Behind every new religion (or religious cult, in this case) preaching something that seems too good to be true is someone turning a profit. And there’s no truer case of this than Jeff and Shaleia Ayan, two Twin Flame life coaches who have made thousands teaching women to become one with their “Twin Flames.” In fact, the Twin Flame Universe’s ideology is a fairly simple concept, merely adopting a term that most people already understand. Only the path to finding your twin flame isn’t so simple: while Jeff and Shaleia drew people in by boasting about their divine love, the two allegedly encouraged followers to cut ties with loved ones, spend hoards of cash on their courses, and be with their twin flame by any means necessary.
Wondery’s newest podcast, “Twin Flames,” explores the online religious cult of the same name. While cult may not be the universally agreed upon term to describe the Twin Flame Universe, as it is with Manson, Jonestown, and other known extremist groups, the all-consuming obsession for love (and to be a part of the group) fueled by Jeff and Shaleia certainly seems to fit the cult bill.
The first episode follows Angie, a 41-year-old government worker in rural Ontario who had deemed herself unlucky in love. A rough breakup in her twenties left her heartbroken, content to just focus on her love of dogs, her friends, and her career. When she met Ron in 2015, he was a 22-year-old intern at her office. She was immediately attracted to him despite not wanting a relationship, let alone with someone nearly two decades her junior. She tried to avoid him, but soon, the two became fast friends and then something more. They would talk for hours, Ron sending suggestive pictures and answering video calls in just his underwear. Angie was sure that he felt something between them, too, but neither ever spoke about it.
In 2016, Angie was diagnosed with cancer. Despite this, and despite her eventual hysterectomy, she could not stop thinking about Ron. While recovering from her surgery, she stumbled upon Jeff and Shaleia’s YouTube channel. They were a young, attractive couple who boasted that they were two of the very few who had found their twin flame, and they wanted to help others find their one true, eternal love. They said to be without your twin flame was to suffer, which was exactly how Angie was feeling about Ron.
They said that they could lead anyone to find their twin flame, as everyone has one out there. All you had to do: sign up for their online class. And, just how we all knew this story would go, Jeff and Shaleia just kept demanding more and more and more – not just in the form of money, but in the form of total submission. They told Angie that finding her twin flame had everything to do with her femininity, a sensitive topic after her hysterectomy and losing her hair to chemotherapy.
But, she did it. She started wearing makeup and dresses and nail polish, and she continued to pursue Ron. When he turned her down after she finally made a move on him, she sent him a long email about her feelings and what she had learned from Twin Flames. He requested that she not only leave him alone, but that she seek serious help. She just turned back to Jeff and Shaleia, who told her that Ron not reciprocating was just him running from his destiny: her.
The second episode digs into Jeff and Shaleia’s background and the rise to prominence of the Twin Flame Universe – how they went from a normal young couple in love to scam artists and religious extremists. The rest of the podcast seems to follow the rest of Angie’s story, as well as other people who fell victim to the couple’s greed.
“Twin Flames” asks: what happens when someone becomes so obsessed with finding love, finding their other half, that they completely lose touch with reality? It dives into the tactics Jeff and Shaleia used to prey on women and how they made them devote their entire lives to not just love, but to them. It digs into the psychology of obsession and what happens when someone will do anything it takes to be with their true twin flame.