THE EXPERIENCE OF THE SPIRIT
MIXED WITH THE SOUL
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.
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)