In a mystery novel I’m reading, which is set in early twentieth-century England, it was discovered that one of the richest and most powerful men in the country was contributing money to the International Brotherhood of Socialists:
So, I asked myself, what kind of scene is a Dama?<2009 “And what on earth was someone like Ravenscliff doing giving money to a group who, one assumed, were dedicated to abolishing everything he stood for? Had he had a Damascene conversion?”—Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears, page 107>
DAMASCENE (dăm' ə-sēn) 1) adjective: Of or pertaining to the city of Damascus. 2) noun: An inhabitant of Damascus.
DAMASCENE CONVERSION (also Pauline conversion and road to Damascus): The way one suddenly comes to believe something of great importance in one’s life such as a conviction, opinion, or cause.
Etymology: Alludes to the sudden and dramatic conversion of Paul the Apostle to Christianity. The site of his conversion was on the road to Damascus. The story goes that Paul – known as Saul of Taurus before his conversion – had been a Pharisee, a zealous persecutor of Christians, and was on his way to Damascus to make prisoners of all Christians he found there. On the way he suddenly found himself in the center of a blinding light and falling to the ground, heard God’s voice saying ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest me?’ (Acts 9:4), upon which he decided, on the spot, to convert to Christianity and went on to become a powerful and influential Christian. His conversion was viewed as miraculous. It is interesting to note that Paul refers to himself as an ‘Apostle’ of Jesus, but he was not one of ‘The Twelve’ apostles – he wasn't yet born when Christ was crucified. <The experience of meeting people who had no homes an no food, but were still sure of their beliefs, was her road to Damascus, her Damascene conversion.> (Oxford Dictionary of Allusions, Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture, and Wikipedia)
The following quotes are from archived sources:
It should be noted that I found the appearance of Damascene/Pauline conversion to be extremely rare in the U.S. and quite common in the U.K. Interesting!<1931 “Herr Gustav Stresemann . . . experienced what was almost a Damascene conversion, and arrived at a decision which changed the course of European events,”—Bulletin of International News, Vol. 7, No. 17, 12 February, page 1141>
<1990 “His change of heart is still hotly debated today. President Roh's supporters have tried to portray it as a Damascene conversion: a sudden flash of light that turned him, one of Korea's many political generals, into a shining democrat.”—The Economist (US), 18 August>
<1995 ‘Richard underwent some sort of religious conversion—the full road-to-Damascus number, so I heard.”—Frightening Strikes by H. Whelan>
<1996 “Two years after this Damascene conversion to all things indie my knowledge of music remained fitful and untheoretical.”—The Independent (London), 2 February>
<2005 “Britain’s most enduring pop star, Sir Cliff Richard, who turned 65 just a few weeks ago, makes no secret of his Damascene conversion to evangelical Christianity, nor of the fact that he reads the Bible every night . . .”—Daily Mail (London),14 December>
<2008 “Can this be the same David Selbourne who argued . . . that he hoped resurgent Islam would arise again and punish us all for our wickedness? Are there two David Selbournes or is there only one, who has had a Pauline conversion, and now understands the real menace of Islamist fascism and the need for proper pride in our present liberal democracies and their collective heritages?”—The Spectator (London), 5 April>
<2012 “During his time in office, Haley Barbour, the conservative Governor of Mississippi, signed off the execution of nine residents on the state's Death Row.That was then. Freed from the burden of having to seek elected office, the one-time Republican presidential contender, appears to have undergone a sudden, Damascene conversion with regard to crime and punishment.”—The Independent (London),12 January>
Ken G – February 9, 2012