The evolution of knowing – Part 2: When knowing becomes whole…

The ideas that I wish to introduce here have been brought together in a manuscript – a work-in-progress – being stewarded into articulation on behalf of humanity by my sister-in-evolution Ria Baeck. For a good many years, Ria has taken every opportunity to engage in and explore an essentially collective activity that she calls ‘sourcing’. It is a peculiarly feminine wholeness-of-knowing that seems to have its source in the invisible realms that underlie the fabric of manifestation. It is also, in essence, the product of a collective practice, not an individual one. We have been systematically experiencing and exploring this phenomenon in our gatherings of Women Moving the Edge, and the pioneering community around the place Axladitsa-Avatakia in Greece also has an ongoing inquiry into, and practice of, ‘collective sourcing’ .

Judy Wallace - articulating something sourced

But it is one thing to experience a subtle phenomenon of consciousness, and quite another to articulate it in words that others can make sense of. So nothing much has been written about it to date, apart from dispersed blog entries by the women most involved in its exploration, particularly Ria and Judy Wallace, and references in the many hundreds of hours of painstakingly documented conference calls that form part of the harvest from Women Moving the Edge and related collective inquiries.

It took Ria quite some time, effort and research to come to terms with the fact that the book that she wanted to read about sourcing hadn’t yet been written – and that it was part of her life’s work to write it. Her explorations brought her to many different words and definitions, describing different aspects or types of knowing – but none of them quite fit… or rather, all of them did, but none of them did our shared experience full justice. Nevertheless, bringing them all together into a kaleidoscope of meaning and sensation, as Ria does in her manuscript, does give a passable impression of the phenomenon – although of course nothing can substitute for the experience itself. What follows is my adaptation of Ria’s notes:

I have been talking a lot about Source and sourcing, but what do I actually mean when I use this verb? It is important, when we open up a new way of understanding and knowing, that we are clear about what is what.

A potent form for collective sourcing is 'circle', using a talking piece to slow the conversation down

Here, I shall try to clarify what I understand by the terms intuition, felt sense, inspiration, imagination and presencing – all of which are kinds of knowing that emerge not from the mental sphere of our cognitive thought processes but from somewhere else – and how they seem to relate to sourcing. All of these kinds of knowing can be part of sourcing, depending on various factors, such as our intention.

Intuition is the word commonly used to express that we know something before it happens or without anyone having told us. In a way, it is tapping into the subtle layers of reality. It could be something unmanifest, or it could be something unconscious – there is no strict distinction between the two when we use this word.

Sourcing is sacred work

Sometimes, intuition might be sourcing. Sometimes it is not. Sourcing is very much an action, a directing of the attention. It is a verb, a process. It is not a capacity that you either have or you don’t. It can be learned, practiced, developed.

Felt sense is a term coined by Eugene Gendlin. He explains “A felt sense is not a mental experience but a physical one. Physical. A bodily awareness of a situation or person or event. An internal aura that encompasses everything you feel and know about the given subject at a given time – encompasses it and communicates it to you all at once rather than detail by detail. Think of it as a taste, if you like, or a great musical chord that makes you feel a powerful impact, a big round unclear feeling. A felt sense doesn’t come to you in the form of thoughts or words or other separate units, but as a single (though often puzzling and very complex) bodily feeling.”

Sourcing is enriched by the presence of nature

Gendlin developed the process known as Focusing to unravel the felt sense in people and get its clear meaning. Here is a description by David Rome: “When we first notice a felt sense, it does not have a specific ‘aboutness’ yet. It is non-conceptual. But as we use the Focusing process to be with and listen to the felt sense, it may come into clearer focus (hence the name Focusing) and it may ‘open’ in a way that gives us fresh understanding of our situation. At that point – which cannot be rushed – we can begin to try out concepts on it, begin to inquire what it might be ‘about’. But the felt sense itself is always primary, not the conceptualisation, and the practice of Focusing involves repeatedly letting go of conceptual activity and returning to the body sense.”

The difference between Focusing and sourcing is, in my definition, that sourcing is a felt sense about an unmanifest potential. It taps into layers of energy that haven’t come into manifestation yet. Like Focusing, it is a verb and an activity, but sourcing is guiding your attention to the unmanifest layers of reality, it is getting a felt sense of the future. Not about ‘any’ future – because many people have an intuition or premonition about what is going to happen, for example, with one of their relatives, or that someone is going to call them – but about possibilities that haven’t existed before. Sourcing is a process that unfolds in the space between a guiding question and the deepest source.

Sourcing cannot happen without commitment

Sourcing is also different than how channeling works for some people. While sourcing, you are very present to the here and now. If you are unaware of what you said while sourcing, or if you channel information that has no impact on you personally, then I wouldn’t call that sourcing. Sourcing is bringing your attention to bear on the unmanifest that is calling to become real, and so your speaking and acting will be coming from that space. It is building a conscious partnership with this potential and this future. It is not ‘channeling some information’ and then going back to your ‘normal’ life. Sourcing will powerfully affect your life, because you will gradually live closer to your soul and to the collective souls you are part of. In Otto Scharmer’s terms, sourcing is being in a generative conversation with life, it is living from the future that wants to emerge.

Sourcing might be very similar to inspiration, in the way true artists understand it. The artist before the blank canvas and the writer before her blank page both have a felt sense of what it is they want to bring into manifestation, although they don’t know yet what it will look like. They link up with a future form, and need their ideas and concepts to get out of the way to let the artistic process happen. They can then use their trained artistic skills in service of the emerging form. The way we use sourcing here is to guide us to new wisdom, to applications that will help us in the emerging world, that will help us to see the opportunities for the future instead of all the problems and decay. That might be the same or different for this kind of artist’s inspiration.


Sourcing embraces much more than imagination. I see many people taking their vision for real, and not sensing the link with what is ready to come to the surface of manifestation. They might get a sense of future possibilities, but their vision is too far removed from the here and now – and they are too caught up in their vision to be able to sense the first next step to take towards realising it, and then they get frustrated because their vision is not taking any form. They might have an inner alignment between their vision and their values and their sense of their life’s purpose, but the outer alignment between their vision and manifest realm they are embedded in is not present.. Sourcing is connecting with energy fields that are coming into manifestation. It is sensing ‘what is wanting to happen’, not what I or we dream of.

Sourcing is served by many practices - here, systemic constellation

In relation to presencing, sourcing is when we reach the bottom of the U in a more direct sense. We have dealt with the voices of judgment, fear and cynicism and we can reach with our awareness to the deepest point. Part of the contribution of this book is to show how this sourcing can happen simultaneously in many people, how we can go through the eye of the needle as a collective in order to get direct access to a wider field of possibilities. This is different to the whole sequence described in the principles in the book Theory U, it is more like what Scharmer describes here as the last possibility: “The U process can be applied to practical situations in three different ways: as process, as a set of field principles, and by operating from the presence of source.” The latter application he describes as “…connecting to and operating from the presence of your deepest source, that is, from the bottom of the U. At this level, even the scaffolding of the principles falls away. The connection to this source level is articulated in the three root principles: intentional grounding, relational grounding and authentic grounding. I call them root principles because they relate to and support the other 21 remaining principles like the root system of a tree relates to the visible parts of a tree. They establish a foundation to evoke the presence of a social field – an intentional grounding that serves the whole; a relational grounding that connects to the collective body of the social field; and an authentic grounding that connect you to your essential self as a vehicle for the emerging future.” (Theory U, p436)

Our experience of sourcing suggests to us that conscious evolution needs – and breeds – new collective capacities. How this happens is a mystery that can unfold only with our intentional participation. The approach best suited to its blossoming is full-blown action research that leads us into the future with our minds, hearts and wills wide open.

All the photos were taken at the 7th iteration of  Women Moving the Edge, in Roehampton (London) in October 2009.

About iyeshe

Woman returning to the wild. Cunning linguist, mother of twins, witch, host, harvester, spaceholder for the dawning Aquarian age, evolutionary wooden-spoon wielder, self-mitigating carbon footprint, wannabe holon in the forthcoming collective buddha...
This entry was posted in evolution, integral, moving the edge, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The evolution of knowing – Part 2: When knowing becomes whole…

  1. Ria Baeck says:

    Thanks Helen for sharing some of my work, and in such a beautiful way!

  2. Pingback: Source at Seeds for a happy planet

  3. George Por says:

    “The U process can be applied to practical situations in three different ways: as process, as a set of field principles, and by operating from the presence of source.” The latter application he describes as “…connecting to and operating from the presence of your deepest source, that is, from the bottom of the U. At this level, even the scaffolding of the principles falls away.”

    I appreciate the third option that Scharmer refers and am wondering whether you or Ria knows examples, where “operating from the presence of source” led to the upward journey on the right leg of the U, without benefitting from the field principles.

  4. iyeshe says:

    Hello, George – Can you help me out by explaining how you understand the term ‘field principles’ here? It’s a while since I read Theory U and I have a lousy memory – so lousy you’ve prompted me to go back and re-read the thing!
    As I understand it, the challenge with U practice is exactly clambering back up the right leg – which is a greasy pole, indeed, because of the conditions in which we all operate – the world as we are conditioned to understand it!
    I’m looking forward to diving into this exploration with you, old friend!

    • George Por says:

      I read Otto’s differentiation of the three ways to apply the U as three levels. Regarding the first anybody who read an article about the U can do it, as we see in the case of zillions consultants who declare themselves “U Process practitioners.” That skill became a commodity, which doesn’t mean useless but a more distinct and higher-value capacity manifests at the level of the 24 design principles (option 2, in Scharmer’s message). I think he calls them “field principles” as to emphasize their nature of not being invented but derived from the practice in the social field of profound innovation.

      Finally, where there’s a scarcity of talent is at third way of applying the U. You can also think of the three ways as the U of information, knowledge, and wisdom. To move from level 1 to 2 it’s enough to enroll in a workshop with Scharmer, then practice what’s been learned. To move from level 2 to 3 one needs to discover his/her personal U journey, how to live a life on the U and its fractals.

      Those levels follow a transcend-and-include pattern. The question ending my previous reply was an attempt to (in)validate a hypothesis, according to which the wisdom of U to bear fruits, its practitioners have to master the knowledge of U, particularly, the principles and practices associated with the right leg.

      Does that make any sense at all?

      • Ria Baeck says:

        Dear George,

        a few attempts to answer your questions, and a few questions back maybe.

        You wrote: “am wondering whether you or Ria knows examples, where “operating from the presence of source” led to the upward journey on the right leg of the U, without benefitting from the field principles.”
        To be blunt, I don’t know any other example as what we are undertaking with Women Moving the Edge. The point is that we are very – very – committed to “connecting to and operating from the presence of your deepest source” and it is just only recently that we feel that we have to move now up the right leg of the U, to make the step to the outside world. So, no examples that I/we can show.
        One point in this last bit of the journey: I understood that – probably – when you act from source, it is not about ‘rapid prototyping’, but about sensing the next, elegant, minimal step. If the collective (another important point of difference of how we see the U with Scharmer) has a collective sense of this next step, the step will be done in a rapid way – like: act in an instant – because everyone knows/sense that this is the right thing to do.

        In general I think that – on a global scale, on the level of humanity – we don’t really know how to combine the “acting from source” and the right leg of the U. Of course, as you say, it exist on level 1 and 2, but we are just about now inventing/discovering/sourcing level 3. I don’t know if it is really ‘transcend and include’, probably it is, but I don’t have enough experience right now to say something really solid about it. My guess is that we will see something really different – something really innovative and emergent – when we engage with a lot of people in this inquiry.

        You wrote: “To move from level 2 to 3 one needs to discover his/her personal U journey, how to live a life on the U and its fractals.” I agree with what you say here. The point is that we, in Women Moving the Edge, say that to really move the edge, it is now up to collectives to do this also – to discover their collective journey and how to life on the U and its fractals together. To raise a crucial point in this: I think that you can use a Circle of Presence to come to understand your own personal U and how to stay present with others and in groups etc. Then, a next step is to form a Circle of Co-creation, which builds on this, but adds more compentences. I’m not sure of the right name for this next level of circle yet… more to come…

        You wrote: “Finally, where there’s a scarcity of talent is at third way of applying the U. ” I guess something is missing from this sentence, otherwise I don’t understand it…

  5. iyeshe says:

    Thanks, George!
    I can’t say that I have any case stories to tell you, but I feel as if your explanation partially answers your question. If the field principles are not invented but derived from the practice in the social field of profound innovation, it follows that they will show up in the story of ‘operating from the presence of source’, whether the person/people are consciously aware of them or not. If you look for them, you will probably find them. Which is, of course, rather quantum and self-fulfilling.
    The challenge I see here is that if we are consciously trying to apply the design principles, we end up stuck in a cognitive space, trying to make the mystery conform to our ideas of science. Thereby shooting the whole process in the foot! Ah, a paradox. That’s comforting.

    • George Por says:

      Dear Helen and Ria,

      Thanks to both of you for blazing new trails in articulating with such clarity and beauty how you and your friends are traveling the U, in the presence of source, and how is that different from the more widely spread, left-brainy use of the U Process.

      To sum up my understanding of those different emphases, they include:

      > You are inventing/discovering/sourcing a collective path of radical authenticity, which may lead to something very new and emergent, particularly, when you’ll engage with many people in that inquiry.

      > The new frontier is in the collectives discovering their journey and how to live on the U and its fractals, together.

      > You avoid the risk to get stuck in a cognitive space, which you could run if you designed your journey by consciously applying the principles associated with the 5 cycles of the U.

      > It is not about ‘rapid prototyping’, but about sensing the next, elegant, minimal step.

      All that has just inspired me to join WMtE on Ning.

      Ria, you mentioned that you didn’t understand the phrase: “where there’s a scarcity of talent is at third way of applying the U.” No wonder, because it was not complete. 🙂 What I meant was this: There’s a scarcity of talent in the world to use the U in the wisdom way. Whatever women and men can do to increase it, is a high-potential learning destination.

      Is that clearer now?

  6. Ria Baeck says:

    I think you understand me/us quiet well… of course there is way more… will send it to you the beginning of next weekend.
    Looking forward to our conversation! Maybe with the three of us?

  7. iyeshe says:

    Hi again George,
    In many ways, our work is a confirmation of Otto’s findings that he has articulated as a U into the depths of the unmanifest realm and back into the manifest. What we have noted from the terrain of our exploration very much confirms the contours of the U and the phases of the process he maps out.
    Perhaps the difference is the fact that we are all women – and the attention of women is drawn to different features of the landscape, if you will – and different aspects of human life. Not surprising that the collective shows up as a prime focus of our inquiry, since that is one of the chief domains of our care.
    You have sparked off some rich seams of reflection for me – but first comes breakfast!

  8. George Por says:

    > the collective shows up as a prime focus of our inquiry, since that is one of the chief domains of our care.

    Blessed are you for that!

    Caring for the community, at all scale, is the mission-critical subject in the current phase of humankind’s learning journey.

  9. Andrew says:

    I enjoyed this conversation. I’m wondering about the masculine and feminine dimension of sourcing, and Focusing, and Art of Hosting. I’m a Focusing trainer (though not currently active), and an AOH practitioner. I love working with the collective field. I’ve often felt that in men’s groups as well, over many years, though we didn’t intentionally focus on it. (It was an earlier time too.) I can sense the energy coming from your WMtE gatherings and wish you well.

    So I’m wondering what is different about women working the edge, rather than men doing it, or women and men together. Is the edge feminine? Has it been defined as masculine in the past so now for balance it needs to be defined as feminine? Why split it up? What’s more integral about having one side move an edge? Would men being present stop it?

    My guess is that the deep masculine is in the shadow (doghouse), its contribution not seen or valued at this time, however much individual men might be loved.

    In service to the whole!

    • iyeshe says:

      Hello, Andrew – welcome to this space!
      I know from experience that men are capable of sourcing and focusing. Humanity needs both men and women with this capacity.
      AND women together in a uniquely feminine field is something which is different in quality (not superior or inferior, just other) than a mixed group. Just as an all men group will be different if even a single woman is present. I would not know how to determine whether this difference is essential or just a result of our respective conditioning. But my intuition suggests that it is essential. For the proper functioning of human society, I believe there is work to be done by all-male circles, all-female circles and mixed and balanced circles. I think also that the quality of the mixed circles will be much enhanced if the men and women that participate in them also have deep experience of all-men/all-women spaces. I believe that connecting in to a concentrated field of masculine/feminine energy will deepen our grounding in the uniqueness of our own gender’s essence, and that that will contribute to the depth, beauty and wisdom that the dance that men and women are made for.
      I long for the opportunity to participate in occasions where men and women have intentionally spent days in segregated circles, doing what comes naturally to them in order to ‘pump’ up the essence of their gender-specific energy and wisdom, in order to come together as a true yin-yang council to share their perspectives on whatever inquiry lies in the centre, and to reach decisions on wise action for the world.

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Yeshe / Helen
    I hear your longing for that rich meeting of women and men and share it. The gender conversation has some energy for me . . . Part of the reason it’s up for me, was reading your post about Chris Corrigan’s experience in Hawai’ai (or rather reading Chris’ account itself following your link). I’m curious about a sexual subtext in that . . . Chris having little masculine reflection back to him, in a feminine space. Could be wrong of course.

    In AOH and other gatherings where collective intelligence is rearing its beautiful head, the assembled are noticing something together and, crucially, are aware that they are. It’s that collective awareness of awareness that allows the fruitful commingling to happen.

    What doesn’t happen in my experience, is women and men getting together and being aware that they are there as women and men. Sex and gender doesn’t come into the conscious awareness, though of course, it’s there in the background. I think our polite avoidance is because we don’t have enough of a common language that’s respectful to the others’ experience. We shy away from the conversation because it feels too risky.

    So what happens isn’t that we’re gender neutral but that our unconscious attitudes about the other sex prevail. We shy away from the growth that comes from meeting and hearing the other sex’s experience in real time. This happens about all the time, it seems to me, since women and men have no common gender language to speak.

    I think this is important for those of us interested in leadership and groups, because when we do get together in mixed groups (AOH for example), the sex biases are there and acted out, but unconsciously. I do think it happens in men only and women only groups too. The other sex is in the room, but unconsciously.

    I’d love to look at how sex-based biases play out in our groups, so we can help them be truer to women and men’s experience, more balanced, and more of the good things they are.


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