Whenever an individual enters into a new situation or circumstance, there is a period of disorientation, which may involve misinterpretation of what is being experienced, as well as failure to understand the rules, laws or protocols that may apply in that new situation. In society this may lead to difficulties and in some cases, a complete failure to relate or even entering into various legal difficulties due to differing laws or customs. An example is the difference between those used to English or American law versus French or Italian law. In the former case, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty and therefore has certain rights, in general. In the latter case, the party is basically presumed to be guilty if arrested and must undertake to prove innocence. This may involve the difference between being set free between arrest and trial, and being held in confinement during that period.

In a similar way, when the seeker begins to experience things outside his normal frame of reference, which in most cases will be the ego-personality in the physical body, he enters into a subtle physical, or a vital realm or world, or a mental realm where the rules are dramatically different, the powers at work may be vastly more powerful and experienced, and the possibility of the seeker being confused, misled or actively manipulated is therefore much increased.

In such a circumstance, it is virtually impossible for the seeker to truly understand what is taking place, while at the same time, the impression of reality of the experience is sometimes so overpowering that it seems like it must be true. This can lead to serious confusion, possibly mental imbalance, vital disorientation or even physical disease. A primary support provided by a guide or guru is to aid the seeker in transiting this stage without lasting harm.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “I mean by it [the intermediate zone] that when the sadhak gets beyond the barriers of his own embodied personal mind he enters into a wide range of experiences which are not the limited solid physical truth of things and not yet either the spiritual truth of things. It is a zone of formations, mental, vital, subtle physical, and whatever one forms or is formed by the forces of these worlds in us becomes for the sadhak for a time the truth — unless he is guided and listens to his guide. Afterwards if he gets through he discovers what it was and passes on into the subtle truth of things. it is a borderland where all the worlds meet, mental, vital, subtle physical, pseudo-spiritual — but there is no order or firm foothold — a passage between the physical and the true spiritual realms.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Intermediate Zone, pp. 187-189

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.