"That's interesting. Do you believe then, that your friends' suicide, was overall, a positive experience for him or her?"
I believe that every experience carries with it both positive and negative effects. You might not see them right away, but they're usually there. Pick any major experience from your own life and try to find both positive and negative effects from it. If you are honest with yourself, you will probably spot them right away. (Check the long-term subtle effects that aren't often obvious at first, but are still very powerful forces of change related to that event.)
Change, whether positive and/or negative, is learning. Learning is Good. Even when life sucks, it's still good since everything can be viewed as a challenge to be overcome and a valuable learning experience. Such a mental outlook eliminates false concepts of good/bad or depression (which is often just needless self-pity) from dwelling on how bad things are, rather than getting off one's ass, being tough and making things better for oneself.
"I think that most theories of Karma would say that it was not a positive experience. My understanding is that the person is immediately propelled into another body in order to learn the same damn lessons they should have learned the first time around. It doesn't get you ANYWHERE."
Learning the lesson is itself a positive experience regardless of how many tries it takes you to do so. From what I've seen in the case of suicide, the karmic effects on the individual tend to depend on the circumstances and reasons for the death. Speaking from personal experience, suicide doesn't solve the problem, it usually just delays it longer (and I'll just leave it at that). The dumber or more stubborn a person is, the longer it takes him to learn a lesson I suppose. He/she is only screwing himself in the ass by refusing to confront his personal problems and resolve them as soon as they come up.
If you've studied the Qabalah, Taoism, and western mysticism, then you will already see life and death as 2 sides of one phenomenon, and part of a continuous cycle of change. Rendered very simply, IAO = Isis/Apophis/Osiris, or Life/Death/Rebirth. Death is just an end to one cycle of life and the commencement of another.
Death is Change.
Change is just change, it is neither good nor evil, but necessary. How a person chooses to react to a change is what makes it either 'good' or 'bad' for him/her.
(See explanations of the Tarot Atu Death - also see "The Qabalistic Tarot" by Robert Wang. Excellent book!)
Death can also be thought of as a form of destruction, since that is a change. Destruction is a recognized, necessary, and accepted aspect of existence. Even the ancient Egyptians recognized the importance of death and destruction as necessary. Why else would they have built temples to Set for worship? They wanted death/destruction to be on their side since it was a necessary part of life that could not be avoided.
Events can harm both physical body and soul. A non-physical event is still an event to me since it was something that was experienced by my consciousness. My consciousness is 'Me' and anything experienced by it physically or non is still an experience and will affect me in some way. Since I still refuse to accept that there is anything good/bad in existence, perhaps 'good' and 'evil' can be associated with or thought of by other names instead: Evolution and Devolution. There are no emotional connotations to those words and I always do prefer the objective point of view.