This is David M. Shayler. The one not on the cross. Shayler used to run the Libya desk of Security Services. He was a spook back then. But his fortunes have since declined. These days he's just the son of God. The revelation that he was the Messiah, the Chosen One, J*h*v*h, was, he says, one that caused him to literally fall to his knees, overwhelming him with bliss that was "beyond any sexual or physical experience." As you might imagine. In many ways he's a reluctant deity. "I never chose to be the Messiah," he insists. "It's quite an embarrassing thing, actually. I kept asking myself, why me? But I can't ignore the signs..."
The signs – a typical conspiracist's stew of Kaballah, Biblical end-times, and stuff he's copped from Dan Brown novels – will be naggingly familiar to anyone who's ever opened The Bible Code, a David Icke book, or any one of dozens of green-inked pamphlets of its ilk. Shayler's currently sitting inside a squat in Abinger, Surrey. He lives here these days, smoking dope and trading rants with his teenage squat buddies. Beyond this psychedelic threshold however, he's a fast-rising figure in the world of paranoid saviors, and he's been inducted into David Icke's pentagram of acquaintance. "I think of him as John the Baptist to my Jesus Christ." But there's a certain niggling rivalry in there too. "I think a lot of what David says has value. But he concentrates too much on the negative. He can tell you what's wrong with the world. He can't tell you much about how to put it right." And you also diverge on the key policy area of a super race of lizards who run the world? "Yes. But I definitely believe in the Zionist conspiracy."
From what he goes on to describe, the Zionist conspiracy sounds very serious indeed – the world turned chessboard by a cabal of sinister oligarchs, who cause wars and rattle their sabres for capitalism while keeping the populace in check with bread, circuses, and the need to make regular mortgage payments.
A pop psychologist might argue that Shayler's interest in otherworldy conspiracies was piqued after he became the center of a real-life one. In 1997, he blew the whistle on MI5's investigations into key Labour figures like Peter Mandelson – bunging a lot of secret service files to the Mail on Sunday in exchange for a £40,000 check, before fleeing to France. Certain to be arrested if he returned, it was from Paris that he made his famous appearance on Have I Got News For You, playing "live" on Paul Merton's team while encased in a television screen that the crew had hooked up via the satellite feed. ("It was one of my proudest moments. Even if they tried to trip me up by putting me on a two-second delay so I couldn't follow everything.") Halfway through, Merton turned him off.
A few weeks later, Shayler was arrested. He spent four months in a French jail while they decided what to do with him. And another six in Belmarsh once they did. After he'd paid his debt to society, Shayler gradually disappeared further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, while at the same time maneuvering his fleeting celebrity into a slightly less-fleeting celebrity. He had a regular column with Punch Magazine and he got invited to a lot of parties as a schleb attendee ("I remember standing at a urinal and Mike Nolan from Bucks Fizz saying to me, 'You're that guy from MI6, aren't you?'"). He made enough cash out of writing assignments and appearances to put himself up in a tidy art deco pad just off Baker Street. In 2003, he skittered across our screens once again with his opposition to Iraq and the "9/11 Truth" campaign – debating head-to-head with Christopher Hitchens on a no-planes platform. And in 2007, he became the Messiah. So it goes.
He has a talent for finding his way back into the public eye, does David M. "God" Shayler. So when he turned up in Abinger Hammer the other week, living as a woman in an anarchist squat under the name Dolores Kane, it seemed almost a logical progression.
"The Messiah is a tranny," he instructs us, from the comfort of a cushion in his squatly home, surrounded by a coterie of baked bros and bro-ettes. "That's God's greatest joke – remember that the Divine has a truly great sense of humour. The prophecies say that the Messiah is both male and female in form. Therefore, in line with the prophecies, I choose to be both man and woman. You see, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary are actually both the same person."
In the corner of the room, a young boy with a miniscule head is lolling on a cushion as he tunes into Shayler's latest rant. He chucks back that tiny head and explodes with giggles. Everyone stops to look at him. He keeps on laughing, hysterically, stuck in a feedback loop. He's unendingly tickled by something. "Too much acid?" someone asks. Yes, it's that kind of party. A spliff goes round. Shayler puffs, puffs, passes, and rants on. He's much more lucid than a potted biography would suggest. His intellect remains sharp. It's only his judgment that's warped beneath the years. One minute he'll be discussing The League Of Gentlemen – how they're "the finest comedy actors of their generation," analyzing in clever detail the ways in which original radio show was more macabre than the eventual TV series. The next, he's plonked himself back onto his divine hobby horse and you're up to your tits in obscure pagan symbology.
On 19 January this year, at around 11 AM, he walked into Number One Court at the Old Bailey and told the judge and assembled courtiers that he was the son of God. This was, he says, the beginning of his proper mission, the seminal moment when human justice – an eye for an eye – was replaced by his own mantra: love one another. He's big on love. The judge apparently took his wig in his hands and fled. Shayler was bundled out by bailiffs. But despite both the prominence of the setting and Shayler's own fame, the event went entirely unreported. He was simply Crazy Number 19 for that week, shoveled unrecognized out onto Fleet Street. He didn't even get a chance to mention the end of the world (it's on 23 December 2012, trivia fans).
But since he was "rediscovered" a month ago by an enterprising local newspaper reporter, business is picking up. He's had calls from the Independent, the Mail, even a few TV production companies sniffing round. ("The best offer I've had so far was from National Geographic TV, actually.") David Icke has turned his spectral world view into a millionaire lifestyle, so why shouldn't Shayler? Especially now that his last few shekels have finally run out. With all the money finally gone, David met his fellow squatters – mainly in their teens and twenties – at a free rave earlier this year near Guilford. He'd just come back from a stint in Amsterdam and was staying with a friend up near there. They began life squatting another farm, Tyting, before the council moved in to evict them. They got hold of a list from the council showing which properties weren't paying tax and found the place they currently reside in. "We didn't even have to break anything – we just got in through an open window," a boy with hair matted thick like matzo bread says. "At Tyting we set up an organic farm. We were teaching people about how to grow more of their food locally."
Bob Marley blares from a nearby stereo. Bob Marley. As we puff-puff-pass, a girl with dyed pinkish hair sits cross-legged on a pillow, dabbing watercolors into abstract hippie pictures in her journal. What does she think of her mate Dave's whole Messiah thing? "Well," she ponders, "I can't prove that he's not the Messiah. I mean, if David says that he is, then I have to believe that he is until I have evidence that he isn't. Everyone's just here to do their own thing, you know? No one's judging anyone." Bob. Marley. Plays. On.
"I mean, I am God in man. I'm fallible," David shrugs. "I've made mistakes. I admit, I get it wrong sometimes. I'm learning here as much as anyone else." What does he have to say to people who think he's schizophrenic? "Well, I would say that the signs of schizophrenia and the signs of a religious awakening are ultimately indistinguishable from each other. I could be wrong. But obviously that would contradict all the signs." Before he can elaborate, a ghostly voice comes from the celing. "This is God talking toooo yooouuuu." I look up. Two squatters have clambered into the rafters. They giggle. The boy with the tiny head hoses himself. Shayler puffs on, unperturbed.
After two hours my dictaphone is brimming with Revelations symbology. The rain is chucking it down in Abinger as we make plans for the last train home. David Shayler is a lovely madman. The comparison he makes with Icke is pretty instructive. Despite whatever similar force has possessed them both, David Icke seems crippled by his paranoia, but Shayler seems to be genuinely happy-go-lucky. As we depart, he has a final watchword. "You know, I have a feeling you may have been a Greek philosopher in a past life, Gavin. You should definitely research it."
Which one? Plato? "No." Aristotle? "No." Epicurius? "Yes," he glints, "definitely Epicurius! Definitely. That's incredible. How did you know?"