The 6 most shocking Twin Flames Universe moments from Prime Video’s “Desperately Seeking Soulmate”

The three-part series delves into the dark side of Shaleia and Jeff Ayan's so-called love cult

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published October 11, 2023 7:00AM (EDT)

Jeff and Shaleia in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)
Jeff and Shaleia in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Jeff and Shaleia Ayan are convinced that they’re not running a cult. But former members of their online spiritual community say otherwise.

Together, the real-life couple oversee Twin Flames Universe, a program that preys on those who are struggling to find love in their lives and promises to pair them with their soulmate “created for you by God” through a series of classes on modern dating, self help and spiritualism. Per its official website, Twin Flames Universe offers its clients “the keys to liberation in love and life,” using Jeff and Shaleia’s own relationship as the role model. Within Twin Flames Universe is Twin Flame Ascension School (TFAS), an intensive (and costly) education plan where Jeff and Shaleia preach to their desperate, lovesick students.

Much of the ugliness behind Jeff and Shaleia’s teachings was swept under the rug for years. But in February 2020, it all finally came to light after a Vice article published several claims of manipulation brought forward by former Twin Flames Universe students. In December of that year, Jeff and Shaleia found themselves yet again at the center of controversy when journalist Alice Hines wrote a Vanity Fair exposé on their so-called self help program. In addition to manipulation, the article detailed allegations of financial abuse, emotional abuse and forced gender conversion.

Twin Flames Universe along with Jeff and Shaleia are explored in “Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe,” a Prime Video docuseries from director Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”). Over the course of three episodes, the documentary spotlights the early beginnings of the programs and the horrifying claims against it and its founders. There are interviews with Hines, former Twin Flames Universe members and former friends of Jeff and Shaleia. 

Here are the six most shocking moments from the series:

Jeff’s many questionable — and eerie — name changes 
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseJeff and Shaleia in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Eric Rogers, Jeff’s childhood friend, said Jeff’s online presence grew questionable shortly after he started a travel blog called Ender’s Adventures. The blog’s name was inspired by Jeff’s great love for “Ender’s Game,” the science fiction novel series written by Orson Scott Card. 


“Then he started going a bit further with it,” Rogers added. “He wanted to do life and career coaching, which at this point, as a 25 year old, what meaningful career advice do you have to give?”


Jeff also began changing his name. On Facebook, Jeff wrote, “Okay, I thought long and hard, and I’m changing my name to Jeffrey Ayanethos.” A couple months later, he changed his name to Ender Ayanethos, which he believed was his “one true name.” He finally settled on the name Shafira Ayanethos, which he said was his “one true name given by Divine Mother, the only name that I will answer to.”


“At this point, he also had hair down to his back,” Rogers said. “He would sometimes tie it up in a ponytail. He looked like Greek Jesus.”

Jeff and Shaleia encouraged their students to resort to extreme measures
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseCatrina in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

In their Twin Flame Ascension School classes, Jeff and Shaleia encouraged their students to aggressively pursue their twin flames, despite the serious consequences. Twin Flames Universe essentially advocated for a push-pull dynamic, in which the twin flame is a “runner” and their partner is a “chaser.”


In clips of Jeff and Shaleia’s online classes, Jeff is heard encouraging one student to sexually harass her partner in order to get him to respond back on text: “He’s a gamer dude. You’re a hot girl. Be like, ‘What’s up, I’m taking a class, so I can get laid. Wanna come over?’” Jeff said. 


In another clip, Jeff is heard telling a student, “Show up at his motherf**king door, bust it down. Show up every day at his house and drag him over to yours. Start grabbing his stuff and putting it in your house. That’s what he wants!”


Hines said she heard of many cases of people stalking their twin flame and people’s twin flames blocking them on Facebook. Hines even interviewed someone whose twin flame filed a restraining order against her, and ended up in jail for a month.


“This is what coercion looks like,” Hines added. “This is what spiritual manipulation is.”

Jeff believed he had the spiritual power to cure cancer
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseEric Rogers in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Rogers recounted the time Jeff proposed his biggest business idea yet. Jeff said he had “a gift” to cure people of their physical illnesses, which Jeff believed were all caused by childhood mental trauma.


“I can talk to people and I can draw out this mental trauma,” Jeff allegedly told Rogers. “I had my first client just last night. We had a great 20-minute session on Facebook messenger, and I cured her of multiple sclerosis.”


Jeff had a website where he advertised his so-called “spiritual healing” business. He claimed he could cure various illnesses, even cancer.


Rogers said a high school friend of Jeff’s, who lost their mother to cancer, reached out to him, telling him that he felt like Jeff was taking advantage of people in their most vulnerable moment. Rogers said Jeff’s response was, “I’m very sorry that I did not have my gift in high school, so I could not have cured your mother then.”

Jeff and Shaleia’s students lived in their home and were coupled up with each other
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseAlice Hines in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Journalist Alice Hines, who visited Jeff and Shaleia’s Michigan home prior to writing a Vanity Fair exposé on the couple, said things got “even stranger” when she went to Jeff and Shaleia’s basement. She said Jeff and Shaleia had a few of their students living in their house. It was then that Hines met Gabe and Briana, a couple who were paired together by Jeff and Shaleia. Hines recounted their basement room being crammed with stuff.


“Gabe recently came out as trans, and he had been guided into his identity as a trans man by one of Jeff and Shaleia’s coaches,” Hines said. “And then he had been paired into a twin flame relationship with Briana — and Briana was like, ‘I’m straight. I like guys.’ And Jeff and Shaleia were like, ‘Well, he’s going to be a guy.’”


Hines continued, saying that Gabe and Briana, along with the other students living in the house, were basically providing free labor for Jeff and Shaleia. Some students cooked while others would clean. The students ate meals with Jeff and Shaleia and in return, Jeff and Shaleia would provide them off-the-cuff coaching.


“They called it the Spiritual Boot Camp program,” Hines said. “That felt like a big red flag.”

Several members said they were pressured to change their pronouns and gender identity
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseJules Gil-Peterson in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Hines explained that Jeff and Shaleia taught that there’s a “divine masculine” and a “divine feminine” in every twin flame union. Essentially, a twin flame couple is a single soul divided into two halves: a masculine and a feminine.


Hines said she spoke to several members of Twin Flames Universe who said they were pressured into changing their pronouns and gender identity under the guidance of Jeff and Shaleia and their coaches.


“The public image of Twin Flames Universe is very interesting to me. On the surface, of course, there’s all this kind of LGBT-accepting language,” said Jules Gil-Peterson, a historian of sexuality and gender. “You know, you can be any gender inside any body. Any pairing of people is okay visually, as long as it's divine feminine, divine masculine, right? It doesn’t look like conventional conversion therapy because we’re so used to Christian conversion therapy in particular using really anti-trans language.”


Anne, a former member of Twin Flames Universe, recounted how Jeff forced her to be the divine masculine in her twin flame relationship with Catrina, another former member. Jeff frequently referred to Anne as “Anne the man” and in one instance, forced Anne to adopt the name “Dan.”


“There was a really big display of power there, trying to get us to submit,” said Catrina. “And it was very tactical. It was very abusive.”


When Anne refused to change her name, Jeff and Shaleia took it as a threat to their community. They accused Anne and Catrina of abusing people and told other members to file chargebacks on Anne and Catrina’s account.

Shaleia’s real name is Megan Plante
Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames UniverseWilliam Plante in "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe" (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Although Hines noted that Shaleia is more quiet on-camera compared to Jeff, Shaleia is the main force behind the spiritual aspect of Twin Flames Universe and thus, equally complicit in all of the alleged abuse.


In an emotional moment from the documentary, Shaleia’s father, William Plante, revealed that his daughter’s real name is Megan Plante. Megan, he said, had the vision and the idea for Twin Flames Universe while Jeff knew how to set a camera and set businesses up. Together they were the perfect combination. William added that the last time he heard from his daughter was about four years ago. She had sent a letter that was basically “a diatribe of hatred.”


“The person that I refer to as Megan, I treat her like she’s dead,” William said. “I have to, because the person that she’s become, this Shaleia person, is alien to me, and I have no respect for her. There’s only so much heartache you can take as a father. I have to treat her as dead because I can’t live with what she’s doing.


“But I miss the Megan that I raised. I don't know if it'll ever come back. I hope it does.”

“Desperately Seeking Soulmate” is currently available for streaming on Prime Video. Watch a trailer for it below, via YouTube:

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.