This commentary on the Lord’s Prayer examines its tone of spiritual abandonment and cultural secondariness. The Our Father was a buttress of faith and liturgy for the medieval Church, while the prayer’s sense of desolation gives it a “bohemian” quality associated with poets and vagabonds. Later on, the Cathars adopted the Pater Noster as a “central text” having esoteric and spiritual importance. Although the Cathars were persecuted in the Middle Ages as heretics, their understanding of the Lord’s Prayer returns us to the prayer’s sense of isolation and cosmic abandonment.
During the 1920s in Germany, medieval and Renaissance studies, while innovative, were carried out in an atmosphere of anxiety, as may be seen in the work of Warburg, Klibansky, Panofsky or Curtius. For his part, Ernst Cassirer combined the cultural philosophy of the German idealist tradition with the Kulturwissenschaft of the Warburg Library to develop a unique approach to the history of philosophy. In the context of Weimar-era political apprehension, the Renaissance became for Cassirer a site of exploration regarding the ability of philosophy to lead the creative tasks of culture. Cassirer saw the philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa as a key figure in Renaissance philosophy and the emergence of modernity. Cassirer’s interpretation is best understood against the backdrop of the Weimar era. Nicholas of Cusa’s vindication of human creativity and individual existence served as a focus for Cassirer’s defense of humanistic culture.