Thanks, Big Bill.
Reincarnation was popularized by David-Neel's books about Tibet in the 1930's.
It's not surprising that if auditors "lead" one back to the moment of conception, auditees would just keep going backward, "remembering" previous lives. The sequence could have gone like this:
POSSIBLE TIMELINE FOR ELRON'S REINCARNATION SQUIRRELING
1. David-Neel writes popular books about Tibetan Mysticism: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/j/origins6.html
START OF DAVID-NEEL QUOTE: David-Neel's first book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet, was published in the U.S. in 1932. This was followed by Initiations and Initiates in Tibet, first published in French in 1931, and Buddhism - its doctrines and methods, first published in English in 1939.
SUMMARY: Scientology holds much in common with popular books about Tibetan mysticism published in the 1930s by Alexandra David-Neel. The following ideas are held in common:
Escape from the "cycle of birth and death"
The definition of the spirit
"Exteriorization" or "astral travel"
The "between-lives area" or "bardo"
"Implanting" in the bardo
That the individual is actually a "composite being"
Belief in telepathy
The use of techniques to bring about telepathic control of others
The use of the triangle as a symbol
The "process" of "clearing"
The capacity of the spirit to emit energy beams
The notion that reality is a halluciantion held in common
"Serenity" as the highest human state
The assertion that belief is self-created
That "being" is senior to "doing"
The distinction between "being" and "becoming"
Ideas about "absolute" and "relative" truth
The recollection of experiences in former lives
The notion of surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals
The significance of the interplay between the static and the kinetic
"Postulates" or "wishes"
That neither good nor evil exist
The "overt-motivator sequence" - a simplified version of the "karma-vipaka" concept of Buddhism.
IDEAS COMMON TO DAVID-NEEL AND HUBBARD:
As with Scientology, the Tibetans believe that they can escape the "wheel of rebirth", and the outcome of their previous actions (karma-vipaka, called the "overt-motivator sequence" in Scientology), by applying a set of techniques ("he may cause himself to be reborn in the most agreeable conditions possible" (66)). To quote from Hubbard "Not the least of the qualities of O.T. is personal and knowing immortality and freedom from the cycle of birth and death" (Auditor 19). The "cycle of birth and death" is a Buddhist concept, more usually expressed as the "cycle of death and rebirth" or the "wheel of suffering". END OF DAVID-NEEL QUOTE
2. Dianetics came out in 1950, featuring many of David-Neel's findings. Reincarnation, however, is not addressed. The book is dedicated to Will Durant. The Science of Survival, featuing reincarnation, is published in 1951. http://www.innernet.net/joecisar/e520000.htm
3. Scientology needed dogma about what happens after death, and what is the meaning of life, but Elron couldn't quote David-Neel without being too obviously imitative.
4. 1951: Tax and financial problems meant L. Ron had to create a new organization and name, preferably with a religious framework.
5. Our Oriental Heritage was waiting on the bookshelf. In this easy-to-read, Westernized summary, Will Durant (remember L. Ron dedicated Dianetics to Durant) depicted Buddha as a brilliant insightful man with many worthy, impressive-sounding but elusive ideas, including reincarnation. It was written in 1939 and reprinted in 1954, becoming a best-seller and Book-of-the-Month as early as 1959 - see website http://www.samizdat.com/isyn/durant.html
8. Hubbard gobbled up the chapters on the Life of Buddha, did some auditing on himself to "test" whether he was an avatar of Buddha, and squirrelled Buddha's teachings about the soul detaching from a degraded reality.
9. 1952: L. Ron creates "Scientology" with e-meters, reincarnation, and (especially) control over auditing income. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shel ... meline.htm
10. L. Ron sets up Scientology as a religion in late 1952 and early 1953 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shelf/bfm/bfm12.htm
Conveniently, he can point to Buddhism and reincarnation as one of the "religious" pieces of Scientology.
My personal belief is that memories of the moment of conception and previous lives are just fantasies, encouraged by the auditor. Others may treasure them as a spiritual experience. In any event, Buddha himself did not think reincarnation was proof of being special and cool. He thought of it as a dreary reality to be escaped. The idea that his 20th century reincarnation would be a wife-beating money-grubbing con artist is pathetically unlikely.
You are right that Buddha himself would be appalled that for centuries various people have worshipped him.