Note: These are the notes I wrote down as I read through this book. Sometimes the notes are a word-for-word transcription from the book. Other times it’s my paraphrase of what was written. These notes are not intended to fully explain what Watchman Nee wrote. If something is confusing or requires more clarity, you can reference this book for more information.
A Soulish or Carnal Christian
Soul life is synonymous with self-life.
It’s vital that we distinguish between sin and self.
Sin defiles, is against God, and is totally wicked. Self is not necessarily so. Self can be very respectable, helpful, and lovely.
Doing good is not sin but the manner, methods, or motive in good doing may be filled with self.
The source is man’s natural goodness, not the supernatural goodness of the Spirit via regeneration.
Many are innately merciful, patient, and tender. These “good” traits belong to the natural life and are the work of self and are not spiritual. This is where we must be careful to rely on the Spirit, for even the good side of the soul is rooted in the self-life.
These acts are performed, not by complete reliance upon God’s Spirit, but by trusting in self-strength.
Sin may be absent, but self may be fully present.
Self easily creeps into the most holy work and the noblest spiritual walk.
Liberation from sin is the first step in an overcoming life. But we must also experience freedom from self.
We are called to overcome ourselves—even the best of self, the zealous and religious self—daily.
We can be emancipated from sin but if we don’t daily deny our self and soul life, we will employ soulical strength to execute God’s will.
How we handle soul power and spirit power determines whether or not we are spiritual or remain soulish.
We must deny everything originating in ourselves. What we are, what we have, and what we can do. Instead, we should daily apprehend and draw from the life of Christ in our spirit through the Holy Spirit.
A spiritual Christian is one whose spirit is led by God’s Spirit.
He draws the power for his daily walk from the life given by the Holy Spirit.
The soulish Christian, though he possesses spirit power, does not draw upon it for his life.
He daily makes the soul his life and relies upon his self-power.
He brings his natural wisdom into the work of God. He is governed by the outer man.
Spirit life and soul life dwell in us. Spirit life possesses God’s nature. Soul life possesses self-nature, which is bent toward sin.
Because soul life is so deeply rooted in us, controlling everything we do, unless we permit the spirit to have control and take the reins, our spirit life will be underdeveloped.
Not only must we hate the sinful nature which comes from Adam. But also, the natural vitality which we rely on for living—the self-life.
If we insist on walking according to the natural man, not just the sin nature, but the all-inclusive natural, we reject the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Experience of a Mixed Soul and Spirit
The spirit and the soul must be split asunder. Divided. Before this happens, the spirit is heavily influenced by the soul—self’s joy, sorrow, anger, compassion, love, etc.
Since the soul and the spirit are so closely linked, it is common to treat soulish experiences as spiritual ones.
Before we become spiritual, we will have the mixture of soul and spirit.
Many, not content with quietness in our spirit, seek a joyous feeling.
Sometimes we follow intuitive knowledge (spirit) and sometimes our thoughts, sensations, or wishes (soul).
Such a mixture of soul and spirit reveals we have two opposing sources in us. One belongs to God. One belongs to man. One is of the Spirit. The other is of himself. One is intuitive. The other is rational. One is supernatural. The other natural. One belongs to the spirit. The other to the soul.
Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. A thing one knows or considers likely from instinct rather than reason.
If we examine ourselves carefully, we will see that sometimes we live by the spirit (intuition) and at other times by the soul (reasoning).
Unless we are instructed by God via revelation by the Spirit, in our spirit, we will not abhor the soulish/self-life and love the spirit life. What we cherish determines which part we follow.
A soulish believer follows (lives by) their desires, ideas, sensual pleasures, and mental wisdom.
Though the Spirit dwells within the soulish believer, He does not lead their life. He is not the source of their life. While some may be ignorant of the law of the Spirit, many others love their soul life too much to give it up.
Spirit Versus Soul
Spiritual life is maintained simply by heeding the direction of the spirit’s intuition.
If a believer walks according to God’s Spirit, he will not originate or regulate anything. Instead, he will wait quietly for the Holy Spirit’s voice to be heard in his spirit intuitively and assume for himself the position of a subordinate.
Upon hearing the inner voice of the Spirit, he rises up to work, obeying the directive of intuition.
Doing this, the believer remains a steadfast follower.
The Holy Spirit alone is the originator.
The spiritual man does not employ his prowess in executing God’s will.
In the soulish life, self is at the center. A soulish Christian lives by the self-life as source. Everything originates from himself.
He is governed—not by the Holy Spirit’s voice in the spirit—but by his thoughts, decisions, and desires of himself, in his soul.
Even his feeling of joy arises from having his own wish satisfied.
The body is the shell of the soul. The soul is the sheath of the spirit.
The soul and spirit are in such intimate proximity. Therefore, it’s very easy for the spirit to be influenced by the soul.
The soul must be delivered from the tyranny of the body. The soul must no longer be controlled by the lusts of the body.
We must also experience a similar separation of the soul from the spirit.
Before overcoming fleshly lusts, the soul was the joint partner with the body. Together, they constituted one enormous life, the other nature.
Before separation, the soul and spirit are merged together.
The spirit is easily suppressed by the incessant activity of the soul.