Twin Flame vs. Soulmate: Unraveling the Meaning and Controversy Surrounding the Term

Two documentary series explore how an online group pressured members into taking extreme measures to find “harmonious twin flame union.”

Apr 03, 2024

Two documentary series explore how an online group pressured members into taking extreme measures to find “harmonious twin flame union.”

How far would you be willing to go in search of your "twin flame," that profound romantic connection? Two documentaries, “Escaping Twin Flames” on Netflix and “Desperately Seeking Soulmate” on Amazon Prime Video, delve into the often darker paths individuals may tread on such quests.

Both documentaries shine a spotlight on Twin Flames Universe, founded by Jeff and Shaleia Ayan, which promises to guide members towards achieving a "harmonious union" with their true loves, or "twin flames." The organization boasts a sizable following, with approximately 66,000 members in its Twin Flames Universe Facebook group.

However, the documentaries present a grim picture, with the families of current and former members sharing their concerns about the group's practices. Allegations include encouragement of stalking and manipulation by its leaders, Jeff and Shaleia Ayan. The documentaries also depict instances where followers were urged to pursue romantic interests despite rejection, leading to legal interventions like restraining orders. Former members claim they were pressured to form romantic partnerships within the group, and some even allege being coerced into changing their gender identities to align with the Twin Flames Universe's ideals.

Responding to criticism, Twin Flames Universe issued a statement refuting the allegations, asserting their commitment to love and mutual respect while denying claims of inappropriate control over their members.

While Twin Flames Universe has drawn scrutiny, the concept of twin flames predates the Ayans' organization. It continues to fascinate and affect real people, prompting further exploration into its complexities and impacts.

What is a twin flame?

"Kindred spirit. Soulmate. One true love.

All these phrases serve as synonyms for 'twin flame,' a concept that embodies a profound sense of connection and destiny with another individual.

However, licensed psychologist Shauna H. Springer, renowned for her extensive work on love and relationships, emphasizes that 'twin flame' is not a clinical term.

"'Twin flame' is often used to depict the idea of encountering someone whom you are believed to be destined to meet," Springer elucidates. "(This person) with whom you are expected to foster mutual growth throughout a lifelong partnership rooted in love."

What is the origin of ‘twin flames‘?

The term "twin flame" gained popularity through the writings of the controversial American spiritual leader, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, notably in her book "Soul Mates And Twin Flames: The Spiritual Dimension of Love and Relationships," published in 1999.

However, twin flames represent a distinct connection compared to soul mates, particularly within the mythology of the Twin Flames Universe.

According to Rachel Bernstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in cult intervention and re-acclimation, the concept underlying "twin flames" traces back to Plato's "Symposium."

In "Symposium," a fictionalized version of the Greek playwright Aristophanes recounts a tale where humans originally possessed four arms, four legs, and two heads before being split in half by Zeus in his anger, leading to an eternal quest for reunion.

"A twin flame is the 'other half' of you," Bernstein elaborates. "It stems from the belief that before your birth, there were two parts of yourself that became separated."

Paula Hardy, whose twin sister Stephanie Zimmerman is currently involved in the Twin Flames Universe and is married to her "twin flame," shares her interpretation of the concept with

"At the heart of the Twin Flames Universe ideology," explains Hardy, who is showcased in the Netflix documentary, "is the belief that God crafted two aspects of ourselves to essentially form one soul. These two parts, created simultaneously, are reflections of each other."

This concept stands apart from soulmates, which Springer defines as "individuals possessing qualities that instantly evoke a sense of familiarity or belongingness upon meeting."

Should you be looking for a twin flame?

Psychologists caution against hastily labeling oneself as "seeking twin flame" on dating apps, emphasizing the inadequacy of both soulmate and twin flame concepts for those seeking lifelong love.

Springer notes that the initial phase of most relationships, dubbed the "cocaine rush phase," triggers neural pathways akin to drug use. She warns against placing undue emphasis on the belief that one has found their destined soulmate or twin flame, as such intense physical chemistry can be misleading and even dangerous, sometimes leading to abusive relationships.

Bernstein, who has worked with former cult members and those who left Twin Flames Universe, disputes the idea of being someone's "other half," stressing that individuals are complete entities and shouldn't feel incomplete without a partner. She rejects the notion of there being only one person for each individual, pointing out that people can find love again after loss or heartbreak.

Despite her reservations, Bernstein acknowledges the human desire for connection and meaningful relationships in an increasingly isolated world. However, she warns against exploitation by individuals or groups, like Twin Flames Universe, who prey on people's vulnerabilities.

In essence, while the desire for companionship and love is natural, caution is advised against idealizing the concepts of soulmates or twin flames and falling prey to manipulation by those who exploit such sentiments.