We are very close in our thinking. Since neither of us has any true facts about these issues and can only go on our best guesses, it is not surprising that our guesses are not exactly the same. They are very close, however.
I don't think it is much of a departure from me when you say that "each member of the heirarchy has some degree of free will."
In my view, it all depends on how you think about it as I described in my post. It is convenient to attribute free will, or some of it, to the "vehicle". And, in some sense, it is true.
I think the best way to understand my view is to use the analogy of a Virtual Reality system and a real remote vehicle connected to the VR system. In this scenario, there is only one consciousness and that is of the person with the VR gloves and goggles on. While that person is "driving" the vehicle (which might be on the moon), he/she would have the illusion that they were actually inside the remote vehicle, seeing the passing view, feeling the bumps in the road, and having the free will capability of steering the vehicle to make it do what he/she wants. There could also be a considerable amount of computer technology on board the vehicle that could take on some autonomous tasks, making it appear to some outside observer that a certain amount of free will was actually exercised by the vehicle itself.
I think all these analogies might apply to what is really going on in biological organisms, and probably to a much greater degree of complexity.
And, I think the entire enterprise is very entertaining to God, just as running a remote vehicle via a VR hookup would be entertaining to you or me.
I enjoy talking to you as well, Richard.
Warm regards (Am I the last holdout?),