Basically the title. I would like to know if there are scientific studies on the phenomenon of experiencing sudden body shaking and trembling in religious settings, usually in response to the command of a person who represents a religious authority. Please take a look at the examples below for illustrative purposes.
- Example 1
- Example 2
- Example 3
- Example 4
- Example 5
- Example 6
- Example 7
- Example 8
- Example 9
- Example 10
- Example 11
- Example 12
- Example 13
- Example 14
- Example 15
- Example 16
- Example 17
Many people claim they are the result of a supernatural influence acting upon these individuals. Here are some quotes from first-hand experiencers of the phenomenon:
- Testimony 1: this is by far the best testimony I know of. The context is the Brownsville Revival. In the video a lady testifies about her experience of body shaking and trembling allegedly as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit acting upon her. In fact she begins to shake and tremble on camera as she is narrating her testimony. At 6:46 the lady and the preacher begin to talk specifically about the causes of her tremors. At 7:12 she says "[...]like right now, I think the Glory of God is so strong up here, my body can't really take it and that's why I'm doing this [...]"
- Testimony 2: The testimony as a whole is powerful, but regarding body shaking and trembling at 4:54 the guy describes his experience. Here a quote: "[...] my body started doing things that defied metaphysics, my body started doing things that I couldn't explain. I started levitating and bouncing off of the chair I was sitting in like a jack hammer [...]"
- Testimony 3: "[...]I felt an electricity, a fire[...]" followed by the girl trembling and fainting in reaction to the command of the preacher. Then the preacher says "The power of God is the kingdom of God manifesting in our midst[...]".
- Testimony 4: "[...]I felt an electricity all through my body, in all of my joints[...]", followed by the woman trembling and fainting in reaction to the command of the preacher (just like in the previous testimony).
- Testimony 5: "[...]I felt a heat, and I felt a peace[...]", followed by the woman trembling and fainting in reaction to the command of the preacher (again).
- Testimony 6: "[...]I felt a vibrating that I'm feeling right now[...]", followed by the guy fainting and feeling a sort of ecstasy based on his facial expression, in response to the preacher's command.
- Testimony 7: "[...]I was burning all over, and I felt so free, He just embraces you and makes you feel so loved[...]", followed by the guy losing the equilibrium and fainting, in response to the preacher's command.
Many of these videos pertain to Andres Bisonni's ministry, who has run dozens of "miracle crusades" around the world. In this video he claims that his ministry is about "signs, wonders and miracles" and in this video he claims that his ministry started with a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit that changed his life. Andres Bissoni has a YouTube Channel with more than 375K subscribers, from which I borrowed most of the example videos above. Most of these videos are highlight video clips from "miracle crusades" and "Holy Spirit revival meetings" and are intended to showcase "the power of God". In particular, most of those highlight clips show instances of dramatic body shaking and trembling, so the claim that they are supernatural is obvious.
Likewise, Example 4 took place in an evangelistic campaign in Mexico led by the Hispanic pastor and evangelist Juan Carlos Harrigan, who also has a YouTube Channel with over 1 million subscribers. In the video the preacher says in Spanish "[...] está muy fuerte la unción sobre ella, agárrenla, está muy fuerte [...]" which in English translates to "[...] the anointing over her is very strong, hold her, it's very strong [...]", meaning that the dramatic body shaking and trembling the girl experienced is allegedly the result of God's anointing being poured over her.
So we have live recordings of people dramatically shaking and trembling, multiple first-hand testimonies and at least two very influential preachers claiming these manifestations are supernaturally caused.
So, are these manifestations necessarily of supernatural origin? Is the supernatural the only "reasonable" explanation? Are there scientific explanations? Are there scientific studies explaining the mechanics behind this phenomenon, rendering the "supernatural explanation" unnecessary?
Extra points to be given
@PaulJohnson in Skeptics.SE objects that the question for necessity is trivially answerable with no since in principle everyone could be a paid actor, which would explain away everything. Although I agree with him in principle, in all honesty I really doubt this is the case. If these preachers have been hiring actors to fake these manifestations for so many years, by now there would be whistleblowers exposing them (e.g. someone saying "this preacher is a scammer, he hired me to perform in front of the audience"), but so far I haven't come across a single case (I'm talking about Andres Bisonni and Juan Carlos Harrigan specifically, I know there are scammer preachers out there).
Moreover, even children are experiencing this (like here, here, here, here), very old people (like here, here) and even prison inmates, and I really doubt they are all paid actors. So there are clearly sincere people experiencing this stuff, and I don't find reasonable to gratuitously disregard the phenomenon claiming they are all faking it.
@PaulJohnson in Skeptics.SE also mentioned mass psychogenic illness, which is very interesting, and I thank him for sharing that, but I would really love it if he could elaborate more on that in a formal answer to the question (I wish it was reopened) instead of lightly mentioning it in the comment section. However, looking at the symptoms table in the article, none of the symptoms in the table corresponds to dramatic body shaking or trembling, the closest one is "nervousness" but equating that to "feeling a fire and electricity through your body that makes you shake and tremble, accompanied by feelings of love and peace" is a little bit of a stretch.