Break-ups, unrequited love, disloyalty, abandonment – the feelings we universally know so well. The heartache that follows broken love can profoundly influence every part of our lives. Coping methods vary – some hug their friends a little harder, indulge in extra ice cream, host ‘wine and whine’ parties, or simply cry it out. Others succumb to a spiral of overthinking, questioning: Were we not good enough? Why can’t they love me back? Does love even exist? Admit it, we’ve all Googled ‘Signs He Likes You’ and ‘How To Get Over An Ex’ at 3 AM at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, some in the Heartbreak Club stumbled upon an unexpected search result: ‘Join the Twin Flames Universe. Find your perfect love.’ This is the tale of the lonely, scared, and desperate who fell prey to an influencer-led cult called the ‘Twin Flames Universe’, and now, are bravely sharing their experiences in Netflix’s new docuseries Escaping Twin Flames.
What is a twin flame?
Twin flames, or simply “mirror souls,” is a YouTube buzzword found in new-age spiritualism that became popular in 2017 on the video platform. Picture this: two souls, madly in love, their lives intertwined through the cosmic dance of fate, wooooo. Heavy. Well, at its essence, it means that two individuals are each other’s halves, stemming from the idea that one soul can inhabit two distinct bodies and experience a deep soul connection due to shared life paths, common pain, and trauma. As individuals are inherently similar to their twin flame, they operate as spiritual mirrors reflecting each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. Yeah, it’s like a soul split-screen situation. This whole Twin Flame thing isn’t exactly a Netflix original, though. We’re talking fifth-century BC, ancient Greek-style drama. Legend has it: humans initially had two faces, two pairs of arms, and two pairs of legs. Zeus, fearing their superhero powers, hit the pause button and split them into two separate entities. Now, these halves are on an eternal scavenger hunt for their soulmate.
Now you say, “Sounds sweet, Shivi. I want one. Where do I get one?”
Well, before you dive headfirst into daydreaming about Rakesh from college being your twin flame, let me sprinkle a bit of reality seasoning on that emotional stir-fry.
Let’s talk science. Spoiler alert: there’s zilch, nada, and zero scientific evidence backing up the whole twin flame concept. It is, at its core, a spiritual idea that’s hard to study scientifically because it’s unpredictable and immeasurable. Unlike scientific studies that depend on factual, repeatable, and observable data, twin flames are based on personal experiences, often emotionally charged and challenging to evaluate objectively. It is also potentially toxic with alarming parallels with emotionally abusive relationships. The concept talks about souls “chasing” and “running” from each other and this echoes dynamics like stonewalling and gaslighting. It promotes codependency and the inclination to overlook red flags in the name of unconditional love. In reality, your so-called “twin flame” could be homosexual, married, or just not into you! Not exactly the recipe for a rom-com ending, girlie.
Twin Flames Universe & master-influencers Jeff and Shaleia Ayan
I love online support groups, don’t get me wrong. I love my Reddit and Discord. But this is a story of an online community gone extremely wrong.
The recent Netflix docuseries Escaping Twin Flames introduces us to ‘Twin Flames Universe,’ a Facebook and YouTube community founded by Jeff and Shaleia Ayan. Jeff, formerly known as Ender Ayanethos (What?), and his twin flame, Shaleia, started the group targeting people who were seeking love in life. Talk about a high-risk group, right? Remember how you felt during your last break-up? Now, imagine if you came across them on your routine 3 AM search. How vulnerable you would be to buying something that could solve your problems?
Well, our lovers Jeff and Shaleia’s story began when they met online through a mutual friend in 2012, sparking a romantic connection. Soon, their relationship evolved into creating videos documenting their journey. Eventually, Twin Flames Universe became a platform that assists individuals in finding their true love. For Shaleia, it offered an opportunity to share her spiritual practices with a broader audience, while Jeff saw it as a chance to start a business.
The Netflix series outlines how the founders exploited their vulnerable community of predominantly lonely women, employing emotional and psychological abuse for financial gains. Membership to this group involved purchasing their book and various classes, workshops, and coaching sessions, with fees ranging from $200 to $2,222. What do the members get in return? The founders’ claims of exclusive spiritual power to confirm twin flames. They can “feel” and confirm who your soulmate is.
Netflix’s Escaping Twin Flames lays bare the nightmarish tales of manipulation and coercion within the community, through the eyes of its former members. These interviews recount disturbing experiences, including being encouraged to stalk their supposed “twin flame” (despite a restraining order) and to disagree with their flame’s gender identities or sexual orientations (despite being clearly gay). Ooof, the psychological toll. It also documents the determined efforts of family members trying to rescue their loved ones from the clutches of the cult.
There’s little to no room for doubt in the Netflix docuseries, which boldly streams every Zoom video call the community ever had. The founders, unmistakably seen and heard, engage in mental and emotional abuse, manipulate their followers, and even endorse illegal activities under the guise of true love. While Jeff viewed Twin Flames Universe as a business, he was playing with real lives. The sheer lack of empathy and understanding of consequences paints them not just as a cult but also as detestable influencers. It’s a tale of influence gone awry, a stark reminder of the dark side when power is wielded for all the wrong reasons.
Despite it all – they’re still internet influencers?
As of 2020, the private Facebook group boasted 14 thousand members, with a slight drop in numbers following the big Vanity Fair exposé. However, the current count has surged to over 40 thousand members. The Netflix docuseries has barely made a dent either. Twin Flames Universe continues to actively recruit new members.
I am personally shocked at their extensive plans to build the group’s first physical location in Michigan, where members would live in trailers, partake in renovations, and start families of “golden children.” In April 2023, Jeff and Shaleia also welcomed their daughter, Grace Violet Divine, whom they claim is their third twin flame. (WHAT?)
Stay safe out there, guys. The internet can give you companionship, a sense of belonging, a refuge – a community that accepts you for who you are. It can make your life feel purposeful, give it meaning, make you happier. The same internet can also host individuals that can hurt you. If anything, Netflix’s Escaping Twin Flames is an urgent call to confront the toxic dynamics perpetuated by certain online communities, and a stark reminder of the resilience needed to break free towards the light.