TOPIC: The "Lataif"
Sufism's awareness and understanding of the "Lataif" (plural of "Latifa") is unique among
the world's spiritual traditions.   The Lataif are Sufism's most important practical insight
about the Nature and Meaning of being Human.
There have been successive formulations and refinements of understanding of the Lataif,
beginning from about 1100 CE.   The first of these to become widely known in the West,
in the early 1960s, was that of the "Naqshbandi" branch of Sufism.
The Lataif are patterns through which the Diversity of Reality unfolds.  In particular (and
most importantly for Sufi Spiritual Practice), they are the underlying patterns of much of
Human Mental, Emotional, and Bodily experience.
The traditional Sufi analogy for conceiving of the Lataif is to compare them to patterns of
color.   Any particular appearance in the Diversity of Reality is considered similar to a
pattern of colors and each color to a Latifa or combination of Lataif.
An alternative analogy might be the patterns of taste in food.   Any particular experience in
our inner life would be considered similar to a certain taste and each taste to a certain Latifa.
So, for example, ice cream and fruit drinks have an underlying pattern of taste in common
and that pattern, "sweetness", would be analogous to a Latifa.
In addition to Lataif being underlying patterns of experience in human beings, they are also
understood by Sufism to simultaneously be the corresponding capacities or organs for such
experience.   By the foregoing analogy, a specific taste and its corresponding taste receptor
would be considered two related aspects of the same taste experience.
The Naqshbandi Sufis consider there to be five primary Lataif (others being variations of the
primary five) with each having an associated color (Black, Red, Yellow, Green, and Silver).
Reflecting the Lataif's nature as capacities or organs for experience, each Latifa also tends
to be experienced in one particular area of the body, although in fact each operates throughout.
There have been further expansions and refinements of the Naqshbandi understanding of the
Lataif since the 1960s.
Tantric Sufism (for example) now understands each variant of the primary Lataif to be a
Latifa in its own right.   It also understands the number of Lataif to be, in principle, unlimited
. . . although only historically available to Human experience when the corresponding Human
capacity to experience them has evolved.  The overall number of Lataif currently patterning
Human experience is estimated by Tantric Sufism to be between 50 and 70 . . .
TOPIC: Experiences of the Lataif
TOPIC: Lataif Practice