The movement presented itself as an event of world historical proportions: the true core of the Jewish people, led by the sages of Israel, were rousing themselves from their exilic passivity to organize and act in the name of Torah on the stage of history.
The idea that the sages of Israel orchestrated this renaissance of the Jewish people, was another piece of symbolism. The reality, known to rabbis and laymen alike, that the movement was largely organized and led by activist laymen, was veiled behind the deference and ritualized humility of the laymen. Thus, the provisional committee which drafted the invitation, for example, explicitly states that they have not acted in their own name, but only as agents of the true representatives of Torah and therefore the leaders of klal Israel.
The issue of the relationship of rabbis to laymen became an underlying problem in the early phase of the movement. On the one hand, the laymen needed the rabbinate for symbolic purposes... On the other hand, the rabbinate clearly got its directions from the laity... The "political" orientation of the laymen deferred to the administrative orientation of the rabbis. Yet such deference could not be complete when crucial constitutional matters were at stake.
Such a constitutional crisis arose at the very moment of Agudah's birth in Kattowitz... Rosenheim (the lay leader - N.S.) was involved in a daunting conflict with Rabbi Breuer over the so-called "Hungarian demand" that only Jews belonging to separatists congregations could have standing in the movement... Who has the right to decide on the criteria? The problem touched upon the issue of the respective spheres of rabbinic versus lay competence... The solution, so typical of Jewish political life, was a consensual compromise based on each side getting less than it hoped for but more than it would have achieved had the other side prevailed.
From Isaac Breuer, Darki (Jerusalem: Mossad Yitzhak Breuer, 1988), p. 170 (reference from Prof. Lawrence Kaplan):
[From its inception through to the Second World War, the Council of Torah Sages was a council] which never enjoyed any real existence.
From Gershon Bacon, The Politics of Tradition: Agudat Israel in Poland, 1916-1939:
...There were two notable failures of organization which cast doubt on the ideological pretensions of the Aguda and exposed some severe political weaknesses. These were the failure to maintain a functioning rabbinical supervisory council, and the minimal political success of the Aguda outside the boundaries of former Congress Poland...
The Council of Torah Sages first met only on January 30, 1922, although Agudah ideology had stressed from the outset that the rabbis were supposed to be the final arbiters in all party affairs. Even at this first meeting, the full planned contingent of rabbis and rebbes was not present. At that meeting, however, the rabbis did perform their advisory function... After this auspicious beginning, the council appears not have functioned on any regular basis. Instead, it emerged at infrequent intervals with some kind of proclamation or decision, usually in connection with upcoming elections or party conventions. The rabbinic stamp of approval given to the policies and candidates of the Aguda enabled the party to present itself to the public as the upholder of tradition.
In a footnote:
Retrospective accounts of the Aguda movement stress the rabbinic element practically to the exclusion of all other factors. See e.g. J. Friedenson, "A Concise History of Agudath Israel," in Yaakov Rosenheim Memorial Anthology (New York: Orthodox LIbrary 1968) pp. 1-37.