Religion: Rhythmocatechist

To the Society of Jesus, militant defenders of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, a French Jesuit named Marcel Jousse has long been its enfant terrible. A onetime artillery captain who began studying for the order after World War I, white-haired, fiftyish Père Jousse invented and today teaches something he calls Rhyth-mocatechism, or preaching with gestures.

His theory began to evolve when he noticed a distinction between anthropoid and apish mimicry: children can imitate such actions as shaving and shooting without using razors or guns; but apes cannot, or do not. Père Jousse decided that miming and gesturing came before writing; hieroglyphics, he believed, were...

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