(50) Why God, as he had pronounced a curse on the serpent and on the woman which bore a relation to themselves and to one another, he did not pronounce a similar one upon the man, but connected the earth with him, saying, “Cursed is the earth for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee, and thou shalt eat the grass of the field: in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat they bread?” (#Ge 3:17). Since all intellect is a divine inspiration, God did not judge it right to curse him in the manner deserved by his offence; but converted his curse so as to fall upon the earth and his cultivation of it. But man, as a body of co-equal nature and similar character to that of the earth and understanding, is its cultivator. When the cultivator is endowed with virtue and diligence, then the body produces its proper fruit, namely sanity, an excellent state of the outward senses, strength, and beauty. But if the cultivator be a savage, then every thing is different. For the body becomes liable to a curse, since it has for its husbandman an intellect unchastised and unsound. And its fruit is nothing useful, but only thorns and thistles, sorrow and fear, and other vices which every thought strikes down, and as it were pierces the intellect with its darts. But grass here is symbolically used for food; since man has changed himself from a rational animal into a brute beast, having neglected all divine food, which is given by philosophy, by means of distinct words and laws to regulate the will.
(51) What is the meaning of the expression, “Until thou returnest to the earth from which thou wast taken;” for man was not created out of the earth alone, but also of the divine Spirit? (Genesis 3:18). In the first place it is clear, that the first man who was formed out of the earth was made up both of earth and heaven; but because he did not continue uncorrupt, but despised the commandment of God, fleeing from the most excellent part, namely, from heaven, he gave himself up wholly as a slave to the earth, the denser and heavier element. In the second place, if any one burns with a desire of virtue, which makes the soul immortal, he, beyond all question, attains to a heavenly inheritance; but because he was covetous of pleasure, by which spiritual death is engendered, he again gives himself over a second time to the earth, on which account it is said to him, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return;” therefore the earth, as it is the beginning of a wicked and depraved man, so also it is his end; but heaven is the beginning and end of him who is endowed with virtue.