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I’ve been on a bit of a cult kick over my winter break, spending my free time engrossed in a few different cult documentaries.

First, I watched Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God on HBO with my family while I was home visiting for Christmas. I followed that up with Escaping Twin Flames on Netflix once I was back in Boston. The cults documented in both series bordered on bizarre, and I’m still trying to make sense of what they believed, why they did what they did, and how these groups were able to attract their members.

Love Has Won was a cult founded by a woman named Amy Carlson, who claimed to be God. It was hard to tell exactly what the cult believed because their beliefs seemed so out there, but from what I gathered, it seemed like their core beliefs were an amalgamation of New Age-y beliefs and practices. The cult itself grew out of Amy’s involvement in a few different New Age internet chat rooms and websites, all of which fed into the cult’s belief that Amy was, in fact, Mother God — the latest incarnation of God on earth.

Twin Flames Universe was founded by married couple Jeff and Shaleia Divine. Like Love Has Won, the group drew on different New Age beliefs and practices, but their group focused more on dating, relationships, and marriage. The Divines promoted the idea that each person has one twin flame — essentially their one true and perfect soulmate for life, and the Divines claimed that they could help people find their twin flames. People joined the group desperate to find true love and their own twin flame.

But like all cults, both groups took a dark turn. Love Has Won seemed to attract people with mental health and addiction issues. Mother God, herself, was clearly an alcoholic. She also cycled through different boyfriends (all Father God or some variation depending on her moods) – her final Father God had a long criminal record and his own anger and addiction issues. I don’t want to spoil the docuseries for anyone, but Mother God and the group came to a tumultuous and sad ending.

Twin Flames Universe went from helping people find their twin flames and offering life coaching and relationship advice to mandating who members’ twin flames were and forcing or coercing them into these so-called twin flame relationships. They also enforced rigid understandings of gender and encouraged members to stay in or pursue dysfunctional or abusive relationships all in the name of their twin flame.

Like many cult leaders, Mother God and the Divines preyed on vulnerable and desperate people. In that regard, both series were incredibly sad to watch. These were people desperate for connection, community, and healing, vulnerable to be manipulated by leaders seeking more power and money.

It was interesting to see how both groups used the internet to recruit new people, make money, spread their message, and connect members. There was also a sales/business focus to their use of the internet, and in the case of Twin Flames Universe, a multi-level marketing and self-help/life coaching aspect.

Love Has Won livestreamed a lot of their daily lives, including QVC-style episodes to try to sell crystals, colloidal silver, and coaching sessions with Mother God. Twin Flames Universe had members serve as sort-of life coaches and sell sessions to help others find their twin flames. They also sold a special Divine Diet and books and learning materials. Like Love Has Won, the group created videos and content to share on YouTube and other social media to help get the word out about their group.

The use of the internet paired with their sales and multi-level marketing tactics reminded me of The Dream podcast, a favorite podcast of mine that has investigated pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing, the wellness industry, and life coaching in its first three seasons. Love Has Won and Twin Flames Universe were drawing on aspects of all three of these to prey on people and control their followers.

It’s a sad reminder how prevalent these tactics are and how many individuals and groups are out there preying on vulnerable people. It’s also a stark warning about how easily the lines can be blurred between some of these groups and their cult counterparts.

Allison Vander Broek

Allison Vander Broek is a historian of American religion and politics. She earned her doctorate in history from Boston College, Her research explored the origins of the right-to-life movement in the 1960s and its rise to national prominence in subsequent years. Though she swore she'd move back to the Midwest after grad school, Allison still resides in the Boston metro area and now works in academic advising at Tufts University.


  • RZ says:

    Hmmm. Bless you Allison, for watch-dogging this painful meandering. Still trying to process this along with the manipulation of conspiracy-theory advocates. I guess all of us seek meaning and some kind of connectedness, even to the point of setting aside discernment. We find the answer in Christ, but then wonder about the rampant, self-serving, power-based distortions of Christ’s gospel. God’s non- intervention, God’s tolerance for blasphemy, is remarkable. These particular cults are alarming, but at least they do not bring Christ’s name into the mix.

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