Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between what he terms the ‘intermediate zone’ and a number of intermediate stages in the development of consciousness. The distinction is important. The intermediate zone is a transitional phase as the normal human mind-life-body begins to experience the influx of forces from other realms or levels of consciousness. As the seeker begins to gain conscious experience in the spiritual quest, in the form of various experiences, influences, intuitions, etc. he becomes subject to the increasing complexity involved in integrating these things into his normal standpoint of the mind-life-body complex and the ego-personality. In many cases, the normal human awareness is simply unable to properly weigh and evaluate these new experiences and interactions with forces that act based on principles other than what we normally associate with our human experience.
This can lead to misunderstanding and misapplication as the consciousness tries to deal with unknown factors from a standpoint that has no basis for truly understanding what is actually going on. The issues are compounded when the ego-personality intervenes and the individual, for instance, begins to get delusions of grandeur based on new powers actively at work in them.
This has to be distinguished from the intermediate stages of consciousness growth in the individual. There are a series of levels beyond the mental level we normally experience, and each of these represents a stage whereby a new power of consciousness becomes active and settled in its mode of action in the being. These provide transitional links between the mental framework by which we now understand and judge things, and those higher realms which are based on different principles and forms of knowing and understanding.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The intermediate zone means simply a confused condition or passage in which one is getting out of the personal consciousness and opening into the cosmic (cosmic Mind, cosmic vital, cosmic physical, something perhaps of the cosmic higher Mind) without having yet transcended the human mind levels. One is not in possession of or direct contact with the divine Truth on its own levels, but one can receive something from them, even from the overmind, indirectly. Only, as one is still immersed in the cosmic Ignorance, all that comes from above can be mixed, perverted, taken hold of for their purposes by the lower, even by hostile Powers.”
“It is not necessary for everyone to struggle through the intermediate zone. if one has purified oneself, if there is no abnormal vanity, egoism, ambition or other strong misleading element, or if one is vigilant and on one’s guard, or if the psychic is in front, one can either pass rapidly and directly or with a minimum of trouble into the higher zones of consciousness where one is in direct contact with the Divine Truth.”
“On the other hand the passage through the higher zones — higher Mind, illumined Mind, Intuition, overmind is obligatory — they are the true Intermediaries between the present consciousness and the supermind.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Intermediate Zone, pp. 187-189