If you follow the positive way, you believe in a God that possesses all the positive attributes in the universe. God is powerful, knowledgeable, present everywhere, just and good, and so on. While those along the other pathway stress God's unknowability. For how can the mind, which is merely a creation representing a fragment of the cosmos, fathom what is ever-present and omnipotent? Can one lift a massive rock while standing upon it? Can the fish ever know what it is like to be divorced from its natural aqueous habitat and live in the open air? Not unless it is prepared to die, and then only for a time. So the via negativa represents a death of the lower self, a death of the personality, of the mind - sacrificed for the sake of the divine.
The Neoplatonic view is is similar to the central tenet of Hinduism, which posits an unmanifest God, or Brahman, on the one hand, and the manifest world on the other. Spirit and matter. Purusha and prakriti, to give them Sanskrit names. Consciousness, and all that is perceived by the senses. The relatively real is the fleeting world we interact with each day, while the unchanging reality behind the veil as it were, pervading all and giving all life and force, is none other than the Absolute. The individual personality, or jiva, which is seated somewhere in between the real and unreal, being both spirit and matter, is free to adopt either the way of the mind and senses or their transcendence, often without calling these paths by their Christian names or knowing anything about Hinduism.
Show me an individual and we can describe him or her as someone whose attention is outward directed, someone who lives in and for the perceived world, or as someone who is an introverted type with awareness directed within. But though seemingly so different if not diametrically opposed, these two paths converge at the end. Those on the positive way say yes to everything, like the philosopher Nietzsche, and like most people you meet, possibly even you. They want to experience life, indulge the senses, engage in strenuous and heroic action; they eat, drink and be merry; or like I have said about my twenties, "imbibe deeply of the cup of youth." Finally, these persons of action exhaust themselves, or perhaps they are ultimately unfulfilled by a life of striving, and by the accomplishments that are its fruits. And then they become like the Hindus who say "neti, neti," a mantra used among those following the via negativa. God is not this, nor that. God is nothing in particular, though immanent in everything, yet somehow transcending all, including human comprehension; God is something unknowable, but with whom the individual striving to know God is identical. And so this individual, fed up with a life of action, chooses instead to stay put and simply be. An emphasis on doing has become a focus on being.
Society stigmatizes those who do not go along with the program, who do not live a life of harried action but instead resign themselves to a life of quiet reflection. Complacent, they are called. Good for nothings. Old before their time. But must we grow hoary and decrepit with age before we finally stop and smell the roses? How much wiser to embark on the path while in the full bloom of vigorous youth! In any event, you can pinpoint the ones fixed on the via positiva by their intolerance for "old souls" and their use of such derogatory terms. They are too busy exploring creation to award much time to the Creator. It's okay. If you feel the need to live a busy life chalk-full with associations and activities, by all means do so. But do not ridicule those who have given it all up. Life is a dream, and though it seems so real in the living, is ultimately as evanescent as the fantastic visions that take place in your mind during the quiet hours of the night. Yes, God is in the dream. Because God is everywhere. Including in you. Because God is you.
The natural progression seems to be from a life of the senses to a life of the spirit. As to when the transition takes place, variations occur. Some holy personages adopted the via negativa earlier on in life than others. At the tender age of 15 the sage Ramana Maharshi gave up the childish pastimes of his youth and sat fixedly in meditation, his mind turned in on itself in awareness of the Absolute. Christ disappeared from society at 13 and after decades of solitary travels returned at 30 with a message for humanity, which is Love. Buddha was nearly 30 when he left his kingdom to seek God in the temple of his heart. There are many other examples. Some sages spent their whole life indulging the senses and overturning all expectations and stereotypes. Osho was one such personality, who amassed a small fortune including a fleet of fancy cars during his five-plus decades on earth. He played a different game. And yet he found time for meditation, even going so far as to observe a vow of silence that lasted for years. Osho also quoted Ramana Maharshi, whom he seemed to revere; this would seem to indicate that the way of the Maharshi, that is the via negativa, is the definitive road to divinity, or at least its penultimate step.
So you see, the age at which we turn from the unreal to the real, that is from the relatively real world of changing forms and sensory indulgence to the abiding reality of consciousness on which those forms appear, and which is with you whether waking, dreaming or in deep sleep, varies with each individual. And some people are action-oriented up until the time they breathe their last. What does it matter? It's all God. God is found in your heart; God is on the crucifix, in the mosque and temple; God dwells in every brothel and crack house; God be found in the hospital and holy site, in the elderly home and neonatal nursery, the jungles of Africa, the frigid realm of Alaska, everywhere on Earth and in distant galaxies, and in the dark energy in between, in the multiverses which the scientists say exists, and as Sting sings, in every breathe you take and move you make, God is watching through you because God is you.
And though these vias, the negative and the positive, the self-denial and the self-indulgent, represent the two main paths of life, on each road there are an infinite number of variations, as many as there are individuals to experience them. And that is as it should be, precisely because that's how it is and therefore it could not be any other way. But remember, whatever the road you take, the destination is the same for all roads lead back to you.