Laughing Bear (LB),
What a long but excellent list of questions! Your post seems like a data dump of big picture questions. The good news is: you will find that the clear and logical understanding of consciousness you will attain by the time you finish Section 5 in book 3 will provide solid answers to all of them .
Find my comments intermingled with yours:
LB: Does intelligence in “spiritual“ dimensions predate similar levels of intelligence in material reality?
TC: Yes. The “nonphysical “ leads and the physical follows. That is because the physical is a dependent derivative of the nonphysical — i.e., of consciousness. Consciousness is fundamental, while our physical reality is a virtual reality created by consciousness constrained to implement a specific rule set.
LB: Indeed, it must take a great deal of intelligence to translate simple intents (e.g., I want to be healed of cancer or I need the solution to a math equation) into actions -- as anyone knows who tries to program a computer, much less a robot).
TC: Translating one’s intent into action does not require much intelligence — an earthworm can do it. Intents only become intellectual when awareness and understanding are sufficient to support it. Most humans are unaware of the fundamental intents (motivations) that drive their actions. Healing one’s own or someone else’s cancer with a focused intent generally requires only an average intelligence but a much better than average quality of consciousness (an unusually low-entropy consciousness). Developing consciousness (spiritual development) is not about developing intellect or even developing knowledge. It is more about growing up.
LB: Second, I don't really see "spiritual" entities needing experience in the material realm to somehow evolve or mature. What's so special about material dimensions that entities need to experience it? What can they do here that can't be done in other dimensions? If I simply follow the "logic" of material reality having especially high "inertial" resistance to change by individual intent, one might argue that experience here is analogous to exercising at very high altitude to build up your red blood cell count prior to an athletic competition at lower altitude.
TC: It has nothing to do with material reality having especially high "inertial" resistance to change by individual intent. It has to do with a simplified, straightforward virtual physical reality more clearly connecting the dots between intent, action, and result through an immediate feedback mechanism. It’s about making the action and reaction pair more transparent and more personal. Think of our virtual physical reality as an elementary or pre-school where simplicity, repetition, and immediate feedback help the beginning students grasp very basic concepts.
LB: Another possibility is that inertia here is related to consensus more than is true in other dimensions, such that altering this reality requires more of a team effort -- and therefore forces you to learn how to work as a team member in the creation of realities.
TC: It is not about a team effort. Consciousness is individual and personal. Interaction with others is the primary generator of learning opportunity — where intent most easily leads action to results and feedback. For that reason working with others cooperatively is important -- but as part of the learning process, not as a goal.
LB: My own speculation is be that “spiritual“ entities are colonizing material reality, in some sense, and that their ability to act on this plane is limited by the capabilities of organic bodies. Experience here does not aid evolution on a spiritual plane, so much as spiritual entities are somehow tweaking organic evolution for purposes above and beyond those of organic entities.
TC: Your implicit assumption is that spiritual entities (nonphysical reality) and physical entities (physical reality) are two separate things. Both are virtual pieces of a larger related whole, both are consciousness — one thing with different defining constraints and rule-sets. Experience here does aid evolution on a spiritual plane — that is the whole point of experience here. The whole point of creating a virtual physical reality in the first place is to do just that.
LB: That said, I question whether material critters need a spiritual connection in order to be conscious of — responsive to — their material environment. I suspect that their brains suffice for that kind of consciousness, much as a computer might serve in a robot.
TC: Critters need a spiritual connection to exist at all within this physical reality. Otherwise they would be inanimate objects. There consciousness is their spiritual connection. Again, seeing the spiritual, mental, or nonphysical world and the physical worlds as separate independent “places“ creates the apparent problem.
LB: I am also skeptical of the idea that consciousness exists independently of brains. On the one hand, it is easy to understand the idea that a brain is not the source of consciousness, but a transmitter analogous to a radio. However, when one gets down to the details of neurophysiology, one discovers that even tiny changes in the levels of neurotransmitters, hormones, pheromones, ions, lesions, etc. can have major influences on conscious experience — above and beyond what would make sense for disrupting the functioning of a mere transmitter.
TC: Skeptical is good — necessary even. Without being skeptical, you won't learn much. I suggest you go to the Physics topic in this forum and look at the subtopic Consciousness And Physics . There you will find a discussion 3 or 4 posts down that is focused on this very point. The brain as a transmitter has some merit but is much too narrow a concept. You will find that the brain’s function is more than a “mere transmitter.“
LB: Can a person who loses sight in the physical realm still experience sight OBE? What about other sensations? Can a person who becomes emotionally insensitive ("affect" deficient) experience a full range of emotions OBE?
TC: Awareness in nonphysical realms is not related to sensory awareness in physical realms. As far as being emotionally deficient goes it would depend on the cause of the deficiency. If the deficiency were fundamental to the being, it would be a reflection of the consciousness quality and exist in all realms; if it were fundamental only to the physical body (say the result of a brain tumor) there would be no carry over to nonphysical realms.
LB: Which then takes us to the question of why one would have emotions OBE akin to those in material reality? Many emotions, to say nothing of sensations (balance, nausea, hunger, fatigue, fear, sexual arousal), are evolved and physiologically developed to serve specific functions related to survival, reproduction, etc. Put differently, emotions represent conscious awareness of physiological "states." What is their relevance in the "spiritual" realms where those physiological states do not exist?
TC: Emotions can represent more than physical states. They may also represent one’s quality of consciousness.
LB: Now to the nature of good and evil. To what extent is this issue just a product of conceptual myopia? If you are a deer, predators are evil. If you are a wolf or lion or human, preying on deer might be good if not essential. Is good to be defined in terms of the individual or the individual’s ego in the material realm? Are evil entities in other dimensions basically analogous to the predators and parasites we face in material reality? Or are there more fundamental kinds of good and evil? Are there entities inimical to all “life“ (material and spiritual) or that thrive on human misery? Are there entities that are somehow beneficial to all forms of life, including predators and parasites?
TC: Yes. There are more fundamental kinds of good and evil. Good and evil has to do with intent not action. Who eats who for dinner is mostly irrelevant.
LB: My own intrigue is with shape-shifting. This wasn't because I want to be able to assume the shape of an animal (although who wouldn't want to be able to fly like an eagle or swim like a dolphin now and then?). Rather, I wanted to know how animals — especially highly intelligent critters like bears, whales and bonobos — experience life; I wanted to glimpse life through their eyes. I’ll be interested to see what astral projection / OBE has to offer along those lines.
TC: You don't have to shift shapes to directly experience the existence of others (see through the eyes of others) you only need to shift consciousness — something you can learn with practice. It has nothing to do with OOBE.
TC: Most, if not all, of your questions will have resolved themselves after you have read MBT. Unfortunately, some of the above answers will also not make much sense until after you have read MBT. That cannot be helped. Your conceptualization of reality is so far afield of that presented by MBT that we do not yet share enough concepts to productively speak a common language within the limited venue of this forum. I hope to hear from you again after you have had a chance to digest MBT. You are a thoughtful and eloquent contributor — and we (the readers of this forum) look forward to continuing these discussions.