It is good to sit here in the George Square lecture theatre at ten in the morning, listening to Kaya Muller speaking about the interpretation of dreams. Kaya probes the mysteries of the mind with a corporate sincerity; everything in his pseudo new-age philosophy is easy and pleasantly banal. Yet it evidently works for him. Perhaps if I was simple enough for Kaya’s dream interpretations, they could change my life. He is now explaining how to recognise negativity in your dreams. I imagine that living in California would be like this. After the seminar is over, we would emerge from the lecture theatre to be drenched in heat. A cable car full of girls in bikinis would trundle past. I would flop down to the beach with a surfboard under my arm.
Actually, Kaya is Canadian and we are in Edinburgh where nothing is ever easy or banal. I am humming like a beehive with cynicism. Dream interpretation is such a fascinating subject that John Major could give a talk about it and you would still be captivated. A “self-taught” expert, the only apparent qualification which Kaya has for interpreting dreams is his insistence that he is good at it. Kaya’s interpretations are Jungian rather than Freudian, in that he will make one cap fit all. To illustrate, a Freudian would say that the meaning of the colour red in Jane Eyre’s dreams will relate back to her imprisonment in the red room as a child. A Jungian would counter that the room was only painted red in the first place to reflect a deep mystical knowledge of redness which we all ultimately share.
Yet theory has no place in Kaya’s show because his interpretations are flatly commonsensical. For example, one of his volunteers reported dreaming that she had several children and that one of them had died. Kaya deduces that the girl has a lot of ongoing projects in her life and that she will need to terminate one of them. But if this was true, it would be evident from a brief account of her life. There would be no need to analyse her dreams in the first place.
Kaya carefully insulates himself against contradiction. His camera team have been out on the streets of Edinburgh, interviewing people about their dreams. Back at Kaya HQ, the interpreter plays clips from these interviews and he then analyses the dreams. We cannot confirm whether his interpretations are correct or helpful because the volunteers have boiled away back into the streets. The audience are allowed to submit their own dreams for analysis, but there turns out to be only time for Kaya to deal with one member of the audience. He gives a protracted answer to a general question about dreaming and then the show has ended.
But I want to like Kaya. He is not a charlatan and he has at least convinced himself that his work is useful. Twenty years ago he was one of Canada’s biggest pop stars – an opening act for Celine Dion – but he suddenly turned his back on the world of celebrity to live “like a hermit.” He devoted his life to the interpretation of dreams and he has since toured the globe, advising unspecified “celebrities, dignitaries and world-leaders.” Hats off to him! He has also made several neat short films of scenes from his dreams, which include a dog urinating flames and a man driving after a flying sheep. Perhaps the real star of Kaya’s show is the endlessly and mysteriously creative human mind.