We queer people, collectively, are a tribe which carries some profound wounds. We‚Äôve been wounded in our connection to our bodies through cultural messages about our sexuality that induce shame and guilt. We‚Äôve been wounded in our connection to the spiritual dimension of life, through religious doctrines that tell us that who we intrinsically are is wrong and sinful. In a larger sense, all of Western civilization is spiritually wounded, because we‚Äôre all heirs to traditions such as that of Plato, who imagined a perfect world of pure spirit, separate from the imperfect, mundane world of matter. In this view, the human spirit is imprisoned in the world of matter, and the purpose of spiritual life is to escape from the prison of this impure body altogether and leave the physical world behind.
Kirk Prine is having none of this. As the chief architect of the San Francisco-based Flesh and Spirit Community, his mission is to help heal these divisions and wounds in our community and in the world through cultivating an ‚Äúerotic spirituality‚ÄĚ which ‚Äúaffirms the sacredness of the body, sex and eroticism as an expression of the Divine‚ÄĚ and which asserts that all apparent division between the erotic and the spiritual is illusory.
Kirk began his unusual career in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was trained and licensed as a Professional Clinical Counselor. He might have had a conventional career as a traditional psychotherapist, but his experience with the mass death from AIDS of gay men in the ‚Äė80‚Äôs, and his confrontation with his own wounds led him in a different direction. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, he found his own sexual expression with the men he loved inhibited and constricted; and standard talking therapy was ineffective in freeing him. He found the freedom he sought through exploring practices, which work directly with the body, such as Native American sweat lodge rituals, massage, yogic breathing, and erotic bodywork.
His own healing led him to a new understanding of erotic spirituality, which he describes as ‚Äúan invitation to an ecstatic life‚ÄĚ through celebration of the inherent unity of body and spirit. When talking about erotic spirituality, he‚Äôs fond of quoting the Persian mystical poet Rumi, who wrote, ‚ÄúIf you ask me how Jesus raised the dead, kiss me on the lips.‚ÄĚ He also likes these words from Alice Miller, ‚ÄúAll people deserve to worship a God who worships them,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúEveryone deserves a God who adores our freedom.‚ÄĚ
Kirk believes that queer people have a unique spiritual mission to fulfill. ‚ÄúEvery tribe has gifts to offer to the wholeness of the planet,‚ÄĚ he told me, and ‚Äúthe queer tribe has gifts having to do with the body and sex.‚ÄĚ Because it is our bodies that have been wounded, and because we‚Äôve had to work to heal the shame and guilt lodged in our physical beings in order to function authentically, we have a special sensitivity to the importance of sexuality to bring to the world. ‚ÄúAnd because we know a lot about pleasure and pleasure-making, we can make pleasure a gift which heals separation and guilt.‚ÄĚ He believes that ‚Äúwe have an intrinsic prophetic voice to bring to the world community. ‚ÄúWe are disturbance makers ‚Äď the ones who challenge black and white thinking, convention, and fixed categories.‚ÄĚ We are also bridge builders among the races, classes and genders, because we come from all the other tribes and have therefore encoded in our bodies the stories of all the other tribes. And, when we‚Äôve done our own healing work, ‚Äúwhen we‚Äôre in mutual yes,‚ÄĚ we do our work of upsetting the status quo ‚Äúlovingly, creatively, and peacefully.‚ÄĚ We have much to offer, and much to be proud of.
Kirk‚Äôs Flesh and Spirit Community seeks to realize this vision through a variety of programs. He facilitates periodic workshops, each focusing on exploring one of six ‚Äúerotic archetypes‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒ The Peaceful Warrior, The Lover, The Sacred Prostitute, the Elder, the Mystic, and the Prophet. He also facilitates monthly ‚Äúecstatic massage‚ÄĚ evenings, in which queer men create a safe, sacred space to explore whole body massage, erotic touch, and deep breathing work with one another. He finds that, when the men in his groups experience ecstasy, the intensity of the experience is powerful enough to ‚Äúrewire the old stories‚ÄĚ that were based on abuse, shame, and ostracism. They begin to experience their bodies and spirits in fresh and unexpected new ways.
Kirk is currently distilling what he‚Äôs learned about erotic spirituality in a book to be titled The Erotic Body Prayer Manual. Those who wish to learn more about the work and ideas of this unique man can access his website, www.fleshand spirit.org, or call him directly at (415) 552-7417.
Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. His website is tommoon.net.