ASMR (Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response) is a recently coined term to describe a physiological response that various folks have reported to certain stimuli. There are common features in both the response and the trigger, such that people who have had these experiences were able to find one another online, form a community and name their experience. There is little to no scientific basis for ASMR (the term itself was coined to sound science-y, but originated as a self-designation among the community). There is nothing inherently implausible about most of the reports, though some in the community then claim ASMR as evidence of ESP, Indigo Child-ness and other implausible stuff. There is now quite a sizeable and vibrant community on Youtube (search ASMR) and reddit (r/asmr)
ASMR is characterised as a short-term spreading tingling sensation over the head and shoulders, accompanied by a wave of pleasure or relaxation. It has been described as a ‘brain-gasm’, for its spreading wave of strong pleasure, but is almost universally described as non-sexual. Common triggers include whispering, proximity, slow and deliberate movement, tapping and certain noises. The variety of triggers reported seems to be larger than the variety in symptoms.
I only started reading about ASMR a week or so ago. I am interested because I found descriptions of both experiences and triggers that I can strongly associate with.
My most reliable trigger situation is at an optometrist visit (not an uncommon trigger, it seems). It requires an optometrist (of either gender) with a very soft voice, or who whispers when working close. There are plenty of other situations where I have experienced ASMR, but I can recall having this response to optometrist visits well back into my childhood. So this video, for example, triggers me quite strongly.
My wife also gets ASMR, but with slightly different triggers. She reports a similar experience when visiting a hair salon, and when watching very deliberate and slow actions. So this video triggers her. I don’t get the big wave of pleasure at this, but I do find it deeply pleasurable: it just doesn’t tip over into the intense burst.
I’ve been wondering, as I read, whether this kind of response has partly motivated and shaped certain religious rituals. I have experienced one ‘laying on of hands and anointing with oil’, and I remember that triggering an ASMR response. A slow and deliberate communion preparation could easily trigger someone who responds like my wife. I’m reminded of Reiki (which is now most commonly associated with alternative medicine, but actually originated as a spiritual discipline). The magick rituals I’m aware of, with the way they establish the sacred space and cast the spell seem obvious triggers, as do certain fortune telling patterns.
I’m at the beginning of thinking about this, so there are no conclusions here. But there has been extensive sociological study of religious rituals as triggers for hypnotic, or trace-like mental states, and it seems to me logical to view them as potential triggers for ASMR too.
I’m also putting this out here to attract anyone searching for ASMR and religion to get in touch.
 I’m going to talk about having ASMR, or experiencing ASMR, with the assumption that ASMR is a ‘thing’ and that it is the same thing that different people are experiencing. These assumptions aren’t really warranted by the science, yet, but for the purpose of this article, it is simpler than overloading every mention with qualifications.