Would you pay money to find love? Lot of people around the world are already investing significant funds to discover the “right one,” such as paying for premium memberships on dating websites or, in a country like India, subscribing to paid services on matrimonial websites. Remember Seema aunty from the Netflix show “Indian Matchmaking“, who charged a hefty sum to help wealthy families find potential grooms and brides for their children? And then there’s Jeff and Shaleia Divine, who took the love game to a twisted level to exploit those looking for lasting romance in their lives. The couple runs the “Twin Flames Ascension School,” offering classes that help students find and develop a “harmonious union” with their soulmate, or as they put it, their “twin flame”.
Directed by Cecilia Peck, “Escaping Twin Flames” is a three-part Netflix documentary delving into how Jeff and Shaleia Divine became millionaires by convincing vulnerable individuals worldwide to part with their money in pursuit of finding love. However, the couple didn’t stop at offering expensive classes; they turned their venture into an intricate pyramid scheme of sorts – students were mentored into becoming “love coaches” and tasked with both finding and coaching new students/followers, without being paid for their services. The mere idea that someone can claim to help you find your “twin flame” might sound ridiculous, laughable, and farcical. This documentary highlights how terrifyingly easy it is to ensnare individuals in online schemes and strip them of their capacity for independent thinking.
“Escaping Twin Flames” features interviews with women who were enamored by the concept of a “twin flame” — a person you are destined to be with — as sold by Jeff and Shaleia Divine. These individuals had become an integral part of their online community until they realized they were being manipulated and decided to leave. The victims of the couple’s schemes were predominantly young and impressionable or desperate for love. The documentary includes interviews with family members who lost loved ones to the “twin flame” group, as many followers were coerced into severing ties with their families.
In an attempt to validate their claims, Jeff and Shaleia pushed students towards random individuals, insisting they were their twin flame. For example, 19-year-old Marlee Griffin, expressing doubts about finding someone, was convinced by Jeff that a random Facebook messenger was her soulmate. Despite the man living in a different city, being unemployed, and having a criminal record, Jeff persuaded Marlee to pursue him, with these conversations available as video recordings in the documentary. You will find several such disturbing first-hand accounts of how people practically forced into relationships with an alleged twin flame.
Jeff and Shaleia says illogical things like, “Because we’ve been in Harmonious Union for years, we have achieved that miracle of being able to see and confirm someone’s Twin Flame,” and people believe them. The documentary shows how the couple turned their online community into an almost cult-like group, profiting off their own followers by systemically manipulating and controlling them. The series employs extensive footage of the couple talking to their followers, and Jeff is a far cry from what you’d expect a cult leader to be like. He is bratty, obnoxious and his behavior only re-enforces the unfortunate stereotype that women are attracted to “bad boys”. Let’s rephrase that – women with low self-esteem are attracted to confident lowlifes.
The couple even went on to establish themselves as a religious organization to evade taxes, and Jeff went as far as claiming he was Jesus reborn. And if that’s not a red flag, you wonder what is. It becomes hard to sympathize with a group of people who are willing to follow a foul-mouthed white dude claiming he is Jesus Christ. In an online world where people are increasingly becoming lonelier, a documentary like “Escaping Twin Flames” becomes necessary to expose online scammers like Jeff and Shaleia, who target vulnerable souls looking for love. Watching this reminded me of another Netflix documentary – The Billionaire, the Butler & the Boyfriend – which followed the story of how deceased Billionaire Liliane Bettencourt spent almost a billion dollars one a friend, all because he made her laugh and made her feel loved. Jess and Shaleia made their members feel loved and accepted, too, with the only difference being that their members did not have an endless pool of funds lying in their bank accounts. Eventually, the financial and emotional strain began to pinch some of them.
The three-part documentary concludes with reflections from members who played pivotal roles in the Twin Flame school’s financial success but eventually left upon recognizing their misdeeds. Some women, coaching others for over three to four years, claim they had no choice but to stay. Despite ample evidence of their cult-like business, no action has been taken against the couple. The former members hope their efforts to expose the couple will lead to future action, and as viewers, we can only hope for the same. If you appreciate documentaries on human behavior, “Escaping Twin Flames” is a worthwhile watch.
You can stream the docu-series on Netflix.
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