Yesterday I wrote about Barry Jenkins’ narration of the swimming scene in the movie “Moonlight”, which he wrote and directed. I was fascinated with the expression he used, spiritual transference, which I had not heard before.
The swimming scene is where two actors, Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali re-connect. The adult Mahershala plays the role of father figure to young Alex, who plays the youth part of the main character the movie is about, a gay, black man. Jenkins says, “I thought there needed to be a moment of spiritual transference between these two characters.”
From initially being uncomfortable in the water, you can see Alex become increasingly more comfortable with Mahershala’s encouragement. Mahershala begins by holding Alex as he learns to float on his back. After an initial, startled reaction, Mahershala’s soothing voice and words and smiling face help Alex relax. Teaching a life lesson, developing trust.
We don’t have good words and ways to describe spiritual matters, which is why I’m really interested in this term. When Quakers talk about being able to communicate directly with God, or the spirit, in our present time, this could be thought of as spiritual transference, couldn’t it?
Spiritual transference could also be a way to express what spiritual seekers are looking for, I think. It is intriguing to think in these terms, too, when I think of how I’d like to share with others spiritually. The transference could be bidirectional, as well.
Maybe exploring the idea of spiritual transference can help develop more intentional skills, and a more useful vocabulary for exploring spiritual matters ourselves, and with others.