Through the Twin Flame Ascension School, Jeff and Shaleia built a modest fiefdom of followers who paid excessive sums for advice on how to secure their twin flame. Said advice was often unhelpful and even dangerous, encouraging stalking behavior from its adherents. Indeed, Escaping Twin Flames recounts the first hand story from former member Elle who was arrested on stalking charges. Throughout the 2010s, Jeff and Shaleia’s Twin Flame empire would grow to include courses called “Mind Alignment Process” sessions, the establishment of a pseudo-religion “Church of Union,” not-so-subtle intimations that Jeff was Christ reborn, and even a meal delivery service for good measure (Divine Dish).

Eventually, the Ayans began to exert even more control over their followers, assigning all unpaired members into their own twin flame arrangements within the Twin Flames Universe group. Since Jeff and Shaleia’s conception of twin flames involves a “divine masculine” and “divine feminine” and most of the group’s members were women, this required many female members to change their gender identity to better fit their new twin flame.

Twin Flames Universe is a Cult for the Zoom Age

At this point, you may have noticed something peculiar about Twin Flames. The above description never mentions the cult followers being in the physical presence of the cult leader. That’s because the vast majority of interactions in Twin Flames Universe occur remotely via Google Hangouts and the downloading of educational videos from Jeff and Shaleia.

While Escaping Twin Flames recounts at least two in-person events that took place in New York and Toronto in the late 2010s, the rest of the cult programming here occurs via the internet. In the definitive magazine feature about Twin Flames Universe from Alice Hines at Vanity Fair, one former TFU member discusses how online access makes the group feel omniscient, saying “Everywhere I went, [Jeff and Shaleia] went with me, because they were on my phone.”

In many ways, Twin Flames Universe got a jumpstart on an era of meaningful Zoom interactions made all the more prominent by the Covid-19 pandemic. The confusion over how a cult can operate remotely is one that its founders use to their advantage.

In the aforementioned Vanity Fair article, Jeff tries to use that fact to argue that his group can’t possibly be a cult, saying “It’s kinda hard to get into a cult on the internet, isn’t it? How are you going to drink the poison if it’s on the internet? Don’t you have to, like, be part of a community, like, that all lives on a farm or something?”

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