Metaphoric Internalization
"The eighteenth century," Barfield comments in "The Harp and the Camera," "used to talk of a 'ruling passion'; but there is also the ruling metaphor. Perhaps for reading the signs of the times, it is a good deal more important" (RM 74).

In each metaphorical instance, the tenor is not well known or understood; it demands the clarification a good metaphor can bring. The vehicle, on the other hand, is something whose qualities we are already familiar with; we borrow, quite selectively, what we know about the vehicle tenor and apply it to the tenor, making the tenor more comprehensible.

Barfield has noted the existence of a phenomenon he calls metaphoric internalization, the largely unconscious implementation of the vehicles of certain metaphors in the creation of the prevailing idolatry of an age. For example, the computer now contributes profoundly, usually without our clear recognition, to our understanding of many aspects of our society, our behavior, and our minds. Barfield has noted other profound examples.

I recall very well, when I was writing my early book, History in English Words, being astonished at the ubiquitous appearance of the clock as a metaphor shortly after it had been invented. It turned up everywhere where anybody was trying to describe the way things work in nature. Then the clocks stopped--but the metaphor went on. The student of words and their meaning and the history of them asks himself uneasily: This Newton-Laplace universe, in which the nineteenth century found itself so much at home, was it after all much more than metaphorical clockwork? (RM 73)1

In understanding the collective representations of an era, Barfield insists, we should always bear in mind that "the influences which go to make up the outlook of an age are sometimes seen working most powerfully--though beneath the surface--in the very minds which believe themselves to be combating the outlook most stubbornly" (HEW 177).
See in particular "The Harp and the Camera" (RM 65-78).
1Earlier--in History in English Words--Barfield had asked "Was the rhythmical mimicry of organic life, which is the characteristic of machinery, already having its unperceived effect on men's minds and philosophies? . . . The closing years of the eighteenth century produced Paley's famous watch, a popular allegory which, in proving the existence of a creator, at the same time relegated all His activities to the remote past" (HEW 177).