Neon Genesis Evangelion has an Ancient Conspiracy doubling as a Government Conspiracy. The first time they meet is as the UN's secret Human Instrumentality Committee, which meets by holographic video conference with color-coded representatives. They then agree to meet for the rest of the series as SEELE, appearing as 2001-style black "sound only" monoliths to save (the animator's) money. In both forms, they are massively opaque.
In the Rebuild of Evangelion they've only appeared as monoliths so far, and are, if possible, even more vague about their actions and motives. Then the third movie turns the trope Up to Elevenby revealing that the monoliths are their actual bodies and that they are a really ancient conspiracy, stated to be as old as human civilization.
Also, Rebuild-SEELE explains absolutely nothing. As of the third movie, we have no actual clue to what their plan is except some vague explanations from Kaworu, and now it doesn't matter anyway, since Gendo and Fuyutsuki killed them all by pulling the plug.
The future Japan of Ghost in the Shell is ruled by one that is so vague, that it never makes any appearance at all, or gets defined in even the most basic way. The entire government and administration is full of their pawns, both knowing and unknowing, up to and including the prime minister. The Powers That Be put her into that position mostly because she looks good in public and lacks the ambition to interfere with their plans. Sometimes Section 9 gets ordered to capture certain people without asking for the reasons, or someone decides to send a hit squad from another agency to stop them from putting their noses into places they are not supposed to. Nobody knows what the people in charge actually want, and few people even seem to care. They just try to protect the people of Japan from harm as well as they can. However, they're not that mysterious; just party heads, industry leaders and lobbying groups with goals that sometimes coincide and sometimes not. They don't have a unified agenda or any formal structure.
Eureka Seven does the same thing with the Three Sages Council, kicking the pretentiousness of the members way up: while SEELE was actually nigh-omnipotent and omniscient, even if they severely underestimated Gendo Ikari, the Sages are in fact revealed to know much less about the world that they liked to believe, and also get completely screwed by their supposed Dragon Dewey Novak
In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fei Wang Reed is very fond of monologuing in this manner to his henchwoman, Xing Huo. Likewise the Dimension Witch Yuuko talks to herself this way. She's actually bound by a rule that says she cannot tell anyone valuable information unless they pay a price "of the equivalent value."
The country of Lacryma in Noein is ruled by such a council, which apparently includes a doll. One of them is apparently catatonic, and most of the table is empty chairs. There are really only three people left, and their glowy ball is the interface with their Quantum Computer. All they know about our heroes is what their steadily decreasing numbers of 'birds' bring back, and they don't know anything about Noein at all. Not even his name, only the traitor knows that until the finale. But they're sure shooting for the image.
Nearly everybody in RahXephon other than the main character gets a shot at this, but Bähbem and anybody he's talking to at any given moment are the champs.
Gundam 00 had one meeting of an Omniscient Council Of Vagueness with the Surveyors deciding if the Gundam Trinity should be acknowledged. Instead of silhouettes, they used various pieces of art to represent different councillors.
Macross Frontier has it in form of a bodiless voices engaging in a vague, but ominously sounding dialogues inside Grace's head. Or not. It's just a Hive Mind actually, the council linked themselves with each other.
The nameless Time-Space Administration High Council of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, who are revealed to be the very founders of the Bureau themselves, complete with audio-only monoliths they're hidden behind whenever they converse with Regius and Jail. This is subverted a little later on in the series when it is revealed that they don't know nearly as much as they think they do, including that Jail had snuck a cyborg in disguised as the one who took care of them so that she could kill them at the drop of a hat. For once, it's perfectly reasonable that they're shown as monoliths only - seeing as they're brains in jars. It's a Shout-Out to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The "Book Men" of Princess Tutu are shown towards the end of the series in this way—a group of members with their faces hidden by cloaks, gathering in a torch-lit room to gasp and worry over the "awakening" of a mysterious someone. They're talking about Fakir remembering his Reality Warper powers. It turns out they're an Ancient Conspiracy that cut off Drosselmeyer's hands...and will do the same to any of his descendants who abuse their powers.
Death Note Inverted this a bit in the Yotsuba arc, where there is a shadowy council of eight people at the top of an organization, secretly killing enemies of the corporation — and our main characters spy on, manipulate, suspect, and use them as pawns in in their own investigation while the council mostly has no idea they're being spied on.
Initially done in Naruto with Akatsuki before they were shown at which point some of them were killed, one quit, and rest quickly fell in line with the secret leader.
The closest thing One Piece has is the Five Elder Stars. They're just a bunch of old men who allegedly run the World Government, but between the Council of Kings handling international affairs, and Sengoku controlling the Navy, there's really no telling what they do. The Five Elder Stars really are the heads of government, with authority over everything and everyone under them, including the Kings and Sengoku. They have the larger goals which include ensuring that the government remains in control and continues to grow, dealing with those that seek to topple the government, and covering up their own history.
In the third round and second Revival Round of Liar Game, the masked LGT officials (I forget their names) are watching the game via videoscreens while making incredibly vague comments about the players' schemes and aptitudes. In the third round, it's Leroniro and Nearco, but Solario inexplicably takes their place in the second Revival Round.
Ergo Proxy had a group of well, proxies taking the shape of classical statues which the "benevolent dictator" of Ramdo, Re-l's grandfather would speak through.
The Letztes Bataillon is one of these for the first 2 volumes of Hellsing.
Whoever Enma is plotting with for whatever vague reasons he is plotting it regarding Tsuzuki in the Yami No Matsuei manga. Bonus points for their casual twist reveal that they offed Muraki's grandfather for knowing too much about Tsuzuki.
The Homunculi initially appear this way, but are fleshed out more as the series progresses. Their leader Father doesn't even appear until around a third of the way through, though he is first namedropped in the first volume.
Fairy Tail has the Fiore Magic Council, and, later on, the King of Fiore himself, whose full face has yet to be shown. It's also subverted from the usual deal in that the members of the Council do their best to keep the world in balance, but were tricked and very successfully manipulated by Ultear and Jellal/Siegrain into furthering along the Tower of Heaven plan.
The manhwa Dorothy of Oz is notable for having a total of three Omniscient Councils of Vagueness so far, them being the other three Witches and their right-hand assistants. All of them are scheming against each other, and each seems to have some sort of plan in mind for Mara.
Parodied in Beelzebub. Toward the end of the manga, we are introduced to the people responsible for the events of the last arc. They speak briefly about their vague plans finally coming into fruition, until it's revealed that their plans are, in fact, completely screwed. In their next appearance, they are desperately running for their lives until they're told that the day was saved when they weren't looking, at which point they act like it all went as planned.
The original ''GI Joe: Real American Hero" comic included a secret Pentagon faction that directed the Joes to serve their own ends.
DC comics had The Quintessence, consisting of Ganthet, the Phantom Stranger, Zeus, the Highfather and Shazam. However, they weren't any use at all, and eventually broke up.
Star Wars: Legacy subverts it in that the Moff Council is neither omniscient nor vague. While they have some information, they have been reduced to executors of Sith orders, and discuss matters without Cryptic Conversation, since they mostly gather to bitch about their powerlessness.
Nick Fury vs SHIELD gives us the SHIELD Executive Council.
Marvel introduced The Comission on Superhuman Activities in Captain America as one of these. Later we see who's in it. That doesn't stop them from meeting in a giant not well-lit conference room though.
Not to mention the Shadow Lords of the Shadow Council, shadowy masters of Stormwatch, who barely show up, and about whom almost next to nothing is known.
The Simpsons parodied this in their Radioactive Man comics with the Secret Bonfire Club, some of the richest men in the world, who gathered in a darkened room to talk with a Russian scientist who looked like a crab, and included people like Richard Nixon. They have a grudge against Radioactive Man, who keeps accidentally foiling their schemes. At one point one of their members lampshades their tendency to meet in a dark room.
Club member: Gee, it's pretty dark in here. You'd think with all our money, we could at least afford some lightbulbs...
The eponymous Time Masters are a group of strange space aliens who have vague but sinister reasons of sending a ragtag bunch of space travelers in time. They have a planet made up of Sinister Geometry to boot.
Lampshaded in the Touhou fanfiction, Imperfect Metamorphosis. When Yukari, Mima, and Eirin gather around a table to discuss the plan to destroy the villain, Yukari mutters that, with all the powerful people in one room, she might as well break out the black hoods and smoke machines.
The Fans in With Strings Attached. Except only Jeft wants to be vague; the others want to be helpful and informative. They call him out on this tendency, but he seemingly always has a rational reason for behaving as he does.
The Council aka The Illuminati from Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, represents a group of people who support everything the author hates (religion, modern music, America, the list goes on...), intend to have Ronan destroy the world for their purposes, and are apparently more powerful than the President of the United States and major corporations. Unfortunately for them, they're also a Non-Action Big Bad, and don't have a chance against the God-Mode Sue protagonist.
Ordinis Sancti Gladius from Fate Zero Sanity fit this. The narration only switches to their perspective occasionally, and most of it is spent trying to get permission from the Magus Association and the Church to go investigate the War, which they only do by the end of the fic. Hints and bits are dropped every now and then, but the only things that are really confirmed that they have a connection to Zeltrech and a problem with the other two main organizations, not to mention taking an interest in Shirou Emiya...
It also helps that most of their named members happen to be from different dimensions, such as Coyote Starrk, and Alexander Anderson, with no clear explanation yet as to how they got there.
The Evil Council from Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. Their plan, according to Master Betty, is "Evil, nnng... it is so EVIL! It is a bad, bad plan... that will hurt many... people... that are good." The council turns out to be French aliens with ships shaped like pyramids, and their actual plan is to take over the world.
Eraserhead's Man In The Planet manages to be a one-man council of vagueness. Theories on just what he is range from Satan to God. Do keep in mind that it is a David Lynch film.
Mr. Roque in Mulholland Dr. fulfills a similar role. It's by David Lynch, so it's pretty mind-screwy.
Early on in Zoolander, main villain Mugatu receives his instructions from some kind of Legion of Fashion Doom (Georgio Armani is apparently a member). The whole group remains cloaked in shadows.
Harlan Ellison's Movie (never filmed, but the script is published) subverts this beautifully. The hero explores a strange building intercut with commentary from the council, then he opens one last door and steps into the council chamber.
The Bellarians, in Mystery Science Theater 3000 target Space Mutiny, apparently do nothing but dance around a room, worshiping plasma globes and telepathically sexing up some of the villains, though why they do this is unknown. They also have no impact on the plot, but the lead Bellarian eventually teleports to speak to the Commander and apparently impart knowledge on him - which amounts to a great pile of nothing. The film still treats them as if they're extremely important characters even though their subplot could have been cut from the film completely and made no impact on the plot.
The literally shadowy committee which appears at the beginning of The Parallax View, proclaiming that a Presidential candidate had been assassinated by a single, insane gunman (who has three names, like Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth). Somewhat familiar: not in all its details, but overall. A similar (identical?) committee appears at the end of the film, making eerily similar pronouncements that the death of the hero didn't involve any sort of conspiracy, of course.
In the Matrix Trilogy, the Architect and the Oracle together form an incredibly opaque and confusing two-man Omniscient Councils of Vagueness. They actually spell out the entire plot right there, but its way too confusing for someone like Neo (or most of the audience, for that matter) to understand. And possibly even the writers.
Star Wars: The Jedi High Council engages in this quite frequently, to the point that other characters accuse them of being out of touch. Qui-Gon insists that Anakin be trained as a Jedi, despite the fears of the Council (and of Obi-Wan) that Anakin is older than their normal students, and therefore has an unacceptably high risk of turning to the dark side. The audience is expected to sympathise with him... except that Anakin then does turn to the dark side, proceeding to kill all the Jedi. Turns out they were right.
The "Feather Men" from Killer Elite are a Secret Society of retired SAS Operators whose self-appointed job is to protect other SAS Operators, retired or in service.
The Avengers has the 'World Security Council' of American, British, Chinese and Russian members, who are running SHIELD. They seem to know a lot about alien technology, advance weaponry and can order a nuclear strike on New York at will. Nick Fury seems to know how to handle them when they make the wrong decisions. The World Security Council could be a Fictional Counterpart of the United Nations Security Council, an international group capable of making binding executive agreements (UNSC Resolutions) enforceable by volunteered military personnel. Permanent members of the UNSC include the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Russia, (as well as France), much like the "World Security Council".
And just to drive home the ominousness, they saw fit to outfit a special conference room with giant monitors so that their faceless silhouettes can loom over Fury in a pointless but highly symbolic manner.
Follow-up Captain America: The Winter Soldier does not explicitly follow those nationalities (one is implied to be Indian) but makes the council even more ominous. SHIELD's representative there is part of HYDRA, the group Red Skull founded back in WWII...
In Pacific Rim, the world leaders who control the Jeager program and eventually decide to phase it out in favor of the anti-kaiju wall project have something of this trope. Which is not so surprising since the film is an homage to mecha anime in general and Neon Genesis Evangelion in particular, which features one of the most famous and iconic omniscient council of vagueness ever.
The Council of Thirteen, the Yeerk government in the Animorphs book series. Briefly mentioned in book 2, and popping up in conversation several times after that, they are (mostly) revealed in the book Visser.
Older than Television: The Arisians of E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman saga may be the prototype; in several scenes, they discuss the progress of Kimball Kinnison and other major characters in terms of their "Visualization of the Cosmic All."
The Second Foundation (Asimov's Chessmaster extraordinares) take this to an extreme. One chapter ends with two Second Foundationers summarizing everything that just happened: "Intersection point?" "Yes! May we live to see the dawn!"
A council of conspiring nobles in The Truth is one of these. They call themselves "The Committee To Unelect The Patrician."
There's another one in Feet of Clay, though their goal there is more like "Incapacitate The Patrician".
The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night in Guards! Guards! would like to think they're one. In reality, they're a flock of utterly incompetent Black Cloak mooks being guided by one villain who (sort of) knew what he was doing.
The Auditors Of Reality tend to play out this trope in novels where they're the antagonists, making cryptic remarks about their intentions while avoiding the first-person singular.
The plurality and vagueness are enforced by Cosmic Law: using the first person singular implies having a personality. Things with personalities can die. Auditors with personalities tend to have this happen extremely quickly, as in "sometimes before finishing the sentence in which they said 'I'," though a few in the Thief of Time manage to last a week or so after beginning to develop a personality because they were impersonating humanity and because of this slower progression they lasted a bit longer.
Strategy and policies of the Guild of Assassins are decided by meetings of the Dark Council. Apart from knowing this is presided over by the Guild Master, it is unclear as to who the other members are, what their portfolios are, or indeed how many members there are. This is probably deliberate. The Fools' Guild also has its ruling Council of Mirth, but apart from the fact that it's chaired by Dr. Whiteface, nothing else is known.
The Spinner's End scene, even for being based around a notoriously un-forthcoming character, is simply uncanny in not showing any details about "the plan". Interesting in that J.K. Rowling actually does have a plot based reasoning behind it: they were ordered (separately) not to discuss "the plan" with anyone, not even other Death Eaters, and Narcissa didn't even know Snape had been informed about it when she came to him for help. Opinions vary on how much Snape actually knew, and how much he simply pretended to know. Hints in the narrative suggest he was either stringing Narcissa along to learn the plan, or was already regretting what he knew he had to do.
Dumbledore is chairman, secretary and treasurer of the Omniscient Council all rolled into one.
The Camberian Council in the Deryni series gradually devolves into this trope. Originally founded to preserve Deryni magic and lore in the face of persecution and to take an active (if behind-the-scenes) role in the affairs of the Eleven Kingdoms, over the centuries it has become tradition-bound and priggish, just as prone to Fantastic Racism as the Deryni's human persecutors, and given to endless debates over the actions of the series heroes without taking much at all in the way of action themselves. Council of Vagueness, indeed.
The White Council from The Lord of the Rings is essentially this for the good guys. The White Council's vagueness seems to have ultimately hampered their effectiveness. Several decades before the story begins properly, the Council informally disbanded as an ultimate failure.
Replica: The Omniscient Council of Vagueness was always plotting insignificant things, such as stealing the heroin a piece of fingernail to make sure she's actually the clone. Because, yes, kidnapping some people and releasing them after cutting fingernails is the best plan not to be spotted. In the end, after being defeated for the zillionth time, they ended every action, because some government organization watched them. Duh.
In the sister series Hero.com and Villain.net, there exists the Council of Evil. We more of it in Villain.net, obviously, and it's revealed in the first book that it exists to make sure the various supervillains' plots don't overlap. After all, what's the point in robbing a gold vault in Switzerland if at the same moment, some other guy's going to roast the city with a death ray? The COE issues permits to supervillains, provided that their plans are officially approved.
WICKED from The Maze Runner Trilogy used to have one, but they all elected to commit suicide before they succumbed to the Flare, leaving Chancellor Paige, Thomas, and Theresa more or less in charge. The various scientists working the project act as one.
In the third season, the Xindi Council make a rather good attempt at being one of these.
The never-unmasked "Future Guy" ordering the Suliban around was a one man band version of this trope. His proclamations were far more vague than those of the Xindi.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The exact activities and official purpose of the Obsidian Order is never really explained, with the only well known operative having such a wide variety of skills (unarmed combat, marksmanship, engineering, code-breaking, intelligence gathering, interrogation, sabotage and assassination being just some of them) that it's hard to pin down exactly what agents are supposed to focus on (and it's eventually revealed that its structure was arranged to function in the same way as an organised collection of terrorist cells). While it seems to be a kind of intelligence service, in practice neither the civilian government nor the military leadership can do anything without the consent of the Order.
It may have been the intelligence service growing so powerful it effectively controls the rest of the government. The Romulan Tal Shiar is portrayed similarly, and the two organizations ally at one point to attack the Founders' home world. It ends badly.
The X-Files had about six of these over the course of the show. It was Agent Mulder's main goal in life: expose them and uncover the truth to public.
The Others. Just the Others. After 4+ seasons of lies and doublespeak, the sum total of our knowledge concerning their origins and motives is as follows: 1) they're all manipulative little bastards, 2) they claim to be the good guys, and 3) apparently some guy named Jacob gave them a list at some point.
Latnok in Kyle XY. Played straight, complete with shadowy figures sitting around a table watching Kyle on TV screens. Later in the series, it becomes less shadowy as Kyle actually meets some of the members.
On Charmed, they had The Triad as the evil version and The Elders as the good.
The mysterious, presumably government affiliated group seen in the penultimate episode of season 4 after the failure of The Initiative. They claim they will keep an eye on Buffy and her pals, but are never mentioned again. Until the comics, that is.
The Circle of the Black Thorn. That they're incredibly powerful and evil is made clear, what specifically their role as Wolfram & Hart's "agents on earth" entails is not. Basically, they seem to make the world progressively more unpleasant to live in.
Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Cylons. "They have a plan..." But the writers won't tell us what. Wordof God finally admitted that there was never a plan, but "they have a general set of goals, an agenda, if you will," didn't make for a very good tag line. Eventually, a movie called "The Plan" was released that was supposed to retcon the situation, but instead just ruined the vague sinister mystique of the Cylon nation. The plan in "The Plan" turned out to be kill all humans, including the remnant in the fleet. What, were you expecting something more elaborate?
24 loves this one: sometimes there will be multiple Omniscient Councils of Vagueness in the same season. "Loves" is an understatement. There's the so-called "Bluetooth Illuminati" in Seasons 5 and 6, the super-secret council of private military companies in Season 7...not mentioning the dozens of others. Although most of these either got scrapped, were resolved offscreen, or specific members were thrown into random storylines just to be killed off. The one involving Jack's long lost father and brother was even seemingly retconned altogether (though it was replaced by another). Despite all of these plotlines flopping, they constantly continued them. Many fans were particularly pissed by Season 7's Omniscient Council of Vagueness, because they were sick of this trope being used all the time, among various other things.
In Hesei era of Kamen Rider the trope is played straight by most seasons.
The Kougami Foundation in Kamen Rider OOO plays this straight. It isn't spelled out until the very end what their chairman wanted.
Kamen Rider Double who have Foundation X who plays this right down to the lack of any clear motive.
In one of the Kamen Rider Fourze movies, we have Foundation X take center stage as the bad guys...only for the guy running the operation to prove to be a rogue agent acting on his own. His goals weren't the Foundation's goals, so we still have no idea what the Foundation's goals are.
Kamen Rider Gaim: Ygdrassil Corporation. Up until the 12 ep, you know just that they rule the Zawame city and plan something sinister with Beat Riders, Inves and Helheim Forest. And possibly with the whole city.
The villainous organizations in Chuck are always up to evil stuff with all kinds of evil goals and...stuff. But their actual agendas are never made explicit.
The Pretender: Holy crap. The show's protagonist Jarod is pursued by The Centre, which throughout the show's four seasons reveals itself to be a centre for moral ambiguity, betrayals, shifting alliances both within the organization and with Jarod and a whole lot of evil plotting.
Nikita: Oversight, the group of high-ranking politicians and military officials that Division nominally reports to. They're mentioned several times throughout the first season, and in one of the last scenes of the finale, we finally see them (or at least, a group of them) in a meeting; naturally, they're all sitting at a table in a half-lit room, with only the members we'd seen previously being in the light. Then halfway through season two, all of them except Senator Pearce are revealed, then assassinated a couple of episodes later.
The Company in Heroes. We know it was founded to protect "specials" and ended up betraying that agenda, but it still fits. It approached omniscience (and omnipotence) in its reach, which extended to politicians and gangsters, and was certainly vague, jumping from scheme to scheme with no apparent long term agenda besides capturing specials. Even then, it's unclear if they ever intended to rehabilitate them or just keep building secret prisons all over the country.
The Omniscient Council of Vagueness in Prison Break was named The Company. Besides being the President's puppet master, its interests seemed to be whatever was appealing at the time. Its resources were supposed to be vast, yet even it and the FBI's combined reach wasn't enough to stop two men from tearing it down. True to the trope, The General never monologued and initially communicated in handwritten notes for fear of having his voice secretly recorded, but dropped that habit once the audience knew more about The Company.
The Black Lodge had this dramatic role in Twin Peaks.
Grimm has several—the Wessen Council, the Verrat, the Royals, and perhaps a few others.
The Blacklist has the Alliance, the seemingly international group of Corrupt Bureaucrats that Reddington has a rivalry with. The first time we see more than just Fitch, they're meeting in a vaguely well lit room, with at least one member communicating via video conference rather than being there in person, all to discuss whether Reddington and his Secret War with his mystery opponent are a threat to their business (whatever that might be).
Sarastro and the other Priests in The Magic Flute by Mozart fall under this category. Of course the whole opera is about Freemasonry, so it's no wonder there is a secret society...
There is a song titled "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing." The song is about a man telling the listener about you know who and you know what. Never once is any actual name give for the group that will take you to you know where if they find out you know about them.
Mythology And Religion
The Moirae/Fates from Classical Mythology and the Norns from Norse Mythology are both among the Ur Examples. Think about it; both the Fates and the Norns are trios of all-knowing old ladies who sit around literally weaving the thread of fate. They're also inspirations for the Three Witches from Macbeth.
The Illuminati in Paranoia, who end up giving their blackmailed minions tasks ranging from "kill this man" to "place a bucket full of paint in a dustbin in HPL Sector. It's little more than a front for High Programmer activities in secret societies that need a lot of discretion. It's not an actual secret society and more of a joke between ULTRAVIOLETs...probably.
The vast human empire of Riedra is ruled by the Inspired, a caste of wise and just humans bred to perfection. Who are in fact all vessels for demonic spirits from the Dimension of Nightmares. But these spirits are but a small fraction of their race and follow the orders of the mysterious lords of their home dimension.
There is the more traditional Aurum, an organization of wealthy families dedicated to increasing their own wealth.
Warhammer's Skaven race are led by the Council of Thirteen (also called the Thirteen Lords of Decay, though there are only ever twelve of them, the thirteenth place being held for the Skaven god - The Great Horned Rat). The Skaven riff gleefully on all kinds of supervillain tropes, so their ruling council naturally epitomises this one. They sit in shadow in a chamber high atop the Skaven capital of Skavenblight, attended by mute albino guards and equipped with all the usual trapdoors-into-pits-of-mutant-monsters expected when dealing with insufficiently pleasing underlings. Their intricate plans to conquer the world, however, are comprehensively scuppered by constant politicking and infighting among the members of the council and the need to keep a lid on the ambitions of underlings aspiring to be on the council themselves.
Priest #1: We dare not leave him to his own devices / His half-witted fans would get outta control.
Priest #2: But how can we stop him / his glamor increases / by leaps every minute, he's top of the poll.
— "This Jesus Must Die"
The Three Witches from Macbeth are among the Ur Examples, as they provide cryptic foreshadowing and seem to know how the plot will turn out before the action even starts.
BIONICLE's Brotherhood of Makuta can be considered such a council, but some of the sillier aspects of the trope were averted by not even showing the council at first. The Brotherhood got merely name-dropped for about three years (real-time) before some of them became the main villains for an arc; at which point the audience was given names, faces, the works. The fact that some parts of their plan are still left vague are justified in that they're focused on their current mission and not concerning themselves too much with what is happening elsewhere (and therefore not discussing it).
And why would they discuss the plan, after all? All of the Makuta know nearly every aspect of it, and the writers don't want the audience to know any more than the heroes do. Luckily, they also avoid too much Expospeak this way.
Pretty much everyone other than the three playable characters in Fahrenheit (known to some of you as Indigo Prophecy) are part of an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Yes, including Agatha, the wheelchair bound old woman. And, she's actually a holographic robot computer virus. But don't worry, because it's Better Than It Sounds
The Orange Clan in particular is practically the video game equivalent of SEELE.
Likewise, the Playstation game Xenogears is riddled with lengthy purposeless conversations between members of the Gazel Ministry, a group of barely visible and largely indistinguishable talking heads on video screens whose relevance to what's actually going on for the player won't be revealed until much, much later — 40 hours or more — in the game.
This example is shamelessly spoofed by the flash movie, Shadow Government Puppet Show, right down to the dialogue. It turns out that these talking heads are just really, really bored.
It's worth noting that the Gazel Ministry isn't teleconferencing. They actually are talking heads on computer screens attached to a giant rotating sphere. They pretty much can't do anything but rotate and make evil plans, and get killed by basically hitting the "off" button.
The Gazel Ministry are clearly the undisputedly most omnisciently vague council of Xenogears (and a serious contender to the Videogames Most Omniscient And Obfuscated Councilorship Trophy), but various other NPC groups also qualify. For example, the discussions between Citan and Sigurd in the first quarter of the game (especially the one before they arrive at Nisan) are as opaque as can be if it's your first playthrough. You also have the Band of the Really Old People (Krelian, Miang, Grahf, Cain, Zephyr, Melchior/Gaspar/Bal), who are in no way a conspiracy (some of them are sworn enemies and most have completely different agendas), but were all around 500 years ago and involved in the events at that time, and therefore understand what's going on much better than anyone else.
Its creative descendant (not quite a sequel), the PS2 game trilogy Xenosaga, kicked it up a notch: literal hours of dialogue were dedicated to this.
In Assassins Creed II, the Templars are a group of power hungry nobles involved in a conspiracy with the Assassins.
The Legion of Doom presented in the PS2 game Kingdom Hearts early on met this way as shadowy figures standard to the trope. However, their distinctive body shapes and iconic voices make easy for anyone familiar with Disney to identify them.
Forget "distinctive body shapes"; turning up the brightness all the way makes it even more apparent who they are.
Throughout Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, scenes show Seraph Lamington and an obscured individual discussing their plan in this manner. However, not only is the plan not particularly evil in any way, but the other man involved is the comic relief character Mid-Boss.
Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter had one of these, in the form of the Regents. They are, however, apparently at cross-purposes with each other, and its leader is running plots so convoluted that he's trying to help you and kill you at the same time.
The final scene of PC game Baldur's Gate 2 shows one of these vaguely debating and deciding on the Player Character's doom. It's really left to be nothing but a pure Omniscient Council of Vagueness, as no group like this ever appears afterwards. They could be an early concept for The Five, though, who appear in the expansion.
It might also be the council that rules the nation of Amn, (the setting of the game) whose identities are secret.
Word of God is that it was the Five, but that the developers didn't decide that not all of the Five would be within human physical parameters until after the cutscene had been made.
In Half-Life the sinister G-man makes passing references to his employers. Said employers are never revealed, but it is heavily implied that they're some sort of dark, omniscient cabal pursuing a mysterious agenda.
Or are they? Many fan speculate that G-man's employers are part of an inter-dimensional alliance of sentient beings devoted to the destruction of the Universal Union through the hiring of extraordinary individuals which they use to sow seeds of destruction on planets taken by the Combine. I guess that's kinda good.
Some of us think it refers to the players who are literally controlling Gordon's every move.
According to this wiki, comment of G-Man's model states: "// Purpose: The G-Man, misunderstood servant of the people", thus making it improbable that his employers, or at least G-Man himself, isn't evil.
That doesn't specify which people.
The Philosophers of Metal Gear Solid, and their successors The Patriots. Except that the actual Patriots are disguising themselves as an Omniscient Council Of Vagueness. In truth, they are a network of four super computers that have almost complete control over the digital infrastructure of the entire world, and have become impossible to control by their creators long ago. Mildly subverted in that they are never actually seen meeting.
There's one of these in Wild Arms 4, but it turns out that they were completely out of touch with the reality of the situation and they end up being betrayed by The Dragon.
Final Fantasy VII has the meeting of the Shinra executives where they discuss their plans for Aeris and Neo Midgar.
The Mass Effect series has both the Shadow Broker and Cerberus/The Illusive Man. Helping or following direct orders/requests from either group generally rewards renegade points.
The Inner Circle from the Max Payne games is mostly depicted as one of these. However, when questioned about what he knows about the organization in the second game, Vlad dismisses the idea of many of the characteristics integral to this trope as being characteristic of the Inner Circle; to him, they're just the next peg up the ladder in organized crime.
In Two Worlds, the player character is tasked by one Omniscient Council of Vagueness to recover an artifact that will bring about the revival of a dead god. These men are invariably represented with sweeping cloaks, hooded faces, and black armor. Throughout the game, the player encounters several opposite types of men in every major city in Antaloor. These men wear white armor, wear helmets, and are all referred to as "Stranger". These fellows mention the player's destiny and the like, and the main character is noticeably disturbed by them. Only after The Reveal does this mysterious group reveal itself to the Player: The Paladins, another Omniscient Council of Vagueness, but a good one. If the player chooses the Evil Choice at the end of the game, they wind up having to fight the entire Paladin council for their final battle, which is MUCH harder than the fight if you choose the Good Choice, in which you kill the remaining member of the Evil council after spending the latter half of the game killing off the other members.
Subverted in Skies of Arcadia with the Valuan Admirals. They meet several times throughout the game, and no attempt is made to hide who they are -in fact, their first meeting serves to introduce the player to most of them. Other than not being faceless, however, they follow the trope pretty closely.
Deus Ex starts with a sequence like this, where Bob Page and Walton Simons discuss their plans in veiled terms. It contains references to most of the major plot points in the game, but they can't be appreciated until after the fact.
The prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, begins similarly, with Bob Page and the rest of the Illuminati Council of Five discussing their latest scheme for world domination via distorted voice teleconference. None of the members' faces, except Page's are shown, and only two (Zhao Yun Rhu and Hugh Darrow) can be definitively identified via their distinctive (and thus not completely distorted) accents.
The Three Wise Men from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, an explicit Council of Angels that acts in lieu (and, they claim, in the name of) God. The appearance of the Schwarzwelt provided them an opportunity to guide the world into a land ruled by Law, and the Protagonist and the rest of the Schwarzwelt Investigation Team are the perfect pawns to fulfill their desires. Unlike the true originator of the Schwarzwelt, however, going against their wishes doesn't set them against the Protagonist, as they're quite confident that he will fail and they, as eternal beings, can just try again with someone else.
In Age of Empires III the Circle of Ossus is an antagonistic group out to find the Fountain of Youth and have some powerful connections. Everything else about them is completely unknown.
The Data Pads in Halo: Reach reveals that a secret council of Artificial Intelligences formed called "The Assembly", and have been secretly running many of the events in human history, including pushing forward the Spartan-II program, initiating first contact with The Covenant, and sacrificing colonies for survival in the war.
The Council of Nations in the X-COM series sits in the shadows and covertly funds the whole X-COM project, with close links to prominent politicians, businessmen, and military officers. In a rare subversion, it is a Reasonable Authority Figure that only reprimands the player if they are doing a bad job at repelling the x-rays.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Psijic Order plays this role in the College of Winterhold storyline, showing up occasionally to tell the Dragonborn what they need to do to avert the oncoming disaster. In the end, they decide that the world is not ready for something like the Eye of Magnus and decide to take it to their island of Artaeum while also declaring you Arch-Mage of the College.
In Third Super Robot Wars Z: Jigoku-Hen, "Chrono" is an organization that exists in multiple worlds and they are the ones behind the assassinations of Heero Yuy (the original) and Zeon Zum Deikun. In fact, Chrono has been working to ensure the eponymous "time prison" is placed to protect Earth from the Ba'al. At one point in Jigoku-hen, Char attempts to weed out its members within the Earth Federation.
There's one such group in Strider 2, unofficially called "Light Sword Cypher" by the fans, shown in the Antarctica stage ending cutscene during a meeting to discuss Hiryu's progress, among other things. Supplemental material states the group is formed by several heads of world governments, corrupt Mega Corps and criminal syndicates, and are behind the actions of each stage's enemy force.
The heads of Hereti-Corp in meet this way on a regular basis. They also parody this all to hell.
Though the set-up is different, the Fate Spiders discussing the lines of fate getting tangled and leading to potential disaster very much fulfill the role.
The Eternal Council in Adventurers functioned this way at first, complete with fire-bordered silhouettes. Later, as its members were introduced one by one, they dropped their ominous shadows (save for Eternion, who having already been introduced, didn't get one; it was explained that this was his "punishment" for his behavior earlier).
DMFA has one of these in the form of the Creature Council. Amongst the various ominous silhouettes, a phoenix complains about being the only source of light.
According to LittleKuriboh and Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series, 4kids is this. Turned Up to Eleven. They just pop up every now and again, standing up in sync dramatically/observing everyone/making sure that nobody says Disney. Ah! I said it! Noo!
In the Whateley Universe, we've seen The Faceless group known as 'the Syndicate'. We might even know who the head guy is. But it seems like they don't even want each other to know who they are. And they do seem to be the superpowered version of the Mafia.
SF Debris: In SF Debris's review of The X-Files episode "Blood", when Scully questions Mulder's crazy theory and wonders who would be relaying subliminal messages, telling people to go on spree killings purposely, SF Debris enlightens her: "Evil people, duh! Who else? You know, men who sit at long tables in poorly lit rooms full of cigar smoking, talk about how they're going to controool the wooorld!"
Parodied in Metalocalypse. Dethklok is observed by The Tribunal, with its members continuously asserting that Dethklok is incredibly dangerous to the world, and how their latest antics could be disastrous. For almost half a season, they carefully review their tactics, and the president of the council invariably opts to do absolutely nothing, claiming that "it's too soon" or "we must observe them" or "we will let this play out".
Despite the Nonindicative Name, there are actually 3 members of the Tribunal at any given time who we know any information on, including motive. Everyone else is even more vague.
The 2000s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has two mysterious warriors led by three even-more-mysterious Omniscient Council types who look nothing alike but all speak with the same voice. They turn out to be the good guys, more or less.
And their voices and silhouettes gave out some (most are old cartoon villains)
A later episode heavily implies that two of them are Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
In Beast Wars, Tarantulas' superiors (The Tripredacus Council) only appeared as three robots in shadows discussing about what had to be done about Megatron.
Futurama has the council of robot elders. Their main goal is to instill a fear of humans into the populace to distract them from the crippling lug nut shortage...and the fact that they are being ruled by incompetent robot elders.
Silence! I concur.
Not to forget the Nibblonian council.
The Observant High Council in Danny Phantom would count. Interestingly, they've only been hinted at and barely-more-than-cameod in two episodes. They have been shown as a jury of ghosts judging one ghost in particular and also have sworn to "watch but never act"...a code they've violated in a roundabout way by asking Clockwork, a Dungeon Master, to interfere. Danny is apparently aware of their existence but has only referred to them once.
On Young Justice, we have the Light, a mysterious group of high-profile villains who are responsible for most of what the team has gone through. As one might guess from the name, they forgo Sinister Silhouettes in favor being obscuringly glowy. The membership is eventually revealed as Lex Luthor, Ra's al Ghul, Vandal Savage, Queen Bee, The Brain, Klarion the Witch Boy, and Ocean Master (later Black Manta).
In Justice League Unlimited, Cadmus serves as one of these initially, though their membership is exposed over the course of the season
Some people have theorized that such an Omnipotent Council exists on this very wiki. It is unclear where they got this idea. Everyone knows that's a lie. Tropers are much too busy editing pages to form a cabal. Yes, the idea is appealing, but it's just not true.
The admins can sure seem this way when you don't particular know or care to know about admin politics. That is; unseen, incomprehensible, usually irrelevant.
More plausibly, all that's happening is a combination of stand alone complex due to This Wiki being a group of fairly like-minded people and social interactions that no one person can be aware of.
It seems this way to people when random pages get locked. For good reason.
When editing larger Wikis, the editors who wind up peer-reviewing articles (deletion discussions as a prominent example) are an essentially arbitrary group assembled from such a large pool of motives, goals, and expertise they might as well be an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. You get the impression that a cabal of uncaring, misinformed twits is running the whole show with the sole intention of pissing you off. Really, there is no cabal. It's just the universe which hates you.
The (tabletop) wargaming pages suffer from a one man council, much the chagrin of some wargaming message boards where he has become a ridiculed hate figure. He has his own set of unknown rules by which he deletes entries on games that 'aren't notable enough', with no explanation or reference to either the popularity out side his personal circle or new ideas a set introduces.
In the Japanese education system, the PTA fills this role, being made up of mainly highly respected members of the local community (school principals, chief of police, etc) and having enormous sway with the Board of Education and individual schools. They can easily get a teacher they don't approve of fired or transferred, and their complaint about the Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo anime being "too violent" supposedly was one of the factors that caused its cancellation.
The Usenet Cabal. Yes, it did exist at one point, and all members had to repeatedly say that "There Is No Cabal." Of course, ironically, the Cabal's control over Usenet collapsed with the rise of the .alt hierarchy.
Subverted in the British and Australian political systems with the Shadow Cabinet, who consist of the current government's opposite numbers in the opposition party and exist entirely to criticize and annoy the people trying to do things. However, it makes the news much funnier to imagine that they ARE this trope. Seriously though, how many of the people in the Shadow Cabinet joined just so that they could say that they are a member of the "Shadow Cabinet"? This is not helped by their tendency to say one thing and then completely contradict themselves a week later.
In Australia, people have started to swing back to the belief that the Shadow Cabinet is this trope. It's not helped by the fact that they look quite evil when photographed◊. And then they won the 2013 election. Nobody's quite sure what the moral of this story is.
The President of the United States supposedly has a "Shadow Government" that can swing into action in event of a disaster wiping out much of the leadership of the Executive Branch, which has fed some conspiracies despite the fact that it's just a list of names to speed up the process of restaffing the offices the President has appointment authority over.
Happens when feedback cycles run too far beyond inside jokes into fully self-feeding content. Like in terminal cases ofFan Wank. "Some people (i don't know who they are) for some reason have something to say to someone. No, if you don't get what the hell i mean, it's not you!". When something becomes full of these "somethings", this means it's time to apply something...Something incendiary.
Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Officially, ISI handles and coordinates the intelligence from military branches. Unofficially, though...
Various decision making bodies of the United States Federal Reserve and other central banks tend to operate in total secrecy and without oversight from anybody accountable to the people.
This is arguably intentional, and depending on what school of economics you follow might be considered a good thing - if they were publicly beholden as such, central bank policy like interest-rate setting would become completely ineffective in changing the economy due to "rational expectations" (they're predictable, so all in the market know what the environment looks like and therefore will not act the way a central bank policy change would want them to act).
The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated argues that the Motion Picture Association of America operated in this fashion when it came to rating movies, at least at the time of filming; secretive and quasi-anonymous but with incredible power and influence, with clear ideological motives frequently coming down in harsh and at times seemingly random judgment on those who failed to meet their standards without providing any explanation why.