Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), by Watchman Nee


The intuition is the place where God’s anointing teaches us. "And you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know....The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone teach you; but as His anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true and is not a lie, and even as it has taught you, abide in Him" (1 John 2:20, 27). This passage of Scripture very clearly indicates how the anointing of the Holy Spirit teaches us.

Before we consider this passage of Scripture, let us first differentiate between the meaning of "know" and "understand." The spirit "knows," while the mind "understands." A believer "knows" a thing by the intuition of his spirit. The mind can only "understand." Strictly speaking, the mind cannot "know." (Naturally, all this refers to the relationship between us and God.) Believers are so confused about the matter of seeking the thought of the Holy Spirit, because they do not know the difference between "knowing" and "understanding." According to the common usage of the words, there is not much difference between knowing and understanding. But in spiritual matters, knowing and understanding are as far apart as the heavens are from the earth. To know is the work of the intuition; to understand is the work of the mind. The Holy Spirit enables our spirit to know, and our spirit makes our mind understand. It is hard to distinguish between these two words, but in experience they are as different as wheat and tares.

Is it not true that many times we have an indescribable feeling in our inner being as mentioned above? This feeling enables us to know whether or not to do a certain thing. It is true that in our spirit we may know the thought of the Holy Spirit. However, in many cases, we know in our intuition what we ought to do, but our mind may still fall short of understanding the meaning and reason of it. In spiritual matters, it is quite possible for us to know but still not understand. Is it not true that many times our thoughts reach a dead end, but our spirit receives teaching from the Holy Spirit; at these times we cry, "I know it!" Many times when we deny the thoughts and reasonings in our mind and obey the thought of the Holy Spirit expressed in the intuition, we must wait for a long time before our mind is enlightened and before we understand the reason the Holy Spirit led us in a particular way. Only then are we able to cry out, "Now I understand!" These experiences tell us that we "know" the thought of the Holy Spirit in the intuition of our spirit, but we "understand" the leading of the Holy Spirit in the mind of our soul.

The apostle John tells us that the anointing of the Lord abides in us and teaches us so that we know everything and do not need any man to teach us. This refers to the functions of the intuition. The Lord gives the Holy Spirit to all believers; He abides in our spirit and leads us into all truth. How does He lead? He leads through the intuition of the spirit. In the spirit He expresses His thoughts. The intuition possesses an ability to know the meaning of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Just as the mind enables man to apprehend the things of the world, the intuition enables man to apprehend the things of the spiritual realm. The anointing originally referred to the application of the ointment. The way that the Holy Spirit teaches, works, and speaks to us is in the human spirit. He does not speak from heaven with a loud voice and a flaming fire, or cast the believers to the ground with His power. Rather, He works silently in our spirit to make us sense something in our intuition. Just as an ointment gives the body a certain sensation when it is applied, the anointing of the Holy Spirit gives the believers’ spirit a certain feeling when it is applied. When the intuition becomes aware of this feeling, it knows what the Holy Spirit is speaking.

If a believer wants to follow God’s will, he does not need to ask others or even himself. All he has to do is to walk according to the direction of the intuition. The anointing will teach the believer "concerning all things." He will not leave him or allow him to make his own choice. Everyone who wants to walk according to the spirit must realize this. Our responsibility is nothing else but to be taught. We do not need to decide on our own way; actually, we cannot decide anyway. Anything apart from the leading of the anointing is just our own action. The work of the anointing is independent; it does not require man’s help. It does not require the mind’s searching or the emotion’s stirring; the anointing expresses the Spirit’s own thought independently. He works independently in the spirit and causes men to know His will in their intuition. After this, He causes men to carry out His instructions.


If we read the context of this portion of the Scriptures, we will see that the apostle spoke about many false teachings and antichrists. He was saying that since the believers have received the anointing from the Holy One, who abides in them, this anointing will spontaneously teach them what is the truth, what is a lie, who is for Christ, and who is antichrist. There is no need for man to teach or speak anything; the anointing that abides within will teach spontaneously. This spiritual discernment is greatly needed today. We do not need to reference many theological books, reason, compare, research, observe, and think with our intellect before we can understand what is a lie and what is the truth. If we have to do this, no one except knowledgeable and intellectual believers would be able to save themselves from deceptions. God has no respect for man’s old creation. Besides the spirit of the new creation, everything is dead in His eyes and should be done away with. Can the mental capacity, which God insists on abolishing, help man distinguish between right and wrong? No, absolutely not. Rather, God puts His Spirit in the spirit of every believer, regardless of how ignorant or foolish he may be, in order to teach him what is and is not of Him. Therefore, even though there are many times when we cannot find a reason to oppose a certain teaching, there is a sense of disapproving in the deepest part of our being. We do not know the reason, but our inner sense tells us that this is wrong. Sometimes we hear a teaching that is completely different from what we usually hold and which we do not wish to follow; yet within us there is a small voice persistently telling us that this is the right way and that we should walk in it. Although we may have many reasons to oppose it, and although our reasoning may win, this small voice of the intuition within is always speaking to us and always telling us that we are wrong.

These experiences show us that our intuition—the organ where the Holy Spirit works—is able to distinguish between right and wrong. It does not need any assistance from the observation and study of the mind. Regardless of a believer’s natural upbringing, he can always be taught by the anointing as long as he is sincere, desirous, and faithful to follow the Lord. In spiritual matters the most educated doctor and most unlearned villager are equally foolish. Many times the educated one makes more mistakes than the unlearned one. Today false teachings are quite prevalent. Many people use guileful words to disguise their lies as truths. Hence, there is the need of discernment in the spirit concerning what is right and wrong. The best teachings, the most clever mind, and the most experienced advisors are all unreliable; only those who follow the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the intuition will be saved from being deceived by today’s theological confusions and the many heresies, miracles, and wonders. We should continually ask the Lord to make our spirit more active and pure; we should also follow the small voice that comes from our intuition. We should not neglect its warning because some others have greater knowledge. Otherwise, we will either be trapped into heresy or become fanatical. If we do not calmly follow the teaching of the anointing which comes from this small voice, we will be distracted by a confused emotion and clamorous mind.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)