Safe boot mode can sometimes take longer than you might expect. When you see the progress bar, give it another 10 minutes or more, before you can say "no progress"
When you say the Recovery System does nothing - Do you mean that you don't boot to the Recovery screen (with the choices such as reinstall, or Disk Utility, etc?) That is booting while holding Command-R - so, check that you are actually using that key combo
If you can't boot, and the Recovery partition doesn't come up either, then it's very possible that your hard drive is failing, or already failed.
Can you boot to Single User mode? (Command-S) where you will see a screen of text scrolling down?
Try running fsck at the prompt, for a quick test of your hard drive.
Is that Lion, or Mountain Lion?
Which Mac do you have?
I waited 30 minutes and the progress bar did not move. I have 3 hd connected to this computer-2 with 10.8 and one with 10.7. Both 10.8 hds have the same problem. The 10.7 allows the safe mode and command r to boot.
Tell us more about which Mac you have...
Is this a Mac Pro? If not, then what OS X system is on the internal hard drive?
I think the only drive that will allow the command-R for the recovery system, is the internal drive. I'm not sure how that would work with a Mac Pro, if you have more than one drive with a bootable system installed.
You have several drives with 10.7 or 10.8.
Are they all system installs (not cloning to those drives, but an actual install?)
If you have those drives connected, and restart to the Option-boot manager screen, you should also see the Recovery HD for each 10.7 or 10.8 system. Do you see a Recovery drive for each installed system on the Option-boot screen?
A clone might just be the system partition, without the Recovery HD partition, unless you know that you purposely cloned both partitions.
If you did a normal install (either through the App Store, or through an OS X installer DVD/flash drive/HD installer that you made) then that would include a Recovery HD partition.
With that in mind, the Recovery HD will be bootable (that's its purpose)
If one of the 10.8 partitions does not have a Recovery partition, can you boot to any of the other recovery HD partitions (there's one for 10.7, and one for 10.8, from what you say?). Be sure to try each one.
I'm a little concerned that you would have 2 (or more) hard drives, each with (at least) two bootable partitions (OS X system, and the Recovery HD partition), and none will boot? Is that an accurate understanding of what you have?
Does the 10.7 (Lion) Recovery boot work? If not, what does happen?
If neither of the 10.8 Recovery HD will boot, then you would need to do a reinstall. You'll do that through the App Store, of course.
Or, do you have some type of backup of the 10.8 installer? I have several flash drives that I keep updated with the current 10.7 or 10.8 installer, which I can use without needing to be connected to the internet (although that gives you the system with some complaints about wanting an internet connection, but still installs.)
Update. I was able to boot into recovery disk by using option boot. I reinstalled os 8. It would not reinstall 8.0 only 8.1. After all that there was no change in my problems including not being able to boot in safe mode.
You reinstalled OS X 8.1, which would restart on its own during the install.
Does that 8.1 system boot normally? And, you can't reboot into Safe Boot mode (but normal boot still completes OK?)
BTW, reinstalling 7 or 8, which usually is done while connected to the internet, would normally install whatever is the latest version.
You would not be left with a previous version after the install completes.
Here's what I would try:
Boot to your Recovery HD.
Run Disk Utility, and then Repair Disk (different from Repair Disk Permissions) on the hard drive.
Quit Disk Utility, then Quit the Recovery HD, which should give you the choice to change the Startup Disk. Make sure that your 8.1 hard drive is set as the default, and then restart.
If the boot is OK (remember, no safe mode this time, just a normal boot), then shut down, so you Mac is turned off.
REMOVE all hard drives from your MacPro, except for the one that you just reinstalled, so that's the ONLY hard drive still in place.
NOW, try to boot into Safe Boot mode...
If Safe Boot mode still doesn't work - what exactly do you need to do with Safe Boot mode?
Safe Boot does some maintenance. I wouldn't exactly classify it as a "repair"
Did you try pulling your other drives to see if you can successfully boot to Safe Boot?
You won't leave it that way, but simply to test for a possible fix....
Alternatively, you can do what Safe Boot does by running some utility that will clear your system and font caches. I like to use YASU a couple of times a year, for example. Mountain Lion Cache Cleaner, and OnyX are some others that I consider to be trustworthy and useful.
Safe Boot also does a quick scan of your hard drives. That's one reason why I suggested that you try the safe boot with only the one hard drive in place. Do ALL of your hard drives pass the Repair Disk in Disk Utility?
You sound like you may be having other problems...
Safe Boot mode is really only needed as a troubleshooting step.
What else is going on, in addition to your Safe Boot mode questions?