In 2023, The Twin Flames Universe, a darkly all-consuming YouTube school that purports to help students find their one true love, has been the subject of two documentaries. The narrative of the group and its members was told in three parts in October in the three-part Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe. On November 8, Netflix released Escaping Twin Flames, a three-part docuseries that delves deeper.
The former is partly based on Alice Hines’ investigation for the Vanity Fair exposé “Inside the Always Online, All-Consuming World of Twin Flames Universe.” Interviews with investigative journalist Sarah Berman, who initially covered the group for Vice, are included in the latter.
But Berman isn’t the narrator of Escaping Twin Flames; rather, she is one of many voices—including former members of the group, parents of those still in it, and experts on “high-control groups”—who discuss the Twin Flames Universe and its leaders, Jeff and Shaleia Ayan. Both docuseries tell the lives of former members of the group, and both are careful not to label Twin Flames Universe as a “cult,” especially given the Ayans’ litigiousness.
“In a general statement addressed to the media on its website, TFU denies allegations that it is a cult,” a statement at the end of each episode of the Netflix docuseries says, “that it improperly profits off students, that it encourages stalking, or that it separates students from their families.”
Dr. Janja Lalich, an expert on cults and coercion and professor emerita of sociology at California State University, says of the group’s “Mind Alignment Process” in the docuseries: “Many groups do this kind of introspective exercise, which they say is there to help you, but it’s actually there to tear apart the self.” It’s also a means for them to be separated from their families, which is one of the purposes of most cultic organisations: to isolate you with only their little universe.”