication of The Lamp resumed in September 1899, with no editorial explanation of the break, and even continuing the pagination from the last issue in 1897!
Starting with the November 1899 issue, D.N. Dunlop, a well-known Irish Theosophist also expelled by Mrs Tingley, is named as Associate Editor. However, his participation seems to have been limited by providing occasional short articles.
Starting with Volume IV (March 1900) the magazine was enlarged and appeared in a new format and given a cover. This final volume contains only seven monthly issues: publication ceased in September 1900 with the forty-third issue.
For nearly twenty years thereafter, as far as is known, the only Theosophical publications in Canada were bulletins put out by the branches. Finally, in March 1920 appeared the first issue of The Canadian Theosophist, also edited by Albert E.S. Smythe by then a respected editor of daily newspapers (Toronto, Hamilton).
~ * ~
- And the list of authors and article can be read here.
(Note: more information on The Canadian Theosophist in next article.)