Basic Principles of the Experience of Life, by Witness Lee

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Within our body we have two parts, the soul and the spirit. The soul in itself does not desire anything spiritual, it cannot receive or understand the spiritual things, and it is very much contradictory to the spirit. Moreover, Matthew 16:24-25 shows us that the soul is the self. These verses say, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it.” Verse 24 says, “Deny himself,” and verse 25 says, “Loses his soul-life.” The soul-life in verse 25 is the very self in verse 24. We may say that our soul contradicts our human spirit, the inmost part of our whole being, where the Holy Spirit dwells, or for the sake of further understanding, we may say that it is our self that contradicts our spirit.

The self, that is, the soul, the soulish life, is comprised of three parts—the emotions, the mind, and the will. The emotions include matters such as love and hatred. The mind is the mentality with its thoughts, considerations, opinions, ideas, and concepts. In the self there is also the will to make a decision, choice, or determination. If we realize that these three parts—the emotions, the mind and the will—are the three parts of the self, the soul, then we will realize that to deny our self is simply to deny these three things. Many times we say that we need to deny our self; to deny our self is simply to deny either our emotions, our mind, or our will.

What is it to be soulish? It is simply to be in the emotions, in the mind, or in the will. Therefore, to deny the self is simply to deny the emotions, the mind, or the will. Sometimes we say that a certain man is very strong in his will. No one can convince him because he is so strong-willed. Sometimes we may also say that a brother is too deep in his opinions and thoughts, or that a sister is too emotional. What then is a soulish person? A soulish person is either an emotional person, a mental person, or a strong-willed person. The more emotional we are, the more we are soulish. To be in our mind too much and to exercise our mind first, or to be too much in our will is also soulish. Therefore, for a strong-willed person to deny his self is to deny his will. For a brother who is too deep in his thoughts to deny his self is to deny his mind, his mentality; it is to “lose his head.” Likewise, for an emotional sister to deny her self is to deny her emotions.

If we pay attention to these matters and spend time to consider them, we will see that many persons are of three categories. Some, especially the sisters, are emotional. I sometimes tell people that in order to convince a sister you should not argue with her; that does not work. You simply need to drop two tears; that is the best weapon to fight the battle. If you drop some tears, all the sisters are captured because they are mostly emotional. When something happens to a sister, she will most often exercise her emotions first. What then is a spiritual person? A spiritual person is an emotional sister who has been delivered from her self. Whenever something happens to her, she first exercises not her emotions but her inmost part. When someone comes to her with tears, she is not moved by the tears. Even as a sister, she does not exercise her emotions. Rather, she exercises her inmost part and denies her emotions even in the presence of tears. She does not regard the tears but exercises her spirit, in which the Lord dwells. This is a spiritual sister, not an emotional sister. However, to say this is easy, but to practice it is very difficult for the sisters. The sisters should take the brothers as their head, but nearly all the sisters take their emotions as their head. If the sisters would put their emotions under their feet and exercise their spirit, making their spirit the head of their being, they will be spiritual.

With the sisters the problem is emotions, but with the brothers the problem is the mentality. Most of the brothers have a big head, always thinking and considering. Many brothers are great teachers in their own opinion. The brothers have many thoughts, opinions, considerations, and ideas. When anything happens to a brother, the first thing he spontaneously does is exercise his mind. If we ask a brother to pray for the meeting, he may ask, “Do you think we need to?” Sisters often have weeping eyes, but brothers have rolling eyes. While their eyes are rolling, their minds are exercising, thinking, and considering. It is difficult to convince the brothers in their thoughts and considerations, so we often must reason and argue with them. They need a strong reason to be convinced, because they are more in the mind.

A small number among the saints are persons of will. Such persons do not understand emotions or considerations. They simply know to set their will, and once their will is set, no one can change them. It would be wonderful if this kind of strong will could be connected to the spirit. These strong persons can be very faithful because they have a strong will, but there is the need to submit their strong will to their spirit. We will see more concerning the spirit and the soul in the following chapter.

(Basic Principles of the Experience of Life, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)