Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), by Watchman Nee


We do not mean that the experience of a soulish believer is entirely of the soul, though believers of this type are many. Many soulish believers do have spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, they are mixed with soulish experiences.

They know in general the spiritual walk of life, and the Holy Spirit has enabled them to have a spiritual living. However, due to many hindrances, so often they still look to the natural life to supply them the power for their living, expecting to fulfill God’s holy requirement by their own flesh. They still follow their own desires and thoughts to conduct themselves, and they still pursue and seek pleasure in their feelings and knowledge in their mind. They may be spiritual in knowledge, yet in reality they are still soulish. Although the Holy Spirit has been dwelling in their spirit and has caused them to experience freedom from sin by the work of the cross, inevitably sometimes they follow their soul and sometimes their spirit. With some it is because of the lack of understanding, but with many it is because of their unwillingness, for they love their own soul-life.

Actually, spirit and soul are very easy to distinguish in experience. The spiritual walk of life is a living which solely follows the direction of the intuition in the spirit. If a believer walks according to the Spirit, he himself must stand in the position of one who assents, not deciding, initiating, and starting anything but rather waiting quietly for the voice of the Holy Spirit in his spirit. As soon as his intuition hears the inner voice, he rises up to work, obeying the direction of the intuition. In such a spiritual walk of life, the believer himself is always standing in the position of one who agrees. There is no other initiator except the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, he is not self-relying. He does not use his own power to follow God’s will. Whenever action is needed, he comes to God solely, fully conscious of his own impotence, to ask God to give him a promise. Then based on the promise of God, he proceeds to act, counting on the power of the Holy Spirit as his. At such a time God will surely grant him power according to His Word.

The soulish walk of life is entirely the opposite. It altogether has self as the center. When a believer is soulish, he acts according to self. This means that his conduct originates from his self. His thought, his reasoning, and his desire alone govern his conduct. It is not the voice of the Holy Spirit in the "inner man" regulating his conduct, but the thought, reasoning, and desire of his own outward man which determine his action. Even his feeling of joy is for his own pleasure and for the fulfillment of his own preference.

We have pointed out clearly that the body is the shell of the soul and the soul is the shell of the spirit. As the Holy Place is outside of the Holy of Holies, so the soul is outside of the spirit. Hence, we can see how easy it is for the spirit to be influenced by the soul. The soul and the spirit of the soulish believers are tightly knit together. Although their soul has been delivered from the dominion of the body and is no longer under the control of the lusts of the body, their spirit has not been separated from their soul. Just as their soul was joined to their body (one as life, the other as nature), their spirit is joined to their soul (one provides power while the other gives the idea). Thus the soul often influences the spirit.

Because the spirit is surrounded by the soul, as if buried inside the soul, it is often influenced by the stimulus of the mind. A regenerated person inherently has an unspeakable peace in his spirit, yet because the spirit and the soul have not been divided, even a slight stimulation will disturb the peace and tranquility of his spirit. This is due to the soul having many independent desires and thoughts. Sometimes the soul is filled with joy; this influences the spirit and causes the believer to think that he is the happiest person in the world. However, when he experiences an irritation, he thinks he is the most miserable person in the world. A soulish believer often has such experiences.

When soulish believers hear the teaching of the dividing of spirit and soul, they want very much to know where their spirit is. However, having exhausted their search, it seems that they remain unable to sense having a spirit. Since many believers never have any real experience in the spirit, naturally they cannot distinguish their spirit from their soul. Moreover, since their spirit and their soul are still tightly woven as one, they consider the experiences of the soul (such as joy, vision, love, etc.) as the supreme spiritual experiences. Since they do not have any spiritual experience, they should simply admit this and not try to substitute their soul for their spirit, thus bringing loss to themselves.

Before a believer’s walk of life becomes completely spiritual, he will have the experience of a mixed spirit and soul as described above. As far as his feeling is concerned, he will not be content with the tranquility in his spirit, but rather will seek for a kind of emotional pleasure. As to conducting himself in his daily living, sometimes he follows the leading of the intuition, but other times he follows his own thought, reasoning, and desire. Such an experience of a mixed spirit and soul indicates that there are two sources within the believer: one is of God, the other is of man; one is of the Holy Spirit, the other is of self; one is intuitive, the other rational; one is spiritual, the other is natural—one is of the spirit, the other is of the soul. Before a believer arrives at perfection, sometimes he follows this and sometimes that. If a believer carefully examines himself in the light of God, he will see that he has these two lives within him. Thus, sometimes he lives by this life and sometimes by that life. Sometimes he realizes that he should live by faith with a trustful heart through the Holy Spirit, and other times he lives according to himself and to what he himself calls spiritual feelings. With such a living, he is more often in the soul than in the spirit. The degree to which a believer is soulish depends on his understanding of the life of the spirit, including the principle of cooperating with God, and also on how he acts and makes decisions according to the soul-life. The activities of his natural life in his various faculties determines the extent of his being soulish. Some can live entirely in the world of feelings and ideals; some live sometimes by their soul and at other times by their spirit. Unless a believer is taught by God Himself and receives the revelation of the Holy Spirit in his spirit, he cannot know how abominable the soul-life is and be willing to live entirely in the spirit.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)