The second chapter of Watchman Nee’s book Assembling Together (chapter 15 of the Basic Lessons series) is called “Laying on of Hands”. This was perhaps one of the most perplexing chapters in the book. Now, I realize that many tradtions associate the laying on of hands very closely with baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. However, I know very little about this except for a few readings from some of the patristic fathers. I’ll try to explain Nee’s premise as fairly as possible. Then, I’ll explain why I think he missed something in his exegesis.
First, Nee associated the laying on of hands with the coming of the Holy Spirit. He uses Psalm 133 as a type or metaphor: the anointing of Aaron typifies the believer’s reception of the Spirit:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3 ESV)
Since only Aaron’s head is anointed, the Spirit can only come through the Head of the church, that is, Jesus Christ. Just as the oil runs from Aaron’s head, to his beard, to his robes, etc. the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus, through the apostles, then to the church. Here are a few quotes in which Nee explains his position:
The Holy Spirit is given to the Head, not to the body. But as the head receives the oil, the whole body is anointed. 
It is, therefore, clear that people enjoy the anointing oil today not because of their personal condition before God but because of their standing in the body. If we stand in our place beneath the Head, the oil will most assuredly come down upon us. 
The apostles represent the Head, Christ, as well as the body of Christ. When one receives the laying on of hands, he bows his head and worships, for hereafter he will never again raise his own head but will submit himself under authority. His own head is no longer head; instead he is under authority. The apostles represent the body. As they lay hands on the believers, it is as if they are saying that we all have fellowship with one another for we are one. 
The laying on of hands in the first aspect [identification] joins a person to the body and in the second aspect [impartation] communicates what the Head has for the member. 
The rule is: the Holy Spirit descends on those who have been delivered from the world and identified with Christ in death and resurrection through baptism; they then see how they must live in the body and be subject to the authority of the Head. Let me emphatically say that the anointing oil is more than a mere outward manifestation; it is an inward reality. 
Nee says that the only exception to believers receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands is found in Acts 10 when Cornelius and his household are converted. He says that the Spirit came without the laying on of hands because Peter would not have baptized and laid hands on Gentiles, fearing what the Jewish believers would think about him. Therefore, God sent the Holy Spirit apart from baptism and the laying on of hands.
There are a few reasons that I have problems with this. First, Psalm 133 does not appear to talk about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Specifically, verse 1 tells us that unity is like the anointing of oil… It seems a stretch to use this Psalm as a model for how God plans to send the Holy Spirit.
Second, there are instances of laying on of hands in Scripture that have nothing to do with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13 describes one example. We have already been told that both Paul and Barnabas have received the Holy Spirit. Yet, the church in Antioch lays hands on them. Apparently, the Antioch believers did not think that laying on of hands signified the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Third, there are other passages besides Acts 10 where people receive the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands being specified. Specifically, both the original 120 disciples and the following 3000 receive the Holy Spirit, but the laying on of hands is not mentioned. Similarly, in the general descriptions of the activities of the church in Acts 2:42-47, there is no mention of the laying on of hands, despite the fact that Peter seems to deliver his sermon in Acts 2:14-40 specifically for the purpose of describing the coming and reception of the Holy Spirit. While this may be considered an argument from silence (i.e. just because the laying on of hands is not mentioned, it does not mean that it did not happen), similarly the doctrine that the Holy Spirit comes through the laying on of hands is a doctrine from silence: the cause/effect relationship is not specifically described in Scripture.
I have laid hands on people. People have laid hands on me. I do not have a problem with this practice. I believe that this practice signifies communion, fellowship, partnership, participation, etc. In other words, when we send with the laying on of hands, we are signifying our partnership with the ones going. When we pray with the laying on of hands, we are signifying are agreement and our fellowship with the one for whom we pray.
However, I am less clear about laying on of hands than many of the other activities of believers within Scripture. For one thing, I do not think we are given a clear reason for laying on of hands in Scripture. However, since Scripture does not tell us that the Holy Spirit comes through the laying on of hands, I am hesitant to accept that.
Again, however, I greatly appreciate Nee’s final paragraph of this chapter:
New believers need to be shown that they cannot live independently but they must be members of one another and learn to be subject to the authority of the Head. They ought not to be rebellious, but should rather walk together with all the children of God. Thus they will manifest the fact of anointing both in their lives and in their works. 
The next chapter is called “Assembling Together”.
Review of Watchman Nee’s Assembling Together Series:
1: Chapter 1 – Joining the Church
2: Chapter 2 – Laying on of Hands
3: Chapter 3 – Assembling Together
4: Chapter 4 – Various Meetings
5: Chapters 5 & 6 – The Lord’s Day and Hymn Singing
6: Chapters 7 & 8 – Praise and The Breaking of Bread