The TwinRay mystery: A spiritual group in Ashland raises eyebrows and worries

By Leah Sottile (OPB)
May 7, 2024 1 p.m.

The organizers of TwinRay moved to Southern Oregon in 2020, opened a store and started hosting retreats. People are skeptical of their motivations and concerned about their secrecy.

When a store selling glass bottles of gold-flecked “living water” for $111 apiece opened on a busy downtown Ashland arterial in 2022, people in town started whispering.

Main Street is a bustling avenue that reflects the hobbies and cultures of the small Southern Oregon city, which has a population of around 21,000. A bike shop and a running shoe store cater to the outdoorsy set. The city’s famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival — headquartered a block away from the main drag — is even reflected in business names: the Bard’s Inn, Oberon’s Restaurant, Three Penny Mercantile.


But The Haven, which sells that gold-flecked water out of one of the largest retail storefronts on Main, seems aimed at another part of local culture: the spiritual side that seeks yoga, natural food and New Age ideas, and that has a long history in the region.

The shop once housed a clothing store. Now it’s run by a spiritual group called TwinRay, which relocated its operations to Ashland from California in 2020. Blank-faced mannequins swaddled in pashminas stare out from the store’s front windows. Inside, tall crystals glitter underneath spiral chandeliers. Dressing rooms have been converted to meditation booths. Ceremonial teas, pyramid-shaped candles and “bio-jewelry” are for sale, as well as TwinRay-branded “bioceuticals.” With names like “Immortal Monotomic,” “Poseidon’s Power” and “Mermaid Magic,” the packages of ingestible supplements purport to have myriad health benefits, including “preventing and treating cancer.”

Everything — from picture frames to packaging to TwinRay’s own logo — is outlined in gold.

TwinRay’s leaders are hard to miss when they appear in the store or around town: a white man and woman who wear long white robes and headscarves. He changed his name to Akasha Sananda and sometimes goes by Sanandaji; she changed her name to Miananda Maitreya Shekinah, but is also known as Shekinah Ma. They drive a white Mercedes G-Class SUV and, oftentimes, the people who accompany them wear all white too. The store is often closed for months at a time.

Inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, crystals and New Age art were on display in February 2023.

Inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, crystals and New Age art were on display in February 2023.

Leah Sottile / OPB

“You cannot go to a dinner party or a gathering here without it coming up,” said local resident Alexis Mixter. The opening of the downtown store inspired Mixter and others around Ashland to do their own online research about TwinRay, and what they found was a group grounded in talking about prophecies, mystical mentorship programs and genetic liberation. It seemed like a spoof of the Twin Flame Universe — a cult-like group that was recently the subject of a Netflix documentary and preaches that each person has a soulmate called a “twin flame.”

“It’s basically just red flag after red flag after red flag,” Mixter said. “It looks like a joke. It looks like it can’t possibly be real, but it is.”

If TwinRay is a joke, it’s an elaborate and, at times, well-funded one. In 2020, TwinRay Illuminations purchased an 11,000-square-foot gated home on 96 acres for $2.6 million (a far cry from its list price of $5 million). Last fall, the property went into foreclosure after the leaders failed to pay $1.6 million plus interest to the original owner, Neuman Hotel Group — a company that owns the Ashland Springs and Lithia Springs hotels.

TwinRay did not respond to phone calls or emails from OPB requesting comment for this story.

People who say they are former followers of the group — including one who documents show gave TwinRay more than $80,000 — speak of their fears that the leaders exploit people, promising enlightenment during life’s difficult times in order to grift them for cash. More practically, they expressed deep concern over the group’s “elixir ceremonies,” which were recently reported on by Guru Magazine. At those events, unregulated psychedelic substances are dispensed to sleep-deprived followers during retreats at the leaders’ Ashland mansion.

For other observers around Ashland, the group conjures up memories from Oregon’s past, when leaders of New Religious movements sought land and followers in the state, clashing with local residents and, in one case, resorted to violence.

One Oregon woman who posted a series of TikTok videos about the group shared with OPB a cease-and-desist order that she was served from a New York law firm representing TwinRay, demanding she take her content down. The language was foreboding:

“Please be advised that we have been investigating you and your family in the last year,” the order read. “We will continue to investigate you and your family and take any legal action necessary to protect our client.”

A display inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, in February 2023 shows products sold by TwinRay. Some former followers of the membership-based organization have questioned if TwinRay is operating a cult out of their business.

A display inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, in February 2023 shows products sold by TwinRay. Some former followers of the membership-based organization have questioned if TwinRay is operating a cult out of their business.

Leah Sottile / OPB

Spirituality in Oregon

TwinRay is the latest in a long line of New Age spiritual groups that have chosen to make their home in Ashland, and Oregon.

In the late 1970s, two astrology-obsessed, wide-eyed gurus came to Waldport, along Oregon’s coast, and held meetings to discuss their belief in UFOs and a heavenly kingdom. Eventually, the group became Heaven’s Gate, and it made international headlines in 1997 when police discovered 39 followers dead inside a California home. It was an act of mass suicide by people who believed their bodies would be carried away on the Hale-Bopp comet.

Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh greets his followers, or sannyasins, as part of his daily afternoon drive-by in one of his Rolls-Royce at his ashram Rajneeshpuram, Ore., Aug.18, 1984.

FILE - Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh greets his followers, or sannyasins, as part of his daily afternoon drive-by in one of his Rolls-Royce at his ashram Rajneeshpuram, Ore., Aug.18, 1984.


In the early 1980s, Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh purchased property near Antelope, Oregon, eventually renaming the town Rajneeshpuram. He and his deputies recruited thousands of loyal followers to help build a free-love utopia, but the group’s progress was continually stymied by county permitting processes. As tensions rose between Rajneesh’s followers and the local government, the group attempted to sway local elections in their favor. In 1984, followers sprayed salmonella on salad bars in The Dalles in hopes of sickening people before Election Day — an action that poisoned more than 700 and remains the largest bioterror attack on American soil.

According to Marion Goldman, a University of Oregon professor emeritus in sociology and religious studies, alternative religion groups have long come to Oregon because land was fairly cheap. But the Northwest’s well-known irreligiosity also made it attractive for people looking to offer spirituality outside the norm. Data collected last year by the Association of Religion Data Archives found that fewer than 35% of residents in Washington and Oregon counties considered themselves a part of any faith tradition.

“The shape of new religions has changed,” she said. Groups like TwinRay, which mostly offer spiritual teachings online, are a way people supplement their faith. “People can have more than one religion. … A lot of people who are in these online groups belong to several different ones, and they’re all related into this sort of New Age idea.”

Police stand guard at the closed road at base of hill at the Rancho Santa Fe gated community in San Diego, Calif., scene of the Heaven's Gate cult mass suicide, March 28, 1997.

FILE - Police stand guard at the closed road at base of hill at the Rancho Santa Fe gated community in San Diego, Calif., scene of the Heaven's Gate cult mass suicide, March 28, 1997.

Lenny Ignelzi / AP

Ashland, specifically, has also long pulled in spiritual groups like TwinRay. Penny Torres was known in the mid-1980s for channeling a reincarnated spirit she called Mafu at her Ashland-based Foundation for Meditative Studies; later, she created the Oregon Tiger Sanctuary.

More recently, in 2021, a woman who called herself Mother God and led the spiritual group Love Has Won — which primarily existed online — brought her closest followers to Ashland; they attended to her when she died of liver failure in Callahan’s Mountain Lodge.

Online and open for business

Like many modern alternative religious movements, TwinRay largely exists online; the group operates a members-only portal on its website, offers online classes and mentorship programs that take place over Zoom. They also host in-person retreats in Ashland and at locations around the world that are popular with New Age groups, like Mount Shasta; Sedona, Arizona; and Tulum, Mexico.

“All religions start as alternative religions,” Goldman said. And she said it’s often common for alternative religious groups to enter a community and open a storefront or restaurant, which can serve as a way to recruit new members.

She points to Portland’s recently shuttered Loving Hut — a vegan restaurant chain found by Ching Hai, leader of the Guanyin Famen spiritual group: “They’ll invite you to dinner or lunch and stuff like that. And it’s an opening.”

And yet, despite TwinRay’s in-person and online presence, the group’s leaders shroud themselves in mystery. Several years ago, both took on new names and new identities, and began positioning themselves as spiritual beings, and their marriage as a divinely appointed one.

A 501(c)(3) called the Church of the Holy Sacrament is registered by one of the TwinRay leaders, which lists the pair’s Ashland home as its address, but receives mail at a strip mall mailbox in Lake Oswego. In 2021, TwinRay received a Paycheck Protection Program loan for $15,688 from the Small Business Administration. Tax paperwork shows TwinRay claiming more than $1 million in contributions in 2021 and 2022 as a “nondenominational religious organization whose purpose is divinely inspired holistic services.”

An LLC called “TwinRay Ventures” is registered to an office inside 30 Gould Street in Sheridan, Wyoming. It is a 3,700-square-foot brick building. The building has been at the heart of multiple investigations by The Sheridan Press because it is home to several businesses registered to “commercial registered agents.”

According to The Press, “Commercial registered agents are registered agents who represent more than 10 businesses in Wyoming.” Registered agents offer a way for businesses to legally set up shop in the state of Wyoming. Because businesses must have a physical location in the state, registered agents create that.

In the case of the property at 30 Gould Street, a commercial registered agent called “Registered Agents Inc.” represents 53,267 businesses from inside the small building, according to The Press.

Commercial registered agents also smooth the way for anonymous shell companies to incorporate in the state, anonymizing company ownership.

TwinRay Ventures is one of the thousands of businesses represented by Registered Agents Inc. A recent investigation by Wired found that, in addition to helping set up secretive businesses, Registered Agents Inc. also owns an internet domain registration site that hosts myriad white nationalist, QAnon and conspiracy theory sites.

The origin story

The woman who calls herself Shekinah Ma was born Mia Terez Deuschle in 1977 in Ohio. For most of her life she was a registered Republican. The daughter of a prominent Miami, Florida, news anchor, she smiled beside her father at party photos that would later run in the society pages of the Miami Herald. Thin and blonde, she acted in the role of “Party Girl” in a 2009 episode of the spy series “Burn Notice.”

By 2017, she had cycled through a series of new names: Miananda the Cosmic Priestess, Lady Nanda, Shekinah Ma and Miananda Maitreya Shekinah. She began sometimes speaking in a British-flecked accent.

During a ceremony that took place in Egypt, she married Sananda: a younger man born in 1990, who hails from Adelaide, Australia. He wore a full beard and his brown hair long.

Sananda — who has also gone by the name Akasha El Ra El Sananda — was born Harley Forster.

Since at least 2014, Sananda had been a regular traveler to Ibiza, the island off the coast of Spain known for electronic music and spiritual retreats. He snapped photos of himself lounging by pools and posted about UFOs to his Facebook page. He said that he was on a “tour of service missions around the world. Unplugging people from the matrix and embracing the quintessence of sovereign life.”

For a time, Sananda co-led a group called “The Innerversity of Divine Perfection,” or IODP, which hosted spiritual retreats, and modeled for a clothing company that created flowing robes and headscarves. In 2017, he was the registered director of a company called “Krystal Star Creations” in the United Kingdom.

Ma and Sananda often tell a story that they met while visiting the Sphinx, in Egypt, and saw each other when a ray of light hit the ancient statue. This meeting was them “reuniting in this lifetime” — not just twin flames, but “twin rays.” They believed they had found each other after lifetimes apart.

A screenshot of a 2019 Facebook post by Akasha Sananda and Shekinah Ma, owners of The Haven and leaders of TwinRay in Ashland, Oregon. The New Age group that the pair operates has seen some followers spend tens of thousands of dollars on self-improvement courses.

A screenshot of a 2019 Facebook post by Akasha Sananda and Shekinah Ma, owners of The Haven and leaders of TwinRay in Ashland, Oregon. The New Age group that the pair operates has seen some followers spend tens of thousands of dollars on self-improvement courses.

Leah Sottile / OPB

Jocelyn Sacco, who considered herself a follower of the group, remembers when Ma came into the picture; she slowly acquired a British accent and began describing herself as an enlightened being.

Sacco’s spiritual awakening, as she calls it, began after she left a marketing job in Boston, sold her condo and all of her belongings, and started attending New Age retreats. First, she became an avid follower of the actor Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars, and for two summers paid to attend Camp Mars, a camping experience in Malibu, California, for superfans of the band.


Then she found Sananda. After hearing him speak on a popular New Age podcast in 2017, Sacco — who is from Massachusetts — immediately signed up to attend a monthlong retreat he was hosting in Peru. On the retreat, attendees toured rainforests and sacred sites, and participated in multiple ayahuasca ceremonies, which involved the consumption of a powerful psychoactive substance that has long been used by South American Indigenous people, but has become popular in American New Age circles.

Another longtime follower, who requested to be referred to as “Sarai” because she fears retaliation from the leaders, began attending TwinRay workshops and classes when she was in her 40s. Raised an Orthodox Christian, she had recently gone through a divorce and left a federal government job when she heard the same podcast episode Sacco had, the one featuring Sananda.

“I was at that place in my life where I’m just like, ‘OK, what do I do next?’” she said. “I was in a desperate place.”

She found Sananda’s voice hypnotic.

“It was just clear. Like a clear signal,” she said.

She looked him up: “If you look at his picture, he looks like the Evangelical Christian pictures of Jesus. So, I’m like who is this guy?”

Sarai signed up for his “Portals of Liberation” course. “I’m like, ‘He’s the second coming.’ Because that’s what I grew up with. Any Christian, you hear about the second coming of Christ,” she said, “and so I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, I don’t think people know this. He really is like the second coming.’”

After Ma began appearing at his side, and the couple rebranded themselves as TwinRay, the leaders offered hourlong sessions for around $1,300 in which they’d talk to people about issues they were grappling with. Some came to the leaders wanting help with chronic pain conditions. Others, like Sarai, were hoping for spiritual direction.

“They said that they would bring me into a much higher timeline reality where I would have all new people in my life,” she said. They promised to show her how to live in a state of “Samadhi,” or bliss, which would create financial abundance for her. “It was the answer to all my prayers. They also of course said they would be preparing me to meet my twin flame, but in order for that to happen I had to love myself first.”

A display inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, in February 2023 shows "ceremonial tea."

A display inside The Haven storefront in Ashland, Oregon, in February 2023 shows "ceremonial tea."

Leah Sottile / OPB

A winding path

In 2018, TwinRay offered a “Golden Age Mystery School” and “Golden Path Ascendantship” — yearlong classes which Sarai enrolled in by depositing the $17,000 tuition fee in euros into an Estonian bank account. Sarai estimates she spent at least $80,000 on TwinRay classes, retreats, jewelry and other products during her four years with the group. Sacco shared that she likely spent around $30,000.

The Ascendantship course included a number of personal sessions with the TwinRay leaders, held over Zoom. The couple instructed Sarai to drink only water, lemon tea and “plasma pudding,” made from charcoal powder, for three days, and afterward, she could integrate fruit into her diet.

“I thought this was an ascendantship. I didn’t know this was like a workout nutritional program,” she said. But, still, Sarai did what they told her. She ate a restricted diet of grapes, watermelon and charcoal. She believed she was purifying herself.

Sometimes workshops were marathon-like sessions with Sananda lecturing for hours; Sarai said she once took an astrology class from him that lasted nine hours.

TwinRay also offered “Golden Elixir ceremonies” at their retreats, and in their Ashland home. The group described the elixirs administered at the events as “ancient formulas” that “open up the channels for greater expression of the Eternal Life,” and are “the most profound and celestial substance that is available in our modern times.” Sarai emphasized that the ceremonies were not required by the TwinRay leaders, but they were the reason people wanted to attend the retreats.

The TwinRay leaders mixed the substance with honey and apple cider vinegar and told people to drink.

“You’re never told anything about what’s in it,” Sarai said, but she believed it was a psychedelic substance; during retreats they were told to vomit into buckets, and the high the elixir brought on would keep them awake all night. “It’s an intense — a very, very, very, very intense process.”

“My first elixir ceremony was really kind of traumatizing. I really actually thought I was in a cult in that moment,” she said. “I shouldn’t say ‘thought.’ I knew.”

If what TwinRay is administering to its followers is a psychedelic substance like ayahuasca or DMT, which a recent report on TwinRay by Guru Magazine alleged, they wouldn’t be the first Ashland religious group to do so. In 2008, a group called the Church of the Holy Light of the Queen argued in federal court that ayahuasca was central to its belief system — and won.

Jackson County sheriff’s records show that in November 2022, a deputy was dispatched to the group’s spacious property after an anonymous caller expressed concerns of a “suspicious Elixer [sic]” being dispensed at the property. “She believes the elixer [sic] is being produced at the location though there is no evidence proving as such.”

Records from Ashland police show a similar call in January about the downtown Ashland store, The Haven. The caller “would like to know if law is investigating any suspicious activity at a store called The Haven.” Ashland police confirmed they have not investigated the group.

The FBI, when asked for comment on if it had investigated TwinRay’s operations, told OPB: “As a matter of longstanding policy, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. We cannot comment beyond that.”

“You really feel like you’re a part of this huge movement,” Sarai said. “They’re creating a golden age. They’re creating a whole new world. … They held themselves as highly superior, and I believed them. I believed they were this second coming. I truly believed.”

Sacco and Sarai both attended a retreat in September 2021 at the TwinRay mansion in Ashland, with about 60 other people. By then the leaders were saying they were the reincarnation of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the women said.

Both Sarai and Sacco remember the moment they entered the spacious property, closed off by gates. “We’re like ‘oh my God we’re about to enter heaven you guys!’ … Everything’s white and gold. Everything’s beautiful,” Sarai recalled. There were giant crystals and paintings, and gourmet food. Outside, in the sprawling gardens, the TwinRay leaders claimed to have unearthed ancient jewels.

And yet, attendees were told to follow strict rules during the retreat. Women were told not to expose their shoulders. No one could take photos. They couldn’t hug.

Sarai said being with the leaders for a prolonged periods, and taking more and more classes from them made them start to seem more human, and less like ethereal beings.

“They’re like kids playing house trying to create their kingdom and their empire,” she said, “And we’re believing they’re the king and queen. They got us to believe it because they believe it.”

At the September 2021 retreat, Sacco said, she got a sneaking feeling the leaders were taking advantage of the attendees’ excitement to sell them more TwinRay oils and mists and jewelry. By then she had gone to several ayahuasca ceremonies, but TwinRay’s elixir ceremony just didn’t seem safe — people didn’t understand what they were ingesting.

“They think they’re so above the law, above everything on this planet,” Sacco said. “I don’t think they think they would ever get in trouble for anything like that.”

Both women eventually left the group. In Sarai’s case, she said the leaders berated her for 45 minutes when she told them she was leaving, and threatened her with legal action if she went on to offer services like theirs on her own website. She still believes in many New Age spiritual beliefs. But she thinks the TwinRay leaders try to recruit people who depend on them for their spirituality.

“They’re indoctrinating people,” she said. TwinRay “is a system of power that favors them. A system of power that benefits them.”

Since leaving, Sarai has come to believe she spent tens of thousands of dollars on a cult. But she said money wasn’t the only way to be a part of the group. For those who can’t afford the retreats, the leaders also have “team members” who work at The Haven, and attend to them at their home.

“I paid with my money, but others are paying with their lives,” Sarai said.

Team members answer emails, arrange retreats and make sure to always have a camera trained on the TwinRay leaders, she said.

“They always had a camera crew at the retreats and you would always sit and watch them being photographed everywhere we went,” she said. “At one retreat, one of their team members was sitting in the hot June sun in Ashland for eight hours selling their alchemy and jewelry.”

“Sananda and Shekinah,” she said, “were nowhere to be found.”

“They would just sit back like a king and queen on a throne,” she said, “while they had their team running around looking extremely stressed doing everything for them.”

The Ashland plaza in 2023. The small town is known primarily for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University. TwinRay coming to Ashland a few years ago has stirred conversation.

The Ashland plaza in 2023. The small town is known primarily for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University. TwinRay coming to Ashland a few years ago has stirred conversation.

Roman Battaglia / JPR

Whispers turn to worries

Concern about TwinRay is not new in Ashland. But few people feel like they’ve gotten any answers. Over time, the whispering about The Haven has led to worrying.

“What if somebody had a stroke or heart attack or something? You’ve got 40 people dosing all at once,” said Sacco, of the group’s elixir ceremonies. “Then what are you going to have? Police and emergency vehicles coming up their beautiful driveway through their golden gates?”

Downtown, near The Haven, one Ashland business owner who asked OPB to withhold their name said Brinks armored cars come to The Haven twice per month, departing with bags from the store. “Why do they need Brinks? It’s just odd as hell,” they said. The store doesn’t appear to have that many customers, and is sometimes closed for weeks at a time.

The presence of the store, the business owner said, interrupts downtown Ashland.

“I wouldn’t be happy if a regular church or a synagogue would open up here,” the business owner said. “If a mega church opened up in Ashland downtown, I’d lose my mind … It’s not good for business. It’s weird.”

But there’s no proof The Haven is causing harm. It’s TwinRay’s secrecy, and lack of transparency around the leaders’ identities and business practices, that seem to unsettle people.

Mixter said she has cautioned people from going inside the store: “I have absolutely stood at the door and said to people, ‘Just so you know, don’t do it. It’s not what you think it is. There’s a crystal shop at the other end of town if that’s what you’re looking for.’”

Goldman, the University of Oregon professor, did field work in the 1980s at Rajneeshpuram. And she observed the cultural collision that occurred back then between Central Oregon residents and members of the group.

The group’s secrecy only inflamed those tensions. And TwinRay, she said, appears to be mimicking that.

“It’s an information silo. And that, again, is closing the wall of contact for any kind of disconfirmation,” she said. “It’s a big red flag. Who are these people, really?”