Imagine a train, exactly 1,001 cars long (shades of the 1,001 Nights!) traversing the great land masses of the Earth on a closed railroad loop, completing a full circuit each year. It passes through frozen, lifeless landscapes everywhere. And it must never stop.

That is Snowpiercer.

Based on a French graphic novel titled “Trans-Snowfall” (1982) (with a hint at the Trans-Siberian Railway), the post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer (2013) was made into a TV series in 2020. The latter is supposed to be a prequel to the movie, so the storylines are different. But the setting is the same.

Sometime in the near future, to prevent climate change and overcome the effects of global warming, scientists release a chemical into the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, the scientists miscalculate, and the planet is plunged into a new Ice Age.

Faced with the impending extinction of humanity, Mr. Wilford, equal parts engineer, genius and eccentric billionaire, conceives a modern version of Noah’s Ark. He builds the railroad loop before disaster strikes, even constructing a bridge between Siberia and Alaska. In effect, the train is a perpetual-motion machine.

On the train there are three classes, First, Second and Third, starting from the front and moving toward the back. Ticketless passengers, who could not afford the prices and forced themselves on the last cars as the train took off, are called “Tailers.” The passengers on the train are all that is left of humanity.

A rigid—and rigidly enforced—social order exists on the train. Kept in line by draconian measures,  the Tailers live in unspeakable conditions and subsist on black protein bars made out of cockroaches and assorted insects, while the Firsters enjoy unimaginable (to the Tailers) opulence and luxury. As one character remarks, this resembles a skyscraper laid sideways on a track, or perhaps a pyramid.

But what does the train symbolize?

The Social Pyramid

Snowpiercer is a metaphor for Spaceship Earth, completing a revolution around the sun once a year. The planet travels through the cold, lifeless expanses of space. And the social conditions on the train exactly mirror those that exist in real life. The have-alls, the 1 percent of the 1 percent, are in command of limitless resources, while the have-nots barely survive from day to day. After wealth reaches a certain critical mass, it attains such a momentum that the super-rich don’t have to do anything: it just keeps on growing by itself. Consider the following headline-worthy facts:

  • Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet (the 99%).

  • If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.

  • The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.  

  • The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. 

  • Just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. 

  • Meanwhile, around 735 million people are still living in extreme poverty. Many others are just one hospital bill or failed harvest away from slipping into it. 

  • Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare. 

  • Over the last 30 years [up to 2017] the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%.  

  • 25,000 people die of starvation each day. 

  • The 3 richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of their fellow citizens. (Oxfam Reports, 2017-2020, Forbes.)

Master Kayhan used to express this in terms of a simile. Three cauldrons in a row, the ones on either end shoot water at each other from time to time. Nothing lands in the middle one. Translation: the rich give to the rich, the poor receive nothing.

The extreme inequality portrayed above is both unconscionable and unsustainable. But what is to be done?


At this point, we might do well to remember Roger Garaudy (1913-2012), the French philosopher who converted to Islam in 1982. His Islam is by no means that of the fundamentalists, but rather that of the Sufi mystics.

Garaudy had an interesting career. He was both a Marxist and a Christian. Marx, a sort of godless Hebrew prophet turned economist, laid emphasis on society, on the collectivity. Jesus, on the other hand, emphasized the individual, the primacy of the person. Garaudy found both indispensable: he claimed that one could neglect neither society as a whole, nor the individual. However, he was unable to reconcile the materialism of Marxism with the spirituality of Christianity.

According to his own account, Garaudy was originally a Christian. When he found out that cartels were destroying millions of tons of milk and burning millions of tons of wheat in order to keep prices high while the poor were starving to death, this profound lack of conscience drove him to Marxism. But this, in turn, had no spiritual side at all: it was dry as a bone.

At the end of the Second World War, Garaudy was sent to a prison camp in Algeria. The French commandant wanted him dead for disobeying his orders. Yet the Moslem soldier charged with the task refused to execute Garaudy, thus placing his own life in jeopardy, and helped him escape. When Garaudy asked him why he had done that, the reply was:

“I’m a Moslem. I can’t take the God-given life of an unarmed man.”

This unconditional obedience to a higher authority than the commanding officer left a lasting impression.

Until then, Garaudy had viewed Islam as merely a tribal religion. This response led him to research it in greater depth. What he discovered convinced him that the aims of both Marx and Jesus could be achieved, without revolutionary upheaval on the one hand and without renouncing the world on the other.

A fairer distribution of income, Garaudy realized, was possible through one of the Five Pillars of Islam: the Alms-tax (zakat). The alms-tax, he wrote,
is levied not only on income but on capital, it allows for “social transfers.” This first form of social security, which was only won in certain Western countries (like France) in the middle of the 20th century after a secular class struggle, was acquired in Islam, as a requirement of the faith, thirteen centuries earlier. (Garaudy, The Promise of Islam (Promesses de l’Islam, Paris: Seuil, 1981), p. 63.)
Many verses in the Koran mention Prayer (the Formal Prayer, salat, namaz)—but always with the alms-tax in the same breath: “those who perform the Prayer and give the alms-tax...” One is not complete without the other.

But consider: the Prayer is a most intimate moment with God, it is a personal, spiritual matter. Yet the alms-tax cannot be more social. Thus, the Koranic verses unite the spiritual with the material, they combine the individual with the social.

And here we reach the crux of the matter. For as Master Ahmet Kayhan explained: “If human beings valued spiritual instead of material wealth, they would achieve everything they desired by material wealth. There would be no wars, there would be brotherhood, there would be happiness, they would win everything.” (Bayman, The Teachings of a Perfect Master (TPM), p. 177.)

Washing Your Money

According to God, everything we earn is not ours alone: the poor have a rightful share in our earnings. If we usurp their share, this is unclean. In order to cleanse our money, we have to give the poor their due, in accordance with the ruling of God. If we fail to do this, there will be consequences, as attested by vast experience. We will lose that money or more under less desirable circumstances.

The annual alms-tax rate has been set at 2.5 percent, or one-fortieth, of one’s excess wealth, after all needs have been taken care of. It looks as if the poor will always be with us. But this amount, if everyone chips in, is enough to save them from destitution. The Prophet said: “If more were necessary, God would have prescribed a higher amount for the alms-tax.” Indeed, in the time of the Caliph Omar Ibn Abd al-Aziz (a.k.a. “the fifth Rightly-Guided Caliph”), one alms-tax collector could not find anyone to give it to. So this is possible. And one-fortieth of the huge wealth of our super-rich is enough to raise everyone out of extreme poverty. (On the other hand, nothing prevents you from giving more, should you so desire!)

God allows the iniquities of this world for a reason: so that we can do good, so that we can right wrongs. Master Kayhan related a Saying of God: ‘I love man very much, I serve man by the hand of man.’ (TPM, p. 97.) Our hands are God’s hands.

The Meaning of Community

Garaudy further writes:
Zakat is not charity, but a kind of institutionalized, mandatory justice within the community,  which renders effective the solidarity of men of faith, that is to say of those who know how to overcome selfishness and greed in themselves. Zakat is a permanent reminder that all wealth, like everything else, belongs to God, and that the individual cannot dispose of it as he pleases, that each human being is a member of a community. (Garaudy, The Promise of Islam, p. 33 (item 14).)
Elsewhere he adds: “[a reminder] ... that every human being is a member of all the others.” (Call to the Living (Appel aux Vivants, Paris: Seuil, 1979), p. 193.)

Here we should recall that the French word “membre” also encompasses the meaning “limb,” that is, an integral part of an organic whole. And this brings to mind the Saying of the Prophet: “In loving, pitying and protecting each other, the faithful are like one body. When a limb/organ of a body is ailing, all the other limbs/organs suffer insomnia and fever as well.” (Bukhari, Adab, 27.)

That is the true meaning of community. Otherwise, what you have is—as Frank Sinatra once said in a movie—“a bunch of people living at the same address.”

The Prophet and the Poor

Master Kayhan relates:
Our Prophet always loved the weak and cherished the poor. In emigrating from Mecca to Medina, most were hungry and naked. Once there, the Prophet invited the world to peace. Foreign delegations began to arrive. Some residents consulted with Abu Bakr: ‘These people are poor and naked, let’s send them to another neighborhood so that they won’t be seen. Let them stay away from the Mosque.’ They agreed on this.

Someone has to tell our Prophet. Abu Bakr said, ‘I won’t do that.’ So Omar told him after the Noon Prayer. Our Prophet said: ‘As you wish.’ That’s all. They specified a neighborhood, about five minutes’ walking distance.

After midnight, the Prophet of God got up and went there. He did the Wakeup Prayer [before the Dawn Prayer], he consoled them, both he and they shed tears. ‘Don’t worry, everything’s going to be all right. I’ll clothe you, I’ll feed you.’

It’s almost morning, the Prophet of God is nowhere to be found. Aisha is apprehensive, too. Somebody came and said, ‘He’s there. He’s alive, don’t worry.’ They went, he’s talking. Omar said: ‘Forgive us, Messenger of God. Did we make a mistake?’ The Prophet: ‘Yes, Omar, you made a very great mistake. I came with the poor, I’m with the poor, I shall go with the poor. Wherever the poor are, there I am. My business is with the poor.’ (TPM, p. 299.)
Hence, in no way should the poor be regarded as “useless eaters.”

Moreover, the Master said that the world can sustain up to 100 billion people. Most of the Earth, he said, is empty expanse. So, while increasing global populations are the cause of concern for some, there is nothing to be afraid of as long as resources are stewarded properly.

The Role Prophets Play

One can, perhaps, infer the existence of God by reason alone. But this dry, rational knowledge is not enough. And one would have to live many lifetimes to infer more about God’s ways.

So, in order to make things easy for us, God has conveyed knowledge about Himself and how to live in this world via certain selected human beings. Listen to William Blake:
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.
Another way to interpret this is: God has sent prophets to communicate with human beings. Those of us who are fortunate enough, heed His guidelines in our journey through this world. For God has assured us: “Any believer, male or female, who does righteous/good deeds, We will surely grant them a good life in this world, and they will (also) receive their due reward in the Hereafter” (16:97).


One of the greatest good deeds is to have compassion or empathy, and to act accordingly. And one of the worst things is hardness of heart. The Master said: “The greatest thing is to control the self. The second greatest thing is to feel compassion towards all creatures. The third greatest thing is to fulfill the principles of Islam to the letter.” (TPM, p.129.)

Compassion should not be reserved for loved ones or human beings alone. One day, a visitor found Master Kayhan gazing out the window. “There’s a dog out there that has gone hungry for three days,” he said. “I’m trying to find someone to feed it.”

Stone-heartedness towards animals is one of the reasons that led to the coronavirus pandemic (see sidebar).

 The 2020 Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 highlighted the fact that intensive livestock production provides a hotbed for breeding viruses. Factory farms, especially of poultry, compress a great number of fowl into a confined space, such that each bird lives out its life in a space smaller than letter paper, wallowing in waste. Under these conditions, fecal contamination is unavoidable, and viruses thrive in feces—in their numbers, their kinds, and their evolution into deadlier pathogens. The same holds for herds and wet markets. Health officials are not exaggerating when they compare the living conditions of these animals to those of medieval cities. We condemn our livestock to living in concentration camps. Picture the chickens in a modern henhouse as human beings, and you will see what I mean.
Farm animals confined to pens in which they can barely move are often denied even a modicum of straw bedding, being forced to lay down on cold concrete. If you think that such heartless cruelty inflicted on literally billions of animals is not going to result in blowback, youve got another looong think coming.
In animals as in humans, stress suppresses the immune system, enabling viruses and bacteria to proliferate. We act as if we think animals are already dead. But they’re alive: they have souls and nervous systems, they feel, they experience pain. A famous philosopher was deluding himself when he thought that animals are robots.
Moses asks God: “Will You destroy us for what the fools among us have done?” (7:155). Sometimes, innocents suffer along with the guiltyperhaps for not having prevented (or at least, raised their voice against) the injustice of the latter, in accordance with the principle to “enjoin the good and forbid the evil.”

Instrumental reason tells us to maximize our profits and minimize our loss, but instrumental reason is blind to anything other than money. We’ve become like the one-eyed Cyclops lurching around after Odysseus put out its eye. This is what happens when you lose your moral compass.
In altering the traditional ecology of farm animals, where they could graze in open spaces, we have created the conditions for our own undoing. We have violated the balance of nature. And as someone once said, nature always has the last laugh. We may be thankful that the 2020 pandemic did not claim more lives than it did.
(For further details, see Michael Greger, How to Survive a Pandemic (New York: Flatiron Books, 2020).)

Compassion should be extended even toward the enemy, as the following account illustrates.

The Prophet and the Enemy in Combat
 After a battle, our Prophet does not return to Medina, though he could have. If they return, they could reach Medina by midnight. But he doesn’t. He stays there that night. In the morning, he visits the wounded. Then he asks:

‘Your brother and an enemy soldier are wounded in war. You have a glass of water in your hand. Which one would you give it to?’

They all reply, ‘To our brother, O Prophet.’ ‘Okay,’ he says, ‘they’re both hungry, and you have a bite to eat in your hand. Who do you give it to?’ They say, ‘To our brother.’

‘That’s not the right answer,’ he says.

Abu Bakr and Omar ask: ‘What would you do, Messenger of God?’

Even if he had attacked me in person, I would give a drop more than half a glass to the enemy soldier. He can get up and draw his sword again if he wants to.’ (TPM, pp. 67-8.)

*    *    *

“Whatever you are,” says the Buddhist Dhammapada, “is the result of what you have thought.” And the Master said: “If man is corrupt, the entire world is corrupted.”

What is needed is a profound change of mind and heart: a “hard rethink” to reorient our fundamental outlook on life.

Unless and until that happens, the train we are on—our own train—will keep on hurtling toward the precipice.



Hokusai, The Blind Men and the Elephant (block print, Japan, ca. 1817).
The elephant sadly and patiently suffers the inspection.

The Eye of the Heart
 In that great tale for people of all ages, The Little Prince, the French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
St.-Exupéry is talking about what is known in Sufism as the “Eye of the Heart” (Ar. ayn al-qalb, Prs. chasm-e dil). The concept has strong analogies in other wisdom traditions: it’s even in the Bible (Grk. ofthalmous tis kardias, Lat. oculus cordis: Eph. 1:18). But as Prof. Huston Smith has pointed out, it is dealt with “most directly in Sufism”. For example, the Sufi martyr Mansur al-Hallaj wrote:
I saw my Lord with the Eye of the Heart. I asked: “Who are You?”
He answered: “You.”
A Saying of the Prophet goes: “Beware the discernment of the faithful, for s/he sees with the light of God.”
The Heart that the Sufis intend is not the physical lump of flesh that pumps blood, but a psychic center or “Subtlety” (latifa) belonging to the spiritual body, located within the body of an adult a couple of inches below the left nipple. God does not care about the external trappings of a human being, but looks at what is in one’s Heart. In fact, it is said that the Heart is the seat of God. According to a Holy Tradition, “The heavens and the earth could not contain Me, but the Heart of my believing servant did.”
In the modern world, the heart is taken to be the center of emotion. In other cultures, however, such as in ancient Egypt, ancient China and Sufism, knowledge—and especially, knowledge of the divine—was situated in the Heart. And the Eye of the Heart is the organ of spiritual vision. Moreover, this eye ultimately sees not duality/multiplicity, but the One. In the words of the Sufi poet Sham’i of Konya (sometimes confused with Shamsi of Sivas),
Nobody attains the Real till one is distant from all else
The treasure doesn't open in this Heart until it is full of light
Drive out everything else from the Heart until the Real manifests
The King does not enter the palace until the place is built up.
Our calling, as human beings on this planet, is to open this Eye of the Heart.

The Man Born Blind
Consider the following story by the Chinese poet Su Tung-po (a.k.a. Su Shi, Su Dongpo):
There was a man born blind. He had
never seen the sun and asked about it of people who could
see. Someone told him, "the sun's shape is like a brass tray."
The blind man struck the brass tray and heard its sound.
Later when he heard the sound of a bell, he thought it was
the sun. Again someone told him, "The sunlight is like that
of a candle," and the blind man felt the candle, and thought
that was the sun's shape. Later he felt a big key and thought
it was a sun.
The sun is quite different from a bell or a key, but the
blind man cannot tell their difference because he has never
seen the sun. The Truth is harder to see than the sun, and
when people do not know it they are exactly like the blind
man. Even if you do your best to explain by analogies and
examples, it still appears like the analogy of the brass tray
and the candle. From what is said of the brass tray, one
imagines a bell, and from what is said about a candle, one
imagines a key. In this way, one gets ever further and further
away from the truth. Those who speak about Truth
sometimes give it a name according to what they happen to
see, or imagine what it is like without seeing it. These are
mistakes in the effort to understand Truth.
(Quoted in Henry Bayman, The Black Pearl (2005), p. xxix.)

The Elephant in the Dark
In his masterwork The Masnavi, the great Sufi poet Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi tells the story of an elephant brought from India to a land that knew nothing about elephants and placed in an unlighted barn at night. People were curious to discover this unfamiliar creature, so they went in and groped around, feeling various parts of the animal. (M 3:1259-1274.) Rumi did not invent this story; it has a much earlier provenance. Coleman Barks has done a modern translation of Rumi’s tale. A variant of the story has blind men feeling the elephant, instead of it being in a dark barn at night. I have given a rhyming poem by John Godfrey Saxe below because it is more fun.
Of course, the story is quite enjoyable, and can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. But what did Rumi himself intend by it? For this, we need to look at the verses that succeed the story (I quote from the E.H. Whinfield translation):
The eye of outward sense is as the palm of a hand,
The whole of the object is not grasped in the palm.
The sea itself is one thing, the foam another;
Neglect the foam, and regard the sea with your eyes.
Waves of foam rise from the sea night and day,
You look at the foam ripples and not the mighty sea.
We, like boats, are tossed hither and thither,
We are blind though we are on the bright ocean.
Ah! you who are asleep in the boat of the body,
You see the water; behold the Water of waters!
Under the water you see there is another Water moving it,
Within the spirit is a Spirit that calls it.
Here we have the key. The sea/foam or ocean/wave metaphor is a frequent trope used by the Sufis. The sea or ocean stands for God, who is the Truth and the Real, while waves and foam represent the phenomenal world, with its incessant flow of evanescent events. We become so engrossed in this grand procession that we do not see the ocean for the waves. Yet just beneath the surface, beyond all the frenzied activity, there is the stillness, the calm, the immensity of the ocean. Within every spirit there lies the divine Spirit: what Ibn Arabi called “the Spirit of spirits, not the spirit of receptacles” (Futuhat 1, 9). Or, as the Sufi poet Yunus Emre sang: “There is an I inside me, inner than myself.”
God is close to us—closer, in fact, “than your jugular vein” (50:16). But are we close to God?
We see, then, that the blind men and the elephant stand, in Rumi’s understanding, for us versus God. We are blind to God’s existence, and even when we acknowledge Him, we each fancy God to be circumscribed by our own limited view of Him. But what is infinite, even beyond the infinite, cannot fit into any pigeonhole, however large (except perhaps the human Heart). As it is said in the Upanishads: “If you think you know the truth about God, know that you know little indeed.”
That said, let us conclude with the poem.

The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Hindustan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “Even the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!?”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!



The Curse of the Black Bubblegum
In a terrifying, eerie and wonderful short story, ambiguously titled The Affair at 7, Rue de M— (1955), John Steinbeck relates the case of a bubblegum that began to chew a boy. The narrator is the boys father:
My child manfully tried to disengage the gum from his jaws. “It won’t let me go,” he sputtered. 
“Open up,” I said and then inserting my fingers in his mouth I seized hold of the large lump of gum and after a struggle in which my fingers slipped again and again, managed to drag it forth and to deposit the ugly blob on my desk on top of a pile of white manuscript paper. 
For a moment it seemed to shudder there on the paper and then with an easy slowness it began to undulate, to swell and recede with the exact motion of being chewed while my son and I regarded it with popping eyes.
As I spoke a change came over the gum. It ceased to chew itself and seemed to rest for awhile, and then with a flowing movement like those monocellular animals of the order Paramecium, the gum slid across the desk straight in the direction of my son. For a moment I was stricken with astonishment and for an even longer time I failed to discern its intent. It dropped to his knee, climbed horribly up his shirt front. Only then did I understand. It was trying to get back into his mouth. He looked down on it paralyzed with fright.
Think the “extraterrestrial symbiote” in the Spiderman movie, Venom (2018):
Numerous attempts to get rid of the gum, each more drastic than the last, all meet with failure. Fire doesnt destroy the cancerous thing,” it simply melts it. Finally, by imprisoning it in a hermetically sealed bell jar, the father is able to keep the pest away from the boy, depriving it of the life it needs.
But what does the story signify?
Steinbeck gives a hint at one point: “the tumorous lump” is alive and intelligent, but with an “evil calculating wiliness.” For: “Intelligence without the soul to balance it must of necessity be evil.”
Steinbecks extraordinary insight is that he ascribes agency to evil. It is not passive, waiting inertly and lifelessly at every step of the way. Rather, at a certain stage it becomes Active Evil, taking on a life and will of its own. And it begins to suck you in like a magnet attracting iron filings, until it engulfs you completely. Like quicksand.
The result: you turn into that yourself.

From a Sufic point of view, Steinbeck’s “intelligence without the soul to balance it” is not sufficiently clear, and needs to be emended. Intelligence, or the intellect, is not by itself evil. Rather, it becomes so when it is commandeered by the Base Self (nafs al-ammara) for the latter’s own purposes. This is “the self that always commands to evil” (12:53). It is our inner animal, our inner demon.  Because there is something of it in everyone, it has led to the erroneous concept of original sin. But this self can be trained, it can be purified, and can lead to much more desirable outcomes.

Mind, Faith, Courtesy

A Sufi story related by Master Ahmet Kayhan explains how, in our human condition, intelligence alone is not enough, but must be supplemented by faith and courteous conduct:

God said to Gabriel, ‘Let’s give him something.’ He sent three presents: Mind, Faith, Courtesy. He said, ‘Whichever one he chooses, bring back the other two.’
Adam thought. He has no mind, no ideas, he’s a mudcake. Again this isn’t Adam’s work, it’s God’s. There’s a Giver. He said, ‘I’ll take Mind.’
Gabriel said, ‘You chose the best.’ He said to Faith and Courtesy: ‘Come on, let’s go.’ Faith said: ‘Without me, Mind can’t manage.’ He turned to Courtesy, ‘Let’s go.’ Courtesy said, ‘I’m the garment of these two. Without me, neither of them can manage by themselves. I stay, too.’ So they all remained with Adam.
Gabriel conferred with God. ‘What shall I do?’ God said, ‘Everything’s found its proper place, if he can use them. The trust has found its place. Come back.’ [...]
Now, don’t we possess these three? We do. It’s the very same hour, the same moment. As with Adam and Eve, so with us all. This word is valid every hour.
(Henry Bayman, The Teachings of A Perfect Master (2012), p. 269.)
So in Sufic terms, Steinbeck’s “soul” would need to be replaced by faith and courtesy. 

The Base Self and Sex Human beings are designed to have faith, and if “the God-shaped hole in the human soul,” as Sartre put it, is not filled with that which is proper to it, it will still be filled, but this time with other idols, other gods. In ancient times, these could be quite coarse things, such as rocks or statues. These have disappeared in our age. But now, they are replaced by more abstract entities: wealth, power, sexuality. Their abstractness makes it more difficult to discern their role as idols. This means that there is no true atheist, except for nihilists. Sociologist-anthropologist Bruno Latour has pointed out that our so-called “modern world” is itself beset with “idols: money, law, reason, nature, machines, organization, or linguistic structures... efficacy is attributed to things that neither move nor speak” (The Pasteurization of France, p. 209).
And of these idols, sex is among the most notorious. It is (as Freud has elaborated) one of the most powerful drives, and a prime target for the Base Self to latch onto. This can easily lead to placing a member of the opposite sex on a pedestal: to idolizing a woman, and, via that channel, worshiping one's own lust: sexolatry. (This also discloses the true meaning of nude (and other sexually suggestive) paintings.)

A Model of Human Sexuality
Consider a table that is exactly level. If you place a ball on it, it will remain stationary. If, however, the table is tilted, even a little bit, it will roll off. The horizontal position of the table provides the ball with an “island of stability.” Whichever way you tilt the table, the ball will roll off in that direction.
Human sexuality is like a ball on a table. Because the Prophet said: “Every child is born a Moslem,” that is, pure and undefiled, a childs instincts are initially geared toward Clean Sex: that is, within matrimony and with a mature member of the opposite sex. However, various circumstances encountered in life can drive one off this island of stability. It is then that the sexual urge becomes warped and seeks different outlets for its satisfaction.
Extramarital Sex is one of the two great scourges of humanity, the other being Illicit Wealth. God says: “Do not (even) approach fornication/adultery” (17:32). Once you begin to kiss their neck, its over. The slippery slope takes you all the way.
Extramarital Sex is one of the two great scourges of humanity, the other being Illicit Wealth.
Ones initial encounter with sex can be definitive for the rest of ones life. In psychology and ethology, this is known as “imprinting.” In the terms of quantum physics, one could say that out of an ensemble of probabilities, the state vector collapses to a single value.
Encyclopedia Brittanica defines imprinting as “a form of learning in which a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object. In nature the object is almost invariably a parent”. When the ethologist Konrad Lorenz hatched baby goslings in an incubator, making sure he was the first thing they saw, they fixated upon him and followed him around as if he was their mother.
This, however, was not just imprinting, it was “mal-imprinting” (or mis-imprinting). For no matter how you cut the dice, Lorenz was not their mother. And similarly for human beings, there is imprinting and then there is malimprinting.
In his introduction to The Human Zoo (1969, 1996), zoologist Desmond Morris explained his choice for the title of the book as follows:
Under normal conditions, in their natural habitats, wild animals do not mutilate themselves, masturbate, attack their offspring, develop stomach ulcers, become fetishists, suffer from obesity, form homosexual pair-bonds, or commit murder. Among human city-dwellers, needless to say, all of these things occur. ... Other animals do behave in these ways under certain circumstances, namely when they are confined in the unnatural conditions of captivity. The zoo animal in a cage exhibits all these abnormalities that we know so well from [the Base-Self-driven actions of] our human companions. Clearly, then, the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.
Morris discusses various ways in which malimprinting can come about in the cases of fetishism and homosexuality (esp. pp. 168-176), and interested readers are referred to that source for further details (for a short summary, see this). Furthermore, malimprinting (as Morris notes) can also explain other forms of sexual deviation. The ball can roll off the table in different directions, not just one or two.
Morris has also clarified that a male or female animal mounting another of its kind, whether male or female, is not necessarily a sexual act, but an assertion of dominance and supremacy. Most observations of animal same-sex relationships have been made in captivity: in zoos or laboratories. Whatever the final verdict on animal homosexuality, we are human beings, and thus not condemned to emulate animal (mis)behavior. Just because an animal does something does not mean that behavior can serve as a role model for humans. Quite the contrary, we need to tame and purify the animal tendencies of the Base Self in order to reach the true spiritual potentials of a human being.
religions were instituted by God for the happiness of human beings.
Love and Lust
In recent times, love has come to be equated with sex. This is a dangerous conflation and a confusion of categories.
There are many forms of love. God Himself created the universe out of love (a Saying of God, a.k.a. a Sacred Tradition: “I loved to be known.”) There is parental love, grandparental love, love between siblings, between friends, the love of pets, of an inanimate object (for instance, a car), and so on.
And then there is sexual love. Love and sex should be associated only in the case of Clean Sex. Otherwise, it pays to keep them separate.
Lust, on the other hand, need not be accompanied by love. Relations with a stranger seldom occur on the basis of love (“What has love got to do with it?”). Lust can become fixated on anything. And for these reasons, it can easily fall into the zone of Unclean Sex. If one cannot find fulfillment through normal channels, one will seek satisfaction in other ways. As psychiatrist Anthony Storr concluded: “The study of sexual deviation is the study of sex without love.” (Storr, Sexual Deviation, p.129.)
In our day, people are slowly beginning to wake up to the fact that extramarital sex is injurious to the spirit. They complain that frequent changes of partners result in the inability to love and to commit oneself. In the face of this lovelessness, sex becomes a mechanical act that does not satisfy, and one is driven to seek satisfaction in ways that push beyond the boundaries of the normal—but which, of course, are still no substitute for love.
Lust is a very powerful and dangerous drive. Like nitroglycerin, it is unstable and liable to explode if not handled with the utmost care. A few years back, the case was reported of a man in a European country who imprisoned his family for years in order to have sex with his own children. Think of the trauma, both personal and social, caused by this depravity. (Unchecked, the Base Self will make you do anything.)
And this is precisely the point: sex between two persons is not just the sole concern of consenting adults, it is an interaction between two members of society. Furthermore, its original purpose is to refresh and replenish society. And even two people already form the nucleus of a society. Like a stone thrown into a still pond, the sexual act cannot fail to have ripples and consequences that spread out, now that we live unawares in a global village, across the whole world.
Intelligence without faith and courtesy to balance it must of necessity fall into the clutches of evil. 
Gay Marriage
Since this is a sensitive subject, I want to make it perfectly clear at the outset that I write the following without any malice, ill-will, fear, loathing, or hatred. Further, what is important is not my own or anyone elses personal preferences, but Gods. Nor do I take pleasure in writing this: I do it because someone has to.
Not a week goes by without one or more TV shows promoting homosexual love and gay marriage. A new term, “diversity,” has been invented, a euphemism for perversity, to cover the alphabet soup of LGBTQ+. Bright rainbow colors are used to prettify the concept. Ostensibly aimed at a domestic (American) audience, those TV shows, in the age of the internet, have disruptive effects on minds and cultures on the other side of the globe.
The Base Self in the act of revealing its true nature.
Ethics, morality, can only be relative as long as it is not based on an absolute. My ethical values may differ from yours, and there is no particular reason why anyone should prefer mine. That Absolute can only be God, the ground of all being and of all ethics, the Maker of you, me, all human beings, and the entire universe.
So what does God say?
Let us not forget that religions, however much they have been abused and their precepts violated, were instituted by God for the happiness of human beings, and that without them, humanity would have wiped itself out long ago.
Let us also recall that not everything which may seem good and pleasurable in this world is good for the next world, but everything that is good for the after-death state is also good for this world. (That’s right, once you die you’re immortal. You have to factor that into your calculations.)
Homosexuality is prohibited in Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike, as well as in some forms of Buddhism. (The Dalai Lama, based on Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, has considered it “sexual misconduct.” Apparently, there were no homosexuals in the Buddhas environment, so he didnt pronounce on the matter.) In all three monotheistic religions, homosexuality is “off the table.”
What is more, “gay marriage”  is an oxymoron, of the same order as “fried snowballs.” You can have either one or the other, but not both. Declaring it legitimate according to the laws of a certain society does not legitimize it in the sight of God. Otherwise, the societies of Sodom and Gomorrah would not have run into any problems.
Stretching the meaning of “marriage” to include same-sex relationships empties the word of its meaning. It becomes hollowed out. This also places us on a slippery slope with no end in sight. Once the meaning of marriage is nullified in this way, what comes next? Take your pick: marriages between sadists and masochists, marriages between pedophiles and children, between animals and humans, between robots and humans... In other words, we are on the threshold of legitimizing everything known as sexual misconduct, otherwise known as deeds abhorrent to God.
The solution: self-restraint. Against the assaults of Active Evil and the Base Self, you have to prevent yourself—even more actively—from falling off the table.