The subject line of the email was something I've lived a lifetime waiting to read: "Invitation From the Illuminati."

Finally! The most feared, obscure and powerful secret society of the world, the ones who controlled the weather and elections and volcanic activity and banking and possibly whether "XX" will be renewed on TV wanted me on board. Let's read the offer!

"To protect your business based on the criterion of membership in the Illuminati, we are convinced that you have a strong interest in having good technical skills and academic skills. With this, we consider you as the class that provides the platform for you to meet the wealthy people who can help you achieve wealth, power, fame and honor."

It was just what I expected! They don't speak normal English. They have their own mysterious ways of writing.

"I strongly recommend that you join us in the Illuminati. Joining the Illuminati comes with many benefits such as cars, houses and $ 3,000,000 USD that will enable you to start a better life with your family. Do you accept the offer? If so, reply to this email."

Cars and houses? How does that work? I guess they give you a card, and you get a member discount, like AARP or AAA. I suppose I'll have to agree to receive text messages: "HOT DEAL, 5% off this Swiss chateau, sale ends at midnight!!!" Three mil sounds nice, though; I'd better give them all my banking routing numbers so they can expedite the transfer.

It's nonsense, of course. The Illuminati do not recruit by email. They would send someone — a well-dressed Mephistophelian character who joins you in the elevator, stops the car mid-floor by laying his finger alongside his nose, then opens a briefcase with a series of documents and a small pin to prick your finger for the blood oath.

I already turned down that guy, so I don't know what the email's all about. Maybe this wasn't the feared Bavarian Illuminati. More like the Fridley Illuminati.

When I was a kid I sent away a coupon from an ad in my dad's VFW magazine, granting me access to a secret society I won't name here because they're still around and I don't want to misrepresent their teachings. Basically, mail-order Masons. No lodge. No secret handshakes.

For the price of a stamp, I would be accepted, and eventually, it was implied, I would receive ancient wisdom. I wondered if this was like the Columbia Record Club — you'd get 12 ancient wisdoms for a dollar as long as you agreed to pay $9.99 for an ancient wisdom every month, unless you sent a postcard saying you didn't want this month's wisdom, but of course you forgot to do that and ended up paying for an ancient wisdom that was boring and applied only to Tibet.

I'm not sure why anyone would want ancient wisdom. Modern wisdom: Amber consists of fossilized tree resin. Ancient wisdom: Amber is solidified fox urine. Modern wisdom: Early-onset male baldness is often hereditary. Ancient wisdom: You can grow hair by applying cat dung and swine grease.

"OK," you say, "you're just making fun of Pliny the Elder, who wrote those things in 'The Natural History.' The dude died trying to observe the eruption of Vesuvius, so have some respect." But if the ancient wisdom said that Vesuvius erupted because Vulcan had a particularly spicy breakfast, I'm under no obligation to give it credence.

I was a member of the Mail-Order Masons for a month, and then realized that the clouds would not part, a beam of light would not alight on my countenance, and I would not be suffused with the teachings of Amon Sep-Tet, an ancient Egyptian jazz musician who discovered the path by which the Earth went around the moon.

Even if I had learned ancient wisdoms, there were remarkably few places to apply them. Your grade-school teacher would not ask, "Who can tell me the six secret compounds that make up the blood?" So you could shoot up your hand and say, "Wind, ochre, St. Vitus' mud, copper, whimsy, and — and — oh, I forget."

"Spume, my child. The sixth is spume."

I knew a guy in high school who was obsessed with secret societies. Knights Templar, Rothchilds, Illuminati and, of course, the Masons.

"The secret Masons?" I'd say. "You mean the ones who have that big building on the north side with the golf course with the huge Masonic symbol on the roof? That secret society?"

As he explained it, the public profile of the Masons was a cover for their secretness. The old "hiding in plain view" idea. Well, if that's so, then perhaps McDonald's is an ancient secret society that wants you to think it's a hamburger chain, but is actually a shadowy organization that pulls all the strings. Who would think that Ronald McDonald is running the world behind the scenes?

To tell the truth, in the 2020s, having a clown in charge of everything makes a lot of sense. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •