The True Eternal TaoI often find that one of the reasons a lot of people gravitate towards any given religion, philosophy or ideology is that they are angling for a certain type of validation for the way they lead their lives. If an individual is financially wealthy, you will often find that they will select a belief system that legitimizes their pursuit of wealth. Just as often, if an individual suffers mightily, the person often will look for a belief system that states that earthly suffering is laudable and they will be rewarded in an afterlife.
Whenever I see those whom the vulgar call devotees of Tao, I find that all of them seek to be taken in by spirits and immortals, or they seek lasting life and preservation of wealth by the practice of material alchemy or sexual yoga. When it comes to the great Tao of true eternity, pure and open, tranquil and dispassionate, there are few who are interested in it.
~ from The Sayings of Lu Yen as quoted by Thomas Cleary in Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook ~
It is not often that people look for a belief system that doesn't bestow special benefits to them. In my mind, this offers one reason why philosophical Taoism isn't particularly popular in western culture.
We westerners want to hear how special we are. We want to be told that the human species, in general, and our nation, culture or group, in specific, is the model for the rest of the world. We want to be recognized and acknowledged as the top dogs or the very top rung of the ladder. We like to think of ourselves as the stars of the Cosmos Reality Show.
With this kind of mentality drummed into our heads on a daily basis, why would most westerners want to gravitate toward a philosophy that states we are straw dogs, grains of sand or specks of dust? In philosophical Taoism, there really is no angle to pursue to provide us with the kind of personal massaging we're use to. There is nothing to make us feel that we are Tao's grand gift to the universe.
No wonder we western Taoists are such a small minority!