Following an interesting exchange of views on another post I've been considering the Via Negativa and why I think it to be an advanced but ultimately insufficient approach to God. For those who aren't familiar with the term (it's also known as the apophatic way), it can be defined as the approach to God through negation. No words can describe God, He cannot be known as he is in his essential nature by means of his attributes. He is 'not this and not that'. Anything you say about him is ultimately false. You cannot think anything about him and no concept can hold him who is above and beyond all concept. So you strip everything from your mind. You leave it in what appears to be total darkness and truth arises, a truth that cannot be framed in language. You get the idea. It's contrasted with the Via Affirmativa (cataphatic mysticism) in which God is approached through his attributes of goodness, wisdom, love etc.
The first slightly mischievous thing I would say is that if you cannot approach God through positive affirmation why should you be able to do so through the opposite way, negatively? Opposites are part of the same set up. One suggests the other. One is the other turned inside out. So the Via Negativa is not a higher way than the Via Affirmativa. It is simply its reflection. The two are not separate. You might think this is a false correlation but what it amounts to is that is still the mind that makes the choice of concept or non-concept. Non-concept is still a concept. If the mind seeks God by rejecting or cutting away it has made a choice.
This is not an argument in favour of the Via Affirmativa. That is incomplete because it approaches God through his qualities rather than his being. Instead it's an argument for an approach that either includes both ways, relative and absolute as you might call them, or even dispenses with both for something, to use a favourite analogy of mine, that sits above them like the point of the apex of a triangle sits above (and reconciles on a higher level) the two base points. This requires a both/and attitude rather than an either/or one. You cannot limit God to 'not this' any more than you can limit him to 'this'. He encompasses and is more than both. So approaching God only as the unmanifest absolute, which is what the Via Negativa does, while it does away with some of the problems associated with restricting him to form of some kind, abstract or real, nevertheless brings its own difficulties.
So I regard the Via Negativa as something like what the Buddhists call skilful means. That is, it is not actually true as it stands but is a way for the mind to approach truth through stripping it of its illusions and attachments. But the point is that while we should not be identified with or attached to anything in creation, creation nonetheless exists and gives meaning and beauty and goodness and, yes, even truth to life. For there is no truth without creation. There just is what is. You can call what is truth but if that truth is to be known you have to introduce an extra element and once you have done that you have already stepped off the Via Negativa.
If the Via Negativa were the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth one would have to ask, why would God create a universe? What's the point of humanity? And why would we come to this world to experience its sorrows? I have gone into that a bit here but essentially the answer is that he did this to go beyond the state that the Via Negativa would lead to. That remains, of course, as a kind of substratum but all the positive aspects of life can now be expressed and known. And these positive aspects are part of reality. They are not illusions. They are of the eternal nature of God for God is just as much his qualities as he is what is conceived of (by us) as his unmanifest essence. He is love, as Christ taught us. He does not have compassion. He is love.
For me that one fact shows that, for all its virtues of breaking false attachments and man-made ideologies, the Via Negativa is incomplete. Taken literally it would dismiss love for it would dismiss the relative and embrace the absolute alone and in the absolute qua absolute there can be no love. There can only be a generalised, universalised compassion but there cannot be love or, for that matter, beauty or goodness.
Luckily we are saved from the tyranny of that kind of absolute by the reality of the Trinity.
So I would regard the Via Negativa as an important aspect of the path to God and an essential counterbalance to its opposite approach. By stripping away all the manifested aspects of our being we find the uncreated core. And yet we are and will remain created beings, and these created parts of us are real. What God creates is real. We should not be attached to them or wholly identified with them or view them in a false light of their own self-sufficient reality but nor should we deny them their own proper place in the hierarchy of existence . Again it's both/and though all parts of the whole should be viewed in their correct hierarchical relationship. This makes for a so much richer and more joyous existence than retreating to the unmanifest absolute, blissful as that may be. It's the life more abundant.
And God thinks so too. That's why he created.