Sigh, no time to write but just to say that it's great to be able to engage in a discussion with people who "get" these questions on such a deep level and can provide me with valuable food for thought, so that hopefully we can all move forward rather than having to repeat the same old arguments for the umpteenth time. Laird, AryaS, nbtruthman, thank you for your brilliant posts - I will gladly contribute here when I have enough time. For the time being I notice that there's nobody left defending the theory whereby "we choose to incarnate for thrills, and hence pain and suffering are OK as they are self-inflicted and it's all a dream anyway so it's no big deal after all, it's the price to pay for the excitement", and the "incarnation as school" theory is now the Maginot line for those who maintain that we voluntarily choose to come into the material world. Just thought this may be of interest to you, although AryaS has probably come across this when researching the Kabbalah: http://realitysandwich.com/180037/tzimtzum_tikkun_repairing_universe/ I think dpdownsouth will like this theory It's a somewhat "optimistic" view of things, in the sense that mankind is called to repair the mess caused by the creator (which, obviously, implies that the creator is NOT omnipotent or omniscient or this mess would not have happened). And it also means that we are called to work to repair something, not to learn anything. "The result of the breaking of the vessels is that the world, which the Ein-Sof had originally planned to be formed of the highest values beauty, love, mercy, wisdom, knowledge is now corrupted by their evil counterparts. And we too, who are fragments of the androgynous Primordial Man, are infected with the corruption. The klipoth that make up the universe are in us too, and we find ourselves here, separated into opposites, male and female, stranded on the Other Side. Hence our world is one of pain, suffering, falsehood, conflict, and the other evils we are all too familiar with. Tikkun This depressing state of affairs is reminiscent of the Gnostic view of ourselves as trapped in an evil world devised by an idiot god. But, as in the Hermetic account, all is not lost. Lurias dramatic version of the creation story and its subsequent cosmic catastrophe would be a paranoids dream or nightmare if it were not for the possibility that the situation can be saved. In this man plays the central role. If in the Hermetic creation myth we are caretakers of the world, for Lurianic Kabbalah, we are its cosmic repairmen, here to clean up the mess caused by the spilling of the divine energies. Although the klipoth are within us, as in the Hermetic account, we also carry within us sparks of the divine energies. In fact, everything in the world has within it some heavenly spark. Mankinds job is to free the sparks (netzotzim) from the shards, through what Luria called tikkun, or repair. Through this we will restore the shattered sephiroth, heal the rift between the opposites, and unify the polarized masculine and feminine aspects of God. " Or maybe, 'the creator' just wanted to have something to do in his boring existence! : "This being so, mankind has a crucial role to play in the world. As Sanford L. Drob, a contemporary Kabbalist, writes: the restoration and repair of the broken vessels is largely in the hands of humankind. As mentioned, for some Kabbalists, God or the Ein-Sof shattered the vessels on purpose, precisely so that man could repair them. But in this version, our work is more than repair. In freeing the divine sparks from the klipoth, Drob writes, and restoring them to God, and re-establishing the flow of masculine and feminine divine energies, man acts as a party in the creation and redemption of the world, and is actually said to complete God himself. Not only are we entrusted with the responsibility of saving the universe, but, as mentioned earlier, God too."