Royal Reels: Gambling


Seven covers appeared on Ebay addressed to Albert E.S. Smythe at several locations in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in the 1920’s and 1930’s, six from Sydney Australia and one from Auckland, New Zealand. The fronts of two of these covers will be shown, as they show that Theosophical Societies existed in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, in addition to many other countries.

The first had a roller cancel with USE THE/ AIR MAIL, a diagram of a plane and a circular SYDNEY/ OC 15/ 1926/ 5 PM/ N.SW., cancelling a red 1½d KGV head stamp and it was addressed to Smythe at the Theosophical Society in Canada, 26 West Glen Grove Avenue, Toronto, Canada. The sender was identified as The Theosophical Society, Australian Section Headquarters, 29 Bligh Street, Sydney, N.S.W., and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second was a large envelope addressed to Smythe, Editor “Canadian Theosophist”, 5 Rookwood Place, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and it had the green 1d KGVI New Zealand stamp cancelled with a roller AUCKLAND postmark. The sender was identified as Theosophy in New Zealand, 371 Queen Street, Auckland C1, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 2).

Whereas Smythe did not have a separate entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia his name was included in a single paragraph on “Theosophy, (a) philosophical system based on a belief in a universal, eternal principle fundamental to all life. The mystical overtones of its proposition of the fundamental identity of all ‘Souls with the Universal Soul’ are similar to the doctrines of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 by Helena Petrova Blavatsky and others. “To form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.”

“The Society has also sought to encourage study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. The fist Canadian branch of the society was formed in Toronto in (February 16) 1891 by (a group of Canadians) and newspaper editor Albert Smythe….. In 1919, an autonomous Canadian section, The Theosophical Society in Canada, was formed. Albert Smythe was its head and first editor of its journal, The Canadian Theosophist, which has published continuously ever since.” There are active Canadian lodges in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria.

Albert Ernest Stafford Smythe was born at Gracehill, County Antrim, Ireland on December 27th, 1861, son of Stafford Smythe and Leonora Cary. He was well educated particularly in the sciences and he received special prizes in geology, botany and physics. He lived for several years in Chicago, employed by a business house and he came to Toronto in September 1889 with his wife Mary Adelaide Constantine of Lancashire, England, and was employed as agent for Portland Cement for 5 years. He became interested in the Theosophical movement, joining the American Section and he edited a propaganda organ for the movement, The Lamp. He had one son Constantine (Conn) Smythe whose name is better known to more Canadians than Albert. His wife died in 1906, he remarried in 1912 without further issue, and he died on 2 October 1947 in Hamilton, Ontario.

Albert Smythe might appropriately be called ‘The Poet of Theosophy’ for all his best verse is infused with the fundamental beliefs of this all-embracing religion which, as taught by him, would harmonize and unify all creeds. He wrote two books of poetry, Poems Grave and Gay (1891) and The Garden of the Sun (1923). A photo of Albert Smythe is seen in Figure 3.