The Illuminatus Trilogy asks an interesting question:

Is the thought of a unicorn a real thought?

Got your answer? Good. Are you sure? Maybe you should read it once more. Really, really sure this time?

This is offered as perhaps the central question of modern philosophy, as well as an underlying force behind all the "mystery" organizations that supposedly wield power behind-the-scenes.

Okay, a unicorn is fictional, therefore it isn't real. But clearly the thought of a unicorn is real, right? Well, an empiricist would naturally ask you to point to the "thought of a unicorn" and when you are unable to do so, suggest that your thought of a "thought of a unicorn" is as unreal as the one-horned creature is purports to represent. Like qualia, the mental representation is, at best, ephemeral.

How about the "thought of a horse"? Real, unreal?

Now, who would you side with, in an argument between Jack, who asserts a real unicorn would also have the attribute of immortality, and Jill, who is sure only horse-like-ness and a single horn is sufficient for something to be a unicorn? Is one of them right? Neither? Both?

Let's take our unicorn and put him on the flag of some of the most influential concepts and social movements that have directed human history.

Say, democracy.

Nope, never existed. There has never been a true rule-by-majority of a state in history. Not even a rule-by-the-majority's-representatives, if you really look at the nature of this "representation". And if it never existed, how can we say it even can exist, or that we know what we are talking about when we use that term?

Yet, millions of people have pontificated, sacrificed and died in the name of this particular unicorn, and many, many others.

The argument continues that it doesn't really matter if "democracy" or "socialism" or the "CIA" or the "Illuminati" exist, they have power. The power to direct people's lives, money, and energy. Having existence is not a necessary attribute of an entity's power.

Hmm... I need to get back to hunting my unicorn. I know it's here somewhere, darting and hiding in the wide, open fields of metaphysics, epistemology, mythology, politics...