The Twin Flames Dating ‘Cult’ Targeting the Lonely (and Ryan Gosling)

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A COMBINATION OF modern loneliness and New Age woo-woo has convinced a great many people not merely that they need a soulmate, but that, through some unwritten promise of the universe, they are owed one. This belief, along with the more modest goal of a quick hookup, has kept countless online dating companies in business. It has also fueled a more craven operation, Twin Flames Universe, the subject of an unnerving new three-part docuseries from Amazon. Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Twin Flames Universe, based on a Vanity Fair article by Alice Hines (who also serves as a sort of on-camera guide), is a story of isolated, disillusioned lost souls flocking to a pair of huckster Messiah figures living large on other people’s trauma. (It is not to be confused with the forthcoming three-part docuseries from Netflix, Escaping Twin Flames, coming in November. For streamers, Twin Flames is the gift that keeps on giving).

Jeff and Shaleia Ayan have built an online empire and gotten rich through their Twin Flames Universe company, which offers “ascension coaching” to those seeking a “harmonious Twin Flame Union.” Give them your hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of dollars and you are guaranteed to find the person who completes you, the pumpkin to your spice, the peanut butter that makes your jelly pop.

If it all stopped there, the Twin Flames phenomenon would be just another get-rich-quick scheme in a land full of them. Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Director Marina Zenovich, a double-Emmy winner for her 2009 doc Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, uses interviews with former members and footage from TFU online sessions to illustrate some disturbing patterns. Jeff, who styles himself as a Jesus figure, and Shaleia, whose look might be described as goth chic, are shown pressuring members to switch gender identification. They become matchmakers, arranging partnerships among their followers, some of them tragically mismatched. They deny wrongdoing. After all, they’re merely doing as God instructs. And yet, much as ball don’t lie in basketball, video generally don’t lie in documentary. Here we have just the latest doc subjects whose own obsessive self-chronicling exposes them for who they are. You can claim you’re not a bullying fraud all you want, but it gets harder when there’s ample footage of you being a bullying fraud.

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