The East has a very different history from the West, quite apart from its secular history. The East has never had to contend with dogma, or the assertion that truth is represented by a single governing body. For that reason, intuitive thinking has never been regarded as unorthodox in the East in the way it has in the West.
Although Eastern culture is both secular and religious, as is the West, religion has informed its most essential principles. Its intuitive element can be seen most clearly in Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. While each has its own unique characteristics, what unites them is the attention paid to the inner life, and particularly to its development. From the Eastern point of view, truth is dependent on how we see the world, and how we see the world can change through inner development.
The main Taoist works are the I-Ching, the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi. The Taoist outlook is that the world has its own laws, its own reason and its own order, and if we are to live wisely then we must adjust inwardly towards whatever events we find ourselves in. The I-Ching deals with this by providing the enquirer with some insight into how events will work out. This view of the world, of a greater order indifferent to human life, is called Pantheism in the West.
The Buddhism known to the West is largely based on the teachings of Gautama, who testified to a profound experience of enlightenment which transformed his whole inner life and therefore his understanding of himself and the world around. Buddhist teaching does not however dogmatically assert the truths he discovered, but rather provides the means by which individuals can gain the same insights for themselves.
What is most clearly expressed in Hinduism is that the world as we know it is ‘Maya’ or illusion. It follows that what we call good and evil are not quite as they seem. If we cannot take the world at face value then we must look beyond the obvious to what is not apparent, and we can only do this intuitively. That is why Yoga, which is central to Hinduism, begins with silencing the ordinary or logical mind.
The essential tenets of Eastern culture can also be found in the intuitive cultures of the West. The Pantheism found in Paganism, the Buddhist influence in Manichaeism, the knowledge rather than faith-based approach of Gnosticism, and the outlook of the Cathars, who were vegetarian and believed in reincarnation, all point either to an Eastern influence or at very least a common outlook with the East.