The phrase “paradigm shift” is utterly overused and has lost most of it’s force. There really is such a thing though. What does it look like?
Both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were greatly influenced by Owen Barfield’s thoughts on the “abstract” and “literal” with regards to mythology. (This would take along time to explain here.) It appeared in a book he wrote called Poetic Diction, though other people had been developing the idea as well.
Not long after the book’s publication, Lewis reported to Barfield: ‘You might like to know that when Tolkien dined with me the other night he said a propos of something quite different that your conception of the ancient semantic unity had modified his whole outlook and that he hwas always just going to say something in a lecture when your conception stopped him in time. “It’s one of those things,” he said “that when you’ve once seen it there are all sorts of things you can never say again.”
So it was that by 1931 Lewis had come to understand that mythology has an important position in the history of thinking. It was a realisation that helped him across his last philosophical hurdle [to accepting Christianity].
-Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings, p.42
That’s the phrase I like the most: “It’s one of those things that when you’ve once seen it there are all sorts of things you can never say again.”
This is exactly what I felt after reading Rene Girard. There are just some silly ideas about history and sociology that you can never say again with a straight face.
Experiences change people’s minds all the time. For example, spending a year serving among the impoverished in a foreign country will change your perception of the poor. I’ve never done this myself, but it seems like it would. Being married for 10 years changes your thinking about a lot of things, but it’s rather gradual.
Most people’s conversions to Christianity are a gradual combination of many things, even if part of it could be described in this way.
The change I’m talking about here is much faster. It comes from maybe just 1 hour of reading an incredible, special piece of reasoning. How do you describe that?
I think rather than opening your mouth, to tell everyone about your exciting new discovery, it humbles and closes your mouth, at least for a time. There are some things you can just never say again.