I should mention that I’m also an outsider. I’m a mathematician, not a biologist.
The problem with “neutral” and “beneficial”, is that what counts as beneficial depends on the organism and its niche. A particular mutation might appear to be detrimental. And, because of that, the organism might change its behavior and, in effect, move to a slightly different niche. And that overall change might be beneficial even though the mutation appeared detrimental in the original niche.
That is to say, it is complicated.
What is important, however, is for an organism to be able to make the most of whatever changes benefit it, and minimize what changes seem harmful. Natural selection, as a background statistical effect, cannot do that. The organism itself possibly can. And I see that as a kind of primitive intelligence in the organism. And that primitive intelligence is part of what drives evolution.