The Lamp was the first Theosophical journal published in Canada. Its first number appeared in August, 1894, three and a half years after the first Canadian branch of the Theosophical Society [TS] had been chartered in Toronto. By this time, two other Canadian branches were in existence: the Kshanti TS in Victoria, B.C., and the Mount Royal TS in Montreal, P.Q.
Although this early journal was the brainchild and effort of Toronto members, it was not an organ of the Toronto TS 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.
From the beginning, The Lamp had what today seems an incredibly large press run of 5,000 copies. As an official notice reads, “we . . . intend to distribute them . . . in one of several districts into which we have divided Toronto. If you get a Lamp this month it may be some months before you see one again, as we will go over all the other sections before we return to yours.” Then followed an invitation to subscribe. At only 25 cents per year, it must have been a bargain even in those times, as each monthly issue ran to 16 pages.
Many members must have put their shoulders behind this effort. The writer recalls an elderly Toronto member—young and eager in the 1890s—telling him how she and others would get together when The Lamp came off the press each month, divide up the copies and go around delivering them door to door. This attempt to propagate Theosophy must have borne fruit because in the mid 1890s there was sufficient public interest in Toronto to support weekly lectures and classes.
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, and boasted of subscribers in all but seven of the United States. 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 breakoff Theosophical Society in America then under the leadership of Katharine Tingley. After his expulsion from that organization in 1899 he 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). He continued this labour of love until just before his death in 1947.
The Lamp has a cummulative index that can be accessed here. Below are the 4 volumes of The Lamp.
The Lamp Volume I
- Volume 1 Issue 1 August 1894
- Volume 1 Issue 2 Septmber 1894
- Volume 1 Issue 3 October 1894
- Volume 1 Issue 4 November 1894
- Volume 1 Issue 5 December 1894
- Volume 1 Issue 6 January 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 7 February 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 8 March 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 9 April 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 10 May 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 11 June 1895
- Volume 1 Issue 12 July 1895
- Volume 1 Index August 1894-1895
The Lamp Volume II
- Volume 2 Issue 1 August 1895
- Volume 2 Issue 2 Septmber 1895
- Volume 2 Issue 3 October 1895
- Volume 2 Issue 4 November 1895
- Volume 2 Issue 5 December 1895
- Volume 2 Issue 6 January 1896
- Volume 2 Issue 7 February1896
- Volume 2 Issue 8 March 1896
- Volume 2 Issue 9 April 1896
- Volume 2 Issue 10 May 1896
- Volume 2 Issue 11 June 1896
- Volume 2 Issue 12 July 1896
- Volume 2 Index 1895-1896
The Lamp Volume III
- Volume 3 Issue 1 August 1896
- Volume 3 Issue 2 Septmber 1896
- Volume 3 Issue 3 October 1896
- Volume 3 Issue 4 November 1896
- Volume 3 Issue 5 December 1896
- Volume 3 Issue 6 January 1897
- Volume 3 Issue 7 September 1899
- Volume 3 Issue 8 October 1899
- Volume 3 Issue 9 November 1899
- Volume 3 Issue 10 December 1899
- Volume 3 Issue 11 January 1900
- Volume 3 Issue 12 February 1900
- Volume 3 Index 1895-1900
- The Lamp Volume IV